Travelin’ Man

James Dines, the almost infallible investment analyst (precious metals, Internet bubbles, uranium mining stocks), said a while ago that because of such pressing issues as the Holy Trinity versus monotheism and whether the brother of Muhammad was the true follower, the true imam or not, “We are entering the end of the age of travel.”

That prediction was so ominous that I spent the beginning of October in Japan and 11 days at the end of the month in Las Vegas. And the week of Nov. 7, missing the chance to vote for Mrs. Pirro against Mr. Cuomo for the all-important post of New York attorney general, I went to Jamaica, the one in the Caribbean, not the one on Parsons Boulevard in the County of Queens.

Las Vegas hosted the first CEO No-Limit Hold ’em Poker Tournament. It admitted former CEOs, hence I got an invite when the current CEO of Euro RSCG N.Y. passed for more important business: a golf tournament on the West Coast run by client Charles Schwab.

Tournament poker is devilish in that everybody except the winner goes broke. So you are constantly weighing the advisability of risking total insolvency. It’s not unlike starting an ad agency and facing pitches you can’t afford, but need to play in.

The other CEOs were all entrepreneurs rather than managers of large companies. Probably Euro RSCG N.Y. has more employees than all the other CEOs combined. Didn’t help, though, as we all got dealt the same amount of chips.

A couple of notable professionals tried to crash the tournament. Scott Fischman, for one, who you might remember for his prancing histrionics at the World Series of Poker or, if not, then you might recall him being eviscerated by the great Doyle Brunson at one of the featured tables in 2004. “You got a lot of style, kid,” Doyle said as Fischman slithered away from the table after Doyle had first bluffed him and then watched him fall apart facing real cards. Texas Dolly is not likely to offer a fisch discouraging words, but he was really stretching to give Scott credit for style.

I would have welcomed Fischman to the game, he being a loose-aggressive player that I would fear less than, let’s say, actual participant from Maryland, insurance man Rhett Butler. Butler finished fifth out of 8,773 players in the 2006 World Series of Poker, winning $3,216,182 and my admiration for his discipline and fearlessness.

Folding cards is actually the main skill I bring to Hold ’em, a game I barely understand. At one point, I said to Sam Feldman, CEO of a music company in Vancouver, B.C., that “my ability to sit immobile in a chair hour upon hour is my only advantage over this hyper-active field.”

During long periods of mucking A-5, K-Q, 4-4 to increase my chances of survival, I remembered how I endured Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer partner meetings. I would look intently at the presenter who would invariably be outlining the Agency of the Future, but I was always elsewhere. The long lulls in Vegas between playable hands let me reflect on my Japan trip, a country I like second only to my own and one that I had not seen for 28 years.

In Kyoto, change is not welcome. Spared the bombing of World War II, the ancient shrines remain intact, but it seems Kyoto’s residents also regard themselves as guardians of the immutable soul of Japan. In two and half days, I was asked nine times what changes I saw since my last visit in 1978. “Only the railroad station is different,” I said. “Back then, it looked like the Long Island Railroad in Hicksville. Cement, metal, utilitarian. A couple of stairs to the platform. When you got up there, you could see, I think, the dome of Hicksville High. The only amenity, a taxi service.”

And now? “Modernity has come to Kyoto station. You can do Christmas shopping, grocery shopping, cut jewelry deals, have a beer or two. You could probably live there for a month without wanting for anything, more like Grand Central than Hicksville or even Bellaire, for that matter.”

This proved to be a satisfying answer for the Kyoto-jin who, I think, would relish keeping progress segregated in the vicinity of that Bullet Train railroad yard.

“Your turn to act,” said Sharon Fann, expert dealer who turns cards on the Big Game TV show, a cash contest with top pros. I suddenly realized she was speaking to me. I was in the small blind with 9-10 suited and one mid-chair caller in front of me (Tony Singh of QSSI in Gaithersburg, Md., who I noted tended to play a lot of hands). I called the big blind’s raise and came back from Japan to see the flop.

It was 5-10-10. I had trips with a nine kicker. “Check,” I said. Big blind checked, and Singh bet 300. I called, and the big blind folded.

Next card, the turn, was an Ace. I checked again, and Singh bet 500.

I raised all-in. Singh mumbled, “You have the other 10?” I said, “Is that a direct question?”

He called and turned over a 10-6. So if the last card, the river, was an Ace, a King, Queen or Jack, we tie. If it is a six, Singh wins and this column is about the Agency of the Future.

The last card was a deuce, so I had 10-9 and the pot. I won so much money on the hand that I didn’t play again for the next two hours and, through that passivity, made the final table of nine in seventh chip position.

Butler also made the final table. “Hey, I’ve made two final tables this year,” he said.

I then got lucky against an ad guy, Herb Montalbano from Dallas and New Orleans. He was all-in with a pair of Kings in the big blind and I called him in the small blind with Ace-10. Ace came on the flop, and now further passivity would get me to the final five and the TV broadcast where my plan was to turn aggressive and win the tournament despite being totally intimidated by the 25-year-old CEO (the youngest chief executive of a publicly held company in America) of Who’s Your Daddy, a line of energy drinks out of San Diego.

Check out if you just can’t wait for the airing to see the results.