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It had been a while since I had been able to make it out to a conference (Barcelona 2008 was the last one), so I decided to book my ticket to Budapest this year for BAC. It was nice that the conference was in a change of venue, which made it much easier to justify the long trip.
I arrived on the Wednesday morning after a long flight with a connection in Frankfurt. I was a little worried about going because I thought that I wasn’t going to know anyone there as many suckers people backed out last minute including the person I was supposed to split a room with (Nick). Regardless I still went and landed in Budapest around 11am. As I went to tell the cab where to go I realized that I was in a different hotel than I had thought. Meh, I went with it and headed to the new hotel (InterContinental). I arrived at the hotel to check in and looked down at my reservation to realize it was for a day later (crap I thought, but figured they would probably have a room). As I explained the situation that I might have gotten the date wrong to the guy at the front desk he replied, “I hope your reservation is for today because our hotel is full”. Fortunately, he managed to find me a room after hammering away at the keyboard and speaking gibberish Hungarian to his co-worker.
After a bit of a nap, I started trying to find out who was in town and managed to get in touch with Mark from PAL. We decided to meet up for a beer and hit a cool little bar a short trip from the hotel. We took one of the oldest subway systems in Europe to get there which was pretty cool. It was nice meeting Mark finally as we had chatted many times online about how we were both former IBM slaves employees. As I was heading out I also ran into Richie formerly with Carbon who I had spent some time hanging out with in Barcelona and we exchanged info to meet up later. Richie (like me) loves to party so I knew he would be a good person to meet up with later.
On the 2nd day I got in contact with Greame (DealerDan) who was out having a few drinks with some people and invited me to join them. I met up with them all at this cool square, grabbed a few beers then took off because he had dinner plans with Bodog. Fortunately he invited me along so I managed to get a free meal from the Bodog guys (Seb and Claire – who had been my affiliate manager in the past but I never actually met). After a nice dinner, which included several Mojitos, we all headed over to the opening party which was hosted by Expekt. As with most gambling conference parties it was a complete sausage party. I wasn’t really in the mood to party so I just took it pretty easy. I also ran into Carly and Jo (from Pokerstars) and Andreas (darko on the forums, but never really posts). I ran into a bunch of old friends too which was nice and we were out of there early (around 2am). We went to hit up the casino, but they wanted to charge us 10 Euros to go in and gamble. We laughed about that and decided to save our money and call it a night.
Day 3 was the 1st day of the conference. I met up with Richie in the lobby around 9am who was with Ven (formerly at Party Poker) and we hit up the buffet at the hotel. We had a great breakfast laughing the whole time and completely lost track of time (not getting out of there till like 11:15). We then hopped on the shuttle and headed over to the conference. We did the whole stroll around the room (me looking for the best swag – probably a bath robe from Chipleader). Richie knows pretty much everyone so he kept introducing me to a lot of people. I decided to hit up the SEO sessions (one on link building and the SEO roundtable) after which were all around pretty decent. Though I didn’t learn a whole lot, there were a couple of tidbits here and there that I learned which should help. After the conference we had a bit of time so Richie and I headed to a little bar close to the hotel. Richie ordered probably the gayest drink in Budapest which consisted of pink lemonade, a pink straw and a cherry, I opted for a beer. Mike from Poker Nordica also came and joined us for a drink then we all split up to our own dinners. I headed to the PAL dinner and met DealerDan in the lobby. There we waited like 20 minutes for Seb (yea, we gave him a hard time about it) then finally headed over to Spoon for an awesome meal. At dinner were several people I hadn’t seen in a while like Giorgio, Jason (GoodKarmaKid), Stephen and Russ from Commission Account as well as several new faces. After dinner Seb, Russ and I wanted to keep drinking so we decided to head over to the conference party sponsored by ChanceRoom. Again, it was a huge sausage fest so after we finished our few free drinks (they had this weird ticket system) and grabbed Alex Pratt and Andreas and headed over to a club that several people had been talking about called Bed Beach. Bed Beach was awesome! It was a huge outdoor club with a massive dance floor, tons of tables and a nice VIP section. We ran into many other people and spent the rest of the night mingling not getting back till like 6am (I think – didn’t wear a watch all trip).
On the 4th day (the last conference day) I slept in and missed Calvin Ayre’s speech which was one of the things I was looking forward to. Fortunately from what I heard from other people it was rather awkward and he didn’t really tell any interesting stories about entrepreneurship. When I finally did get to the conference I had my meeting with Lee Allen from Sticky Eyes (an SEO company). They were doing free SEO analysis sessions for conference attendees. This was really cool and Lee definitely knew his stuff. He definitely made me think differently about a couple of things and wasn’t like most SEO companies that just BS and pretends they know what they are talking about. Thanks Lee!! After that I walked around the conference a bit more and ran into Johan formerly at FTP / Gnuf. We had met a ways back in London at the Cap Awards dinner and he really helped me make the push to doing this full time. I also met his wife Anna who is with an interesting bingo company called Maria (a branch off from Unibet). Unlike most sites it sounds like they are actually building a brand than just a site (so if you promote Bingo check them out and tell her I sent you). I hung around at the conference a bit more and ran into Dee from 888 and chatted with them for a bit and finally left the conference. I ended up getting in touch with Graeme after who was having a dinner with some people close to the hotel so I decided to join them. There I tried Goulash for the first time, which I understand as being the “big dish” of Hungary and pretty tasty. After dinner we headed over to a party hosted by Bodog. We were greeted at the door with a glass of champagne and asked to take our picture with some of the “Bodog Girls”. Bodog REALLY knows how to throw a party. The venue was awesome, they had special tables where you could try the national drinks of Hungary (I liked the Unicum the best which is a bitters), tables with free cigars (good ones), constant Mojitos and Caipirinhas plus Hors D’oeurves and even a hand massage table. The party ended around midnight and I decided to head back to Bed Beach with Johan and Jennifer from Betting Jobs. There we ran into many other people and drank and chatted the night away.
On the Sunday I slept in again and missed the “tourist session” as I was pretty hung over not rolling out of bed until about 4pm. I ran into Richie again at the patio of the Sofitel (the main hotel – directly beside the InterContinental) and we had some drinks to nurse the hang over. Richie was with Chris from Poker Space and a few other people. Chris came up with a great idea to head to a shisha bar so Richie, Chris, Jen (Fortune Poker), and 2 Swedish affiliates (Mike and Peter) all headed over to this place recommended by the hotel. We ordered some massive platters of food and shared everything. The conversation started pretty tame but after Richie asked what everyone thought about Megan Fox things progressively turned into pure hilarity. We learned some new things like what “musting” is along with several other funny things. It was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.
On a side note, some of the companies throwing the “Official” parties could really learn a thing or two from Bodog. Having a club filled with guys staring at 1 or 2 girls dancing, then making them pay for drinks (especially affiliates) to be there says a lot about your brand. Bodog goes all out when they do a party and it says a lot about their brand. In the future I think the parties should be turned into more of a “pre-drink” where everyone goes and drinks for free then heads out to various nightclubs around the city. If you were at Bed Beach you will know that industry people pretty much owned their VIP areas.
After that the conference was officially over for the rest. I stuck around in Budapest for a bit the next day then headed to Prague for a couple days to do some sightseeing. I am actually writing this on the train back from Prague to Budapest where I have to catch my flight in the morning.
All in all it was one of the best conferences I have been to and was really nice meeting many new people along with seeing some old friends. Till next one!