It was late, but not so much so that I was ready for bed. The Palms poker room was knee deep in players, smelling of smoke and red meat, and a generally sweaty mess for a Monday night. A tourist wearing souvenir clothes and carrying a camera paced the rail like a kid waiting to see Bozo. Or a kid waiting to pee. I couldn't tell and I doubt he would know the difference. The sensations are pretty much the same.
I had slipped out of the giant party at Rain as Dita Von Teese was splashing around in giant champagne glass. It has been another sweaty mess where I was one of a few people not playing the fool and not getting too drunk on free booze. I was a full mental mess and immersed in the kind of self-pity that is both embarrassing and all too common. It was a full-blown cliff-diving Otis that greased the floor guy $20 to put me in the room's big game, the list be damned.
The big game was only a $1,000-cap $2/$5 game, so it was nothing in terms of the money I had in my pocket at the time. It was probably only a need to be in the middle of the action that made me want to be there in the first place.
As I stood waiting for the first open seat, I watched the tourist take pictures of Chris Moneymaker and Jim Worth. These are both guys with whom I've spent a fair amount of professional time, my writing going alongside their playing. It would be nothing note-worthy to have played with them. It was simply something I wanted to do at that moment. Plus, it was The Thing going on in the room at the time. A life of chronicling The Thing of the moment instead of participating in it has left me wanting, if ever so briefly, and in ever-so meaningless fashion, to participate.
A few friends wandered by and said hi. Moneymaker asked me how I'd gotten on in a similar game a few nights before. It was a brief and meaningless chat, but one that drew the attention of a few people who were crowded along the rail. People started to look at me and talk about me as if I wasn't there.
"Who is that?" someone asked.
"His name is Brad," someone else said.
"He's a pro player," someone else said.
This conversation was repeated around me like a game of Telephone until it reached the two guys who stood immediately on my right.
The big one was a tall--no, huge--burly guy with a graying beard. His name was Paul. Paul Eskimo Clark, in fact.
He asked his friend, "Who is that?"
It was a question he could've turned to his left and asked me directly. Instead, he asked the guy on his right.
"His name is Brad," the guy said. "He's a pro."
Eskimo grunted. "Never heard of him."
And that was the defining moment for this last trip to Las Vegas