I've gone to the bathroom in one particular room in the Rio more times than I can count. It's one of those constants in Las Vegas. Things rarely change. There will be the guy smoking and pretending he doesn't know or care that it's against the rules. There will be the guy in a stall doing things that he probably would be embarassed to do in the privacy of his own home. There is the drunk guy who thinks it's perfectly reasonable to be intoxicated at breakfast. The urinals are usually bordering on clean, which is good enough for me.
Moments ago, I went in for my hourly leak and noticed something had changed. Gammo Testosterone booster is now advertising on the urinal pads. They blink flashing red lights. I pissed on one and the lights went out.
I don't know what that means.
I parachuted into the World Series of Poker yesterday afternoon, a late-comer to the non-stop action. I felt mildly guity at first. Most of my colleagues have been working here for the better part of the past month while I got fat in my chair at home. The 1,000-yard stares are omnipresent and most people have already become alcoholics, gone through the 12 Steps, and then fallen off the wagon again. Me? I'm fresh and not yet red-eyed.
The early reports from the long-haulers were basically true. Things are, in fact, better here. The operation is running smoothly, the Poker Kitchen is somewhat better, and the players aren't grousing as much as they usually do.
Last night, I dreamed Doyle Brunson died. For reasons I can't quite explain, it had a visceral reaction upon my waking, nearly so much that I was a little surprised to see Texas Dolly walk in the room this afternoon. I'm sitting above Todd Brunson right now, and I can't help but feel sorry for him. Not because he's worked for years to get out of his dad's shadow, but because I still sort of feel like his dad actually died last night. Don't ask, because I don't know what that mean either.
No matter what you might have read about poker's wane, there is little strong indication of it here. During breaks, the players rush into the VIP lounge to dodge the crowds of lookie-loos and fans. When the pros emerge, it's to amatuer paparazzi. Phil Hellmuth is having a bad night, but his fan's won't let him wallow it in.
"The cards will turn, Phil!" one fan shouts down the hallway, completely serious and heartfelt. "The cards will turn!"
Perhaps even more disturbing than the fact that people have sympathy for the Poker Brat or that I honestly feel like I'm watching Brunson's ghost play cards is Mike Matsow's shinkage. The son of a bitch weighs less than I do right now. What's more he's won a bracelet this year and is all smiles at Table #11. The day Matusow maintains better physical and mental health than me (I'm sure he didn't dream about Brunson's wake) is the day I really need to start re-evaluating things.
It's an easy world to get badly bent. John Gale, the chain-smoking gentleman from across the pond, is no longer walking with swagger. He's being pushed in a wheelchair. Four discs in his spine went to hell last month. He's still here, but hasn't found the strength to play an event. I understand the draw of the World Series. I missed the first three weeks and regretted it for most of the time. Now that I'm here, I'm not sure what I was thinking.
I'm not sure at what point, "Oooooooh, Las Vegas!" became "Eeeewwwwww, Las Vegas!" I think it would be different if my decisions had been different. As I said last night, sometimes I feel like poker's fluffer. If you don't know what that means, don't worry. I barely do myself.
Regardless, at present, I'm sitting beside Pauly in media row and enjoying the proxemity. The $50,000 HORSE event is nearing the end of Day 1, the beginning of five days of, if not entirely interesting, rather important coverage. Badblood has arrived in town and is building a stack in the cash games across the room.
The World Series is better this year. It's my personal challenge to make sure I am, too. We'll evaluate that in about three weeks.