Las Vegas, NV
"He's got what Bob Voulgaris would describe as the 'SICKNESS'," explained Jess Welman the other night as we chatted about the gambling proclivities of a colleague.
It sounds like the ambiguous disease in a zombie flick, or the name of a really bad wrestling character. In the parlance of our postmodern poker world, the Sickness is used to describe degenerate gambling.
Personally, I don't have the Sickness per se in gambling terms, rather I have the Sickness in life terms. I'm addicted to life and adventure. The reason I steer toward inebriation and intoxicants is to spice up mundane, everyday things. Yes, booze and pills are the hot sauce of life. With just one sprinkle -- KAPLOW!!! The ordinary becomes extraordinary.
But I'm a rare example. I usually have some semblance of self-control. My bank account is proof. Sadly, I know friends who if they had the same amount of money in their savings fund, would blow it all this summer. They have no control and will spend every cent out of their pocket and then when they go busto, will ask to borrow money from you, which completely sucks because now you're funding your friends' degeneracy -- without getting the benefits of the gambler's rush. Without naming any names, at least a dozen "pros" I know went home until the Main Event after blowing their wads after almost a month of lighting their money on fire. A couple of colleagues I share the pressbox with are already over budget with three weeks to go.
The Sickness. It's what made men like Steve Wynn billionaires, who are able to afford to buy millions of dollars worth of artwork and punch a hole in a Picasso -- and not sweat it.
The Sickness. It's what sucks every penny, nickel, dime, quarter, and silver dollar out of old ladies' purses as they foolishly chase another slots jackpot.
The Sickness. It's what calls out to you in the middle of the night, like an alluring siren inducing you to go on mega-monkey-blackjack tilt and you piss away last week's paycheck before the shoe is even over.
The Sickness. It's what draws thousands of broke dicks to the epicenter of the World Series of Poker. Even though ESPN airs a "disclaimer" from Gary Loveman during WSOP broadcasts, the entire operation gets wealthier every day and profits due to the Sickness.
The Sickness. It's the darkside of gambling that rears its ugly head from time to time and will bite off chunks of your flesh if you're not paying attention, so you'll have to spend the rest of the summer wandering around the hallways of the convention center with pus oozing out of a gaping wound.
The Sickness. It's been the downfall of the greats of the game. Every day I see a dozen or so "pros" with at least seven figures in winnings, wandering the hallways with the humiliating aura of a beaten-down gambler hovering over their heads.
The Sickness. If Phil Ivey every hits rock bottom in the gutter, it won't happen because of action on the felt, rather, it'll be because of his life leaks off the felt and in the pits and sportsbooks.
The Sickness. It's been going around the Rio the last four weeks. There's no immunizations to prevent you from becoming infected. There's no way to avoid coming in contact with it. Your only hope is having a strong mind and the determination to not pull out every dollar out of your wallet (or purse, or in some cases with random Russian dudes -- a satchel).
I succumbed to the Sickness on Saturday. It's sort of like when you catch a cold because your immune system has been run down. In my case, my degen immune system was low, which is why I was temporarily afflicted with the Sickness, similar to a 24-hour flu. Alas, it only take a few hours to lose your mud in Vegas. I'm lucky I only lost $305.
I'm an emotional person, but hide it well. My mother swears I get it from my father's side of the family. You can't be McCatholic unless you're consumed with an Irish temper and a penchant for the bottle. Of course if my old man were still around, he'd cite my mother's Asian heritage as the reason why I'm prone to the Sickness. Alas, I got the crazy Asian gambler mixed with an Irish temper pumping through my bloodstream. I'm doomed.
I could list a Jay-Z inspired list of 99 problems (but the bitch ain't one) that were tilting me on Day 26 of the WSOP, but I'm supposed to be a professional and rise about the bullshit and my own mental trappings. Most of the time, we imprison ourselves into our own minds' solitary confinement, which is why people often misread simple situations and blow it up into a drama of epic high school proportions. However, on the flip side, we often ignore the lunatic (as the Pink Floyd lyric suggests -- "there's someone in my head, and it's not me") roaming around and don't lock him up when he needs to be tasered and tossed into mental jail, where he can't do any more harm to the rest of your internal voices. The last thing anyone needs in Las Vegas is to have the lunatic seize control of your decision-making processes. Because when he does, you lose out to the Sickness and it's only a matter of time before you disappear into the darkness of the abyss and you move into a sister property of the Redneck Rivieria to work as a smurfer, someone who drives around picking up cold meds so they can cook up a fresh batch of homemade meth to sell to hundreds of thousands of local video poker addicts.
I dropped $400 in 6 hands at a $10 Pai Gow table. The waitress didn't even arrive yet with my rum drink before I dusted off all of my chips and wanted to gouge out the eyes of the Pai Gow dealer with one of the worst rugs I've ever seen sitting on the top of his head, like a skunk with curls died in the middle of skull-fucking him. I suspected my dealer was a Little Richard impersonator back in Hong Kong, but acted like a total docuhenozzle when he scooped up my chips.
"Sir, I was rooting for you to win," he said in a low voice as he snatched away four greenbirds.
"Fuck you, dickwad. I don't need a fucking support group. I need you to cut this stupid act and deal yourself a Jack-high Pai Gow. Do me a favor and shut the fuck and deal the cards faster, you twat-stain!"
The Sickness had taken root and I have no idea if I actually blurted out my internal dialogue, or if I just muttered that tirade under my breath. The Sickness makes me say strange things. The Sickness transformed me into a blathering degen idiot, like TJ Cloutier chasing boxcars at the end of a craps table.
Two incidents happened that nearly caused me to flip over the Pai Gow table in an utter rage. First, I accidentally spilled my drink (when it finally arrived). It was in late afternoon and I wasn't even drunk yet and very sober compared to 12 hours earlier when I sat in the same seat and was running back and forth successfully two-tabling Pai Gow. Change100 still is astonished I didn't get 86d for running back and forth on Friday night. But on Saturday afternoon, I was on such tilt from dusting off my stack that I spazzed out and knocked over my drink. The pit boss rushed over and pulled the large ice cubes off the felt and threw them under the table. He pulled out a rag and quickly wiped down the felt as Little Richard in the box squealed about not getting the cards wet.
Two hands later, with my last $10 in the betting circle, the dealer mucked my hand before I had a chance to look at my cards. He called over a different pit boss and explained what happened, and the pit boss glared at him like he was an imbecile who shat himself and wiped it on his face.
"Worst. Dealer. Ever." I snarked in my Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons voice. "He mucked my hand before I had a chance to see it. That's the most unprofessional move I've ever seen."
Of course, the dealer fanned out his hand -- Queen-high Pai Gow -- and I had to take a deep breath before I flipped over the table and pulled the shitty hair plugs off of the dealer's dense head. I couldn't control the metamorphosis from the happy-go-lucky guy into a Hulk-like monster afflicted with the Sickness.
Hulk. Must. Smash. Pai. Gow. Dealer.
I walked away from that table and scouted out a new table. I sat next to a local with a raspy-voice. She chain-smoked Benson and Hedges and gave me shit every time I didn't play the Fortune Bonus. I laughed. Normally I would have kicked her in the vag, but that time I was on suck mega-Pai Gow Tilt that I shrugged it off.
I also reached into my pocket. I didn't pull out cash. Instead, I said hello to Mr. Percosett. If I was going to sit next to an old lady seven months away from speaking with a voice box, I needed to be faded to the tits so I didn't get tossed into lockup for assaulting an old lady (herself afflicted with the Sickness for two decades or more) for giving me guff about not playing the bonus
That's it. I know I didn't write a lick about Day 26 of the WSOP, but I'm not losing any sleep over that. Luckily, you can head over to RISE Poker and check out Change100's quickie wrap of the day's events -- WSOP Day 26 Recap.
Follow @taopauly for Twitter updates throughout the day.
Also, help support indie writers and buy my books: Lost Vegas: The Redneck Riviera, Existentialist Conversations with Strippers and the World Series of Poker, and my recently released novel, Jack Tripper Stole My Dog. Both are also available for Kindles and iPads.