Thursday, February 07, 2008

Being James Madison

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

I have been in Las Vegas for less than 19 hours. I have yet to have a sip of alcohol, I played poker in three casinos, had two meetings about the WSOP, and I have lurking around the sportsbooks betting on NCAA hoops and the NBA.

Oh, and it's 9am and I have not slept yet. Been up for almost 27 hours and I'm on the verge of crashing as we speak.

Sports betting brings out your inner philosopher. If you let me listen to your internal conversation while making a sports wager and during the actual contest, I could quickly understand your complicated perspective into gambling (the fundamental base to the more sincere question - why?). For example, how you act during the game that you bet on can determine if you were an existentialist like Jean-Paul Sartre, or a rationalist like Descartes, or an empiricist such as John Locke, or a Taoist like Chuang Tzu, or a post-structuralist like Michel Foucault.

Sometimes I embrace my Catholicism and believe in God. Of course, it's not faith but pure greed. I need God's help so I acknowledge his existence. I don't even whisper his name during the binges of immorality, but I quickly put the feelers out there when I need a last second three-pointer or for God to hook me up with a missed field goal.

I don't actually believe he controlled the outcome of the game. No one does. That's when those existentialist thoughts seep into my brain. Chaos. The world is a godless and chaotic universe. Some times you kick the dog, and other times the dog pisses on your leg.

All eyes in the sports book were focused on #2 ranked Duked playing at #3 North Carolina. The Duke-UNC game is one of the most historic rivalry in all of sports. And it was being hyped up especially since they were two of the top three ranked teams in the country. I'm a big UNC fan and loathe Duke almost as much as the Red Sox. But even the Duke-hater in me saw the value in betting on that game. UNC was without their injured point guard in Ty Lawson and Duke was +4.5. I don't like betting on games of passion, so I didn't pull the trigger and bet Duke while rooting for UNC.

I had a more important game on the agenda. James Madison versus Townson State.

I know what you are thinking. James Madison. What the fuck do you know about them?


That's why I wanted to bet on them. I took them -4.5. Because I can and because I wanted to bet on a game that ended before the UNC/Duke game. I was only in town for less than a hour and the 7pm games on the east coast were set to tip off. That's when I took James Madison.

It's basically a throw away game with an unknown school playing against another unknown. Townson State is most known for their outstanding lacrosse teams, but not much of a hoops powerhouse. I mean, who really cares about the a 10-11 team playing against a 9-12 team in the CAA conference, a glorified second-rate conference of "safety schools"", or rather the schools that those snotty uber-wealthy prep school kids enrolled after they got kicked out of their ivy league schools.

The James Madison game was not on any of the screens in the sports book. Shocker. Chances were that it was not even being televised. I had to follow along by watching gamecast on and rushed back to the room and kept refreshing the page and pacing around my room and kept refreshing the page.

When James Madison was down 16 at halftime, I knew I needed a lot of help in the second half. I had a brief conversation with God, then Buddha. I stopped watching it for a bit because the anxiety was drowning every once of my energy.

Then, I succumbed to the weak side of humanity. I could not resist the urge to check the score. I'm a sadist. If I'm losing, I want to know about it and taste the pain in my fingertips. I want to feel the knife slicing apart my intestines. If I caught a miracle and somehow got back into the game and had a legitimate shot to win... then I wanted to soak up every bit of that adrenaline, as I'd be bouncin' off the fuckin' ceiling on one of the most natural highs known to man.

James Madison went on a tear. They erased the halftime deficit and and opened up a 15 point lead. I turned it off and went back ten minutes later.

James Madison blew the lead with two minutes to go. I paced some more.

They were up by three with 25 seconds left...

Then up by four with 17 seconds left...

The spread was four and a half. I needed another point. A simple free throw. Any sort of bucket from James Madison. I refreshed and nothing happened.


My internet connection crapped out and I had to log back on again. Fuck. Me.

I endured ninety-eight seconds of agony with Dick Vitale's voice on in the background hyping up the UNC-Duke game.

ESPN's college hoops scoreboard finally popped up. Of course, the game wasn't on the first page and I had to dig through a few links to find it. Reckoning. I finally discovered the score.


James Madison won by five and I won a bet on a ticket I almost tore up at halftime. Miracles do happen. A game of somewhat ill significance meant something. It meant everything.

I logged off the laptop and wandered over to the sports book at Caesar's Palace to watch the rest of the North Carolina and Duke game. I walked at a brisk pace, past all of the shuffling zombies pissing their lives away at the slots.

UNC couldn't stop Duke. They hit too many threes and UNC really missed Lawson. I knew I should have bet on the game. Instead I bet on the Lakers (with new addition Pau Gasol), which was a dud of a bet. I also liked Boston and San Antonio, both of whom won, but I didn't bet. I slipped to 2-2 in NBA picks this week and the James Madison game put me at 1-0 for college hoops. FYI... I like UCLA tonight -2 against Wazzu.

* * * * *

I had dinner at Palm with Poker Prof and Flipchip. After dinner, I walked back to the sports book to get a final on the UNC-Duke game and to check out the NBA scores. Since the poker room was right next to the sports book, I wandered inside. There was open seating for that juicy 1-3 NL game I heard about. I took a seat.

I tried to be invisible. Didn't say much. Barely moved. Just sat there. I played one orbit when I was in the cutoff and found two black Jacks. With three limpers in front of me, I popped it good. One player called. The flop was 10-3-2. My opponent bet about half the pot. I raised and he called. The turn was the Jack of diamonds. He checked. I bet about 2/3 of the pot and he check raised me all in. I called. He showed 9-9. The river was a blank. My set held up and I almost doubled up.

I was in seat 2. There was an open seat to my right and and open seat to my left. I almost switched seats to #3, but the seats were filled before I could request a seat change. Two foreign guys, drenched in cologne and wearing fake Rolexes, sat down on either side of me. I think they were Eastern European. Maybe Albanian? I was in the middle of a Borat sandwich and my powers of invisibility must have been working because for the next orbit, they were practically screaming at each other. One older guy at the other end of the table kept complaining to the dealer that they were not adhering to the "English only at the tables" rule.

Except they were arguing after they folded the hands. They weren't involved in any pots, so the dealer said there was nothing to be done. I didn't feel comfortable sitting there and decided to quit. I won about 90% of a full buy-in and cashed out. I walked down the Strip. It was chilly, but nice. There wasn't too much pedestrian traffic on the Strip once I passed the Bellagio fountains. I walked by the soon to be City Center and passed Monte Carlo's damaged facade courtesy of a fire last week. When I finally made my way to New York, New York, I decided to play at the MGM and walked across the bridge. I really wanted to line shop some of the college hoops games for Thursday, but decided to play some poker while I was there.

I lost all the money I won at Caesar's Palace playing 2-5 NL at MGM. I had Ad-9d. I limped. Five others limped. The big blind, who had been raising a lot of hands with junk, had raised. Nice squeeze, I thought. Two players in front of me called, so I called. Four players total. The flop was Qd-10d-8s. Big blind checked. Hipster next to me bet the pot. I called with my nut flush draw and a gutshot. The button called. The big blind called. The turn was the Jd. I made my flush, but picked up a nice redraw to a straight flush and a gutshot royal flush. The big blind bet the pot. The hipster called and was all in. I re-raised all in. Button folded. The big blind had me covered and called.

"You have a flush," he said. "But I can't lay down top set."

He tabled two Queens. I was ahead. Hipster never flipped over his cards. He threw them into the muck and muttered something about a straight.

I knew it was coming. The 10c spiked on the river. I didn't blink.

Motherfuckincocksmoker. Nice catch, cumstain.

I actually said, "Nice hand."

I got up and walked back to the Excalibur. Insomnia struck and I couldn't sleep. I headed down to Mandalay Bay to play at 2am. There was one 1-2 NL table running. I sat down next to a hot thirty-something chick from Southern California that was hammered. She slurped a frozen daiquiri from Ruby Tuesdays and kept asking the dealer, "Is this my big blind?"

She didn't have too many chips. But she was bleeding off $100 at a time. She'd rebuy. Piss it away and dig back into her Gucci purse and rebuy again. The accent told me she was from the East Coast originally. She had mentioned that she played at the Bike on occasion and had lived in Los Angeles. She had a rock on her finger the size of a Titleist and she had a fake tan. I could sense the inner emotional turmoil that drove her to drink. She was the your typical Las Vegas drunk girl, and the perfect example of someone you want at your poker table. Rich. Reckless. Drunk.

Drunk Girl was the mark, but we only got involved in a couple of pots together. She kept trying to buy me a drink. I was only drank gingerale, and she questioned my manhood. I told her that I was higher than Snoop Dog at 4:20. She let out a wicked laugh and asked me where she could score any pot. Our dealer was a grumpy old white guy, and yet that made him crack a smile.

Then I got to tango with Drunk Girl.

Four of us limped. I had As-3s from the small blind. The fop was A-A-8. I checked. Drunk Girl bet. I check-raised her for half of her stack.

"I don't like you!" Drunk Girl screamed. "I thought we were friends."

"You're from L.A.," I explained. "You're used to having fake friends who always stab you in the back or fuck you in the ass."

Drunk Girl thought that was the funniest thing she had ever heard. She repeated the line three times. I got a warning from the dealer for dropping the f-bomb.

"What? Why he can't say fuck?" Drunk Girl inquired.

That slowed up the hand for about five minutes as she got into a drunken debate with the dealer over what exactly is bad and what is acceptable.

"That's a stupid fuckin' rule," Drunk Girl said.

She also got a warning. We still had a hand to play. We had to verbally reconstruct the hand for her to get her up to speed. Drunk Girl eventually called my bet. The turn was a 6. I bet a stack of red chips. She sighed and picked up her cards. She showed me an 8. I didn't see the other card. She called for her last $20. I tabled my trip Aces which held up. Rebuy!

I won another decent sized pot with Kh-Qh. One player from UTG raised. The button called. I had re-raised from the big blind. They both called. I decided to check-raise the Ace high flop with two hearts. I checked. UTG bet the pot. The button folded. I check-raised for his entire stack. He tanked before he folded his hand face up. I just showed him the Qh and I raked in the pot.

I was running good until I lost a $400 pot when I got rivered by a two outer. My kings got snapped off by threes. That sucked. I decided to cash out. The table was not fun anymore. Drunk Girl had left the table an hour earlier and was probably passed out somewhere.

Overall, I ended up +80 from playing at Caesar's, MGM, and the Mandalay Bay. I couldn't sleep so I stayed up and wrote. Around 8am, I took a walk up the Strip and let my mind wander, as I blended in with the early crop of slow walking tourists. I couldn't recall the last time I was in Las Vegas by myself. Raging solo. It's been a while.

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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