When we last left Otis in Las Vegas, he had just left The Sherwood Forest and retired to bed, leaving behind several days of primal insanity that is only fit for youthful people and those of stronger constitution. The weekend was about to catch up with him...
I had this friend in college who invariably was the last person to leave a party. No matter the hour, no matter the size of the event, he was always the last one to say goodnight.
While some folks might see this as a sign of fortitude, I always thought it was a little sad, for no other reason than the last person to leave a party is the one who has already watched all his friends leave before him.
As I woke up Monday morning in Vegas, with thoughts of suicidal jumpers and unsellable prostitutes still swimming through my head, I had the sinking feelinig I was on a sinking ship. Something in my hull had cracked and I needed the harbor master.
There's only so much one mind and body can take. I'd been running for days on a steady diet of two-dollar tacos, grapefruit juice, caffeine, and alcohol. I was, in a word, spent.
Across the way, in a sea of funk and booze-sweat, G-Rob stirred and I saw he, too, was in a way that could only be descibed as bad. We pondered our options while investigating the hotel room windows for the possibilities of opening the glass and jumping.
Instead, we ordered in breakfast, charging it to the room and saying something about the healing properties of pig and eggs. Later, scattered among the used dishes and the ashes of our cremated lifeblood, we solmenly agreed that while we were too old to live like this for this long, we were going to make it through the final day and night.
I riffled through my shaving kit for the bottle of pills I'd brought along. I shook out a handful of OTC snake-oil hoppers and downed them with the tap water. I only had two goals for the day: Make it over to the Bellagio and play in the Excalibur's Monday Night Football promotion.
In the mirror I saw that my eyes had started to sink into my skull I looked gaunt and like I'd been awake for four days. And my stomach felt like I'd been ingesting food through a tube.
I was in a bad way.
Still, I met my brother and the Missouri boys downstairs. Dr. Jeff suggested a winter walk along the Vegas strip would do me some good.
As we left the hotel, a woman pushing a stroller got the device stuck at the end of a motorized walkway. We stood and watched as a the walkway continued to move, spilling rider after rider onto the woman and her kid.
This city was killing everyone.
Cold sweat and the Bellagio
The Strip was quiet. The cowboys had gone home and it was getting close enough to Christmas that even the most cold-hearted of America's degenerates had started thinking less about the Pig in a Poke slots and more about holiday ham. I downed 32oz of water as I walked, sensing that I would need much more if my body's cells were to attain anything close to hydration.
I've always thought the Bellgio is very easy to find and very difficult to get into. The entryways take a while to achieve.
Once inside, though, I felt like I might be okay again. I could hear the chips and cards again. My brother and I walked through the tournament area where I saw Marcel Luske and Humberto Brenes vying for a seat in the next day's WPT event.
Inside the poker room, Gus Hansen and Joe Awada were holding court at different tables in the high-stakes area. It was just 1:30pm on Monday and the room looked like a Friday night. The room was packed and the waitlist was long.
I felt them coming up under the collar of my shirt first, then breaking out in the middle of my back: the little beads of detoxifying sweat that indicate to me it's time to be somewhere--anywhere--else.
"I gotta be somewhere else," I said, Dr. Jeff has known me long enough to know that this wasn't a request. I could see, he was done with the room as well. With the Missouri boys back in tow, we headed back for home base, where Monday Night Football was scheduled to begin in a few hours.
Vegas, the city of giving
I went back to my room and sat on the edge of the bed. Dr. Jeff gave me a couple of medical terms to explain what was happening to my body. At one point, I thought he said I was suffering from a nemesis.
Indeed, I was.
He left me to wallow for another hour, calling me on my cell around 4pm to say I better get my ass down to the poker room. It was filling up. We'd planned to sit together during the MNF promotion. Earlier in the day, we'd picked each team's score for each quarter, standing to win anywhere between nothing and several hundred dollars.
I freshened up and headed down, finding a seat at Dr. Jeff's table where G-Rob was heavily involved in a low-stakes game with an angry Israeli woman. Not one to disturb the peace process, I sat back, ate a suspect burger from the buffet, and watched as G-Rob (who had been drinking since breakfast) went into a slow bad beat burn.
At one point I found pocket eights in early position and raised it up. The increasingly angry Israeli woman to G-Rob's right called, and G-Rob re-raised. I cold-called, as did Mrs. Angry. The flop came down little, but gave me a set of eights. I bet out, got a call from Mrs. Angry, and a raise from G-Rob. I don't remember if it was here or on the turn when I made my boat that G-Rob and I went to war, capping the pot to the increasing chagrin of the lady, who eventually mucked what G-Rob said was AK.
When we reached the river, I turned over my full house and G-Rob's face sank even lower than it had been when I came in. He flipped up pocket kings. I breathed a sigh of relief, but not because I won (I knew I had him beat on the flop). I was relieved he showed his hand to show he was, in fact, strong.
The last thing I needed was the Israeli woman thinking we were colluding to steal her last hundred bucks.
Though I had picked the Chiefs to lose in the MNF promotion, I decided to go to the sports book and lay some money on them jsut so I could root for the home team. I put down a bet for Dr. Jeff, too.
The next few hours are a blur of winning. My body rebounded for the final time. I hit the first quarter score of the game and split the money with a few other people who had picked Titans: 7, Chiefs: 0. During a walkaround break, I went all Grubby and plopped $20 in a Monopoly slot machine and won a hundred bucks. And while G-Rob missed winning $800 on the second quarter score after a fluke last second play, the Chiefs won and we all won our bets.
Feeling more and more ill-equipped but determined to fight on for the final few hours, I dragged Marty and G-Rob through the pit and enegaged in a little single-deck blackjack. Just when the table was getting hot and our drinks had arrived, Dr. Jeff called me on my cell phone.
"You better get back to the poker room. There was just a big fight in here and I think it has something to do with Pauly."
I colored up in seconds, grabbed my drink, and made tracks back to the poker room in time to watch the flor crew pick up the final chips from the floor. I scooted over to Pauly's table where he told me the story.
I sat back and thought, "That should just about do it. This trip has now seen everything."
And so, once more, I drank to excess and played cards until the early morning hours. After a thin attempt at fun at the Pai Gow tables, I returned to the poker room with Marty.
Earlier in the day I had accused him of being "The One Binge Boy" because in recent years, he's been good for one solid night of silliness and then he's cooked for the rest of the weekend. I think I hurt his feelings and pride, because for this final night in Vegas, he turned it up and was hanging with me drink for drink.
Around 2am, Marty got involved ini a hand with the table maniac, a guy who had been seeing questionable hands down to the river quite a bit. Though the exact sequence of events eludes me, the story looked a little something like this:
Yeah, you read it right. Marty check-raised the guy three consecutive times. Marty flipped over AJ. He'd made hs pair on the flop, two-pair on the turn, and a boat on the river.
Now, I thought, I've seen everything.
That was until a few minutes later when water started pouring froom the ceiling, drenching a table with massive runoff from a kitchen above the poker room.
It's been a month since I got home from the trip and I've just now recovered. Much has been written abut the trip and almost everybody agrees the WPBT convention will never have the same energy as the first time. But almost everybody agrees, it has to happen again.
As we headed to the airport Tuesday morning, we all agreed that we didn't want to see Vegas again for a while.
Just yesterday, Marty e-mailed me and asked if I was going to the WSOP.
There was only one response:
To all the members of the WPBT who made it, thank you for giving me a fantastic collection of memories. Now, somebody needs to start planning for Part 2.