When I found a certain make of Moleskine notebooks, I knew I would never again have a reason to ignore notetaking as part of the writing process. The notebooks have a soft cover that feels a lot like a paper shopping bag. They fit perfectly in my back pocket and mold to my ass.
Throughout the Vegas trip, I had taken a lot of notes and continued to do so up until we hit 20 players in the tournament. Then, apart from writing down who was sitting at the final table, I didn't take another note.
I guess I decided to play poker.More in this Poker Blog! -->
I stopped paying attention to writer-things. My eyes were set firmly on other eyes, hands, necks, and lips. Whether it was a good run of luck, some good timing, or a combination of both, I was able to build a stack and use it to my advantage.
My single biggest hand before the final table came at our fine organizer's expense. Prior to the hand, I had forced Falstaff off a raise and watched him muck. Then one or two hands later, he pushed all in and I was fortunate enough to have queens. I put it all in and got ready to see his cards. Then Change100 tanked. I figured her for jacks, tens, or AK and wasn't really sure what I wanted to see happen. After what seemed like forever, she mucked her tens. Falstaff had fives, my queens held, and I had a big stack.
It's fair to say that I don't remember much of what happened for the next couple of hours. Though sober, I was tired, hungry, and completely focused on only the game. Before the final table began, one player quietly asked me what I thought about a chop. As one of the two top stacks, I said I'd rather wait for a while. After that, I played as aggressively as I know how, but was completely wrapped up in my own little world. In fact, over the course of final table play, I only remember a couple of voices with any clarity.
The first was Schecky. He was either doing a very fine job of trying to get in my head or just very talkative. The second was Fuel55, who stood behind me and once tried to get me to refuse a three-handed chop and then muttered incredulously when I jammed on the button with T4o (I ended up getting my third big suckout of the tournament on that hand when KuroKitty called with KT and I flopped a four).
Beyond that, I know I won some hands, lost some hands, won some races, lost some races, and got heads up with The Rooster.
How's that for the most uninteresting tourney report ever issued by these fingers?
It might have been my emergence from focus that ended up losing me the tournament. Still, a sense of understanding about what was happening around me was welcome. What had once been half a dozen people standing around and watching poker was suddenly a crowd of familiar faces. For the past several hours, I'd rather forgotten everything except trying to win. Now, I took half a second to relish the moment. I knew it wouldn't last long. Though the heads-up battle has been described as epic, I don't remember it as such. It seemed to be over as soon as it started.
I made a quick decision that I wasn't going to give The Rooster the opportunity to dictate the terms of the heads-up match. With the blinds as high as they were, there was very little opportunity for post-flop poker. My decisions were made before the match even began. It would be up to The Rooster to decide when he was calling and when he was folding.
If there was a surreal moment for me, it was the split second between the time I looked at my final hand and the time The Rooser announced "Call!"
I peaked at K9o and said nothing. I simply put my hands around my chips and started to move them. They had barely moved an inch when The Rooster nearly jumped from his seat and said, "Call!"
Without going into it what was actually happening in my head at that second, that fraction of time defined who I was, who I am, who I hope to be forever.
Oh, and I was surpised to see I was ahead, too. The Rooster's snap-call didn't mean I was beat. It meant he was tired of my aggression. In this case, it also meant I was better than 60/40 to win. By the river, we had seen no kings, nines, queens, or eights. I had to dodge six cards when that final piece of plastic hung in the air.
It was what it was.
What struck me most in the half an hour after the final card fell was the sense of inevitability that struck just before the river. There was a part of me that knew I was going to lose. My head had spent nearly nine hours focusing. Though I'd managed to take second place cash, the sense of disappointment was heavy. All at once, I didn't want to do anything. I didn't want to play poker. I didn't want to gamble. I didn't want to party.
I wandered around for a while and eventually made my way back to the Geisha Bar for a drink. I quickly realized I was ill-equipped to do anything but go to bed.
And that's what I did.
It's been a few weeks since that night and, I'll admit, the disappointment hasn't worn off. I still wish I'd managed to find a win. I think there was something in my poker psyche that needed the victory. In another sense, though, I think it might be good that I didn't win.
There was a time a couple of years ago that I not only felt but knew I was a good poker player. There was no question in my mind. I had the game and the results to prove it. I played mid-high to high cash games for two years and did rather well for myself. I had about 18 months in which I did very well in online tournaments with large buy-ins. That, of course, was all in the days of Party Poker. When Party left the U.S., it took something in my head with it.
Since then, the games have gotten fewer and tougher. The players have gotten better. My confidence has been shattered. I look back at my numbers since I closed my account at Party and realize it all led up to a losing year in 2007.
What's interesting is that, while I played this year, I never really played. I never put any real money online and didn't play many big tournaments. Still, it was a losing year. I have a negative ROI in MTTs and nothing on which to hang my hat.
The funny thing is I still have a modest roll. Even after using some of it to buy my wife and her friend a four-night cruise, I still have a roll I could use to get back in the game seriously. I've actually been toying with that idea. I've seriously considered using 2008 to try to make a run and try to find that poker player I was two years ago. I've been close to making the decision to do it several times, but I can't pull the trigger.
The simple fact is, I'm not the same poker player I was two years ago. I'm not the same person. I'm not as disciplined. I'm not as driven. I don't have the time required to be a good player. I have other goals.
What's more, the poker world isn't the same anymore. Even if I could find the player I used to be, I still stand a decent chance at not being successful. The fields in the $150+ online tournaments are not the berry patches they used to be. The cash games are much, much tougher.
It's a sad realization. Though I never aspired to play professionally, there was a time I defined myself, in part, as a poker player. I don't think I can do that anymore. Do I know how to play? Yes. Am I any good? Sometimes. Am I ready to find out if I can compete in today's poker world? I just don't know.
I realized this week that I am at a poker crossroads and I'm very close to making the decision to turn away from the game. That's not to say I'm going to quit, per se. I'm not sure what it means. I actually considered depositing a rather large amount of cash on the only site at which I can play. Then, because I'm a longtime player there and can't get rakeback, I decided not to. Funny, huh? It's pretty clear my decision-making machine is not working at full speed.
I've said it before: I love this fucking game. I just have to decide if I am okay having poker as a hobby and not an integral part of my life. If I can be half-pregnant in this case, then that's okay. If not, I think it may be time to put myself on the Poker Pill and find something else to do for a while.
Anyone wanna gamble on Wii games?<-- Hide More
I began my Saturday in Vegas like I begin most Saturdays in the city. I was tired, mildly hungover, and stuck. Had it not been for winning a dime playing Pai Gow and sucking out on a fellow blogger in a poker game, the roll in my pocket would've been a lot smaller. Regardless, my stomach and eyelids had met somewhere in the middle. As a result, I had a lump in my throat and had a hard time putting down the cheesesteak at the Venetian food court.
The only thing that felt right was my sense of optimism, and even that was odd. Normally, as my poker game is concerned, I'm wearing Charlie Brown's storm cloud. That particular morning, though, I was talking as I felt.More in this Poker Blog! -->
The night before, after a big meal, Iggy had asked me if I was going to take the tournament seriously. He knew me, my tendency to stay up too late, to drink too much, to look upon things with less importance than they deserve.
"Oddly," I said, "I'm going to play to win."
He looked at me with a small amount of surprise. "So, you're going to bring your A-game." He nodded and left it at that.
That morning, as I laid in bed, I told my roommates, "I'm going to try to win this thing." They, too, nodded but didn't say anything to encourage or discourage me. After all, they were my friends, but there would also be a last longer.
Finally, in the waning moments before the tournament began, I called home to tell my wife and kid I loved them. I also told them something I normally don't. "Wish me luck. I'm going to try to win."
Why this tournament was any different, I don't know. My record in blogger tournaments is not the best. I won some of the first few blogger events online and won a Mondays at the Hoy earlier this year, but I've never even cashed in a live blogger tournament. Still, at least to people who know me well enough to know I was not being cocky, I was getting as close to calling my shot as I could.
I was going to play to win.
I walked around the room for a few minutes and compared seat numbers with people I knew. I couldn't make a match. Nobody was sitting at my table? Really?
It was then the size of the event started to become clear. Remarkably, I would end up at a starting table at which I knew a lot of the players.
2) Friend of Blogger #1
3) The Bracelet
5) Friend of Blogger #2
7) Austin April
8) Jim E.
9) Jen Newell
10) Friend of Blogger #3
It was an interesting and fun table. Change100, a laid back and sweet girl off the table, turned into a frigid, mute bitch (in the nicest possible way, of course). The Bracelet was only playing hands in even-numbered levels. B.W.O.P was celebrating any hand with a jack in it. April was looking to go get food. Jim E. was pushing the action. Jen was playing a lot of hands.
Despite all of this, I managed to finish the first three levels with 7,400. I only had one big hand (QQ) during the allotted time, and that one didn't earn me much. I stayed ahead of the game stealing and strong-arming obvious weakness. It was fairly routine, ABC poker with a little bit of bullying thrown in for good measure.
The next three levels would prove to be the point at which I stalled. I stayed alive stealing blinds and pushing people around. I picked up a few chips when I had to call Robert's short-stacked all-in. He was short enough that he had to push with just about anything. I had to call 500 to win more than 3,000. It was pretty simple, but I felt bad when I saw his KK. I felt worse when my AT connected on the flop and sent Robert out.
Still, at the end of level 6, I only had 7,625. While I'd been rather comfortable with my play in the first three levels, I couldn't help but realize that I had tucked my tail between my legs during the next three levels. In fact, when our table broke and I got moved to the first table of death (featuring Iggy, Schecky, and Miami Don), I felt like my tourney was about to end. At one point, I picked up pocket eights under the gun. These weeks later, I can't remember if I just wussed out or I actually picked up something on Don. Regardless, I folded, Don raised, and I remember feeling as though I had wussed my way into staying alive.
And so, how does this sissy-boy manage to end level 9 with 33,200 in chips? Well, he starts by sucking out on Byron. I had reached a push or fold point. I spent a few months in a cave in the Troublecat Tutelage program and put his sage advance to use. That's how I ended up with Td2d all-in against Byron's JJ. The flop was 235 with two diamonds. I knew at that point I was going to win. The turn gave me my fourth diamond...it also happened to be a jack. I dodged Byron's outs and accepted my role as Suck Out King.
It was not too long before I was moved to my fourth table of the day...and immediately to The Rooster's right. That's when things started getting very interesting. I won't go through all the hands we played and didn't play. Here's the only one that mattered at that point.
Fifteen thousand chips was not going to last forever in the ninth level. Furthermore, The Rooster had been playing lots of pots. He had been winning and losing massive amounts and had just settled back into a comfortable stack. He had also started floating the idea of a 20-player chop. So, when I picked up A5 in the small blind and it was folded to me, I put it all in. I figured he could lay down most marginal hands and I could pick up the blinds.
The timing could not have been worse. The Rooster had pocket tens and made the easy call. When the flop brough QJx, I started wondering where I'd be drinking that night. When the turn gave The Rooser his set, though, something in my head clicked. I suddenly had one more out than I had before. I heard myself muttering, "Give me a king, give me a king, give me a king..."
And there it was.
And I heard myself again, "Give me a kiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinnngggg!"
I really don't like myself very much and I think I've made that abundantly clear in the past. However, one thing upon which I pride myself is my table demeanor and etiquette. I am a good winner and a good loser.
So, there I sat, raking more than 30,000 in chips and wondering who the hell had just called for the suckout, hit it, and screamed like a 15-year-old kid who just got laid for the first time. I was embarassed, sat down, and collected myself. As soon as I found The Rooster at the break, I apologized. He didn't seem to have noticed and absolved me of my guilt.
A Rooster's Absolution. It could be a self-help book.
And, in a way, it was. But not in the way I thought it would be.<-- Hide More
Nobody ever became a better poker player during a winning streak. I'm trying to remind myself of wisdom like that while I watch another of my favorite sports teams get crushed again. I'm sure there's some glory to gain from all this misery.
Note : The Bengals would be much better if they could actually tackle. When I was growing up we called this full-contact football "Tackle football" to distinguish it from two hand touch. I don't think the Bengals play "Tackle Football".
Anyway, nobody ever became a better poker player during a winning streak.More in this Poker Blog! -->
I HAVE A CHANCE TO LEARN
After a year or two of convincing myself I was the single greatest poker player alive, I had a difficult summer with the game. I've played a lot less with my new work hours and the times I did play I didn't play very well. I think many of the other players caught up. That, or I stopped getting lucky.
It's worth noting that for a long time I did not get better. When I took up the game I remember BadBlood and Otis and I would have long talks about poker theory. I used to write big ol' posts about it here. Haven't done that in a while. I think I stopped thinking about strategy. I think I thought I knew it all.
Why would a consistent winner need to improve?
The Mark (Not that one!)
About 8 weeks ago I was on the set when our super-duper weatherman cam back to the desk and did that whole point and gawk thing. The issue, as it turns out, was a giant swollen hive on my cheek. In the center of said hive was what looked like a spider bite. I went back to the bathroom and applied a second layer of Cover Girl hoping that would fix the problem.
On the bright side, it didn't hurt.
About 2 weeks later my boss pointed to the same cheek. It was swollen again and that "spide bite" was bigger and darker. He and another friend at work suggested I see a doctor. I didn't. I did go home and apply some benadryl.
Then about 10 days ago my co-anchor became the third person to say, "That thing on your cheek is swellingup again!" It was.
This time I called my family doctor, Dr. Joe. He got me in that day. After a good many harrumphs, it turns out that my "spider bite" is, in his professional opinion, skin cancer.
That kinda bummed me out. He scheduled a visit to the dermatologist the next day, which was last Friday.
My sister was about to graduate from law school when she had to get a lump examined. The week after her finals they scheduled a biopsy. They'd remove the lump and check to see if any other work was needed.
My family, and I, were somewhat freaked out.
They scheduled the biopsy for this past Friday.
While the job keeps me from most poker play ( I go to bed at 7:30PM) I couldn't resist a game at BadBlood's house. I knew I'd be tired. Frankly, I didn't care.
I only played 3 hours. I doubled through Otis with AJ against his JJ. I stacked Cardone and Backman. I had a friggin' blast. Not bad for the only guy who couldn't drink.
I left moments after telling Badblood about the biopsy the next day. I'd already told Otis.
It feels better to share that stuff with Friends.
I won three buyins by the way.
My appointment was at 10AM. I saw more than one doctor. After some poking and scraping and much long discussion....I got another appointment. More importantly, while he isn't ruling it out, the dermoatologist thinks it PROBABLY isn't cancer. That's the kind of thing a man likes to hear.
I drove home happy like I haven't been in a while.
One year ago I was pretty sure I didn't have cancer and it didn't give me much joy.
Today I think I'm cancer free and it feels friggin' GREAT.
I came home and took a nap.
Later that same day the word from Kentucky...my sister's lump was safely removed. She's also cancer free.
How was YOUR Friday?!
I'm happier today because I was unhappy last week.
And, I think I'm getting better at poker.<-- Hide More
Sometime before the end off the year, I should have the final installment of my Vegas trip report ready to go. In the meantime, I offer without further comment the one table at which I'd love to see G-Rob draw a seat.
For those intererested, the painting is titled "Grand Old Gang" and is by a guy from Missouri named Andy Thomas. Hat tips to my wife for pointing it out to me and Jen Newell for writing about it on PokerWorks
As I left the MGM, I heard Miami Don's voice behind me.
"Otis, I think your luck just changed."
I couldn't help but believe him.
We walked across the catwalk and into New York, New York. There appeared from nowhere one Shane Nickerson. He bought me a beer for no other reason, apparently, than I was standing in front of him.
It made me believe Don even more.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Despite laying a spirit-breaking beat on Scott at the MGM, I was beginning this Saturday (it was now after midnight) with the belief that I owed nobody anything. Friday had been a massacre, the kind of gut-wrenching fast-fuse day that barely gave me time to wonder what had happened.
Now, I was walking across the other catwalk to the Excalibur, a place I had once vowed to never enter again. Although the hotel had comped me three nights, I didn't feel like I owed anything for the stay. To that point in this trip, I had given the house no action and wasn't sure I'd find the time to.
And yet, there lingered a debt that I couldn't help but forget. I had vowed to play one Pai Gow session with Maudie. As she was among the small cadre of bloggers holding up the Sherwood Forest bar, the time felt as right as any. However, by the time we reached the Pai Gow tables, every seat was full.
Undeterred and bouyed by changed luck, I went on a short walkabout. I landed in the Excalibur's high stakes pit. Unlike most fancy holes, high stakes didn't mean much here. The betting limits here were in line with the regular pits in other casinos. After confirming with Maudie, Grubby, and BadBlood that a quarter a hand was okay, I locked us up four seats at the High Stakes Pai Gow table.
That's when the oddest thing happened.
We put our money on the table and started getting our chips lined up. I noticed a female pit worker and started chatting her up. I figured it was as good a time as any to start working on steak and eggs. Not surprisingly, what with this being the high stakes pit, I didn't get much of a response from the lady.
"Are you having a bad night?" I asked. "Everything okay?"
She didn't indicate anything in particular, so I chose to indicate that we four Pai Gow ruffians would try to brighten up her night. There entered a male pit boss who, rather unprovoked, looked at me with disdain and no small amount of aggression and said, "She was talking to me, not you."
I barely even knew what it meant, let alone knew how to comprehend a pit boss coming in from nowhere to speak to me like a bouncer in a redneck bar. I told myself that, regardless of winning or losing, the guy had ruined this particular Pai Gow adventure for me.
Salvation came in the form of a call from Joe Speaker. Across the way, he and Betty Underground were preparing to depart their Pai Gow table and were good enough to lock up four seats for us. By the time I arrived, Underground had draped herself across three seats in an act of supreme kindness.
Our new seats secured in the low stakes area, we sat down and continued to bet big. It started off poorly and we received an early drubbing from a group of bloggers at the Let It Ride table. Note to all Pai Gow players: There is nothing worse than losing at Pai Gow when your friends have managed to find a way to win at Let It Ride.
With an quick IV drip of Greyhounds, however, we began to win, win, and win again. I slipped into a sort of zone that is now more familiar than exciting. Of course, you wouldn't know it by reading Pauly's account. He wrote:
Otis was betting heavily. He had gotten comped at the Castle for his excessive Pai Gow binges and he was pushing the action. At one point, he won a sick amount and jumped up while pounding on his chest.
"This is why I'm great at this game!" he screamed.
Again, I found a way to double my not unsubstantial stack. I had almost decided it was time to call it a night when again appeared one Shane Nickerson.
Nickerson had been fully involved in the Let It Ride embarassment and I wasn't sure I could trust him anymore. Though he had bought be a beer earlier, his antics at the Let It Ride table cast some suspicion on his dedication to the Pai Gow cause. He was reluctant to sit, but he did.
As I introduced him to the finer points of the game--bonus bets, Greyhounds, dealer interaction, and taunting other tables--I started to notice a light in his eyes. There is a point in every player's career in which it is clear that he gets it. When Nickerson looked up and said, "I can't believe I haven't been playing this game all night," I was nearly certain he was about to become part of the fold.
Before I knew it, he and I were the only people left at the table. We checked our watches and did the math. If we quit soon, we would be able to get a few hours of sleep before the tournament at 3pm. We set our hard out and placed a few more bets. My stack still looked very impressive and I laid down one final bet. I was sure Nickerson was going to act in kind. When the hand was over, I colored up (I enjoy little more in a Pai Gow game than getting purples when it's time to color) and said, "I'll meet you at the cage."
Nickerson mumbled something and nodded.
I walked across the casino floor, cashed in my chips, and wrapped the bills around their friends. I stood for a moment and waited for Nickerson. When he didn't appear after a couple of minutes, I walked to the bathroom. When I came back, Nickerson had still not arrived.
Thinking I had, perhaps, missed him, I started back toward my room. Along the way, I came within sight of the Pai Gow pit. Sitting in the middle seat where I'd left him was one Shane Nickerson.
I nodded to myself and smiled.
Another convert.<-- Hide More
Pardon the interruption dear reader of trip reports and gambling godness. I didn't go to the big blogger Vegas shindig. I haven't played much live poker. I am, in effect, semi-retired.
But because I love you and because Otis finally gave me grief about my absence here, I wanted to bring y'all up to speed.
Here's what G-Rob did while YOU were in Vegas :More in this Poker Blog! -->
I took the day off. I could have gone to Las Vegas if I'd had the next day too, but the boss says this month is already too jam packed with Vacation. That means I had a random day to burn mid-week. I played poker online and met the kids at the bus stop.
This is my life.
While the bloggers had booze and poker, I had wine and cheese. Some neighbors with whom we're friendly had a "wine and cheese" party with us and about 30 people I don't know.
Friends, I love a good party and I do like a glass of wine. I do not like answering the question "aren't you that guy from TV?" 100 or more times in a single evening.
For people who might meet me in the future after seeing me at work here are the answers to all the questions you might ask at a wine and cheese party :
1. Yup, I'm pretty tall. TV makes us all look the same size.
2. I was just born that way.
3. Covergirl natural beige. Sometimes I go to the gym after forgetting to wash it off so my towel looks filthy.
4. I'm comfortable with the fact that I wear "CoverGirl" makeup.
5. She's nice.
6. Yes, my co-anchor is single.
7. She's single too. Also, way out of your league.
8. You get used to waking up early.
9. No, I don't do sports.
10. Yes, (your team) sure is good.
12. I gave up on gel. It looked too greasy.
13. This IS my real voice.
14. No, I've never met Brian Williams
15. I don't care.
Anyway, that's the wine and cheese party.
Another night, another party. This time for some professional association that my wife has contact with though selling whatever it is she sells.
I was forced to go with the following instructions, "Be Charming. I need these people to like us!"
We met at a local steakhouse at 6. The others were already there. Soon we were ushered into the banquet area at the place where we'd fill two very long tables. I sat across from the only member of this professional association who ALSO made her spouse attend. He was 73, retired military, and says his only interests are golf and listening to news talk radio.
We talked about golf.
90 minutes later we had Prime Rib.
2 hours after that I snuk to the bar for a second martini.
That's how I party.
At 9AM my wife's friend (Nicknamed "TWWNL" I'll tell you sometime what that's for) comes over for a walk with my wife.
She lives up to the acronym.
I escape upstairs to watch football and play online cards. I did well in a few MTTs but it was less fun with Otis out of town. Don't ask me why but I get great pleasure from sending IM messages that simply say :
"12/488 Average Stack. I have QQ in the BB"
Such are the simple pleasures of my life.
Isn't G-Rob living a sorry life?
This is the way things are. I do have a big casino adventure planned in January....and something even more awesome planned with Otis and Dr. Pauly in March.
So there's that.
God bless us....every one.<-- Hide More
The elevator was out-performing its capacity specifications. It had reached the point at which, when we stopped on every floor, the people on the outside took one look and said, "We'll wait for the next one."
A not-too-worldly girl was pressed against the mirrored wall in the back. Tight quarters and a need for attention forced her to say something. She went with, "Gawd, it seems like half of Australia is here."
I was too tired to correct her. She'd figure it out eventually.More in this Poker Blog! -->
The running number was 25,000.
That is supposedly how many Brits had traveled across the pond to see Ricky Hatton fight Floyd Mayweather at the MGM Grand.
Despite speaking English and being even whiter than most Caucasion Americans, there was no mistaking the Brits at 100 yards. It was in their hair their dress, and, holy hell, their singing. The Brits traveled in packs and went few places without a song. The most common was a barely intelligble version of "Winter Wonderland."
"There's only onnnnne Ricky Hatton, only onnnnnne Ricky Hatton, walking along, singing a song, walking in a Hatton wonderland...." (Translation ripped mercilessly from I Am Livid.)
We sat at the MGM Grand for most of Friday afternoon. I was simmering on work tilt, but enjoying the Brit show. The fight weigh-in was scheduled for 2:30pm and by 2:00, the sportsbook was standing room only and backed up nearly to the lion exhibit. The songs and screams about Manchester were loud enough that we couldn't hear each other while we played cards.
Marty, our newest devotee of no-limit hold'em, sat next to me and prodded me to stand in the middle of the crowd and accuse the crowd of being Australian.
"I'll give you $25," he said.
This is the same guy who cooked up a plan to get a t-shirt made reading, "Hatton is a pussy." I was pretty sure he was ready to test the British patience and use me as his guinea pig.
Little did either of us know, I would find another way to get my ass kicked. And the story would not be nearly as fun.
I think I paid out somewhere in the nieghborhood of $10 worth of bad beat stories at $1 a piece this past weekend. As I don't feel like giving each of you a buck, I'm going to skip over the hours between 12:01am and 7:00pm Friday. Suffice it to say, I took five of the most ridiculous beats I have experienced in live poker.
At a $2/$5 table, I had just told the story of a guy who had re-bought for his chips and didn't last long enough to reclaim them from the chip-runner. Less than five minutes after telling that story, I became that guy. It was that kind of day. It was during this period that I first thought the MGM massage shirts read MASSACRE and I jotted in my notes, "Like a natural gas fire."
I was on such tilt, I don't know what I meant. I only know that Marty had stopped trying to get me killed by the Brits and had started asking, "You wanna take a walk? Go do something else?"
When I cashed out at 6pm for dinner, I didn't even want to go. I wanted to keep playing or get obscenely intoxiciated. Or both. Instead, I went for a great meal with some old friends, lost a few prop bets, and listened to my brother (medical consultant in residence to the blogging community) talk about how he has "lady hands" and thus cannot digitally extract vibrators from his patients' bums. Bets were made and won on the number of extraction attempts and successes. Pauly and Derek ran hot. I lost on the odd/evens on the final dollar digit on the bill, but set a perfect line on the number of people to order Michael Mina's lobster pot pie. If I'd managed to not order it myself, I wouldn't have lost. That's a lack of discipline, right there.
Back in the MGM poker room, I got on every list they had and settled into a slow, careful funk. I hated everything and was on the verge of a solo rage for the ages. I was five minutes from embarking on this trip when I got called for a $1/$2 NL game. As I was waiting for my chips, Miami Don came over and said, "Otis, we've got a seat if you want it."
I didn't even look at the line-up. If I was going to go down in flames, I might as well do it with friends.
"There are softer spots in this room," I mumbled.
Over the course of the next couple of hours, I sat at the toughest cash table I'd face all weekend. I don't recall everyone in the game, but over the course of my time there, I saw Zeem, Chad, ScottMc, WeakPlayer, Miami Don, and Blinders.
I stacked off to Chad once in a kicker battle, re-bought and told myself that if I couldn't start playing better, I was on my way out the door for a few hours by myself. That's when it happened--the most embarassing move I would make all weekend.
I had AK and came in for a raise. ScottMc popped me back and I pulled my "Oh, realllllllly?" maneuver. I don't think I've ever played with Scott before, so I kep his range exceptionally wide. I made the call out of position.
Why exactly I decided to check dark, I don't know. I only know I did. And I know I saw the flop come down AQx. Scott made another bet, and because I had checked dark, I had no way of knowing what the bet meant. It could mean as much as AA, as middling as AQ, or as little as some underpair. Hell, it could even be AK.
Now, I made what was the only smart move in the entire hand. I figured out where I was with a check-raise. Thing is, my chips hadn't hit the table before Scott cupped his hands around his mouth and said, "Allllllllllll innnnnnnnnnnn" in a deep voice.
That's pretty much where I went over the edge. After 22 hours of the worst beats ever, I was stuck bad and wrapped up in a hand with a player who is now wearing a sign that says, "You are beat, Otis!" around his neck. There is now no hand he can hold that I can conceivably beat. At best, he's holding AK and I know that's not the case. I might be lucky enough that he has AQ, but it's far more likley he has a set.
So, of course, I call.
Scott is a nice damned guy, which goes beyond and sometimes against his great abilities at the poker table. He wasted no time showing me his QQ for the flopped middle set. Knowing I need runners to win, I start planning a graceful exit and wondering where the solo rage will take me. I was at once a nihilist.
I'm still not sure the next ten seconds happened.
The groan and cheer rose up from the table as the board came runners to give me aces full. Having not yet revealed my hand, I fanned my AK to the table and buried my face in my other hand. The chips landed in front of me. Now, I could no longer hate my luck.
I could only hate myself.
Scott took it much better than he should've. For my penance, he only required I post this list:
1) That was the worst suck-out ever
2) Scott is a better player than Otis
3) I am a donkey
Or something like that. My notes don't make a lot of sense.
The only thing I remember with any clarity is Miami Don looking up from his vodka and remarking wryly, "Otis, I think your luck just changed."
And somewhere in the distance, a Brit sang.<-- Hide More
In the time it took me to leave my bed Thursday morning to the time I went to bed Friday morning, I nearly could have driven from G-Vegas to Las Vegas. Thursday night, as I sat in the one-seat at a Pai Gow table, this fact didn't occur to me. In fact, very little entered my mind except for the probability that I would own the Imperial Palace before morning and that my wife might be a little curious why a pretty Asian girl was shoving her elbow into my back.
Beyond that, it was all noise.
Very happy noise.More in this Poker Blog! -->
I wasn't in Caesars poker room for five minutes Thursday afternoon before I heard someone say, "hammer."
She was a thin Asian girl sitting at the first table inside the door. I couldn't put her on being a blogger immediately, but the word set my sights. As I waited to be called for my seat, I kept an eye on the girl and watched her play. By and by, she raked a big pot with garbage cards after picking up a couple of draws and finding her outs. In the back of my mind, I knew it must be the Black Widow of Poker. Later, I'd discover I was right. Later, I'd discover the Black Widow was one dangerous bitch. Still dreary from a long flight, big lunch, and dirty martini, I didn't pounce. I let her rake the pot and went about my business.
And what business might that be?
My last trip to Vegas had been one in which I couldn't lose. I killed the Pai Gow tables, I killed the poker tables, and I did well in tournaments. Resting somewhere near the base of my brain was the belief that I couldn't repeat the magic weeked and knock out another big winning weekend. I sat in a cash game for an hour before the 3pm tournament started. I followed my brother, Dr. Jeff, to the cage to cash out. I never saw it coming.
Sue, the cashier, took my chips and said to her co-worker, "Oh, this is Dr. Jeff's father!"
I took a quick breath and stared at the lady. It hadn't been three months since a pit boss on the Strip had made the same insulting mistake. The age difference between Dr. Jeff and me is not a full four years. Sure, I have graying hair and a few early onset wrinkles, but gimme a break. I stared at her for another couple of seconds before stealing a look over my shoulder. There stood Dr. Jeff smirking. Bastard had greased the cashier.
With chagrin in my lungs, I started toward the tournament. Despite a illness that was refusing to fully present itself, I felt oddly optimistic. I felt sure of myself and capable of beating the ugly structure. And I should've. There was nothing except me keeping me from making the final table. With 18 players remaining, I let hubris get the best of me. I ignored a 100% dead-on read and crippled myself. I stood up and wondered what in the hell I had just done. What's more, I couldn't help but watch the sense of fearless optimism run out of the poker room, through the sports book, past Pure, and out into the middle of the Strip. There it died a horrible death under the wheels of a rolling escort service billboard.
Maybe things weren't going to go as planned after all.
The plan was simple. Play poker during the day and have fun at night. By the time the tournament was over and I had donked off a little more money at the cash game, night had fallen, Marty had arrived in town with his happy-happy-no-sick medicine, and I had decided it was time to stop with the poker.
Maybe you don't know this. Maybe you are the high-on-the-hog type that refuses to indulge in the cheap and sickly side of Vegas. But, when it's closing in on 10pm and your feel a little hungry, stepping into the back of O'Shea's and grabbing a giant, nasty burrito from the food court is one helluva a cure for tilt.
That's what I did.
Tilt monster sated, I wandered into the IP. It smelled like money that had been buried in old soil with something dead. Its noise was half-hearted and just gearing up for the weekend, but half-deep into the fray stood a well-juiced clan of poker bloggers. They were all that was keeping the place from simmering to a death juice demi glace.
I bypassed the hookers and kept my hand on my roll. I didn't plan to do anything but sit at the bar and drink. I didn't plan to gamble, rage solo, or lose myself on the first night of what was sure to be an epic trip. I don't even rightly recall how I ended up in the one-seat of the Pai Gow table. All I remember was someone muttering, "Jesus, Otis," as I put my five hundred bucks on the table and put out my first bet.
At one point during the weekend, someone asked me why they never see me play Pai Gow in a respectable hotel. In fact, I have. I have played many an hour at the Rio. I play the same game with the same limits, but the results are never the same. To properly play Pai Gow, I have to be somewhere that is on the verge of implosion, a place that not only doesn't look with disdain on a $25 bet, but appreciates it. What's more, when than $25 bet turns into a $150 bet, they pay attention. It's not about how much you win or lose. It's about the steak and eggs. Further, when you stand on the rail of your chair and scream Pai Gow as loud as you can, security doesn't come and ask you to keep it down.
I remembered Angela the Pit Boss from the year before. She is a surly yet attractive blonde. She growls and roots against you, but does it in an endearing way. Just when you think she is ready to 86 you for something, she'll sneak up behind you, steal the cards from the table, and set your hand as a winner.
I recruited a good starting table that included some of the best Pai Gow players around. Marty, Dr. Jeff, Gary C., and the Pai Gow Princess made up the starting line-up. Over the course of the night, we'd be joined by Al Can't Hang, BadBlood, Pauly, and others. I, however, was in my own world. It seemed every bet was a winner. Nothing could cool me. Nothing could dampen my spirit. Even when BadBlood took a tour at the roulette table and won, I was not disheartened.
As focused as I was, I started to note a crowd forming around the table. Instant Tragedy had arrived and was sweating my cards. I was sure that nothing could bring me down from the Pai Gow vein mainline high. Then, Al got it in his head that he was bad luck. I don't even recall why he thought it. All I know is that there was suddenly a pretty Asian girl giving me a rubdown.
I went comatose.
The lack of sleep, six pack of Greyhounds, and adrenaline rush from the Pai Gow table suddenly turned into a smooth trip to sleepyville. I can only remember three things from that ten minutes.
1) Asking, "Hey, what is your boyfriend going to do if he sees this?"
2) Seeing flashbulbs and thinking, "I will really have to explain this to my wife."
3) Hearing the Black Widow of Poker say, "Al, how much longer do I have to do this?"
Apparently Al convinced the Black Widow to use her Asian massage techniques on me to pay me back for whatever bad luck he thought he brought me. I looked at the two stacks of green chips and thought, "Bad luck?"
I tried to tip BWoP for her services, but she refused. It would become a recurring theme in the night. Nobody would take my damned money. When I tried to slide $20 to Angela the Pit boss, she slammed the chips on the table and showed her palms to the camera.
"No money," she said.
"Well, then how am I supposed to take care of you?" I replied.
"Gifts," she whispered.
"Where in the hell am I supposed to find gifts at this hour?"
"And what the hell am I supposed to buy there?"
She paused in the same way she had several times throughout the night when I asked a question I shouldn't.
"Blow-up man. And some toys."
Later, I went to the gift shop for a pack of gum, but couldn't find anything that suited Angela's whims.
"I'm trying to round up $100 to get Betty to ride Garth around the casino," he said.
I reached into my pocket. That would be worth the price of admission just to see the look on Garth's lady's face. Underground, however, was having none of it. Again, no one would take my damned money. I went back to my table and reflected for a moment on what was happening.
There were a few dozen people turning the Imperial Palace into the biggest party on the strip. Though Pure popped and Drai's was still about to get down, the poker bloggers were in town and moving en masse. By ourselves, we were creating more noise, bedlam, and action in this rundown hotel than the rest of the gamblers combined. It was a sight to behold, these kindred spirits from all over America and Canada (not to mention the Irish, Aussies, etc.) ramming and jamming with every ounce of their being. They were people who would never have met, but for silly internet friendships made over the love for poker and writing. It was, in short, perfect.
It was also the last happy moment I would experience for the next 18 hours.
Previously:<-- Hide More
The rubdown girls at the MGM poker room wear black shirts. A tired designer in some backroom Las Vegas t-shirt shop has created an Old Vegas logo on the back of the uniform. The one word logo looks like it was based on a casino sign from Fremont Street. It's gold, blocky, and has just the right amount of of flair to give a sense of importance and drama.
I was working on a decent amount of sleep--six hours--and was not the least bit hungover. Further, I had only sipped a couple of beers over the four hours I had been sitting at the poker table. I convinced myself I was not at all on tilt. Not half an hour before, someone had suggested it might be time to take a walk and do something else.
"I'm fine," I said.
Now, I was looking at the back of the black uniform and my eyes registered the one word on the back. It read:
MASSACRE.More in this Poker Blog! -->
The night before I left for Las Vegas, I worked together a regimen of Airborne and Zicam. I figured, if I was going to lie to myself and believe I wasn't actually getting sick, I might as well slurp down a placebo cocktail and hope for the best. The anticipation for this adventure was greater than any since 2004. It came together in such perfect fashion that I knew it was going to be an important trip.
My relationship with the Excalibur has been an odd one. It was home to most of the blogger shenanigans in 2004. Since then, it's conservative attitude, lax comping policies, and general surliness had turned most of us away. However, when I received a comped three-night stay in the mail, I knew where I would be sleeping during this year's blogger event. Embarassed that I was going back on my word to never stay there again, I created my code acronym, the Otis F.A.R.C.E (Free-Ass Room, Courtesy Excalibur) and booked the trip.
Wednesday night at 9pm, I was edgy and tired. I rolled up every bit of cash I had hidden away in the house and sat it beside the $57 worth of medicines I bought at CVS. I hit the hay early and tried to drift off. Just after 11pm, I got the first text message from Vegas. Dr. Jeff, an early arrival, sent this dispatch: "Excal--all wheel spins doubled all weekend."
By 5:35 am Thursday I had picked up BadBlood and we were on our way to the airport. The air was frigid and we only cut through it with a sense of anticipation. At the airport, the gate agent looked us up and down and said, "Must be going somewhere warm to not be wearing a coat." We nodded, but didn't give up any information. The lady snagged our boarding passes and gave them a glance.
"You know, it's winter in Las Vegas, too," she said.
It was likely a sign of too much optimism that we completely disregarded her warning and boarded the first leg of our flight. I felt the sickness start to come on a little stronger as I settled into seat 2A. Yonder Mountain String Band and String Cheese Incident guided me over the Blue Ride Mountains and did their best to calm me down. My head against the airplane hull, I stared out over Appalachia. Low clouds looked like an infinite carpet of brain tissue. I searched for any relevance and could find none. Dreamy, sleepy, and sick, I couldn't get a handle on what I was about to do.
Just a few hours ahead rested the potential for great success, great failure, or a great letdown for two months of anticipation. I gave up on predicting what would happen. I couldn't lay odds on what kind of luck Al Can't Hang would bring me or whether he would try to win back my favor by paying someone to give me a Pai Gow massage. I couldn't predict how likely it would be that a pit boss would suggest I go to the gift shop and buy $20 worth of adult pleasure items. I had no way of knowing The Rooster would play such an odd and important role in my weekend.
I only knew I was going to Las Vegas for the third time this year and I was ready to put everything on the line for one last grasp at making something important happen in 2007.
Though my eyes and heart would deceive me a couple of times, it would soon become clear that the word on the back of the shirt at MGM was not MASSACRE. It was:
Now back at home, I once again realize the small difference between the two words lies not only in the spelling.<-- Hide More
I just got back from the drug store.
I spent $57 on various painkillers, stomach medications, travel-size toiletries, sleep aids, and awake aids.
I went to the bank and turned small bills into big bills.
Now, all that's left is waiting for the alarm to go off before I can go pick up BadBlood and head to the airport.
Here's what my "away" message looks like:More in this Poker Blog! -->
Everybody has something to hide except me and my monkey, after all.
As I've beeen in hard core nostalgia mode, here's a look back through Up For Poker eyes at how all this silliness got started.
WPBT Vegas circa 2004
"I'll see your Guinness and raise you one egg salad."
Three tables, one playground, half-drunk"
"Let's Get to Saturday, shall we?"
"The Holiday Classic through Otisian eyes"
Bordering on the Adriatic
From rock gardens to Sherwood Forest."
You don't have to go home...
CJ<-- Hide More
In December of 2004, G-Rob and I survived one long night on a Las Vegas diet of car bombs and cover stories. During one conversation that still haunts me to this day, I was a surgeon, G-Rob was a minor league pitcher, and the third member of the mind-meeting was a...buckaroo.
That's the kind of thing that happens when you put a bunch of poker bloggers in the same city with a bunch of cowboys in town for the biggest rodeo of the year.More in this Poker Blog! -->
If you've been to Vegas during the National Finals Rodeo, you know that the oxygen bars change shingles for the weekend and start selling testosterone bong hits. It's the type of envorinment in which you hear phrases like, "Ten gallon hat? I've got your ten gallons right here, buddy." That the phrase means absolutely nothing means just as much.
Because G-Rob has decided to sit out this year's trip, Las Vegas city leaders had to figure out another way to make sure the testosterone level stayed at an acceptable level. Methinks Vegas went a bit overboard.
In the span of just a few days this weekend, Sin City will play host to:
I've actually received word that human growth hormone developers will be in town on research.
If you read this and plan to be in Vegas this weekend, you are likely planning on playing poker. For the female set, this should be exceedingly easy. Be yourself. Be a woah-man and use your sexuality for all it is worth. If you are a man, however, you stand little chance of trying to be more aggressive than the people you will meet at the tables. These are people who have come to Vegas for either a) seeing blood or b) trying to ride an animal that has something tied around its netherparts.
Thus, it's time to start re-tooling your table image. If you can't be more aggressive, you might as well hit your opponents where it hurts. Threaten their manhood with your enlightened view of the world. Here are a few helpful tips that will help you tip the testosterone tables back in your favor. (Some of these tips have been cribbed from a December 2004 Up For Poker post).
1) 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. Or better yet...ask them to demonstrate on you.
2) Find your PETA hat from your activist days and wear it everywhere you go.
3) Use phrases like, "That Mayweather is so dreamy. He knocks me out without ever throwing a punch."
4) 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."
5) When asked what you're listening to on your iPod, answer, "It's an audio book titled 'Pink Poker.' Have you read it? I just got to the chapter on what to do when a muscled-up UFC fan shows aggression. It says I should...lay down. But it doesn't say whether I should lay face up or face down. What do you think I should do?"
6) When playing poker with fans of any of the above sports, employ the "Point and Poke" upon winning a hand. Make sure your poke goes somewhere near your opponent's belly and follow it up with "Got you! I got you, baby boy!"
7) Use the word "marvelous!" every other sentence.
8) When beaten by an opponent, say, "Nice hand, sir. You know what would look even better on you? Jazz hands." Follow this up with a standing demonstration.
9) Midway through a hand with a fight fan, whisper, "I'm not implying anything, but if you are, I am very discrete."
10) In case of emergencies, use the following phrase. "Just read a new book. Said Waylon Jennings was gay. I think that is so refreshing."
*Disclaimer: None of the above should be tried without having at least five friends within punching distance.<-- Hide More