Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Pai Gow Diaries: Dilettante

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

A pissy mood haunted me on Monday afternoon.

I looked in the mirror and scolded the figure staring back at me, "Shake off the tilt before work and get your shit together, man!"

I usually ignore non-work things and shed any semblance of life tilt before I during a major assignment such as the November Nine, but in that instance I was rattled with a couple of things (both poker and non-poker related) that really set me off kilter. On a normal day when my dour mood is elevated from tropical storm to Hurricane status, I let that piss and vinegar dissolve over a day or so, before the gloomy skies clear up and I'm back to normal. However, I didn't have that luxury with less than 6 hours until the heads up battle between Joe Cada and Darvin Moon, so I had to quickly shake off the tilt and I headed to the pits for a session of degen gambling.

Change100 and I shacked up at the Gold Coast during this sojourn to Sin City. The Gold Coast is a well-known playground for many of us who work at the Rio during the WSOP. The local's casino is often overlooked on the West Side of Flamingo Road by the more famous Rio and the swanker hipster Mecca of the Palms. The crowd at the Gold Coast is a mix of tourists on a budget and a sinister seedy element of locals. Lots of tweakers, third-tiered hookers, and crazy Asian gamblers who are drawn to the Gold Coast because of their dozen or so low limit Baccarat tables and other Asian games such as Pai Gow.

I wandered downstairs and mingled with the miscreants in the casino while looking to gambling away my life tilt. I headed to the sports book to wager on a tip from one of my friends who is a heavy sports bettor. His lock of the day were my hometown Knicks getting +5.5 against Utah. I love betting home dogs but as a Knicks fan I know better than to bet on those schleps. Maybe if I was in a better mood, I would have avoided betting any NBA games and only bet on the Steelers instead. Alas, I didn't. I dove head first into the abyss and bet both the Knicks and the Steelers (and ignoring Denver in Mile High as a home dog).

"$220 to win..." I started to say when I put one of my hands up and the cashier in a pink Tony Romo jersey rolled her eyes. "Wait. Make that $1,100 to win $1,000."

"Any other bets?"

"Fuck yeah."

I peeled off a wad of Benjamins and she slid the Knicks and Steelers slips to me, I glanced at the numbers to make sure everything was correct. I have not wagered four figures on a sporting event in a couple of years. I'm (er, was) a reformed sports bettor and only gambled to make money by betting on sure things instead of problem gambling where I was addicted to the rush of action.

I guess you can say that in the last two weeks I fell off of a couple of wagons, and I've been having a balls out blast.

For fuck's sake, I was not even heeding my own advice in my last Op/Ed that I penned where I bashed pros for donking off their poker winnings in the sports book. I'm a walking hypocrite driven by my weaknesses. So there I was standing at the Gold Coast sports book with geriatric broke dicks with nasty cases of dandruff who picked their noses. A bald chubby guy in a ripped Orleans windbreak stood behind me and chomping on 75 cent hot dog. His halitosis nearly suffocated me so I opted to sweat the games in the pits.

I escaped the plight of the sports book and my foul mood had already cleared up. No more driving five miles over the speed limit on cruise control. I had floored the accelerator and let it rip. I had action. Big action. For the first time in ages. I had a stiff erection and stopped in the middle of the casino to reshift my junk so I didn't embarrass myself as I walked over to the Pai Gow tables.

I sat down at a $10 table. A rotund Hawaiian (6'5" and 400 pounds) originally occupied the two middle seats while an elderly Chinese guy chain-smoking menthols sat in the #6 seat. I sat at the opposite end in the #1 seat. The Hawaiian guy busted $200 in about twenty minutes. He left and the Chinese guy stepped away for a bathroom break but did not return for over 30 minutes.

I played the cute Thai dealer heads up for about twenty minutes. She slowed the game down a bit with chit chat in between hands and I didn't mind. I was only there to bide my time while I sweated my bets and kept an eye on the Monday Night Football pre-game and the Knicks game which had tipped off.

I was betting anywhere from $50 to $100 a hand depending on the situation. I was up almost $200 when Mr. Pai Gow sat down in the #2 seat. I originally thought that the 50+ year old white guy with a grey beard was homeless. He wore dirty jeans, ratty tennis shoes, and a blue sweatshirt that looked like it had not been washed since Slick Willy left the White House. He was missing one tooth and pestered a cocktail server as she wandered by.

"Scotch and soda," barked Mr. Pai Gow.

He clutched a stack of bills which he placed on the felt. The top bill was $100 and the pile was about a dozen or so bills high. No way those were $100s. They had to be $20 bills below. Right? Who bets $1,000 on a $10 Pai Gow table?

Well, apparently Mr. Pai Gow does.

The Thai dealer yelled out to the pit boss and he made a beeline to the table.

"Vladimir is your name, right?" said the pit boss and Mr. Pai Gow nodded.

The pit boss leaned over and told the dealer that he got a break on his commission. Then he okayed the cash wager and watched the action.

I had four green chips in my circle or 10x the minimum bet. I thought that I was a biggest swinging dick in the Gold Coast until Mr. Pai Gow sat down and unleashed his John Holmes sized wagers -- $1,100 to $1,500. He randomly pulled back a few bills from time to time -- and I never figured out his pattern.

I took back the green chips and replaced them with four reds. $20. That's the highest amount that I bet while Mr. Pai Gow took over the table.

He wanted the Dragon Hand every single time, especially after he had set a shitty hand to protect his slim holdings. I quickly deferred the Dragon Hand to him every time.

Mr. Pai Gow played the Dragon on his first six hands for a total of twelve hands. He pushed eight of them and won the other four. He was up almost $5,000 in a flash as his cash stack remained on the table covering the betting circle while he accumulated a stack of $500 white chips.

Mr. Pai Gow was on a tear and a crowd had gathered to watch, mostly elderly Asian men or women who had gotten up from other Pai Gow tables or the Baccarat tables to sweat the action. I'm used to railbirds at a poker table but never experienced an influx of railbirds at a Pai Gow table. When more curious people saw the semi-circle around the table, they quickly flocked and the rail swelled so much so that the cocktail waitress was screaming for them to get out of the way so she could deliver her watered down drinks.

I forgot about the elderly Chinese guy in seat #1 who got up and disappeared for thirty minutes. He left his stack at the table and finally returned to his seat. He did a double-take when he noticed Mr. Pai Gow's hefty cash wagers.

It didn't take very long before the Chinese guy pissed off Mr. Pai Gow when he refused to give up his option to play the Dragon Hand on three consecutive attempts. The guy won each time which cost Mr. Pai Gow anywhere from $3,000 to $4,000. On the third Dragon Hand win, Mr. Pai Gow turned to me and said, "I hope that ass enjoys that $15."

Mr. Pai Gow was growing impatient and barked at the waitress for another Scotch and Soda. The Thai dealer tensed up a bit as the pit boss continued to hover over the action while the railbirds stood three and four deep to catch a glimpse of the Pai Gow high roller.

I have friends who have wagered more on a single hand of Pai Gow. One of my European buddies told me how he bet $3,000 on a single hand at the Bellagio and we all know about Otis' walk on the wild side which occurred at the same exact table where I sat with Mr. Pai Gow. That was the night (well, early morning) of the infamous Keno crayon incident -- all of which was spurred on my a horrendous session at the Pai Gow tables where we got cold decked by a Dealer from Vietnam named Flora.

But for the most part, the Gold Coast catered to Pai Gow grinders. That's why I was surprised to see Mr. Pai Gow's high-brow antics at a $10 table.

Mr. Pai Gow played for almost an hour before he lost a single hand. Lots of wins and pushes which was an amazing feat considering that he was playing the Dragon two out of three times. I watched closely as he set his hands. He had a terrible poker face and I could tell if he had a strong hand or weak hand.

The Chinese guy figured out that I was deferring my option for the Dragon to Mr. Pai Gow so he decided to switch seats and took a seat to my right in Seat 2. Mr. Pai Gow was not pleased because he knew that he would only get 1 out of 3 Dragon hands.

And then things got ugly. Mr. Pai Gow looked incensed as he set up his hand. I knew he was in trouble and desperately wanted the Dragon Hand but the Chinese guy snatched it up. I watched as he fanned out the cards. He had three pair - which is a super strong hand. Mr. Pai Gow held a pair of deuces below and Q-10 up top. The dealer showed pocket treys and Q-10 which meant that Mr. Pai Gow lost his first hand in over a half hour. Steam was spewing out of his head when the dealer opened up the Chinese guy's hand and Mr. Pai Gow saw the monster hand. The Chinese guy cost him $1,500 and he refused to play at the table for another hand. He scooped up a stack of $500 chips -- over $12,000 -- and stormed off.

Mr. Pai Gow stopped at the next table, whirled around, and rushed towards the old Chinese guy. My instincts took over and I was prepared to dive into the pit behind the table games if Mr. Pai Gow went postal and pulled out a weapon like a handgun or a homemade shank.

Mr. Pai Gow stopped about six inches away from the old Chinese guy and screamed, "I hope you go broke!"

The Chinese guy was not about to be pushed around by the dilettante. He took a long and meticulous drag off of his menthol cigarette and blew it in the face of Mr. Pai Gow.

"I play the Dragon when I fuckin' want. I hope you go broke, ice-hole!"

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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