It's 1:13am. From where I'm sitting I can see Scotty, Howard, Huck, Doyle, E-Dog, and Clonie. I don't use their first names because of any kind of familiarity. I use them because I never can remember how to spell Scotty's last name and I'm too lazy to look it up.
I'd planned on going to bed an hour ago. And I would if it weren't for the fact that the poker story of the year might be happening here and I'll be damned if I'm going to miss it because I went to sleep (or, like another unnamed blogger, went to the strip clubs).
A few minutes ago, I missed being a working journalist for the first time since I quit TV. Given, I'm still a writer and sometimes journalist, but there's something different about what I do. I don't think I need to elaborate.
So, why? Well, because Johnny Fucking Chan could very possibly win his tenth WSOP bracelet before sunrise. He's about to go heads-up with Phil Laak for the bracelet in the S2500 PL Hold'em event. It's like having a 50-yard-line seat to a legacy-clinching SuperBowl at the beginning of overtime. You don't just leave.
Sitting 20 feet to my right is Phil Hellmuth. He's in the $5000 PL Omaha (rebuy) event. His headphones are off and there's little doubt he cares what's about to happen. If Chan can outlast the Unabomber, he will break the tie with Hellmuth for the record number of bracelets. Hellmuth told the media shark feed a second ago that, of course, he would be jealous, but he's not rooting against Chan. Sure.
All of that said, we have to wait. There's another event finishing on the ESPN TV table. Chan and Laak have agreed to wait to begin their heads-up match until the other event finishes. And this other event doesn't seem like it will end before sunrise.
So, I should go to bed. I don't HAVE to write anything about Chan or Laak. Chan is sponsored by Doyle's Room and Laak knocked my PokerStars guy out of the event with 12 people left. Yet, after seeing the frenzy a moment ago when Chan went heads up, I can't leave. I just can't.
Last night, I sat in the back corner of the poker room next to a 55-gallon cart full of bad cards. They were all bent and torn to ensure they wouldn't be used again. I felt much the same. Mrs. Otis was on the phone and sounded on the edge of breakdown. L'il Otis cried in the background and suddenly I was on the verge of tears myself.
After ten days at the WSOP, I hit the wall Dr. Pauly had been talking about. It was something I described on my other blog as Groundhog Day verisimiltude. The same games, the same people, the same cocktail waitressess, the same food, the same air, the same self-loathing. All of that combined with an overwhelming sense of guilt over leaving Mrs. Otis saddled with a month-long single motherhood finally got to me.
I realized at that moment that I wasn't taking very good care of myself. I had schooled others on the way to survive long Vegas runs, but I wasn't taking my own advice. I was sleeping and eating too little and working too much. My body clock was already off by twelve hours.
I decided that I was going to fix myself up, make sure I was tired in time for a reasonable bedtime tonight, and get a good night's rest. Get my mind right, so to speak.
Now, Chan and Laak are waiting in the wings while the most boring heads-up match ever plays out on the ESPN TV table.
And I'm wating next to the good Doctor. Mother fucker brings me screwdrivers at 4:30pm on a day that doesn't matter and he's drinking ginger ale tonight. What poor planning.
It seemed like a rain delay during monsoon season. I wasn't sure I could stand the wait. The cash bar is closed and I couldn't find my friendly cocktail guy John to hook me up with a freebie. I went and peeked at my carnivore, Jennifer Tilly, at the final table of the ladies event. The crowd was too thick. And I seem to have misplaced my media badge.
As I made my way back to media row, the marathon event was ending. The man on the cusp of the bracelet refused to look at the board. He turned his back to the table and Johnny Fucking Chan was standing there. Chan took the guy's hand and kept an eye on the board. When the river fell, Chan looked the dude directly in the eye and said simply, "You won."
If there is a way to win a WSOP bracelet in the coolest fucking fashion, that has to be it.
A few seconds ago, I stood relating the story above to the dude from CardPlayer. While we talked, the guys from ESPN miked up Chan right beside me. Chan held a cold can of Red Bull to his eyes. I do the same thing with Diet Coke bottles in the morning.
It smells like victory.
Phil Laak eyeing the cash
Chan in waiting
As the match begins, Pauly disappears to just watch. Phil Laak turns into Laak when Chan forces him to make a decision for all his chips. You will, no doubt, see it on TV. That's what televised poker is all about.
But what is bracelet winning about? I'd like to think, at least for now, it's about what Chan is doing. Playing for the bracelet more than playing for the crowd and cameras.
While the dealer is washing the car, Poker Wire Lisa comes over to tell me about the roast she cooked at 7am. Leeks, apparently, are key to a good roast. Now, I'm hungry again. Wait. I packed granola bars today,
Chan has Laak outchiped 4-1 and Laak is offering Chan money to see his hole cards. Chan doesn't need the money. In fact, as he whittles away at Laak's stack, he mimmicks Laak's antics...
You know what...this is something I should just watch.
...and I did. And it was so fucking worth the wait.
Well, that's not my job right now.
You'll see it on TV.