Las Vegas, NV
I called the IP security twice during the trip. I've been going to Vegas for well over 15 years and I had never once had a reason, nor an urge to call down to security. It's Vegas. Implied insanity. Tourists are going to fuck loudly, get obnoxiously drunk, party like rockstars in the rooms, and smoke dope in the hallways. That aberrant behavior is expected in Sin City. Yet this trip, I found myself on the end of the phone trying to explain myself in the most sober and concise way.
The first incident occurred on Wednesday night. Some fuckers in the IP were doing construction... within earshot. It wasn't until I complained when the scraping and banging noises stopped. It sounded like someone was sandblasting or sanding the walls in an adjacent room. I had not ingested psychedelics in weeks so I knew that I was not having auditory hallucinations. I believe in ghosts but even the most peeved apparition would not be causing a ruckus that loud. If it was a guest let off steam, then I'd accept it. If it was the casino? What the fuck were they thinking?
The second time I called security? Sunday night. 7:15pm to be exact. It wasn't even my idea...
I banged on AlCantHang's door at 8:45am on Sunday. I kept banging like a banshee but he didn't answer. While I stood helplessly in the hallway, I caught a young woman admidst the walk of shame. She attempted to tip-toe out of an IP room while barefoot as she held her pumps in one hand and gently closed the door with the other. We shared the elevator as she avoided eye contact. Her with breath smelled like cheap vodka and cock.
I stood in line at Starbucks and waited for iced tea to wash down the Percs. Opiates are the breakfast of champions. Derek and I discussed our bets as we walked over to the Palazzo and Emeril Lagasse's Stadium.
Lagasse's Stadium = sports bar + fine dining + sports betting
CJ and AlCantHang selected a swanky spot to enjoy the Sunday games. It some ways, it was too nice for our group. Many moons ago we used to invade the sports book at Mandalay Bay. No formal plans... just show up. Sometimes we clogged up the walkways and shouted obscenities at the big screen. A few years ago, we went slumming at the karaoke bar upstairs at the IP which aired the football games. This year? CJ custied out and arranged a private room at the Palazzo. Originally we were booked into a smaller suite but the powers to be upgraded us to one that was worth 3x the price. The result? Four TVs, a pool table, and an arcade game with Galaga, Pac Man and Mrs. Pac Man. All we had to do was spend $1,500 in drinks and food.
When we arrived around 9:15am, CJ and Drizz were filling out their parlay cards. Obie had full command of the entire sound/TV system, as Special K and StB milled around. That's when Dawn Summers walked into the room sporting a Tom Brady jersey and a New England Patriots winter hat.
"Dawn, you have to leave. It's not because you're black. It's because you're a Pats fan."
She thought it was so funny, that she tweet'd my joke. But... I wasn't joking.
Waffles hovered around the arcade game mastering Galaga -- something he would do most of the afternoon. Before Derek and I could sit down, we badgered Waffles about his picks. There's an old saying... "Fade the Mush."
Waffles = the Mush
Waffles printed out a spreadsheet of his picks. But not just his picks... both of his kids, his wife, and his au pair. That's right. Waffles has an au pair, which is just a fancy high-brow word for "nanny". And she knows her football. Usually I fade Waffles picks, but I found myself drawn to his au pair's selections.
"Where is she from?" I wondered. If he mentioned anywhere in the Nordic countries, I would have been instantly wary.
"Argentina. Or Venezuela?" said a confused Waffles.
"Which one? Believe it or not, it's very important."
"Veneztina. No wait. Argenzula."
I was already screwed with one pick. Derek and I had already bet the Bengals. Nothing big, just a small bet for sentimental reasons (we have a history with the Bengals and WPBT weekends. During the Patriots heyday in 2004, they were matched up against the lowly Bengals as an 11.5 favorite. The Bengals lost their QB early on yet they fought back and faked a punt to score a TD. They didn't win, but kept the game close. We won our bet and ever since, we always bet the Bengals on WPBT Sunday).
Once we saw that Waffles had bet the Bengals, we knew that pick was doomed. Derek was ready to tear his ticket up on the spot. The Waffles curse. It was the only bet that I lost all day. It killed Derek's potentially perfect card. I wish I had known that Waffles' au pair was betting against us with Minnesota. I would have jumped on her bandwagon.
"What else did Waffles' fuckin' maid pick?" asked Derek.
"Does she play the futures market?" I wondered.
Have things gotten so bad that I'm seeking sports betting and financial advice from South American nannies? Argentinians know their football. Their fans are so passionate that they hijack buses if they are running late to games. In America, our fans are fat guys with painted faces eating brats and drinking watered-down beer. Down there, their fans shank their fellow fans for not singing the fight song correctly.
Obie tried to shark me at the pool table. I found out that his old man owned a pool hall back in Baltimore. Special K also had deft pool skills. He wanted to play by a certain set of official rules. I had no idea those existed. I was used to playing in bars on shitty ass tables. Wait, there are rules? I got smoked by Obie and Special K. I managed to win a game against Katkin and I beat the ultra-competitive LJ before my winning streak was snapped by Gus.
I really wanted to take on someone at Pac Man. I had stumbled upon an internet version of the game a few months ago and honed my skills during those insomnia-riddled nights. I even found a website that displayed the "maps" and I had a cheat sheet. The only one who took me on was Michalski. He had no idea what he was up against and I easily won.
The spots betting was fun for me... because I won and didn't pull out the last strands of hair on my head while sweating the action. I only bet a handful of games but had more of a keen interest on the outcome of my fantasy football players. I was trailing my brother's team in one of our leagues, while I had plenty of other match ups to keep an eye on.
I sat in the corner with my brother, Gretchen, Garth, and Blinders. We watched the Jets game and were giddy at the results. We also ate Emeril's food during the morning game. BBQ Pulled Pork was savory. Derek went for the crab cakes and the sausage Stromboli with a creole mustard sauce. I chatted about Top Chef in between plays. (Side note: Garth's poker blog has morphed into a culinary blog including recaps of Top Chef. Garth and Daddy inspired Change100 and myself to play a heads-up Top Chef Fantasy Pool. The final show was on Wednesday -- which we had missed -- but Change100 knew the outcome already since she knew someone who worked on the show. I had Kevin for the win, but she had BOTH Voltaggio brothers.)
In between discussion of new American cuinse, Garth could be heard screeching at the referee, "It's a catch, you fuckin' cunt!"
Just two years ago, Garth won my football pool for a nice score. I reclaimed the title from Australia last year when I won my own pool, but this year, Lance (my editor at Bluff) is running away with it. However, Garth's ladyfriend Gretchen is well within striking distance. After a while, Derek and I were quizzing her on her picks. We should have picked the Bills. She and Garth bet them big and won. Gretchen knows her pro football.
The suite filled up by noon. Buckets of beer were flowing. Every couch space had been filled up. Bloggers were hanging on almost every single play. CJ and Drizz were doing the "in game betting" while the video game geeks hung out with Waffles at the arcade game.
Derek and I each hit big bets with Green Bay. I also won a big bet with San Diego over the Cowgirls.
I had several random and quick conversations about random topics in the Palazzo suite... the consolidating newspaper business with PokerPeaker... Dr. Chako explained about he met his lovely wife -- at a pool table in a fraternity house... Kat gave me a book recommendation (Government Jane? Please refresh my memory. Kat! The Modelos, Percs, and Pineapple Express were clouding my brain)... I chatted about Williamsburg with one of April's friends... lighting rigs and Falstaff... pizzas with Yestbay... and Lightning36 and I had a dissertation of the sexual preference of Troy Aikman.
At one point, a baker's dozen of us were led into the bathroom by Mrs. Chako for a group photo. The bathroom was enormous and had a mirrored ceiling. We wanted to see how many we could actually fit.
It had been a while since I was inside a bathroom with that many people where there was not cocaine involved.
I left for an hour or so to have a quick bite with Flipchip and the Poker Prof at the Venetian. They gave me a book for Christmas and we chatted about the City Center project and wondered if there will ever be a 10th anniversary of the WPBT. At this rate, it keeps going... and going...
When I returned to the suite at Lagasse's Stadium, AlCantHang was still a no show. The Sunday night game was in full swing and it was not like Al to miss an Eagles game. Where was he? He had not responded to calls or texts all day. He was absent from Twitter. Iggy was the last person to see him around 2am on Saturday (er Sunday morning) after he put him in the elevator. I was supposed to go to the Palazzo with Al and Derek, but Al never answered his door. He got banged up pretty good on Saturday night after his second place victory in the Holiday Classic. So much so, that he missed his wake up call.
I assumed Al was sleeping it off. But some of our friends were worried. Deeply concerned. Rolled by a hooker? Choked on his own vomit? I offered up my services to "get to the bottom" of Al's disappearance since I had plenty of experience dealing with wasted souls. I walked back to the IP past the porn slappers and the moderate trickle of tourists. When I arrived at the IP, I used a house phone to call Al's room. No answer. Voicemail picked up on the third ring. I called again. Same result. I banged on his door for six minutes straight. No answer. That's when I picked up the phone and called security.
"My buddy had a little too much to drink."
Wow. The security guy was being super sarcastic. I'm sure this was his 25th call of the day.
"We're worried about him. He missed breakfast. The first football game. The second football game. And now he's AWOL for the Philadelphia Eagles game. That's why we're worried. He's an Eagles fan and would never miss that big of a game."
"I'll send someone up for a wellfare check," security said.
So that's what they call it when you pass out and haven't been heard from in a while. Security guards in Vegas must do those "checks" a hundred times a day after frantic housewives call security in hysterics because their husbands have not called home in days. I'm sure 99% of the time, the lost people were simply passed out in their clothes on the bed or curled up in the fetal position on the bathroom floor clutching the toilet with vomit caked on the sides of their mouths.
But it's that 1% that concerns security and that's why they'll perform a "welfare check" to make sure someone isn't face-down/ass-up dead after falling off the shitter. That's how they found Elvis at Graceland.
I stood in the hallway in front of Al's room waiting for the security to arrive. I had pulled out a $20 bill and was ready to tip them when the door opened. It was Al. He was alive.
"Security just called," Al said.
"Well thank God they woke you up. You were AWOL for 17 hours. I knew that you were OK, but some of our friends... they were... well... they... you know... they thought you might have died."
"Or maybe rolled by a hooker," I said to lighten the grave mood.
I followed Al into his room. I saw a stack of black chips and a ball of hundreds on his night stand. His cash was in tact. You can cross "rolled by a hooker" off the list.
"Looks like I ordered a pizza last night," Al said as he pointed to an open box with a full pepperoni pie sans one slice.
"And you never finished your Heineken," I said as I pointed to a 95% full green bottle. "How wasted were you?"
"Drunk enough that I was drinking Heineken," Al said as he checked his iPhone. "Holy shit. 600 messages?"
This year's trip was downsized because of the economy. The negative aspect is less people, but the positive aspect is more quality time. I felt as though I was able to carry on longer conversations with a larger number of people over four or five days. I also felt a lot less pressure this year. I won't get into the specific details, but there's a heightened level of anxiety that looms large on these trips. I struggle immensely with trying to juggle so many friends (both new and old) that it's always a losing battle.
On Sunday evening, only four of us were left standing at the Geisha Bar. Myself. Derek. Iggy. Joe Speaker. Those are some of my favorite people in the world and I'm glad we had a couple of hours to shoot the shit about life, the transformation of ourselves over the last half-decade, the cycles of the WPBT, and the impact of social media upon the world. Shit, we could have had a couple of TED lectures out of our discussions. I even have a book idea or two.
After six of these trips, I finally realized something on the drive back to LA. The WPBT is a family holiday squeezed in between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Those mainstream holidays are for your dysfunctional blood family -- but the Vegas gathering in December is where your "real" dysfunctional family members converge from all over the country to celebrate. You. Life. Happiness. Debauchery. It really doesn't matter they "why" because the weekend is all about the "who" and in the end, that's why so many of us put our mind and bodies through utter hell.
Thanks for the memory burn.
My brother always writes the best Vegas trip report. Hands down. Check it out... Tao of Poker at www.taopoker.com. All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.