Thursday, December 13, 2007

Act II: The Procedure and the Final Table Bubble

By Pauly
Las Vegas

"There are very few people who can handle The Procedure," warned Bad Blood as he spoke very calmly. "You are one of them."

After our fantastic meal at Nob Hill, Bad Blood pulled me aside and invited me to a strip club before the Venetian Tournament. Back home in G-Vegas, Bad Blood had a routine called The Procedure where he got loaded and hit up a strip club before he played poker. He wanted to do the same thing in Las Vegas.

Bad Blood is one of my oldest friends in the blogging community. We had been online pals since the halcyon days at Party Poker in 2003-04 when we played $5 MTTs on Saturday mornings and slummed around the $25 buy-in NL tables. We finally met for the first time at the blogger gathering three years ago. During a late night meal at the Excalibur, I discovered some personal things about Blood that he never revealed in his blog. I guess those were things I never bothered to ask. During the early days of poker blogging, the content was almost all 100% poker and those blogging rarely revealed anything about their personal lives. That philosophy has shifted over the last few years.

Anyway... Blood has been a good friend for the last few years, but one of the hardest part about these gatherings was that you sometimes don't get enough time to chill out with your friends. It always seemed that Bad Blood and I always had the same regret about these functions... that we wanted to spend more time together. And when he asked me to join him in The Procedure, I quickly said yes. Sure I'm a sucker for strip clubs, but the opportunity to spend quality time with an old friend was certainly more enticing.

After a long day of partying on Friday, I honestly tried to go to sleep. It just didn't happen. Around sunrise, I eventually got out of bed and wrote for an hour or so. At 7am, I left the room and went for a walk outside. Then I wandered back into the IP looking for random bloggers. That's what was great about these gatherings... there's always someone up to hang out with... at any hour. The early shift on Saturday were folks who ran out of gas early or were too tired after a long travel day. They crashed early on Friday night and woke up early, ready to gamble and party.

Around 9:12am, I spotted GCox, Mrs. Cox, and Falstaff in the poker room. I grabbed Subway in O'Shea's which happened to be open at that odd hour. That ended up being the "clutch food call" of the weekend since it would be the only food products that I'd put in my body inside a 26 hour period. Of course if I knew that, I would have gotten the foot long inside of the six inch. I returned to the poker room at the IP for some NL with Falstaff and cowboys. We played short-handed for a bit when a fresh StB arrived. We had played together the day before at the same table, when he was engrossed in a serious debate about unions with a local sitting in seat 10.

The Procedure Step 1: Drinking

At 11:07am, I got a text message from Bad Blood, who was awake and drinking at the Sherwood Forest Bar. I quickly cashed out of my 1/2 NL table and bolted out of the poker room. I ran into a menagerie of cowboys on my way to the taxi stand. A light rain sprinkled outside as the cab roared down the Strip. My cabbie must have been the horniest guy in Las Vegas.

"The rain brings out the nipples. I love wet t-shirts on tourists," he said as he pointed to a group of girls walking Las Vegas Blvd. without an umbrella.

"Speaking of nipples," I interjected. "If a guy like me wanted to head to a strip club and check out the noon shift, which one would you recommend?"

"The Rhino," quickly said the cabbie. "At this hour, that's where you'll find the better girls."

"Or the strung out ones," I mentioned.

I gifted my horny cabbie a fat tip and suggested that he get some relaxation therapy when his shift ended. After all, cabbies knew all the best rub and tug places in the Las Vegas valley. He wished me the best of luck. I burst into the Excalibur and passed the longest taxi line I had ever seen. Hundreds of rodeo fans were waiting for a cab to take them to the Thomas & Mack Center.

I found Bad Blood deep into his third dirty Martini. We sat and caught up on life. I really missed the guy and that's the hardest sacrifice that I had to make the last couple of years... to spend less quality time with friends. Grubby was running late, so we waited and waited for him to finish off his craps tournament at Bally's. That is such a Grubby thing. I always found myself waiting for Grubby to finish up some sort of freeroll tournament, or picking up a free gift, or finishing up a quick meal at the Diamond Club lounge.

The Procedure Step 2: Strip Club

"Let's try Seamless," said Grubby.

Grubby was an explorer in a past life. I'm almost 100% positive. He always likes to try new things hoping to find a gem hidden among the rough. Seamless was located just a couple of blocks away from the apartment that I had rented during the 2007 WSOP. In fact, on the way over there, we passed the Redneck Riviera where I lived during the 2005 WSOP.

"Did you hear about that big drug bust?" said Grubby as he pointed to my old housing complex. "Thirty people were arrested."

We arrived at Seamless and wandered inside. It was a lame scene so we quickly left. That's when I suggested The Rhino.

The Rhino is the Bellagio of strip clubs. It's always crowded on the weekends, but shortly before 1pm on a Saturday, it was empty. As soon was we sat down, three strippers from the afternoon shift appeared from the shadows. Two of them jumped up onto the laps of Grubby and Bad Blood as a waitress took our drink order. Redbull and vodka. Breakfast of champions.

A tall blonde stripper sat down next to me.

"I'm Joey," she said.

"That's funny, because my name is Pacey," blurted out Bad Blood.

Blood knew about my morbid addiction with Dawson's Creek. I spent too many hours ripping bonghits and watching reruns of the Creek on TBS. I had an odd fascination with Katie Holmes (before she got brainwashed by Scientology).

"What do you do Pacey?" the stripper asked.

"I'm a hot air balloon pilot," quickly responded Bad Blood.

"Wow! That's so cool," she cooed. "And what do you do, Pauly?"

"I'm a striking Hollywood writer," I said.

"Wow! That's so cool. What have you written?"

"Daddy Daycare 2," I said with a straight face as the waitress handed me a drink.

"Daddy Daycare 2? That's my kid's favorite movie. Wow! That's so cool!"

Grubby quickly left with his girl to get a couple of lap dances and soon after Bad Blood disappeared. Grubby left his car keys and his drink. My stripper, Joey, was an admitted alcoholic and asked me if she could have a sip of Grubby's drink. I said yes, then worried that she might be giving him hepatitis B.

Joey was the cream of the crop circa 1992. But now, her looks started to fade and she's slumming in the afternoon shift. The booze perked her up a bit and she told me the horror stories about the last few days. Cowboys didn't tip and took up all the seats. They liked to look but not pay. The Brits in town were a rowdy bunch.

"I can't tell you how many of them tried to stick their fingers up my cooch and in my ass," she said as Paint It Black by the Rolling Stones blasted on the sound system. "British people are supposed to be polite, but they were animals."

During my lap dance, we chatted about a few things like the most recent famous person who she danced for.

"Do you know basketball?" she asked. "Wally Szczerbiak was here. He was such a nice guy. Very shy. He's so tall too. I asked him if he wanted a dance and he said yes. That's when I felt his dick. Ohmygod! He had the biggest dick I had felt in years. I kept calling my girlfriends over and screaming, 'Ohmygod! You gotta feel Wally's dick!' He was such a nice guy with such a big dick."

That's when someone walked into the VIP lounge and said, "Heya Pauly!"

The last time I was at the Rhino in Melbourne, Australia, I was recognized by a fan. Ah, but that time it was just The Mark, another member of the G-Vegas crew who arrived a little late.

I got my five songs for the price of three since I negotiated a better deal. It was the afternoon shift, and you can barter with the girls especially when it was empty.

Grubby finally appeared out of the shadows with his stripper. I gave him the car keys and pointed to Joey who had stolen his drink. He didn't mind. His stripper excused herself. That's when Grubby pulled me aside.

"She squirted all over my chest," he explained.


"She was grinding me in her favorite position," said Grubby. "I heard her moaning really loud. Then she quickly shifted. She apologized and explained that she and her sister were the only squirters that she knew of. She wet herself. Then she pulled up my shirt and sat on my chest. It was all warm and wet. She squirted on me."

Wally Szczerbiak might have a big dick, but Grubby brought a Las Vegas stripper to a climax during a lap dance. That's talent. I was more than impressed. I was in awe.

As we left the Rhino, a faint trail of cheap stripper perfume followed behind as the harsh sunlight burned our sensitive eyes.

The Procedure Step 3: Poker

We stumbled into the poker room at the Venetian for the Holiday Classic tournament. We had about forty-five minutes to kill before the tournament started and I was a tornado twisting back and forth between the bar and the sign in desk. Sean introduced me to Dr. Chako's wife and they showed me the American flag that Dr. Chako sent from Iraq which would be awarded to the winner of the tournament.

The first three hours of the tournament were a blur for me because I was drunk, exhausted, and bombarded with quick conversations from almost a hundred people. A steady flow of people wandered up to my table to chat. Some of them were bloggers I had not seen yet, a few were newer bloggers, and a couple of guys played in Mookie's homegame in Texas wanted to say hello. Ah, and Cactus Jack found me as well too and I met the elusive Kid Dynamite for the first time.

I had a good table with a bad seat. I hate seat 1 but my table was in the corner which was good. I would only get moved once and that's when we redrew for the last two tables.
My Table:
Seat 1: Pauly
Seat 2: RecessRampage (then Johnny Hughes)
Seat 3: Sean
Seat 4: Sweet Sweet Pablo
Seat 5: Dealer Tim (then Julian)
Seat 6: Bam Bam (then Grubette)
Seat 7: Maudie
Seat 8: Pokerpeaker
Seat 9: Tramua
Seat 10: CC
On the first hand, I found 10-10. I turned a set against CC and bet heavily. He folded and I showed my hand. The next hand, I got two black aces. I raised and got no action. I tabled the Aces. The third hand, I was dealt Q-Q. I won a pot against Tramua. I picked up the first three pots with pocket pairs and jumped out to an early chiplead with 8,700. I got Q-Js on the next hand and missed the flop. The deck was hitting me in the face early. With a decent stack, I got up and floated around the room. I checked up on Derek and Change100 and wandered around a bit chatting it up.

I guess you can say that I started out the tournament in a not-so-serious fashion. I hadn't slept at all and opted for a strip club and drinks instead of resting up. I honestly didn't think I'd go far, but I wanted to last to the first break or so. If I busted out then it didn't matter since I'd sit at the bar and chill out with people as they busted out.

The Mark wins Gigli

Then I heard someone shouting my name. The Mark had just been busted. I rushed over and handed him his prize. My buddy Friedman was crippled by Linda on the hand before and he was almost Gigli, but The Mark went out before him.

Since I was in Seat 1, all of my conversation was with RecessRampage, who was a good guy and fun to talk to. We got involved in one hand where I made a move on him. A few minutes earlier, I had made a speech saying that I can't really bluff too much in blogger events because everyone wants to bust me, so they call me down with junk. I was forced to alter my game in blogger events and player tighter. Sometimes, it's simply not fun when you have a target on your back. But that's the way it is and I had to adjust. I gave my speech and everyone felt sympathetic. That's when I made a move on RecessRampage.

Six of us limped into a pot. I held Ad-8d. The flop was 6x-5x-4d. I bet out and ReccessRampage called. The turn was the 9d. I bet about 2/3 the pot and he raised leaving just 2,300 behind. I tanked and thought about my options. I knew that he was ahead, but by how much? I held a gutshot, a nut flush draw, and one overcard. Maybe he hit the flop and picked up a flush draw too? I had so many chips that I just called. The river was a blank. I missed all of my draws and just held Ace high. The only move I had was to bet 2,300 and put RecessRampage to a decision for all of his chips. If I checked, he would have moved all in for sure. The only way I was going to win the pot was to get him to fold, so I bet. RecessRampage tanked for several minutes. If he had anything big, he would have insta-called, instead he deliberated. When he finally folded his hand, he flashed a 6. I won the pot and did not show my hand. I mentioned to him four of five possibilities, but teased him that he'd have to wait for me to blog it. When the tournament ended, I revealed that I had Ad-8d. He said that was one of the more fun hands that he played during the tournament.

On the next hand, I sniffed out a hammer bluff from Sweet Sweet Pablo and increased my stack to over 16K.

By the end of the second break, there were six tables left and all 11 NYC bloggers were still in. Everyone talked smack that G-Vegas had some of the better players, but I knew the NYC crew could hold their own. When action got down to four tables, all 11 were still alive.

My stack was around 25K, but I felt like shit. I had been drinking since the tournament started. With about four tables to go, a hangover hit me. I hate when that happens, when you are in the middle of a bender and the booze finally catches up to you and you get a hangover... while still drinking. I needed food. I needed sleep. I needed to be anywhere except a poker table. By then, all of the joking and clowning around had subsided. With four tables to go, the mood got more serious. With $3K on the line for first place, there was no more time for bullshit.

Had I known I was going to go deep, I would have ate food and consumed less booze. Alas, that was my major obstacle to overcome during the last couple of hours. Johnny Hughes and Karol were moved to my table. Johnny Hughes sat next to me and we got to shoot the shit for another hour or so.

I busted Pablo. He moved all in with a short stack. CC and I called and checked it down to the river. I flopped an ace with A-3 and cracked Pablo's Kings. He gave me a calendar for a bust out prize.

I busted CC a couple of hands after that. He open-shoved with 7-7 and I woke up to Aces. I called and it held up. My stack jumped past the 50K mark.

GMoney (Iggy's buddy) had busted out and wandered over to my table. He recanted the hilarious story about how he picked up a girl from the night before at the Geisha Bar. She was not a pro, just a drunken cowgirl from Montana in town for the rodeo. GMoney got the girl up to his room and they started hooking up. He had gotten her shirt off when Iggy walked into the room by accident. Talk about a bad beat!

Anyway, GMoney wore a Grateful Dead steal your face t-shirt. My dealer saw it and said she dug it. Turned out that she was also a Deadhead.

"My first show was in San Francisco in 1974," she said as a huge smile lit up her face. "Of course, I don't remember much back then."

I lost a big pot against Sean. It was the only hand I misplayed up until that point. I went card dead and decided it was time for a steal. I found 9s-6s and raised from MP. Sean called from the button. The flop was 8-7-2. I bet about 20K and he moved all in for another 5K more. I called with my OESD. He tabled Kings. I missed and he doubled up. The one time I make a move, I run into Kings. Oh well.

I was crippled to about 4K when I doubled up. Then I doubled up again against Karol. My A-6 held up against her A-3. I stole a lot of blinds and got back to about 24K by the break.

Derek, KJ, Miami Don, and JoeSpeaker were moved to my table with 30 players remaining. Derek was short and moved all in against Speaker. Derek lost a race with A-K against Speaker's pair. I gave Speaker tons of shit because of his scarf.

"Does that scarf come with a small gay Italian boy attached to it?" I joked.

MiamiDon was super frustrated since he was short and Johnny Hughes and myself kept jamming pots before the action got to him. He stole enough to stay alive, but could not add to his stack. I busted KJ when my J-J held up against his K-3. I increased my stack to 48,000 when the TD asked us if we wanted to pay out the top 20 instead of the top 10. Places 11-20 would essentially get their money back. We agreed.

With 20 players left, I had about 48K. I was the chipleader at my table by a slim margin. I dunno if anyone had more than 50K on the other table.

My table with 20 to go...

Here's the final 20...
My Table:
Seat 1: The Rooster
Seat 2: Johnny Hughes
Seat 3: Pauly
Seat 4: Drizz
Seat 5: Miami Don
Seat 6: Schecky
Seat 7: CK
Seat 8: Mary
Seat 9: Speaker
Seat 10: Brian

Other Table:
Seat 1: Biggestron
Seat 2: Kuro Kitty
Seat 3: Columbo
Seat 4: Blinders
Seat 5: Falstaff
Seat 6: Otis
Seat 7: Change100
Seat 8: Sean
Seat 9: Grubby
Seat 10: Julian
Poor Columbo had a flight to catch and had to get a later flight since he went deep. With the final two tables left, we all made the prize money. Several NYC bloggers were still left in the mix. On_thg was on the rail sweating the pool that he was running. I found out that only three four people picked me. Thanks to Bam Bam, AlCantHang, Penner, and California April's dad!

CK moved all in with a short stack from EP. I found A-5. I figured that I had the best hand and called. She tabled K-7. I knew what was coming. I've been playing poker long enough and have been covering tournament poker long enough to trust that feeling you get in your stomach. Like on the final hand when Jerry Yang beat Tuan Lam heads up. I knew he'd get there on the river. It's a weird sixth sense that comes and goes. That moment I had that sick feeling in my stomach where I knew I was going to get beat. I stood up and walked away from the table. I didn't want to see it when it happened. I walked to the middle of the poker room and listened for the outcome. CK was the loudest person in the room for the entire tournament and as soon as the King fell, she went nuts. I knew that I had lost the hand and slowly walked back to the table.

I can take a bad beat. But it's not easy acting cool and calm when someone is still in full blown celebration mode gloating about their double up. I counted out my remaining chips, folded the next hand, and walked away from the table completely unimpressed. Otis and Change100 saw from the look on my face that I was not happy about the level of unprofessionalism.

I took a short walk to cool down and the TD showed me the payout list. When I saw $3K for first place, I quickly got my shit together. I went back to the table completely focused. I stole the next three pots to get my stack back up. A few more players busted and I could smell the final table.

With 11 players left, we were short-handed and down to five players at my table. It was the final table bubble and the ideal time to steal some pots since everyone wanted to make the final table. Grubby raised from the button. I put him on a steal. I had 10d-9d in the big blind and shoved. He said he thought about folding, but he made the call with K-Q since he didn't have too much behind. He flopped a King and I was done. I bubbled off the final table in 11th place. I won my money back, but must have dropped $50 or so in tips to waitresses and buying beers at the bar on breaks. Just seven hours earlier, a striper squirt all over Grubby's chest, and now he advanced to the final table.

Here's the final table:
Seat 1: Kuro Kitty
Seat 2: Otis
Seat 3: Schecky
Seat 4: Drizz
Seat 5: Sean
Seat 6: Columbo
Seat 7: The Rooster
Seat 8: MiamiDon
Seat 9: Change100
Seat 10: Grubby
When Change100 busted out in 9th place, we ran to the food court in search of any sort of food stuffs. I returned and the final table was still going on.

Three of the Final Four: Kuro, Otis, & Schecky

Once it got down to four three, Schecky, Otis, Rooster, and Kuro Kitty decided on a four three way chop with 600 or so going to first place. The Rooster was the chipleader at the time, but with the blinds going up so fast, it was still wide open. Schecky was probably the most experienced player at the table and was fresh off his victory in a Poker News Cup event in Australia. But Schecky went card dead and finished in 4th place. KuroKitty seemed the most relaxed at the final table. It didn't matter if he was shortstacked or had chips, his expression never changed. He seemed to be the least irritated and busted out in 3rd place.

Serious Otis

Cagey Rooster

Otis and the Rooster looked super tired and hungry and hung over. I felt their pain, but they all continued to slug it out. It would be a battle for the ages. The Rooster vs. Otis. NYC vs. G-Vegas. Mexican vs. Whitey.

I gave the Rooster a few words of advice. Nothing about strategy. Just simple stuff like telling him to stay focused and that he had lots of heart and that's what was going to help him win. The Rooster used to be a boxer, so it felt like I was his corner man and after he'd get roughed up in a pot, I'd whisper stuff into his ear to keep his head in the game. He continued to play hard, but even he admitted that he needed that extra edge, especially against Otis who is a super tough NL player.

The poker gods must have been smiling upon The Rooster because he came from behind to beat Otis on the last hand. It was an amazing tournament and the Venetian treated us very well. The asswizards at the Orleans treated us like vermin in June, so I made sure I thanked as many of the staff at the Venetian for helping us out. And of course, don't forget to thank Falstaff for arranging the event. Aside from the first event at Sam's Town and the 2005 event at the IP, the Venetian event was one of my favorites.

The Winner's Photo with Mrs. Chako

The Rooster was touched when Mrs. Chako handed him the American flag courtesy of Dr. Chako. The Rooster also got Iggy's trophy (an upside down hammer). As he walked down the Strip back to the IP, I had not seen the Rooster that happy in a very long time.

It was way past Midnight on Saturday in Las Vegas, and we had been playing in the tournament for almost nine hours. Amidst a sea of cowboys and drunken Brits mourning the Ricky Hatton knock out, it was time to celebrate the Rooster's victory at the Geisha Bar. Hijinks ensued...

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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