I was up $7,000 and my flight to Burbank did not leave Las Vegas for another seven hours. What could possibly go wrong?
I have been extremely lucky in life so I'm surprised when a wave of good fortune comes my way in the form of gambling. I've been around the gambling world enough to know that those rushes don't happen frequently and it's important to ride the rush and enjoy ever second of it before it fades into oblivion.
I experienced one of those epic weekends that happened every once in a blue moon. I went 4-0 in the Elite Eight games during a sports betting rush. The result? A nice wad of Benjamins burning a hole in my pocket and a anxious desire to skip town as soon as possible.
Shaniac called me on Monday morning. He checked out of the Bellagio and offered me a ride back to L.A.. I almost took him up on the offer, but I had a lunch meeting scheduled and respectfully declined. Less than an hour later, my meeting was canceled when my colleague had gotten sick at the last minute. We had to reschedule for another date and I found myself in an odd predicament. I had already checked out of my hotel, my bags were packed and I smoked the last of my stash. I had several hours to kill and nothing specific to do.
"To be idle is a short road to death and to be diligent is a way of life; foolish people are idle, wise people are diligent."
Buddha said that. And that fat fuck must have glimpsed into the future and saw visions of the depravity in Las Vegas. I had more money on me than I had in a very long time and a cornucopia of ways around me to lose every single cent. I curbed my urge for more excessive gambling at the sports betting. There were NIT games. NBA games. Even chick college hoops. I promised myself to stay out of the sports book the moment after I cashed the largest ticket that I had seen in years. I knew that I had been pressing my luck and the rush. The last thing that I wanted to do was continue to push it because I was due to lose a bet... a big one.
I considered renting a car and driving back to L.A., but by the time I got anywhere near the city, I'd get stuck in awful rush hour traffic. Nothing tilts me more than L.A. freeway traffic, well, maybe crying babies on airplanes send me on the most uber-tilt. Xanax is perfect baby repellent and I'm waiting for Pfizer to start manufacturing childrens' cherry-flavored chewable Xannie bars so parents can dispense proper dosages of alprazolam to their feisty offspring in order for me to have an outburst free flight. Sadly, I can't take Xanax while I'm driving in L.A.. It just wouldn't be very safe. Then again, it's probably the least harmful chemical that's been in my blood stream in the last decade. Alas, driving back to L.A. was ruled out of the question.
I sat in the food court at the Castle and figured out my options as I ignored the aromatic callings of Krispy Kreme. Man, I craved a donut. I craved gambling action. Alas, I have been on a self-imposed donut diet for the last few years. Sometimes in life, it's important to have structure and boundaries. I could look at the savory donuts, but I do not touch. Instead, I used their free wifi to look up flights because I fought every urge to spend every single dollar in my pocket.
I considered changing my 7pm flight, but the only other JetBlue flight to SoCal left only ninety minutes earlier. I found a $139 flight on Southworst airlines that left within the hour, but it would cost me $100 to cancel my other flight. I was already to buy a new ticket when I closed out the browser. Only the weak flee from a confrontation. Then again, some of the harshest Las Vegas losing stories that you'd hear at GA meetings in the valley entailed a huge score where the victim sat on bundles of cash and then blew it all. I did not want to be that guy. That hopeless loser people jeered at, who could not exhibit an iota of self-control.
Thoughts of peril and evil bombarded my brain but they were disguised in tantalizing nuggets of joy and bliss. I had difficulties discerning entertainment and financial fleecing. I spun around in a 360 degree circle in the middle of the Strip and pitfalls surrounded me. Temptations around every nook and corner.
I was literally spooked out of my skin and afraid to do anything or go anywhere for fear of losing my profit. I considered hanging out with the afternoon shift at the Rhino and acquiring yet another sampling of Existentialist Conversations with Strippers for the sequel to Lost Vegas, but I exercised an amazing display of willpower and discipline. Strip clubs are black holes for bankrolls.
If I could abstain from pissing away my money at the various gentleman's clubs around town, then I could definitely avoid the Pai Gow tables with all those evil Asian female dealers who just smile as they scoop up your money.
Pai Gow was the first foul temptress to call out my name. Those bitches were even subtle about it. Pai Gow is enticing on several levels when played with a group of rowdy friends and knocking back watered down greyhounds. However, sitting alone at a Pai Gow table at one in the afternoon is a tad on the degenerate side. It's flat out... sad. Raging solo at 4am is another story but at 1pm? Something total different, unless I had been up for 37 straight hours, then it would have been kosher to be buying in for $1,500 at a $10 table. I convinced myself to stay away from the Pai Gow traps and the remainder of the seductive games in the pit... single deck black jack, Let It Ride, the money wheel, and of course the most degenerate game in all of Sin City.... craps... the crack cocaine of the gambling world.
I slowly ate my lunch at Mandalay Bay and read the local newspaper (a fusion of the RJ and the Sun), while it still existed and thumbed through the classified section. I never saw so many homes listed at under 100K. And those used to be quarter of a million homes at the end of Cul de Sacs with fancy sounding names but now they are all empty aside from a few entrepreneurs who turned a bunch in grow houses or meth labs.
I wandered past the poker room and noticed that they were starting up a new NL table. There were a few empty seats and I said, "Fuck it."
I sat down at a table made up of mostly tourists and maybe one or two locals. Seat 1 was a convention guy with a laptop bag underneath his chair. Seat 2 was a woman in her 60s. You hero sat in Seat 3. A young Asian kid with a Red Sox hat sat next to me in Seat 4. Seat 5 was another convention guy who constantly went for a short-buy and would bust and rebuy short. Seat 6 was the calling station. Seat 7 was his wife another calling station. Seat 8 was an old guy with a porn mustache in a Hawaiian shirt. Seat 9 was a local with a dark golf tan. Seat 10 looked like a NJ state trooper.
I started out with a Perrier and on the waitresses second pass, I asked for a Ginger Ale. That's when the old lady sitting next to me decided to bust my balls.
"Moving onto the hard stuff?"
When she sat down she immediately quizzed the waitress about the types of vodka they served. She wanted to know if she could get something top shelf instead of the well brand.
"Do you have Grey Goose?"
"No," said the busty waitress. "I can get you Absolut or Skyy."
"I'll have a Abslout with a splash of cranberry. It's 5pm somewhere, right?"
The old lady took a couple of sips of her drink. She barely touched it and asked the waitress for a single shot of Absolut. When the waitress returned, she poured the shot into her drink.
"Why didn't you ask for a double?"
"If you ask for doubles, they automatically give you the well vodka. This way, I definitely get two shots of premium stuff. All the well vodkas give me horrible headache. So where's you drink? A real drink?"
"I popped a half of a painkiller after lunch."
"Well, let me know when it kicks in."
I didn't want to tell her that I actually popped two, but they never kick in. I have just been maintaining steady buzz since 1996.
"You look very familiar," said the old lady. "Are you from California?"
"New York originally. I used to live here in Vegas, but now I live in L.A."
"Do you play at the L.A. card rooms? I swear that I've seen you before."
Wha? Cougar seat 2 trying to pick me up? I was flattered, and obviously not interested.
The table played super passive. Lots of limping. At the L.A. casinos, you'd see someone from UTG raise 10x the BB and there would be 7 or 8 callers. Every fuckin' time. And then everyone checked the flop... but that's a story for another time.
At the Mandalay Bay, my table was filled with limpers. A couple of times I three-bet a redunkulous amount. I'd thin the field with my raise and get one or two reluctant callers. They checked to me on the flop. I'd bet out and they'd fold.
And then I got kicked in the junk. One player opened for the standard raise and there were five callers including your hero in the big blind with 7-7. The flop was K-K-7. I check called a 1/2 pot size bet from the guy on the button. Two players folded and one other called. I hoped that one of them had a King because I was on the verge of check-raising the turn. The 3 fell on the turn. I checked. The button bet 1/2 the pot. I check-raised 4x his bet. The other player folded and the button called. The river was a Jack. Jesus, I hope he didn't have K-J. I bet out about 1/2 the pot and he raised about 4x my bet.
"I flopped a boat," I said. "And you just rivered a bigger boat with K-J."
The convention guy looked away and I furiously rubbed my temples. I should have folded but the low limit NL tables on the strip are filled with the worst of the worst. I called because of the slight chance he only held trip Kings.
"Show me K-J."
He quickly tabled K-J for the bigger boat. I flashed my sevens and tossed them into the muck.
"If I moved all in on the flop or turn, what would you..." I wondered out loud.
He cut me off before I could finish. "I'm all in for sure. It's hard for me to get away from a set on the flop."
I cringed when I heard people incorrectly use the term 'set'. I was almost felted by a guy who didn't know the difference between sets and trips. I probably should have gone broke there, but didn't I topped off my chips and stormed back. I was up 1/2 buy-in at one point after I pulled off a marvelous bluff with Qs-2s. I flopped bottom pair and missed a flush draw and by the river all I had was a paltry pair of deuces. I somehow pushed the guy in the Hawaiian shirt off his hand. I didn't show the bluff, but the Asian kid next to me whispered, "I know you had jack-shit."
"Make that Queen-Shit sooooted."
Sadly that would be the last hand that I'd win against the tourists and locals. The old lady spewed off her stack as the booze finally hit her hard. She left but not before obtaining a cocktail for the road.
A retired southerner with white hair sat down in her seat. He asked the waitress for a scotch and water and I carefully inspected his watch and wedding band. It wasn't long before we were involved in a pot together. I found K-K in the big blind. One player raised and the retired southerner called from the small blind. I severely overbet and both players called.
Without fail, whenever I have Kings in a multi-way pot, an Ace will hit flop.
To add insult to injury, the Ace of hearts was the door card. Two hearts on the board. The retired southerner checked. I bet the pot. The original raiser folded and the retired southerner called. The turn was a low heart. The retired southerner quickly moved all in. I folded my Kings face up and he showed me Kh-10h for the flush.
An orbit went by and I found pocket Jacks UTG. I fired out 5x the BB. The short-buy guy shoved all in for 20x the BB. The calling station called along with the retired southerner. I looked back down at my Jacks and figured that they were no good. I flashed them to the Asian kid sitting next to me and he shook his head.
"You should have shoved," he joked.
Yes, I folded J-J preflop. The flop 7-4-2 and the retired southerner fired out a huge bet from the big blind and the calling station called as they built a side pot. The turn was a Jack and I threw up a little bit in my mouth. The Asian kid shook his head and muttered, "I told ya. Always shove with Jacks."
The retired southerner moved all in and the calling station tanked for three minutes before he folded. The retired southerner tabled A-K suited. The short-buy guy? Pocket sixes.
Wow, a fuckin' tourist bluffed me. I didn't even need that Jack on the turn. I was ahead the entire time. The retired southerner won uncontested the side pot and the short-buy guy had quadrupled up.
"Now, that's gonna tilt me," I said to no one in particular.
On the next hand, I found J-10 of clubs in the big blind. Five players and everyone limped. The flop was J-10-X rainbow with the X card a low club. I checked-raised the convention guy in Seat 1. He called.
The turn was the 8c. I fired out with top two and a flush draw. He quickly re-raised me.
"No way you have Q-9," I said. "Would you have limped on the button with eights?"
I tanked for a bit. I should have folded but somehow I convinced myself that he had J-10 as well and that we were tied for the pot, except that I was free-rolling a flush draw. Or perhaps he picked up a flush draw in addition to top pair and he was trying to push me off the pot.
"All in," I said and moved a stack of redbirds over the line.
He quickly called couldn't have tabled Q-9 fast enough. I quickly asked the dealer for a Jack or a ten or a club. Nope. I whiffed on the river. Felted by a conventioneer.
The dealer asked me if I wanted to rebuy. I probably should have stayed since the game was definitely beatable with the high amount of weak and poor players. Alas, I was on tilt, something that was rare for me, and I was clearly not playing optimally even against the inbredtards. I couldn't shake it so I decided to walk away. I lost two buy-ins and cursed myself for not buying a new ticket home. It would have been cheaper.
Shakespeare said it best, "When our actions do not, our fears do make us traitors."
Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker at www.taopoker.com. All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.