Los Angeles, CA
The IP only spread one Pai Gow table. What the fuck? Were times that tough, or did they wise up and install conveniently-located black jack tables to fleece the WPBT crew? Everyone knows that the casino doesn't generate as much income from Pai Gow as they do with blackjack and slot machines, but what happened to catering to the customer's needs?
If there was one aspect that set this Vegas trip apart from previous years, it was the amount of high-stakes black jack going down that I heard incessant whispers about. At one point, I deciphered via cryptic tweets that the G-Vegas crew and Missouri boys were on the verge of being 86'd from the MGM for counting cards, meanwhile G-Rob went on a heater at the IP. That's when the pit boss changed the odds to 6-5. What a crock. The handsome one got up and left.
When the IP finally opened up a second Pai Gow table, StB and I instantly made a fly by. An attractive cowgirl (one of the most attractive that I had ever seen playing at Pai Gow table) nursed a healthy stack of redbirds in front of her in Seat 4. The table was empty and the Asian woman in the box was definitely not a bot. The cowgirl didn't mind that we sat down to her left. StB bought in for a couple of hundred and I already had a few black and green chips in my pocket from a previous not-so-fun session.
Everything seemed to be going well at the new table: both the dealer and cowgirl was friendly, StB was getting fast cocktail service, and I won an early bet. But all of that sunshine and rainbows disappeared a cloud of Darkness recklessly descended upon us. A sketchy guy, drenched in a foul-smelling meth-induced sweat, saddled up to an empty chair. He took Seat 5 next to the cowgirl. His body odor quickly scared off the cowgirl in less than two hands. The sketchy guy also flashed a despicable look, you know, that filthy leering pedophile glance that you gives you the creeps. She went all-in and lost all of her red chips, and then didn't rebuy. She disappeared into a wall of rodeo fans who watched in bewilderment at the Lady GaGa impersonator.
And then Chilly sat down. No, no...that wasn't a play on words...and Chilly was not the sketchy smelly dude. Chilly sat down and actually scared off the pedophile, who left in haste as he stumbled into the crowd.
A new dealer took her turn in the box and I lost a couple of hands. I couldn't tell if Chilly was going to be the "Cooler" of the weekend. No blogger ever wants the Cooler label thrust upon their shoulders, it's sort of like wearing a scarlet letter, because you instantly become a pariah for the weekend. Sure, it's sorta a badge of honor to be Gigli, but being the ultimate Cooler is worse than being a World Series Goat like Bill Buckner.
Alas, you can't fuck with history. The past is all we can go by and historically speaking, someone always ended up the Cooler during the WPBT. Wherever they went, other bloggers fell under a cloud of miserable gloom, as they embarked on a torrid losing streak moments after the Cooler stops by. Craps. Blackjack. Pai Gow. Roulette. Sportsbook. Doesn't matter. Once you discover who the Cooler is for the trip, you have to avoid them at all costs.
One year, I was so paranoid about multiple coolers that I freaked out when Waffles tried to talk to me. It was during one of the Holiday Classics hosted at Caesar's. Waffles busted early and walked up to my table to chat with me. That's when I got dealt pocket Kings. I raised, got two callers, and an Ace and a Jack hit the flop. I insta-folded and told Waffles and his obvious cooler powers to scram.
Waffles put his potential Ultimate Cooler powers to the test when Pablo was sweating a wager on the Miami Heat. Pablo thought he had his bet all locked up until Waffles wandered over to watch the game. Pablo was so stressed out that he couldn't watch the end of the game, but in the end Waffles proved everyone wrong! He wasn't going to be the Cooler on the trip.
But if the Cooler wasn't Waffles, then who would it be?
We had already encountered one casualty of the night with a broken ceramic pipe. That's why with pressing urgency, I attempted to clean out a clogged one-hitter on the pedestrian bridge between the MGM and New York, New York. A steady flow of tourists stumbled out of the MGM and at least 50% of them stopped to take cell phone photos of the Strip.
Without an accurate eye in the sky, the middle of the pedestrian bridge was a perfect spot for panhandlers and pick pockets to operate as long as no heat were around. Derek thought that one panhandler stopped a tourist and got down on his knees to beg for money. Instead, we were watching a marriage proposal. A random guy stopped his girlfriend on the bridge, got down on his knee, displayed a ring, then popped the question. She said yes and a small group of innocent bystanders clapped.
My initial reaction was, "I'm glad she said yes." But that quickly subsided and I thought, "Hmmmm.... that looks like a great distraction for a sophisticated ring of pick pockets."
How I perceived that incident is a litmus test about my current level of cynicism. I immediately patted down my jeans to make sure I had a wallet and CrackBerry. Sure, I can be romantic sometimes, but even in the Adult Disney World, we're amidst rough times, so you can never be too careful because someone down on their luck is always try to fuck you over when you least expect it.
In 2000, I witnessed a proposal in Las Vegas for the first time. Two years later, I wrote about that incident in a Truckin' short story titled A Phishy Proposal.
Many thanks to AlCantHang, Dave McCarthy and the gang at Full Tilt who covered the tab for the private room, food, and booze at the Lagasse Stadium at the Palazzo. We were able to watch the NFL games and even had an outside veranda, which was an added bonus for the few smokers in the group who wanted to sweat games and chainsmoke. Thanks again to Full Tilt, especially for the schwag, which make for awesome last minute Christmas presents. Re-gifting is a the best possible way to expand the brand.
I was so dehydrated on Sunday morning that I walked around with a Big Assed Iced Tea (a pitcher of iced tea that I asked for after the absent-minded waitresses kept forgetting to bring one back for me).
I split my medium-sized picks for the day (the fucking Lions de-railed me after they upset Green Bay when Aaron Rodgers got hurt, however the Falcons came through and covered once again). On a high note, I nailed my big bet of the day... the Patriots giving three points at snowy Soldier's Field in Chicago. Most of the suite was pro-Chicago led by Mattazuma's Ditka-era sweater. I went with my gut, fought the public's sentiment, and put a big bet on the Pats. It didn't matter that the Jets lost a vital conference match up against Miami, my only solace was cashing my winning ticket on the Pats.
Nothing beats that adrenaline rush when the cashier counts out a stack of hundred dollar bills. I got to engage in that giddy process a couple of times during the weekend. It was rare that I didn't have too many losing tickets to rip up. Overall for the weekend, the sportsbetting was kind to me and I converted more winning tickets than losing ones. I didn't play as much Pai Gow as I would have liked, which is why I didn't leave Vegas in a huge hole.
Narratives are difficult when it comes to trip reports. That's why a concept like Twitter is perfect for trying to figure out what's going on at that precise moment. Sometimes, I write down things in my notebook (some were actual tweets, others never made it into cyberspace) which don't really fit together with other segments when I'm trying to cull together a story. A few years ago, I posted a collection of one-liners and odd thoughts at the conclusion of a summer session of the WSOP. I'm going to do the same thing here, and the final section of this year's report will resemble the Hemingway-succinct descriptions that my brother provides for his annual home run of a WPBT report.
- Four hour drive from LA to Vegas took six because of a fatal accident on I-15. I was wired when I arrived at 3am on Thursday morning, but not yet ready to engage in social gambling, so I stayed up until almost 8am raging solo. Of course, I was playing Pai Gow. That's an entire subject for a new installment of The Pai Gow Diaries, so I won't launch into any conspiratorial rants about bots in the Castle's Pai Gow pits.
- For a Thursday night, the Geisha Bar not as packed as previous years because more people were scattered throughout the IP at the poker tables and in the pits. The joint was cleaned up a bit in the harlot department. Definitely many more cowgirls than working girls. The Hos outnumber the Hookers.
- Derek and I saw a guy face plant in the middle walkway of the IP. He fell in between the roulette tables behind a crowd that gathered to watch a female Dealertainer in a jean skirt belt out a country tune. The guy was in his 50s and he had whiskey legs. Three members of his group, also in their 50s and obviously in town for the rodeo, frantically hoisted him off the soiled IP carpet. The drunk stood erect for a second before his knees buckled and he crashed against two of his friends. They propped him back up and slowly ushered him through the crowd.
- All the cabbies I encountered were bitching about one of two things: cowboys not tipping and/or the introduction of more cabs on the streets of Vegas. I hopped in a cab to the MGM with StB and Derek. We overhead a call on the radio for a pickup at the Redneck Riviera, who was obviously a stripper looking for a ride to Hustler. We had her room number and real name (Jennifer by day and who knows what sultry stage name she chooses to use every night).
- The #14 button in our elevator was broken. So was the #9. You would hit either, but it wouldn't light up and if that was your floor, you had to gamble on whether or not the elevator would stop for you.
- I offered $20 to Pablo for a food prop to eat a discarded half-finished muffin that sat on a room service tray in our hallway for almost two days. He declined.
- Right behind the Geisha Bar, we watched in curious bewilderment as a sloshed StB tossed a few bills into a a Press Your Luck slot. I had no idea what was going on, but the pretty lights were enticing. He got to the bonus part with "No Whammies" and somehow racked up enough points to cash out with a $9 surplus.
- Miserable Fuck sighting at the IP. Standard uniform: shorts, scowl, cloud of misery hanging overhead.
- "We don't ever bet money on Otis when he's throwing dice." - One of the Missouri boys
- It was way past 2am as Thursday spilled over into Friday. I hit the 40 hour mark -- and had been up since Wednesday morning and pulled the plug on trying to get even with Pai Gow. When I went to crash for the night, I checked the hotel clock. 3:33am. If you go to bed at 3:33, then the aliens will visit you in your sleep.
- Outside Casino Royal one afternoon, we wandered through a chorus of porn slappers. I felt like a giant among hobbits as I made my way through the car wash-like assembly line of smut peddlers. Derek stopped to point out the 80 year old woman who was handing out business cards for escorts. Grandma hustling on the Strip as a porn slapper. Times are tough.
-I ate donuts for dinner one night. I stormed the Castle with the unusual suspects and we met up at the Sherwood Forrest Bar. Derek grabbed a few donuts for me to munch on because I forgot to eat dinner that night. When we first hung out at the Castle in 2004, it was a sleepy over-sized casino with zombie locals glued to slots and tons of cowboys wandering around. The latest version of the Castle had a much hipper 20-something vibe with stripper poles and blackjack tables up front. It might be time to ditch the IP and upgrade.
- StB and I gave Kat and a few curious investors on what it means to Buy the Dip, and how that will make us all rich. Click here for more information on our latest
- "You're the Pot Jesus. People just want to take your bread." - Waffles
- Waffles took a nap in the IP sportsbook. The eye in the sky must have noticed because they send out two thugs to wake him up. They told him to go to his room, but he couldn't remember what room he was in. I told the guards that he was with us and that his roommate was playing in a poker tournament and that Waffles was waiting for his return so he could go to sleep. The guards told him to stay awake, otherwise they were gonna 86 him. Luckily, Waffles evaded a backroom scuffle with roughnecks because he stayed awake long enough to get into his room. He described the situation much better than me...
"Next thing I know some faggot in a yellow shirt is waking me up. Oh wait. It was security. Fat black cop wanted to beat me with his stick. Who the fuck makes these stupid rules up anyways? No sleeping in the Sportsbook. sheeesh. Luckily I always hang with people who run up huge bar tabs and they were able to get me out of trouble."- I sorta expected to lose money over the weekend and even budgeted something called "social gambling funds" which I didn't care if I lost because the point was to hang out and have fun. That's why I was surprised when I was getting ready to leave and noticed that I was driving home with more cash on me than I expected.
- I left Vegas on a Monday night. I spent Monday afternoon hitting up pawn shops with Flipchip and trying to horde silver just in case we have a total collapse of our financial system.
So much has changed in Las Vegas since the first time I made the inaugural December trip. I departed Vegas in 2004 after being blindsided by the WPBT weekend, and on my flight home to JFK, I flipped through a notebook full of scribblings about a dozen or so strangers who would eventually become some of my closest friends and business partners.
Six years after the fact, I drove out of Vegas through the darkness of the desert replaying the new batch of memories that I acquired on the trip. Whenever I saw a mile marker for LA, my thoughts drifted toward making good time driving back to LA so I would have enough time to head to a Christmas tree lot before it closed and buy a tree for our apartment. But within a few miles, my thoughts drifted back to the hijinks in Las Vegas and I'd blurt out, "Buy the fucking dip, already!"
Click here to read Part 1: The Dream, Moving the Line, and Stay Away from My Sister.