Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dispatches from Las Vegas Vol. 1: Origins

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

It's so rare that I don't go to Las Vegas on a business trip these days.

Las Vegas used to be my playground, my own personal Xanadu where I can run rampant down the Strip, ingest copious amounts of illegal substances, act like a drunken British soccer (er, football) hooligan, and blow endless amount of money on -EV games (including but not limited to lap dances) without incurring the sanctimonious barbs of my friends, family, and society as a whole.

Something happened to my friends about a decade ago. I guess you can say that they "grew up" as they left their roaring 20s behind and got themselves bogged down in careers, relationships, family building, and mortgage payments. For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to get my "core group" of friends together for a Las Vegas trip. Yet, that was always met with resistance.

After 9/11 any hopes of a Vegas trip were out of the question. My friends (and I) who lived in New York City underwent many significant emotional changes. Some of them withdrew and cowered in fear, while others embraced life and left the city. Even though none of us were directly affected by that day of infamy, it definitely sits heavy on all of our minds. In short, my friends became splintered and rightly so. It would take another two or so years before I stumbled upon a new group of friends -- internet friends -- about 20 or 30 of whom knew me only through my poker blog... Tao of Poker. It's been around since 2003 and I'll never forget the day that Iggy and I bumped into each other in the cyber world in the fall of 2003. Some blog nerds would say... the rest if history.

This weekend originated out of a brotherly trip. Derek and I specifically went to Las Vegas twice a year to gamble at the sports book... March Madness and the NFL season. We picked the second weekend in December because it was dirt cheap but gave us plenty of opportunity to bet on the NFL as the season winds down. We were degen sports bettors but had acquired the poker bug.

Something happened at the airport in Philadelphia in September 2004. I was saying good-bye to BG after my brother and I drove him from AlCantHang's suburban hamlet and a raging party once known as "The Bash at the Boathouse". Derek, BG, and myself were in attendance as special guests of AlCantHang. At the airport, BG asked when we'd hang out next. I mentioned the December trip with Derek. He pretty much said right then and there. "I'm coming and Bobby is coming too."

That was way before Bobby Bracelet received his moniker from Derek. He was just Bobby aka BG's younger brother back then. As we shook hands and said good-bye at the Philly airport, the trip was set -- the Nardi and McGuire brothers would be heading to Las Vegas in December.

We told AlCantHang and he mentioned that his posse was interested. Next thing I knew it, I got an email from Grubby. He wanted in as well. Then Otis sent me an email. His G-Vegas crew expressed an interest in going. I told the guys in my NYC home game at the Blue Parrot, and a couple of them like F-Train tagged along. I consulted with a couple of locals (Felicia, Linda Geenen, Poker Prof, and Flip Chip) and the next thing we knew -- the Prof had arranged a private tournament at Sam's Town. As the Prof said what sealed the deal was that the poker room manager, Dick Gatewood -- a 30 year veteran in the poker industry -- was an avid reader of Tao of Poker. He was more than thrilled to accommodate a three-table tournament for my friends.

And the Winter Gathering was born.

This is the sixth incarnation. People laugh. People cry. People lose their shirt. Some walk away big winners. Many have stories that they can never reveal to anyone and others do shit that's so infantile that they beg you not to write about it or post pictures. That's what Vegas does to you.

I have met hundreds of people through this December event including several folks whom I consider my closest friends. At times, the scene got a little too big, even for my lavish tastes. Over the last year or so, there were a few childish incidents and high school cafeteria bullshit that threatened the future of our vast and eclectic group. But in the end, the rotten apples and douchebag assholes have faded into oblivion.

At this point, this weekend is about connecting and re-connecting at a time where modern civilization is on the verge of collapsing. In the end... this trip, this gathering, this scene is a good thing. Why? Because this weekend is about friendships first and degeneracy second.

So here I am sitting in my hotel room at the luxurious Imperial Palace. The last time I stayed here, I got fined for trashing my hotel suite. I know that in about 12 hours, the bar downstairs will be a beacon of hope, promise, and goodwill. And the adjacent table games and poker room within earshot will be filled with cowboys and tourists who have no fuckin' idea what they are about to experience.

Hide the children. Grease your livers. Bloggers have returned to Las Vegas.

* * * * *

I am saddened that several of my close friends are unable to attend this year including the Nardi brothers. Y'all will be missed.

And you can always get real-time updates of the hijinks via Twitter. I'm @taopauly just in case you were wondering.

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker at All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

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