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Christoph Haller

Created on: 4. December 2007
Last update on: 19. August 2013
Entry from 4. December 2007    

Letter from Mexico - - - The Cleaning Lady Without Mercy

It's the cleaning lady's fault! Or to be more precise, the agent that pretends she doesn't understand me and disguises herself as a cleaning lady. – But one thing at a time. The invitation-only tournament from Mike Svobondy already has a longstanding tradition. 32 players are admitted into the main competition. Place of the event: Cancun, Mexico. Backgammon is the game played and for really large sums. Center for the high rollers is Gus Hansen's suite, but big money is also gambled outside of the tournament events.

Up until now I've had a flawless record at this tournament. Entered twice – the buy-in is $ 7,500 – and pushed my way into the semi-finals twice and then there, of course with bad luck, eliminated. $ 25,000 each time was nonetheless a fair consolation prize, but everyone knew this year would be my year! Granted, the competition was stronger than ever. At least two ex-world champions, like David Nahmmad and Denis Carlston, Phil Laak, Mark Teltscher and many others. Other than me, the only German on location is backgammon professional Andreas Humke. However, only as an observer and active in the side games. The current world leaders, which Humke, in addition to Peter Jeß Thomson and the indestructible Paul Magriel, definitely belong to, graciously hold themselves back from the main competition.

Just getting there was somewhat troublesome. Somehow I got a geographical bad beat or at any rate didn't choose the best route. Seychelles – Wiener Neustadt – Mexico. That could be strategically optimized. On the one night in Wiener Neustadt I was able to congratulate Andreas Krause on his tournament victory and he got to watch me play Omaha – although I had actually planned it exactly the other way around. On the next day, back in the plane and over the Atlantic.

The hotel arrangement in Cancun was wonderful, the cleaning lady less so, but she came promptly. Completely overtired and shaken from various jetlags at the same time, I introduced myself nicely and gave "Maria" (that is, of course, her alias) a $ 10 tip right away. Furthermore, I assured myself about whether or not she understood me and requested that she come the next morning and to, by no means, touch my laptop and to leave my tactical notes on the desk exactly the way they were. In other words, making the bed and cleaning up the bathroom should be enough.

After an irritating, sleep-like condition, I got up, jumped in the pool and was ready for the planned social program. A kind of cultural sightseeing tour with active participation by the starting field. Millionaires, billionaires – like for example, Dr. Donald Khan – and other notable people. Average age of the men about sixty and their girlfriends at least a generation younger. Only Phil Laak and Jennifer Tilly don't fit into this pattern. Both are nice, admittedly, but as a man I don’t really understand this hype about Jennifer. In my second (or this it the third?) hometown of Odessa, not many men would turn their heads for her – to put it cautiously.

After some culture and small talk, back to the room. My desk was clinically polished and completely emptied out. The precious and organized notes were carelessly pushed into a pile and – unbelievable but true – tons of cigarette smoke in the air. And me being such a non-smoker that I wouldn't even let Miss World spend the night with me should she insist on a "cigarette afterwards" in bed. – I get in touch with the reception, ask for "Maria" and not even ten minutes later she knocks on my door. This time I try it more with sign language (and $ 20). Point to the desk: "No – No – No." Point to the rest of the room: "OK – OK – OK." Imitate a smoker ( "No–No–No" ) and finally, as a bit of encouragement to show I appreciate her work, a gesture in front of the bathroom door and a "Yes – Yes – Very Good!"

The next morning, a short get-together with Gus Hansen, who is not often to be seen at the pool, since gambling goes on in his suite practically around the clock. Then breakfast with Mark Teltscher. That’s the unlucky guy PokerStars denied the million to again that he won at WCOOP. PokerOlymp reported about it. Basically they accused Mark Teltscher of having played with his sister's account and at the time of question she was verifiably in the USA, though a British IP address was used to gamble. Anyways, Mark sees it very calmly, somehow as a twisted story that could only happen to him. That with the million doesn't seem to bother him much. Well yeah, an affluent family and lots of success as a backgammon player and at poker too, that way you can get over a loss like that. I comforted him by saying that for the rest of his life, he can call himself the "best poker player in the world that plays with his sister's account."

I bravely come through the first day of the tournament; otherwise I keep myself more or less covered and look for my salvation in cooperation. Mostly I keep 10-15% - that's still $ 200 a point, make a round through the pool and then see how my favorite is doing at the backgammon board. In this way I was at least able to win back my travel expenses. The really bad beat came when I went back to my room. A sparkling, empty desk. My laptop not plugged in, rather abused and disconnected on my nightstand. The strategic notes carelessly shuffled together. A round of inspection in the bathroom and complete shock. This is how I imagine camping with ex-chancellor Helmut Schmid. A cloud of smoke floats in the room. Unbelievable! I don't know anything about cigarettes, but Mexican ones must be the worst in the world. – I escape to the balcony for awhile before going to bed again with the spite of the time zones.

The next morning I learned from that. My laptop is exactly where it should be, in the middle of the desk. My game strategy for today's game lies organized beside it. And I sit and wait for "Maria.” Looking for direct confrontation, firmly intent on defending my desk and personally overseeing the smoking ban in the room. – "Maria" comes and we play the "No – No – Yes – Yes" game. She is clearly a little insulted by my presence and noticeably nervous – or is that the nicotine withdrawal already. She goes into the bathroom and I follow. She goes to my desk; I prompt "No – No – No." And then I made the critical mistake. Distracted by my mobile phone, I don't pay attention for a moment. From somewhere she suddenly has a spray bottle in her hand. Some kind of Mexican all-purpose cleaner, probably mixed with hydrochloric or sulfuric acid. Before I can intervene she sprays everything. My display, my valuable papers and of course, with particular commitment, she sprays the power supply of my laptop.

I give up, I save what I can save and leave the room. I was so shocked that I, as an absolute non-smoker, nearly asked "Maria" for a cigarette to calm my nerves. Maybe smoking together would have helped us reconsider our messed up relationship.

There were three more opponents left to defeat and then I would have already been in the semi-final (minimum $ 25,000). Though somehow I'm lacking concentration and am a bit confused. I'm able to overcome the first two opponents, although they're generally rated at a higher playing ability. One more player and then the way to the money is open. It all starts out fine, at least until the moment my opponent lights up a cigarette. I must have seen a traumatic correlation and instinctively looked around for "Maria," in fear that she might come with her bottle and spray the board. To make it short, after the cigarette, it went downhill and I was out of the contest just before the money. – Time for a bit of rest and fun on the beach. The best backgammon player of the world, Katja Svenson, won the tournament and naturally I genuinely congratulate her (although she's probably working with the cleaning lady).

Now I'm finishing writing this "letter from Mexico" (since the chemical attack, the display on my laptop is curiously dull) and then going to the airport. I have to find the best route and can't decide between Cancun – Melbourne – Vienna, or do I take the Cancun – Vladivostok – Vienna alternative. Doesn't matter either way, as long as the stewardesses don't secretly smoke in the lavatory, it's fine with me.

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