Thursday, June 16, 2005

WPBT in Vegas II

Editor's Note: I have combined all my Vegas trip reports into a single chronological post here. Not as a blatant attempt to get you all to re-read them. No, that's akin to a crappy sitcom "Highlight Show" where you know the writers are just sitting around saying, "I got nuthin'. I know! Let's combine crappy moments from previous airings in order to bilk advertisers!" No, this is for posterity, a succinct (not) single rendering so I can find the entire sordid affair quickly. You are, of course, welcome to read it again, but I'd suggest taking some dramamine first.

Thursday: So It Begins

I used to have a female (platonic) roommate who was very handy in pointing out when I was being flirted with. What can I say? I'm the oblivious sort.

For once, I didn't need her--or anyone--to tell me the woman in the worn dolphin shots and dirty tank top was luvin' my shit.

We'd just finished a fine meal at a local sushi joint. Felicia had set the whole deal up and it was well-attended by a host of famous bloggers. I made re-acquaintence with PokerProf and LA-based poker hero Bill Rini. I had ridden over with The Epic HumanHead and his delightful wife, who seemed to have no problem being referred to as Mrs. Head. In fact, the three of us had enjoyed a few drinks prior to the ride over. Great people with whom I spent a good twenty minutes trying to convince them to procreate. Maigrey and Gracie brought some estrogen and class to the proceedings. They also brought some poker blogger groupies with them, a trend that didn't continue to the lengths I'd figured. I thought there'd be men and women of all stripes trailing the travelling caravan of blogerati, chicks with leather minis and torn "Jopke" t-shirts. Or maybe I dreamed that at some point. Fellow WPBT satellite winner Big Pirate showed up with his buddy Tim, who, despite being a ManYoo fan was good company.

The only real problem with the meal was the lack of taxis trolling this particular strip mall well east of The Strip. The restaurant called dispatch for us, but facing a wait of 40 minutes, we decided to wander to the street corner to try and flag a couple down. It was then we saw the bus stop.

I've been to Vegas seven gajillion times and have NEVER had the experience of riding mass transit. Hoover Dam, my ass. THIS is a tourist attraction that should not be missed. Ten blocks of pure bliss, I tell ya.

I'm not sure how it started. It has been alleged that I somehow engaged the woman in conversation. I'm almost certain that's not true and that she just jumped into a now-forgotten discussion. I did, however, make eye contact with her and may have given her a smile. Not the dazzling one reserved for my dear and patient wife, but still a kind, maybe even understanding, grin.

From that point, she wouldn't leave me alone. Sitting next to Rini, I edged closer and closer, trying to obscure my face behind his Card Player magazine. Her enunciation was poor. I got a third of the words she barked and none of the meaning. I giggled to myself over the half cig she held between her fingers, that she had to save the butt for later consumption. I pulled out my notebook to record the moment, but immediately relinquished it to Head. Here's what he wrote:

I can't believe the dirty-faced chick just stuck a tallie of Red Dog in between her giant saggy tits after a healthy swig and healthier cackle of drunken madness.

Yes, she was smuggling Red Dog. Yes, you can apparently still buy Red Dog. Yes, she was storing it in her shirt. She was also a few bicuspids short of a full set.

We eventually got to The Strip, disembarking near Caesar's. We walked the rest of the way to the MGM, a healthy-sized Las Vegas block. A long trek for some. Me, I was happy to be back in the fresh air. With people in proper dress and a majority of their teeth.

Looking back, I think the encounter was beneficial, as Felicia was finally able to experience the full weight of my heterosexuality, the magical hold I have on the opposite sex. Power of this kind does not discriminate, sprinking my undeniable pheremones to the lowliest Vegas Crack Whore on up.

Of course, when we got to the MGM she nearly immediately pronounced Helixx to be far betteer looking than I. I couldn't argue. Very handsome man. I mean that in the most heterosexual way possible.

Hand of the Day: I had 4/8 (half-kill) table at MGM pretty much in a head-lock. Tilted one or two players when I rivered the nut flush after three-betting the whole way. Couple seats opened up and a new guy sat down in #2. He looked awfully familiar, but the goatee...I'm not sure. I went for it anyway. Otis! And I was right. We stood, introduced ourselves. It was a sincere honor for me to meet Otis, for many reasons, but one in particular. BadBlood immediately took the 9 seat and G-Vegas was looking to put a hurt on LA. (I had met Mr. and Mrs. Blood earlier in the day. Thanks much for the CD, my man. Got me through a rough--tired--stretch on the drive home. Great bleeping stuff.)

So both Blood and Otis wait for their BB to post. We're talkiing about assorted things. BB finally gets around to Otis and I peek down to see poket cowboys. I give him a look, a grin and a shrug that says, "Aw man, I have to" and raised it up. Nothing like making a first impression. He didn't defend in mock anger (I think it was mock anger) and I eventually pulled the pot. I think it might have been better if I had The Hammer.

Thursday Evening: And Boom Goes the Dynamite!

As previously mentioned, I was crushing the 4/8 game at MGM. I only got sucked out once. But I wasn't feelin' it any longer. Because, little by little, bloggers were trickling into the room. And I was now the lone blogger at my table. I had hands to shake and shots to buy. Little did I know this would be my final winning poker session.

Playing poker with bloggers is -EV. Drinking with bloggers is considerably more expensive.

I cashed out my racks and headed to the rail for a smoke. I ran smack into BG. Bobby Bracelet was nearby and I got my first taste of the whirlwind that is Bob, who, if you didn't know, played in the World Series of Poker. I meet my longest and most loyal reader/blogger April.

Okay, back up. Earlier that afternoon at the Excalibur, I ran into my hero and writing patron, Dr. Pauly, as well as Derek. A serious thrill for me. And Pauly was gracious enough to introduce me to others at the MGM. Now, I'm no shrinking violet. And it's safe to say that by this hour I was totally plowed. Still, if I'd had the good sense (yeah, fat chance) to step back, the whole scene would have been overwhelming. Instead, I thrust myself headlong into the breach.

Minnesota was in the house: Professional Poker Player Chris Halverson, drizz who huddled behind his trademark excessive buy-in for the 2/4 mixed game and Chad, whom I'd been very anxious to meet, primarily due to his kick-ass sense of humor. Maudie and The Fat Guy, whom I'd briefly met on Fremont Street earlier were there. Al had commenced holding court...and drinking...and roping me into drinking. Twist my rubber arm. An urban legend was already making the rounds that CJ had taken $1200 out of a 4/8 game in an hour. The Man himself revised the total down to $350, a still impressive number. G-Rob seemed kinda sober. I would remember later that that was the last time G-Rob seemed kinda sober. I finally wormed my way into a handshake and conversation with the guy everyone was crowded around, fella by the name of Iggy.. Like Marcia Brady and Davy Jones, I'll never wash that hand again.

It was sensory overload. I had SoCo. I bought Bob some crazy fuckin' drink with hazelnuts or somesuch in it. I talked tunes with Helixx. I fawned over BG. I wrote in my notebook: "I am officially fuzzy."

For me, this was a surreal experience. Blogging can be a solitary pursuit. It certainly began that way for me. In the absence of such an outlet, I needed somewhere to put my poker thoughts. And I learned/laughed so much from the rest. As I told several people, it was entirely their faults that I was standing there amongst them. At the beginning, never did it cross my mind that I'd be accepted as one of them, or that some would consider my blog worthy of attention. To say I was flattered by some of the kind words would be an understatement. Floored, is probably better. Thank you all so much.

Time whizzed. Not that I had any concept of it. Everywhere I turned, there was a conversation to hold, a new face to place with the words. Somewhere, in the back of my head, I knew I needed to get to bed. There was this little poker tournament I was supposed to play. But I couldn't tear myself away.

Ultimately, the lure of the dice led a bunch of us back downtown to The Plaza. Bob, BG and I headed straight for the craps table and...uh...proceeded to drop $100 in five minutes. Between the three of us, we rolled a single number and no points. Clearly the Craps Gods had not been alerted to our arrival, to our rarified place in the gambling universe. To the fact that I, and, if you haven't heard, Bobby Bracelet, would soon be World Series of Poker participants and therefore worthy of better treatment.

What? Oh yeah, the World Series of Poker. Cards in the air in 7 hours. Alarm in 4. Should probably get some sleep. Oh well, I think I'll sit with the rest of these degenerates at 2/4 for a while.

A while comprised less than a single orbit. I started to weave in my seat. I lost focus, like someone rubbed Vaseline on my eyes. I honestly didn't remember if I'd even signalled my departure (though others assured me I did at least grunt a "Good night"). I only recall that I hurriedly racked up and dashed upstairs, where I may or may not have "racked up" a little Teriyaki Salmon on The Plaza's pristine carpeting.

Apparently, the party continued.

Friday Morning: Smells Like...Victory?

The Plaza stinks. Literally.

You know when you walk into a Vegas mega-resort and the cool, oxygenated breeze hits you, causing you to raise your head, close your lids and bask in its cleansing wave of purity? Walking into The Plaza is not like that. There, your first facial tick is to wrinkle your nose and wonder, "What the fuck IS that smell?"

I settled on long-dried urine at first. Eventually, due to the lack of a sharp tang, I guessed feet. But it was Chad who finally pegged it: Old people. Exactly. It smelled like impending death, like the adolescent field trips to the Rest Home with my church choir.

But the smell at The Plaza had nothing on the taste in my mouth when I woke up on Friday morning.

I had circled the wagons to make sure I wouldn't Hellmuth my first WSOP event. Wake up call? Check. Alarm? Check. Regardless, I was still in half-REM when The Poker Geek and Mike burst through the door around 9:30.

I'm up, I'm up.

I stumbled into the shower, which had the added bonuses of a) a low, brain-shattering whine from the pipes and b) improper drainage, allowing you to wash in ankle deep water. The Plaza stinks figuratively, too.

All things considered, I didn't feel as badly as I might have. Head was in fair shape, stomach only slightly jumpy. Lethargy was my biggest issue and the adenaline soon went to work on that. But Fuck! it was bright out.

Grabbed a taxi with Bobby Bracelet and others for the ride to the Rio. Had breakfast with the rest of the WSOP blogger contingent: Otis, Easycure, Wes and Russell. We also found out that The Poker Nerd and HDouble had been unceremoniously shut out of the Event. Negraneu breathed a sigh of relief.

The breakfast, was, um, good. Tasting, I mean. But I couldn't eat. Every bite was a chore. My nervousness was rising. My hangover was rejecting every succulent morsel of sausage, egg, biscuit and gravy. Even the mouthfuls that I managed to swallow felt like jamming a cannonball through my urethra. I picked at my plate for a while, but never got close to finishing half of what lay there.

As we walked toward the Pavillion, I dialed up the dear and patient wife. She didn't answer, so I started to leave a message. And I went mute. I literally could not fucking talk, the words abruptly choked off. I recovered after a few seconds, blurting forth a torrent of babble. A telling moment, I thought later. A funny one too, when I listened to the message. I sounded like a man headed for the gallows.

We took a few photos beneath the WSOP banner (whomever has those, I'd love to get a copy or six. Please let me know how) and tried to pass the time while the clock counted down on the big screen above our heads. Finally we took our seats.

We were a half-hour into the Event before I was able to unclench my butt cheeks. Damn, I was tense. I had to be one of the most inexperienced players there. I tried real hard to focus on what was going on around me as I folded garbage hand after garbage hand, but I didn't see anything of note. I didn't see any professionals at my table--or even any professional-type play--so I slowly began to relax. Still, no cards for me. I voluntarily saw a flop once (w/KdJd) in the first 5 orbits. Since we were 11-handed, that is A LOT of shit. Best hand I had was ATo. Under the gun, naturally, where I folded it.

Finally, I pop out a raise with AJo and get the (25/50) blinds. A few hands later, I get pocket 9s in MP and raise 3x to 150. I get one caller behind and we see a pretty benign flop: J82 rainbow. I fire at it, little more than half the pot, and he calls. Hmmmmm, that call was not a confident one. I certainly think I'm still ahead. Or that I can push him off a better hand with a good bet. The king on the turn gives me pause. A scare card for me, for sure. But for him, as well? I debate for a moment and give it a go. BAM!

What followed is the longest three minutes of my life. In fact, it was probably 20 seconds that SEEMED like three minutes. Jesus H. I may or may not have solid myself just a little.

Ultimately, he called. And unless I river a set, I'm F.U.C.T. River is a queen and there is no even marginally reasonable hand I could possibly be ahead of now, so I check and fold to his all-in, waving adios to about a third of my stack.

I was in deep trouble after dropping another chunk f chips on Big Slick when April showed up to railbird. Brought me some luck just in the nick of time. I limp UTG+1 with AJo. Weak play, but I actually wanted action here. I'm down to T450 and fading fast. I was hoping for a raise and I was gonna push my Boy for all his worth. I get my wish. Button raises to 150, going for what he soon admitted was a steal. He still called my all-in with T9s. I showed my cards to April before I showed them to the table, getting a nice laugh from her. I flop a jack, avoid his gunshot draw on the turn and spike another Hook on the river to double up.

They busted our table shortly thereafter and I moved to table 18, Seat 2. Which brings us to the hand of the day. I'm gonna tell it really good this time, Chad.

Hand of the Day: I was down to T825. The break was on deck. I'd had to pee for a solid 45 minutes. In fact, I'd once gotten up to scope the toilet, but soon realized there weren't any nearby, so bolted back to the table so as not to miss a hand. But now, with only a couple minutes left in the level, I contemplated getting up and beating the crowd. I wish I could tell you why I didn't. I had planned to for some time. Yet, when the announcement was made that the break would begin after the next hand, I remained rooted to my seat. A thought flashed through my head, "Hey, I made it to the first break!"

Dumbass chicken-counter.

I looked down in MP to see those skanky Hilton Sisters. I raised 4x to 200. Folds to the button, a young Asian guy who was even more metrosexual than I: professionally pressed dress shirt, carefully molded hair--gel content was a push--and schoolboy glasses. Little bastard comes over the top for 600. I stand defiantly and shout "You + Poker = Sucks!" and slam my remaining chips into the middle. He seems confused. Maybe he doesn't speak Fillmaff. He wants to know how much it is to call. 225. He wants to know how many chips I have left. None. He knows he's behind, has over-bet his hand, but he's getting nearly 8-1 on his call, so has no choice.

He sees my Hiltons and begins to weep silently. With one hand, he wipes his tears, with the other he flips AJo.

Oh God. Not AJ. Anything but AJ. Ace spikes on the flop. Young Asian Guy's tears turn to joy. Me? Shattered. Gutted. Pissed off. So I killed him. His chips were distributed to the remaining living players at the table.

Editor's note: Some Hand of the Day events may have been exaggerated/falsified for dramatic effect.

I wasn't the first blogger out. Just barely. Easycure went out just a couple hands before I. Of course, he got knocked out by a former bracelet/Academy Award winner instead of a bookwormy Asian. And he and I BOTH outlasted a few thousand other random people. It was cool to meet EZ, whom I've matched up against in several online events.

I was immediately disappointed. I didn't expect to make a big splash in this thing, but felt very fortunate for the opportunity. I'd hoped to use it as a learning experience and get involved in some play to advance my game. Thought I missed out on that. And I was beginning to feel more comfortable as the minutes went by. So I was bummed to not be able to push deeper. In retrospect, there were definitely some positives, namely that I don't think I'll be such a timid pansy next time I wade in to a similar event. I mean, I hadn't planned on playing in this year's WSOP, but I got to anyway. Surely, that can't be all bad.

I finally made it to the toilet and headed straight to the bar after that for a Bloody Mary. Went back to the Pavillion and found a group to continue sweating Bob, Otis et al and look around for some famous faces.

Jason, resplendent in his Jopke cap, went off in search of a Hellmuthian photo. Sadly, The Poker Brat was packing a couple meaty bodyguards. BG put the over-under of the muscle's combined felonies at six. We saw Devilfish (who made the final table) playing nearby, but a lot of the marquee faces were wandering around just like us. There were rumors of dozens of bad, bad beats.

I'd dressed for the long haul with both a long-sleeved shirt and jeans. It was starting to get stuffy in the room and at one point I mused aloud how "I wish I weren't wearing pants." Evelyn Ng, who was nearby, nearly fainted at the prospect.

No, that didn't really happen. I did get a quizzical look from Heather, however, who wondered if I had an exhibitionist streak. Obviously, considering I play much better online than live, perhaps no pants was an idea I should have mulled.

Several bloody marys later, a brush with greatness. Or at least with better-than-average hotness. I was standing in the lobby smoking a butt with Al and BG when we spotted Clonie Gowan hanging out in the "Put a Bad Beat on Cancer" booth. After a round of jokes centered on the idea of getting a picture taken with the three of us smoking in front of the booth, I hear a Dainty Voice behind me.

What follows is a fictionalization of actual events.

"Excuse me," The Dainty Voice says. "Can I bum a pen off you?"

End fictionalization of actual events

"Sure, Clonie!" I say, perhaps a little too loudly, as I whir around to face her and offer (the thing she asked for).

BG, charming sonofagun that he is, did most of the talking. I'll let him relate the details, but, suffice to say, if you ever are facing Clonie Gowan in a pick-up hoops game, we've got a solid scouting report for ya. Sadly, it didn't occur to any of us to get a photo with her. At least not until she was gone.

We shortly headed back to Sao Paolo for some grub. "Grub" might be too kind a word. We joined up there with Maudie, Pauly, Derek, Bob, Heather, Jason and others (I think; sorry, no notes) for perhaps the worst $18.99 buffet in recorded history. Yes, the hamburgers were surprisingly tasty considering their appearance. But I probably managed to eat $3.00 worth of food. I lifted lid after sterno-heated lid, only to find a rogue collection of blackened, over-cooked meats, some of them barely recognizable. "Survivor" contestants eat better than this.

We soon high-tailed it back to Stink Central (thanks for the ride, J), where I took immediate leave for a nap. Oh, blessed nap. How I love thee.

Friday Evening: He's Only Mostly Dead

I had played it beautifully. For those of you who recall my weekly Vegas Guides, I am forever extolling the virtues of a well-placed nap. Now, Vegas is a difficult place to snooze. As action junkies, we get too amped up and the final result is fighting through those tired barriers to the point where sleep chooses you, not the other way around. But I had followed my patented recipe to the T.

1. Drink way too much the night before.
2. Don't sleep.
3. Start in on the bloody marys in the afternoon.
4. Wait for the crash.

For those of you scoring at home, the crash came about 6:30. I flopped on the scratchy Plaza bedspread and died for a while. I can't conceive of my mental and physical state had I still been playing in the WSOP. I'll go out on a limb and guess not good.

Felt great when I awoke a few hours later. Took a shower/ankle bath, donned my Vegas finery and made out for the Excalibur.

I have an image to uphold, you know. Perhaps the metrosexual/borderline gay image isn't one I would have chosen for myself (I prefer swashbuckling attacking midfielder), but, as I told Pauly, when you get a hook, you have to go with it, grow the seed planted in the public conscious. So I was wearing my Vegas shirt. Upon seeing it a few years back, a friend dubbed me "Johnny Bravo" after Greg Brady's musical alter ego. Okay, seriously, that's TWO Brady Bunch references in my trip report. You'd think I'm completely bereft of more recent pop cultural touchstones.

Er...moving on.

I stopped in the Plaza gift shop for some Gatorade, my sentry against dehydration. The cashier, a lovely octegenarian, slowly processed my transaction, flashed me her still-girlish smile and said, "I love your shirt." Ladies, get out your walkers and sensible dancing shoes, Daddy's on the prowl tonight.

I love the bleeping Excalibur. It holds a special place as the site of my first foray into blackjack, my maiden voyage into casino poker (7-card stud about 5 years ago) and, most importantly, where I dragged my first live Texas Hold 'Em pot. I'm always excited to go there. I've never had a losing poker session there. Yep, you see where this is going.

If you were standing at the rail and hocked a loogie in any random direction, you'd have hit at least two familiar faces. Every table was on various levels of blogger-induced tilt. G-Vegas had commandeered one and was spinning Hammers into Quads. -EV was value calling his nuts and straddling with abandon. drizz had his table quite literally titled, the weight of his $12,000 initial buy-in to the $2-$6 game leaning the felt his way. It was at this last table where I planted my ass in the two seat, along with Billy Legend and The Sundance Kid (yes Mike, you are now The Sundance Kid. Rini's earned a sidekick).

The play was uneventful for a while. I chatted up the congenial fellow--name of Gary--in Seat 1, who seemed a pretty solid player. Early on, he was showing down some darn good hands. It was just a smokescreen, because he quickly started showing down some crappy hands. Let's say he was prominently involved.

No hand of the day today. Too many entertaining ones to recount. I limped along in a family pot with A4 sOOOOOOOOOted and saw a flop of Axx rainbow. drizz led out, was called by Gary and I raised 'er up. This is one of those subtle plays of mine. I call it: I HAVE AN ACE! ANYBODY ELSE?! Folded around to drizz who gives me that Paul Bunyan stare and says, "I think you have me out-kicked" and mucks. Uh, doubtful. Gary calls. Turn gives me another club and the flush draw. Gary check-calls. River is no help on the flush and my four doesn't even play as a kicker, so I check behind. Gary shows A4 sOOOOOOOOOOOted for a split pot as drizz leaps across the table to strangle me. He was a little steamy for five minutes there. I enjoyed that.

Soon, I peek and see my first Holy Grail of the weekend. It sings to me like the Sirens and it's $8 to go for anyone wanting to fuck with The Hammer. Only Gary has the sack. Flop is exceedingly raggedy with a deuce and again with the check-calls from Gary. I catch drizz's eye and I guess I have a tell because I immediately know that HE knows what I've got. Turn is a ten and boy is this getting repetitive. River is another ten and, you guessed it, check-check. Gary flips 52 sOOOOOOOOOOted for the split pot. I had him out-kicked until the River! Hammer Suckout Alert!

So, I'm doing fine. I pulled another pot with Cowboys and am up $25 or so when the Sundance Kid decides he wants Apparently, he was unaware I played in the World Series of Poker earlier that day. But he went ahead and three-bet my pocket kings anyway. Cap!

Hooray, flop comes AQx. Sundance tries to get fancy with a check, but I check behind. Even someone with my limited capacities knows there's not a single hand he could be holding that is not now ahead of mine. Turn jack gives me outs, so I call his $6 bet. River is a rag, I muck my Kings to his bet and he shows his AQ. Which is where it all turns sour. The poker, that is. The experience is still sweet as honey.

I wandered around the room, sweating various folks, various folks wandered by to chat with me, including the lovely and talented MrsBlood, with whom I discussed child-rearing at length. Never did get the correct steps to teaching pre-schoolers the check-raise, however.

Our table broke and I continued my wanderings, eventually taking a seat at another star-studded $2-$6 table. -EV was on my right in the two, the always excitable Matthew Lillard to my left, followed around the table by Pauly, Bobby Bracelet, Chad, Derek and Tim. Here comes the gambOOOOOOOOlery.

"I believe it's your straddle, sir." So it is. LIVE 4! And away we go. Some straddles cost me a chunk. I fold a lot of rags. A poor unsuspecting guy claims the one seat from a departing Tim and immediately raises behind Chad, who says, "I don't think I like the new guy." In this case, first impressions are wrong, since New Guy spread his entire rack around the table in 45 short minutes. I won a nice pot off him, the only one I remember getting against this group, outside of the blind with The Hammer. I can't be sure. It's really murky right about here. I wrote down my session stats (dropped $35 on the first table; $41 on the second), but nothing else. Been wracking my brain to remember something other than the nearly continuous laughter, but there's nothing to grab onto. All I get are quick little snippets, barely there and indiscernable, like a Tool video (YES! a cultural reference from after the Nixon Administration!). It's possible Bob might have worked his WSOP participation into the conversation.

The next thing I recall is a Pauly-led expedition, the first leg of which was a futile attempt to find--and heckle--Otis at a Pai-Gow table; the second, a vital stop at Krispy Kreme. I can't imagine working the Skank Shift at the Excal's Krispy Kreme is a rewarding gig. Our Fried Dough Specialist did nothing to deter that hypothesis. Obviously stirred from more important matters, he grumbled through the 12 or so orders. We were imminently grateful, nonetheless. Manna from heaven them there doughnuts.

The caravan headed back downtown, where I couldn't begin to tell you what occurred. I know for certain I made it back to my room. And dreamed the dreams of the damned.

Saturday Morning: Tournament of Champions

If one's biggest problem when waking up in Vegas is tiredness, I would count that as lucky. Such was my good fortune on Saturday. Despite the late night debauchery, I was about as fresh as could be expected. Gimme a jolt of joe and I'll be ready to go.

I did have some concerns about The Poker Geek, however. I vaguely recalled his shadowy figure coming into the room some time after I crashed. I now saw that he wasted no time in hitting the sack. Sprawled across the other bed, he was fully clothed. Shoes included.

I shoved him awake (G-Rob unavailable for the traditional kicking) and he said he'd meet me downstairs in a few. Face scrubbed, deodorant applied and I'm off to Seattle's Almost Mediocre for some coffee. Ran into Maudie and BadBlood, none of us talking all that much. Too much effort. The Sundance Kid soon arrived as well as The Rooster. The first group headed for the cab stand, the second waited with me for the The Geek, who finally emerged dressed to the nines for The Cure Aladdin Classic.

The ride over was uneventful, except for the part where Joaquin disparaged the great Michael Owen. I gave him a severe beating for that, but so skilled am I in the art of ass-whuppin, I didn't leave a mark.

Headed straight for the bar upon our arrival, where I saw a really cool guy in a hideous Chelsea shirt, prompting my first chorus of "You'll Never Walk Alone.'' There may have been others. I don't know. The bar would become my home away from homne soon enough, since I made no impact whatsoever in the tourney.

My starting table:

Seat 1: G-Rob, looking a little rumpled. Claimed his pipes were backed up. Repeatedly.
Seat 2: Austin John, who graciously lent me a quarter later for a newspaper and took on the role of table aggressor early.
Seat 3: Mr. Subliminal, final table participant and winner of Bust-Out Orator of the Universe
Seat 4: Marty! I forgot Marty! It's what happens when I write without notes. Don't take it personally, man. Just 'cause I remembered G-Rob had to take a crap and forgot you.
Seat 5: Yours very truly. I'm a folding machine. Today's hand of the day is 97o.
Seat 6: fhwrdh, great to see again and catch up with Full Tilt's Golden Boy
Seat 7: Felicia, uh oh
Seat 8: Alan, who is Geek (checked his fantasy baseball stats during the HORPSE game at the Nugget later in the day) and Proud (didn't try to hide it).
Seat 9: Bobby Bracelet, uh oh
Seat 10: flipchipro, the life of the party. Couldn't get him to stop talking

There weren't going to be any easy tables in this shootout, but I'll put ours up against anyone's for difficulty quotient. And we were easily the most subdued table, probably owing to the lack of Dropped Hammers.

G-Rob got bounced with AA against 66 when the case six flopped (I had folded A6o), so he was able to retire to his "office" without having an "accident." Felicia's Big Slick rivered flipchip's Hiltons. I generally didn't get involved. At the break, our table broke and I was sent from the frying pan into the fire, i.e. a table featuring Otis, Hank and ScurvyDog. There were others, but I was only there briefly and have no notes. Sorry. I love you all. Promise.

I had T1400 with blinds at 200/400. I had gotten a break with the table change as I was slated to be the BB before mine broke and sat now in MP. Still, I folded until my BB. Scurvy pushed on the button and I looked down to see nines. No choice. Call. He had jacks. I picked up outs on the turn, making me open-ended, but no Sound of a Suckout this day. Scurvy earned my plentiful bounty of the genius "Homeboy," and I'm glad to see he's digging it. So much so that he's gonna quit his job!

Carpe diem, my brother. And godspeed.

At that point, I started wearing a path in the Aladdin shag betwen the tourney room and the bar. Yes kids, It's Bloody Mary Time, It's Bloody Mary Time, It is a drink so fine, It's Bloody Mary Time.

Got to sit a bit with fhwrdh--who graciously comped my first--and see where life was headed. I also took the opportunity to further weasel my way into an invite to the Infamous Home Game. Watched The Geek play video blackjack, plied with SoCo shots from some dude in a Chelsea jersey. Sweated the final few tables, constantly reminding CJ of his huge chip lead, much to his increasing annoyance. I think he frittered a chunk of it away just to get me to shut up.

Congrats to Billy Legend, of course, as well as all the final table participants, including Tsunami Hitchiker and Hank's buddy, giving LA 30% of the last 10. We've got the numbers, people. You don't want none. The New York Times calls it "Flooding the Zone," sending massive numbers of talented people to chase a big story. That's us. Only we're after pots.

Scared? Yeah I know. Now that everyone knows what I look like, it's harder to be intimidating.

Many thanks to CJ for hooking us all up. Much appreciated, sir.

Saturday Afternoon: Heartbreak Cantina

This little blogging hobby demands attention to detail, to the smallest event which can be used to expose universal themes. As poker players, we are trained to be observant, to extract truth from incomplete information. It is these convergent skills which led Bob and I to ponder a great mystery:

Why is it no longer important for an Elvis impersonator to look, sound or act like Elvis?

A group of us were walking from the Aladdin to the La Salsa Fiesta. Plenty of sights worthy of commentary on the journey, like the effort of the porn slappers and why anything less than a "double slap" illustrates a guy who's not fully committed to his career. I re-iterated my desire for a porn slapper t-shirt, the ones that read "Strippers Direct to You," a gripping sentiment, not to mention a solid business plan since, as Jason remarked, it eliminates that pesky stripper middle-man. We passed a guy in a pig suit beckoning one and all to the Harley Davidson Cafe. "Good gig," I muttered. "Squeal like Ned Beatty," offered BG.

We passed several Elvi (yeah, I think the plural is "Elvi") and wondered why this phenomenon has taken on such routine existence, how the streets became clogged with white jumpsuits and mutton chop 'burns, removing the mystique of the Fake Elvis Experience. Further, some of these guys aren't even trying. This is The King, people! He deserves better. Elvis impersonators are now ordinary, where they used to be a destination. No panties are being thrown at the guy poorly simulating "ah....thankyouverymuch" outside the Jamba Juice.

So how to get ahead in a world of sub-standard Elvi? It obviously no longer matters if you can nail it. No, you have to have a hook. Something to set you apart. You can be the Middle Eastern Elvis and Jailhouse Rock it with the sitar. Monkey Elvis, a simian riding on the back of a (hound) dog. Or how about Cerebral Palsy Elvis starring in "All Shook Up?"

I may have crossed a line there.

True to form, an Elvis invaded our little fiesta shortly after our arrival. I immediately christened him "Booger Elvis" since he more closely resembled Curtis Armstong of "Revenge of the Nerds" fame. This was not a hook, just an unfortunate circumstance. He sang a few songs, not coming close to invoking the dulcet tones of Big E. Yet, his arrival still sparked the crowd. There was dancing. There was swooning. There were flashbulbs. I have in my possession a hilarious photo of Booger Elvis crooning in the ear of AlCantHang. The look on the face of the latter can only be described as giddy, as if he's just been hooked up to a SoCo IV drip.

So maybe I'm wrong about the whole thing. Maybe any approximation of Elvis will do. Especially when liquor is involved.

Trust me, liquor was involved. We got there a good 90 minutes before the Fiesta was set to begin and we were a drink or two behind even earlier arrivals. Ridiculously large margaritas flowed like water. The wait staff was a little overwhelmed, often showing up with drinks nobody claimed to order. No matter, there was always a taker.

My buddy Paddy calls it the Shampoo Theory. You know how you can put a substantial amount of shampoo in your hair and still it sometimes fails to produce a valid lather? Then you go back to the bottle for just a drop and all of a sudden it's Bubble Central? The same with alcohol. With all that I'd ingested the night before, it only took a few drops to send me back into drunkeness.

I finally got some food--mmmmm, carnitas burrito--in my belly, though I wasn't consciously hungry, despite the fact I'd only eaten two Krispy Kreme donuts in the past 22 hours.

And then I zoned out. Partly because of the grog, partly because of the US-Costa Rica World Cup qualifier on the TV. Sat like a stone for 45 minutes, occassionally shouting tactics to The Poker Nerd over the increasing din of the party around me. I'm an animal. I once shined a pretty festive wedding reception to watch SDSU and BYU play for a spot in the Holiday Bowl. That's my own wedding reception, mind you. I am not above anti-social, sports-related behavior.

But I was snapped out of it at halftime. Did somebody say shots?

Al, Bobby Bracelet, Chad, myself and a revolving door of others (JP, Otis, Joaquin, Derek) adjourned to the bar to sample some of the tequilas. After sampling a couple of the offerings, Al reached into his retirement account to splurge for a $45 shot of tequila. No, I don't remember the brand, but it was in a nice looking bottle perched, but not secured, high above the bar. Okay, I don't quite get that. Makes it hard to take surreptitious swigs from a bottle you need a ladder to reach, but with the standard behavior one finds in a bar--in Vegas--you'd think this High Roller tequila would be in danger of crashing to the ground. All it takes is one flying beer glass or two meatheads crashing their bulk into the bar.

We passed the shot around as if it were liquid gold, sipping briefly and savoring the taste. It was magnificent.

You know, Al's not just the guy who drops large chunks of scratch on liquor, both for himself and others. He's a very conscientous guy, as evidenced by his repeated trips to go "check on the party." He'd set it up after all and wanted to make sure everybody was having a good time. All the time. Thanks for the tequila, Al. And for the party.

Kasey Keller was standing on his head in the US goal, staving off the Ticos long enough for Landon Donovan to grab a brace to put the game out of reach. That insurance goal set off a round of "Ole, Ole, Ole-Ole." Even the creepy karaoke barker came over with the mic and joined in. Three points, baby.

The shin-dig was winding down, but I had one last task to perform, that of exposing my massive fanboi self to Otis. The annointing with oils and ritualistic washing of the feet probably gave me away. But I had to corner him. Otis quite literally altered my life for the better. I needed to thank him for that. I hope I managed to convey the depth of my appreciation in a lucid manner (doubtful).

Sigh. I guess the Razz Hand of the Millenium will have to wait for another day. These trip reports are longer than "The Deer Hunter."

Saturday Evening: Donkeys Alwasy Draw

We caught the first cab back to The Plaza, the one reserved for WSOP particpants and their honored guests. Sorry guys, another should be along shortly. No, I don't see any either, but that is not my concern.

Ah, The Plaza. What can be said that already hasn't? Well, for one, walking into that tomb after the revelry of La Salsa was a serious buzzkill. The Poker Room? Anybody got a straight razor? Some Prozac? Dead. Solid. Depressing.

They didn't have enough dealers to spread a HORSE game for us, so we headed out to Fremont looking for the hook up. We barged into the Golden Nugget where John, the floorman, welcomed us with open arms.

"What can I do for you guys?"

Can ya set us up a HORSE game?


How about a leggy blonde waitress in black hot pants?


Simple. It was almost like we were "known." Whales. On a slightly smaller--2/4--scale. So some of the dealers were new and didn't exactly have a handle on all the games. They did just fine.

The lineup:

Seat 1: Empty (later Pablo)
Seat 2: Yours Very Truly. Stud Fish Extraordinnaire.
Seat 3: Alan, who broke the laws of The Straddle and paid dearly
Seat 4: The Always Excitable Matthew Lillard, who claims he's not really Matthew Lillard though his name is Matt and can belt out a similar high-pitched maniacal squeal as the "Scream" actor
Seat 5: StB, fresh off a Final Table appearance in the Aladdin Classic
Seat 6: Nate, Michigan Ringer
Seat 7: Bobby Bracelet. This Fucker is Always. At. My. Table.
Seat 8: Chad, another with a paycheck from the Aladdin Classic. Yeah, this is gonna go well. Because there's another in...
Seat 9: BG, giving me a run for the "Who Can Lose the Most at a 2/4 Table" Award.

This was the most fun I've ever had losing $100. Except for maybe 3 minutes there at the end when I missed my 700th draw of the evening. Otherwise, a laugh fucking riot.

Stayed right around even for a while. Right up until Razz, in fact. I have no earthly idea how to play that game. I knew I had to keep an eye out for dead cards and I actually tried. So, here it is, The Infamous Razz Hand, and after all this buildup and the fact the hand's been re-played for most bloggers several times already, I'll caution you to be prepared for the letdown:

My first four cards were 6432. That's pretty good, right? There was raising. I bricked on 5th, pairing my three, while Bob and BG both caught nice-looking cards. There was raising. I bricked again on 6th with a Jack while Bob and BG both caught nice cards. Memory seems to insist that Bob caught a three. WELL WHAT THE FUCK?!?! I'VE GOT TWO OF 'EM RIGHT HERE! That's roughly what went through my mind, if I've got that right. Perhaps I don't. Whatever. There was raising. In fact, there was capping. Me? I just kept calling as the Michigan Mafia raised each other, with me in the wash cycle between 'em.

It was my read that BG had already made his hand, seven-high. And that Bob was still drawing. Me? I know I'm drawing slim, but the pot...she eeeez so beeeg. I kept muttering this every time I called a raise.

I actually caught a card on the river. An 8. Not exactly what I was hoping for, but if they were BOTH drawing, I may yet pull it out. BG actually checks, as do I. But Bob has never met a bet he wanted to pass up and fires. BG responds,

"Just once, I gotta check-raise Bobby Bracelet."

I hate you both. I hate me, too, because I call, Bob 3-bets and thankfully, BG just calls. My 8 makes me third-best. Bob and BG had close to the exact hands, seven-high, except Bob went to the ace and BG only to the duece. I think Bob sucked out on 7th. I don't really know. Best estimate of pot size is around $130. I'd just dumped half my stack in a game I don't know how to play correctly.

Good strategy.

I made my way through the HORPSE lineup (yes, it was now HORPSE with the introduction of Pineapple). Alan made a sweet play when he discarded a 9 in Pineapple and took the pot with a strong flop bet. With The Hammer. He discarded to play The Hammer. Fuckin' Sweet.

He then made a moumental mistake in Hold 'Em, much to my benefit. He stradled my BB, Austin Matt threw in a Dead 6. I called the bets blind and Alan capped. Except HE LOOKED. At only one card, but he looked.

The flop was A9x and I bet, still blind. Alan raised. You !#@%!%@*&. I called, still blind. I think we were now heads up. Turn was a rag and I finally looked at my cards. A9o. Heh.

I checked, quickly and deceptively, causing Alan to bet his ace (what I loudly assumed to be his ace). I raised. Forget poker face. I was cackling loudly, reminding him again that he ruined his straddle by looking. River was a 6 and he called my bet. It's a good thing for him he didn't look at his OTHER card: A six. Mighta got into a raising war there. So, I did get to take down a nice pot, one of very few. The fact I played it mostly blind tells you what kind of skill level I had on display this night.

I stayed about the same until Stud came around and dumped all of it in two hands. The first one, I have no regrets about. First four cards were AQJT of Spades. Paired the queen on 6th street, but that was the only improvement and I fell to Nate's two pair. No Kings and only two spades were dead. Can't catch a friggin' draw.

Then, frustration set in. with only about $25 remaining from my buy-in, I chased an OESD on 6th and 7th, failing to catch, dropping the last of my stack and pounding the table in frustration. Er...sorry about that, fellas. A quick walk and smoke and I was over it. Though I did expose my donkey side for all to see. Look Ma! No brains!

I wanted to publicly thank John and the Nugget for treating us so well. I made a point to let him know how appreciative we were for the service and I promised to pimp his room for my dozens of readers. Get thee to the Nugget. Nice room with plenty of TVs, pleasant dealers and a nearby snack bar. Our two waitresses over the course of the evening were excellent. Yeah, and...uh...smokin'. I'll definitely donk there in the future. Though I inexplicably keep wanting to call it the Golden Nugent. Musta been the Michigan influence at my table.

Gracie, Heather, April, Scott and others were also at a nearby table and seemed to be doing quite well. Maybe ask them to gauge the level of competition.

I had quit drinking a little earlier, having reached maximum capacity. The decadence was catching up with me. I squeezed in a quick final craps session that ended with me down $90, but did roll a few points. A substantial chunk of bloggers were milling about and I announced my intention to hit the sack. At midnight. I caught far less shit than I expected.

In fact, as I made my way around the room, I was struck by the easy comraderie, the heartfelt words from both sides and, dare I say it, simple affection. Words truly do fail. Just an impressive group of people, in every way imaginable.

Driving through the desert the next morning, Vegas became more and more distant in the rearview. My thoughts, however, stayed behind. Still do.

One last tidbit. Before I hit the road on Sunday morning, I took a quick tour of the casino floor in hopes of spotting any bloggers to whom I'd not bade farewell. I won't mention his name, but I did see one, walking toward me from about 20 yards away. I began to raise my hand in greeting when I saw him more clearly. He was, as my friends like to say, "looking, but not seeing." So I passed silently, him never making me. It was then I realized he had on the same clothes as 24 hours previous at the Aladdin Classic.

Vegas, baby. Vegas.

Final Results

Poker: -$59
Craps: -$130
Blackjack: -$60
Video Poker: -$20
Bar Tab: ~$500


At 8:25 PM, Blogger BigPirate said...

Great write up! Also great to meet you.

At 9:33 PM, Blogger Erin said...

Wow, if I'm exhausted from reading all of that you must be dead from doing it. Sounds like you had a blast! By the way, I'm not sure if I have ever posted but I've been reading your blog and I will say that it is the most witty, funny, and all around great blog out there! Does that sound like I am sucking up??? lol, its not meant to be, but I seriously love it!

At 9:43 PM, Blogger StudioGlyphic said...

Joe rules, Erin.


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