Thursday, July 26, 2007

Unusual Dysfunctional Gambling Tales

By Pauly

I was kinda/sorta forced into a week-long hiatus. I intended to take a few days off from the grind of blogging and writing to escape to New York City for a three-day weekend before I returned to Las Vegas to take care of post-WSOP stuff, business meetings, saying good-bye to friends, random poker, and eventually moving out of the Del Bocca Vista. One of my favorite bands (Widespread Panic) was booked to play Radio City Music Hall in NYC and I didn't want to miss another epic concert. Working a seven-week assignment in the middle of the summer means that I get to miss out on several of my favorite bands touring around Colorado, California, and the Pacific Northwest. That's something I had done since my teenage years. When the summer came around, I hit the road and followed the Grateful Dead until I ran out of money or their summer tour ended... whichever came first. After Jerry Garcia died, I spent most of my summer hours during my late 20s following Phish over North America and even once to Japan. Now in my early-30s, I spend my summers drinking away my work-tilt with Otis and wandering around the Rio in a half-baked daze getting chipcounts on Phil Ivey and making lists like "Last 5 Pros I Pissed Next To..."

I caught one Panic show in Las Vegas before the main event started. Beat up by sheer exhaustion, the show at Planet Ho was about average but I didn't have an amazing time. I fought to stay awake. Alas, I knew that the Radio City Hall show would be a lot more energetic. I flew to NYC with Change100 and we partied hard for three days with Derek and The Rooster before we reluctantly flew back to Las Vegas on Monday.

I used to get excited when I sat around in front of the gate in the JetBlue terminal at JFK airport moments away from boarding a flight to Las Vegas. These days, I get the same feeling that used to consume my battered soul when I waited on a subway platform for an express subway to whisk me downtown to the Wall Street station. The definition of Las Vegas has evolved for the worse over the last three years. I equate the two words with "work and depravity." Aside from trips for March Madness with Derek and Senor, most of my time in Las Vegas is relegated to work. Someday that might change, but for now it's a bitter reality. I didn't want to leave NYC. I wanted to stay for ten months to write and hang out with my brother watching the Yankees or Knicks or Rangers or the Jets.

When I had to make a decision on when to leave my apartment in Las Vegas, that date kept getting moved forward. I'm the type of traveler who often stays extra days in a place and incurs extra charges to switch flights because I'm having such a good time in the moment that I don't want to leave. But all I kept thinking about was how much Change100 missed California and how badly I needed to get out of the Las Vegas valley. My work assignment was done and I didn't have anything else until mid-September when the WSOP- Europe kicked off in London. My body was in Las Vegas, but my mind was thinking about spending time in LA, New York City, Holland, Belgium, France, England, and Miami over the next two months. Writing and reading and catching up on my friends' lives were more important than staying in Las Vegas for two more weeks. I called the guy who rented me the place at Del Bocca Vista and asked him to check me out early.

My laptop had died the day after the WSOP ended. Good timing. But, it left me without something to work on and I was forced to have less than an hour a day online over the past week. As much as I was frustrated at times trying to get my connection fix (the desire to be connected and to waste endless hours surfing the web and fucking around in solitary confinement), the lack of access was a positive thing for me because it forced me to think about the future and reflect on the previous seven-weeks of insanity. So that's the other reason for the blogging hiatus. I was a blogger without a laptop which is kinda like a gunslinger without a gun or more like a stripper without a pole, or even a televangelist without a pulpit.

I bought a new laptop and in about a week, I should be back in the normal routine of writing regularly. For now, my time online and endless hours handcuffed to my laptop has been reduced as I'm forced to share Change100's laptop. Over the last few days, I made preparations to leave and in the meantime, played random poker during the last week or so that I was in Las Vegas. The previous two summers, I stuck around for a while after the WSOP ended and played as much poker as I could. And like the last two years, I left Las Vegas with a padded bankroll for the duration of the trip. Having a winning trip to Las Vegas is not hard to do, but when you are stuck in the middle of the desert for up to two months, the relentless heat and recycled casino oxygen warps your brain. Most friends that I know who are working media have awful sessions during the WSOP. Covering poker turns you into an action junkie. I had a couple of bad days but thanks to a couple of timely prop bets (on Erick Lindgren's insane golf prop and the gambling on overall totals of the main event) along with the cash in a $1,500 donkeyfest, I'm leaving Sin City with a nice profit. I should want to stay, but my wayward soul has been pleading me to cash out.

Anyway, here are a few stories of last few days in Las Vegas that involved lurking around the tables with international journalists and getting caught in between an intense discussion between David Sklansky and Paul Darden.

* * * * *

Treasure Island

The day before the final table, I ventured down to the Treasure Island and I played in their 7pm tournament with Simon (British journalist working with Otis at PokerStars Blog), Change100, and Benjo (from and other various French outlets). I had played that TI tournament once before on Jen Leo's birthday. I cashed and took third (Jonno ended up in second and Change100 cashed in fifth). I know those tourist-friendly tournaments are crapshoots with plenty of inexperienced drunken and sunburned tournament players. Bad beats circle around and infest the TI poker room like those crazed flying monkeys in Wizard of Oz. But if you managed to go deep and make a final table, you're guaranteed a decent payday for a $60 investment.

Over the last three summers, I have played my share of low buy-in Strip tournaments. Grubby and I went nuts trying to final table the nightly 7pm Sahara tournaments, although I suspect that we only went because Grubby liked the free sandwiches they gave at the first break. The Sahara along with the TI allowed you to buy back in as a new player if you busted. I had a good record going where in the dozens and dozens of Strip tournies that I played (Sahara, Aladdin, TI), not once did I buy back in as a new player because I always survived to the first break and the end of the registration period (usually an hour after start time).

That all ended at the last TI event I played. Yeah, I bought in twice for a total of $125 (I made it to the first break during my second buy-in and got extra chips for a $5 add-on). Anyway, I was seated at Benjo's table. On the third hand, I found 8s-7s and limped in for 50 from EP. The big blind raised to 300. I looked up and saw the prototypical LA douchebag looking at me. He wore knock-off designer sunglasses and an overpriced shirt from Fred Segal. He was a fake tanner with hair that Derek would describe as perfectly messy. If I was taking notes, I would have scribbled down the keywords "vain assmuncher." By the lack of smoothness of his chip tricks, I figured he had been playing for probably six months max. I wanted to move all in but just called. Two players. Me versus the LA douchebag fake baker.

The flop was Ah-8d-7c. I knew one of us was getting felted. I had that feeling. I checked and he bet 300. I check-raised to 900. He waited ten seconds then called. The turn was the 3d. I moved all in for my last 1800 in chips. He called and flipped over A-Q with no diamonds. The dealer burned and then dealt the river card. The Qh spiked and I was eliminated. Felted on a five outer. Nice catch, cumstain.

Benjo looked stunned and couldn't believe that hand. We had a last longer for $20 and had swapped 10% of each other. He said that he mucked a Queen and the guy next to me said that he folded an Ace. Hearing that I had less outs always makes the beat feel much better. It's like finding out that your cheating girlfriend sucked 3 more cocks than you had originally thought.

I left the table and pulled $60 out of my pocket by the time I got up to the front desk. I bought in as a new player and the floor guy led me over to Change100's table. She had won a pot or two and was raking in another as I sat down. I made a couple of moves and tried to quickly build a stack. I raised a lot of hands from early position and took down small pots on the flop with continuation bets. I won a medium sized-pot on the turn bluffing with a straight flush draw. No action. I made it to the break and was just below the average stack. That's when the LA douchebag was moved back to my table... with my chips.

Change100 bluffed a pot with the Hammer, but she busted out before me. I headed to the rail when I took another sickly beat. Old guy raised 3x UTG and the button called. I found Js-Jc in the small blind and moved all in for almost 9 times more. The old guy called and the button folded. He showed K-Jo. He flopped a King and I couldn't catch the case Jack for a resuck. Busted before I had a chance to get my chips back from the LA douchebag.

After that awful showing in the TI tournament we played Pai Gow. Benjo is addicted to the game and I feel bad that I taught him how to play it at the $5 tables in Bally's during the WPT Championships. I have been enabling his inner action junkie. But I've since shrugged it off. He gets paid in Euros and he's gambling with the faltering US dollar. It's like Monopoly money for those European fat cats. Last time I checked, a $100 bill was worth like 14 Euros or something outrageous like that. Last time I was in Amsterdam, I cashed in $1000 US and only got back enough Euros to buy a stale croissant and a couple of doobies.

Anyway, Change100 went on SPGT (Semi-Pai Gow Tilt) and had violently mucked her hand on two instances after the dealer pulled a few massive hands out of his ass. I think I walked away with a slight profit but left somewhat early to head home to write final table bios. When I left, Benjo had wandered over to the blackjack tables.

* * * * *


The day after the main event, Change100 and I wandered over to the Bellagio's poker room. We bumped into Miami Don and the SNG Machine, who were both on their way out. They had a killer session at the 2-5 NL and I headed inside and quickly found a seat at a 2-5 NL table. Change100 got a list for 8/16 as I sized up the players at my table. I lost about 30 in the first two orbits trying to see a couple of flops with low pairs.

That's when Benjo and Ed from Gushot tapped me on the shoulder. They were on their way out of town after renting a Hummer to drive to LA. I would have gone with, but I was supposed to fly to NYC for the weekend and declined. Change100 found Dixie and I also spotted David from Gushot and Andrew Webking playing a big NL cash game. Cyndy Violette and David Sklansky was playing 400/800 Stud in the high limit area, while Paul Darden was up there too.

When they spread a new 8/16 Limit table, Change100 told me that they were only five-handed. I didn't like my NL table so decided to play 8/16 until they got a full table and then I'd get on a different NL table. I never made it back to NL because inside of an hour or so, I ran over the table and left with close to a $500 profit.

I sat in Seat 8 next to an old guy from Florida with a golf tan. He said that he was married three times.

"My ex-wives each have a house," he lamented explaining to me why I should not get married.

He was a nice guy and I took on the role of the chatty guy. I ordered beers for guys on my end and tipped the waitress jacked up on happy pills for them. Change100 would have described me as "Crazy Pauly" where I would raise so much and hit flops with junk hands that I would tilt the entire table in ten minutes.

I flopped The Wheel with 5-4o and my pocket Aces held up. I can't recall too many other hands. I didn't take notes. I know that I caught a flurry of mediocre cards (which go up in value in shorthanded games) and hit my draws. Change100 was up $300 at one point and then was down to about even when I cashed out.

The funniest moment happened in the bathroom next to the sports book. To set the scene, a young woman sat behind Sklansky in the high limit area. She barely looked 21. Everyone that reads 2+2 knows Sklansky's penchant for young women. Anyway, I wandered into the bathroom and walked over to a urinal. I spotted someone to my left as someone walked up to the urinal on my right.

"Yo, David. Is she a dancer?" Paul Darden said.

I turned to my left and realized that I was pissing in between Sklansky and Darden.

"I met her when she was 17," said Sklansky.

"Is she a dancer?" asked Darden a second time.

"She's a nice girl from Las Vegas. She's in the medical field now."

"Shit, David. You're not answering the question."

"She used to be," Sklansky finally revealed.

"I thought so," said a content Darden.

"She has a great body, right?" said Sklansky as they left the urinals and headed over to the sink.

"I dunno," shot back Darden. "I haven't seen her naked."

Less than an hour later, we spotted Sklansky and the former-stripper turned nurse who were canoodling on a bench outside as they waited for the valet to bring around his car.

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker at All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

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