Boracay & Manila

I spent 5 or 6 days in Boracay over the Festivus period… the weather wasn’t the greatest while I was there and that marred the experience somewhat. It rained quite a bit. Apparently 3 or 4 typhoons had rolled by near there prior to my arrival too… which is apparently fairly normal.

I stayed at 3 different hotels because it was tough to get a room anywhere for more than a day or two as everything is booked solid that time of year. One, called One Crescent Place, is new and very modern and nice but is in a strange location… it is a few blocks from the beach in a very poor area… right beside the hotel are a bunch of people sleeping in huts with roosters and other farm animals. They are VERY friendly though… I’d get a lot of cheers and hoots and hollers, mostly from the girls and a few apparent ladyboys every time I came and went, which made for an interesting experience!

I then stayed for one night at the Tides… which I’d have to say is the nicest hotel I have stayed at in Boracay… it is perfectly located right in the center of the D-mall walking shopping area which is great for convenience, yet only a 45 second walk to the beach. It is fairly expensive though, but if you have the cash, it’s worth it. It is definitely the W Hotel of Boracay from what I have seen – although they did say they had wifi in the rooms, but my room had no signal, so be cautious of that… but if you buy a cheap SIM card ($5 for a SIM, less than $10 for lots of credit) you can use it for internet access on a fairly fast GPRS signal for about $0.20 for every half hour, which is what I used when I stayed at the Tides.

Finally I stayed at a place called La Plage, which was pretty La Crappy… but it did have free wireless internet, so as you know with me, I was happy enough. It was cheap and a few blocks from the beach also…

I have figured out Boracay’s scene around Xmas now that I have been there 3 years in a row at Xmas. Up to and just after Xmas it is still fairly quiet with a lot of families and romantic couples… and beginning around Dec 28 and leading up to New Years it gets progressively more party-like.

Interestingly, a lot of the party scene is also dependent on the tides as much of Station 1, where all the big clubs are, is mostly underwater at high tide. It was high tide every evening I was there, meaning you couldn’t walk down the beach to Station 1 (I did on the last night, with my pants rolled up past my knees, which was kinda neat and beautiful but it probably warded off more unadventurous types). Most of the bars at station 1 are even half-flooded at high tide… which I also think is neat, and uniquely Boracay, but it lowers the capacity of many places by sometimes more than 75%.

I’d have to say, in general though, that my last 2 trips to Boracay haven’t lived up to the AMAZING time I had on my first trip. You know how it is though, it only takes 1 or 2 beautiful girls, or 1 or 2 really beautiful moments, to make you adore a place… and that first time through Boracay was amazing… I went with a really nice, fun girl from Manila… and met 2 girls who blew me away with their beauty and style during the trip… and the weather and everything was perfect.

The last two times haven’t lived up to that experience, so they have been somewhat of a downer, IN COMPARISON…. But all in all, you still can’t go too wrong spending your Xmas and New Years on the beach in Boracay! I still can’t think of any place much better, anywhere in the world, during that period.

I had a nice time in Boracay but, you know, I was really missing poker! I am so into my new found occupation I was dying to get back to Manila where I was destroying the card room…

I continued to play at the Hyatt casino in Malate… I stayed at the Hyatt too… it is a very, very nice hotel, I highly recommend it.

I should start by noting that I should rescind some of my previous comments about Filipino poker players… about half, and possibly more, of the players at the Hyatt casino were mainly Koreans and some Japanese. All of them were just as bad really.

For those of you who know poker, imagine this idyllic setting: No one EVER raises, EVER pre-flop… yet almost everyone will call up to 10-15 times the big blind pre-flop (note: forget about normal tactics such as raising to get people out of the pot, no one EVER folds here… all you do here is raise lots when you think you have the best hand to get lots of money in the pot). Post flop, if they hit a huge hand they WILL NOT bet big… they will always slow-play everything, right to the river. If they had AA preflop, they won’t raise… then if the flop comes K-K-10 all suited, they will still be convinced that they have the best hand, bar none.. they will not raise. When the turn comes Q, all of the same suit, they still will have NO idea that it is possible someone has a flush or straight already and will call ANY bet.

I don’t know how many times I got a straight or flush by the river and put them all-in with a pair of QQ’s and they were shocked when I showed a straight or flush. They’d look at the board like they didn’t even know it was a possibility! It is seriously, ludicrous! There was one Korean there with thick glasses who had a seat right in front of the flop… he’d sit over the cards like a cat perched over a fish bowl, but he’d look at it like it was a very technical, almost incomprehensible book… he also seemed to think the longer he looked at it, the better it would get for him… I played with him for about 5 hours, and took all his money, and still am not sure he even really knew how to play poker (I mean, I’m not even sure he knows a flush beats a straight, etc!)… He was one of those Korean men, that is fairly typical, who is very proud and likes to act like they know everything… so he’d call me with nothing and when I showed the best cards and won, he’d look at the board like, “how did he do that? He must be vellly, velllllly lucky man. Yes vellllly lucky.â€?. I tell ya, it was interesting times at that casino with all the characters.

Forget about bluffing here… if anyone even has a pair of 22’s on a board of A-K-J-10-9 they will call almost any bet. Yes, I am serious. And when you show an A, to win, they will look shocked! It’s really absurd.

Every single night ended for me when I took the last persons chips. Everyone kept calling me ‘that super lucky’ guy, but all I was doing was betting tons when I had the best hand and when they hit their flushes and straights and started betting a lot, I’d just fold (they rarely, rarely, RARELY ever bluffed… so you knew if they are betting, they had the best hand). It is really the easiest room I’ve ever seen, even including the Dominicans. But the people in Manila seem to have a lot more money than the Dominicans so you can make a lot more in Manila.

I was starting to run out of places to stuff money as the largest bill in the Philippines is worth about $25… my suitcase was full of money… my pockets were full. It was ridiculous.

Besides the regular players who were just atrocious, there’d always be 1 or 2 guys every night who’d come in and have NO clue how to play… and when I say no clue, I mean no clue… I questioned if they had possibly sat at the wrong table or something… some guy thought 9 high was the best hand you could get… and he was betting hundreds of dollars!?!?

But, on Dec 30 my crazy thai gf was crying a lot again… she thinks new years is such an important thing and the thought of ‘being alone’ on new years was too hard for her to bear… and I am such a softy… I can’t handle hearing her cry too much… and I haven’t been in Thailand in nearly a month and a half, and miss my Xbox… plus all the other great things in Bangkok, so I decided to leave Manila and head to Bangkok for a bit. I am writing from the plane over Vietnam at the moment…

While Manila appears to be a complete, perfect place for poker (please don’t tell anyone! I want to keep this secret to myself!) where a person like me could likely, easily make hundreds of thousands per year just playing poker, the competition is just too easy. It’s really just like taking candy from a baby.

And while it’s fun, and has the added bonus that, being in the Philippines, there are countless beauties around all winking at me and trying to pick me up, I am not in this game solely for the money. If I was, I’d probably just buy a suite at the Hyatt and live there year-round.

But I am in this game, at the moment, out of a feeling that I have the possibility of being one of the best in the game. And staying in Manila will not improve my skills, at all… if anything, it may hurt me if I start to presume that other players in big tournaments play ANYTHING like these guys. I think in my week or so of playing there, I only had 3 big decisions to make… twice I folded, and while they never showed, I am 98% sure I made the correct fold and one time I called a very tough call when a guy put more than half his chip stack in against me (which was a large amount which was more than half my chip stack)… I took 2 minutes to consider and finally I made a motion like I was going to call… he quickly acted as though he was going to push his chips right in after me… I INSTANTLY said, “I’m all in� (again, subconscious call, it wasn’t conscious)… he wouldn’t have tried to show that he was willing to push his chips in if he had the best hand. He ended up calling me with a sad look on his face… he had 2nd best pair, I had top pair… I won a huge pot.

So, anyway, between Sydney, Gold Coast, Brisbane, Sydney again, and Manila, I had not had one losing session… not even close. So I think I’ll stay in Thailand for a few weeks and relax with my crazy thai gf before venturing off again. I need to get to the Dominican at some point in January… plus there are some big poker tourneys in mid-late January in Australia (ugh) and the US (ugh), so I may attend one of those en route to the Caribbean.

Until next time, have a happy new year!