My formal report about Head Judging Grand Prix Los Angeles is on the DCI Judge page; this report contains some of the other stuff that went on over the weekend. At the end, I’ll tell you how I got a well-known Pro Tour bad boy to be on his best behavior all weekend.
I actually started the week off by attending the COMDEX show in Las Vegas. What’s weird is that the casinos were still nearly empty despite 125,000 extra people in the city. A cabbie told me that the nerds don’t gamble, but apparently the escort services do booming business. So much better for me; there are pretty girls everywhere, but only in Las Vegas do I get to play Pai Gow.*
Along with Anchorage friends David Phifer and Ariel Jones, both Level 1 Judges, I flew into LA from Vegas (they attended the show as well) on Friday afternoon. I liked the fact that the tournament site was at the airport – no stupid treks across town. They immediately went off to rummage around Side Events, while I met up with North American Organized Play Manager Scott Larabee and his erstwhile sidekick Laura Kilgore. Each of you should sing Laura’s praises every time you play in an event. She’s the person that continually gets product to the organizers on time.
I schmoozed a bit with Star City’s own Pete Hoefling and told him about my impending move to Virginia in March. I’ll be in the Hampton Roads area east of Richmond, which I hear from some folks is a Magic-dead zone. I’m sure that’s not the case; they’re not looking hard enough. (Which is true; Sheldie has a gift for bringing Magic-dead zones to life – The Ferrett, who was happy to see the way Sheldon invigorated the Anchorage Magic scene) If you’re from the Newport News area, drop me a line; I’m coming your way. And look for me at a Virginia or DC area Premier Event next spring.
I met back up with Scott, Laura, and everyone’s favorite Canadian Josh Bennett for dinner at the hotel’s steak house. I then had a late drink with fellow Judge Suzy Life from Atlanta while the rest of the gang played Carcasonne. It was in bed early to be fresh for the event.
Saturday came early, and I formed up the small but well-experienced team for the event, consisting of no fewer than nine Level 2 or higher Judges (not counting me). I was concerned at first about our few numbers facing the crush of 483 players, but those concerns were quickly alleviated by the quality of the assembled team. The aforementioned Suzy Life, Don Barkauskas (who came to do Judge Certs, but walked the floor his share anyway), Matt Tabak, Alex Charky, Tony Mayer, Chris Wong, Miki Urban, Bill Guerin, Bob Ash, David Noble, Markus Marrott, and even co-organizer Chris Scanlon were superb. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Best team I’ve ever had the pleasure to lead.
We ran eight rounds and got done around 10 p.m. Someone suggested we take a dip in the hot tub. What I thought would be a few folks ended up being many. We met some decent non-Magic folks plus some players who had the same idea. Ken Keene and David Spears from Denver led the charge of interesting conversation while sipping Merlot in the tub. Fortunately, none of the players we hung out with had made it to Day 2, so we didn’t run into any problematic conflicts of interest. After an extended soak, we went to the bar for a few wind-down cocktails (white russians, thanks) and discussion of movies and George RR Martin novels.** I had intended to meet back up with Scott and Laura, but the grip of the hot tub was too difficult to break. By the time we got to the bar, they had already (sensibly) called it a night.
Cutting to 64 on Sunday meant I needed fewer hands on the main event, but there was a PTQ and a JSS to deal with. Don ran the PTQ and Suzy took the JSS, and Judges floated in between their events and the main event through the course of the day, giving each other much-needed breaks. Again, the teamwork was incredible. No one whined about doing Side Events (which is all too common among Judges at the Pro Tour) or having to pick up administrative tasks.
To the players’ credit, both drafts went extremely smoothly. They had gotten the hint on the first day that we were very serious about slow play; I believe we only handed out one slow play penalty on Day Two, and that in a Feature Match between Chris Benafel and Peter Szigeti. Sideboard Reporter Noah Weil described Benafel as "incredulous," but I had watched the match from a distance for some time, and the penalty was well-warranted. Talking to Noah later, he decidely agreed (as did the two competitors in the adjoining match, and, of course, the opponent).
Official, Somewhat Harsh, Judge Statement:
Slow play will not be tolerated. Sitting with only two lands in your hand for a full minute is slow play, not bluffing. High-level tournament Magic means making difficult decisions in complex situations in a timely fashion. Get used to it or get penalized.
During the Top 8, I removed two players from the site for childish behavior. They were throwing cards across the room at the crowd gathered around the Bob Maher/Brian Hegstad match. If anyone can explain this behavior to me, I’ll be happy to listen.
The Top 8 finished around midnight, and with my flight not until 6 p.m. Monday, the hot tub sounded like a keen idea. Ken and Suzy had beaten me to the punch, but we were soon after joined by Cardhaus’ Jon Lindley bearing the makings for screwdrivers. A while after Jon arrived, several players showed up, very well into their cups. After thanking Jon for the hospitality and watching an amorous couple skinny-dip in the main pool, it was time to beat a retreat. No doubt security got involved some time later. I’m pretty sure Jon had the good sense to get while the getting was good.
Monday was a boring travel day, and I was happy to get home to my loving wife and comfy bed.
But I promised to tell you how I tamed the beast. Strangely enough, I simply asked – no bravado, no cajoling, no promises of dire consequences. I simply asked. Very nicely. I made a kind request*** and the player was decent enough to comply; he was a model citizen for the length of the event. That’s the way things should happen.
And that’s my Final Judgement.
* – Who loses money at Pai Gow? I mean, it’s push, order a drink, push again. I dumped like $75 in an hour! Stupid Pai Gow.
** – Read the out-of-print "Armageddon Rag" for a real treat.
*** – Fortunately, you get further with a kind word and a metaphoric gun, thanks to Al Capone, than with a kind word alone. I’ll leave you guessing as to which firearms I carry, so to speak.