Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Graveyard Shift

The "Sports Guy" Bill Simmons occasionally writes his columns on ESPN.com in a format he likes to calls his "running diary."

So with a shout out to Bill, I now offer you good reader a running diary of last night.

10:04 p.m. (PST):
I take my second shower of the day in an attempt to wash some of the March Madness off of me. I've been betting the college basketball this week and I've been incredibly accurate. No matter which side I take it manages to lose. When I get into one of these losing streaks it should make complete sense to just stop betting. But I'll also admit I become somewhat fascinated by the streak itself. It's almost like an experiment testing the strength of my negative powers. Or as I like to call it "The Power of Negative Thinking." And I'm not the only loser. I'm only losing money. But I ask what about the kids? These young college athletes giving their best practicing all year long to play in the biggest game of their lives and then little old me coming along 5 minutes before they take the floor, laying some cash on them and poof their dream is over.

10:16 p.m. (PST): I had a good poker session the other night after listening to a Dave Matthews CD on my drive to the Strip. Guess what music was playing in the car tonight?

10:28 p.m. (PST): I pull into the Caesars Palace valet area. A few of these valet dudes work really hard to get a tip from you on both ends. They become almost too helpful. It starts with a legitimate "Do you know where you're going?" (Uh...through the doors with the sign that says Casino?) But then some of them just don't stop. They turn into your own personal assistant.

It got to the point last week where finally asked one guy if he and his co-workers pooled tips. Because of course I'm gonna tip on my way out. This seems like when most people give them money. And if I tip them half now and half on my way out then I'm sort of punishing the guy who gets my car.

His comeback was that I probably wasn't gonna see him again and this would be my only chance to hit him up. Of course ignoring the fact that he's bringing other people their cars that he didn't park.

So if I think it's appropriate to spend 10 bucks on the entire valet parking experience, I'm now torn between giving 5 on each end or the whole 10 when I leave.

These are the questions I struggle with.

10:37 p.m. (PST): I buy in for the 11pm tourney. I'm already "alternate #17" because the usual tournament room is being used for NCAA basketball viewing and they're only using 6 tables that seat 54 people at a time. March Madness is screwing me off the court too.

10:39 p.m. (PST): I get on the list for the 2/5 no limit and 4/8 limit figuring I can play a few hands before the tourney.

10:51 p.m. (PST): I haven't moved up the list at all so I decide to take a walk outside the poker room and people watch the folks waiting to get into Caesar's club PURE. It's such a trip. They have three lines. A VIP one. A second line for woman only. And a third line for civilians which is non-VIPS who aren't female. I think we call these people "guys." I'm not sure which line is my favorite to make fun of. And just think back in the depression people used to wait in line for bread. Now they wait in line to sit at a table that requires you buy a $500 bottle of alcohol.

10:52 p.m. (PST): In case this isn't enough stimulus there's also something called the "Pussy Cat Dolls Casino" going on in the middle of these lines. Two woman dance around polls while other scantily clad women deal blackjack, etc.



I like the fact that you don't have to dance to work for the Pussy Cat Dolls. You can also be part of the team if you're good at math.

Remember back in elementary school when you were learning how to add and subtract and that stripper chick sitting next to you was like "When are we ever going to need to know this stuff?"

Now the teacher can just say to her "When you're dealing black jack in Vegas. That's when."

11:04 p.m. (PST): I go back to the tournament area and they're already up to alternate #11.

11:32 p.m. (PST): Blinds go up to 50/100 and I still haven't been called. Suddenly this tournament seems like a real bad idea. I'm going to sit down and have to start out play with larger blinds and stacks twice my size.

11:34 p.m. (PST): I finally get seated. What follows now is "HOW NOT TO PLAY IN A TOURNAMENT." Not that I want to brag but I think I might have managed to play every hand incorrectly. Here goes.

11:36 p.m. (PST): I start out with my 2500 chips and the first hand I'm paying 50 in the small blind. It gets folded around and a large stack makes a button move and raises to 300. I have pocket 2's. Looking back on the evening now I just wish I had repopped him. I thought about it at the time but I was too concerned with how pathetic it would have felt to get knocked out on my first hand after wasting an hour waiting to play. Folding would have been alright too. But no, I gotta figure out how to play this as poorly as possible.

So I call.

Out of position.

Unless a 2 flops I have no idea where I'm at with the hand.

A 2 doesn't flop. Instead it's a jack and two rags. I can lead out. But I check. He bets 500. I only have 2200 chips left so I obviously can't call. I can raise and hope he hasn't hit the flop. Or I can fold. I choose to fold.


11:46 p.m. (PST): I get Ace King in early position and lord knows why but I mini raise to 200. Maybe I'm hoping to get reraised? The bet though scares everyone and I only get one caller, a woman in the big blind. Flop comes out 10, 9, 2. She leads out with a 200 bet out of position and of course I should let it go.

So I call.

As an aside, it's hard to play much poker in these small stack buy ins. You just have to find a hand and go for it. Of course usually it's one where you've hit. Like the other night I flopped a king with my ace king and got knocked out on the first orbit when someone hit two pair. I definitely had the double up or go play cash games strategy. However in this spot my call makes no sense.

She checks the turn. I bet out 400 hoping her weakness means she was trying to take the pot on the flop and will now give up. Nope. She calls. Now I'm done with the hand.

Another 9 comes out on the river and she leads out for 500. This card also fills a flush which is fun cause it gives me the chance to act and shake my head and pretend I had her till that darn river came out. I say nice hand and muck. She shows ace 9. Yep.

11:48 p.m. (PST): I'm in the blind with pocket 8's. I think I have around 1300 left. Guy in middle position makes it 500. He has around 1000 total. I'm ready to take him on. But then the woman who beat me in the ace king hand smooth calls. Now I'm scared. I wanted to fight the other small stack with my 8's. If I come over the top I think he has to call me. But now she'll be pot committed and getting 2 to 1 on her money. I didn't want to take on two hands that have shown strength with pocket 8's. So I muck. This also maybe could have been a spot for the stop and go. I could have smooth called the 500 preflop and then crossed my fingers and moved all in on the flop since I would have acted first.

Since I chose to muck, of course the flop came out with 3 under cards. And as if this wasn't bad enough, the 8 came on the turn to fill up my non existing set. And as if that wasn't bad enough, when the cards got turned over, the gentleman and his ace king didn't improve. And the woman who smooth called won the pot with her pocket 3's.

11:49 p.m. (PST): I start jotting down notes for my new one man show called called "ALL THE WRONG MOVES."

12:01 a.m. (PST): I've mucked 5 or 6 times in a row. I have one hand left in me. I want something fun to show down with. On the last hand before the break I pick up pocket 10's. Perfect. I push the rest of my stack in. Probably around 950. I get called. Which is I what wanted. It's the old "double me up or set me free" moment. He has pocket jacks. Perfect ending to my show. I fold the 8's to the 3's. And get all in with the 10's versus the Jacks. We can even write in the program notes that "ALL THE WRONG MOVES" is based on a true story.

12:05 a.m. (PST): I exit the casino and decide some fresh air is the move. Menthol fresh. I walk next door to The Mirage.

12:23 a.m. (PST): I look around the room for a loose limit game. I care less about the stakes than whether or not the people are drinking and straddling. I find my game.

12:27 a.m. (PST): As if I needed further proof, the first thing the guy next to me says is "I didn't come to Vegas to fold." Meanwhile that's exactly why I live here. So I can fold.

12:42 a.m. (PST): I'm card dead for the first 15 minutes. It's getting to the point where everyone is noticing that I haven't played a hand. So I raise on the button with suited connectors. 3 callers. I miss the flop but bet anyway. They all fold. It's amazing that you can have a tight image pay off even at lower limits.

12:47 a.m. (PST): The drunk guys have been great. Reraising each others straddles. Doing their best to build pots. Problem is I'm still card dead. Then they decide to leave. I switch tables.

1:06 a.m. (PST): I suck out on a guy wearing a "Love sucks but true love swallows" t-shirt. It was good to win the pot but the best effect of this hand is that everyone at the table saw my cards and now thinks I'm a poor player.

1:07 a.m. (PST): I order a drink to complete my image.

2:07 a.m. (PST): The table has had the same players for the past hour and everyone has made themselves known. The guy to my left in seat 2 never folds his top pair even after straight or flushes come out. The best part is he'll still lead out so he keeps getting check raised when he's beat. He won't be around too long. The woman in seat 5 always calls you down with any piece of the board but never raises. She'll actually make money at this game since the players bluff too often. She's taking alot of pots from the guy in seat 8 who keeps bluffing with a preflop raise once an orbit and then continue betting the whole way. He's folded all 3 times that I've checkraised him on the river. Next time I think I'm just gonna call for entertainment value so I can see his cards. The guy in 9 is just plain bad. He's bought in 3 times.

3:15 a.m. (PST): The players in seat 2 and seat 9 both ran out of money. Other than the guy in seat 8, the remaining players at this table are tight. No need to stay.

3:27 a.m. (PST): I go back to Caesars to play some late night limit. The table is just what I want. Guys are reraising each other in the dark and then going to the river capping pots without looking at their cards. Meanwhile they're actually winning pots with hands like 3,7 hitting a 3 when their sober opponents call them down with ace high.

3:41 a.m. (PST): Drunk guy check raises me on the flop. I ask him if he's looked at his cards. He says yes. I raise him back and tell him that he's far more dangerous when he doesn't look at his cards. I'm being honest.

4:03 a.m. (PST): Guy straddles. I reraise with king jack. Flop comes king, rag, rag all hearts. I have top pair and the jack of hearts against a random hand. This is always a strange moment in terms of power of negative thinking. Like if I'm winning with my kings then I don't want another heart to come. But of course if he has a hand like king, queen of spades then I need a heart to win. So I'm not sure what to "root for" as if this makes a difference. No more hearts comes. I turn over my king jack. He turns over two baby hearts and wins a rather large pot. If I only knew I needed a 4th heart I could have used the power of negative thinking and repeated my mantra "No heart. No heart."

4:41 a.m. (PST): Similar hand in reverse. Guy straddles. This time I have jack, 8 of diamonds. I raise on the button fully expecting the entire table to call. That's the kind of poker we're playing. No fold'em hold'em. Check out this flop: 9 of diamonds. 10 of diamonds. 2 of diamonds. I already have a flush. And if queen or 7 of diamonds come I'll hit a straight flush draw and win one of the poker room's big hand bonuses. Although in terms of winning the hand I'd obviously prefer not to see another diamond come out. Raises are flying everywhere. Eventually on the turn I end up in a raising battle with a guy who holds queen, 9. He has top pair and unfortunately the queen of diamonds. I check and call when the 4th diamond comes out on the river. There goes another big pot.

4:43 a.m. (PST): I begin work on my new one man show called "LIFE ISN'T FAIR AND NEITHER IS POKER" which is based on the last two hands. I've already got the pitch worked out. The latest collaboration from the Producers of "ALL THE WRONG MOVES" and the writers of "HOW NOT TO PLAY IN A TOURNAMENT." Now I just need to get my agent in LA on the phone to pitch it but the problem is that it's 4:43 a.m. Pacific Standard Time. It doesn't occur to me till later that the fact that no one is awake to answer my call only further proves the validity of the project.

5:56 a.m. (PST): We're back in the poker twilight zone. The entire table is drunk, playing every hand, and playing poorly. For the past hour and a half the drunk guy to my right takes the dealer button and sticks it onto his forehead when he has the button. 3 consecutive dealers have looked down to the table and asked "Where's the button?" By this time I don't even answer. I just point.

6:11 a.m. (PST): Drunk guy straddles. Other drunk guy reraises in dark. I call on button with 6,7 suited. We see jack high flop. Everyone checks. We see rag turn. Everyone checks. King comes on river. They both check. I bet because it's the only way I can the pot. A discussion about which strip clubs not to go to ensues between the drunk guys. Dealer finally reminds them that they're in the pot. They both fold.

7:04 a.m. (PST): I'm card dead and it's absolute torture. I'm seeing more flops than I should be because drunk guys keep reraising the whole way with nothing. But I just can't find a darn hand that hits.

7:26 a.m. (PST):
I pick up pocket kings. They raise for me. I don't reraise preflop because I don't want to alarm them that I'm even in the pot. Some more betting and raising on the flop. Turn comes. Drunk guy checks. Uh oh. Why didn't he just bet? He bets every other time.

I ignore the message and bet. He check raises me.

He he. It's 7:26 a.m. and I'm getting out played by a drunk guy.

Fine buddy. You got me. I can't fold. But I'll pay you off on the river.

He whispers to me that he has nothing and then checks the river.

Of course everything is telling me to check here. But I bite and bet.

Don't you know it. He check raises me again!

I'm cracking up now. This is fun. I guess I'm the sucker.

I'm obviously committed to paying him off. I throw my chips towards him. And he throws his cards into the muck.

Genius.

7:45 a.m. (PST): I can't take it anymore. Physically I obviously feel like crap. But the problem is more mentally. It takes 5 minutes to play every hand . The dealer has to remind the players who's turn it is and what their options are. Also other than the kings I haven't had a hand in like 3 hours. I'm actually losing money to the other sober player as we battle each other to get heads up with the drunk guys.

7:46 a.m. (PST): I'm putting my chips into the rack. The dealer sees me getting ready to leave and says "You must not like money huh?"

7:49 a.m. (PST): As I'm walking to the valet I reach into my pocket for my valet claim card and feel my car keys. Oh shit. How did they park my car? My stomach drops. Over 9 hours have passed. Was my car towed? How did they deal with this?

7:51 a.m. (PST): I step outside into the morning and see my car parked in the middle lane of the entrance exactly where I left it when I came in. I feel pretty embarrassed. I go and start it up. I guess the good news is I saved the 10 bucks I'd give the guy to go get it.


1 comment:

Carol said...

Poker and The Sports Guy?? What could be better? We miss you out here on the E Coast, but it's great to read about all of your adventures in Vegas.