I had pieces of roast beef sandwich in my teeth and wondered if the Vegas lights were so bright that the midnight walking crowd could see my sloppiness. I passed the Bellagio, the Aladdin, and countless rocking nightclubs as I walked the length of The Strip alone. No one could see the roast beef. I wasn't smiling.
Porn slappers looked at me and backed away. They could see I was in no condition to consider the $69 two-girl special. They could see I was ill-equipped to do much of anything in bed.
They were so wrong. Twenty minutes later I was under the covers watching the National Finals Rodeo on a flickering Imperial Palace TV set.
There are times in life when you we all reach a point at which we say, "What am I doing with my life? What am I doing to myself?" Less than one week before this moment I had turned 32. All in all, I didn't consider it a bad age, as many of my friends are approaching 40 and still rolling along well. Still, on this night, I felt old and used up. A decade earlier, a 36-hour bender would've been easy. Now, it was cause for concern. I felt terminal.
It was Friday night and I had forced myself, in an act of personal punishment, to walk once again from the MGM to the IP. There would be no cab ride for a guy who had once again treated his body like a playground and lived through an ugly, hungover day with little more to show for it than yet another Otis Got Drunk story.
Indeed, I knew there was a problem when I asked myself why I even bothered going to Vegas, playing poker, and hanging with the Bloggerati. As I walked by the Barbary Coast and shielded my eyes from the roaming cowboys' belt-buckle reflections, I didn't like myself very much. It was one of those moments where you ask yourself, "What do I contribute, anyway?" and hear nothing but piped-in Muzak in response.
And so it was as I studied the intricacies of bull riding scoring and color commentary that I found myself wondering if maybe I had reached the end. Unlike a year earlier when I had lain in bed and wondered if I might die, now I wondered if I might forever survive in the personal purgatory I had created for myself. It was, in fact, an unpleasant internal debate.
And then I woke up and it was all better.
It's age, I suppose, and the growing pains that go along with it that makes a broken down half-writer wonder if he's got the stuff to continue. I attacked last December's WPBT event with the intention of partying. I attacked June's gathering with the intention of playing serious poker. In both cases, despite what I consider a lackluster performance in June, I think I succeeded. Last weekend, I figured I would try to do both. I'd try to mix a bender with serious poker. I never really achieved either. I futher hoped I'd come away with some good writing fodder. That still remains to be seen.
I purposefully did not write anything on Monday, afraid I wasn't quite in the right mind-spot to do anything justice. I also hoped I could avoid rampant introspection and self-loathing. On the latter, it seems I might have failed.
So, I thought maybe I would give up on the trip reports and let the other writers out there tell the stories. There were so many tales I saw happening or heard about in passing. They were the tales that make the WPBT trips worth the week's worth of fatigue. And then I thought back and remembered how many times I laughed over my four days with the bloggers--the hard, belly laughs that make the liver pain seem minor in comparison.
There was one moment as we killed time at the Aladdin that I sat at a table with Dr. Jeff, Gamecock, G-Rob, and CJ. Our antics had drawn a crowd of players and dealers who wanted to get in on the action. Gamecock came into a pot for a raise and I found pocket kings. I popped him back and he smooth called. The flop came out Qxx. He checked it to me and I bet at him. Again, he smooth called. The turn was a jack This time, Gamecock bet into me. I thought for a few minutes and couldn't decide what I was going to do. Sensing my indecision, an older man sitting in the one-seat looked at me and said, "Don't let him make a punk out of you!" The table couldn't help but laugh. I couldn't help but laugh. Apparently, I couldn't help but push in the rest of my stack either. Cue the insta-call and Gamecock's turned set of jacks. Oh, and for a little extra laughter, cue the fourth jack on the river to give Gamecock quads.
Talk about making a punk out of me. I'm still laughing.
And that's the thing. That moment was stone-cold sober poker where I got a little unlucky but made a far worse decision on the turn. And frankly, I don't care, because I will forever remember the one-seat waking up and goading me into a call. And I'll remember my friends laughing, which I can't help but enjoy.
To be sure, I was unhappy with my performance--both the Party Otis and Poker Otis--over the weekend. And to be sure, I'll make some corrections in the future (let me hear a collective "Yeah, right!). However, I can't regret this past weekend for one reason.
Over the course of four days, I saw the eyes of the people who had never done this before. Sure, they'd played poker. Sure, they'd drank. But never had they done both with such a large and perfect group of people. From Gamecock, to Mean Gene, to Joanne, to Wil Wheaton, I saw people having a whole new brand of fun.
And then there was this: After once again walking the length of The Strip, I walked into Mandalay Bay's sports book to throw down my one sports bet of the weekend (Chiefs push--go figure). The early crew was already there and everyone was holding a horse racing ticket. I figured BG had finally pulled everyone into his realm. And then someone told me it was the only race that meant anything. After all, Mr. Otis was the fourth horse in the ninth race at Hawthorne. Suddenly, thanks to CJ, I had a ticket, as well. Over the course of the next hour I watched the odds move from 20-1, to 45-1, to 55-1. And everyone was cheering for Mr. Otis to fall out of the gate. And again, I was laughing.
For four days, I surrounded myself with people who I have come to respect and love as friends. They are the reason I bother to write. They are the reason I am honest with myself.
I'm still collecting my thoughts from the past four days and am interested to see what pops out of my head. I just wanted to thank everyone for a great weekend, for putting up with my shenanigans, and for making this weekend another I won't forget...
especially the crew that played $2-$6 spread limit with a half-kill, Vegas poker style, with two celebrities, dealers who loved us, floor men who hated us, and a cocktail waitress that brought me an entire glass of olives.
See, that's why I go.