Tuesday, June 21, 2011

2011 WSOP - Day 21: A Day in the Life; Hellmuth Denied 12th Bracelet (Again)

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

I had a dream that I was in a random hotel room somewhere with a maid pounding on my door, except it wasn't a dream, it was reality, just a few hours ago. My head was throbbing and I was disoriented in a random hotel room and couldn't figure out what day of the week it was or even the actual date. On the night stand was a plethora of orange and white pills, a couple of Gold Coast chips, and a sports betting ticket from the Rio. Apparently I had bet on the Colorado Rockies and had no idea if that game already happened, or if it was yet to happen.

Did I mention about the woman who barely spoke English who was pounding on my door like a Swat Team with a battering ram trying to bust up a mobile meth lab?

I had one of those Vegas nights.

It's not a night what I would consider and epic adventure, but it wasn't exactly a normal night either. It fell somewhere in between. Alas, it's one of those nights that happens to us at least once a week. To quote my buddy Otis, "This is what we do."

In this instance, I really don't know how to tell you this story about my Monday, other than to start from the top.

* * *

I woke up in a fog. My house was empty. My French roomies were AWOL. Benjo took off for a weekend trip to Death Valley. Vincent the video guy had crashed at the Cosmo. And my girlfriend was still in the City of Angels after going home to visit her old man for Father's Day.

I had knocked myself out the night before to catch up on sleep. When I'm at the WSOP, I push myself to the brink of exhaustion. I can't stop. It's just how I am. Alas, the addicts life applies to everything I do. I have one speed -- fast. I go balls to the wall when it comes to working and partying. Vegas is dangerous because the two aspects of my life blend into each other.

I have chronic insomnia and when you're plugged into Vegas, it's difficult to unplug yourself. I can't explain it other than the energy swirling around this city is not only toxic, it does everything in its power to keep you from powering down. Luckily my girlfriend left a jar of Xanax in the medicine cabinet. I ate the equivalent of 1.5 Xannie bars to make sure I stayed asleep. It worked too well because when my alarm buzzed, I was caught inside the Xannie morning haze... foggy and rather groggy.

I showered, waited in my empty house until I was coherent enough to drive, and then headed to a local cafe where the waitresses doesn't know me by name, but know what I like to eat whenever I come in. They fed me as I zoned out and sifted through that morning's twitter static. I had that "Awwww, fuck...." reaction when I realized that... 1) I never finished my Tao of Poker recap from the night before, and 2) I forgot I had an interview with a documentary film crew set for noon.

I wolfed down breakfast, sped to the Rio, and walked into an empty Amazon Ballroom. It was not noon yet and the room was eerily quiet. I knew that within two hours the entire room would be buzzing with various restarts. A couple of suits held a meeting in the corner. I ignored them and they ignored me as a random tourist wandered in and snapped cell phone pics of empty tables.

My buddy Friedman is one of the associate producers for Boom, Jay Rosenkrantz and Taylor Caby's documentary about the poker boom and subsequent fallout from Black Friday. They asked to interview me and I kinda forgot they blocked off two hours of my time. I was dragging serious ass so I did what anyone would do in that situation -- I broke off half of an Adderall and swallowed it down with overpriced bottle water.

The interview went great. The director, Ryan, seemed pleased with some of my answers. I have no idea what they'll use, but assumed that most of it would end up on the cutting room floor. At the least, I wanted to help them tell the real story about the poker boom. I was just one of the million cogs in the massive poker machine, but they wanted to hear my tweaked view on the last few years. I kinda joked with them that it would be incredibly cool (and fucked up) if they were actually undercover agents for the DOJ and FBI.

I wandered back downstairs to the pressbox and attempted to crank out Day 20's recap. Unfortunately, I got caught in that rut where everyone who stopped by was preventing me from writing. The constant bombardment of questions involving rumors that Benjo had quit had gotten old. I had been under siege for a week and couldn't take it any more. I snapped because all those legit questions and concerns were a hindrance from doing my work. I rushed out of the pressbox in a huff and hid inside the press room, where I cranked out Day 20's recap.

Snoopy, one of my older friends in poker and one of my favorite scribed from the UK, stopped by to check up on my well being. He finally arrived into town and had that "fresh" and "eager" look to him. Meanwhile, I was on my 15th day in a row without a day off. Even though I took off a couple of days to see Phish in Ohio near the beginning of the series, I was up partying for two straight days -- so even though I had a break from poker -- my body didn't get a break. I had been running ragged for three weeks straight. That's why I desperately needed sleep and forced myself to rest for at least eight hours the night before. The only downside of all that rest was that I was going to be overflowing with abundant energy. Little did I know that would be my downfall.

With all of my work done, it was finally time to check out the actual tournament. The Stud 8 championship was playing down to the final table and the field was stack with plenty of familiar faces including Phil Hellmuth gunning for bracelet #12. I told myself I wouldn't care until he actually made the final table. But the Poker Brat was inching closer and closer to me actually giving a shit.

Benjo pinged me and said he was flying back to France in the morning and wanted to meet up for a quick goodbye drink later that night. He was on his way back from Death Valley and I knew one drink was not going to suffice. I made a wise decision and booked a room at the Gold Coast for the night. Due to my staggering Pai Gow losses, I get a couple of free rooms a month. The one shitty thing about my girlfriend heading back to LA for the weekend meant that I had to rent a car and drive myself to and from work. I super responsible when it comes to operating a vehicle and I won't drink or dabble in any pharmaceuticals if I get behind the wheel. As a result, I was dead sober the last few days (and utterly miserable, obviously, because I was unable to dull the pain of dealing with assholes and fucktards). I welcomed the opportunity to get shitfaced and not worrying about driving home.

I checked into my room at the Gold Coast. They gave me one of the top floors -- a smoking floor at my request -- and when I stepped off the elevator the entire floor reeked of weed... and it wasn't me.

I returned to the Rio and wandered through the Pavilion. I noticed a huge crowd gathered around the cash game section. Bob was standing on a chair and I asked him what was up. "Huge pot with Farha," he said. "At least $200K."

With people six and seven deep on the rail and a security guard blocking the entrance, I pulled a veteran move and walked around to the other side. I flashed my badge to the other security guard and muttered something like, "This is official business." He didn't blink and I walked right up to the $100/$200 PLO table. A random Euro with greasy long hair, hipster jeans, and white shoes raked in the pot and pulled back a couple of thick bricks of Benjamins. Farha sat across from him shaking his head in disgust.

I headed into the Amazon Ballroom and the final table of the Stud 8 was set (Ted Forrest, Phil Hellmuth, Al Eslami, Joe Tehan, Russian chess writer/poker scribe Mikhail Savinov, David Benyamine, John Racener, and Eric Rodawig). Hellmuth had made it and was gunning for #12.

Photo by WhoJedi

Regardless if I liked/hated Hellmuth, I had to be there if he won the bracelet. I rooted against the Poker Brat to bust early so I wouldn't have to wait around for the outcome. Selfish, I know, but I didn't really care about being an impartial member of the media. I only wished for an early death because I didn't want to miss Benjo's last night in town. If he was truly quitting poker media, it was going to be one hell of a bender. Normally, I tell my friends to fuck off because work always took precedent in the summers, but in this instance, I was very conflicted.

If I had to cover a final table that included Hellmuth, there was no way I was going to do that sober. With a hotel across the street secured, I said hello to my dear friend Mr. Percosett. We've had lots of fun times together and he makes any dull situation extraordinary. I was cooking on Addys and Percs, which is the equivalent of eating chocolate-dipped bacon -- it tastes so fucking good at the time, but in the end it will catch up to you and you'll end up like bloated Elvis -- a career pill popper who croaked in the bathroom and found face down, ass up after choking on his own vomit.

Fuck Elvis, I thought. I can dodge bullets just like my pal Phil Hemlluth. With the warm fuzzies exploding through my body, I hung out at the final table and shifted back and forth between the press area inside the Mothership, and hiding my press badge to embed myself in the audience. I found a contingency of Russians sitting in the corner, including my buddy Ilya, who was sitting with his fellow countryman. Ilya gave me the straight dope on his friend and colleague Mikhail Savinov. What I liked about Savinov was his graphic t-shirt with a silhouette of Bob Dylan. Savinov also sported Chuck Klosterman glasses and looked more like a hipster riding the L train to Williamsburg, than one of the unknown (yet dangerous) Russians who invaded the WSOP this summer.

I was supposed to meet Benjo at 11pm at the Gold Coast at our usual spot where our friends hang out (or hide out) after a long day of working at the Rio. At that point, six players were still left at the final table including Hellmuth. I decided to take off to drink, and monitor the situation via Twitter and my CrackBerry. My friends Shirley and Halli came to get me in the pressbox. Shirley was all smiles after she chopped a single table HORSE satellite for the 10K Championship (set for the next day). Halli is one of her good friends and travel companions. Our common friends like to joke that they are lesbians because making fun of lesbians is always fucking hysterical (until one of them kicks you in the nuts, but that's a story for another time). They are not lovers, but sometimes I like to beat a joke to death, like those dead horses they whip the hell out of and then grind up the meat for burgers in the Poker Kitchen.

I headed to the Gold Coast with my fake-lesbian friends and found Benjo sitting at the bar in between KevMath and AlCantHang. Talk about a motley crew that sounded like the opening to a bad ethnic joke -- "So I walk into a dive bar with a parrot on my shoulder and two lesbians, and see KevMath, AlCantHang, and an angry Frenchman sitting at the bar..."

The booze began to flow. I ate more Percosetts and that's when the memory became a little -- sketchy. I watched KevMath play video Keno. That's been his latest vice and we recorded a Tao of Pokerati episode (click here to listen to that epic recording) in which KevMath explained his simple, and profitable system to destroying Keno. The gang at The Micros poked fun at Erik Seidel being a cyborg (Seiborg), but after watching KevMath interact with the video poker/Keno machine, I was convinced he was a real cyborg. It's true KevMath is half-man, half-machine. I saw it with my own eyes. No wonder he never sleeps. He might be the only one I know who sleeps less than me.

I also watched in astonishment as WhoJedi employed KevMath's Keno System and walked away $500 richer. This shit works. We're going to publish a book (I get to write the introduction) as soon as I introduce KevMath to my buddy Professional Keno Player Neil Fontenot and they hammer out the final draft.

I got word that Hellmuth was about to be heads-up against Eric Rodawig. I smoked a joint in the parking lot and hit up the 24-our store inside the Rio. I wandered into the press area and got made fun of by the Poker Cougar.

"You must be high and have the munchies," she said.

"Is the bag cookies and the Chunky bar the dead give away?"

"Well that, and you smell like a skunk."

Hellmuth was down 3-1 in chips when heads-up started. The match didn't last very long and Rodawig prevailed. The entire crowd gave Hellmuth a warm ovation as he shook hands with the new champion and rushed out of the Mothership. I did the same and returned to the Gold Coast with WhoJedi. We joked that we'd find Timtern playing Pai Gow, but when we walked into the casino, we spotted him at the end of the craps table.

As I got closer, Chip Bitch magically appeared. I was still ten feet away and could smell the booze emanating from his mouth. He gave me an awkward, drunken half-hug. He was half in the bag when the roller at the end of the table tossed the dice and it danced across the felt. Craps out.

"Fuccccccccck," bemoaned Timtern as he pointed at a wobbling Chip Bitch. "That fucker cost me $300!"

"Time for Pai Gow," I said and pointed to an empty table.

It was a few minutes before 4am. We had the entire table to ourselves: myself, Timtern, WhoJedi, ChipBitch, and Homer. Apparently, Chip Bitch knew one of the Pai Gow dealers -- an elderly, saucy Asian woman with decades of experience dealing to schwilly idiots.

"How you doing?" she asked, like a loving aunt.

"Great!" screamed Chip Bitch. "I fucked a stripper the other night."

"Shut up!" the dealer scolded him, obviously not approving of his use of profanity. "So, how much did that cost you?"

Zing! She knew how to handle our crocked crew and dished the shit right back at us.

Whenever Homer, who is from the U.K., spoke to the dealer, she said something like, "You talk funny."

"That's because he's drunk," I muttered. "And he's from Australia."

Somewhere along the way, Homer and WhoJedi spread the rumor (which became fact by the end of the night), that they were long lost brothers from Madagascar. This might sound incredibly stupid and childish while you're reading this, but if you're crocked to the tits on rum and pharmies, you'd find it absolutely hysterical.

When Chip Bitch tried to hit on the dealer, she scolded him, "My son is older than you. I'm 61."

"61?" slurred Chip Bitch. "How about 61 going on 69!"

Oh, Lord. We were destined to get 86'd. If we weren't spewing chips, they would have kicked us out hours earlier. Especially after Chip Bitch screamed "If I lose this hand, I'll suck my own cock!"

At that point the saucy dealer begged Timtern to smack Chip Bitch every time he cursed.

"Tim," she pleaded, "Hit Chip Bitch, please. Hit him hard!"

We created a special low-hand bonus. If you drew a 9-high Pai Gow, then everyone at the table paid you $5. If you got a 10-high Pai Gow, then you collected $1 from everyone at the table. Over the course of four plus hours, the low bonus hit only once when Homer squeezed out an abysmal 10-low.

The oddest thing we saw at the Gold Coast at 5am (and believe me there's tons of weird shit to see at that bewitching hour) was the lanky Asian man who wandered around all of the gaming tables with his arms folded. He constantly sweated our table and preferred to stand right behind WhoJedi. He was visibly irked and rightfully so. WhoJedi had to say something to the pitposs and asked them to run off our only railbird. We had been loud, raucous, and belligerent -- easily the loudest gamblers in the pit -- and everyone wanted nothing to do with us, that is, except the weird Asian guy with the crossed arms. When the coffee stand opened up at 6am, I saw him starring at the assorted pastries in the display window with his arms crossed and giving the muffins the same zombie-like blank stare he gave us.

At one point, we all shipped a huge bet after the dealer busted with a Jack-high Pai Gow.

"This is an easy game," proclaimed WhoJedi.

"No it isn't," snapped our dealer. I knew what was up. She was a local and a total degen Pai Gow player herself. She only dealt Pai Gow to cover her massive losses. Deep down, she must have really hated our inebriated asses.

At some point, Chip Bitch knocked over Timtern's vodka-Red Bull and the floor handed us a towel to wipe down the table and clean up the cards. Their patience was growing thin.

By then, everything out of Chip Bitch's mouth was quote worthy and/or an incendiary f-bomb. But we finally reached the tipping point when a dealer in training sat down and asked us how we all knew each other.

"We're all brothers," I said with a straight face. "All from the same mother. Different father's, obviously."

"Yep, same momma," added Chip Bitch. "We've all tasted the same pubes on the way out."

The female pit boss was in stitches and couldn't stop laughing, but when she finally regained composure, she cut him off. She pointed to the haggard cocktail server and shook her head. We got cut off for an hour.

Penalty box. Wow, you really have to fuck up to get cut off at a Vegas casino, especially at the Gold Coast.

Shortly before 6am, I was falling asleep and actually nodded off for a few seconds at the table. I had two choices -- suck it up or eat more Adderall. I opted to eat an apple fritter and a big assed iced tea at the coffee stand. That perked me up a bit and kept me going until the buffet opened up at 7am.

Somehow, Timtern finagled us a couple of food comps for the buffet. I really think we got them because the pit boss wanted to get rid of us. Duran Duran's Hungry Like the Wolf blasted over the casino's sound system. I told everyone it was a sign to end the gambling session and go eat a shitty buffet. Half the group protested -- our one-hour penalty was about to be up.

"Only ten more minutes until we can drink again!"

Thank God AlCantHang wasn't feeling well and went to bed early. Otherwise, one of us would have died.

Alas, we gave up on the pits and shuffled toward the buffet, like a menacing hurricane about to reach landfall. We sorted out the comps at the cashier and cheered when we saw that they had a special -- $1 PBR. As the famous movie quote from Blue Velvet goes, "Heineken? Fuck that shit. Pabst Blue Ribbon!

I warned the hostess, "We're schwasted. Please seat us next to the crabbiest, grumpiest, bitchiest table of old people in the buffet."

"You just described everyone in here," she said without missing a beat.

I pulled out a $5 bill and handed it to her. "You fucking rock."

We were seated as close to the food as possible and drew scathing looks from the early bird octogenarians. They frowned every time we hooted and hollered. We filled our plates with horrendous greasy breakfast food stuffs. I would never eat the Gold Coast buffet while sober, but while cooking on a pharmie cocktail, stoned to the tits on a strain called Hulk Kush, and rum pumping through my system, I didn't think twice as I devoured a mound of bacon and a biscuit so fucking hard, it could be used as a doorstop.

Why? As Otis would say, "This is what we do."

I don't remember anything after the plate of bacon.

I had a dream that I was in a random hotel room somewhere with a maid pounding on my door, except it wasn't a dream, it was reality, just a few hours ago. My head was throbbing and I was disoriented in a random hotel room and couldn't figure out what day of the week it was or even the actual date. On the night stand was a plethora of orange and white pills, a couple of Gold Coast chips, and a sports betting ticket from the Rio. Apparently I had bet on the Colorado Rockies and had no idea if that game already happened, or if it was yet to happen.


  1. Awesome; this is the writing I remember.

  2. one of your best, Pauly.

    this is a top notch line, by the way: "Alas, we gave up on the pits and shuffled toward the buffet, like a menacing hurricane about to reach landfall."

  3. What makes reading this even more awesome is the fact that I was present for part of it. I was sitting next to WhoJedi when he hit the Keno!!!

  4. This was such a great night. If only I could remember some more the one-liners we had.

  5. I sort of remember nights like this...

    Seeya in a couple weeks.

  6. Last paragraph really makes me ponder.