The First 17 Hours Or So

Tuesday, December 13th, 2005, 6:48 pm

I wanted to go to Vegas, meet lots of fantastic people, and play a little poker. I went three-for-three. I knew there wouldn’t be enough hours in the day to do and see everything I wanted, especially with my body demanding a few hours shuteye every 30 hours or so. But, man, did I have a hell of a time.

I’ll just move along chronologically since otherwise I’ll forget even more stuff that happened. After work Thursday I packed, gave the cats a cheery wave goodbye, and headed to my brother’s place. NPR had two very good documentaries about John Lennon back-to-back, hard to believe he died 25 years ago. And that I remember that day. Time does tend to slip by when we’re not paying attention and living out our little lives.

Anyway, the narrator of one of the shows talked about how she lived in the same part of NYC as Lennon, and how one day she sat down in a restaurant for a bowl of soup and a few stools down there’s John Lennon, also having a bowl of soup. This sort of thing happens in New York more often than, say, Pittsburgh–going about your business and crossing paths with one of the most famous human being on the planet going about his/her business.

Anyway, I got to my brother’s house and the weather outside was on its way to becoming frightful. We decided to go on a quick beer run, and as we got in the car a few random flakes started gently falling around us. By the time we got the beer and headed home the roads were already covered and slick. By nine or so Ryan’s wife Carolyn got a call from her district to say that school would be on a 2-hour delay–at least. It looked like the drive to the airport would be a world-class pain in the ass.

But before we turned in Ryan and I played a little online poker, just to sharpen our, heh heh, skills. I’ve been in a slump lately, but I ended with a good taste in my mouth when I posted a 25BB win thanks to aces (twice), kings (twice), and a rivered full house than made the other guy the (not) nut flush. These are the times when I love poker, when the deck hits me in the face and I don’t have to make hard decisions.

To bed. And thence to wake, as Ryan knocked on the door at 5AM to say that we’d gotten about 7 inches overnight but the roads were in good shape. And they were. Little or no trouble getting to the airport. The second I parked the car I let out an audible sigh of relief. Then I saw a plane roaring off into the sky and my knees got a little wiggly.

But what’s a little irrational fear in the face of predawn drinking? Ryan and I found a bar, ordered a big breakfast of eggs, bacon, ham, and hash browns, and washed it down with, let’s see…two, three…four Yuenglings. By the time we went to our gate I would’ve taken the controls myself. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t a bit squirrely at takeoff, but once we got off the ground I was OK. I had to visit the rear of the plane a few times, but that was a small price to pay. Especially as I had an aisle seat.

We landed, deplaned, walked into the terminal and there’s the ting-a-ling of slot machines, manned and womanned by those too eager to wait for their cab to the casino or folks unable to make a clean cut and leave Vegas behind. And cowboys, cowboys to the left, cowboys to the right , well-brushed Stetsons and piepan belt buckles everywhere you looked.

(A mid-post prop bet–what’s the over/under on “Brokeback Mountain” references in blogger recaps? I set the line at 27).

We were taken to the Imperial Palace by apparently the only reticient cabbie in Vegas. We strode through the doors…well, we couldn’t “stride” because there was yellow tape that kept you from walking through the rightmost outer door and more yellow tape blocking the leftmost inner door (perhaps someone with an extra-long surfboard suddenly turned around in between?) so we had to serpentine through into the casino. All those flashing lights and bells and whistles…and there’s Tina Turner dealing blackjack!

A brief word on the IP’s “Legends In Concert” show, which I didn’t see but I did look at the poster and saw the promos on TV–the guy who impersonates Michael Jackson looked so much like him I almost wanted to call the cops. Now that’s an interesting entry on a resume.

Anyway, we got in line to check in…and who should go walking by but AlCantHang himself. Here we are among the bright lights and the cacophony of slot machines and suddenly there’s a familiar face. I was already in line and couldn’t leap out to intercept, plus he was headed for the door at a good pace (and in a straight line). No matter, I knew there would be time to get with everyone later.

To our room, which had a balcony opening out onto…the parking lot. But we did have a nice view of the mountains, which was fine by me. We unpacked some gear, grabbed some money, and headed out the door as quickly as our travel-weary bodies allowed. We went down to register for our Player Cards, and on the elevator ride down a couple who was checking out asked if we wanted some free drink coupons. “You betcha!” we said, not knowing that we wouldn’t even use our own coupons before it was time to leave.

I didn’t know where anyone was, tho I knew there would be a big blogger meet at the MGM around 8. We were both hungry, really hungry, and a burger sounded good. We found our way to the Burger Palace…well, we “found” our way after circling the goddam casino floor three times looking for a way up. The IP picked an inconvienient time to replace their escalators, though it was neat to see Archimedes’ principles (the pulley, the lever) used at such close range and on such a scale.

The Burger Palace was not as, well, palacial as we hoped. Ryan wanted a beer with his burger, I just wanted food and beer in any form. We had coupons for the Emperor’s Buffet and, what the hell, it was close, free, and we figured we’d get in and out quick. We walked past the poker room which was completely empty. Not a single person sitting down. Which seemed a bit ominous. At the buffet we handed over our coupons and did our grazing. For being free the buffet was OK. Though as I munched on what I think was a boneless rib of some sort I found myself thinking, “This is going to haunt you later in the day. Leave it and have a piece of chicken”.

Downstairs I looked at my cell phone list and tried to figure out who to call. In college I briefly majored in journalism, and I wrote for the school paper, and confronting me was the main reason I never pursued it as a career–I hate bothering people. Especially on the phone. The fact that about 95% of my work since college has involved me talking on the phone may in part help to explain my chronic depression and insomnia. I don’t like bothering people. Now, simply asking, “Yo, where you at?” might not strike you as pestering, but to me it was. So I figured that if I had to pester anyone it’s be Otis, especially after that retouched photo he sent me. From him I learned there was a gang at the Aladdin, and that’s where we headed.

I like to walk. Actually, I love it. I do my best thinking while taking a contemplative stroll through the woods or a park or even a shopping mall. But there’s not much contemplating to be done walking down the Strip, other than contemplating how goddam big these casinos are and how insignificant you are when compared to the titanic ambition and greed that created them. Caesar’s Palace alone might be bigger than Pittsburgh. Certainly got more money than the ‘Burgh.

Walked and walked and walked to the Aladdin, which was a mistake. Because we were already beat, and this bit of exercise (along with lunch) didn’t energize us. We walked to the poker room and I walked around the outer tables, looking for a familar face. What I saw was a familiar goatee–there’s Otis. I guess spending all that time doctoring my photo gave him an idea who I was and he recognized me and stood up. We shook and he pointed out other G-Vegas and beyond bloggers–there’s CJ, there’s G-Rob, there’s BadBlood, there’s JoeSpeaker, there’s EasyCure, there’s author Michael Craig. I did lots of grinning and handshaking as I went from table to
table, happy to see this tip of the blogger iceberg (this is a strong candidate for Worst Metaphor Ever, but I’ve a way to go yet). But everyone there was playing in a tournament, and I didn’t want to loom, so Ryan and I moseyed around the Aladdin for a bit and then exhanged a look.

“I need a nap,” Ryan said, and I couldn’t argue that I didn’t. I knew it’d be a late night, and resting up might be a good idea. So we ambled back down the Strip, made our way back to IP, and collapsed for a few hours. This would be the first in a series of pauses intended to recharge the batteries and get us ready for more drinking and gambling. They became less and less effective as the weekend wore on. I got up first and took a long and delicious shower. The IP’s showers had lots of pressure and they didn’t skimp on the hot water. In fact, Friday night ranks among the top five showers I’ve had in my life. Here’s the countdown:

#5: Friday night at Imperial Palace, totally woke me up, refreshed, invigorated. Fantastic shower.

#4: About 12 years ago, my parents house, me and this girl I was seeing, she stopped over the house before we both went to work, shenangians ensued, you can fill in the rest yourself.

#3: Penn State, after a party where I had exactly one beer too many and my body hadn’t decided if I was going to suffer through a puke-splattering hangover or be OK. Our apartment’s showerhead was some kind of industrial-strength nozzle that cranked out a pinprick of intense spray. We called it the “Water Laser” and we all miss it to this day. I took a long shower, all the while threatening to blow chunks, but when I was done I felt great. In the mood for a beer, even. Great shower.

#2: About 12 years ago, in a hotel room, with the same girl I talked about in #2, similar shenanigans, heh heh heh.

#1: Again Penn State, after the PSU-Notre Dame game where the Lions upset the Irish in a game where the wind chill was minus-50. When we finally got back to the dorms my core body temperature was probably around 77 degrees and I turned on the water as hot as it would go and stayed in the stall until the feeling returned in my toes and my feet and my legs and my…well, we’ll stop right there. I think this is the only shower I ever took where I actually broke down in tears of joy, as I knew I was actually going to live.

So we get up, get dressed, get going. We had a couple of hours before everyone was to meet at MGM, so a long, long, LONG walk along the Strip seemed to be in order. We both wanted to see the Bellagio, so that’s where we headed, taking our time, gawking at the bright lights like the tourists were were, and politely declining the constant solicitations for prostitution at every corner. Figures, the times when I’m in the market for a “professional” there’s none to be had, but when I’m otherwise engaged I’m literally chased down the street by people offering a cornucopia of erotic options. Life is, indeed, all in the timing.

Bellagio is just fantabulous. We looked at the Chihuly ceiling, at the shops, at the smooth and elegant people walking past. We looked at the Christmas display with the polar bears and penguins. But we really came to take a look at the poker room. The Fontina Room was in use, I think for the Five Diamonds senior event, and as we walked past I saw tournament director Jack McClelland walk past. We moved on toward the poker room, and who do I see walking toward me but David Sklansky. He was wearing jeans and a WPT Polo shirt and he was chatting away on a cell phone.

I didn’t stop him and ask for his autograph.

Do you understand why?

After that brush with fame we finally reached the poker room, which was so jammed I wondered how many fire codes they were violating. Walking out for a cigarette was Freddy Deeb, but we didn’t hang around to do much star-gazing. There were lots of people at MGM I wanted to meet far more, and we had a long way to walk to get there.

I think we’ll break right here, which will give me time to concentrate on the game I’m playing right now and hopefully get even. Here’s some poker insight–when you raise preflop with AK suited, make the flush on the river, and go to war against a guy who made his full house with 5-8, it can get expensive.

Jesus, can I get rivered TEN MORE TIMES PLEASE? I was up 25BB, now I’m down 10BB, thanks to a series of brutal riverings. No, no, I won’t complain, I won’t kill the positive waves of this post. That’s poker, right? Right. Still, shit.

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6 Responses to “The First 17 Hours Or So”

  1. Poker Nerd Says:

    I’m still amazed that we were probably in the general vicinity of each other several times during the weekend and I didn’t manage to finally say “hi” until the last two minutes I was in town. Same thing happened with Halverson at the last event.

    Next time…

  2. Falstaff Says:

    Great meeting you. I’ll take $5 on the under on Brokeback Mountain references and Blue on the wheel spins. 🙂

  3. Slimeface Says:

    I remember the day very well too. I know the past 25 years seems like yesterday. I thought you might enjoy these video clips of John Lennon. Happy Holidays.

  4. Easycure Says:

    I met you briefly, but the thing I’ll never forget is my wife saying over and over that “He doesn’t look mean at all.”

    Had a great time – more conversation and beer next time.

  5. teamscottsmith Says:

    i feel your pain on those rivers. I had all the luck that CJ didn’t.

  6. twomenout Says:

    congrats on JoePa’s comeback–didn’t see it coming, & neither did Frank….

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