San Francisco, CA
Several hours after the marathon, I found myself in a late-night jam session at the Monte Carlo poker room. The session musicians included Dr. Chako, Iggy, G-Rob, Otis, Marty, Poker Peaker, Bad Blood, and Drizz.
Here's the setlist...
12/4/11 - Monte Carlo Poker Room, Las Vegas, NVI dropped two buy-ins... one each to Otis and G-Rob. Fucking G-Rob would open by sliding a stack of redbirds over the betting line. $100 bet in a 1/3 game? Yep. It was one of those nights when the dealers loved us or hated us. Whenever a new dealer sat down in the box, everyone pre-toked the dealer at least $1, sometimes more. Whenever Otis dragged a pot, he showered the dealer with every white $1 in his newly acquired stack -- which usually amounted to a tip anywhere from $8 to $10. G-Rob convinced another dealer that he not only owned a nougat farm, but that Iggy was actually former NHL stars Zigmund Palffy. To which I said, "Ziggy? He's no Guy LaFleur."
Set 1: Possum, Nougat Farm > Extra Large Aspirin > Pillow Talk, Danny England Ain't from England, Madras > Marty Ain't Russian > Madras "It's a drink, it's a rug, it's a shirt" Jam > Marty Borrows*, Ziggy Stardust > Iggy's Toothache > Pusherman, Otis Tries to Stand Up^ > Otis Sticks to Beer**, Aces High, Antelope
Encore: Suzy Greenberg > Madras Reprise
* Last time played 12/5/2008
^ Otis solo acoustic
** First time played
Oh, and we played some poker too. Biggest pot of the night? Three-way all-in on the flop. Set over set against a flush draw. Iggy's set of Aces held up. Drizz doubled him up and Bad Blood was felted. Drizz said that if he had won that monsterpotten, then he would have had enough money for his own private lap dance for a month. I was confused on the math, then again, strippers in Minnesota must be dirt cheap. As my brother aptly said, "Strippers without teeth cost a lot less."
Las Vegas is a city built on cliches. The biggest cliche of the weekend? Four New Yorkers eating faux-NYC-style pizza in the bowels of City Center.
I knew it was too good to be true, but a leggy model was fixated on me as she walked through Cosmo. As a rule of thumb, any woman that makes eye contact with me after Midnight in Vegas is almost always a working girl or a Mossad agent. She kept starring at me in an extremely uncomfortable manner as she got closer and closer. She passed us, stopped on a dime, and whirled around.
"Where did you get the pizza?" she asked.
My brother pointed at the unidentified hallway across from the pool table. She mumbled "thanks" and sprinted (in high heels) to the secret pizza joint that sold over-priced slices, yet was the closest attempt at NY-style pizza that I devoured in all of Las Vegas. I had heard about the secret pizza place for a few months, but had never visited it mainly because I usually do everything possible to avoid the Strip. April and Mo discovered it earlier in the trip and gave us perfect directions on how to find it. The pizza place with no name. Open til 5am. What more could you ask for?
My brother noted that four New Yorkers were chowing down on slices -- the both of us, FTrain and Timtern. We had become a cliche of cliches. The pizza wasn't even that good, but I was schwilly after a long day and night of gambling and consumption that I was thrilled to find any sort of food substance at City Center that cost under $10.
The worst part of the secret pizza excursion was the art vending machine debacle. I heard about the different vending machines in Cosmo that offered up pieces of artwork for as little as $5. I was a little schwasted when I saw F Train walk up to an old-school cigarette machine that had been refurbished to house the special art. I thought the machine was selling decks of cards with different themes. I saw "abstract oil painting" and thought a fancy deck of cards would make a nice stocking stuffer for the holidays. I pulled a $5 bill out of my pocket and jammed it into the slot. I tugged on the handle, but to my dismay, that style was sold out. I grabbed an adjacent handle -- also of the "abstract" genre -- and I heard a large thud. I reached into the bowels of the machine and pulled out a block of painted wood.
"What the fuck? I just got hustled by a fucking vending machine."
The group did nothing to hide their laughter. I was the consummate Vegas veteran yet I got my ass handed to me. The machines won. Vegas won. Me? I was humiliated beyond belief. I survived seven WSOPs which amounted to seven summers of sheer torture. I wrote a book about the surviving the murky world of the poker industry, yet I could not evade the classic "Las Vegas hustle." So, I stood in the Cosmo with a painted piece of wood as I could hear the entire choir of angels in heaven jeering me. The gambling gods have a unique sense of humor, so much so, that I owe someone a swift kick in the junk.
Hustled again by Vegas. When will I ever learn? Next year, we should move the WPBT to Reno. At least that way if I get hustled again, I could just jump in Lake Tahoe and drown myself.
Iggy told me about the drunk in the Mickey Mouse costume panhandling on the Strip while drinking liquor from a bottle. The only street people I came across was a busker on the pedestrian bridge connecting Crystals to the Cosmo. I heard a raspy, young female voice singing along to an acoustic guitar. She looked more like a neo-punk rocker than a earthy-crunchy hippie chick, and she wasn't what you'd call... good. But, she sang out of tune and played anyway. After I ate pizza and got hustled by the old "piece-of-painted-wood-in-a-vending-machine" trick, I wanted to return to Aria and drown my sorrows at the sports book bar. I still had a few drink tickets left over. On our way back to the Aria, the same punk girl was sitting on the bridge and butchering a Tom Waits song.
"You should tip her a nug," whispered my girlfriend.
I had some Lemon Kush in my pocket and decided to do the right thing. Pay it forward. I slowly walked in front of her. She had her eyes closed but opened them as soon as she smelled the Lemon Kush.
"Here," I said.
She stopped playing. "Really?"
I nodded, handed her the nug, and continued along my way.
"Ohhhh. Myyyy. Gawd! So fucking awesome! Awesome!"
I heard her saw "awesome" at least four more times as we walked away. She was so stunned by the heady tip that she stopped playing, and thereby, stopped butchering the horrendous cover. Tom Waits would be proud.
Not everything in life can be summed up in a nifty narrative or setlist. So many inside jokes happened during my time in Vegas that I could write 15,000 words and yet, the situation would be funny for only a few of you. Sometimes some things are just left unsaid. We came. We saw. We conquered. But most of those things aren't fodder for social media and arcane trip reports. My friends would lose their spouses, their houses, their jobs. Dignity? We all checked that at the door as soon as we arrived in Sin City.
With that said, here's a random list of orphaned lines/sentences that missed the cut from the other parts of Ocho - WPBT....
- I spent a good hour talking about refs fixing basketball games with Pokah Dave and Grange95. Grange used to ref high school hoops and shared some perspective on the mentality of the game from the zebra's eyes. It also made me sick to my stomach to think about how many more NBA games were "manipulated" over the years. If you believe that crooked ref Tim Donaghy was an "isolated incident" then there's a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you. Oh, and Dick Bavetta? I'm looking at you pal!
- So if Texas April now lives in California, and California April now lives in Maine, then who lives in Texas?
- Derek hustled G-Rob, Change100, and I at a video version of Greyhound racing. The Monte Carlo had a silly video game in which you could place bets on different virtual dogs. We realized that you didn't have to play the game for a race to go off -- so we decided to bet on each individual race that was comprised of six different dogs. You basically picked a number and shouted it for about thirty seconds before a winning greyhound was determined. That kept us entertained for about thirty minutes before we realized that Derek was winning all of our money. That inspired one of my favorite quotes from the entire weekend: "It's hard to handicap fake dogs."
- My second favorite quote? I don't know who said originally said it (so please let me know, so I can give you proper attribution), but FTrain referenced the gem one late night: "If it's after Midnight in Vegas and you're smoking a cigarette while carrying a baby... then you're definitely white trash."
- This is not a WPBT note, rather a general Vegas observation, but I fucking hate it when I'm trying to grab a cab in front of a casino and a doorman asks me where I'm going. I know he's doing it to trying to hustle a few bucks just in case I'm going to a strip club, but to hell with their intrusive antics. I once pissed off a doorman at the Rio over the summer when he asked me where I was headed. "I'm going to a new club," I said. "It's called None of Your Fucking Business." In the last year or so, I have been lying to the doormen, then correcting the destination to the driver as soon as the door closes. Most Vegas cabbies actually like me more when I tell them what I did. Mr. Funk (@LVCabbieChronicles) would be pleased at how I've been treating nosey doormen. Hey, my destination is an intimate exchange between me and my cabbie. Everyone else can bugger off. And if growing up in NYC taught me anything, you NEVER give the driver your exact destination especially when it's going to a residence. It's always wise to ask to get dropped off a block away or give them an address somewhere nearby. Vegas is so large that it's hard to get them to drop you off a block from a casino or the airport. But even then, I try to give a fake airline. "I'm flying on Blue Star airline. It's near the JetBlue counter."
My brother published his quarterly post, which happens to be a recap of his WPBT adventures. Derek rarely writes, but his trip report are among my favorites to read. Check out... Holiday Classic Recap: Words With Friends.
And you can also read Part 1 and Part 2 of my series titled Ocho - WPBT. Until next year, I bid you farewell...