Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The Finale

How best to drown your bad beat sorrows was the question of the moment late in the afternoon on my final full day in Vegas. It was roughly 4PM local time and I had plans to meet some neighbors at the Nine – a restaurant at the Palms Casino. G-Rob and Otis (I think – the haze of fading memories is setting in now and I have no notes) went back to the Excalibur with me via the tram system. I’m sure it was a fun ride for them getting to hear over and over again my bad beat stories. I can’t think of a more fun way to spend time in a tram.

I made the decision that I’d regroup my poker head by playing the Excalibur’s $1/3 spread game for a little while until I had to shower and change to get ready for a nice dinner. During this time, I don’t think any other bloggers were playing poker, but I had to get back on the horse again. Albeit, the horse was a dog with a saddle and I was a tiny monkey. I was happy to win about $20, erasing a small part of my poker pain.

I eventually cabbed it over to the Palms and met my friends. The Nine is quite an upscale restaurant and it was here that I was glad I packed a decent set of clothes. Our waiter mentioned that Joe Awada was in earlier but I unfortunately missed him. I would have liked to share my bad beat stories with him. He couldn’t have possibly seen worse. Oh wait, the beat he took to Scott Fischman at the WSOP may have been slightly worse, but only slightly.

Regardless, the meal was wonderful. We emptied a couple of bottles of Shiraz and had massive steaks. Three people ate, here’s the bill:


After the dinner, we took a cab back to their casino, the Rio. That happens to be right across from the Bellagio. The Bellagio was on my list of things to do in Vegas and I was debating whether to complete that task or head to parts unknown and make Maudie a prop bet winner.

I decided that I was in no financial condition to venture to those parts of town, I would have been sure to leave with a bad case of buyer’s remorse. So off to the Bellagio solo to see if there were any pros at which I could gawk.

There were. Many of them, in fact.

When I first got to the poker room, I immediately saw Cindy Violette and Katerina Jett. Then I looked to the high-stakes area and saw a veritable who’s who of professional poker. Gus Hanson, Daniel Negraneu, Ted Forest, Hasan Habib, were just a few of the names I saw. I saw Gus sign a few autographs but felt it would be too tool-ish to ask for one myself. I also had nothing for him to sign. I put my name on the $4/8 list which was about a mile long.

While I waited I saw Max Pescatori make his way towards me. I cut him off and re-introduced myself, figuring he’d not remember me. He said, “Yes, I remember you. You were the guy with the 2,7 shirt.” God Bless the Hammer.

I chatted it up with some other players waiting and sooner than expected my name was called. There was one minor problem, I was out of cash. I bee-lined it to the ATM, walking by the Bellagio’s club whose name escapes me. I did see some outlandish outfits walking out of the club and in line. I picked my jaw up off the floor and got my cash and headed back to the poker room for some chips.

Of all the places I’ve played cards, the Bellagio has the nicest chips. I shouldn’t have been surprised. Everything there was top notch. I was seated at my table and began to play. I glanced to one table over and saw Howard Lederer playing heads up against someone unknown to me. Andy Bloch, Humberto Brenes, and eventually Gus Hanson were all sweating the heads up play.

I was still a bit, let’s say, tipsy. I had a Heineken perched to the left of my chip stack and when I went to grab my hole cards, I spilled my beer. Great, I thought, what a classy move. I folded my hand in the dark out of embarrassment and apologized to the table and the dealer. Nobody seemed to mind too much, but there I am at the classiest casino spilling my beer all over my cards and chips. I felt a bit like Men the Master, except I never had a chance to bring the bottle to my mouth.

I was getting some nice cards, I had AA twice, both times holding up. My pocket 10’s caught a set and nobody believed my raises. Soon I was up over $100 and my poker spirits were rising. So much so that I asked the lady player to my right to go ask Gus Hanson if he’d be up for a challenge. I told her that I’d bet him $10,000 that I could out-bench him. I wasn’t kidding. I’d even normalize it for body weight, whomever could get the most reps out benching their bodyweight would win. Sadly she couldn’t muster the courage to ask.

During a bathroom break, I ended up walking the wrong way out of the poker room. Realizing my mistake, I turned around and walked back and caught a site for sore eyes. Dr. Pauly was sitting at the bar, talking with Julie and we exchanged hugs along with a “What the hell are you doing here?” Talk about a strange interlude. It was just what I needed and at exactly the right time.

Our table got moved and as time wore on, my cards stopped holding up. I had AA cracked by J,3 – hey they were sooted! – and I had a set cracked by a straight. I wasn’t going to leave a loser, so I cashed out up $40. On the way to cashing out, I saw Tobey Maguire playing what appeared to be a $100/$200 game. What impressed me the most wasn’t the chipstacks at the table, but the absolute bricks of $100 bills each player had behind them. That game was truly out of my reach.

I knew my Vegas time was short and I had to leave the next day, make that this day as it was 3AM local time. I hit the sack and began to wind down, but I was having a tough time getting to sleep. G-Rob and Otis were there and we chatted a bit before finally catching some Z’s.

The morning rolled around and I got up, showered and went downstairs for some breakfast. I had a cinnamon roll and coffee, but ate it outside in the fresh air. Eventually, I had to go back to the room to get my stuff for my flight. I opened the door and was greeted by the morbid smell of smoke, ass, and breakfast. Damn, opening that door I could almost see the haze of stench inside the room. They say the sense of smell is most strongly associated with memory. I don’t think I’ll ever forget those few minutes it took to gather my belongings and bid my farewells.

The flight back was thankfully uneventful, and made a bit easier on me by a young lady sitting in my row. Eventually, she admitted she worked at “The Horse” in Vegas and was traveling home to Florida for some vacation with the family. Sadly, or perhaps appropriately, I had no cash and she was off-duty. The last chance to make Maudie a prop-bet winner had been lost to circumstances beyond my control.

It will be tough to sum up this trip in a few words. It was beyond my expectations in every respect. The most important thing I’ll perhaps take away from this experience was the people that I met. You guys made the trip for me one of the best experiences of my life. Truly. I’ll never forget the camaraderie, the respect, the humor, the drinking and the poker playing we all shared. I can only hope the next get-together will be half as good as the first.

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