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My Thoughts on the Dominican Republic

November 14, 2015

My buddy Aaron Mermelstein will probably be late to his own funeral. I went to pick him up in Sunny Isles and take him to Fort Lauderdale International Airport for our flight to Santo Domingo. On the way there he casually mentioned that he forgot to grab enough cash and that we needed to stop at the bank, 90 minutes before our international flight, during rush hour. Luckily, I used to be a paramedic. I worked my magic and got us to FLL two minutes before our check-in deadline at 4:48pm (standard poker player procedure).

 

The flight was uneventful. We landed safely and started making our way through customs. Right away we learned that Dominicans like to tax Americans in every conceivable way. Apparently, Americans have to pay a $10 cover charge every time we enter the country. Sure. No problem. Here's ten bucks. Allen Kessler would be outraged!

Then we had to declare roughly $50,000 in cash or risk the possibility of it being seized by a foreign government. Five scary looking dudes took us into a conference room, that led to a room with no windows, that led to a room with no windows. Then we spent about half an hour explaining why we were bringing so much money into the country. They refused to believe that we were professional poker players. Finally, Aaron showed them this picture. Comprende?

They let us go after counting all the money several times. Then we ran into the most common Dominican hustle at the cab line. It doesn't matter where you're trying to go, every cab driver starts the negotiation at $50. Five minute drive? $50. Across the street? $50. It doesn't matter.

 

Eventually, we negotiated a reasonable price and made our way to the Hilton Hotel attached to Casino Malecon Palace. We registered for the tournament, checked into the hotel, and had dinner. Then we got some much needed sleep before the Peter's Poker Tour Main Event.

 

I bagged 90K on day one, 540K on day two, and all the chips on day three. I ran pure and managed to win the whole thing for $123,675.  It felt great to finally book a win this year.

I shook some hands, did some interviews, and went to bed. Later I woke up to the sound of of Aaron yelling, "Let's fuckin' go!" He played all night and managed to ship the ACR $500K GTD for $100,000. It was a fairly lucrative weekend.

After breakfast, we packed our bags and took a three hour cab ride (not $50) to Punta Cana for the PCPC hosted at the Hard Rock. The resort is pretty ridiculous. There's a beautiful, sprawling golf course out front followed by a massive hotel surrounded by pools and cabanas.

 

On top of that the Hard Rock was hosting the Swimsuit USA World Championship. It was cool and all but personally think it's okay to eat more than celery and crackers. I also think these competitions should have weight classes like boxing. Some of these girls look like they just got out of the Gulag. What's wrong with showing off some curvaceousness?

Back to poker, I managed to run up a stack in the PCPC Main Event before losing a flip for the chip lead and going out 55th for $2,970. I spent the rest of the time partying and enjoying the resort. I also tried to spend my resort credits before running into the biggest hustle of all.

 

My package was supposed to include $2,500 in resort credits. The only problem is that they conveniently make it so you can only spend them at one shop and one massage parlor. The shop takes the normal price for everything and multiplies it by five. I think I spent $42 on a pack of mints and a travel sized bottle of hair gel.

 

Then I went over to the massage parlor and they politely told me that everything needs to be booked five days in advance. I was only there for five days! Still, I should've known better. Every Hard Rock is the same. You have two options: hate money or leave.

 

I had similar issues on my way out of the country. Customs stopped me because I look sooooooo suspicious. They ripped my suitcase and backpack open and ended up seizing a travel sized bottle of toothpaste, a travel sized bottle of shaving cream, and a $200 bottle of Bleu de Chanel cologne. I tried to explain that there's a reason why it weighs exactly 3.4oz...

 

After I made it past security, I walked into the first shop I could find to get a bottle of water. As I was walking in a sales rep came up to me and asked if I'd like to sample their cologne of the month. Then I looked down and saw her holding a bottle of Bleu de Chanel. I should've snapped a pic. You can't make this shit up! What are the odds that security sells those bottles back to the shop?

 

Anyway, now I'm safely back in the U.S. chillin' on my comfy couch in Fort Lauderdale. It's been 12 days since I won the Peter's Poker Tour Main Event and they still haven't wired me the money. I've emailed six of the people in charge of running the tour and haven't gotten legitimate reason why the process has been delayed.

 

I also called the CEO of Malecon Palace and he made up some story about a Dominican national holiday and international wire transfer policies. His secretary assured me that I would receive a wire transfer confirmation today -- never got one. How long should I wait before this becomes a serious concern?

 

Regardless, I'm not a huge fan of the DR. There are plenty of better places to travel. For instance, you could go to Montreal. That's where I'm headed tomorrow morning for the WPT. Wish me luck!

 

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