That's not what I mean OK, so don't be dirty.
It's just that I, and I assume most other poker players, have a fierce competitive streak and for some reason I'm always good enough to get in the game. I just never seem to win.More in this Poker Blog! -->
When I was about 8 years old my dad hired a local hillbilly with a Bobcat to shear off a good 20 * 20 section of the lawn in our back yard. That, a homemade wooden backboard, and a thick slab of concrete gave us and all the neighbor kids our own hoop and court.
Now, I'm a pretty tall guy, and my jump shot ain't bad. So in most games against most kids I would dominate the game. It was great for the ego of an otherwise dorky Eastern Kint-ucky kid.
Except for the other dork.
I hated that kid.
Micheal M. moved in during the summer before 8th grade. He was an instant hit. By the time we rolled into the 5th grade season (even that is a spectacle in parts of Kentucky) Michael was the better player. Coach would design all the plays so that I set the pick and Micheal took the shot. Michael was the SHOOTING guard. I'm a power forward.
That spring both of us were picked as regional All-Stars. We played with kids from all the other schools and took a tour of other young stars. Actually, I just toured and Micheal played. He was just better.
There was always another Micheal. Baseball. Soccer. Ping Pong. I'm pretty good but always runner-up.
Meanwhile the damage was worse inside my own family. I was one of the smart kids, always in trouble, but smart. My grades weren't bad and I was given a free ride to a state school (after a few detours first but that's another, more embarrasing story).
So little brother does one better. He had all A's. Got a free ride to the same state school and graduated with honors. He went one of the country's top five law schools and now....he's rich.
Little sister on the other hand, she got straight As and a free ride...on a F****** ATHLETIC scholarship. Not only smarter but a much better jock. The shame runs deep. Although at least this time, I was easlily 3rd best.
Fast Forward to Senior Year...High School
For senior prom I invited a tall, blonde somewhat attractive girl named Amy. She said yes and we hit it off great. My best friend at the time, Tony, and I had very big plans. We skipped out early on the dance and headed to a killer party. We drank to excess and had champagne waiting back in a very swanky economy room at the Colonial Inn. The only problem was when I left the party, I couldn't find my date. Perhaps she's back in the room, I thought. And sure enough, she was. With Tony. They're married now.
So what's the point of this stupid WHINE!!!
Otis! I hate that man.
We've become very close friends over the past half-decade or so. More than 90% of the good stories I have left to tell involve him in some way. It's fair to say I love him like a brother. Which is exactly the problem. My whole family is out to get me.
It was Otis who talked me into playing poker in the first place. And I think I know why. The pond is never too small for a few extra fish. He coached and cajoled me into becoming a better player, all the while becoming one of the best players you'll ever meet.
When we went to Vegas, I knew he was watching me. Making sure I wasn't acting too stupid. I still ended up in the red. More than anything, I just didn't want to look stupid in front of him.
In his last post he mentioned my watching his foolish play at one of the NL tables. What he doesn't say is that after donating half my stack in fewer than 5 minutes of play...I bolted..with HIS brother for the much softer rooms at Alladin. (THE WORST PLAYERS EVER IN THE ENTIRE WORLD I KID YOU NOT!)
For those of you who only know Otis from this blog, or for those who met him just once in Vegas, let me just add this.
If you're a nice person, Otis is nicer. If you're usually honest, he's more so (His F'N nickname is Mr. Honesty!). He's caring and compassionate and fantastically talented. I'm his biggest fan.
Soon we'll all be watching him on the Travel Channel as he plays the WPT. Soon after, I'm willing to bet, his professional writing and pro poker career will begin. As you see and read more of him, I hope you'll keep in mind, there is noone who's shadow I'd rather disappear behind.
Long live the King.<-- Hide More
Thanks to everyone who has sent along public and private congratulations on my recent good fortune. While it's always tempting to rest on one's laurels, it's time to get back to dancing with who brung me. When we last left Otis in Vegas, he'd finally recovered from the first two days of insanity, settled down for a night and morning full of fun low-limit poker, and was on his way to bed to rest up for a couple hours before the NFL kickoff
The sun had again started sliding through the doors, again signalling that it was time to sleep. I knew that a full day of football with the blogging crew stood to be another experience that might lead me to ruin and I don't like to head toward ruin without a couple hours sleep.
Alas, it was not to be. I laid in bed for a couple of hours before giving up, logging on to the high-speed Internet service, and taking care of some personal business.
By the time I'd showered, I'd missed kickoff and the ability to join everyone in betting the Bengals. I thought that was probably a good thing, but headed over to Mandalay Bay nonetheless.
I discovered something that had come to be expected: I wasn't feeling too well.More in this Poker Blog! -->
The tram dropped me in the cavernous hallways of Mandalay Bay. I wandered in feeling like I should turn around and go back to my room to attempt sleep. I didn't feel like I could face the blogging posse without my gameface on. I caught a glimpse of myself in a window's reflection and realized that while I was still wearing my gameface, it had turned green. Or remained green. I wasn't sure.
I stood in the entryway to the casino and pondered the possibilities. I felt like sitting down.
Within a couple of minutes I sat down at a quarter Wheel of Fortune machine and rested. Okay, I thought. $20 in the machine. I decided that if I won anything or broke even, I would stay. If I lost it all, it would indicate I should just go back to the room.
Three pulls later I was up $20. I considered my gameface. While it was green, it was still there. And I thought for a moment that green might not be that bad. Maybe it was Philadephia Eagles Green.
Al and CJ would certainly appreciate that.
In need of a charge, he finds the super chargers
The Mandalay Bay sportsbook is enormous. Every possible sport fights with the casino lighting as it shoots from the dozens of television screens that rise two stories from the floor.
I thought that I'd have a hard time finding the bloggers, but with Al leading the charge, the group's rowdiness rose up from the din. I walked up, still unsteady, and greeted the group.
After some brief hellos, I remembered that in the past 42 hours, I'd only eaten two tacos and a bowl of non-gumbo. I wandered the casino until I found a deli, grabbed a chicken salad sandwich and rested. Still, I found msyelf ill-equipped for what had started happening in the sports book. Booze was already flowing like a sick kid's nose and my good sense was actually speaking up.
Steer clear, it said.
So, I wandered some more, walking an inordinate amount of time until I found the famed Shark Reef.
Now, here's an odd thing. Over the past 48 hours, I'd been buying racks upon racks of chips in the poker room, playing Pai Gow and Blackjack for $25 and sometimes $50 a hand. And yet, I stood at the entrance to the Shark Reef, I found myself dismayed at the $15 a head charge to get in.
Fifteen dollars to see one of the greatest wonders this end of the Strip had to offer? No, sir. I mean, sure, it's one thing to lay down a day's pay on the chance of hitting an open-ender (or better yet, the hope the dealer draws a Pai Gow), but $15 to see some of the greatest beasts of the sea in all their splendor? No, sir.
As I walked back through the marble caves, I couldn't help but remember that I'd loaded a $20 into a slot machine just 45 minutes earlier. Otis had his priorities way out of whack.
There was only one way to fix that.
I again returned to the sportsbook and told the assembled Bengals cheering section that I needed to get my head together. Fortunately, the Mandalay Bay poker room sits right next to the sports book.
I figured that I couldn't hurt myself too badly in a $4/$8 game and got sat immediately at a newly-formed must-move table. I looked around the table and quietly groaned. I was one of only three people under the age of 50. I was one of only three people at the table who didn't live in Las Vegas.
Still, I sat back and played my game, sucking back diet cokes and bottles of water every time the cocktail waitress came around.
The Mandalay Bay poker room, I found, is fairly nice. While the room is small in comparison to other rooms, the staff and dealers are very good and very courteous. The room has a bad beat jackpot and some giveaways. And frankly, the hostesses aren't that unattractive.
Every half hour or so, I'd check in with the bloggers to see how things were going. Everyone who'd bet the Bengals had moved into celebration mode when a fourth-quarter miracle made the group a few hundred bucks.
BadBlood arrived in the poker room and suffered a series of unthinkable beats at the $200NL table. I thought it must be signalling some omen that things were about to turn ugly for all of us. Blood is a helluva player and I knew that he hadn't walked blindly into the beats. They were first-rate bad beats and no one should suffer such carnage. The only saving grace was that before he sat down at the NL table, he'd dropped the Hammer at a $4/$8 table. That's always nice.
In the sportsbook, the bloggers had started singing a San Diego Chargers fight song. During a short break, I wandered in to find an old man directing Al and the boys, much like a choir director would in a Sunday morning. I longed to be part of the group's fun, but I had missed that boat a long time ago and returned to the poker room.
The only thing remarkable about that four-hour session was this: It was unremarkable. After four hours of tight-aggressive play, I was up a total of 50 cents.
I decided that my head was back on straight and I was doing nothing but wasting time.
I stood and walked back into the sports book and announced to Iggy and BG, "That was a colossal waste of time."
Iggy was a good cheerleader, reminding me that after blinds, rake, and tokes, I was probably up quite a bit.
As the group resumed its Super Chargers fight song, I decided that I needed to make some money.
Since I'd arrived in Vegas, I hadn't played any no-limit. I'd been inebriated for a few days and I don't like to play no-limit when I've been drinking. I checked my watch and found that I hadn't had a drink in ten hours.
Good enough, I thought.
Back at the Excalibur, I bought in for the only NL game they have, a $100-max buy-in with $1/$2 blinds.
When I sat down, I discovered how little $100 looks when one's opponents have been playing for a while and have doubled up a few times.
As I took my seat, the biggest stack at the table was all-in with some kid who talked a lot. The pot was about $400. The biggest stack (a guy who later said he played a rat in some Vegas stage production) sucked out a miracle river card and raked the pot. He had about $800 in front of him and was sitting only two seats to my left. I managed to avoid him at almost every turn.
Somebody once said that poker players have a hard time remembering the big pots they won, but they always remember the ones they lost. That happens to be the case for me as well.
I do recall that I doubled up in the first hour when my pocket queens held up. Then I cleaned out the kid again when I flopped two pair against his TPUK (that's top pair, ugly kicker).
At one point during the play, I played AK too strongly, making much too large a raise into a small pot and everybody folded. As I raked the few chips, I chastised myself, muttering, "That's what we less-experienced players call overbetting the pot."
The kid at the end of the table said, "What did you say?"
I repeated myself and he started to get steamed. I don't know what he thought I said, but he obviously thought I was needling him for folding.
"Dude, maybe you don't understand," I said. "It was me who overbet the pot. I ruined that hand for myself. You may not know this, but I hate myself. That's what I meant."
The kid eventually loosened up, but for the rest of the night he kept beginning sentences with the phrase, "That's what we less-experienced players call..."
I have to admit, even though the guy was a hothead, I sort of liked him. I liked him more when he rebought five times at the table.
By the time I reached the only hand I really remember, I was up about $300 and it felt good.
G-Rob had sat down after a long day in the sports book and was noticably ill-equipped. He was there long enough to see me make my only mistake of the session.
The guy to my right had been talking for a while about how he wanted to quit and go play blackjack. He'd run his remaining $20 up to about a hundred and was still talking about leaving.
I was in the BB and found T7 suited, a hand I'd fold to even a mininum raise (even though it is Daniel Negreanu's favorite hand...or so he says). Unfortunately, it was only called around to me and I checked my option. The flop came T86, giving me top pair, a gutshot straight draw, and a backdoor flush draw. I liked the hand, but wasn't sure how I was going to play it. The guy to my right bet $20 out of the small blind. As the pot was only $10, I wasn't obviously wasn't getting any odds to call. But, frankly it seemed much too much like an overbet to me. Why bet that much into a small pot? Seemed he wanted to take it down right there.
I made my first mistake right there. I thought too long. I hemmed and hawed and talked too much. While I didn't talk about my hand, I did talk (about what I can't remember) and I'm sure it was a tell that I was weak or on a draw (both of which happened to be very, very true).
Even if he only had top pair, he had to have me outkicked. And if he had me outkicked, I was left looking for one of the four remaining nines, one of the three remaining sevens, or a runner runner flush. The only move for me was to fold.
But something in me was feeling froggy. I had only shown down solid, winning hands since I had sat down. I had established myself as a very tight player. And a few minutes before I'd heard a call from the rail: "Otis can't hang!" It was Al, fresh back from the sportsbook and on his way to bed.
I looked down at my chipstack and I was up significantly.
"Al, I'm finally hanging!" I responded.
I'd erased all my losses for the trip and moved into the black. I spied the guy's stack. It would cost me $100 to put him all in.
And so I did. I grabbed a stack of red and put it in the middle. The concept was this: No matter what he had (unless he'd flopped the straight), he couldn't call for the rest of his stack. If he hadn't flopped the straight, he might've thought I had and that's all I needed to put doubt in his head.
Yeah, I know. My concept was way, way flawed.
The remaining players folded (one of them very reluctantly). And to my dismay, the guy to my right didn't think twice. He said, "Well, if you've got it, you got me," and put the rest of his stack in the middle.
I knew I was sunk.
Sure enough, he turned up T8 for top two pair. After the turn didn't bring one of my suit, I was left with only four outs, none of which came.
Though the mistake didn't hurt me financially, it didn't alter my mental state a bit. I'd just damaged my tight reputation and looked foolish in front of G-Rob. I'd made a very loose, over-aggressive play and it cost me.
Strangely enough, though, it didn't hurt that badly. In the end, I'd altered my table image to my advantage. Players started making loose calls against me and eventually I made back everything I'd pissed away plus about another $100.
I knew the session was coming to a close for me when a bunch of youngsters sat down and started jawing at each other. Strangely enough, -EV sat down next to me and it took us about 15 minutes to figure out who each other was. His girlfriend was with him, though, so we didn't get to talk too much.
Finally, I stood up, collected my winnings, and headed out to lose them.
I'd forgotten that my luck had started turning and I was about to head into the land of good wins and even greater stories.
Sherwood Forest, Pt. 2
I had a plan. Since I had not been able to sleep for days, I decided the only way to sleep was to...well, drink.
As such, the next few hours are bit of a blur. I know I played cards for a while and ended up back at the Pai Gow tables, where a guy sat down and won a bonus on his first hand. I was back to the cocktails in full force, knowing that I wasn't going to be playing poker again for a few hours, unless I couldn't sleep.
Most everybody else was fairly dead after a long day of football and cards. CJ left to go home. It left me and G-Rob playing single deck blackjack for $25 a hand at around four in the morning.
We broke even and when the deck went cold, we decided we too would turn in.
But after getting to the room, we decided we needed one more drink before we would rest well.
"Irish car bomb," one of us said.
"Irish car bomb," the other answered.
And so back we went to the scene of the crime. Sherwood Forest.
We made quick friends with Cantina the Bartendress. She was quite a talker and realized quickly that we were ill-equipped. We ordered a beer in preparation for the car bomb. You gotta prepare, you know.
We looked around and discovered we were surrounded by cowboys and hookers. The Nationl Finals Rodeo had ended that day and everybody was looking for one final ride.
After we reminded Cantina how to make a car bomb, she fixed us up and we proceeded to drop our shots into the beer. As G-Rob started to down his, I dropped my shot, missing the center of the pint glass by half an inch. Before I knew it, shattered glass and Guinness were all over the bar.
G-Rob laughed at me and said to Cantina, "Would you believe it? This guy is a surgeon."
G-Rob at some point had decided to cook up cover stories for us. Over the course of the next several hours, I would be a surgeon from Savannah and he would be a minor league baseball pitcher from Jacksonville.
"Really," Cantina said. "What kind of surgery do you do?"
I was stumped and covered in Guinness.
"Um...general," I said, wiping myself off. I'm not a good liar.
G-Rob laughed, "Yeah. General. He's the Surgeon General."
Cantina was nice enough to make me another car bomb for free, but then went and got all dark on us. She related a tale that we just couldnt believe. She said that at some point the night before, someone had jumped out of an Excalibur guest room and fell to their death. She was convinced it wasn't suicide, but murder. But she said we'd never hear about it because the Las Vegas media is controlled by the casinos.
When she sensed our incredulity, she brought Alaska-native Sam the Server out of the restaurant to back her up. For an eternity, Server Sam related tales of unions, union-busting, and the number of people who jump to their death every year in Vegas.
Later, I'd ask several more employees of the casino about it, and they would all nod quietly, indicating, "yeah, it happened, but we can't talk about it."
So wrapped up in the conversation as we were, we barley noticed when the hookers and cowboys started filling in around us. It was tight. One cowboy chatted us up and I told him story after story about how bad a pitcher G-Rob was and how he was never going to make it to the show.
Several times, I laughed out loud, "Your ERA sucks so bad!"
Surgeon General, my ass.
Another cowboy walked up and I asked what he did.
With an absolutely straight face, he answered, "I'm a buckaroo."
As the sun again threatened to rise, two hookers who couldn't land cowboys came up and grabbed us.
"Well, it looks like you're it," one of them said.
These girls were not attractive. They both looked used up and tired. Nevertheless, they were friendly and conversational. While G-Rob and I tacitly agreed that "never in the world would we ever consider...yadayada" we thought it would be fun to talk with them.
And so we did, for a very, very long time.
Before I knew what I was doing, I had vowed to help them land dates for the night. At one point I started trying to brush in cowboys who were walking by the bar.
As one guy in a cowboy hat walked by I said, "Hey, buddy, want a shot? Have a seat."
G-Rob pointed out that I had just become a pimp. And not a very good one.
I didn't quite grasp how stupid I was being.
I spotted two guys at the end of the bar and nodded toward them.
"How about those guys?" I said to the more conversational of the hookers.
"No way," she said.
She spelled it out. "V-i-c-e."
It was there and then I ended my career as a pimp before it began. If I can't spot vice from the end of the bar, I'm no pimp.
As the conversation drew to a close, G-Rob asked the girls the wildest thing a john had ever asked them to do.
Good taste requires I leave their answers to something outside of a public forum. All I can say is, "Oh the toilet-drinking humanity." ("Oh the humanity" is a registered trademark of Guinness and Poker and the Hindenburg victims' familes).
And finally I was able to sleep.
*The final day, including The Bellagio, The Poker Room Brawl, and catching lucky
The blogger table was full for several hours Tuesday night. The buy-in was cheap as usual. Twenty-five bucks max with quarter and fifty cent blinds. It's all in good fun and nobody gets hurt too badly.
It also allows we bloggers to play what Iggy has started calling a pox on the poker community....the Hammer. For the uninitiated, that's 72o.
It's all in good fun. Push all in with the hammer, if you go bust, it's no big deal.
So, what in the name of all that's holy would possess me to put all my chips in the middle while holdinig the hammer when a $12,600 prize package in the Party Poker Million IV is on the line?
Well, frankly, it just didn't matter.More in this Poker Blog! -->
The story actually begins on Tuesday afternoon. I was off work for a couple days R&R. The sick baby was asleep and my folks weren't due in town for a few hours. I hadn't slept much in the past few days because of the aforementioned sick kid. But sleep wasn't really an option.
So, I figured I'd play a little $23/$2 PPM IV sat. I don't really know why I chose to play it. I hate those thinngs. All they do is win you an entry into another big tournament with a lot more people. The entry into the super sat is only $200, which if I really wanted to and didn't know it was -EV, I could buy in directly.
But I played anyway. Something to do for an hour or two. When it was over, I'd won an entry into the super sat. I'd played prettty well, considering the lack of sleep. I was disgusted to learn however that I'd won into a tournament for Tuesday night. My parents were going to be in town and I'd hoped to be in bed early.
By the time 10:15pm rolled around, I was zonked, half-asleep on the couch and feeling guilty for not going to bed with Mrs. Otis.
But, I thought, I'd play it out, bust out by midnight and go to bed.
When the table loaded up I groaned. Pro internet hero, David Ross, was in the one seat. I told my wife I might as well quit right then.
"Maybe you'll beat him," she said and slunked off toward bed, a tired, tired woman.
So, I sat back and played. My head was spinning because somehow I ended up playing the PPM IV super sat, the blogger table, and the BBJ table all at the same time. There is no way one man's head can stand to deal with those three fantastically different tables at once. But I did, because it didn't really matter anyway. Bust out by midnight and go to bed. That's the plan.
After two hours of play, I commented to the blogger table about how slow the tournament was moving. I was sitting just below the average stack. 218 players had started the tournament. The every-hour breaks weren't even cutting the field in half like they usually do.
By and by, the blogger table broke up, leaving me with only the BBJ table and the super sat to play. I was treading water. I got KK in my BB twice and got no action either time. Then I got KK in the BB again and somebody pushed all-in in front of me. Bust out by Midnight, I thought, and called. He turned up AQ and I knew what was going to happen. I saw the ace first.
I had him covered but barely. I started hoping I'd get the Hammer so I could go all in with pride and end it.
But what is that on the flop as well? Well, damn. That's a king. That give me a set and doubled me up.
Being in bed by midnight was going to be a challenge.
So, I dedicated myself to playing good poker. Don't make mistakes. Be aggressive, but be smart.
Somehow, by the time we were down to two tables, I'd worked myself up to the position of chip leader.
I wasn't optimisitic. Only the top six paid. Only the top three got entries into the PPM IV. I'm notorious for not being a closer.
And sure enough, I eventually choked.
With 11 players left, we were short handed. I'd established myself as being very tight and was playing even tighter. As such, my blinds were getting stolen right and left and I couldn't find a hand to defend. After losing about 6000 off my 40,000 stack, I decided to chip up a little bit and went for a steal with K8o.
The small blind (a very agressive player) cold-called. And the flop came nine-high and missed me completely. Still, I bet out and he cold-called. I should've given up right then. But the turn brought an 8 and I started thinking my hand might be good again. So, I bet out stronger and he cold called again. Uh-oh. I put him on JJ and when the river came and missed me, I gave up. Actually, I checked to him and he bet out a bet that was just small enough to call. He flipped up 99 for a set and I had just lost half my chip-stack.
For a period of ten minutes I hated myself. I could've folded into the money. Sixth place paid $1596 and would've been a nice return on my $25 investment. Now, I was forced to find a place to play and hope against hope that I could survive.
Down to ten-players, I found my spot. One person had called the 1000 BB in front of me when I found AQs. I raised him up and he cold-called. The flop came KKx. He bet into me. Somehow, I couldn't put him on a king. In fact, I put him on a middle pair. Still, with a diminished chip-stack and four players to the money, I couldn't force myself to put him to the test. I simply called. The turn came down beautifully, though. A beautiful ace.
He checked and I bet enough to leave me with about 11,000 in chips. He cold-called.
The river was a rag and I was prepared to push in when my opponent did so himself.
And so there I sat, either ready to go out in tenth or hope to survive until sixth place. And like the wuss am, I folded.
In retrospect, I still think he had a middle pair, but I couldn't be sure enough to risk going out so close to the money.
I was left third to last in chips and I hated msyelf more than I had up to that point.
What a waste of four hours.
Still, I had almost 12x the BB and wasn't in jeopardy yet. I vowed to fold until I found a big hand or got blinded off to the point where I had to fold or push.
Eventually, it came. Big slick. I didn't want to have to make any decisions or be on a draw, so I pushed in with it. And sure enough, got called by pocket nines again. Flop no help, turn no help, river...a beautiful king. I found myself pumping my fist a'la Moneymaker. I was surviving.
Our lone commenting railbird cheered me on and said that if the river was a woman I'd be having sex with her right then.
Still, I was in no position to place high in the tournament. I needed more help. It came in the way of big slick three hands later. Again, I pushed in. Again I got called by a middle pair. Again, the flop and turn were no help. Only this time, the river brought an ace. Fist-pump, railbird, survival.
Before I knew it, I was in the money. Six players left. One died and I was guaranteed nearly $2400. The another died. We were down to four. Fourth place gets nearly $4000, the remaining three get a seven-day cruise for two and a buy-in into the $7.2 million Party Poker Million to be later broadcast on the World Poker Tour.
And suddenly, I had hope.
I chipped up a little bit when the big stack called my big blind then bet into me on every street when I flopped top two pair. Then the foruth place guy went in with KJ and got called by AK.
No jack on the board and suddenly...suddenly...after more than four hours of self-loathing and fist-pumping...
I did it.
I won my way into a World Poker Tour event.
Wih three players left, we resorted to a series of all-in bets, during which time I caught lucky and moved up into second position from a distant third.
And the last hand before Party called the tournament over...
Well, yeah. I had the hammer and pushed all in with it.
That's what a poker blogger does after all.
It's now almost five in the morning and two beers haven't calmed my nerves.
All in all, I played fairly well, survived an amateur mistake, caught lucky, and survived a couple coin flips. As I understand it, that's what it takes to win.
So, my afternoon boredom turned $25 investment has landed me an anniversary present for my wife (a seven-day cruise ain't that bad) and a chance to play for some real cash.
Ladies and gentlemen, 2004 is ending very well for this Otis. Even if I bust out first in the tournament this March, I expect 2005 to be a very good year.
How about that?<-- Hide More
So it's 10AM and the sportsbook is packed. In any other part of the world screaming gamblers high on booze and glory would be a shameful sight. In Vegas, hell, we started at 5.
Good news! The Bengals are on the big screen. Bad News! I can see just enough of the Ravens game to see that Eli Manning won't dent the under but Kyle Boller (Kyle F-IN' Boller!) was gonna cost me some dough.More in this Poker Blog! -->
My parlay was Jacob Marley too. The Colts chose my trip to Vegas to suck nuts and provide none. So the Bengals were the bomb. The line is 11 and the B-girls are down by 20. The great and glorius Carson Palmer drives the team to the 5 only to...be a Bengal. But then, salvation, a fake field goal...a run for a score and my hunny is as good as...earned?
Now, by this point Cap'n Al is holding court while Mrs. Can't hang is snoring away beside me. It's not every day that I'm side by side with a man who dares me to drink more booze, and it's never been a day when I refused. Al ordered shots of booze like fish call a river. I was blazed.
Come 2PM Vegas Time
I was in full-Bengal headed glory. I think we all raked...Iggy..Dr. P...the whole damn crowd. (Bad Blood Costanza excluded). I needed another game and all the blogger action rode the Chargers game. Daddy, who sat right next to me, and who was one of the first people I spent any time talking to in Vegas was taking the Bolts to lose. But Al, had the chargers, and a song. A very very loud song....
San Diego...Super Chargers!
San Diego...Super Chargers!
Charge! Charge! Charge!
I was hooked. So now I am, by virtue of virtue's lack, hooked up with team Al. Which gave me my favorite memory of the day.
Mrs Can't Hang to Al : "Our bar tab is out of control. We can't afford it. STOP BUYING SHOTS"
Al to Mrs. Can't Hang : "OK"
*** Pause ***
Al to entire crowd of 15 bloggers : "So....who needs a shot!!!?"
I should have said, "no", in deference to the lady but I'm a bitch for peer pressure. Just ask Otis. SoCo is tasty.
With each score the song is back and the sportsbook loves it. My SoCo goggles were convinced of that. At one point a bald gambler in the table just in front of ours takes a break from what appears to be a very depressing bit of life lost to turn and conduct our chorus. Euphoria! More winnings! Sports gambling turns out to be the best expected value of the trip. Turst your heart. Follow the song.
As soon as the game ends our party breaks, except for the Can't Hang crew which will stay for the ESPN Eagles. Bad Blood, CJ and I actually take the tram from Mandalay to Excalibur. It's 2 friggin' properties away. Just on the other side of the Luxor. But this is Vegas, so we took the tram.
NOW HERE IT IS...THE LONG AWAITED AMAZINLY GOOD PART...
in our next installment.<-- Hide More
The PokerStars Caribbean Adventure blog has gone live and now has a brief introductory post up.
One blogger has already sent me a note lamenting the lack of comments on the site. That was originally done by design. Now, I'm having second thoughts.
I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on the site and suggestions on how I could make a short-term blog more useful for readers.
Another trip report coming soon.
Finally we're back home, sweet home. Well, not back exactly. After arriving in Vegas midnight Fri/Sat (Otis got there a half day earlier) we were now ACTUALLY CHECKING IN to the hotel at...More in this Poker Blog! -->
Saturday 5:00 PM (Vegas Time)
8th floor, Tower one, Excalibur. The glory of just checking in was Otis and I could get dibs on the room's two beds. Tough titties to BadBlood and CJ. Otis was Gone in 60 Seconds, I showered, dozed and then...
Sunday 5:00 AM (Vegas Time)
As Lili Von Shtupp told sheriff Bart, "I feel we-fweshed"! 12 hours of unconscious bliss and it's again GAME-ON! I slid into my only other clean pants and the one back-up shirt and headed straight to the tables.
The room ain't busy but awfully familiar. At the 1-3 spread game I find Otis in the 2 seat, Iggy in the 4, Little Willy in the 7 and Marty VIII..sitting in 9. With an open seat next to Iggy, I was ready to roll.
The room smells stale at 5AM. The late night gamblers have left their half finished cocktails on scattered, and the half naked chubbies in dark ages robes haven't been too diligent. . The dealer says he's the former basketball coach at West Virginia and a half drunk Albanian who looks like Golem in Soveit-bloc chic is to my left. Behind Iggy I quickly spy a half eaten box of Krispy Kreme (Al's?), but am advised against its contents. No food. It must be southern comfort for breakfast and only a double shot will do. Good morning Vegas! Game-ON!
1-3 ran well. As well as can be expected. Iggy didn't stay long once Grubby dropped by and the long parade of fish dropped in and out of his now-vacant chair. But the man of the hour was "Albania". I'm not actually sure that was where he was from, but he weren't from around these parts and he was AWFUL at cards. He was also, by the way, awful pissed about the way things were going.
More than anyone, Marty had his number. Every hand, pre and post-flop, on every street..."Al-BAY-NE-UH!!". It was like a Daryly Strawberry nightmare but with more booze and less blow. Each chant another ant under his fairly dirty skin.
"Why you ALWAYS raise?"
"awww...AL-BAY-NE-UH....i must have the hammer!"
"What is hammer?"
"You're about to find out"
Albania folds. Poor bastard. I love Marty the VIIIth though. He'll figure prominently in a later tale.
After about 3 or 4 hours of Albania taunting and hammer bashing BadBlood and CJ drop in on the way to the sports book for some fabulous NFL action. I already knew where my money was. Bengals, with their high-scoring offense an 11 point dog at New England. Easy call. One bill. I also dropped 10 bucks on the mandatory..what the hell...3 team parlay sucker bet. And now here's a lesson friends...remember this:
On the way from the Excal to meet our friends at Mandalay, I asked Blood where his money went. He's a smart man that Blood, and I respect his opinion. He had smart money on the Giants and Ravens. The over/under was 35 points! With these two teams, that's a no brainer! I rushed back, dropped $40 on the under and headed to Mandalay. I later turns out Blood also picked the Pats. He's George Costanza folks, learn his instinct and do the opposite.
So now at Mandalay, the gang's all here. The bloogers grabbed the best seat in the house...a full table..with a view of the big screen...4 steps from the bar. I love these guys.
Super Chargers...and Super Hookers.
Ok the hookers weren't SUPER....but damn they were interesting.
When we last left Otis, he'd busted out in 12th at the Holiday Classic and rode in a dissociative fugue back to the Excalibur. After spending 30 hours in Vegas without a hotel room in his name, he was finally ready to find a bed. It was 4:00pm
I suspected that I might be on the verge of some sort of physical catastrophe that would eventually be the stuff of Vegas lore and launch some promising medical researcher to fame after he studied what was left of my addled corpse and wrote about it in JAMA or Boy's Life. I wanted to tongue kiss the plump little girl who finally gave me my 8th floor room key and bid me a good weekend.
You don't know the half of it, I wanted to say. Instead I grunted something in the way of a thank you and--with G-Rob in tow--floated toward Tower 1.
Sleep, precious slumber, my own little slice of death was within reach.
Finally, I would rest.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Or so I thought. Instead, I laid in bed for three hours, listening to my internal machine grinding on un-oiled gears against itself. For one very long hour between 6pm and 7pm, I considered the possibility that I might die in Vegas. A younger more jaded Otis would've thought the concept to be vaguely romantic, or at the very least, a good story to tell Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin during a Cloud Nine jam session.
This Otis, however, slipped further into self-loathing.
You're an adult now. You're a father now. You have responsibilities greater than pushing your physical limits to the extreme and hoping you survive. Grow up, you schmuck.
The words ran on a loop in my head until sometime around 7:15pm on Saturday night, I drifted off into unconciousness. With the exception of a 45 minute power nap, I'd been awake for more than 40 hours.
One thing Vegas works very hard to do is convince its guests that time is irrelevant. Still, it offers alarm clocks in its hotel rooms. When I opened my eyes to a red LED screen that began with the numbers 12:, I cringed. I couldn't believe I'd just slept away 17 precious hours while on vacation.
I stood and walked toward the shower, hoping to make it to Mandalay Bay in time to meet the rest of the blogger crew for the NFL games. As I fumbled around with my duffle bag, I looked toward the window. It was dark outside.
I'd only been asleep for five hours.
While part of me felt like I hadn't given myself enough rest, there was that atavistic part of me that celebrated.
It was only midnight, and I was sure to find friends still up and running.
Welcome to Albania, please show your chrome at the door
Freshly showered, I rode the elevator downstairs. I had a plan. Play cards with a fresh head for four hours, go back to sleep for five hours, then get up in time to lay down some money on the early NFL games.
Somebody once wrote something about plans, and mice, and men, and such. I forget.
When I arrived in the poker room, it was in full effect. At the very back of the room, my brother, Dr. Jeff, was entering his eighth straight hour at a low-limit spread game. My bar-owning, school-teaching, number-talking buddy from Denver, Joey Two-Hands, sat in the one seat.
"Hungry?" Dr. Jeff asked.
I thought about it. I hadn't eaten food in a very long time.
"There's this place back by the sports book," he said. "You can get two tacos really cheap."
I bolted back to Little John's Deli, ate me some tacos, and brought two back for Two-Hands.
By 1am, I was fully refreshed. Dr. Jeff always knew the right prescription. I vowed to follow my little brother's lead for the rest of the night.
The two seat was open and I sat down. What a good way to kill four hours until bed, I thought.
"Have you seen the monkey?" Jeff asked. I had not. He told me to just wait.
Within a few minutes, Jeff screamed, "MONKEY!" While the occasional outburst is not out of character for my brother, he usually doesn't break out the monkey-scream in poker rooms.
So, imagine my surprise when most of the poker room answered back in unison, "MONKEY!" and cheered like Dr. Jeff had just saved a nun's life.
I turned to look over my shoulder at the big screen TV. There, in giant monkey-assed technicolor, was Whiplash the Dog-Riding monkey. On Rodeo TV, Whiplash was the star. He rode that dog like Luke Perry in "Eight Seconds." I got the feeling the monkey knew how much joy he was bringing a room full of poker-playing degenerates. Either that or he was tied onto the dog and had no real choice. One or the other.
When it was over, I felt sad and Dr. Jeff could see it on my face.
"Don't worry," he said. "He'll be back in about two hours. Just watch for the clown. He comes up after that."
As I said, Dr. Jeff knows how to make people feel good.
The cast of charcters at the table was better than any table at which I sat the entire weekend. It was constatly changing. Lyle from the O8 game was there for a while (and is still the subject of a future post). Some retired restauranteur who never stopped talking sat there for a long time. A freshly-21-year-old kid from New Jersey sat beside me for a long time. I met his father later and wondered how the kid turned out to be such a balanced individual. The dealers were good, too, as they joined along in the monkey-fun and indulged our hammer-dropping silliness. One of the dealers dealt to me two nights later and remembered a line I dropped on G-Rob and Dr. Jeff:
"Well, since he raised and you called, I have to re-raise."
The dealer repeated it word for word 48 hours later. That either means he has a fantastic memory or we left quite an impression on him.
But above all the characters, Albania was the best.
Albania arrived in a quiet whoosh of funk and bed-fashion. I questioned for a while whether he had teeth. I could tell he was from out of town (way out of town) but couldn't get a read on his personality otherwise. That was until someone beat him on one hand and he degenerated into the quickest tilt I've ever seen. Then, I was fascinated by his rebound, as he came back two hands later and laid a beat on somebody, slammed his cards on the table a' la Phil Hellmuth and beamed with pride.
Finally, someone got up the courage to ask, "So, where you from, bud?"
His one word answer set the stage for the next several hours: "Albania."
Dr. Jeff and I looked at each other across the table. The song clicked with both of us at the same time.
To the tune of "When the Saints Go Marching In" we began singing, "Albania, Albania, you border on the Adriatic..."
The table looked at us, expecting an explanation. We could only offer that the song was from an old version of the show Cheers in which Coach was studying for some geography exam and needed songs to help him remember his countries. Sadly, for a long time, we couldn't remember the rest of the song.
Albania's catch-phrase was "You be nice to me, I'll be nice to you." Albania didn't like to be checked-raised, slow-played, or otherwise hammer-inflicted. Anytime he felt like he was wandering into a trap, he'd sit up in his chair, look at his opponent and say in his thick Albanian accent, "You be nice to me, I'll be nice to you."
He said it to Dr. Jeff at one point, to which Dr. Jeff with more poise than I'd expect from a guy 12 hours into a session, responded "How about this? I'll play my hand and we'll just see how it turns out." As it turned out, Dr. Jeff won the pot.
It was about that time I had a fantastic idea.
"Albania," I said, "do me a favor. Say this: Give that man his money."
For some reason, Albania indulged me. And suddenly, there, sitting at the back table of the Excalbur Poker room sat none other than Teddy KGB.
I couldn't have been more pleased.
I think it was around the time the room erupted in another monkey-cheer that I remembered the remaining lyrics to the Albania song:
Albania, Albania, you border on the Adriatic. Your land is mostly mountainous and your chief export is chrome
Actually, at the time, I accidentally replaced the word "land" with "hills," to which G-Rob (who had finally arrived at 6am after a 12-hour nap) said, "Your hills are mostly mountainous? What the hell does that mean?"
Eventually, Albania refused to do his Teddy KGB impression anymore and got more and more cranky as the morning wore on.
I thought I might cheer him up by asking if he knew what Albania's chief export was, but it didn't seem to help.
On Roofies and Iggy's Greatest Tell
Before long, the table was starting to look like a Party Poker blogger table. G-Rob, Dr. Jeff, Marty, Iggy, and I were hamming it up with Albania and the others. Joey Two-Hands had already left to catch his 6am flight back to Denver, but the rest of us were going strong as the sun again started to rise on Las Vegas.
My plan to go to bed by 5am had again been thwarted and already I was facing the possibility of going into another day on no sleep. Still, I was feeling okay and having the time of my life.
When Iggy sat down in the four-seat, I couldn't help but revel in his love of the game and his fellow bloggers. Here's a guy who just quit a fairly lucrative job to go out on his own and play poker. He doesn't write a great deal about his play (which, frankly, I wish he would do more), but one can assume he doesn't build his bankroll playing $1-$3 spread at six in the morning. He was there simply to have fun.
All of that said, just because he's playing for little more than pride, he doesn't dial back his game. Within thirty minutes of him sitting down, I drew the Hilton Sisters and started to build a pot. Iggy and I went to war, raising, re-raising, capping pre-flop, then doing the same on the flop when no overs came. When an ace came on the turn, I still bet into him, but he raised me and I dialed it back. I check-called the river to see his pocket kings. Only on Party Poker, my ass.
"I like the way you slowed down on the turn," he said.
To this day, I still don't know if he was being sarcastic.
From the other end of the table, Marty asked Iggy his name.
"Hank," Iggy said.
"Hmmm," Marty said. "I thought I heard you say your name was Iggy."
Marty is a law-talking guy and is not to be trifled with. But he'd been up for a while as well, and he didn't press the issue.
As for me, I was still steaming from having my Hiltons cracked, and raised pre-flop with pocket sixes. Of course, Iggy called.
Note: I don't have any notes on this hand. I'm pretty sure this is how it played out. Iggy may want to correct me if I'm wrong.
The flop came down 589. Again, Iggy and I went to war.
Now, I know I'm not necessarily favored to win this hand. In fact, I should assume that Iggy is ahead. Maybe a set. More likely, A9 or A8. If he is ahead, I know that I only have six outs to catch up. Still, having played low-limit with him before, I know Iggy can sometimes be aggressive when he's way behind. I could only hope he was on a draw.
I think I maintained my poker face when the turn brought a seven, giving me the straight. I check-raised Iggy, who cold called and gave me a look.
The turn was a blank, as I recall. This time I bet into him and the sonofabitch raised me. I re-raised, and he capped.
But as he put in his final bet, he turned to the dealer and said, "You know, in a lot of cardrooms, when play gets to be heads up there's no limit on the number of raises."
It was at this moment that my heart sank and I picked up on Iggy's biggest tell: When he has the nuts, he'll turn to the dealer and ask for the game to be no-limit.
The dealer said we could do whatever we wanted, but I already knew what was about to happen. I put in my final crying call and watched Iggy turn up Vince Van Patton's favorite hand, JTo.
Iggy began raking the pot and eyed me from behind his locks, "Drawing at the dummy end of the straight," he said with a playful scoff.
In one moment I felt both chastened and so happy to be alive that I didn't mind losing another big pot to Iggy.
After a while, Iggy prepared to depart to play craps with Hdouble, Grubby, and Mrs. Can't Hang. As he left, he gave Marty his drink as a peace offering, admitting finally that he was, in fact, Iggy.
As Iggy walked away, Marty asked, "You don't think he'd slip me a roofie do you?"
"Nah," I said, thinking, but if he asks the dealer to go no-limit, I'd fold. That's his greatest tell.
Coming up...after the holidays...
*Playing the Rock Garden
*No-Limit---Making back the losses
*Sherwood Forest Pt. 2
*Social Anxiety Disorder and the Bellagio
When we last left Otis, he had just survived a meeting of Robin Iggy and his Merry Men at the Sherwood Forest. Otis awoke after a 45 minute power nap to repeated kicking in his ribs and stomach. Weary, but invigorated by the possibility of playing against some of the top poker bloggers and professionals, he rode the elevator ten floors and returned to the scene of the morning's crimes
The bar didn't look much different than when I left it less than an hour before. A few more people had shown up and the pre-tourney buzz was tip-tapping through the assembled bloggers and their friends.
This is not how I'd planned it. My plan was originally to sleep a little late, roll into the meet and greet around 11am, then play with a fresh head in the tournament.
Instead, I was going to be on time, bouyed only by a power nap and the excitement of the day's events.
I wore an Otis elevator work jacket and a custom O...tis hat. Later, I'd run into Felicia and she'd remark, "I liked you better without the hat."
I couldn't disagree with her. I was a mess and the hat wasn't doing anything to obscure my increasingly green face.
But that comes later. There's the matter of getting to the tournament, courtesy of Big Mike's Chariot Service.More in this Poker Blog! -->
If there had been a slow motion camera mounted outside Tower 1 of the Excalbur Hotel and Casino, it could've captured the next promotional advertisement for the Vegas Convention and Visitor's Bureau. The motliest of crews strode through the door, drinks in hand, eyes wild with excitement and adrenaline. In the commercial, each of them would exclaim in slow motion as they saw the bohemoth stretch Excursion, white like a good cowboy's horse, as long as the night we'd all just survived.
I was among the first to climb in. I crawled to the front of the passenger cabin and plopped into the seat. I had MapQuested the distance between the hotels before I left. I thought I remembered that it would only be a six mile journey. I figured there wouldn't be time for another good power nap, so I settled in to enjoy a few quiet laughs along the ride.
I'm not exactly sure what happened next. The Excursion seemed very full. Someone passed me a CD and told me to give it to the driver. I passed the disc through the portal and asked the driver to give us some privacy. The ensuing ten minutes are something I still haven't completely been able to get my head around. The CD had been a gift from BadBlood to Al. Though I don't have notes on this, I'm fairly sure it was titled the Devil's Greatest Hits (All Lucifer's Love Songs).
I don't think I talked much during the ride. The rest of the trip is just a few mental exclamations, psychic warnings that I was entering a level of debauchery that even Bacshus himself never envisioned for 10am.
Computer generated disco ball lights swam around my head, death metal pounded from the speakers, someone asked for Sinatra, Al hung from the windows and threw the goat to a state patrol officer, and somewhere in my professional head something screamed, "There are cameras in here! Someone is taking pictures! Jesus, there's a video camera! Damage control! We need damage control! Somebody get Major Tom on the phone because ground control just asploded!"
And then it was quiet. The ride--seemingly endless--continued. I pulled my hat over my face and acquiesced.
Whatever will be, will be.
Ill-equipped to meet or greet
After disembarking from the chariot, we stood and waited for Al to sign autographs (I guess this is true. It's what I've read). Like a line of school children heading to recess, we made our way to a ballroom where Dick Gatewood and the men from LasVegasVegas had put together a fine spread of food and drink for the weary travelers.
I found myself getting a little sad. I looked around the room at the famous faces, heroes who I'd intended on engaging in meaningful, thought-provoking conversation. Charlie Shoten was there and offered a fine line of philosophical thought. Tom McEvoy was there with his uber-strategic mind. Marcel Luske was there, his personality in tow. Ron Rose, the man who can't fail at anything, was signing copies of his book and ripping out pages that didn't meet Felicia's approval.
It was more than I'd hoped for and I was in no condition to engage anyone. For several minutes, I hated myself. What a degenerate I had become. I felt like apologizing to the Joes, but decided I wasn't in any condition to do that either. Instead, I poured myself a glass of juice and drank it on one drink. A glass of ice water met the same fate.
As I stood along the food table, trying to decide if I felt like eating (I hadn't had a bite since the non-gumbo off the buffet in the poker room), an angel appeared in the form of Mrs. Can'tHang.
She stood in front of me, her eyes awash with understanding and empathy. She pulled a bite from her coffee cake (it might've been a muffin) and directed it into my mouth. When she did it again, I decided I was going to be okay. Though I hated my degenerate side for ruining a good opportunity to network and learn, I felt at ease. I owe the Mrs. for that.
I saw Daddy sitting across the room and decided that a brief sitdown would be good for the soul. As I made my way in his direction, I found myself nearly running into Marcel. It felt as though a conversation was unavoidable. And before I could stop myself, I found myself talking.
"I like the way you sing at the table," I said.
Looking back, this was, perhaps, the stupidest thing I said all weekend (although something I said in an upcoming post about Sherwood Forest Pt. 2 runs a close second). I like the way you sing at the table? What in the hell had become of me?
Whether he took it as a compliment (which it was) or was merely humoring me, Marcel entertained me for a few minutes by talking about how singing is a calming influence when he's playing. He even talked about how much he liked to sing when away from the table. Though I felt like an idiot of the first order, looking back, I enjoyed that conversation more than I would've imagined.
Our conversation broke when the Poker Prof called the meeting to order and introduced Charlie Shoten. I found my seat behind Daddy and listened intently. With the good vibes coming from Mrs. Can't Hang and Marcel, I felt like I was on my way to recovery. Everything was going to be okay.
As Charlie spoke, Evelyn Ng walked in the door. My mind again shifted. The lack of sleep started getting to me again. I could tell that Daddy recognized this from his seat in front of me. More than recognizing it, I felt like he empathized. He vocalized what was going through my head. Loathe to misquote him, I only remember that his first few words were, "In terms of weird..."
He continued, but I already knew where he was going. Here we were, a couple of schlubs, surrounded by some of the greatest pros, on our way to a private tournament set up in our honor, working on a few minutes sleep, after a rock-star night and morning that we shoud not have survived, and Evelyn Ng just walked into the room on a virtual hydrofoil of beauty.
In terms of weird, indeed.
That's when I broke down. It all just became too much for one tired Otis to handle. I felt myself breaking up and didn't want to disturb Charlie's speech. As quietly as I could, I slipped out a side door into the faux open air of the Sam's Town Casino courtyard.
The wait (perhaps, The Weight)
G-Rob followed me. I think he was in much the same fix as I was. We wandered the casino until we found a bar, where I ordered a series of ice waters and Red Bulls. I don't really like Red Bull, but it seemed to be my only hope of making it the reamaining two hours until the tournament.
I got up to go to the bathroom and when I returned, G-Rob was gone. By some act of charitable fate, I found him and we wandered again until we found the food court. I was still feeling nourished from the Mrs.' coffee cake/muffin. G-Rob ordered a calzone from Sbarro and we sat. Every two minutes he'd ask me what time it was. When we realized together that only two minutes had passed, we'd sigh in unison, "Jeeesus."
G-Rob ate most of the calzone. I ate the remaining bite. After an hour or so, we decided we were again fit for public view and headed back upstairs where the meet and greet had returned to mingling. I sat outside, overlooking the courtyard, and pondering how I might find the will to continue.
Just then, the Missouri Boys walked up and greeted me. Marty said, "We ran into somebody who says he knows you."
Though a reasonable Otis would've been suspicous (nobody knows me), I agreed to go meet the phantom Otis-knower.
We walked fifty yards down the walkway and I spotted him.
There was my brother.
I could spend a few paragraphs talking about how my brother had convinced me he couldn't make the trip, that he'd re-worked his schedule so that he'd work two straihgt weeks after he got back so that he could meet me, and how almost instantly I felt a new spirit rising inside me.
Instead, I'll just say this: His arrival marked a turning point in the trip. And he couldn't have arrived at a better time.
At long last, The Holiday Classic
After getting the opportunity to meet another of my heroes, Linda from PokerWorks.com Table Tango, I followed the line of school children down to the poker room where Dick had the tournament ready to go.
I drew the seven-seat, directly between Al Can't Hang and Linda.
The Line-up at my table:
Seat 1: Glenn
Seat 2: BadBlood
Seat 3: Bill
Seat 4: G-Rob
Seat 5: Boy Genius
Seat 6: Linda
Seat 7: Otis
Seat 8: Al Can't Hang
Seat 9: Marty
Seat 10: Bob
I initially cringed. Frankly, I didn't want to get sat with Glenn, BadBlood, or G-Rob. I already knew that Glenn had a read on me and was masterful in his play. BadBlood and G-Rob know me and my style.
But, when I looked back and saw that CJ was sandwiched in between Max and Felicia, I decided I was going to be okay.
I wish I had taken more time to talk to Felicia before the tournament. I think I might've altered my ultra-tight aggressive strategy a bit. For, in the end, my tight play cost me a great deal, I think.
Though it has been chronicled before, G-Rob dropped the hammer on the very first hand of the tournament. That, along with my buddy Marty making the final table was the chief highlight for me.
You've read much better tourney reports from the other bloggers, so I'll just divulge the key hands I played.
I posted and folded for a couple of orbits before finding pocket tens. I put in a 3x BB raise and got a call from BadBlood. The flop had one overcard, but I got a sense that the flop had missed him completely. I put in a pot-sized bet and after some thought, he folded. I think he thought I might have the hammer, but couldn't convince himself of it.
A couple of levels later, after Linda had busted out, I had Boy Genius to my right. Everyone folded to us in the blinds. I had A8o in the BB. Genius put in a small raise, which I called, vowing to fold if the flop missed me.
The flop came down with an 8 and two of my aces' suit, giving me second pair top-kicker and a backdoor flush draw. Genius bet out. I had two choices: Fold like the wuss I am or put Genius to the test.
With the rapidly escalating blinds, I was in danger of busting out soon anyway. So, I pushed all-in. The bet sent Genius into the tank. I knew then that I had him. After a couple minutes thought, he folded, giving me enough chips to survive a little longer.
The pot made me feel a little froggy and with suited connectors I tried to steal the blinds from Glenn a little later. As I suspected, his read on me was rock solid. He put in a big re-raise and I had to fold.
An orbit later, I found suited Big Slick. The big blind sat at 300. I had somewhere in the neighborhood of 1900 in my stack. Glenn sat in the big blind. I thought for a moment and put in a bet of 900, nearly half my stack. Everyone folded to Glenn who considered the bet for a while. I'm now wishing I'd worn a ski mask to the tournament and brought a proxy bettor, because this time Glenn folded. I might as well have been playing my cards face up. Later he commented about the size of my bet. I still wonder if he'd have called if I had shaved a couple hundred off my raise.
Over the next several orbits, I made my mistake. I folded small-middle pairs three times to raises. Had I spoken to Felicia before, I suspect she would've correctly told me that with the current blind structure, I should've pushed in on one or all of the hands and hoped to win the coin flip. Those hands were my only chance of making it into the money. Instead, I folded them like the wuss I am.
Instead, I moved short-stacked into the one-seat of another table when we consolidated to two. For a few glorious orbits I got to sit with Max and Felicia. True to form, Felicia showed no mercy and stole my blinds on two consecutive orbits. I wanted to defend them, but I had no better than a Q5 either time. So, I folded them like the wuss I am. I made a mental note: Be more like Felicia next time. Maybe even change your name to Felicia. To avoid any trademark issues, pronounce your name differently.
Finally, perhaps it was an act of mercy, I found suited Big Slick when Pauly pushed in with pocket jacks. With a very short stack, I had no choice but to push in. I lost the coin-flip and left uncermoniously in 12th place.
After thinking about the tournament for a couple of weeks, I decided that when I chose to play, I played to the best of my ability. Winning and losing with that structure, though, I think is based less on how you play the hands you decide to play, but making better decisions on which hands to play. Simply put, I played too tight, allowed myself to go like Broomcorn's uncle, and folded small and middle pairs when I could've used them to double up. In a tournament that moves that fast, you've got to pick a place to double up and I didn't pick it correctly.
All of that said, however, the tournament was obviously not a crapshoot. When you find Felicia and Max in the top two spots, you know that there is talent involved.
Next time I plan to play under the name Felleesha Pescatore.
Like a proud brother, I watched Marty rise to the final table, eventually busting out in 8th place. For his first live casino tournament, I thought he played very well and made some good decisions. Plus, he outlasted me, so perhaps I have no room to talk about being proud. Maybe he should be proud that I didn't embarass him.
Marty collected his final table schwag and joined G-Rob and I for the ride back to the Strip. I had lost track of how long it had been since I had slept or had a decent meal. I was further dismayed by the lack of cabs outside Sam's Town (my only complaint, by the way...nice job, Dick, and thanks).
Finally, I thought, I can get a few hours sleep.
Or so I thought.
*Re-birth and Albania
*Playing in the Rock Garden
*No Limit--Making back the losses
*Sherwood Forest, Pt. 2
So, beaten and bewildered, Otis and I emerged from the bar... ready for the big tournament of STARS. Or, at the very least, tournament of players who are verifiably better than G-Rob. I knew I wouldn't win, I just wanted one big score. I hit it early.More in this Poker Blog! -->
December 14, 7:00 PM (Eastern)
Wife of G-Rob : So, how much did you lose?
G-Rob : Some
Wife of G-Rob : Did you play badly?
G-Rob : Not at all. I dropped the hammer in a tournament.
Wife of G-Rob : Is that good?
G-Rob : No. Its the worst hand in poker. But let's see if we can buy our groceries with pride.
Back in Vegas 1 PM ish (Vegas Time)
Does it really matter who I'm seated with? Sure other, better bloggers have detailed notes (speaking of which, I'm patting Otis down from now on. Nobody remembers that much detail) but I do remember this much, I was with Otis, Bad Blood, and Al. The rest is hazy. Remember, I'm a lush.
But, alas the crowing achievement was the first hand of the game. I'm in the SB and LO...the hammer. I remember 5 limpers to me, so out of pure blogger loyalty, I raised it 300. Folds all around, and I have glory. That's the boobie prize for sure.
(Side note : last night I played with Maudie on UB and an aggressive all-in hammer play against two callers ended my night early)
I took the second hand of the tourney too. I was dealt AQ off on the button and with just 3 limpers I pushed all in. Two rounds of stolen blinds. YEE-HAW! I never won another hand. I was further crippled by AL CAN'T FOLD when with top pair and top kicker I raised it to another 3 hundred and he pushed all in.
A smarter tournament player probably would have called, especially since I'm positive he was banking on two over cards to draw. But because I foolishly wanted to ENDURE in the game, I folded and lost my bet. Dammit.
I made it to 19th, when in the SB I was dealt A 6 off and pushed in. Felicia, in the BB called me blind and showed 8 10 off. She caught a 10 in the river and I had plenty of time to play blackjack with Bad Blood. The good news is I won my tournament buy-in back.
4 PM (Vegas time)
So here we are a gaggle of losers. Otis, Marty (who finished 8th by the way), and I went searching for a cab and what would be my very first hours of sleep since getting to work at Midnight Vegas on Friday.
But 'splain this to me please. A giant casino like Sam's town with, I presume a gigantic number of tourists, has ZERO taxis standing by. We headed out the front door, we walked around to the side. We inspected the space near the dumpsters in the back, but apart from a flock of dim-witted hats there was NOTHING! Double dammit.
Finally we found a charming car hop who told us there was a WAIT LIST for cabs. Next one....30 minutes. The crash begins. Otis passed out on a bench. Marty pacing like an expectant father with an itchy bladder and me...ever used peyote? (For those of you who know my secret identity....neither have I)
When we did find a cab I climbed into the front...for the 37 hour ride to the strip. Otis was unconcious. I would've loved another round of rib-kickin' fun but he was too far away and the cabbie would likely not be amused. C'est la vie.
NOW....he good stuff...really I promise.
If it seems like I've blazed through all the actual poker content, I have. I mean REALLY good stuff ahead and its important to me that I get to tell it first before Otis spoils it with better writing and his idiot savant recall of detail.
SO..that said...I'm being concise.<-- Hide More
When we last left Otis, he was going to bed after being up for a very, very long time. He had just a few hours to sleep before heading over to Sam's Town. As he walked by the bar closest to the elevators, he ran into Daddy, Iggy, and Big Mike. It is here we pick up our story
Sherwood Forest, Pt. 1
Sherwood Forest was home to Robin Hood and his Merry Men. There, beneath the shade of the tall trees, they hatched their plans to steal from the rich, give to the poor, and generally stick it to the Sheriff of Nottingham.
Near the Tower 1 exit of the Excalibur Hotel and Casino, there sits the Sherwood Forest of an alternate universe. To the casual passer-by it looks like no more than an open-air bar that might be frequented by the bored wife of a poker player or a hooker in search of one last trick. But through increasingly drunken eyes, the bar looked just like the real Sherwood Forest might on a warm robber's night.
Though I didn't realize it at the time, I was arriving late to the meeting of Robin and his Merry Men. Little John (aka Big Mike) towered over the bar, a double shot of Soco in his hand. Friar Tuck (aka Daddy) stood looking weary but happy, as if he had just endured his fabled water-logged beat-down from Robin. And there, slumped over the bar, his locks brushing the marble, holding a greyhound in his hand sat Robin Hood himself. Apparently, he was already incognito, so as to fool the bad Sheriff. He called himself Iggy.
"Otis," they said almost in unison.
I looked in the air, wondering if Daffy Duck might be flying by, his buck and a quarter quarter-staff in hand.
Though every ounce of good sense I'd consumed in the past 17 hours told me to do otherwise, I stopped, greeted the pranksters, and, much to my own peril, accepted the offer of...one last drink before I went to bed.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Big Mike was buying. I considered my options. Some Vitamin C and Vodka sounded good, but since it was breakfast I opted for a Guinness. While we waited for my drink to arrive, I chatted with Robin Iggy and mentioned that BadBlood and G-Rob were still playing no-limit poker.
Mischievous eyes sneaked up from beneath the locks of brown hair. A smile crept in and turned up the corners of the van dyke beard.
Although I know I was moving under my own power and will, I felt drawn to follow the leader through the banks of slot machines. When we arrived at the poker room, I sat back and watched as Robin Iggy put on a show.
Much like he'd been sitting at the bar, Robin Iggy put his elbows down on the rail and shot lasers into BadBlood. I thought briefly to ask if he wouldn't rather just go smack Blood upside the head with a quarter-staff, then thought better of it. I know what Robin did to Friar Tuck, after all.
BadBlood was all in with big slick. It held up and he gave us a look like, "I can't believe what these guys will play." Then, as if drawn by the Jim Jones-ish Robin Iggy gaze, Blood stood and walked around the rail.
"I'm BadBlood," he said, extending his hand.
Robin Iggy shook Blood's hand, but said nothing. That smile was still there.
Blood turned to me. "Friend of yours?" he asked. I could see he was growing ever so slightly annoyed.
"I just met him," I said truthfully, although I was starting to feel bad. Blood obviously thought I had cooked up this gag in failed attempt at drunken humor.
Confused, annoyed, and looking a bit bedraggled, Blood went back to the table. As I sat down on a slot machine stool and wondered if my beer had arrived at the bar, Robin Iggy took up his perch on the rail again and again stared down BadBlood.
I'm not sure how much time passed before Robin Iggy let Blood off the hook. I think he mouthed the words, "I'm Iggy." BadBlood stood and came back across the rail.
After a brief conversation, Iggy came back to meet me.
"What did he say?" I asked.
"He said, 'I believe you.'"
I briefly pondered the theological implications of the scenario, while Iggy talked about his reservations about renting a dwarf to play the role of Iggy in the Holiday Classic, now just slightly more than seven hours away.
Oh, jeebus, what's happening to me?
We made out way back to the bar, where my Guinness sat taking on the requisite room temperature, I took a drink and realized that I was not only ill-equipped to play cards. I was ill-equipped to do much of anything. That included drinking.
"I'm ill-equipped," I said out loud. Daddy heard me and offered some soothing words. I don't quite recall what they were, but he assured me I was going to be okay.
Several people have asked how I remember so many details from this bender. It's a legitimate question. When I'm drinking on my home turf, I am prone to blackouts that sometimes last for two or more hours, while at the same time, in Vegas I can drink for literal days and remember small details that should escape me.
I have only one answer. When drinking at home, I deal in in the realm of the quick-binge. That is, I drink as much as I can in a three-hour window. That usually results in some form of what Uncle Ted likes to call, "losing time."
In Vegas, however, the body conditions itself to function on one long, steady, mind-bending buzz. Losing time trends not to happen. Moreover, details tend to stick out. They burn themselves into my psyche and only by purging them here can I exorcise the demons so that they don't eat my medula oblongata for brunch.
All of that said, it was at this point that things start to get a little cloudy.
Somebody said something about an Irish Car Bomb. I'm pretty sure I said, "I'm ill-equipped."
Nonetheless, Big Mike had entered some sort of high-level negotiation with the bartender and it seemed rude to turn down the offer. Within minutes, the drink was in front of me. It didn't look right. The Baileys had somehow congealed in the bottom of the whiskey. It had a sickening layered look to it.
After it was over, Daddy didn't look so good. Again, things started getting gray. I'd stopped thinking of the boys as Robin and his Merry Men. These guys were male Sirens, calling from the rocks, singing a sweet Irish ballad that I was sure to follow until the hull of my already sinking ship was wrapped around some boulder.
Somehow, I culled this moment from the morning in something I wrote for my other blog:
It's 6am and I've just downed a glass of Guinness. Inside it was a half-shot of Makers and half-shot of Baileys. It's breakfast, after all.
I've propped myself up by my elbows on the bar and am sitting within whispering distance of a guy I'd first met face-to-face only six or so hours before.
"Otis, you should write a book."
The sun is coming up and it's painting the guy's face with an awkward mix of natural and fake light that would drive a professional photographer batty. Somewhere, a few seats down, a guy they call Big Mike is negotiating with the bartender to whip up another batch of what we just had.
I should write a book, they say.
I take a swig from the bottle sitting in front of me, scan the room for anybody who may be listening, and say half-outloud, but more to myself...
"A book. About what?"
As my liver negoitated with my brain for a few more minutes of visiting at the bar, Mrs. Can't Hang joined us. BadBlood and G-Rob joined us. Al joined us. Others were there, but, frankly, this is where things move from cloudy to tornadic.
I talked with Iggy for a long time on life philosophies, life histories, and the like. I tried to get him to lay out his suspect list for the coup d'tat on the trademark Guinness and Poker site. It was the one thing I couldn't get him to talk about.
Mrs. Can't Hang downed a shot of 7:30am tequila and played video poker. I counted the hours of sleep I would get if I went to bed at that very moment.
At some point, someone there (I know who it is, but I won't say. He/She can cop to it if they want) said the funniest thing I'd heard in hours.
"This is surreal. I'm sitting at a bar at 7:30 in the morning with Patrick Swayze and Tony Siragusa."
I digested that and expressed my thanks for the summation of the morning.
At 8am, just two hours before the meet and greet at Sam's Town was supposed to begin, I quietly slipped away from the growing group and rode the elvators to the tenth floor of the hotel. I found a smelly room, full of people, and no bed space available.
I collapsed on the floor and wondered if I would wake up in time for the tournament.
Something was very wrong. I knew that I had gone to sleep on one portion of the floor. At some point in the past 45 minutes, I had moved. Or somebody had moved me.
While odd, that wasn't what was wrong.
My ribs and stomach were starting to hurt. Something very wrong was happening to my body.
Through the clouds, I heard the voice of some Monty Python-esque god.
I think I answered, "No." I might've said, "I'm ill-equipped."
I smelled cigarette smoke and the pain was growing worse.
I opened my eyes to mere slits and looked up. There--more than six feet above me--stood G-Rob, his hair a mess, a cigarette dangling from his lips. He was kicking me in the ribs and stomach. Repeatedly.
"Get up. Big Mike just called for a stretch Excursion to take us to Sam's Town."
Within a few minutes, unshowered, in the same clothes I'd been wearing for 36 hours, I stood up, grabbed my Otis jacket and hat, and followed G-Rob back to the elevators.
One thing I learned on this trip: When Big Mike is being generous, it is a foolish man who doesn't accept the generosity.
* The WPBT Holiday Classic
* Sleepless at Sam's Town
* Re-birth and Albania
* Playing in the rock garden
When we last left Otis, he had survived his first half-day in Vegas, a table of O8 with Felicia and Glenn, shots with Al Can't Hang, and a bowl of buffet gumbo (Al: That's not gumbo!). All of this before he'd been in Vegas for eight hours. We resume the tale just moments after the O8 table broke.
You ever have those times in your life where you know odd things are about to happen? You can't quite pin-point where the night is going, but you know that if you keep one wheel firmly attached to the track, you'll be able to survive.
This Friday night in the Excalibur poker room--full of filtered air, rodeo musk, and cocktail waitress purfume--had that feeling hanging over it.
And I was about to break my cardinal rule for the first time since I'd arrived. I was about to play poker with nothing but a bowl of cheap gumbo (I know, Al) and a prayer to soak up the booze.More in this Poker Blog! -->
How long can this prologue last?
The room was full. The waitlist was long. I was happy to only have to wait a few minutes for Ari to open a new $2-$6 spread table. I'd considered sitting at the NL game, but I was slowly beginning to recognize that I was ill-equipped to play a game where I would have to make stack-risking decisions every few minutes.
Ill-equipped. It would become a theme over the next 12 hours.
I drew the three-seat at the new table in the middle of the room. Most of my compatriots had gone to dinner, but I had stayed behind to wait for CJ who had promised to arrive sometime around 7pm. I stole a look at my cell phone and noticed it hadn't made any noise and I hadn't missed any phone calls. The voicemail box indicated I had a message, but I figured it was one I'd forgotten to erase.
The $2-$6 table was a practice in folly. The guy to my left was a "straddle the blinds then take a walk" type of player. He rammed and jammed every pot until the turn, at which point, if he hadn't caught, he'd simply fold. Then he would get up and walk around for almost an entire orbit. I thought briefly that he might be running a game with the woman sitting to his left, but after about thirty minutes of watching I decided he was just trying to build pots.
Now, there's nothing wrong with building pots. I do it when I have a good starting hand. That's part of the game. Still, this guy stuck out as a guy who should've been playing at either a higher limit or at a slot machine. He seemed to want to rake big pots (again, no crime in that), straddled, raised, and rammed and jammed for two streets, pulling the one-armed bandit and hoping he came up the bars on the turn. If not, he'd wait for the next hand. Or he would take a walk.
I sat back, hoping to catch a good hand in the big blind so I could exploit his poker slots play. I didn't, though, and started to get a little annoyed.
After about an hour, the guy had bled away about half his rack (for some reason, the Excalbur allows players to play out of their rack, something I don't like...simply because it takes people too long to pull out their chips when they are going to bet). CJ walked in and told me he couldn't get me on my cell phone. I told him to buy a rack and get on the list for my table. Oh, and I think I told him I'd been drinking for eight hours. I may not have. However, I've known CJ for years. And he knows when I've been drinking.
Finally, the rammer-jammer stood and I looked around for CJ. He had disappeared. I picked up my phone and dialed his number, thinking he'd stepped out for some grub (or to find the increasingly AWOL Grubby). I felt silly when I realized CJ was sitting just a couple tables away. Before long, he'd racked up and come over to sit next to me.
I have a hard time defining timelines when I'm drinking, but I know one thing for sure: CJ's arrival seemed to act as the catalyst for the weird to start turning pro (with my apologies to both good doctors, Thompson and Pauly).
Here ends the prologue
Anyone who has played poker for any decent length of time knows that sessions don't exist in a vacuum. One session is just one step in the greater marathon that is your poker playing life. That axiom notwithstanding, as I played that particular $2-$6 game, I found myself slipping into the belief that is was the first and last poker game I would ever play. As the cocktail waitress brought me beer after beer, followed by water after water, and the occasional Jack and Diet Coke, I found myself vowing to enjoy every minute of that game. No matter the consequences. There's something special about being able to sit next to a good buddy and jaw about nothing in particular.
And so we sat, playing, dropping the hammer, and laughing for hours and hours.
The stories are far too many to be told. I tried to drop the hammer on CJ's straight flush. He won. Then, CJ got dealt pocket aces, but the dealer accidentally flipped up one of the bullets, making it a dead card. The table exploded when, after the dealer dealt CJ his third card, it turned out to be an ace as well. The situation got funnier when CJ's pocket rockets (all three of them) got beat by a four flush on the board. The beauty was that at Excalibur, if you get your aces cracked, you get to spin the money wheel. I think CJ ended up mkaing more money spinning the wheel that night than he did actually playing cards.
By and by, I looked up to see a tall guy in a Dodgers cap. I recognized him immediately as HDouble. HDouble is my kind of guy. He likes good music. He's a thinking man's poker player. And, as it turns out, he's a fantastically nice guy. I'm still mad that my weekend got away from me and I didn't have a chance to go over to the Mirage with him for some $10/$20.
HDouble sat with CJ and I for a couple of hours, slinging chips and laughing with us. As I sat there, I knew that he knew the answer to a question I'd been laboring over for months. He knew if Iggy was a little person or some rapib pratical joker. It seemed so crude to bring it up, though.
As we sat, the Missouri crew and G-Rob finally found their way into the poker room. They all bought in for some chips, and I found myself inordinately interested with how they were faring. CJ and I had a bit of a view of G-Rob's stack and monitored it closely.
I knew that HDouble was supposed to have a pretty, Nordic wife.
"You come by yourself, Hank, or did you bring someone along?" I asked. Maybe I was just making small talk. I dunno. A part of me thinks I was setting myself up for a joke I didn't even know was coming.
HDouble indicated he'd come alone this time.
I had been pointing out various bloggers to CJ as they walked by. Eventually, CJ pointed over to Pauly's table, where a long-haired guy was squatting next to the one-seat.
"Who is that?" he asked.
I'd seen the guy walk in a little earlier in the night. Maybe it was Grubby, I thought. However, I figured since Grubby had been MIA all night long that there would've been some grand celebration when he arrived. So, I made the next logical choice.
"Pauly said his buddy Ferrari was coming. Maybe that's who it is." I said. I didn't look at Hank when I said this.
I consider myself a pretty good multitasker. My wife gets vaguely annoyed when I try to play poker, watch TV, keep an eye on the dog and kid, read a newspaper, and carry on a conversation with her. But I can do it.
Part of my professional training has included being able to listen passively for a spot in a conversation where active listening is required. At any given time, I can write, listen to a police scanner, carry on a conversation with someone in the office, and listen to Yahoo! Launchcast. If somebody gets killed within a 20-mile radius, I'll hear it on the police scanner. If somebody at work needs me for something, I'll hear it. If Steve Earle slips into a cover of "Willin'," I'll hear it.
Keep that in mind of a couple of paragraphs.
I was in the middle of a hand, which drew my concentration ever so slightly away from talking with Hank and CJ, from watching G-Rob and Marty's stack, from ordering another in a long series of beers, from trying to figure out why my cell phone had started shooting every call to voicemail, and, yes, from the guy who was now kneeling beside me. It was the same guy CJ had asked about earlier.
"Otis," he said. It wasn't a question. It was a definitive statement. He knew who I was.
"Hey, man." I was being friendly, despite the fact that my brain was trying to work its way around how to play the hand sitting in front of me.
The guy said his name was something or other, then went on to mumble something about really liking my blog.
"I'm a friend of Hank's," he said. "We drove in together, and I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your writing."
Now, something should've clicked right there. Just thirty minutes earlier Hank had said he'd made the drive alone. I'd actively listened to that conversation.
And, so, the long-haired guy kneeling on my left kept talking. G-Rob's stack kept flucuating, the cocktail waitress kept bringing beer, and, for the love of all that's holy, I was still involved in a hand.
Do I raise? Do I cold call?
Passively, through increasingly drunk ears, I listened to the guy who was still talking. And just like when I hear 10-89 (local police ten-code for death) pop out of the police scanner, I heard something from my left that made me slip back into active listening.
The word was "dwarf."
I turned to my left and saw the smile creeping in the corners of the guy's mouth. Indeed, he had said "dwarf."
Somehow, I just knew.
I bounded from my chair and wrapped the guy in a hug like I would a brother I hadn't seen in years.
"You son of a bitch," I said.
Iggy had arrived.
Pai Gow and The Human Response
When I next looked at my watch, it was nearing 2am. I think. The WPBT Holiday Classic was slated to begin in eleven hours. The meet and greet session with the pros was supposed to begin in eight hours. I realized I was fabulously ill-equipped to play poker at any level.
Well, almost any level.
I'd been playing poker for fourteen straight hours. I'd been drinking for almost that entire time. All of my old friends and new friends had arrived. And somehow I'd bled away a rack of chips.
I made a decision that seemed to be the best possible.
It was time for some Pai Gow.
I have an Otisian Axiom that goes a little something like this: When you're too drunk to play cards, play Pai Gow.
So, I stood, rounded up the Missouri boys, and headed for the Pai Gow tables.
A few years ago, the Missouri boys and I found heaven in the form of $5 Pai Gow at the Barbary Coast. We'd sit for hours, playing five bucks a hand, pushing nearly every hand, drinking free drinks, and watching the hot girls walk into Drai's for the late night dancing.
Since then, once we hit that point at which movement is ill-advised, we sit at a Pai gow table until bedtime.
And so we sat, screaming "Pai Gow!" at the top of our lungs when the dealer turned up her ten-high Pai Gows. Several bloggers walked by and I found myself outed as an occasional -EV player.
I'd like to write more about the experience, but, as often happens on my first night in Vegas, I was quickly becoming ill-equipped to play any kind of cards.
Even Pai Gow.
By 5am, I had dropped about $100 (unthinkable at Pai Gow) with $25 and $50 bets (oh, how I long for the days of the Barbary Coast).
The boys were looking for some grub and were about to go in search of the McDonalds.
"Gentlemen," I said, "I'm ill-equipped. I'm hitting the sack."
If I went to sleep right then, I could get a good five hours sleep, then make a slightly late entrace to the meet and greet at Sam's Town.
I was proud of myself. I'd survived being awake for 26 hours. I'd survived a 17 hour bender. I was still standing and not puking. I hated myself for losing a couple black chips on my first night in Vegas. But, I play well from behind and knew I'd make it up in the coming days.
Now, it was time to sleep.
I wandered through the casino until I found the signs for Tower 1. I wandered past the poker room where BadBlood and G-Rob were sitting at a NL table. Neither of them looked too happy.
I was within 100 yards of the elevator, just ten floors away from blissful slumber, when I heard it.
There, at the bar, sat Daddy, Iggy, and Big Mike.
And they were drinking.
Still to come:
*Sherwood Forest, Pt. 1
*Oh, jeebus, what's happening to me?!
*The WPBT Holiday Classic
*Sleepless in Sam's Town
*Rebirth and Albania
That's when it all began.
Much has been written about the tournament trip. Better writers than I have hunted and pecked their way through it. Still, it's a bizarre enough story to bear a retelling.More in this Poker Blog! -->
In the last posting we heard about "big Mike," the whiskey-guzzling mastadon of the legendary Al crew. His best work was still to come.
After rousting Otis from his brief and, eventually, painful nap, he and I were back in the forest. When we arrived we found what must have been the entire blogger contingent. Some, CJ and Maudie for example, were in fine form. Others, the Mike-impaired, were standing like saplings in a storm.
We made our unsteady way to the front of the casino, past the cadre of cowboys who like a cold OJ and bloody breakfast steak. The stretch Excursion was already parked outside.
Now, like me, you've probably been in a limo before. But its unlikely you've ever ridden in a chariot like this. The interoir was lined with leather bench seats from the driver's cab to the "she's an ENTERTAINER" style lounge that filled the rear compartment. Above the driver's partition was a glowing multi-colored square that looked like a ruibx cube at a Phish show. The smell of cheap Champagne still lingered as if the driver had just used a stained dish rag to smooth off the seats.
Posh? Could've been.
But remember this is Al's ride. And Al, great guy that he is, has a drunken middle school taste in music. Apparantly the great Mr. Bad Blood had supplied a CD burned with his favorite in soul-killing guitar. It's the kind of music you imagine Dylan Klebold would have loved. Imagine screeching speed metal at a volume that would make your ear drums bleed. It hurt just to be alive. Death metal indeed.
It took forever to make it to the tournament. Sam's Town is a hike. But we did arrieve in style. We piled out of the ride and into the casino like the short bus to homeroom. And THEN the fun got stupid.
Our blogger convention was in an upstairs ballroom. We were already late. The pros were already there and so were our still-sober counterparts. I saw Charlie Shoten and sidled up to try and hide my crooked vision. But after telling him I would "probably buy his book," I could tell he wan't buying my act.
I sat down.
Charlie began his presentation. It was clearly ad-libbed. Ironically he wanted to tell us what he'd learned about maintaining focus. I could only 'focus' with one eye closed. Even that pretense fell apart when a lovely asian pro made her grand entrance.
Now, these details are fuzzy at best, but apparantly "Daddy" said something outrageously funny to Otis. At least Otis found it funny. I turned just in time to see his face dissolving into a pained attempt at composure just before he darted for the door. I needed out too, and followed close behind.
So our two sorry selves headed back to the bar..time 11AM (Vegas)
The next two hours went very much like this :
"Hey what time is it?"
"How about now?"
All things were crashing down. The tournament was suddenly in peril. And I was about to barf.
Stay tuned....for the good stuff..
I'm still trying to be concise.<-- Hide More
One last thing before we return to the Vegas trip reports. ALL IN magazine has released its next issue. While it is actually the third issue the publisher has put out, it is the first with nationwide newstand distribution. ALL IN worked out a distribution deal with Time-Warner, so ALL IN will now appear in shelves at Barnes and Noble, and other stores.
And, as a matter of pimpage, I have two articles in this issue. And if that isn't worth buying, there are a bunch of half-nekkid pictures of Shanna Hiatt.
Sorry about the pimpage. I got so used to being a pimp in Vegas (that story is coming soon) that I just can't stop.
For the most spectacular announcement in the history of Up For Poker, see the post below. For another installment of CJ in Vegas, keep reading.More in this Poker Blog! -->
When we last left you, Maudie missed an opportunity to tell a casino host I was her boy toy, and we had been within card throwing distance of the greatest poker players in the world.
Back at the Excalibur now, it was time for more poker. I was immediately seated at a $2-$6 spread limit game with no bloggers. However, I did recognize a couple players from the night before and I was trying to remember what image I had developed for myself.
Let's see... I dropped the hammer a few times and I finished up. I guess that made me really lucky in their eyes.
I settled in and posted five blinds before I ever saw a hand past the flop. You'd think at that point the table would recognize a pretty tight player. Of course, that's assuming these fish actually realized players had table images.
Finally I'm dealt AQs and I raise to $6. I get 4 callers and immediately complain that no one respects my raises. I'm not sure anyone got the joke. The flop comes Q-x-x and I bet out $6 again. I think they all still called. The turn is an A. I bet out again saying, "Why don't you all call?" They did. The river Q fills my boat and they all fold to my $6 bet. What the hell were they in the hand for?
Next hand I'm pretty sure I flopped a set of 8's. This time, we didn't make it to the river and I take down another nice pot.
Next hand, the HAMMER. I raise preflop on the button to $4 and get 5 callers. The flop comes 8-8-2. It's checked to me and I bet $6. Everyone folds. That's when I triumphantly drop it on 'em. The one guy who played with me the night before said, "I remember that hand." To which I replay, "Gotta play the hammer!"
At this point, I'm up big for the night and settling in for a nice run. In the meantime, I'm running back and forth from table to table checking in on bloggers and explaining my latest triumph with the bloggers' favorite hand.
Back at the table, I look down at another AQ, this time unsuited. Three of us see a flop of Q-Q-x. I check, it's bet behind me, a call and I raise to $12. The original bettor reluctantly calls and the player to my right also calls. That's when I size him up.
The only thought that went through my head was Black Bart. He was a Cowboy through and through. But not one of those rough, weathered cowboys. No, this guy was flush with cash. His clothes, black cowboy hat and belt buckle screamed money. He hadn't exactly been giving his chips away at this point, but he wasn't winning, either. I wrote him off... no threat.
The turn was another blank, but it was the second diamond (foreshadowing alert!!, foreshadowing alert!!). I bet out $6 and get called by Bart. Hmmm. The river doesn't fill my boat, but it does bring the third diamond. I hardly noticed.
I bet $6 and Bart calls. "I hope you don't have the boat," I said. "I hope you don't have the boat," he responded.
What!?!?!!? That's what scremed through my skull. What the hell would make you say that? I suppose if you also had AQ, you'd be worried about the boat. I mean, really, what else could you have calling me down with?
That's when he flipped J3 of diamonds. J3 of diamonds!?!?!?!? That means he called a check-raise after the flop with runner-runner flush as his only hope for winning the hand. I was pissed.
I said a few things like, "You called with what? Nice hand. Great pot, I guess it was worth waiting around for," and more. I'm sure the table could tell I was upset, as much as I was trying to hide it.
"You're not upset I won that pot with that big stack in front of you, are you?"
I thought about that. How could I be upset? A really bad poker player just made a really stupid play and won a big pot. It happens.
"Nope, you're right, good pot. Flushes usually bring the chips," I told him.
In my head: "I'm going to take every cent you have before you leave."
It didn't take long, either. The next hand I'm dealt A2s. I raise preflop announcing that I'm on tilt and steam is coming from my ears. I get a bunch of callers, including Bart.
The flop is A-2-x. I bet out, "I'm on tilt!!! Call me!!!" Bart and a few others oblige.
The turn is a blank, there will be no flush this time. I bet again and get two callers, including Bart. The turn is nothing and when I bet this time, only Bart calls me with A-4. He didn't pair his kicker.
Just two hands later I get A8 of diamonds. I simply call this time and 5 of us see the flop. It's got two diamonds. I'm in this one to the river. In fact, I didn't even have to wait for it, the flush comes on the turn.
By the river, my flush takes down a huge pot, with a lot of money coming from Bart's two pair.
Less than an hour later, Bart gets up with his $6 and says goodbye. I told him I enjoyed playing with him, and I wasn't lying. I have to remember, if they're bad enough to suck out on you on a hand like that, they're bad enough to give you every chip they have, if you're patient enough to wait for it.
Bart got the last laugh, I'm sure, because he got onto his private jet to fly back to Austin with a wife who was either naturally or artificially well-endowed. I crammed into a airline seat 3 sizes too small for me with just my dog waiting for me back home. I now remember I do hate Bart. Bastard.
I ended that night winning $125. I headed to bed earlier than I might have considering the fishiness of the table, but I had to get some sleep. I had an important breakfast in the morning. There was actual work to be done... work to be done on behalf of poker bloggers!!!
Sports Betting is Evil
The Aladdin: Bring Your Rod and Reel
Let's talk a little bit about karma for a second.
I've always been a big believer in what comes around goes around. That goes for good and bad. If some malevolent creature conspires to hurt me or a friend, I feel like, regardless of the outcome, that creature will someday get her's.
It goes for good, too. And that's the good thing about karma. Pauly half-joked last week that he made it a point to give handouts to as many homeless people as he could find in hopes the poker gods would shine down on him in Vegas.
Karma can be a fun thing to consider as you live your humdrum lives. Perhaps more than that, it can be a good way to live your life. It's sort of an off-shoot of the golden rule. Do unto others, yada, yada, yada.
Now, I need to talk to you about Wil Wheaton a little bit.More in this Poker Blog! -->
As any poker blog reader knows, Wil is a poker playing uber blogger with the grandest of hearts. If you've read his latest book as I have, you'll find that despite his cheery insistances on his blog, he suffers many of the same slings and arrows as us regular shlubs. He gets interviews, auditions, nibbles from possible employers. And he gets turned down. Just like a regular human being.
Though I don't think he's ever stated it outright, Wil seems to live his life with karma in mind. He's lived a life of success and failure in a short thirty-something years and knows the outright orgasmic feeling of success as well as the chug some gin with some sleeping pills type of failure. Maybe that's what makes him human. More than that, that's what makes him the approachable and fantasically good person he is.
So, why, when I have to write about ten more installments of the trip report have I chosen this moment to kiss Wil's ass? Well, it goes a little something like this:
In the hours before I left for Vegas last Thursday night, I got a strange comment here on Up For Poker. It came from a familiar name. It asked that I send him an e-mail so we could discuss something.
At the time, I thought it was a joke. Bloggers and blog readers tend to be the lead dogs in the practical joke pack. But just in case it wasn't a joke, I shot off an e-mail to the commenter and tried to catch a few winks before I had to leave for the airport.
After three hours of restless sleep, I got up, showered, checked the clock, and realized I had time to check my e-mail before I hit the road.
At 4am Friday morning, I sat in my home office and had to fight the dog from gnawing on something that had fallen on the floor. That something was my jaw. It somehow fell off my face as I stared in amazement at the screen.
I'd now been instructed to call the commenter on his private cell phone line. Four in the morning seemed like an inappropriate time to make such a call, so I headed for the airport and tried to put the possibility out of my head.
Several hours later, just minutes after finding the bloggers in the Excalbur poker room, I slipped out into the lobby and made the call. It seemed to confirm that this wasn't a joke. This was for real and it was, in short, way cool.
It appeared I was up for a freelance writing/blogging gig. The commenter asked me to send him a short proposal by Monday. So, Sunday morning before heading to Mandalay for football and poker, I pulled up the high speed access in my room and sent of the proposal.
Last night, I got another e-mail telling me I got the job.
On January 4th, I'll be flying to the Bahamas to blog the Poker Stars Caribbean Adventure poker tournament. This will be a World Poker Tour event that eventually will be televised as part of the WPT series.
Jon Vorhaus did much the same thing for Ultimate Bet's Aruba Classic earlier this year.
After a lot of consideration about the possibilities of this blog and blogging in general, it's made me think about the future of the blogging medium and how important it can eventually be. I know that I've had discussions with a number of the blogging elite about the future of our poker blogging community. I can only hope this latest project can add to where we're going.
Oh, I never got around to why I'm kissing Wheaton's ass.
As it turned out, I wasn't Poker Stars first choice. They wanted Wil, but he had a conflict. Instead of sending Poker Stars the way of some famous guy's cousin, he pointed the site to me. And as a result, I get to add one more thing to my growing freelance resume. And it appears I'm going to have a damned ball in the process.
Wheaton, friends, is good people.
So, that's that. I'll have more details about the PCA blog in the coming days, where you'll find it, etc.
In the meantime, we'll return you the Vegas Trip Report series and your regularly scheduled programming.<-- Hide More
When we last left Otis, he'd already busted out of a low-limit tourney, played four hands of $4/$8, busted out of a NL game, then doubled up in a NL game, then found the blogger table. We join the story just three hours into his arrival in Las Vegas
"I am the only one at this table who doesn't have some sort of prostate problem."
I was grumpy. BadBlood and I had just made it to the Excalibur poker room. The blogger table ($1-$3 spread limit) was in full effect. The entire room was submerged in the table's hammer screams and nearly non-stop laughter.
I wanted to sit down with them, drop the Hammer, pound my chest, and scream, "Me Otis! You hammered!" But Ari said the table was full and there was a waitlist. Of course there was. There's always a five-deep waitlist for online blogger games. Why wouldn't there be one here?
I slumped to the lobby of the hotel to make a business-oriented phonecall (more on that in the coming days), then returned to the room to find the table was still full.
And so I sat down with my rack of white (er....blue) at a $2-$6 table. I was cramped into the one-seat next to a guy with a hearing aid. The guy next to him had a hearing aid a cowboy hat. No one at the table was less than 60 years old. They were all talking about the National Finals Rodeo that looped on the big screen in the back of the room.
I considered asking the dealer if he would give me a prostate exam, just so I could feel like I fit in.More in this Poker Blog! -->
I posted and folded for thirty minutes while the other table had fun. It's like being stuck on a see-saw by yourself when all your buddies are hanging like monkeys from the jungle gym and looking up Sally's skirt.
I wanted to look up Sally's skirt. Or, more to the point, I wanted to rake a pot off the old guys. My chipstack-libido got the better of me, as time and time again I tried to hang from my own personal jungle gym in such a way I could get a little glimpse of a win. Before I knew it, I was down about $85 at a piddly $2-$6 table.
I got nervous that my fellow bloggers would see that I was a loser. When they walked by, I'd lean over what remained of my buy-in and pretend I was experiencing prostate problems. To no avail, though. Pauly noticed I'd bled away most of my first buy-in. I hadn't been in the room for two hours and I'd already outed myself as a poor poker player.
And then the shift that would define the trip to Vegas happened. Sally climbed to the top of the jungle gym and stood there for me to look as long as I wanted. That is to say, I began a string of good fortune that would last for the next five days.
Within thirty minutes, my TPTK, Hilton sisters, and set of jacks held up. I made back every thing I lost, plus about fifty bucks. Then Ari called me over to sit in the ten-seat of the blogger table.
Turns out I didn't have a prostate problem after all.
On Tennis Balls and Soco Shots
Many bloggers have already written about how sitting down at a live blogger table isn't that much different than sitting at an online blogger table. That's true for the most part. The conversations are the same, the friendship gels in the same way, and the non-bloggers at the table look at us like we're the devil. I sat with Mas, BG, Pauly, Mrs. Can't Hang, and Derek, slinging chips for an hour or so, and expressing my desire to make a million dollars by re-inventing the hospital walker.
Anyone who has spent a great deal of time in a hospital has seen the dozens of people who walk around with their walkers. Two legs on every walker have tennis balls stuck to them. I suggested to the table of bloggers that a guy could make a lot of money if he could somehow outfit walkers with a high-tech, state of the art, tennis ball-like apparatus already installed on the walker. It would save the orderlies a lot of time that they'd normally be spending hiding out at local tennis courts, stealing tennis balls, and cutting them open with box cutters.
Then some smartass blogger said, "Or you could just put wheels on them."
Well, yeah, I guess you could do that, too.
Under no circumstances would I ever pretend to know how to successfully play O8. Under no circumstances would I sit down at a casino and play O8 against people who know how to successfully play the game.
Well, there is one circumstance: When Felicia and Al have cooked up a game in the back of the poker room and the stakes are only $2/$4.
And, so I moved to the O8 table and sat down to Al's right. I scooped a couple of pots early and decided that I was the best O8 player who ever lived. And then I looked across the table at Felicia who gave me a half-smile that indicated that I was not only not a good O8 player, but that I was well on my way to embarassing myself. It's a lot like thinking you have the biggest johnson in the room, whipping it out for all to see, then looking up to discover you're at a John Holmes Look-Alike Convention.
So, I did what every reasonable poker blogger would. I accepted Al's offer of a shot of Soco.
Enter blurry poker play.
When I emerged from my first-shot haze, I heard a delcaration blaring from the seat to my left.
"That's not gumbo. That's not gumbo. Gumbo only comes from New Orleans. That's not gumbo!"
Al was moving into a land I like to call, "Full effect." He had two dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts under his chair, a sideboard of Soco shots lined up at his sidetable, and a sure insistance that what I was eating was bad free buffet food.
Like always, Al was right.
A nice lady sat down to Al's left. Felicia quietly mentioned the woman fit Maudie's description. Always the interrogator, I politley prodded the woman. It would be just like a blogger to sit down and pretend to be somebody else. Before the weekend was over, I was pretending to be the Surgeon General.
"Ma'am, do you mind me asking where you're from? It wouldn't be Oklahoma, would it?"
The woman responded in the negative and eyed me warily. It didn't deter me, though. I was beginning to steadfastly believe I was sitting in the presence of Maudie.
At some point, she and Al had agreed to share a side table for their drinks. I turned away briefly then looked back to see the woman fanning her face.
"What WAS that?" she said.
Al looked at her with no small amount of confusion.
"I think I just drank your drink," she said, scanning the room for a bottle of water.
"That was, Soco, ma'am," Al said. "Would you like a doughnut?"
"That'll get you, Maudie," I thought to myself.
By and by, the real (and much, much sweeter) Maudie arrived and the O8 table broke as bloggers went in search of grub (and the ever-AWOL Grubby). I had dropped about $50, but had a bellyful of non-gumbo and SoCo.
What had began as a slow, boring losing session was quickly turning into a high-octane, do you want a doughnut, I've seen Sally's panties and I like they way they look losing session.
At some point I decided someone needed to get out of his damned mind.
I decided that would be me.
Coming soon to a blog near you:
*The Hammer and the Hdouble
*Meeting the Dwarf
*Pai Gow and the Human Response
*Sherwood Forest Pt. 1
*Oh, jeebus, what's happening to me?!
Somehow, I knew where this was headed. No good can come of it. Nothing positive would be molded from the mental mud this week. I'm the blogger-in-waiting, the guy who knows Otis. If you're luring fish, I'm the friggin' worm.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Let's start here : 12 AM Friday (Vegas Time)
This is the start of my work day. I'm always here this early. It makes for a nice commute. Sort of like playing automotive frogger with the early morning drunks. I had one story to tell before I got on the plane. One quick tale and then the high-tail to Sin.
Get this :
Someone broke into a trucking company in the southern part of the county. He stole a dump truck (the kind with tires bigger than men), and drove it downtown. Check that. He drove it to jail. Directly to jail. The idea, it turns out, was to ram police cars parked just outside, which he accomplished with great style. He then hopped out, ran to a nearby gas station, and called 911...on HIMSELF.
To tell dipatchers what he just did, and DARE them to catch him. He got away, but police took the payphone into custody. Just another day at the office. I love my job.
That story was in the can by 12:00PM (Vegas time)...the airplane...and further absurdity.. await.
The G-ster touched down 12 hours later...and was starting to feel the effects of what was already a long day. It was also a very long flight and, did you know, those in-flight beers are $5.00 EACH.
CJ met me at the front door of the EXCAL, and it was straight to poker. I knew I was in trouble. I saw Otis, and what turned out to be Pauly, playing some sort of limit game but I was too cool for that. I hit the NL. I should have known better. Here's a sample :
I'm in the SB and have 3 limpers to my K, 10s. I limp. So does the BB.
Flop is K, 10, 6. Two checks and a bet into my two pair. I bet the pot and the BB and original bettor call. Turn is a rag and after another check I bet big.
BB pushes all-in. I call.
River is another 6.
He limped with AA. His two pair whips my 3 pair. G-Rob rebuys. Agony ensues. This was my trip.
Friday...errr..Saturday...5:00 AM (Vegas Time)
So I limp away after losing another buy-in and wander back to the forest. Never was a bar so aptly named. It a haven for degenerates and whores, losers and the lost. A perfect place for G-Rob to find "Big Mike".
He offered me a drink. I drank. He offered another. I 'nothered. The blows kept coming. Let me just point out that in my neck of the woods, nobody out drinks the "G", but here in the forest, Mighty Mike is an Oak.
I met Otis and CJ there...and Al..and Iggy...and Maudie...and Blood...and Daddy.
I really liked Daddy, despite my discomfort with calling a man "daddy". We played a little more short-handed NL and the worm began to turn. So did my stomach....Is that SOUTHERN COMFORT??!
Back at the bar, Iggy kept demanding to know where I was a blogger, and as a two time contributor here, I wasn't sure how to answer. I felt like the blogger add-on I knew I was. But these things happen, c'est la vie.
Saturday, I guess, 9:00 AM
'Bout this time the buzz was a roar. Man cannont live on hard booze alone. I was starting to die. By this time, Otis had the good sense to bail. He stumbled upstairs to a Tower 1 room, and crashed on the floor. Of course, that sort of responsibility WILL NOT STAND.
"Where's Otis," Cried Iggy.
"Get him down here," belched Al.
This was a chance to make a good impression. I was the man for the job.
So upstairs I wandered..to kick on his buddy's door. An angry man answered..and this drunk man poured in. Otis was curled in a tight ball beneath one of those hotel comforters that you know doesn't get washed.
"Hey man," I very politiely said, "they're getting a limo".
So I tried "OTIS!". Puntuated with a sharp kick in the ribs.
Then the talking stopped and the massacre began. I reckon a good 20 hard blows to the middle of Otis. I doubt he felt a thing. And finally, I returned to the forest with the man himself.
Stay TUNED for the good part....
I'm trying to be concise.
From breakfast to lunch, a study in blind faith, blind stealing, and blindly stepping into an alternate universe
"What are you looking at, lady?"
That's what I wanted to say. But, of course, I didn't. Because even as snarky and tired as I was feeling, it just didn't seem right to dress down the woman right in front of her video game-obsessed kid.
It was 7am. I'd made exceptionally good time on the interstate run from South Carolina to Charlotte, NC. I'd packed just one carry-on bag to carry with my briefcase. Check-in proved to be almost too easy, which left me with time to kill.
I toyed with the idea of finding a coffee stand or a crystal meth dealer. I hadn't slept but a couple hours before I left for the airport. I felt my internal systems fighting against themselves in what I was sure was a prelude to a greater war that would be fought on the Las Vegas battlefield.
Instead, I wandered into the airport bar and found a spot near the back. The bartendress approached.
"What do you have on draft?" I asked.
"Bud, Bud Light, Miller Light, Sam Adams, Bass..."
The word "Bass" was forming on my lips when the nice bartendress finished.
"...and Guinness."More in this Poker Blog! -->
I don't know what it was. Maybe it was that I've always considered Guinness to be the best of the breakfast beers. Maybe it was that I was wondering whether Iggy was going to make the trip. I dunno. All I know is that before I knew it, I was nearly shouting, "Guinness. Yes, a Guinness would be great."
And so I sat with the tan foam on my upper lip, recording a few notes in a pocket notebook, and wondering where the trip was going to take me.
That's when Mama Sneer walked to the bar. She'd walked in with her punk kid and taken a table near the back. As she approached the bar, she looked at my beer with disdain, as if to say, "Drinking beer at 7am. The devil's brews, you heathen."
I raised my glass, tilted it toward her slightly, and took a long drink.
Then, I overheard her order her coffee from the bartendress. As I watched the bartender pour the drink, I knew that I had mis-read the woman's look. It hadn't been disdain. It was enlightenment. The bartendress spiked the coffee with some Irish Creme and handed it to the heathen woman.
Yes, ma'am, here there be degenerates. Welcome to the Breakfast Club.
The flight was uneventful. It popped with the expected titter of the people who had not yet lost a month's pay at the roulette table. The guy next to me read the paper to his wife, much in the same fashion as the drummer's dad in the unfortunate movie, "That Thing You Do." I watched "Rounders" on my laptop and only got up to pee once. That's an accomplishement, if you ask me.
BadBlood had met me at the gate and sat several rows behind me on the plane, lamenting the girth of his rowmates. When we disembarked, we shared tales of the flight, called our wives, and found ourselves in a cab, checked into our room, and on our way to a poker table within an hour of wheels down.
I'd played in the Noon Luxor freeze-out before and knew well in advance that it sucked sideways. After the $3 add-on, players start with a painfully small 300T stack and face blinds that escalate faster than a meth geek on payday. Still, it was a good opportunity to ease into the weekend slowly. So, we went, registered, and headed over to the Nile Deli for a quick bite to eat. Egg salad on rye for me, roast beef for the Blood.
At around 11:45 am, we walked back to the poker room and found that we'd been seated together in the 8 and 9 seats. As we stood waiting, I spotted the blonde hair I'd been waiting to see. With little hesitation, I looked up and asked, "Felicia?" being sure to pronounce it as I had practiced. Fell-eee-see-ah.
I'll admit, I was nervous to meet Felicia. Her blog is one of the best and, frankly, she makes it a point to write that she's not a nice person. After meeting her, I found that she was disarming in her demeanor. If one understands her wit, she's actually quite easy to like. I found this quicky, as I had misunderstood her when she had pointed out Mas sitting at a $2/$4 table. She'd earlier indicated he was Asian. So, when I asked again which one was Mas, she looked at me and deadpanned, "Um, there's only one Asian guy at the table."
Her husband, Glenn was with her, and proved to be more than likable himself. He reminded me a great deal of one of my best friends. Warm, funny, affable.
Mas came over to join us for some pre-tourney conversation. We didn't get to spend a great deal of time together and I regret that. He laughed at my stupid jokes, which always endears me to people.
And so, I began one of my many missions of the weekend: to determine if Iggy, was, fact, a little person. I knew that Felicia had met him in the past and that she knew the answer. I opened the door for her to give me the answer I had so long sought. It wasn't as if I cared whether Iggy was a dwarf or not. It was that there was so much mystery surrounding the issue. I'm an investigative journalist. I can't stand not to know stuff.
But Felicia stonewalled. She would only admit that when she first saw a picture of Iggy, she thought he was a woman.
Like that helps me, I thought.
I think I was too obsessed with the concept of dwarfism and correctly pronouncing Felicia's name that I forgot to win the Luxor tourney. I played exceptionally tight, got blinded off for a couple orbits, go too much respect when I raised, then made the mistake of slow playing a set of kings. I barely lasted through the first hour.
To kill time while BadBlood finished his 7th place cash run in the tourney, I sat down at a $4/$8 half-kill table. It was a ram-jam table that was moving terminally slow because a fat guy in the seven seat was hitting on a oddly-dressed redhead in the eight seat. I folded four hands before the blinds got around the me, then picked up my chips before posting a blind. The poker room manager had just announced he was opening a No-Limit table. So, I moved to be free of the fat guy and the redhead.
As I left, a short, goateed guy was starting to get a little lippy. I didn't think much of it, and got distracted when I discovered the ram-jamming fat guy talker was moving to the NL table as well and bringing Veronica the redhead with him. Sonofabitch, I thought.
The NL table was structured with a max $50 buy and $1-$1-$2 blinds. We were shorthanded at first and the fat guy was pushing almost every pot to $25-$30 pre-flop. I decided just to sit back and wait.
While I was waiting, the goateed guy from the $4/$8 table lost his damned mind. He stood at the table and screamed at the dealer for mucking his hand, which he claimed was the nut straight. After several minutes of screaming, the dealer called the floor, who tried to calm down the short guy to no avail. A few minutes later, security arrived to escort the dude out.
He seemed short, but not midget-like, so I discounted the possibility that it might've been Iggy on a bender.
And, so I continued to sit back and wait, listening to the rolly polly impress the redhead with tales of commercial real estate and his ability to make tons of money in it. I considered asking the guy why he was playing in a $50 NL game and talking to a girl who looked like she was dressed to go to the office and kill Dabney Coleman with rat poison. Instead, I ended up all in with Veronica the Redhead and watched as she outkicked my top pair.
So, I re-bought and found AJo before my chips landed in front of me. I raised it up pre-flop to $10 (remember, we were shorthanded and fat boy was playing every hand).
"I have a pocket pair," he said.
"Okay," I said.
He re-raised to $20 and I cold called, planning to bail if I didn't see an ace on the flop.
My chips arrived as the flop came down Axx, rainbow. I checked and the big boy bet $20. I pushed my remaining $30 into the pot, which he called.
I flipped up my ace and he moaned. "So, you're going to treat me that way, huh?" he said.
"I thought you might like to get back to your conversation with Veronica," I said.
He mucked his hand after the river didn't help him. I took my doubled-up stack, grabbed my chips, and cashed out to walk with BadBlood over to the Excalibur where he said many of the other bloggers were assembling.
BadBlood was near bubbly as we hit the motorized walkway. He'd cashed in his first Vegas tournament and we were on our way to meet the bloggers.
"We have to page Dr. Pauly," he said.
I agreed in earnest and did my best to avert my eyes as we walked into the poker room.
"Don't let them see you looking," Blood said.
Blood walked to the front counter and grabbed Ari, the manager.
"Could you please page Dr. Pauly?" Blood asked.
Ari jumped on the mic. I could barely contain myself as Ari and his accent hit the airewaves:
"Dr. Paury! Paging Dr. Paury!"
And there he was at a middle table, jumping up to greet us. The great Dr. Paury himself.
It is here, friends, that life in the Days of Otis, begins to take an odd but fantastically sublime turn.
So, when I sat down to begin the first of what will likely be many posts, I had no idea how to start. As I've reached this point, I realize, I still don't know how to start. This is, in fact, a prologue of sorts. I'm still deconstructing the week in my head.
As I've only covered the first few hours in Vegas here, I find myself left with way too many stories to tell.
Lord knows where this will go. I only know that we'll soon be reaching the following:
*Low-limit O8 and Soco
*The Hammer and the HDouble
*Meeting the Dwarf
*Pai Gow and the Human Response
*Sherwood Forest, Pt. 1, The Surreality of Car Bombs
You'd think the all-star list of poker pros I met in the morning would be enough to satisfy me, but it was just the start.
After the tournament ended, Maudie, Bad Blood and I grabbed a bite to eat back at the Excalibur and then Maudie and I decided to take a walk of the strip. It was Maudie's first trip to Vegas and last night in town. The last thing I wanted was for her to head back to Oklahoma without absorbing the sensory overload of the Vegas experience.
And if she hadn't wanted to take that walk, we never would have seen the biggest names in poker, live and in person, at the Bellagio.More in this Poker Blog! -->
After congratulating Felicia and Max, we figured out we were famished... and I rarely use that word. Since 10am Friday, I had eaten a McNugget Extra Value Meal, a tiny turkey sandwich on the plane and a few slices of various fruits. It was about 5pm Saturday and my body was screaming for something to fill me up.
I settled on the meatball sub and it really hit the spot.
From there, Maudie and I put our walking shoes on. I'd been to Vegas once before so I had a vague recollection of how to get from point A to point B, but there was still a good chance we'd get a bit lost. I figured we'd go down one side until we reached the Belaggio and work our way back.
About four times I said something to the effect of, "When we cross this street/walk through this tunnel/use this escalator, we'll be in the Belaggio." I apparently didn't know the strip as well as a I thought!
As we walked from casino to casino we were virtually assaulted by all of the flyer snappers, those strange people trying to give you flyers to everything from shows to hookers. Maudie wondered if they had a special training program, like a trade school where they learn how to effectively snap.
It was nice getting to get a taste of all the casinos again, but they all paled in comparison to what we found at the Belaggio.
It didn't take me long to find one of the biggest players in the poker world, and I mean that literally: T.J. Cloutier. I never realized how large of a man he really is, but as I was reminded, he was a football player once.
From there we saw Ron Rose, Mike Sexton, Robert Williamson III, Carlos Mortensen, Evelyn Ng, Kirill Gerasimov, Paul Darden, Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, Kathy Liebert, Eric Seidel, and those were just the ones still alive in the $3000 NLHE tourney.
While gawking, we were approached by a crotchety old man with an unplaceable foreign accent who informed us that Evy was about to get busted. He said he had just watched her play a terrible hand and that she wouldn't last long (she ended up placing in the money). I informed him that Evy happened to be one hell of a player... then it got ugly.
The guy, right in front of Maudie, told us that women shouldn't play with men, that they should play their own tables until there is only one left and she would get a seat at the final table. So it could be more fair for them because they don't have a brain for poker, he said. I could hardly believe what I was hearing.
I informed him that a woman had won the tournament we had just played in, but that didn't matter. I told him that Jennifer Harman, Annie Duke, Kathy Liebert and others had bracelets proving they belonged, but that didn't matter. He was some old, senile man stuck in the 1950's. I ushered Maudie along before she kneed him in the groin.
That's when we got to peek inside the high limit room inside the Bellagio poker room. Inside were none other than Daniel Negreanu, Gus Hansen and Barry Greenstein all at one table. At one point, Jennifer Harman came by to say hi to Daniel. We were star struck.
I guess this is how baseball fans feel at the All-Star Game. Of course, the big difference is that those fans will never really get to face a Randy Johnson fastball or pitch to Barry Bonds. But I can check-raise Howard Lederer for the right price!
With stars in our eyes, we headed back to the Excalibur poker room where I settled into another $2-$6 spread game. It started slow, but picked up quickly. And you'll hardly believe the beat I endured!
My Worst Beat and then Revenge
Sports Betting is Evil
The Aladdin: Bring Your Rod and Reel
I stepped out of a five day binge of poker. new friends, and unbridled fun into 24-degree air and a hour and half drive home. Though the temperature was almost painfully cold, home was most certainly warm. L'il Otis smiled. Mrs. Otis made me giggle. Scoop the Therapy Mutt licked my face. Holiday decorations and gifts sat nicely around my nice little place in suburbia.
Remarkably, not including tokes and taxis, I finished in the black for this Vegas trip. And if you count the profit I made in meeting some of the best people I've met in years, I finished way, way up for the week.
A suitable and nearly-comprehensive trip report is forthcoming. I just need a day or so to get my head together and determine what kind of filter I'm going run the stories through before publishing them.
Oh, and I can't feel my knees. I think that indicates something may be wrong with my body.
Since the day I started really playing poker, I've dreamt about sitting beside the world class players at the table. And thanks to some really good people in the poker blogger community, that dream came true on Saturday. I only wish I could have played better... but that's getting ahead of myself.
For those who don't know, the Italian Pirate is Max Pescatori (that's my back in the picture and Max is on my right, picture courtesy the PokerProf). He was one of two world-class players (along with Charlie Shoten) who sat down with us for the World Poker Bloggers Tour Las Vegas Holiday Classic. And, to my dismay, they were both at my table. Lucky me...More in this Poker Blog! -->
Perhaps I should start that morning. I woke up (on the floor, remember) at about 8:30am. That's about an hour and a half after I went to sleep. I grabbed a quick shower and headed downstairs. I expected to find a group at the poker tables... but I was very wrong.
A large (and boisterous) group was already gathered at the bar. Al Can't Hang was holding court and Iggy was living up to his Guinness reputation. Soon word spread of a stretch Excursion that would take us to Sam's Town. That seemed to get everyone even more rowdy and the liquor flowed.
(edited for content, sorry)
The Excursion pulled up to Sam's Town and we rolled out onto the street and into Sam's Town. It took us all a few minutes to find the conference room for the breakfast and meet-and-greet and we were a little late (sorry PokerProf), but we made it.
I walked in the door and froze. Standing inside were Marcel Luske, Tom McEvoy, Charlie Shoten, Ron Rose, and Kirill Gerasimov. These men have collectively won millions of dollars playing tournament poker, and they were willing to spend their morning talking with a bunch of amateur online poker players (some a little toasted). It was all a little overwhleming, especially when the beautiful Evelyn Ng stopped in.
Soon, it was tournament time. I think by then, a few players had sobered up, others (um... Iggy?) never made it.
We drew for seat and I landed on table 4, seat 8. It seemed like a good enough seat until I found Max Pescatori on my right and Felicia Lee on my left. Then Charlie Shoten sat down in seat 2. That meant the three most experienced tournament players in the field were at my table and I was stuck between two people I considered the favorites.
To say I was intimidated would be an understatement. Really, I just didn't want to make a fool out of myself.
The first hand is dealt, and before I get a chance to look, the first roar of "the HAMMER" erupts from talbe 1. It seems that GRob managed to drop it on the first hand of the tourney. Congrats to him.
That's when I look down at my cards and see 72 offsuit. I really think had I been at any other table, I would have played this hand. I was even in the small blind (of T25) so I already had money in the pot. Charlie raised from early position to T100. The minimum raise and I still ended up folding.
I think you know what came on the flop: 7-2-x. I wanted to kick myself. I would have gotten off to a pretty solid start, but it wasn't going to happen.
Charlie was quickly working up a big stack, but Max wasn't going to let him run away. When Max turned the nut flush against Pocket Rockets, he knocked the first player out from our table and built himself a hefty stack.
I limped into a pot on the button with K8s and when the flop came A-A-x, I threw enough into the pot to take it down. It wasn't much, but it was nice to win a pot.
Soon after I caught my only slightly premium hand, AQs. I raised to 450T (3x BB) from MP and Charlie called me with his big stack. The flop a rainbow of under cards. At that point, I was down to about 1400T, but I figured I should make a play at the pot. I figured I had Charlie beat at that point so I tossed another 600T into the middle and got called.
I think my problem was the bet wasn't big enough. But if I bet anymore, I was virtually comitting myself to the pot, so I guess I should have pushed all in, right? I don't know. Anyway, a K came on the flop, I checked, Charlie bet, I folded and Charlie showed KJ offsuit. My read after the flop was right and now I wonder if I had pushed if he would have folded or if he would have called an busted me.
That was the last hand I would play before the first break. I know I'm a tight player, but I would have played marginal hands if I would have seen anything. Every time I caught something I thought about playing, a huge raise came in front of me.
By the time I hit the first break, I was down to just 425T and the blinds were about to go up to 150T/300T. When we sat down, I was resigned to going all in, especially considering I was the big blind. Amazingly, it was folded all the way around to Max, who apologetically raised me all in without looking at his cards. I figured it was getting any better than that and called blind.
Max flipped over 8-4 offsuit. That made me very happy. My first card was a 10, to which I said, "Well I'm ahead." Then I flipped an 8, to which much of the table said in unison, "No, you've got him dominated!" The flop didn't help Max and I doubled up on a world class pro.
Unfortunately, it wouldn't mean that much. I was up to 850T before losing another 150T in the small blind, leaving me at just 700T. A few hands later, I saw my first, and only, pocket pair of the tournament: 7's. Then I watched it get raised in front of me, then raised all in. I still didn't have much choice, I had to make a move.
I put my money in and got called by the other raiser. That meant I had a chance to actually triple up. When the cards were flipped, I was way behind. It was my 77 vs. KQ offsuit vs. pocket 10's. Ouch. The handy Hand Analyzer says I had an 18% pre-flop chance of winning.
When the flop came 4-7-8, I came out of my chair. Suddenly, I'm an 85% favorite! The KQ is dead, and it's just me and the Genius of the Poker. The turn is a J, no harm, right? I'm still an 85% favorite and the "Genius" has just 6 outs. That's right, just 6 outs.
Just 6 outs, right?
The 9 on the river was like a punch to the gut. It hurt. I kept telling myself, "Well, you were behind at the beginning, right?" But that didn't help. It was a bad beat. So instead of getting back up to about 2200T, I was uncerimoniously out in 23rd place. Dammit.
GRob was the unfortunate soul to land in my seat, and we was out soon after me. Otis lasted a little longer, but his coin flip failed and he was gone, and the Up For Poker crew was out. I have a feeling we'll do much better in the next event.
In the end, it came down to the two people I thought might get there: Max and Felicia. They agreed to a chop and on the last hand, Felicia sucked out on Max to take the title. I guess we were happy a blogger outlasted the pro in the end.
I've got to say the tournament, despite the bad cards, was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life. I can't thank Max and Felicia enough for talking with me through the tournament. For an hour, I got to sit beside a player who is usually sitting beside players like Chris "Jesus" Ferguson. It was amazing.
Think about it. Max spent more than 3 hours playing with a bunch of rank amatuers and talking poker. How many pros would really do that? Max did, and I can't thank him enough. I only wish I had played better!
Gawking at World Class Players
My Worst Beat and then Revenge
Sports Betting is Evil
The Aladdin: Bring Your Rod and Reel
Get ready for an onslaught of trip reports from the WPBT Las Vegas Holiday Classic. I'm simply the first one back, so you get me first. I didn't make it to work today because I've accumulated about 10 hours of sleep since 10am Friday morning.
There have been a few reports already from other bloggers and dozens more to come. It was a blast. It was more fun that I ever possibly could have imagined. The good news is that there will be a "next time" and you all must come.
If you didn't know, our WPBT event coincided with the National Rodeo Finals. That meant Vegas played host to the largest collection of cowboy hats and plastic breasts since the release of Western Barbie. That was my first thought as I arrived in Sin City...More in this Poker Blog! -->
I landed at about 7:10pm local time just itching to find a poker table. I can't believe I originally considered not coming. It took me a short time to find a shuttle to drop me at the Excalibur. I eventually hooked up with Otis, dropped my bags in our room and headed down to the tables.
The Excalibur has a pretty good sized poker room. It features $1-$3 and $2-$6 spread limit HE games and a $100 min/max NLHE game. Otis was playing $2-$6 and so I got my name on the list.
Unfortunately, they couldn't seat me with Otis right away, so I settled in to another table. It was a friendly enough table, but I wasn't seeing many cards and thus, I wasn't playing many hands. Thankfully, I was moved to Otis' table in short order.
That's where it started to get crazy.
The cards were working for me at the new table. I was catching hands and taking down pots. Soon, HDouble sat down with us and I think we began scaring the rest of the players. The Hammer was being played as often as rockets. It didn't take me long to drop one on the table.
HDouble began winning pot after pot with pretty marginal starting hands. He even began announcing that bad beats were on their way, but that didn't slow down anyone from giving him their money.
At one point, Otis took a pretty big pot off of me. I think I flopped a set of 8's but he caught the gutshot straight on the turn. It hurt, but at least it was Otis who took my money.
It didn't take long for me to get my money back. I'm dealt two black 6's and Otis raises in front of me. I call, hoping to catch a 6 on the flop. It didn't come, but it wasn't the worst flop ever: 2-3-5, all clubs. Otis checks, I bet out $6 and I believe Otis raised me. I was worried about a flush, but had to call.
The turn was the 4 of clubs. Jackpot. I've never had a straight flush at a B&M table before, but I think I hid it well. I was really hoping Otis didn't have the ace of clubs. That would be a hellish beat. He checked and I bet out.
"I can't call you," Otis told me. I said he could and that I wouldn't bet anymore. He paused, and then sheepishly turned over the Poker Bloggers favorite hand, the HAMMER. That's right, I cracked his HAMMER with a straight flush.
When I turned over my 6, the table erupted. It also meant I got to spin the Excalibur's money wheel that brought me an extra 20 dollars (and a really awful baseball cap).
My other big hand of the night came a few hands later, and it almost didn't happen. The dealer is tossing out the cards when an Ace of spades gets flipped in front of me, making it a dead card. I said, "Can't I check to see if I want it??" already knowing the answer.
When I peeked at my other card, I was crushed: the Ace of diamonds. The dealer just ruined my first pocket rockets of the weekend. I was crushed. I was already planning on how to bitch and moan about it. Then I peeked at my new card, and amazingly, it was the Ace of clubs.
I guess the bad news is that my chance of flopping a set diminished significantly. I raised anyway and got just two callers. The flop brought two hearts but nothing else that scared me. I bet out again and got one caller. The turn was a third heart, which didn't make me happy. I bet and got called again, putting a little more than $30 in the pot. The river was a fourth heart, ugh. I check as does the other player, but he flips the ten of hearts.
I'm not sure if he was playing for the four card flush or not, but he didn't exactly have the hand otherwise. And normally, I might be disappointed at having my Aces cracked, but I got to spin the wheel again and won $30, about the size of the pot I lost.
That was my last memorable hand of the night, and when I cashed out, I had won $38. If you don't count the wheel, I actually finished down $12, but I enjoyed playing, and it was just a few hours at the tables.
At one point, someone came over and started telling us how much they enjoyed Up For Poker. Otis and I had seen him playing with Pauly earlier and were trying to figure out who it was. HDouble was no help, so we figured him for a friend of Pauly's who just happens to read blogs. It didn't take long for the guy to break however, and tell us he was none other than the infamous Iggy, in the flesh.
That got us rowdy. We had no idea Iggy was going to make it, and most people didn't. Of course, HDouble knew Iggy and was playing dumb so he didn't ruin the surprise.
After poker, I joined Otis and his St. Louis crew at the Pai Gow tables for old time's sake. It was like a throwback to HeCon Vegas a few years back. I finished down about 5 dollars after a couple hours play... then I had to get some sleep.
Otis had already headed up to the room before me, or so I had thought. On my way up, I found out Iggy had stopped him at the bar. I had a feeling that was going to mean bad things. I tried to prod Otis to head up to bed, but it didn't work.
I took the key and got up there to find 5 people already asleep, four on the beds and one ond the floor. I found an open spot on the floor and settled in for as much sleep as I could get for the tournament. As it turned out, that meant just about an hour and half...
Then Day 2 began... and it was crazier than the first!
Doubling Up on the Italian Pirate
Gawking at World Class Players
My Worst Beat and then Revenge
Sports Betting is Evil
The Aladdin: Bring Your Rod and Reel
Bad news, dear readers, the big wigs are gone. Otis left for Vegas first thing this morning and CJ leaves soon after. Only the grounds are left and the pot is getting cold. I'm killing time at work.More in this Poker Blog! -->
So to pass the time in the 8 hours before my aliminum-sided salvation, I've been reading all the other great blogs. It's like methadone. A weak salve on a gunshot hole. Bloggers love poker and they make me want to play it.
I was amazed, by the way, to see the deep respect the folks at AL CAN'T HANG have for my blogger comrades. The Up For Poker crew dominated his poll of likely winners for the big WPBT Holiday Tournament. Obviously, this doesn't mean me.
If Otis and CJ are Fred and Barney, I'm Kazoo. Kazoo ruined that show. Really? A martian magician in the stone age? I'm not buyin' it.
That said, I do think the UFP boys can play. So here's my advice. Keep heaping the praise. Remember the words of Bob Dylan,
"kill him with confidence after poisoning him with words".
I love Bob.
See you fellas at midnight tonight.<-- Hide More
The flight attendants weren't that cute. They had that seasoned "I was a stewardess when you could still smoke on a plane" look about them. I was drinking, because that's what I did in those days. Plus, it was New Year's Eve and 1996 was about to turn into 1997.
The uniformed ladies were doing their best to make the cabin look festive for the holiday. For some reason "Rocky" was the in-flight movie.
Two of my buddies sat behind me as we crossed some imaginary line over the dark waters of the Atlantic. We were barreling toward Europe on an east-bound flight, all of us maintaining a tacit understanding that as we flew at several hundred miles per hour against the time-zones, we were eating up the rest of 1996 faster than we'd ever ended a year before.
After "Rocky" had ended, there was some general chatter about the New Year having passed. I had hoped for some rowdy celebration on the plane that involved me tongue-kissing the aged stewardesses. Instead, the flight attendants said we were going to celebrate in a different way.
"We're going to show 'Rocky' again," they said.
And so as Balboa again began his beef-punching, I settled back for a two-week trip through several counties in Europe.
And not once did it occur to me that I had only a book-bag full of clothes to last me through the next fourteen days.More in this Poker Blog! -->
That bag sits in my cloest right now. I call it a book-bag rather than a backpack because it's not one of those external-frame monstrosities that you see other backpackers carrying across Europe. Back in those days I was not flush with cash (not much has changed) and I didn't have the cash to drop on a suitable pack. Plus, I was only going for two weeks.
So, I packed as much as I could in the bag. A couple pairs of pants. A few shirts. A few pairs of socks. Five Snickers bars. Etc.
After a week of rambling across the Eurpoen countryside in one of the coldest winters in European history, my socks literally crunched when I tried to roll them up to pack.
Fortunately, I ate less on that trip than I drank. And I spent a couple lost days in Amsterdam. As such, I didn't care that much about what I looked like or how I smelled. And looking back at pictures of me and the boys standing on a rock in the middle of the North Sea and at a castle in Scotland, I think we don't look that bad.
I made it back home with the bag and my sensibilites in tact.
And, as I said, the bag now sits in a closet at Mt. Otis.
So, why bring this up now? Europe was many years ago. I'm older and, maybe, somewhat wiser now. So, I know that the bag is good for two things: Day-hiking trips and as a catch-all bag for our music festival adventures.
So, why, as I sit here in my final seven hours of work (like any work is getting done today) am I wondering if the bag should come back in all its glory as a mutiple-day trip bag?
Well, it's like this: Whereas in the past I prided myself on my ability to wait patiently, these days I just don't like to wait that much. And baggage claim in Las Vegas just isn't that fast.
So, if I could somehow fit my stuff in the one bag, I could carry it on the plane and hit the ground running at 9:30am PST Friday.
It was 2002 and Carmine was a playa.
The running joke--and we weren't even all that sure it was a joke--was that Chicago Carmine was connected. He purported to have the hook-ups in Vegas. Twenty-four of us were in-bound for HeCon: Vegas. Carmine was the unknown, but we had somehow come to count on him as the guy who could hook us up with whatever we wanted. VIP passes, limos, the works.
With that in mind, we were told to make sure we brought some appropriate attire for the places he certainly could get us into. You know, classy shit.
So, I packed accordingly and it required a piece of luggage that was bigger than I wanted.
The first night of the trip, I found myself in a limo en route to a place Jim McManus would eventually make even more infamous in the sub-title of his book, Postively Fifth Street. I found myself getting in free. Later, I found my friends pretending to be gay lovers because the....waitstaff...was a little too pushy with their sales pitches.
But that was about the end of Connected Chicago Carmine's hook-ups. I've found that's pretty much the case with most people who say they know people. That is, they know some people, but not a whole lot of people. And the people they know usually don't care whether you know them. I've also found that the people who really know people usually don't talk about the people they know.
Learning that comes with experience, I suppose. Much like packing for Vegas.
In 2003, I packed lighter for Vegas. My last trip had taught me that my money is better spent gambling and drinking with my buddies than forking over cover charges and ill-gotten gratuities. Though I was always intrigued by the scantily-clad 3:00am crowd at Drai's, I rarely stood up from my throne at the table to see what all the excitement was about.
And when I left Vegas last year, about half of what I packed had gone unworn.
Which brings us back to my 8:00am flight direct to Vegas. I just got off the phone with a very nice lady who confirmed my reservations, made sure I'm going to get my mileage points, and took down a phone number in case anything causes my reservations to change.
I've reached the point at which most of my thinking involves the next 24 hours of working, packing, and travel. I've got my bankroll in place, the appropriate account numbers memorized, my supplies for the trip purchased, my reservation confirmatin numbers in a file, and my listing of games and tournaments waiting to be printed.
I'm ready. Almost.
BG seemed almost embarassed that he was pre-packing for the trip. While I didn't do a test-run on the luggage like he did, I share in his embarassment. After all, we're heading out to meet a group of people who I suspect were not the genesis of the alread-trite description "metrosexual." Clothing, while not optional, is certainly not a priority.
As stated above, I'm not so concerned with what I'm bringing. As I've mentioned before, if you see me outside blue jeans and some cheap shirt, I'm likely at work or at a funeral. My plans in Vegas don't involve much of anything but playing poker and drinking with my buddies, both which require comfortable clothing. The only chance I'll need some decent clothes are if one of our group knows somebody that can get some line passes to a fun club and find some way to avoid those pesky two-bottle minimums. Or if BG can talk me into having a good meal at a decent restaurant.
I'm not a club-boy, though. And while I am a bit of a closet epicure, I'm admittedly damned hard to drag away from the fun I'll inevitably be finding.
So, now that I have my travel and gaming plans in order, I have little left to do but pack.
And I fucking hate packing.
And so tonight I'll have the battle with myself. Do I go bohemian and avoid baggage claim, or do I pack comfortably and wait at the carousel Friday morning.
As I actively consider this, I realize that I'll be arriving on the same flight as BadBlood and will likely catch a ride with him to the hotel. I wonder how he's going to pack. If he carries on and I carry on, we can beat tracks to the cab line quickly. But if we differ in how we pack, one person is going to be waiting on the other.
It's a bit of a curious question. Here's why: I've played with Blood many times in the past six months. Every time we've played together he's been wearing the same t-shirt. It's like that episode of Seinfeld where Jerry's girlfriend wears the same dress all the time. I've only see Blood away from the tables once before. I ran into him at a Sunday breakfast joint. He was wearing something different that time. He's a confounding man, friends.
Already set-aside to pack: Three t-shirts, two hats, two pairs of jeans, one pair of pants, five pair of boxers, one pair of shoes, five pairs of socks, a jacket, a laptop, and an assortment of remedies for whatever ails me.
I could fit all of that in one bag. But I fear it's not enough.
Or maybe it's too much.
What's really too much is this post. It's gone on much longer than I intended it to.
Forget it. I'm just going to steal Blood's t-shirt and wear it for five days.
That's it folks.
Next time you hear from me you'll either be reading the trip reports here or actually looking me in my crooked-nosed face.
Have a good weekend, folks.<-- Hide More
You know the sound, right? There's a near-defeaning roar of a jet engine, a squeal as the rubber tires hit the runway, and a long drone as the plane comes to a stop. The cabin titters. The doors open. And then there's a lot of clanging from the slot machines in the terminal.
In about 36 hours, the first blogger wheels will touch down in Vegas for a five day extravaganza of hammer-dropping and Guinness-slurping.
But, what's that? We're not the only convention in town?
That's right, folks. The National Finals Rodeo will be in its final days.
Because we all want to fit in, I'll offer up the cheat-sheet I'm taking with me.More in this Poker Blog! -->
1) Cowboys love it when you speak their language. With that in mind, be sure to include as many cowboy lingo phrases in your table-talk as you can. Be sure to call your cowboy opponent "Dude" as often as you can.
2) Cowboys like movies as much as anybody else. So, indulge them in a talk of the finest cowboy films. Make yourself even more likable by quoting their favorite lines. Be sure to repeat the following line as often as possible: "Excuse me while I whip this out."
3) Memorize every one of Byron "Cowboy" Wolford's stories and tell them as your own.
4) When heads-up with a cowboy, pause before you push all-in, and say, "Listen, Pard, wouldn't you rather settle this with a game of real cowboy poker?"
5) Employ the folowing phrase at every opportunity: "You ride bulls? Well, shoot, Pard, I drink Red Bull. We could be bull brothers!"
6) Every time you sit down with a cowboy, make the first words out of your mouth, "I'm a fast talking, hell raising, son of a bitch. I'm a sinner and I know how to fight." When he looks at you funny, say, "Oh, that's ALT-country. You probably wouldn't understand."
7) Engage every cowboy you find in a conversation about how they get their rodeo animals to buck. Pretend you don't understand and ask them to demonstrate on the dealer.
8) Find your PETA hat from your activist days and wear it everywhere you go.
9) When sitting at a cramped table, whisper to the cowboy next to you, "You know. I'm from Texas. You know what they say about Texas. You know, steers and queers? Well, buddy, I seem to have misplaced my horns."
10) Every time a cowboy bets into you--every freakin' time--you must say, "All hat, no cattle."<-- Hide More
Allow me to offer a whole-hearted, "Well, sonofabitch" to this story that's about to come out of South Carolina news outlets.
Rather than clog the fun of Vegas anticipation here, I've written up a brief summary over at my news blog, The Poker Papers.
Now, read below for less depressing stuff.
Otis has again raised the bar with his props. A wiser man would fold, but I have an image to maintain. Following his post on a poker blog is like a magician who lets his assistant strip for an opening act. He's good at poker...and I'm...tall. Very tall.More in this Poker Blog! -->
But as a poker player who's been to Vegas but for reasons other than poker, a poker player who plays at-home and on-line, here are the questions I need help with.
1. Is there more EASY money at the limit tables?
I have to believe the fish will play anything there and a good, very tight, strategy will make money there. Less money. But consistent money.
2. Is a suck-out more fun in sin city?
3. Is it worth entering any of the scheduled tourneys there (besides the obvious one) or would I be better off sticking to the NL rings?
4. Which casino is best for NL play?
5. Should 4 men sharing a single room talk often about their bad beats the night before?
6. Is it more foolish to talk Car Bomb trash to Al Can't Hang...or poker to a pro?
7. If I sit a table full of poker bloggers and never spot a fish...should I learn to swim?
8. If I keep "accidentally" telling other players I have the 'nugs' instead of the 'nuts' will this make new friends?
9. Will Otis fall down? This cost me a $30 buy-in at BadBlood's, but its always a good bet.
10. Will I miss my flight on Tuesday? On second thought, don't answer that.
<-- Hide More
The wait is KILLING me.
In an effort to kill some time at work, I've decided to risk a little of my own cash to make this trip to Vegas a little more interesting.
As such, I offer up the following prop bets to any takers:More in this Poker Blog! -->
Rules: Maximum bet is $1. I collect your buck pre-tourney on Saturday the 11th. Maximum one bettor per prop bet. I pay off if you win before you leave Vegas. If you win after you've left Vegas, your bet is void. I am not responsible for collecting your bet. If you claim your bet here and don't pay me Saturday morning, your bet is void. In the event the prop bet is won before Saturday morning, I will pay off Saturday morning. In short, you claim your bet via the comments section here, pay me a buck on Saturday morning, and I pay off if you win before you leave. Again, only one person per bet below. The time-stamp on the comments section will determine who is the rightful bettor. Betting ends Thursday night at 8pm EST. I will print out the comments section before I depart and have it with me for confirmation
Are you XXXXXX from XXXXX blog?
Your $1 bet will get you $10 if a blogger is recognized by a random player at a poker table without the blogger mentioning that he's a blogger. The recognition must be witnessed by one other person. This bet will not pay off in the event Felicia, Joe Jr., Joe Sr., or Charlie Shoten are recognized. This bet is only good for one payoff.
Otis wins! Otis wins!
In the event I win the holiday classic, the winner of this bet wins $25.
Up For Poker Represent!
In the event all three Up For Poker contributors make it to the final table (that's CJ, Otis, and G-Rob), the winner of this bet gets $15
A taste of his own medicine
If someone knocks Grubby out of the tournament with The Hammer, the winner of this bet gets $20
Where did BadBlood go?
If BadBlood should disappear and we discover he's made a trip to Industrial Road, the winner of this bet gets $2. BadBlood is not elligible for this bet.
Sneaky camera, hidden Grubby
If someone can sneak a digital camera into the casino and snap a photo of Grubby playing slots, I'll pay $5 on a $1 bet.
The winner of this bet will be the blogger who can engage me in conversation for no less than five minutes without me recognizing you and saying, "Waita second, aren't you XXXXX?" $4 on a $1 bet. Bet must be made in advance, which means you're ging to have to be damned sneaky. Or I'm going to have to be fairly inebriated.
The winner of this bet gets $5 if Maudie outlasts Charlie Shoten in the Holiday Classic.
The winner of this bet gets $5 if two or more people agree BG was at--one point during the trip--wasted.
CJ, meet Al Can't Hang
The winner of this bet gets $7 if someone witnesses Al Can't Hang buy CJ two or more shots of SoCo and CJ actually drinks them himself. Both shots must be bought and consumed within a one-hour period.
PS--I had several prop bets constructed that involved Pauly, but the odds were so unfavorable for the bettor, I decided not to include them. I mean, is anybody going to take .25:1 odds that Pauly can track down Paris Hilton and get her to whisper in my ear, "Dr. Pauly loves Paris."
Yeah, I got a lot of faith in the good doctor.<-- Hide More
"Sure. Car bomb. It's my birthday, after all."
Car bombs arrive. New girl doesn't like her car bomb.
"You want her car bomb, too?"
"Sure. Car bomb. It's my birthday after all."More in this Poker Blog! -->
I don't take notes when I'm drinking. If I did, that would be about all I would've written down about my birthday celebration Saturday night. The rest of the time I spent trying to climb out of the bottom of various bottles. By the end of the night I was near comatose.
I've never treated my body as much like a temple as I should. Unless, of course, you're one of those people who worships idols like August Busch and Jack Daniels. Then I'd be your temple, bucko.
As I lay staring at the ceiling yesterday, I considered the implications of the hangover. I'm dreadfully out of practice. Since my son was born, I've largely stayed out of bars. I've played a lot of sober poker. Oh, and I've lost about 15 pounds. Not a good combination for a guy who like to party like AlCan'tHang.
It wouldn't be that frightening a prospect, but in just a few days I'll be leaving for five days of sure bedlam.
Still, deep down, I know that my body will rally. There's something about Las Vegas and New Orleans that has always turned off all ill-feeling sensors in my body and allowed me to survive for days on end on little more than booze and buffet food (or, in the case of New Orleans, booze and bignets).
I think a big part of my abilities in those cities is that, unlike a birthday celebration where a day's worth of drinking is crammed into a few hours, Las Vegas trips are a long, steady buzz capped off at 5am with a quick binge to put me to sleep.
Here's Otis Drinking in Vegas 101:
Breakfast--Diet Coke and water. Not together, mind you. I alternate between these two drinks for most of my mornings and early afternoon poker sessions. The water helps to rehydrate, the Diet Cokes provides the demon caffeine.
Lunch--When playing poker in late afternoon, I generally order one beer to put in front of me. I'll nurse it for an hour or so. I don't really think it will make my opponents think I'm the Drunk Guy, but if they want to believe that, fine with me. When in non-poker party mode, I often employ the method I found to be quite effective during a -EV marathon Pai Gow session in the bowels of the Barbary Coast two years ago. I place a dollar chip to the side of my stack and tell the cocktail waitress that on every orbit she makes around the pit, she can trade the dollar chip for a beer. That time, she averaged an orbit about every ten minutes.
Dinner--If I'm having a good session and don't want to leave for dinner, I pull from TiltBoy lore and order a Blood Mary with extra olives. That's dinner.
Midnight snack--It's the drink order that once caused a cocktail waitress to ask, "What are you? 75 years old?" Yes, friends, it's a little embarassing. When I'm full of beer and settled in for a long night of silliness, I order Greyhounds by the gallon. Either Vodka or Gin (depending on my mood) with white grapfruit juice. I'd rather order a Salty Dog (the same drink with a salt-rimmed glass), but most casinos don't permit salt-drinks at their tables for obvious reasons. So, while a little embarassed by drinking an old man's drink, I slurp with pride. Plus, think of the vitamin C!
Or....maybe I'll just go sober this trip...
While I mull that possibility, what are you drinking?<-- Hide More
As part of my plan to not embarrass myself a week from today, I've been playing some MTSNG's at Empire. I just wrapped two up, making the final table in both, but only cashing in one.
In this case, 2nd place really, really hurt, and here's why. We're down to two and I've got about a 4000T chip advantage over my heads up opponent. I'm in the SB with QTs and I make the minimum raise. My opponent calls and we see a flop of A-K-J rainbow.
Hmmm... in some places, they call that the nuts.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Naturally, I check. My opponent apparently can't get his money in the pot fast enough and he goes all-in. Jackpot!
I call and he flips over K2. There's no flush possibility, so I'm in pretty good damn shape. In case you're wondering, I'm a 96% favorite to win the hand. I think you all know where this is headed.
The turn is another K. Okay, fine. Trip Kings still doesn't beat me and I'm still a 77% favorite. In fact, he's only got 10 outs. Of course, the river is a J, and I I'm down to just 4000T.
I steal a few blinds and get myself within a double up of getting even again. That's when I get JTs. The flop is 7-8-9, two diamonds. I'm not holding a diamond. I push all-in and get called.
My opponent flips J6, both diamonds. In this case, I'm just a 57% favorite, but yet again, I've got my money in the pot with a dominant hand. The turn is a 6 of clubs. I'm now one card away from being right back in it, and I'm a 75% favorite.
I think you know where this is going...
The river is the A of diamonds, and I bust out in 2nd. At least I didn't embarrass myself!
One week from right now, we'll be at the tables in Vegas for the WPBT Las Vegas Holiday Classic. Can't wait to see you all there!<-- Hide More
Sometimes the liquid soap is just especially sudsy and that makes me happy. The water is just hot enough to make the shower relaxing on a tired Friday morning. Enough to make me ignore the slight growth of filth on the shower curtain liner.
This is going to be a good day, I thought.
Then I got out of the shower and came face to face with Mrs. Otis. She'd just gotten off the phone.
"You better high-tail it to work."More in this Poker Blog! -->
Somebody at work had screwed up in the overnight hours. The exact details of the collossal mistake are irrelevant. To put it in terms you can understand, it was if they'd managed to lose half their stack againt someone playing pocket aces face-up, then handed the rest of their stack over to me and said, "Okay, you gotta finish this. And...oh, yeah, you've gotta win."
By Noon, I'd doubled up. By 3pm I was the chip leader. I suspect within a few hours I'll be scooping the final pot of the night.
Did I get a little lucky? Absolutely. Did it take a little skill? Sure.
I hate to draw weak analogies just to give myself something about which to write, but I'm feeling a great deal of peace as the week comes to a close.
My folks are in town to see L'il Otis. Last night, I fired up Party on the laptop and sat next to my dad on the couch, narrarating my play and realizing how far I've come in my game since the day he taught me to play.
In four hands we had pocket kings, pocket aces, and flopped the nut straight. And we got no action on any of them. And I didn't care. I was sitting next to my dad, breaking even, and happily listing my agenda for next week's Vegas trip.
Later that night, I started getting killed on the $100NL tables. TPTK killed by a turned flush. Pocket queens run over by pocket aces. Etc. I took tenth in a three-tabler after a mid-sized stack called my 99 all-in bet with ATo and caught a four spades to give himself the flush. It was all fishy play by me, in retrospect.
By Midnight, I started slipping into a familair defeated mood. I'd seen it in G-Rob's eyes the day before after he'd lost four buy-ins in one day. It's not just a look of defeat. It's a look of self-doubt fused with the worst possible feeling you can have in poker--fear.
Feeling the defeatselfdoubtfear like an ostrich with a goiter, I slipped into bed. I couldn't concentrate on the horrible movie on TV. I mean, what kind of premise is "A fillandering wine dealer steals a diamond necklace only to have his unsuspecting wife mistakenly run away with it and Stephen Dorf." What was Nicholson thinking?
I put myself to sleep in much the same way I've been doing for the past three nights. I imagine myself getting in the car, driving the hour and half to the airport, boarding the place, landing in Vegas, and hopping a cab to the Strip. By the time I've made it to the poker room, I've usually drifted off into restless slumber.
Something happened in the middle of the night. And since I don't kiss and tell, suffice it to say, I woke up in a fantastic mood.
Somehow, a few hours sleep had removed the defeatselfdoubtfear from my bloodstream. In its place, I found two better feelings. In fact, I consider them to be two of the best feelings I ever have: Anticipation and hope.
Admittedly, I lost two buy-ins last night and didn't cash in my three-tabler. Admittedly, I came into work with the chips down and had to rally or die.
But, you know what? I can come back.
Not only that, but we all can.
Here's something that's taken me a long time to realize: Anyone who doesn't have to deal with the occasional short-stack has no idea how to appreciate absolutely fucking fantastic it is to have a Raymer-esque pyramid of chips.
I'd say 75-80% of the people preparing for next week's WPBT Holiday Classic are experiencing many of the same emotions. They're examining their poker play, over-critiquing it, fearing the worst possible outcome will befall them.
I've recently been in discussions with a few people about their fear of losing their roll at the tables on their fist day in Vegas. Try as I might, I can't convince them of the obvious: Vegas is ripe with the same fish as Party Poker.
I think that a lot of us feel like we're going to Vegas with a short-stack, literal or figurative.
As we all push the clock hands foward as fast as they'll go, let me propose this: There is no way we come away from this trip as losers. Simple as that.
Tomorrow I'm going to buy a Christmas tree and decorate it with the family. Tomorrow night, I'm going to hit the town with a bunch of thirty-somethings (yeah, I know a couple of you aren't 30 yet) and pretend like I'm 21 again. I'll try to remember that ten years ago, my buddies carried me down Cherry Street singing happy birthday and kept me from getting killed when I hugged Marlo Finner and told him what a good game he played that day.
Short-stack or pyramid, I'm one happy Otis today.
And damned if that doesn't decapitate the Goiter Ostrich every time.
Have a good weekend, all.<-- Hide More
It's become the most fabled hand in poker blogger history. A Google search of "hammer poker" brings 197,000 results.
First on the list, of course, is the Poker Grub, the inventor of the HAMMER. Up For Poker squeaks in just under Grubby, but only because we love the hand so much. At this point, our goal has to be getting Vince Van Patten use the nickname during the WPT.
When it comes to our Vegas trip, I would imagine that 72-off will become one of the most-played hands in our tournament. And every time it gets shown, I figure the person playing it should stand and announce "the HAMMER" to everyone in the room. I imagine it shoud be followed by a round of applause.
First, go below this post and read Otis' post. He poses some questions for those of you joining us in Vegas.
Second, I wanted to thank all of you for the tremendous growth of Up For Poker this year. We'd be doing this if no one was reading, but knowing so many people stop by makes us want to do an even better job!
Warning: The following is mindless drivel that is not even worth reading. I just needed to get it out of my system for the morning
In Kansas City, Missouri, the autumn air can take on a bit of a dewy haze. Bright red brake lights on the noodly junction onto I-70 shoot through the dew droplets in millions of tiny prisms. It makes it hard to drive, especially if you're fighting to get back to a holiday you created. It makes it even harder if your libido is making it difficult for you to correctly turn the steering wheel.
Damn that woman, I thought, just two seconds after my front right tire slammed into a bridge.
It was the last weekend of October 1992.More in this Poker Blog! -->
That night was sort of a turning point in my life. The car survived, I made the trip back to Columbia, MO. I left the woman behind and proceeded to embark on a night of debauchery that I have matched few times in my young life.
The last weekend in October--back in those days--was Dionysian Weekend, a self-proclaimed holiday-ish event that took my friends through three straight days of silliness and rowdy-rambling.
I was ill-prepared for that first holiday weekend. It ended with me sprawled on a bathroom floor, speckled with grape-scented vomit, and a guy standing above me remarking, "You can still smell the grape!"
At some point in our lives, we all realize that while spontaneity is a virtue, preparation is no sin.
It was shortly after that weekend that I took to priming the pump for big events.
And as any reader knows, a big event sits on the all-too tantalizingly close horizon.
I'm like a little damned kid when it comes to stuff like the next week's WPBT conference. It's not all I think about, but it fills a goodly portion of my daydream musings. G-Rob and I can only take a certain portion of our workday to discuss the lack of sleep we expect to get before the Holiday Classic, our poor chances of lasting past the first break, and how we plan to maintain our composure over several long days in Vegas. We do have to do some work before then, after all.
And while Mrs. Otis has been quite a champ about the whole thing, I do my best not to overfill her head with my musings. After all, she's staying home to take care of L'il Otis while I go have fun.
Brief digression: Here's something fun about Mrs. Otis that I haven't shared yet. Thanksgiving night, after the in-laws had left the house, I retired to bed with the laptop and started playing a little NL. Eventually, Mrs. Otis snuggled in beside me, quizzing me on pot odds, implied odds, and the like. On one particular hand, I flopped an open-ended straight draw. My opponent underbet the pot, giving me the odds to call. I explained my play to Mrs. Otis, listing my outs and the likelihood that I would hit one of them. The turn gave me my straight, but I didn't say anything. I was pleased to hear a quick gasp from my wife. "Is that the nuts?" she asked. Bless that woman.
"Yes, baby, that's the nuts," I said. And then I promptly doubled up.
So, she humors me and I owe her the respect of not constantly jabbering about my Vegas plans.
So, that leaves me stuck inside my head, making mental lists of everything I want to do.
Oh, and of course, it leaves me with my prized space in Up For Poker. Which means if you accidentally read this far, you've become the unwitting victim of my safety ventihilation.
Sorry about that.
So, priming the pump.
There's only so much I can do to prime for this trip, but I'm doing my best.
In an attempt to ready myself for what cold be the longest poker binge of my short career, I have started playing online like I might at a B&M cardroom. That is, intead of mutli-tabling two NL games and one limit game at the same time, I've dialed back my online play to one table. Complete concentration rules the day.
In preparation for the Holiday Classic, I've taken to playing three-table tournaments. My results have been mixed so far. Out of five tournaments, I've cashed in two, including a first place finish last night. I don't like those results that much.
This is an area where I need serious, emergency priming. Not since a fairly sober time in 1997-1998 have I spent so long as a level-headed, responsible human being. An ideal pump-priming would have called for three straight weeks of rowdiness leading up to Dec. 10-14. Instead, I've spent the past several months blissfully emmersed in fatherhood and concentrated poker play.
This coming Saturday is my birthday and should prove to be a good indicator of my stamina. You might see in the previous post that commenters are already setting the over/under on the number of full-fall stumbles I'll take during our trip out west. Obviously, there are those out there who are of little faith.
They may be right this time.
The Yonder Mountain String band would advise you, "If there's still ramblin' in the rambler', let him go."
I've got enough ramble left in me for the next several days. However, rather than bore you with all the other stuff that's slipping in and out of my noodle, I'll just ask two questions:
Am I the only one who is this excited?
If you're afflicted as I am, what mental/physical preps are you making?<-- Hide More
I felt it coming on Monday night. At first I thought I was severely dehydrated from drinking too many Diet Mountain Dew's during the workday. My throat was a little scratchy. By 9pm, the flow hard started. By 1am I decided I was calling into work sick. By Tuesday morning I was a mess of sloppy-headed confusion.
And somehow, all I could think was how grateful I was this was coming on now instead of in two weeks.
With that I slipped into 24 hours of medicine-headed introspection and gambling.More in this Poker Blog! -->
The month of November was about to close much as October had. My bankroll had been sliding precariously close to July levels. It was then, upon the encouragement of others, I had decided to ride the lightening and play above my head. It worked for three straight months. I built an impressive bankroll that allowed me to play safely at the middle limits. Something happened in early October that I still haven't fully grasped. My bread and butter $200 PL game was dead. My $10/$20 shorthanded play was showing its variance. I floundered around, jumping from limit to limit, no-limit to no-limit and couldn't win.
It was actually quite a shock to my system. I thought that my good three-month lightening run had been a good indicator of my playing ability. But as the slide started, I started to doubt myself. I still don't know what happened. I don't know if I was lucky for three months and unlucky for two. I don't know if maybe I shouldn't play in the bigger games. All I know is that I lost a nice chunk of my bankroll during October and November.
In an effort to save my remaining bankroll from what seemed to be inevitable depletion, I scaled back my big play and began to play one table at a time at $100NL.
Finally, the slide stopped and the gradual climb returned.
It was with all of this in mind that I sat down at 2pm Tuesday afternoon--nose running and head-a-sneeze--and logged on to Party.
I bought in for the $100 limit and sat back to think.
For some reason my mind started messing with phrases I heard recently. I'd seen a promo for the movie The Five People You Meet in Heaven. My pseudo-ephedrine addled mind co-opted the phrase and turned it around to The Five Outfits You'll Wear in Vegas.
My head started speaking in Martin Short's voice from Saturday Night Live's synchronized swimming skit.
"I'm not what you'd call a strong dresser," I said to the dog. She licked herself.
I can't dress myself to save my life. I'm a t-shirt and jeans guy. Often, I'll toss on a ball cap to hid my bed-head. I can match my tie to my suit. Beyond that, I have no idea what I'm doing.
That's why Vegas is so nice. Unless you're clubbing (my mind asks, They have baby seals in Vegas?) you only need to be comfortable. Still, I know when next Thursday rolls around I'll be digging through my closet looking for something to pack. Inevitably I'll end up with a few pairs of jeans, a few t-shirts, and a jacket. Maybe a sweater.
"You're not what I'd call a strong dresser," the dog said.
So, I licked myself.
I was up a couple buy-ins by 4pm. My big hands were holding up, my draws were hitting, and my bigger stack was commanding respect for my bluffs.
How in the hell does this happen? How does it happen that a casual conversation between Pauly, his brother, and BG turn into an epic Vegas pilgramage for blogging-kind?
Not only have more than two dozen people signed onto the trip, we're getting last minute add-ons like G-Rob and CJ.
And Mystery now surrounds the trip. As chronicled in today's issue of BG's blog, the Genius investigates the coup d'etat of the Guinness and Poker domain. I'll let you read his thoughts. Left unanswered is the question of whether the WPBT will be happily surprised by a neat practical joke or marred by a Judas in our midst.
Frankly, as my head swims with sickness, drugs, and the demon caffeine, I find myself a little frightened by the whole prospect.
To settle my nerves I decided to invite Linda from Table Tango to play in the tournament. I've always wanted to meet the lady who was poker blogging before anyone knew what a blog was. No word on whether she'll feel like playing with a bunch of booze-stinking ruffians.
"You're still not what I'd call a very strong dresser."
I don't know who said it that time, but I licked myself anyway since I was alone in the house.
By 7pm I was up six buy-ins. G-Rob and BadBlood were both online playing in SNGs and multi-table tournaments. They IMed simultaneously to tell me they had doubled up. That freaked me out a little bit.
This is odd, I thought.
I'm going to meet a bunch of people and I have no idea what they look like.
I mean, sure, I know what badBlood looks like. I've seen pictures of Pauly, Al Can't Hang, the Poker Prof, and Hank, but beyond that I could be sitting next to a blogger at the table and have no idea they were there.
That actually was a running fantasy of mine: Anonymously slip in next to a blogger at a table, be quiet for an hour or two, then drop The Hammer on them. When they look up to hate me, I'd just mutter something about how I learned it by watching Grubby or something. It would only be better if it were Grubby I was hammering.
By 9pm I was still at $700. I'd been going up and down a little bit, making some questionable calls, and starting to get a little more loopy as the Nyquil kicked in.
One more hour, I said.
I don't see myself sleeping much for the first couple of days in Vegas. I plan on playing all day on Friday. My buddies will be trickling in all night on Friday night. If I make it to bed at all, it will only be a for a few hours before the meet-up at Sam's Town.
My problem is that I can't even conceive of how fun this might be. For the past year I've been fantasizing about partying and playing with all of the bloggers out there. I want to drink with Al, learn from Felicia, commiserate with BG over women and food, live vicariously through the Prof, be entertained by Pauly's travel tales, have my picture taken by Joe Sr., and live inside Grubby's mind for a few hours.
Do I have time for all of this?
I mean, for the love of all that's holy, I turn 31 on Saturday. I've been out of social practice for several months now. My liver has returned to a healthy color and my hands are steady. And here I stand on the edge of a slippery slope.
It's 10:02pm when I decide I'm playing the final orbit of the night. I'm still hovering a little below $700 at $678. I figure a $578 profit is good for the day.
With AJhearts, I call a $4 raise from the small blind. Three callers.
The flop comes down with all diamonds, but AJ5.
We all checked to the original raiser (OR). OR fires a $30 bet into a relatively small pot. I think for a couple of seconds. That bet is way too big if he flopped the nut flush. Why price everybody out of the pot if you've got the nuts?
So, I sit and think. I put the guy on a big ace. Likely AQo, but possibly AKo. My medicine-head didn't think long enough to rationally weigh the consquences of a call. After all, if the guy is holding AQ or AK, his kicker is likely a diamond, which means he still has a ton of outs if I call with my top two pair.
I still have two hands behind mine. I made a decision that, in retrospect, was maybe a pretty bad one.
I re-raised enough to put anybody else at the table all-in.
The concept, while perhaps flawed, was this: I push the other two hands out of the pot with my big-ass raise that represents the nut flush. That way if the two hands behind me are holding a diamond in their hand, they won't be tempted to try to run me down. Once I've isolated myself with OR, I just have to hope I had the right read on him and he doesn't hit his outs.
In theory (or at least a sick dude's theory) it might've worked. What I didn't count on was a call from a guy to my left. So, he's all-in. The next guy folds. OR calls, although he has to know he's now beat. Either me or the other all-in guy has the nut flush.
And, yeah, it's not me.
My original read was sort of right. OR had A5 of spades and had flopped a worse two-pair than mine and now only had two outs. The other guy, obviously, had K8 of diamonds (aka the nut flush).
That left me with three outs (for those not keeping score, I needed one of the two remaining jacks or the case ace for a boat).
The turn was the four of hearts.
I was still going to walk away with a decent win for the day. I'd made a good read, but failed to consider the phantom hands behind mine. I was already planning to have another shot of Nyquil and hit the sack.
That's when the jack of spades hit on the river giving me jacks full of aces and the $396 pot.
After apologizing to Mr. Nutflush, I settled in for the remaining eight hands of the orbit. It was not to be however. After seven hours, the table broke, leaving me sitting sick and alone, up more than eight buy-ins.
I'm now a little nervous about going to Vegas. I just used up every bit of luck I had allotteed for the rest of the year.
Now, I'm off to find something stronger than Nyquil.
Where's Al Can't Hang when a guy needs him?<-- Hide More
How popular has poker become? Just how mainstream is our beloved game? Here, on December 1st, it makes its debut as a "hot gift for your Christmas list" on the Matt and Katie flower hour. Much like our favorite music, the mainstream is not a fun place to wade.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Here's the exchange between our beloved, boot-wearing, leg-baring, pixie Katie Couric (KC) and some anonymous ,vapid, condescending brunette (AB).
KC : ...and now we have poker chips..poker is really hot
AB : and if you have a teenage boy on your list i am telling you this is what he wants for the holidays
KC : how about a teenage girl?
AB: that too but you know what? teenage boys who don't date this is what they do...
KC: as long as they don't play strip poker right...
BOTH : HAR HAR HAR!
Now that hurts. Granted, I don't date. But that's because the backyard playset is the only "swing" at my house. What's more? It was a really nice set of poker chips, the kind I still don't have. The kind Otis thinks he's pretty darn special for breaking out every 6 months or so when he actually hosts a game. Yikes!
That settles it...I'm getting drunk in Las Vegas. I can't handle the shame. Strip poker anyone?<-- Hide More