It's true that you never forget your first. First crush, first kiss, first lover, first drink. First drag off a Camel Light. First all-nighter. First double-down on an 11 to hit blackjack. First big pot you ever won playing poker. First time you woke up in the grips of a pre-dawn hangover with sections of the night blacked out like phrases in a classified document. First time you grabbed a blogger's junk in a bar. First time you shot Soco with AlCantHang. First time you were ejected from a strip casino.
Firsts carry all the novelty.
The 280 miles I drove from Los Angeles to Las Vegas one year ago to meet my peers in the blogging community was the first step in what would become a giant leap for me. Unbenknownst to me, it set events in motion that would dramatically change my life. I drove alone through the desert last December questioning everything: my passion for my job, my friendships which were increasingly clouded by Hollywood politics, my abilities as a poker player after going broke for the first time, and my own potential as a writer. And on top of that, I was about to meet 100 strangers who only "knew" me through a BLOG of all things.
One year later, here I was-- about to do make that journey for the third time. Only this time I wouldn't have to do it alone. All my anxieties had been replaced by excitement. I was getting to spend time with people who had become some of my best friends. I had no agenda. Just a hotel room, $500 in my pocket, and the vague premonition that the Imperial Palace's Geisha Bar would become the centerpiece of the weekend's action.
Saturday, 10 AM
"You don't look so good" Pauly said, as I staggered out of bed.
Though my blood-alcohol level at the previous night's MGM drink-fest didn't nearly rival my display a year ago, one only had to glimpse the bags under my eyes, the pale pallor of my skin and hear the groggy slur of the words disjointedly escaping my mouth to realize that I. Was Hurting. 20 minutes under a scalding hot shower head got me mobile, and a couple of layers of Stila foundation and concealer rendered me at least halfway presentable to the outside world.
"Listen, were you and Schecky fucking with me last night about the drug test? Because that would be a great way to do it. " Pauly asked.
"Dude, I was too hammered to pull one over on you like that. That requires careful execution."
"C'mon, are you sure?"
"I swear to God it wasn't a prop bet."
Relatively early in the previous evening's festivities, Shecky pulled me aside at the MGM sportsbook bar and mentioned that it looked like Pauly would have to take a drug test in order to cover the Aussie Millions in January. The Australian government required subcontractors of the Crown Casino to get gaming licenses in order to work there, and a piss test was supposedly one of the required steps.
"He's not going to pass it."
"Well.. yeah. What if he stopped smoking tomorrow?"
"Like that's going to happen. He's gonna have to buy some clean pee off some random dude in Melbourne. Or maybe Tim Lavalli."
After hearing the news about the pee pee test, Pauly's Soco intake increased by approximately 300%. A couple of hours later he staggered back over to Shecky and proposed a solution.
"Liiisshhhtenn, I'ma willinggto forghooo fifthy percent of my compizensation to bribe whooooever I hafta down there, mkay?"
"Iam totallllly seriousss. I'll bribe allll the gaming officials!"
"It's suppppposed to be liberal down there, man... if I were a cokehead that shitttedbeoutta my system in three dayss..."
(As of press time, the good doctor did discover that a piss test would not be required of him. This news was met with cries of "SHIP IT!" and a happy dance around my apartment that closely resembled Kirk Gibson's 1988 World Series home run. There will be NO bribing of Australian gaming officials.)
Saturday, 1 PM
Bacon, eggs and about 32 oz. of coffee courtesy of the Teahouse cafe made me feel better. After spending the morning on the fence about playing in the tournament, by 1 PM I finally felt well enough to commit to it and we headed across the street to Caesar's. I milled around, chatting with bloggers before "shuffle up and deal" and got my first glimpse at Maudie's kick-ass tattoo. Otis, Dr. Jeff, and Drizz played in a $1-2 NL cash game while I spotted my pal Friedman jumping in for a quick $4-8 session before the tourney kicked off.
I drew a table that included Iggy, Grubette, G-Money, Lucko, and on_thg. Our table was sqeuaky-tight in the early going and I couldn't get any action. Stole a lot of blinds, though. By the time the ante hit I had doubled my stack after two key hands. Michael Craig, who had just been moved to our table, open-raised from MP to 300. Everyone folded to me in the CO and I looked down at two red aces. I re-raised to 800. He called and gave me one of those "I'm gonna stare into your SOUL" looks as the flop came down three baby hearts. Hoping I had A-K or at least no heart in my hand, Michael fired out 1300, which was actually a little more than I had left, and I insta-called. He looked none too pleased to be a 6% favorite after we turned over our cards. My rockets held against his 8c-8s and I was up to around 3500 or so. My other big pot came when I raised to 600 with the Hammer and the SB (Riverchasers guy) flat-called. I never hit hammer flops, so imagine my delight when it came down a beautiful Q-7-7. Riverchasers checked to me, I bet 1000 and he raised to 2500. I re-raised all in and he laid down what I'm pretty sure was A-Q. Had to show the hammer, of course to ooohs and aaahs and applause.
I was up to about 9K or so after that hand and felt good about my chances. By then, however, the blinds were getting up there and I knew I'd have to win a couple of coinflips to become a factor. Early in the 200-400/50 level, I open-raised to 1200 with A-J. Riverchasers moved all in and it was 1875 back to me. With 5300 in the pot, I was getting a significant price and knew I pretty much had to call. He turned over 3-3. Yup. Race. The K-T-K flop gave me 15 outs twice, but a 7 on the turn and a 2 on the river didn't do it for me. I was left with about 11 BB after that hand. A couple of orbits later, I pushed my last 4100 with A-J and SoxLover called with 8-8. I didn't improve, and was bounced somewhere around 40th place.
Congrats to our new champ, -EV, as well as Veneno who came in second. I was so thrilled that Friedman came in third because I know firsthand how much sweeter a tourney score is when you're recently unemployed. Fuck Card Player, and their holiday layoffs, BTW.
Time for a nap. I'm a sprinter, not a marathoner like GCox. I mean, did that guy sleep at ALL? If we're giving out awards, he gets my vote for rookie of the year.
Sunday, 1 AM
The wee hours of Sunday morning were all about PAI GOW. Pauly let me play his chips while he went to the bar to mingle and I promptly started hitting every single hand. I finished up about $200 plus the expected value of four or five white russians. Mrs. Head was playing StB's stack and hit both a straight flush AND quads on the Fortune Bonus.
Pauly eventually rejoined our all-star table, including JoeSpeaker, StB, Maigrey, Daddy, and F-Train. He had been cold-decked for 48 straight hours and was desperate to get unstuck-- so desperate that anyone within earshot of Pauly that night likely heard the phrase "I gotta get unstuck" an average of 2.3 times per minute. As his Pai Gow losses hurtled toward the -500 mark, his tilt-monter emerged, just as a moderately intoxicated Daddy started to slur to me his plan for cheering Pauly up.
"Dude, I can hear what you're saying."
"Relax, man. We just want to cheer you up?"
"I don't care."
"C'mon, man. Tell me, what would cheer you up."
Eventually, Pauly pushed his remaining $100 or so in chips into the middle with what turned out to be a king-high pai gow. He set his cards and departed the table in a tilty huff as he walked off his steam.
The dealer made a straight for the high hand with a crappy 7-9 low and Pauly got a miracle push.
"I'll just pull those chips back if that's OK..." I said to her.
Around 4:30 AM, I saw the first pimp cross the IP's casino floor. He was wearing a full-length brown fur coat and a floppy white hat that evoked J.Lo, circa 2003. Derek hadn't been shitting me when he reported that in the late late-night hours, the pimps and hos all came out and congregated around the Geisha Bar. Hours later, one of these hos would cause poor Al to break Rule #20.
Speaking of pimps, Michael Craig spent much of that evening at the Geisha Bar playing wingman to Dick Bro, who was clumsily trying to pick up women. I had been introduced to Dick the day before at the blogger brunch at the Wynn. I totally got that "I'm undressing you with my eyes" vibe as he gently shook my hand. I got chills, but not the good kind.
My eyes closed around 6 AM Sunday morning as the party still raged on downstairs. There wasn't much time for rest before the next big push... NFL Sunday.
To be continued...