"You know you look like Tiny Tim?"
We were leaning over the craps table in such a precarious position that at any moment the pointy dice could hop from the felt and stab us in our bloodshot eyes. The man that looked like Tiny Tim (and he really did look like him) was three holes down from me on the right. Grubby and Mike were in between us. Pauly stood on my left.
"Tiny Tim?" The guy seemed confused, like he'd never heard "Tiptoe through the Tulips. "People tell me I look like Jesus."
One of the craps dealers looked up and said, "Are you sure that you didn't misunderstand when people looked at you and said 'Jesus Christ!"
For the first time in a long time, I was struck by unexpected laughter. It came from somewhere deep, somewhere that moved me to not even think, but to throw the dealer a blue chip and thank him. Four other blue chips hit the felt in front of the guy. Not bad cash for insulting a guy.
It was my last night in Vegas. I had no plans to sleep before getting on a plane. And I was playing craps.
I'm not really sure how it happened, to be honest. Fourteen hours before, I'd been covering the WSOP and wishing for a few hours sleep. Just an hour before I'd been sitting at a video poker bar with Pauly, drinking a cold beer and thinking back on the crazy life we'd led in the past four weeks.
Mike, a friend of Bill Rini who I'd met a week or so earlier, had looked down the bar at me and shook his hand like he was about to roll the point for the tenth straight time. "Otis?" he said, and shook his hand again.
I stood more quickly than I thought I should. Before I knew it, I was walking for the craps table.
As Mike walked with me, he said, "Poker players always have one leak."
My stride might have slowed a bit as I absorbed that.
A leak? I don't have a leak.
Twenty minutes later, I was $100 up as Tiny Tim rolled the point for the third time.
Pauly screamed, "Thank you, Jesus!" and pulled several redbirds up into his rack.
For the next hour or so, Pauly would thank Jesus while Grubby and I would scream the number that was rolled, no matter whether it hit us or not.
"Five!" we'd yell in unison before looking down to see if we had any money on the number. The table behind us would let out a fantastic group cheer and we would cheer with them, because, hey, it's fun and we had Jesus on our side.
"Thank you, Jesus!" Pauly was on a roll, which is a good place to be when you're playing craps.
So, playing craps wasn't really in the plan. Ever. The only plan was to work and, when not working, play poker. But after several weeks, I just wanted something different. I wanted something with non-stop action and, even more, a place where everyone was on the same side.
At one point during the game, Mike looked down at his rack and fingered through his chips.
"Don't count," Grubby mumbled, as if it were a mantra. "Never count." He might have been Rain Man.
"There's not a lot of variance in craps," Mike said.
The words hit my head but didn't go in my ears. I was caught up in Tiny Jesus' fervor and his ability to turn craps water into come betting wine. In fact, it was almost a full five minutes later when I actually heard Mike's joke.
No variance in craps, indeed.
Perhaps if I'd been in a better state of mind, perhaps if I had taken some time to consider the implications of playing craps with Jesus on my last night in Vegas, I would've learned some lesson. Maybe something like always max out your odds, stop betting on the come when you already have every number covered, etc.
But I learned nothing other than this: Sometimes you just have to step away from it all, drink a beer, and have fun. That's why we play poker in the first place. If we were doing it to make money, and I mean, really make money, well then, we'd be playing more than writing, right?
Perhaps not. Perhaps that's a bit too far. But I know this. I play to have fun and when I'm not having fun, I don't want to play.
It's a bit like writing, I suppose. For, the only reason I sat down to write this post is because the echo of Pauly screaming, "Thank you, Jesus!" is still in my head and has become on of my fond memories from my last stint in Vegas.
Sometimes we just have to have fun, folks.
Otherwise, what's it all about?