Borgata Tales, Part II
Atlantic City, NJ
I have been working a two plus week assignment at the Borgata. Here are some of my notes.
Saturday. Derek was a bit banged up still from his SoCo binge with AlCantHang on Friday afternoon. Derek and AlCantHang drank heavily for four hours as AlCantHang put a dent into the B Bar's SoCo supplies. On Saturday morning, we headed downstairs to breakfast at Bread and Butter. Robert Varkonyi sat at an adjacent table and read an article that Change100 wrote for Bluff.
It happened to be Action Bob's birthday and he hoped that he'd get some birthday luck from the poker gods. He played the night before and was eliminated around 1am. His birthday has been going on for an hour and his first birthday present was getting kicked in the junk and busting out.
There was another Eskimo sighting in the Events Center as the last remnants of the big storm system flew through southern New Jersey. I watched some of the storm from 30 stories up. I saw hail and rain flying in every possible direction.
I spotted a guy wearing a pink visor sitting in a satellite while sipping out of a flask.
I also bumped into a guy from G-Vegas who played regularly with the gang; Otis, TheMark, BadBlood, and GRob. He was shocked that I knew guys from G-Vegas.I told him it's a small world and even smaller poker world. GRob sucks out in a game in GVegas and a tree silently falls in the mountains of Southern China crushing a baby panda in the process.
Quote of the day was from pro Bill Blanda who has won three different Borgata events over his career... "These large fields test your restraint to lay down good hands in the early levels. Especially in this donkfest."
Sunday. Ladies Event. I only knew a few people playing which included Lacey Jones and Jamie Gold's mom.
As Tab mentioned, "AlCantHang tried to register but he wasn't properly dressed."
There was another tournament going on and since it was the opening weekend of the NFL season, the room was pepper with football jerseys. I spotted tons on Brett Favre NY Jets jerseys. And zero McNabb jerseys. Event that cracker Eli Manning got a little love, but it was obvious that the Philly locals had very little support for their QB.
I met Tony, a Captain from the NJ State Troopers. He mentioned that he's read the Tao of Poker and especially enjoyed the Bruce Lee and philosophy pieces. I told him that I'd write more of those pieces during my vacation in Amsterdam.
Eskimo was back following his usual routine. Smoke downstairs. Drink coffee. Eat Pizza. And stand on the rail hoping to get bought into a satellite.
During dinner break, I did a prop bet with Friedman... elevator races. Two elevators arrived on the ground floor at the same time and it was a race. He got a bad beat when a woman slid into his elevator at the last second. She got off at the spa and slowed him down. I won by a few lengths. Ship it.
We also engaged in a round of lime tossing in another act of sheer degeneracy. Friedman was outta his league. The late night sessions with Otis in the Nevada desert paid off. I easily won lime tossing. Ship it.
Gene Todd has some unusual bling. It was a diamond star of David which dangled around his neck. His girlfriend was on the rail sporting a Jets hat.
Lacey Jones had a rough day in the Ladies Event. "You can't bluff the ladies," she explained. One of Lacey's tablemates sort of recognized her. The woman called her husband on one of the breaks and found out who she was. Turned out the husband was a huge fan and asker his wife for Lacey's autograph. Lacey obliged. Lacey eventually busted out and drowned her sorrows in a cup of Cherry Garcia ice cream. Oh, and what does Lacey Jones play on her iPod during Ladies Events? Jimi Hendrix.
The buzz in the room on Sunday involved Tom Brady's injury. He went down in the first quarter and a couple of players stopped by media row to inquire about his status. When Tab announced over the PA that Tom Brady was going to be out for the year, the room exploded with a Philly cheer. I joined in with them. Eagles fans are rough. They booed Santa Claus and a paralyzed Michael Irvin.
Our favorite waitress, Tammy, was working on Sunday. She always keeps us flush with beverages in media row. "Make sure you write something nice about me," she said.
A slew of Albanians in unmatching track suits were sweating their buddy Avdo who made the final table. He was a big guy and reminded me of a evil henchman from an old school James Bond flick. Avdo was the last dude I'd want to fight in a bar brawl. "Check the Albanian for steroids!" continuously shouted one drunk on the rail.
Monday. I waited for my elevator with another guy. He asked me if I was playing. He saw the PokerStars patch on my bag and assumed that I was a player. I told him that I was media. The evelator arrived and we stepped inside. Just as the doors were closing a guy rushed in. He was a very tall black guy. My immediate thought was, "I wonder if he's a NBA pro?"
I looked up at the guy and it was none other that Charles Oakley with an unlit cigar in his mouth. As a lifelong Knicks fan I was blown away that I stood two feet from the heart and soul and glue of the Knicks playoff teams in the 1990s. I wondered if he was going to play in the poker tournament but Oak headed straight to the craps tables. I immediately called my brother and Jerry since they were also hardcore Knicks fans. Man, I wish we had those teams again from the Riley > Van Gundy era. It's been all downhill since Van Gundy left in 2001.
There was a gobboboy sighting at the Borgata. He played in the Stud event and told me that he has been up since 3am playing cash games downstairs. Eskimo was also in the Stud event with gobboboy. Eskimo found someone to buy him in. When he eventually busted, he hung out on the rail. Ricky Bobby mentioned that he played a satellite with one guy who said he used to stake Eskimo twenty years ago and that nothing has changed since then.
We got the player list for one of the NL events. Robert Iler, the actor who played AJ Soprano, was on the list but I never saw him that day.
I met one of Jamie Gold's high school buddies. For all you Entourage fans, if Jamie Gold is Vince, well this guy is Turtle. That's even his nickname. Turtle was on a mission to get carrot juice for Jamie and asked me where he could find some. They were staying in a swanky suite at the Water Club, which is a signature hotel and the Borgata's newest addition. I suggested that he hit the "butler" button on the phone and have someone named Jeeves make the juice from scratch.
There was two Monday Night Football games. Double the action and an extra chance to get unstuck. My buddy JW was stuck big from Sunday's games. He got some of that back from Denver's demolition of the Raiders.
I bumped into a reader named Bradley (also known as "The_B") from North Carolina. He was playing in one of the No Ante events and we shot the shit on the break. When the tournament got down to under eight tables, I did not know too many players still left aside from John Gale and Bradley. I wandered by Bradley's table to check up on him. One player raised from middle position and Bradley shoved from the button.
"Are you getting this hand?" Bradley joked.
His opponent quickly called with K-K. Bradley didn't look too happy as he tabled Ac-Qc.
"You'll get your Ace," I whispered to him.
Bradley flopped a Queen but rivered the Ace to double up. He survived the day and advanced to Day 2.
Tuesday. I ran into BoneDaddy. He had a Yosemite Sam card capper. "I'm going big stack or bust by dinner break," he said as he shared his strategy for the day. I reminded him that if he made the dinner break that he'd get a food comp.
A Phishead and poker guy from NYC also stopped by to chat. Craig was kind enough to invite me to his homegame in the city. He was in the tournament that day but sadly, he didn't last too long when his Kings got cracked by 9-9. He told me that he kicked off the tournament by listening to Piper by Phish.
AJ Soprano made it to Tuesday's event. He lasted long enough for us to take a photo but he did not go deep.
DonPeters from PokerNews came down to sweat his buddy Bradley (the Tao of Poker reader that I had met from the night before). Small world. Anyway, Bradley made it to Day 2 of his event and advanced to the final table along with former WPT champion and WSOP bracelet winner John Gale from the UK. Bradley didn't have too many chips and was the shortstack at the final table. He busted out in ninth place out of 483. Nice job, bro.
When action was short-handed, it was Gale versus a bunch of locals. They all went around the table and asked everyone their home town. When they got to Gale he blurted out in raspy British accent, "Alabama."
Gale went on to win the tournament despite the maelstrom of bad beats.
"This is the worst final table I ever played at," explained Gale. "So many suckouts. I should have won this three hours ago."
Gale was the best player at the final table and he eventually won it all around 9:30pm. Gale had back surgery just before the WSOP. He showed up at the Rio in a wheelchair and looked awful. He was in a world of pain and lost a foggy haze of painkillers. I hurt my back this summer in a car accident, so I understood Gale's plight. Despite a miserable WSOP, Gale hunkered down won a 5K event at the Bellagio Cup for a nice 200K score. Gale appeared much healthier when I spotted him for the first time at the Borgata. He said that he still had a little pain. British people always tend to down play their emotions and feelings so I took that as an indication that Gale was still hurting more than he let on. He overcame the pain and bad beats to win the No Ante event.
On Thursday, an old college friend stopped by to say hello. I had not seen Clint in 13 years. He's been reading my blogs for the last couple of years, but from a distance. We had very little interaction aside from a few emails.
Poker players from Virginia usually end up in Atlantic City since it is the closest option they have for casino poker. Clint read that I was at the Borgata. He thought about calling to let me know he was coming but decided to surprise me. At first I did not recognize him. I was busy at my laptop typing away. I saw someone approach the media row out from the corner of my eye.
"Is Phil Laak here?" he asked.
I didn't look up and said, "No."
"How about Phil Lesh?"
That's when I looked up. I figured it was a Tao of Poker reader that was also a music fan since Phil Lesh played bass for the Grateful Dead. That's when I realized that it was Clint. 13 years is a long time. Slick Willy was still in his first term as President when we last saw each other. Hootie and The Blowfish's Cracked Rear View was the number one album that year.
Clint played some cash games and even helped get me a few bustout hands from the rail. He's a tall guy. Over 6-8. We played intramural hoops together in college and used to party it up together back in the day.
I've been in a weird head space the last month or so. The artist inside is hyper-grumpy and wants to let loose in the world. The battle within is between the malcontent artist who desperately wants to ditch poker and create other things while the wealthy businessman/pimp inside is holding him back and continuously saying, "Just a little while longer. Let's make a little more money, then we can quit."
Clint's unannounced appearance was a godsend. He broke up the monotony of a 2+ week assignment. At the same time, we were able to catch up and analyze our hazy lazy college days. I'm one to constantly live in the now... in the moment. I rarely look towards the future and the past because neither actually exist. It's the right now that is the most important thing for me. However, an intense examination of my past was inevitable when Clint arrived. He brought back a flood of college memories. Most of them were good and a few were bad. We focused on the good.
After my shift ended, we got super wasted and stayed up late talking about life and writing and poker and traveling. Clint even told a couple of blackjack bad beat stories that included getting slow rolled by the dealer on numerous accounts.
Clint even insisted that I leave the Borgata for a couple of hours. I never would have left the property of he didn't show up. We drove over to Harrah's. The poker room was packed. DonPeters and Bradley had made the final table of one of their tournaments. We decided not to play and headed to the pits to drink and gamble.
We opted for Pai Gow. Clint had never played and I gave him a crash course inside of 90 seconds. By the fourth hand, he easily picked up the game. We sat at a $15 table with a young Asian guy and a working girl. I didn't know hookers played Pai Gow.
I picked up quad Aces (three aces and the Joker) on one of my first few hands. I never play the bonus, so I lost out on a 25-1 shot. I eventually grew antsy like I always do and started betting big. We had a hot Polish waitress. Clint and I tipped her well and she kept bringing us drinks.
I lost $130 playing Pai Gow but got my fair share of booze. We stumbled back over the Borgata and stayed up late. Partying until the wee hours and reminiscing. The conversation surrounded our old fraternity brothers. Larry is on his second wife. Curley is expecting triplets. Moe owns a restaurant in Oregon. Did you know that Shemp was gay?
It was sometime around 4:20am when we stumbled upon the iguana story. One summer in the early 1990s, I lived in my fraternity house in Atlanta. We had an empty room where a ferret and iguana lived. It was also the location where I tried to grow pot for the first time. Well, the guy who owned the iguana (the name of the iguana was Iggy) went out of town and forgot to tell someone to feed the Iggy the iguana. Well, Iggy the iguana got out of his cage/tank and feasted on my pot plants. Iggy the iguana got the munchies and ate up all the plants. My cash crop was decimated by a hungry and stoned lizard.
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