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.
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