San Francisco, CA
Saturday morning. I sidestepped a German couple at the Aria and felt like the Joe Walsh song Life Is Good. On top of the world. Rested. Catching the first buzz of the day. Itching to gamble. In the previous years, I stayed up way too late raging hard on Friday night and staggered into the tournament on little to no sleep on Saturday at noon. This year I booked a room in the same casino where we played, so all I had to do was walk downstairs. Perfect scenario, especially if/when I busted early I could drop stuff off in my room, check the scores on a few games, then head back downstairs and sweat friends at the final table.
"I live in hotels, tear out the walls."
I woke up with college basketball on my mind. I placed a few bets on the UK-UNC game, schedule to tip off at Noon EST or at the horrendous 9am hour in Vegas, so I set my alarm in order to get a bet in. The first business of the day featured a quick meeting in front of the sports book. I felt confident with a hot tip from G-Rob.
"I watched every minute of every Kentucky game," explained G-Rob. "I watched every North Carolina game too. Seen every game both teams played. I'm telling you... Kentucky wins, covers, and the score will be low. Bet the under."
G-Rob spoke with the sincerity of a Sunday preacher, yet his assessment on the game seemed like a well-crafted pitch from slick boiler room stockbroker. It's hard to resist G-Rob because of his secret weapon -- perfectly coiffed hair. My brother Derek always suspected he was a member of a CIA black-op mind control project to keep the sheeple under constant hypnosis. With disdainful ignorance, I heeded G-Rob's advice and without hesitation I marched up to the window at the Aria's sports book.
I also tailed a college football pick from the legendary Johnny Detroit and bet Southern Mississippi +13.5 against the Houston Cougars. All of the so-called experts on the boob tube were all over the #6 ranked Cougars. The public was also betting Houston heavily, but the "Wiseguys" syndicate were all over Southern Miss. I trusted their intel and tailed their pick, rather than bet on the same side as the schwill-drinking, booger-eating, "Jersey Shore"-loving dickwads bumping chests in the sports book. Sometimes,you gotta fade the public.
"They say I'm crazy, but I'm having a good time."
The 8th Annual Winter Classic was hosted at the Aria's poker room for a second year in a row. The staff liked the gang at the WPBT so much (and tolerated all of our peculiar quirks) that they invited us back. Phil Ivey's high-roller's room was idle while we played and he was nowhere to be seen. Otis spotted him in Maccau earlier in the week, but if Ivey is the Ivey I know, he's been holed up in a nosebleed cash game with Chinese oligarchs. For the meantime, the only celebrity in the room was former L.A. Dodger pitcher Orel Hershiser. Ironically, he wouldn't be the only former big leaguer that bloggers would play cash games with someone in our crew.
Jordan pulled a few strings at Pokerist.com and secured a fistful of cash to sweeten the team last longer side bet. Teams were comprised of three players and the best team finish wins the motherload of cash. Change100 and Derek were my teammates on Tao of Fear. I had special hats made for the occasion which incorporated Tao of Fear's grey alien logo. The ETs live among us and have been assimilated for decades. They infiltrated the casino business as robotic-like Pai Gow dealers, surly doormen, and chefs manning omelet stations in the breakfast buffets.
WPBT OCHO - My Starting Table:The first thing I noticed... the majority of the field was relatively sober. AlCantHang didn't show up at the crack of dawn to force-feed Southern Comfort down the throats of a forty bloggers. In previous years, at least half the field was juiced up from pre-game cocktails or still drunk from a hell-raising bender from the night before trying to keep up with the AlCantHang Experience. Only one or two people had the zombie-like stare that you get when you stayed up all night gambling and lost all of your soul. One of them was Grubby. I was getting ready to crash around 4:30am when Grubby sent me a text wanting to degen it up. I politely declined in order to finish reading A Treatise on Money by John Maynard Keynes. In order to write a report for Tao of Fear, I plotted to crash a hedgefund mangers convention at the Venetian later that week, so I had to brush up on Keynesian economic theory in order to bullshit my way into the door.
Seat 1. (EMPTY)
Seat 2. BrainMC
Seat 3. Lightning36
Seat 4. AGSweep
Seat 5. Mrs. Chako
Seat 6. Falstaff
Seat 7. Kat
Seat 8. Yestbay
Seat 9. YOUR HERO
Seat 10. Jess Welman
Sorry for the tangent. Moving on...
Action progressed slowly for a blogger tournament. Aside from the lack of serious binge drinking, I suspected the field (save the few Cannucks who had access to online poker) was rusty in the wake of Black Friday. It had been almost 8 months since many of us played online poker on a regular basis. Fucking federales.
I had a copy of Gigli with me. I handed out the DVD as a joke during the first WPBT tournament at Sam's Town in 2004. The "Bennifer" movie is so appalling that it's a fitting departing gift for the first one out of the WPBT Winter Classic. Bill Rini took down the first Gigli, and it's become a tradition ever since. Unlike the posh "Hammer" trophy that Iggy spends big bucks to present to the winner, I paid next to nothing for the Gigli DVD. It cost $0.01 on Amazon. Serious. A fucking penny. It cost $3 to ship, though. Therein lies the hustle.
No one busted out in the first two levels. Yestbay came close in the first orbit when his Aces were snapped off by Mrs. Chako's set. He somehow managed not to go broke, but he found himself on life support. Mrs. Chako embarked on a heater and jumped out to an early lead in the opening level. She was a set monster and vacuumed up chips from everyone at my table. I evaded one of her traps when she flopped a set of 7s against my pocket 10s.
Once the third level began, I wondered when someone would bust. We had eight tables with only a couple of "shorties" including Shane Nickerson. That's when PokerVixen wandered over to collect her boobie prize. Even though she was wearing a Micros' "run good" t-shirt, she was jinxed because she had just given up her citizenship to that weird land to the north of us... "Canadia"... where its citizens interject the letter "u" into random words and also attempts to pass off "ham" as bacon.
I took out Yestbay and collected one of my favorite bounties to date -- a YES greatest hits CD. I was always above average, but I misplayed a couple of hands. I blame Jess Welman's radiance for my live "misclicks." I exposed my hand twice when action was still going. One time it cost me a chance to double up against Jess. And the other? It didn't matter because I ran into a cooler.
OhCaptain moved to my table after Yestbay busted. I only sat with him for a few hands before I got involved in a hand that marked my demise. Kat open-shoved. OhCaptain raised all-in. I had both him and Kat covered and I called with Kings. I think Kat held A-Q, but OhCaptain tabled Aces. Fuck me. Kings into Aces. Crippled. Two hands later I moved all in with 8d-7d. Jess Welman busted me and won my bounty -- an autographed copy of Jack Tripper Stole My Dog.
The funniest moment of the tournament occurred after a Grubby moved to our table. He had pounded Kettle and cranberry drinks for a few levels and was a little tipsy when he got to our table. On his elimination hand, he got it all-in against Jess. She busted him and Grubby stumbled over to shake her hand.
"Where's my bounty?" he blurted out.
A perplexed Jess smirked. "Wait, a second," she hollered, "where the heck is MY bounty?"
It took a few seconds before Grubby noticed his error. He apologized and said he had forgotten his bounty in his hotel room that he hadn't seen in days because he had been up for a couple of days chasing the progressive jackpot on Rockin' Olives slots at the Bellagio.
I was the first member of Tao of Fear to bust, but Derek and Change100 were knocked out in the next level. Our team was dunzo. At that point, I went to the bar and grabbed some grub before returning to the final table to sweat the action. I had just missed AlCantHang and Otis' elimination hands. With three to go, it was down to Timtern, Melissa Hayden, and quiet random guy that we later found out was Chilly's friend from St. Louis who had never played a live poker tournament before. Figures. Murphy's Law, right?
Timtern busted in third place and Melissa was heads-up against the random guy. She took him down to win the WPBT Winter Classic, and more importantly the trophy. She didn't really care about the money; rather, she really really wanted the trophy. Congrats!
"I'm just looking for clues at the scene of the crime."
After eight hours in the poker room followed up by an hour or so at the bar drinking overpriced beers, the time hath come to go slumming at the Imperial Palace. The IP used to be home base, but we opted to spend a few extra bucks and stay at the Aria this year and not worry about contracting Legionnaires Disease.
"It smells like socks and hairspray in there," said Joe Speaker as he took a long drag off a cigarette. He stood outside getting some fresh air because the IP was its usual zoo for a Saturday night. Dealertainers that were bad dopplegangers for Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift belted out popular songs. Bloggers milled around the pits and rubbed elbows with Budweiser slurping cowboys, hipsters dressed like cowboys, and meth-addled hookers dressed like David Bowie. AlCantHang held court at the Geisha Bar and kept the tab running. I stood around for about an hour saying nothing but just watching people, mostly of the Whiskey Tang variety. You learn a lot about humanity on a Saturday night in Vegas. You don't wander inside the IP unless you're looking for a cheap thrill. Hunter said it... buy a ticket, take the ride.
The IP was as low-brow as you can go for the Strip. The simplicity of the cheap thrill irked me. Maybe it was the putrid odor? JoeSpeaker was right. The IP reeked of sweaty socks and hairspray.
I bailed as soon as came to my senses. Playing heads-up middle-stakes Pai Gow at the swanky Aria seemed a thousand times more appealing. I didn't care if they the pit boss sent out a dealer who was a bot or alien. I just wanted to flee the IP before the rash on my forearm spread to other parts of my body.
"It's hard to leave when you can't find the door."
I gazed out the window of our 34th floor hotel room. The Palms was visible in the near distance.
"That's where Otis and Jose Canseco are," muttered Derek. He referenced the insane cash game that a few of the G-Vegas boys found themselves playing against Jose Canseco. The word "worst player" was a popular phrase used to describe the former baseball player. I only wished I jumped in a cab to the Palms instead of trying to go slumming with cowboys and hookers at the IP. I missed my opportunity at free money and lost a shot at padding my bankroll with steroid-induced Canseco bucks.
Sunday morning. A new day. I had finally gotten back on track at the sports book after a profitable Saturday. Kentucky only won by one and failed to cover 6, but I won the rest of my bets, including So. Miss upsetting Houston to win outright and cover. After a dismal start to the trip, I finish Saturday with a decent profit. I was pumped to make some more bets and hit up the sports book first thing on Sunday morning. The lines were already wrapped around the wall. I got word that the Wiseguys were betting Carolina big all over town. Carolina, led by Cam Newtown, was originally a 2.5-point underdog but once word got out that Tampa Bay's QB Josh Freeman was sitting out, the line jumped to Carolina -1.5. I bet Carolina along with New Orleans, the Jets, the Pats, and Atlanta. I had a few other teasers, but those were not as important as my monstrous bet on the Pats laying 20.5 against the winless Indianapolis Colts. When I showed F Train the ticket, he shook his head then pointed at his crotch and uttered, "Huevos."
"Si. Mucho grande huevos."
The rest of my friends thought I was crazy. Crazy? Maybe. Stupid? Definitely. Last year, I told Dawn Summers to bet her final table winnings on the Pats. She didn't listen to me and missed a chance to turn $1,500 into $3,000. This year, I was riding the Pats again. My blind faith in Tom Brady and Bill Bellichek became my downfall. I'll spare you the bad beat story, but New England had the game covered going into the 4th quarter before all hell broke loose and they blew a three touchdown lead. I lost my big bet and was scrambling the rest of the day to try to get unstuck. I whiffed on Atlanta and lost an impulse bet on the Cowboys. The Jets won and when I cashed that ticket, I let it ride on the Saints. I doubled down on the Sunday Night Football game hoping it would help cover the day's losses.
We watched the game inside the Skybox sports bar adjacent to the sports book. The staff had no clue what to expect from our group which bum rushed them as soon as the doors opened. I greased the staff and the found us a nice spot in the corner. Jordan secured $1,000 from Pokerist to fund the Sunday debauchery. $1,000 lasted just under an hour before we had to start paying for stuff by ourselves.
The highlight of the day was the intricate cake that Pokerist surprised us with. The cake cost $500 and took up the entire table. Classy. The cake tasted good and it was the only thing I actually enjoyed on Sunday while sweating the games. Losing the big Pats bet put me in a bad mood and nearly killed my spirit. The cake helped me rally and I was ready for the next item on our agenda... the half-marathon.
"Lucky I'm sane after all I've been through."
The plan was simple... sweat the first half of the SNF game at Mandalay Bay, then cheer on our friends at the finish line of the half-marathon. It didn't occur to me the logistical nightmare of hosting a 44,000 person race. Mandalay Bay was packed but sort of looked like a refugee center. Friends and family of the runners were scattered throughout the casino as they tried to stay warm.
Heather and April found a spot in the middle of Las Vegas Blvd near the front of Mandalay Bay. About 15-20 of us stood and watched random runners jog by us. Derek hung over the rail and smoked a cigarette, while StB pounded a beer. It would have been a perfect spot to burn down a doobie, but there was an undercover police car nearby.
In order to keep warm, I blurted out random things to runners as they passed us. I can't recall most of what I said, but all I know was that by that point of the night, I was roasted, faded, and drunk. Grange95 had a few pops in him and he kept the chatter lighthearted. The guy in the Borat costume passed us and all he wore was a green thong. Many other runners took the opportunity to don superhero costumes, wear pink tutus, and dress up like Elvis (or is it Elvi?).
Mrs. Otis posted Otis' split times on facebook. We got word he was a couple of miles away. I told everyone it was a perfect time to practice our chant, so we belted out "O-tis! O-tis! O-tis!" We were loud and in tune. All we had to do was wait.
I spotted Poker Peaker whizzing by. At first I didn't think it was him until I recognized the Colorado flag symbol on his running shirt. He posted the fastest time out of the group. Bad Blood flew by us not much longer and barely looked like he had broken a sweat. We wondered about Chako, Mattazuma, G-Rob, Curtis, and of course Otis.
We almost missed Otis. I knew he was wearing a green fluorescent shirt and we had an approximate time he'd be near us, but that was it. Luckily, he came to us when he spotted Grange or Drizz's head on the rail. He snuck up on us with a flyby and we hesitated a few seconds before everyone belted out the chant.
"O-tis! O-tis! O-tis! Oooo-tis!"
He ran for a few seconds than thrust his arms in the air forming a fluorescent green V. It's something I'll never forget. The V. Otis had been through hell the previous week, yet that did not deter him from completing a task he set out to do. After 13 exhausting miles, he neared the finish line -- something both tangible and personal. His resplendent V piercing through the dark, freezing night is one of the most inspiring symbols I had ever seen in Las Vegas.
"Life's been good to me so far."
To be continued...