We stepped out of Emilo the SDV and into the autumn night. We were four in number Friday night, meeting the crew at The Mark for an evening of freedom and poker play.
"Something's burning," I said, grabbing the 12-pack of schwag beer from the floor board. I didn't stop to think about the days five years ago when I steadfastly refused to drink a beer at a poker game. Then, I kept my vices seperate. Now, though, as parenthood creeps into my poker and drinking time, I find myself mixing the two more and more.
"Smells like the deck is on fire," I said. I could see little flickers of orange between the wooden slats of the back porch decking.
Then came the soft voice out of the orange light.
"Do you know my daddy?"
The red-headed little girl poked her head out.
"Did you come to see my daddy?"
"We did," I said. 'What's on fire?"
She pointed. The chiminea on the corner of the deck burned bright.
'We're toasting marshamallows," she said.
Normally, I don't drink alone (or drink with God, as we used to say in college), but this particular night I was in need of a drink or ten. Or twelve. And it didn't matter that most everybody else at the table was drinking water, soda, or sweet tea. I kicked it up a notch or two.
Back in the day, you would've known me by the two Diet Mountain Dews and two packs of Sweet Tarts (or Spree) that I brought to every game. Now, if I walk in without at least a sixpack, you should be surprised.
And so, the game begins, the toasted marshmallows on the outside, and the toasted Otis on the inside.
The tournament-format game opened wildly, with two players all-in preflop. One held the Hilton Sisters, the other Big Slick. Slick won the hand. I finished another beer.
I'd recount what happened for the rest of the game, but it's a bit blurry. Suffice it to say, I lost because of my inability to deal with a Cold Caller. He was new to the game and, perhaps, didn't recognize how good his hands were. Or, perhaps, he was paying me too much respect. Regardless, when he had position on me, he consistently failed to raise or re-raise with the best hand. By the time I figured this out, I was short-stacked and half-crocked.
There was a part of me that knew I should beg for someone, anyone, to save me from myself. But I didn't. Anytime someone went to the fridge, I ordered another drink.
Okay, here's a silly thing to say: I don't play that much worse when I'm drinking. In fact, I may play slightly better. I discovered this last year in Vegas.
Then, I'd been playing tight all day long. I'd had nothing to drink but Diet Cokes and nothing to eat at all. My stack had barely moved. By late afternoon, the fatigue and the caffeine were getting to me. My hands kept shaking when I'd try to squeeze my cards.
So, I ordered a beer to calm me down (and a Bloody Mary, so I could eat the olives--don't think I hadn't read my Tilt Boy lore before I went).
The olives and beer sustained me for a 13 hour-session in which I won more than any other session on the trip.
By the time I busted out of the first game (pushing in my shortstack with 73o, to the amusement of everybody there), I was lit up. And alone in my insobriety.
Then, perhaps in an act of mercy, The Host's Wife walked in to play in the second game, and thusly announced she, too, was drunk.
Perhaps it was being able to commiserate in our inebriation, or perhaps it was just my good senses coming back, but I started to play better.
The second tournament of the night sat eleven. I found myself between The Host and Brother Rick (his brother, not mine). We chatted throughout the night, when I heard Rick say the magic words.
"I'm just here for practice."
My spidey sense perked up. Those words were code for, "I play in a bigger game and I'm just here to tighten up my bolts."
Here's the thing: I've been dying to find the big games in town for about six months now. There's a lawyer's game here hosted by a guy who made a final table at the WSOP. There's the fabled "downtown" game. And now The Host and Brother Rick are talking about The Warehouse.
Actually, this is the thing: If I were ever able to work my way into one of these games, I would play sober. Yet, I tend to want to play in them more (that is, I have the balls) when I'm a little tipsy.
Is that gambler's irony or drinker's irony?
Eventually, Brother Rick busted out and went in search of greener pastures. The field of eleven worked its way down to four: The Host, Otis, the host's Wife, and G-Rob.
I was still smarting from doubling up The Host. He'd called my AQ all-in with his shorter stack A-rag. His rag hit, he doubled up, then played his stack masterfully to a sizable chip lead.
In the meantime, he and his wife were making last-longer bets for sexual favors.
I tried not to listen...sort of.
As the hour drew toward 2am, The Host leaned over to me and said quietly, "You sort of wind down as the night goes on, dont you?"
It is an embarassing possiblity in the Drinking Life of Otis. While not, I repeat, not an inevitability, there is always the chance Blow Dart will happen.
Okay, imagine a guy sitting at a poker table, hooping and hollering with his boys, all of them drinking themselves silly.
Now, imagine a tribal native popping up from behind the hedges with a blow dart gun and shooting a tranqulizer right in Otis' throat.
One second Otis is gregarious and silly, the next he's silent and immobile.
In my defense, I hadn't eaten dinner. I'd began preparing Ramen Noodles right before the game, but I used a new, slick pot holder to take them out of the microwave, and dropped the bowl all over the floor. The next day I was still finding dried noodles on the kitchen floor.
And so it was that I busted out on the bubble, again letting The Host's Wife best me and letting G-Rob outlast me. The Host eventually won the whole thing, whereupon I went home to explain to my wife that there is a method to my madness.
Fortunately, since I'm not exactly sure what that method is, Mrs. Otis was asleep.