It was early April in Monte Carlo, Monaco. A sport jacket was enough to shield me from the still chill in the air, and anything that Devilfish might have had on his hands as he threw his arm around me in a mutal drunkard's "I love you, man" salute. I was in a club with half-naked women and drunk poker players. It was some sort of launch party for some sort of poker skin supported by some sort of British players. The drinks weren't free, because anything being free--or even affordable--in Monte Carlo is against the principality's laws.
At some point, I saw a friend order four bottles of booze from the bar at a price that I dare not reveal. She'd put it on her own credit card and was hoping to recoup it later. I was moochinig, in part because I couldn't afford to catch a nice buzz on my own, and, in part, because everybody else was doing it.
I was running with an affable British guy named Ed. He was a world traveler turned poker guy turned security specialist. We'd done the Bahamas together and caused enough trouble in one week for an entire year. However, by April, we were feeling like a little more trouble would be okay.
Which is how we ended up in the basement bathroom of a Monte Carlo club with Joe Hachem and a bunch of other poker pros.
Me, I just had to take a leak. The poker guys, however, had other things in mind. They were engaged in a version of Liar's Poker that I'd never seen. All I know is that there were wads upon wads of American dollars and even more stacks of Euros. As we were leaving, Hachem turned to my buddy and asked him to draw a single hundred dollar bill from a stack big enough to fund my trouble-making for the rest of the year. Ed obliged and plucked a Franklin from the wad.
Hachem took one look at the serial number and said, "We're going to win."
A few shouts and taunts later, three guys were handing Hachem a bunch of Euros. Hard way to make an easy living, indeed.
A few nights later, Ed and I were closing down the wrap party when he turned to me and said, "What am I going to do with a $100 bill." He was headed back to England and would've been forced to exchange it for his own currency.
I got a deal: It cost me fifty euros for a hundred bucks and a conversation piece at my next underground game.
The hundred dollar bill was one of the old ones, the kind when Ben Franklin's head hadn't swollen, and the design looked like the hundreds Dad used to carry around.
My rational mind doesn't accept good luck charms, but I have been known to assign some supernatural value to card cappers, poker chips, and even pieces of yarn. Yet, for some reason I thought holding on to Hachem's hundred would be a good idea.
I keep my money rolled around my driver's license and credit cards. A rubber band holds it all together (a PokerStars money band long given away after I got three-outered while carrying it). For the past three months, I carried Hachem's hundred in my pocket pressed up against my American Express card. Every once in a while I would show it to a friend and say, "You know who this used to belong to?"
Pretty stupid, I guess. I didn't win the money from Joe. He didn't even give it to me. It didn't come out of his $7.5 million win, as far as I know, so why I would hold onto it, I don't know. All I know is that that I said more times than I can count, "If I ever get down to the Hachem Hundred, that means I'm in trouble."
The World Series had so far treated me with such indifference that I felt like...well, I felt like the ex-boyfriend of a girl who has just become a Hollywood starlet. Yeah, I used to have sex with her, but you wouldn't know it now. She just doesn't care and all I have are late night memories to keep me company. And now she's screwing everybody. Everybody else, anyway.
Still, I survived the first three weeks without too much carnage. That all changed this week when a guy from the Seniors event three-outered me all-in with one card to come. Then I got it in good three ways in a cash game and both of my opponents caught. I wasn't down to the Hachem's Hundred, but, it was getting closer than I would've liked. Worse, I actually started blaming the Hachem Hundred for my stagnant-break-even cum loser poker play.
And, oh yes, and, I started to hate the Rio again. I realized I hadn't been more than a hundred yards outside the Rio in eleven days. I hated everybody inside it. Including myself.
I was chugging a bottle of Gatorade when the idea hit me. I would get rid of the Hachem Hundred. And I would get rid of it somewhere else.
There was a full moon when I walked outside and hailed a cab.
"Caesars," I said.
This field trip was a stupid idea, I thought as I sat in traffic on Flamingo. There was a girl hanging out of the passenger side window of a car behind me and screaming loud enough I could hear everything she said. My window was rolled up.
Who ventures out on Amateur Night? The traffic sucks, the tourists are at their worst, and every square inch of floor space in the casinos is full.
I am a masochist, I decided. It's the only explanation.
It took 20 minutes from door to door (I almost could've walked it in the same amount of time). Once out of the cab, I was certain I should turn around and go back. And I almost did, but the cab line to leave was about fifty people deep.
Every night at 11pm, Caesars runs a crapshoot $120 tournament. After less than stellar cash game results in the past couple weeks, I decided the best way to start the evening was with a little tournament action. This, I decided, would be where Hachem's Hundred left my roll.
The guy at the registration window looked at me funny as I unwrapped my bills and dug to the very bottom and pulled out the last hundred in the roll.
"Old one," he said, turning the bill over a few times.
A few seconds later I had my seat card, puked in my mouth a little bit over the 33% (33%!) juice, and went for a BBQ sandwich.
Over some exceptionally bad BBQ, I considered the play: Getting rid of a non-lucky charm in a tournament that charges 33% juice, playing a tournament with a structure fast enough to make Linda Blair's head spin in the other direction, trying to find some sense of peace by going to one of the Strip's busiest casinos.
In a word, ridiculous.
And yet, there I was in the seven seat with my 2,500 in chips at the beginning of the first thirty minute level. While a guy talked about the bondage offerings he found on Craigslist, I sat and folded, and folded, and folded. By the end of the second level, I had 1,900 chips and hadn't seen a pair. With a few minutes left before the break, I picked up 88 and raised from the cutoff. Mr. Bondage called in the small blind. The flop came down JJT. He checked, I bet about 3/4 of the pot. He called. The turn was a three. He checked, I checked. The river was another jack. He bet half the pot. I figured he could've easily slow-played his jack or cautiously played his ten. Still, I wasn't about to go into the 100/200 round with 1,200 chips and I figured there was a 33% chance he was bluffing or had a smaller pair than me. I put the rest of it in. He called with a naked ace and doubled me up.
In a word, ridiculous.
I have this picture in my head of one of those tandem bikes with an alabatross in both seats. I carry this picture around in my head when I think about my tournament performance in Las Vegas. Last year, I made two final tables in tournaments and had exactly no money to show for it. One was the 2am tournament at Binion's as featured in Snickers for Wil Wheaton. The second was the World Series of Poker Media Event.
That particular albatross is not quite as disturbing as the fact that I have never cashed in a Vegas-based tournament. I have played in two WSOP events, umpteen blogger tournaments, and a ton of side events. Sure, I've had my share of success on the underground circuit and for a long time enjoyed great success in online tournaments. However, Vegas tournaments have been a monkey on the albatross' back. Which, while being a funny picture, is not a good thing for a guy's confidence.
I thought of all of this as I sat with no chip stack and watched the players fall off one by one. A few hours later, we were down to two tables. I had survived only through the Ryan Kallberg school of push-monkey poker. The entire time, I sucked out only once, and that one wasn't that bad. The rest of the time, I'd been fortunate enough to win every race I'd run. Now, though, I was still short-stacked. With twelve players remaining (nine out of the original 140 getting paid) I was the shortest stack and predicting I would pure bubble.
Again, we were thirty seconds before the break. I pushed all-in with an un-suited AT. I begged the big blind to call. Double me up or send me home. Just don't make me go to break on the short-stack.
Now I was getting a little sick at myself. The plan was to go big or go to the cash games. Now it was after 3am and if I busted without a cash, I wouldn't have had the time to play live games to recoup my confidence.
Back at the table, I gave the old big blind the stinkeye and cursed him for folding to me. Twenty minutes later, he pure bubbled in 10th place and I was sitting at the final table.
Interesting thing about Caesar's tournaments. They have cameras tuned on a featured table and if you make it there, you are broadcast throughout the poker room and--according to people who have seen it--throughout the casino. I happened to draw the six seat, which put me right in the middle of the frame. I entertained any potential viwers by swatting madly at a housefly that had a taste for poker chips and guys who dress in what Pauly calls "Otis Shirts."
Being in the money had an odd effect on me. While making it into the cash was a great feeling, it now made the paltry few hundred bucks I'd win for ninth place seem like a worthless prize. Something in my brain turned over and I became Aggressive Otis. There were two bad players among the final nine--one lady who played aces, kings, and ace-king and a loose-weak guy who was going to have to get his chips in eventually.
I won't bore you with the details. I played well. With four players remaining, I was third in chips and...this is my favorite part...negotiated an even four-way chop that left a grand on the table for first place (bless the chip-leading German guy's heart). I should've won that, too, but my trips couldn't fade eight outs twice.
Officially, it was a third place finish. Wrapped in the rubber band in my pocket, it was a poker player's Viagra.
I'd ordered a beer after we struck the deal and the waitress brought it just as I was shaking hands with the other players. I walked around the casino drinking it and thinking about Hachem's Hundred. Without any evidence that it was lucky, I carried it around like a talisman for three months. Hachem is one of my favorite people in poker, so I guess it made sense for a while.
But as I took the last drink of my beer and headed for the cab stand, it hit me. That bill had been lucky all along.
I just had to put it in play.