It's a shame, I thought, that big boys so easily accept the nickname "Buddha." I was taking a piss on a brick wall and noted there were no pros next to me. Once again, it would be up to Pauly to chronicle the urination habits of the big time players. As for me, I would walk around the corner and scare Buddha out of his pants.
Buddha was young--maybe 21--and wore a Detroit Tigers cap. He chastised me for scaring him and stubbed his cigarette out in sand-filled pool chemical container. I looked around for a pool but only saw a big, black satellite dish circa 1990. I wondered, for a moment, how in the hell I ended up in Spring Hotel, and then decided I really should get back to playing cards.
Spring Hotel was not the real name of this place. It's real name is identifiable enough and the location is small enough that using the real name could draw unwanted attention. That said, finding this place doesn't happen by accident. One must travel for miles down a major highway, pull off on a dark exit, and then drive down a long, dark driveway. It's only then that you end up at the Spring Hotel game.
In through the back door, there is a woman laid out on the couch watching TV projected ten feet wide across a white wall. In the back room, a huge bald man is dealing to six or seven people. In another room, a young, smaller man is dealing to an almost full table.
I was feeling froggy. I had an energy drink and Diet Mountain Dew in me to counteract the drinks I'd had at The Mark earlier in the night. I had chopped a single-table tourney with Shep and Mrs. All-In and had a few extra bucks in my pocket. I told my fellow road trippers I planned to walk into the game and pretend to be the drunkest guy in the building.
There was an old man in the one-seat. I got the impression this was his game. Designated dealers, raked pots, and a fridge full of beer and soda for our pleasure. Still, he was playing, and playing a lot of hands.
I slurred my words, not sure if it was intentional or not, and then played Q6o like it was the nuts. I bet into the old dude on every street. He called me down with J2 and took the pot with bottom pair.
"Can I get you something to drink?" he said. He was loud, brash, and southern.
A couple of minutes later, there was a gallon of whiskey sitting beside me.
"How about something to chase that down?" the old man asked. "A coke do?"
And then there was a can of Coca Cola beside me. I ripped the cap off the whiskey and turned up the bottle. The big dude in the box calmly said, "Use a glass, please, buddy."
I pretended to be embarassed, sure now that my image was firmly in place. And then something odd happened.
A lady, nicely dressed for maybe dinner at Steak and Ale or the Heritage Cafeteria, walked in and said something quietly to the old man. I've seen the conversation in card rooms all over the place. Without too many words, I saw the man pull some cash out of his wallet and hand it to the lady. I remember thinking she was probably 60. She wore a scarf around her neck. In a couple of seconds, she was gone with the money.
I looked around my table. I knew more than half the people there. The rest of the people were ready to look me up because of the little show I put on. I made a decision.
In the hallway outside, I asked the big man if it was okay to change games.
"If there's an open seat, feel free."
The one seat in the other room was open. The table topper felt like it had been covered with the leftover fabric from a 1985 La-Z-Boy. I fell into my seat and saw the players exchanging glances. I realized quickly they weren't talking about me. The lady was walking back in.
Within an hour, a family pot developed when I picked up JJ in the big blind. I raised the pot and only the lady stayed in. The flop came down queen-high. I bet out the pot again. Again, the lady called. The turn was a blank. Without a decent read, I bet half the pot, telling myself I'd go away if she raised. She did not. She simply called. The river was another blank. I checked this time and she put out a post oak bluff. I called and she frowned.
She turned over one ace. I sat ready for the slow roll. The dealer asked her to turn over the other card. Reluctantly, she showed her offsuit seven. I showed my jacks and took the pot.
Though I walked out with a profit Friday night (Saturday morning), I realized I'd walked away from Spring Hotel without much of a story to tell. I didn't crush the game. I didn't use my ruse to extract big profits. Nor did I get crushed. All in all, it was uneventful.
And then, as I developed some odd ailment Saturday night and fell into cold, shivering sweats, I realized, Spring Hotel was more of a phenomenon than a story. Three years ago, to get a game in these foothills, you had to wait for the monthly game that the guys at work held. Now, here we sit in what I believe is the middle of the poker boom.
Every week, a local host sends out an Evite invitation to nearly 400 people for a Saturday tournament. Four hundred people? Yeah. The same guy runs $5/$10 NL game during the week. For a long while, there was the $150 buy-in tournament at the Country Club. An hour up the road is a game I've not yet seen, but hear uses nothing but red chips and has thousands upon thousands of dollars in the room at the same time.
And then there are the little entrepreneurs, like the host of the Spring Hotel game. He maybe pulls in a few hundred bucks a night, but he had two tables running all Saturday night. And those are just the games I know about. There are most certainly more.
A lot of people in and out of the poker industry grind their teeth at night wondering when the poker bubble will finally deflate. Places like Spring Hotel, despite being the absolute picture of hopelessness, give me even more hope for the poker boom.
Although, I do sort of get the feeling that if I won too much at that game that I could end up buried in the field behind the place, right underneath the big satellite dish.
That would be a story.