I don't understand it, I tell myself. My kind of gamble is a semi-bluff with twelve outs twice. My kind of gamble is eating the pizza that's been sitting in the box overnight. My kind of gamble is not equipped for what's happening in the room around me.
See, it's nighttime and I've not been sleeping well. The beds and pillows are the kind that will eventually pleasure-slap me into a plane-missing coma. But for now, I need Monaco beer and 18 hours worth of work to feel at all sleepy.
But, you know, now I do feel a little bushed. I feel like I could take a little nappy nap. But I can't, because this room is just too full of action.
No, I don't get it. It's electric like a Kansas thunderstorm. It is as sick and stimulating as a bloody car wreck. And my feet and knees are throbbing, but I'm not leaving the room. Hell, no.
Because, this isn't the kind of thing you see when your home game breaks up. This isn't your drunk neighbor betting your other drunk neighbor $20 he can hit a three-pointer with his eyes closed.
And, hell, this isn't even what's happening behind me. Yeah, behind me, Greg "Fossilman" Raymer is now heads-up with Per "Nemo" Ummer. They're finishing up a $10,000 sit and go. And Raymer, he's going to win it. He's going to win like $60,000 or $70,000 and not blink.
Greg Raymer faces Per Ummer in a pick-up SNG
Yeah, the buy-in to that one was merely ten grand. That's the kind of kiddie bets they were making at table five. (Later, the boys wouldn't feel enough of the action and up the buy-ins to $20,000 and $30,000).
No, right now, the action is all Chinese.
Martin de Knijff, Ram Vaswani, Erik Sagstrom, and Patrik Antonius are playing Chinese Poker, and though there is no money on the table, the ever-changing score sheet and the vast amount of attention being paid to it is indication enough that this game is off the charts.
High stakes Chinese Poker
I'm not even sure what rumors to believe any more. Is it $1,000 a point? Three grand a point? I don't know anymore. I just know that this game has been going on forever. The players have ordered pizzas and they've gone through three or four sweaters a piece.
And, really, fuck this 'one player to a hand' rule. I'm not even sure who is playing anymore, because it seems everybody and their brother is setting the players' hands for them. Girlfriends are there. Wives are there. It's an ever-changing cast of charcaters where the only constant is that this ... is....fucking...crazy.
Martin de Knijff and his sweater set his Chinese hand
What's crazy is that I barely understand the rules of the game. Somebody called it Rich Man's Pai Gow. And yeah, I know the concept behind all of it, but I wouldn't sit down and play for $5 a point, let alone risking my bankroll ten or fifteen hands.
Of course, these guys aren't risking their bankroll. These guys are all millionaires. In some cases, they are millionaires many times over.
What's more, these guys think they have an edge on each other. Somebody said, "Ram is the live one." And, yeah that was supposed to be the case. Ram was supposed to be the gambler among the gamblers. But, other rumors have the story going another way.
Yeah, that's the story. Ram is winning, man. Ram is winning big. And he's going to keep playing this game until this little festival is over. And yeah, somewhere down the road, Raymer is going to take a break from killing the high-stakes SNGs and he is going to start setting Ram's hands for him. Because, in the parlance of the some of the young railbirds, that's how these guys roll.
Me? Well, I want one of those pizzas with the big hunks of cheese. And I want to be setting my own hands while a line of nubile Nordic women wait in line to whisper in my ear what a fucking stud I am. And I want to drink beer while my wife sleeps in the heavenly bed upstairs, patiently waiting for me to come up and tell her I just won a couple hundred grand, but no big deal because you would've loved me if I'd lost it.
No, I don't want that. I want to stand here with throbbing feet and broken knees and live vicariously through these guys. Why? Because I'm not a gambler.
No, that's not quite right. I AM a gambler, but I'm not this kind of gambler. I'm something else that I've already forgotten about.
Now, I have to remind myself that, beyond being a gambler, I'm a writer. Or, at the very least, I have deluded myself into believing I'm a writer. And THAT is why...THAT is why, I tell myself, I am standing here at three o'clock in the morning. Because THIS is the kind of thing that people don't see.
The question is, does anyone really want to watch this? I mean, these guys are talking, but quietly. They are winning money, but the casual observer can't tell how much, because it is all on paper. Only the winners are going to tell you if they won. And, still, there will never be an accurate accounting of what's going on here.
And yet, I sit and watch. Not because I'm a gambler. Not because I'm a writer. No, I sit and watch because I can't stop.
And, that, I tell myself, is reason enough to stay.