Thursday, October 30, 2008

Swimming With Sharks -- A Weekend Poker Bender

I needed a vacation. The stress of (too little) work had been weighing heavily on my mind, and being here in Vegas is no fun at all when you have too much time and too little money on your hands. I felt like I needed something to take my mind off of everything I’d been concerned about lately.

But there are lots of opportunities in this town to pick up a buck or two, and since I started playing poker a little more seriously several months ago, I’ve been reliably supplementing my income with poker winnings. It’s a great way to make a little extra scratch, but it’s a totally different game if you think you have to rely on it, I’ve learned.

But I’ve found most of my success playing in large-field no-rebuy tournaments, especially the Binion’s Poker Open series earlier this past summer. The format is great—it favors my game, the fields are usually 100+ players deep, and consequently the prize money is well worth the time it takes to get to the final table.

Anyhow, once I learned that Binion’s was going to do another Open series this fall, I was pretty excited to participate. Dougie and I were talking about it several weeks ago, and he decided to take a long weekend and come out to Vegas so that we could play in a couple of events together. The next thing I knew, my inbox was filled up with copies of his airline itinerary and hotel reservations. It was Game On!

We were planning on spending the majority of the weekend glued to seats in Binion’s poker room, but Dougie was all about living better than we usually did. No more crummy rooms or rollaway beds at the Plaza or Vegas Club for us. This time we went upscale and got a room at the Golden Nugget. Besides looking forward to the great poker action, that was another reason to get me excited about the weekend—we were going to be living like civilized gentlemen instead of drunken frat brothers for the first time since, well, pretty much the entire time we’ve been friends.

Anyhow, once the plans were made, this particular weekend couldn’t get here fast enough for me. Arranging for time off was no problem—things are slow all over out here in Vegas, so a little vacation away from the ‘work’ casino was easily approved.

I still had to work on Friday, but I didn’t mind picking up a little extra bankroll before Dougie’s plane landed that evening. It was a long day for me, having to get up at 5:00 am, work all day, and then Get My Vegas On, but hey, I was up for the task. Once I got home from work, I think I got a catnap for about an hour, then finished up my chores around the house and packed a bag. I checked as soon as I got out of the shower, and to my surprise, it showed the Dougie’s flight was about a half-hour early, ten minutes from arrival. Not a good situation, as I live about 15 minutes away from the airport and I was still dripping wet and mostly nekkid.

I got myself dressed and out the door as quickly as I could, and just as I was taking the tunnel exit, I got a text from Dougie—something to the effect of The Eagle Has Landed and These Bitches Need to Get The Hell Out Of My Way.

When I got to the airport, I encountered my first good omen—the previous resident of my parking spot had left me with over an hour of time left on the meter, so I saved a couple of quarters. A few minutes later, I found Dougie lurking around the baggage claim Starbucks with that anticipatory look in his eyes. He was ready to get to the poker table.

Initially, we had planned on having dinner at Grimaldi’s since we’d be on that side of town anyways, but our desire to get the weekend started trumped any pizza cravings we may have had, so we drove downtown without stopping. We left the truck with the valet, (where it sat all weekend), gave our bags to the bellhop, and checked in.

Dougie got some kind of smokin’ deal with the Nugget, so our South Tower room was only like $200 for the entire weekend, taxes and fees included. Not too shabby.

The south tower at the Nugget is a country mile from the front desk, but it’s a hike I’ve made dozens of times in the past. However, I hadn’t stayed at the Nugget since the remodel, so I never went back there beyond the pool, and I hadn’t seen the changes. The old sundries shop is now gone—it’s an upscale clothing store now. And the old south tower check-in desk is gone, and the new sundries shop and a Starbucks have taken its place.

Anyhow, our room was also a country mile from the elevator—we were in a four digit room on the third floor—so we got our exercise this weekend. Once we finally made it to the room and had the bags sent up, we were on our way out the door. We had less than 72 hours of freedom, so there was no time for dilly-dally.

Our first priority was to head over to Binion’s poker room, and we were lucky enough to get a couple of seats at the same 3-6 table. The unlucky part is that sitting between us was one of those poker know-it-alls who felt compelled to give a free lesson after each hand. Ugh. I hate those guys almost as much as I hate Illinois Nazis.

Aside from the self-proclaimed genius on my right, I was having a pretty good night. I got trips on my first two hands, disguised them well, and was up over sixty bucks after less than five minutes at the table. Pretty good for a 3-6 game, I thought. After that, I was up and down in twenty-dollar swings for a couple of hours, mostly just treading water and dragging the occasional pot. I don’t think Dougie did as well, but I can’t quite remember. What I *do* remember was that there were some epic laughs at the table, most of them at the expense of the poker savant sitting between us.

The sad part was that the guy was just a lonely old man who liked the sound of his own voice. He was a horrible poker player, and while Dougie and I were stacking chips, he kept re-buying. In the three-and-a-half hours that we were at the table, the guy blew through at least $260. At one point, after another tedious post-hand commentary, I finally looked at him and said what everyone else at the table was thinking. Dude, if you are so smart at poker, don’t ya think you’d have more than fifteen bucks worth of chips in front of you?

By that time, he was just the whipping boy. He made the ultimate mistake of standing up and fluffing up the pillow he was sitting on. It was a white heart-shaped thing with lace frill around the edges. Everyone at the table saw it and shared an unsaid WTF? moment. Well, it was only unsaid for a moment, but then I piped up with So, I guess the brown football-shaped throw pillow must be at the dry-cleaners today, huh?

Dougie got in on the action too, as he was folding a hand, the poker genius said The sad thing is, I knew what you had… I was like WTF? because I’ve been playing poker with Dougie for almost five years now, and that rat bastard can have just about anything in his pocket. So Dougie challenged him to tell him what his hole cards were, telling the dealer to keep them out of the muck until the end, and of course the guy was dead wrong, and everyone at the table continued shaking their heads at the guy, trying to get him to finally take the hint and STFU.

As much as we wanted to light the guy up for being a jackass, we didn’t want to upset him because he was such a fish and was just dumping money into the game. So we kinda played all friendly-like, but you could tell that everyone who talked to him was bagging on him. But he didn’t have a clue. He was also asking everyone way too many personal questions, and I sure wasn’t going to let some weirdo local know anything about me, so once he found out I was also a local, he wanted to know where I worked and what I did for a living.

Without hesitation, I said that I sold frozen meat out of the back of a truck. Dougie was in a hand in that very moment, and started cracking up, so his opponent thought he was bluffing or something. I ran with the meat story for a few minutes and Dougie won his hand, so it just a harmless little white lie that served its purpose.

But he wasn’t the only jackass at the table. There was another kid at the other end who’d obviously been watching way too much poker on TV. He had on the proper uniform—backwards hat, sunglasses, iPod, Full-Tilt t-shirt—and spent a lot of time posing every time he was involved in a hand. One time we were heads-up on the river and I raised his bet. He went in the tank for like a minute, which is a ridiculously long time in a low-limit game. The loud sighs of the other players didn’t help to speed him along, and he just sat there riffling his chips and saying stupid shiat like This is so sick! and other such cliched nonsense.

Finally I’d had enough, so I pointed to the ceiling and said Yo junior, these cameras are for surveillance, not television. Make a decision! Dougie had a mouthful of water when I said that, and I thought it was gonna end up all over his shirt at that point. Even the old-as-dirt dealer started chuckling. But the kid finally called and I won the pot.

I only got one good pot off of him, but he was Dougie’s personal ATM. A few hands later, Dougie had pocket jacks and flopped four-of-a-kind. There were two other players in the hand, but the kid kept driving the action, so Dougie just went along for the ride, not raising until the river. He somehow got a re-raise out of the kid and showed his quads at the end, which caused the whole table to groan and laugh, especially when the youngster showed his “nut” flush.

The old dealer, who was at least 75 years old and had seen it all, pushed the huge pot over to Dougie, shook his head, and mumbled I don’t know what the hell that boy was thinkin’. We got a laugh out of that, and it became our catchphrase for the rest of the weekend whenever we saw somebody make a bad call.

Besides that four of a kind of Dougie’s, four jacks showed up three other times while we were at that table that night—it was amazing. I’ve never seen quads, especially of the same rank, appear that often. So there were some fireworks at the table. Myself, I had both Aces and Kings cracked that night, and several people lost with full-houses, so it was an action-packed game.

And it wouldn’t be an official trip unless Dougie drew out on me in a big pot. Of course he did, calling a re-raise cold with Jack-six of diamonds and sabotaging my wheel straight on the turn just like he did five years ago with 10-6.

This shit’s gonna cost me 12 bucks! I grumbled when he made his raise. Of course I paid it, even though I knew that biatch had a six. I just wanted to make him show his donkey play to the entire table. Rat bastard. I think the dealer was again heard mumbling something along the lines of I don’t know what the hell that boy was thinkin’ as he pushed the pot to Dougie, who sat there grinning like he had three rows of teef.

After almost four hours at the table we decided to call it a night and get some food. I think Dougie had some more intense swings than I did, and ended up down a bit for the session (that’s what he gets for playing shiat like Jack-Six. Heh.), but I was up $36 when we racked up all of our chips. I’ll take it. On our way over to the café, we stopped and ran a few bucks through the Triple Stars Wheel of Fortune Dollar machine with the million-dollar progressive jackpot, but the fact that we’re both still working this week tells you all you need to know about how that experience turned out.

Walking towards the back of the old Binion’s side, I was impressed with all the changes that have taken place since that dude from the Four Queens took over. Not only is it bright, airy, and clean, there are about two dozen more table games in there than when the Evil Empire was there raping the corpse about four years ago. The snack bar has been expanded, and that huge bar in the very back has been walled in and converted to Benny’s Bullpen Bar & Cigar Lounge. Oh hell yeah—it’s very nice—stained glass and lots of leather seats. And now there’s another cool place downtown to hole up with some fine stogies.

The coffee shop still has some catching up to do, however. They haven’t spent any money there yet, although they’re remodeling the bathrooms and the entrance right now. But the menu is the same, minus the ‘Benny’s Natural’ that I enjoyed for so many years. But they had a pretty good $1.99 pancake special that Dougie took advantage of, and it was way better than my nine-dollar ham and eggs breakfast. We also found out that they are no longer open 24 hours—at least for now. Yep, the coffee shop at Binion’s shuts down at 1:00 am on the weekends. I’m hoping this is just a temporary thing, because I really like going there for my middle-of-the-night breakfast after a long gambling and drinking binge.

After breakfast, we headed back over to the Nugget, with the intention of going to bed, but some enterprising casino executive had set an empty Pai Gow table in our path. About a half hour later, I was up a hundred bucks but Dougie was down fifty. Clearly he still had some bad karma to burn off.

He couldn’t get it going and since I was up a nice round even black-chip number, we called it quits. We stopped at the sundries shop for a couple of bottles of water and then headed up to the room, where we relived the trip up to that point and giggled it up for almost an hour before finally turning off the lights and trying to get some sleep.

It was a pretty damn good day for me—I left the house early that evening with about $370 in my wallet, and I went to bed with over $500. Not a bad start at all.

The plan on Saturday was to get up early and get down to the sports book and make our bets for both college football and the Breeder’s Cup, but although the spirit was willing, the flesh was just waaaaay too weak. I wanted to make a bunch of bets for the 9:00 am games, but hell, I don’t think we woke up till like 9:30 or so.

Damn you, black-out curtains!

After showering and doing our morning toilette, we ambled on back downstairs. The first stop was the sports book where we did a five-team football parlay for the later games, and a three-way exacta box on Casino Street, Tiago, and Curlin, and bet twenty bucks on Casino Street to win outright. Needless to say, we didn’t win much. In fact, it was pretty close to zero dollars.

But we found another Pai Gow table, and sat down. But we had the worst dealer in captivity, and a complete dickhead of a floorperson, so we left after about five or six hands, as did everyone else. There was just too much drama going on for a simple game. A player set their hand correctly, but put the five cards in the top spot and the two cards in the bottom spot and the dealer tried to take the bet down saying it was an automatic loss. And the floorperson agreed! Of course, being a fair-minded soul and an expert Pai Gow dealer, I damn near lost my ever-lovin’ mind. Everyone at the table joined the fray, shouting down the dealer and the floorperson, but Dougie had the coolest of heads and just suggested to the floorperson that it’s probably not the wisest move to piss off players over a chicken-shit technicality when times are so tough in the casino business. Especially when it was just a five-dollar bet. He finally relented and said the player could keep their five bucks, but by then they’d just killed the game and everyone at the table left—pissed off. And I really wanted to take the dealer by the collar and slam him into the wall for making life difficult for his co-workers. Again—times are tough, don’t make it worse by pissing off the tippers! Moron.

We took our chips without coloring up (figured if all five of us walked, the asshole floorman would have to do a fill) and wandered a bit, trying to cool off. We found another Pai Gow table in a different pit, and it was more relaxing and definitely had a friendlier vibe. In fact, our new floorperson was the hot Sarah Palin wannabe with the tailored suit, hot-for-teacher glasses, and her hair pulled up and back, just begging to be taken down and shaken in a naughty manner… But I digress…

Unfortunately, we just couldn’t make a hand at that table, and we were losing steadily. I was down to my last $27, so, getting ready to leave, I put $25 on my bet and two dollars on the fortune bonus, and stood up, expecting to lose the hand. But the dealer managed to somehow deal me a monster—a straight flush with a pair of kings on top! In fact, I was one card away from the seven-card straight flush for a cool $16,000 payoff, but the gal next to me had the Ace of hearts I needed. So instead of sixteen grand, I got $123.75 for my efforts. I tipped the dealer a five spot for getting me just above even, but she took some kind of attitude about it and got kind of snarky telling us we weren’t betting enough. After the experience with the other dealer, we decided that members of the Saturday morning Pai Gow crew were just not exactly happy with their jobs, so we colored up and left.

We were kinda hungry anyways, so we followed the crowd and got in line at the Carson Street Café. Once we got a table, we noticed that they had some drink specials offered for $3—bloody marys, mimosas, and a Bailey’s Chocolate Shake. That sounded good so we both ordered one. Oh hell yeah they were good! We finished them pretty quickly and ordered another round.

After being a bit jealous of Dougie’s pancakes the night before at Binion’s, I ordered a stack of three with some sausage, while Dougie had a BLT, fries, and a side of—get ready for it—cole slaw! My pancakes were great, but the sausage was some weird European interpretation of pig parts and spices, and I didn’t like it nearly as much as the good old hillbilly-style Rebel-Without-A-Cause Jimmy Dean sausage that comes in a tube.

Otherwise, breakfast was good and reasonably priced--except for our second round of Bailey’s milkshakes. It was like the grain train bartender took over and filled up the glass with straight booze and then put a scoop of chocolate ice cream on top. A milkshake’s not supposed to burn when you drink it.

We never finished round two, although wandering away from the breakfast table with a cool buzz is something everyone should experience at least once.

After our meal, it was off to the poker room. Since we were there at the Nugget, we decided to give them a little bit of our business and signed up on the interest list for a 3-6 game. After about 20 minutes or so, enough people came by to get the game started. We only played for about an hour or so—I just didn’t like the vibe at the table. It wasn’t anything I could put my finger on, but the chairs were uncomfy, I kept getting bumped into whenever someone at the next table would get up, everyone was stone-cold silent, and I just wasn’t having much fun.

Of course, it helped that I was winning a bit, and Dougie got another 4-of-a-kind that paid him a $130 bonus, plus the pot. But even so, I couldn’t get into it and colored up when Dougie said he needed to go up to the room and take some medicine. I made $42 for the session, and was happy to walk away. When we got up to the room, I called the box office over at the Orleans because we’d planned on maybe seeing the Dennis Miller show that night. Earlier that week, there were lots of good seats still available, so we decided to wait, just in case we were crushing it at the poker tables. But by the all they had left were SRO tickets, so we passed. I turned on the TV and pretty much passed out watching a football game and Dougie took off and headed over to Binion’s for the afternoon.

The lack of sleep and a couple of big meals must’ve caught up to me because I slept for almost three hours. I woke up around 5 pm and called Dougie—he said he was still at Binion’s, so I headed over there. Just as I got off the elevator and was walking down by the pool, I ran into Sandra from the T2V board. I had no idea that she was gonna be in town this weekend, so it was quite a surprise. She told me that Andrea was upstairs redecorating the bathroom, but if they got some free time they’d come and wish us luck over at Binion’s. But they were clubbin’ that night, and didn’t need a couple of unhip fellas like us crampin’ their style. So we didn’t expect to see them again. Their Vegas weekend was much different than ours, but it was cool to run into her.

Anyhow, when I got to the poker room over at Binion’s, I managed to score a seat at Dougie’s table and it was off to the races again. There were a couple of drunks who insisted on raising every pot. Sometimes they’d hit, but most of the time somebody else would take them down, so it was a juicy game.

There was also quite a bit of distraction in the room as Chris ‘Jesus’ Ferguson was there and they were filming commercials and print ads for the new Binion’s poker room that opens next month (it’s up front where the old sports book was and more recently, the mechanical bull was located). So they had Jesus doing some ‘table dancing’ with some chick, and they were taking pictures for several hours, all of this going on about 20 feet away from our game.

Once the filming was done, he wandered over, and for some inexplicable reason, he decided to watch our 3-6 game for a few minutes. He was standing not-quite over my shoulder and I’m here to tell you that nothing makes you not want to be a donkey quite like having a WSOP Champion watching you play. But I got a good laugh at one point—I was on the blind and had a raise in front of me, so I picked up my cards and flashed them to him and asked, What would Jesus do?

Big laughs all around. And apparently, Jesus would fold a Jack-Six when facing a raise. I kinda figured that, and even better, it means that Dougie’s probably going to hell.

There were also a few laughs later on when a few of the local working gals decided to stroll through the room. The old dealer got a kick out of everyone’s comments and he was chuckling for quite awhile. When one particularly trashy chick wandered by and waved, trolling for busines, he just shook his head and said That girl would put me in the hospital. Some bald-headed wag at the table came back with Well, maybe not the hospital, but definitely the clinic…

So it was a fun afternoon in the poker room. But even so, I was just treading water all day long—I couldn’t get anything to hit for me, and I never dragged any monster pots except for one time I cracked a guy’s Aces when I flopped two pair. He raised me all the way, and I called him all the way to the river. I told him that his Aces were no good after the flop, but he insisted on building my pot for me. Dougie had a much more adventurous time at the table, having bought in for $160 and been down to the felt twice. But he made some sort of crazy-ass comeback and ended up making a $60 profit.

Around 8:30 or so we decided to color up and head out. Dougie did a little better than me that time around, but he took the scenic route to profitability. I cashed out just $27 ahead, most of that coming from one pot.

Once we got our cash, we wandered outside under the canopy and made our way down to the Four Seasons of Fremont Street, the El Cortez. Our plan was to have dinner at Roberta’s steakhouse, as Dougie had never eaten there before.

It was an extremely slow night for the restaurant—we were seated immediately and there were maybe five other tables in the whole place with people having dinner. It seemed kind of odd for a dining room that big to have so few people in it, but then again, times are slow, and we were coming in much later than the usual dinner rush.

Anyhow, I was in the mood for prime rib, and Dougie went with the porterhouse. We also ordered French onion soup to start the meal. For sides, we both had the baked potatoes with everything, and a side of sautéed mushrooms. And If I recall correctly, I think I had a glass of some very reasonably priced Merlot.

We got a basket of warm bread and butter to nibble on, and god bless ‘em, the staff at Roberta’s tries. But they don’t exactly have their ‘shiat wired’ like most other better-than-casual restaurants. Professionals, they are not. But they sure try hard. Anyhow, the meal was very tasty, and a great value, even if the service staff is not populated with classically-trained waiters. Even with two desserts and an espresso, I think our bill was only like $80 before tip. So if you can overlook the up-and-coming staff, then it’s an excellent value play for a nice meal.

And just to let him know I was there, I sent Doc Al a text messages saying Roberta’s horseradish still makes me cry (it’s easily hottest horseradish I’ve ever had). He wrote back sometime later, saying Me too, but only because I’m not there! We missed ya this weekend, Doc.

We didn’t get finished with our meal until about 10:45, and we were hoping to make it back to Binion’s for the 11:00 pm tournament. But Dougie’s feet were hurting and we didn’t want to take the chance of being late. So we took a chance on a cab driving by the front entrance, and we were rewarded. Of course, from there to the valet entrance by Binion’s poker room is only about a three-dollar cab fare, but since we were in a hurry, we gave the guy a ten-spot for his trouble.

Of course we made it back with five minutes to spare, and took our seats at the tournament tables. It was a little slow for a normal Saturday night tournament, but I think there were 30 players or so, with a buy-in of $75.

Dougie and I were at different tables, which were cool because I didn’t feel like getting beaten by a suck-out in a tournament, which he is famous for doing. But as lucky as I felt for drawing a different table, I was soon ‘rewarded’ by one of the most annoying players sitting directly on my right. I had to sit next to the guy back in June at one of the big Open tournaments, and he didn’t shut up the entire time. I think he was sitting next to me for like four hours that day, and it was a miserable experience. Another poker expert--just what I needed.

Even worse, he was just gross. Back then, he just reeked of alcohol. This time, it looked like he just rolled out of bed and showed up in flip flops, sweat pants, and an old ratty Members Only jacket. Yep, no shirt, just a jacket, and it was only zipped up halfway. Of course, he kept asking for drinks and stiffing the waitress every time, too. So I was hoping he’d get busted out early.

Luckily, he was on the big blind when two people at another table busted out, so he was the first person to get moved, so I only had to listen to him for about a half an hour. As nice as it was to get rid of him, my big hands kept getting cracked early on. I think I lost with KK, JJ, and AK all within the first hour or so. It was ugly. But I managed to knock out a couple of people and had a decent chip stack going, eventually.

After a couple of hours, we got down to the final table, and Dougie had survived also. They were only paying five spots, so we still had work to do. But the final table was a lot of fun, and we had a whole bunch of laughs. When we got down to seven players, there was talk of a chop, but the chip leader was kind of hesitant about it. After we got down to six, the money still wasn’t quite good enough for a chop, and I think I was third highest in chips, so I wasn’t pushing the issue.

But then Dougie doubled up through the chip leader by calling an $800 bet from the small blind with 4-6 offsuit or something crazy like that, and ended up making a full house. At that point, there were all kinds of deals being offered—nobody wanted to tangle with the crazy guy. As soon as we knocked out the sixth player, we called time to figure out an equitable payout. The chip leader had everyone else covered by about three to one, so I suggested that we give him first place money and we just chop the rest. One guy was hesitating, but he was succumbing to peer pressure. The short stack was all for any kind of deal that gave him better than fifth-place money, so he was agreeable to just about anything. By then, the tourney had gone on for over three hours, and everyone was tired, so we wanted to come up with something.

I think first place paid like $775, so the guy with the monster chip lead offered to take $75 off the top, keep $700 and the other four of us would chop the $1060. That sounded fair, so he took $700 and the rest of us took $265. We each left the dealers fifteen bucks, so we walked with $250 apiece. As far as the paperwork goes, I was declared the official ‘winner’ because the tournament winners this month get a seat in a big free-roll this coming Sunday. But since I was the only local left, I got the seat by default. I had no shot of actually winning, of course—the chip leader had us all dominated, but I’ll take the technicality!

By then, we were good and tired, so once we cashed out, we headed back over to the Nugget and up to the room, stopping first to pick up a few bottles of overpriced water. We stayed up for a bit rehashing the day’s adventures, and Dougie pointed out that with our poker wins for the day, the big $210 buy-in tourney the next afternoon was now a free-roll for us. Nice!

We got up much too late on Sunday morning to make any bets on the early NFL games, but it turned out to be a good thing. I would’ve gone like one-for-six if I had gotten up early, so my laziness saved me some money this time around.

Once we got showered and dressed, we headed downstairs for breakfast at the Carson Street Café. There was no line on Sunday—it had moved to the registration desk as everyone was checking out. I was hungry, so I ordered eggs benedict, hashbrowns, coffee, and a side of toast. Dougie had corned beef hash and some other stuff, and we stayed away from the Bailey’s milkshakes this time around. Breakfast was excellent, and after our meal we kinda split up and did our own thing for awhile. Dougie hit the Pai Gow tables, while I went to the book and made bets on the afternoon NFL games, and then I hit the dice table.

I haven’t played craps in months, but I was up a couple hundy for the trip, so I decided to give it a try. It was a dead game, and I saw that the boxman was my old instructor Phil, from dealers school almost four years ago. Yep, the guy who taught me how to deal dice was sitting box there at the Nugget. So it was cool to talk to him and catch up for a bit, and even better, I had a monster roll on an empty table and made over $300! That hasn’t happened for me in a very long time, so I was happy to color up for over four hundred bucks. I found Dougie and played some more Pai Gow and what not, and we goofed off in the casino for a couple of hours, just bouncing around. Dougie went up to the room to get something he forgot, so I just sat there at a dollar slot machine, trying to scam a free drink and doing a bit of people watching.

Just a few minutes later, I saw Andrea walking by, so I yelled her name and she came over. Sandra was with her and we chatted for a few minutes talking about our weekend’s activities. I felt bad for her—I think she was really sick the whole time and her weekend wasn’t nearly as fun as it could’ve been. But Sandra snapped a quick picture of us and they were on their way.

Dougie was taking longer than expected, so of course I lost about eighty bucks at the blackjack table while waiting for him. Dammit. I guess I just got bored sitting there people watching, and because I was an idiot, it cost me. Oh well. At least I can say that I played some blackjack.

Once Dougie got back, we wandered over to Binion’s. We had about an hour and a half to kill before the big $210 4:00 pm tournament, so we sat down at a dead spread hoping to round up a couple of other players and get a 3-6 game going. We were successful, and just a few minutes later, we were playing one of the most fun poker games I’ve ever participated in.

Of course, it wasn’t like the March Madness buffoonery, but it was close. It was a friendly game with good smack talk and some great beat-downs. We had a lot of laughs, and then, just to make it even better, the hottest gal at Binion’s sat down in the box. Those of you familiar with Binion’s poker room will know who Jessica is—just an adorable little brunette gal who’s been on-call with them all year, so whenever it gets busy, she’s there. And since I’m usually only there for the big tournaments, I’ve run into her many times this past summer. As soon as she sat down, she pointed at me and said Hey--Mikey?, and of course I was flattered that she remembered me.

But we had a lot of laughs and told a lot of stories while she was there, and of course nobody wanted her to go. But she said that she’d be dealing the tournament later, so I told her to request table 22—my first table. She said she’d try…

Anyhow, about the time she was leaving, it was time for us to color up and head over to the tournament. I made $70 in the 45 minutes or so while we were there, so it was another successful session at the cash games for me.

The tournament didn’t get quite as many players as I’d hoped—I was thinking there would be about 150 players or so, but there were only 85. And keeping up with the new tradition for the weekend, the guy who sat on my right was another poker know-it-all and insisted on giving a lecture after every hand. Yep, there was lots of eye-rolling at my table, but at least I had position on him.

About forty-five minutes into the tournament, I looked down to see pocket Aces. Two people limped in, and Mr. Know It All raised it up to $400 to go. I popped it to $1200, the limpers folded, and the talker went all-in. Of course I called. Like a chump, he only had pocket deuces, so I figured I was good to double up and cripple him at the same time. And I can guarantee you that everyone else at the table was rooting for me.

The flop was all rags, so I was pretty confident that I’d be the new chip leader. But then that jackass caught his two-outer deuce on the turn, giving him trips. I got no help on the river, and just like that, my day was done, my Aces crushed by the most annoying player in the tournament. It was then that I learned that I was the third player eliminated.

I was kind of stunned, and numb, so I wandered over to Dougie and paid him the $10 last-longer bet, and wandered out to Fremont Street, completely dazed. I couldn’t believe it—it was like I’d gotten poker-starred right there in the card room. I was pissed.

I wandered back over to the Nugget, and hit the dice table again. I managed to make my $200 buy-in back with another nice roll at the craps table, but I was still kind of feeling shiatty. Dougie showed up and found me about an hour later. I was still kind of out of it, so I don’t remember the details of his particular tale of woe, but the bottom line is that we both stunk up the one tourney we really wanted to do well in. Ugh.

We played Pai Gow for awhile, but I couldn’t get anything going. I think my frame of mind was all screwed up at that point, and just wasn’t feeling the gambling vibe. So I gave a few bucks back to the house before calling it quits.

Dougie suggested dinner, and I was kinda hungry. He was thinking the deli over at the Golden Gate, but I wasn’t feeling it. Since we were right there, I suggested we hit The Grotto for pizza and beer. He was up for that, so we got a couple of seats by the windows overlooking the pool.

Our simple meal of pizza and beer turned into going full-on with calamari and Caesar salad, two Neapolitan-style pies, and some outrageously good coconut cream pie for dessert. Yep, we ended up dropping a bundle on dinner, but it was really good. We kinda wanted to hurry through though, because the pool closed at 8 pm, and we wanted to get out there and swim amongst the sharks for awhile.

As soon as the tab was paid, we scurried upstairs to change into swim trunks and grab cigars. I noticed that the message light was flashing on the phone, and when I called, I found out that there was a package waiting for me at the bell desk. Nice! I told them I’d come and get it later, because we had less than a half an hour of pool time.

We hurried back downstairs and cannonballed into the pool, and spent the time pressed up against the glass taunting the sharks. One of them swam up from below and flashed a mouth full of sharp teeth, surprising us and giving us a bit of a start, but it was pretty cool. One thing I noticed is that none of the big silver fish in there (I have no idea what kind they are), have dorsal fins. Weird.

Anyhow, after about 20 minutes of taunting the sharks, the lifeguard blew his whistle and caddy day at the pool was over. But while the pool may close at 8:00 pm, the hot tub and the Dive bar are open late. So we got out of the pool and into the hot tub, where we stayed for about an hour or so. There was a little bit of eye candy on hand, which made it more enjoyable, and a nice older couple from Phoenix joined us after a bit and we had a nice conversation with them. It was also a beautiful night out, so sitting there in the hot tub was a great way to kill some time.

We ordered a couple of the worst pina coladas I’ve ever tasted while there, so for the second round I went back to the old reliable Captain and Coke. While we were sitting in there, we noticed a sign that said that the maximum number of people allowed in the hot tub at one time was 53. The lady we were talking to said that she’d hate to be in there with 52 other people, but I offered up that I wouldn’t mind at all if I got to choose which 52 it was. The rest of the guys agreed with my logic.

We never got around to smoking our Black Labels, and after over an hour in the hot-tub, we were good and wrinkly, ready to call it a night. But Dougie had a brilliant idea—he suggested that we go play in the 11:00 pm tournament at Binion’s again. I totally hadn’t even thought about that after getting blown out of the big tourney earlier in the day, so I was totally up for it. Dougie headed up to the room, and I took my soggy ass down to the bell desk and picked up my package.

It seems that one of my Australian readers is trying to poison me with rum, and had dropped off a huge bottle of Bundaberg molasses rum. He said it was an acquired taste, and while I’m sitting here sipping some while I write this, I’m wondering just how much I have to drink before I acquire a taste for it, because so far, it’s not quite up to my liking. But I’m willing to keep trying…

Anyhow, once I got back up to the room, we took showers and changed clothes before heading back over to Binion’s again. The 11:00 pm tournament on Sunday night only had about 24 players this time around, but once again, Dougie and I made it to the final table.

While I was sitting there, I saw a familiar face at the table next to me—when I heard him talking, I realized who it was. For those of you watching the WSOP coverage on ESPN, if you’ve noticed the guy with the monster chip lead and the St. Louis Cardinals cap with all of the autographs on it, then you’ll know who Dennis Phillips is. Anyhow—there he was, playing an $80 no-limit tournament at Binion’s, keeping sharp for his final table appearance in two weeks. I got to chat with him for a bit, but didn’t get a picture. He’s a really nice guy though, and I told him that I was rooting for him—the old guys gotta represent!

Anyhow, my luck was completely shiatty that night. There was some yahoo just calling with rags every time and catching cards like you wouldn’t believe. I doubled him up twice. One time, my pocket Aces (again) went up against nines, and he got his third nine on the river. The other time, I flopped a straight, and he had Ace-rag offsuit, and called my all-in. He managed to get four clubs for the nut-flush. It was ridiculous—he was doing it to everyone, just making hand after hand after hand. Once we got to the final table, everyone was gunning for him because he kept playing such shiatty cards, but he kept catching cards on the river and knocking people out or crippling them. It was insane. At least we didn’t have to listen to lectures every time though, so that was nice.

But I was getting short stacked and went all-in with King-Queen suited before the flop, and Dougie called me with his pocket Queens. As you can probably guess, no help for me, and I got knocked out in eighth place.

I bailed out and went to play dice some more, but after that tourney, I lost everything I touched. Dougie went on to get third place, and the asshat that kept calling with junk every time ended up winning the tournament outright (I believe he put a bad-beat on Dougie to knock him out, too).

About the time I was getting knocked out, my phone was ringing, but I didn’t hear it. As I walked out onto Fremont Street a few minutes later, I pulled out the phone to see what time it was and noticed that I’d had a missed call. Work was calling, and they left a message telling me that there were a couple of juicy no-limit games going and they wanted me to come in. So I called ‘em back, and even though just ten minutes had passed, they didn’t need me anymore.

Apparently, there was a big five-way all-in hand and the guy who won the hand had everyone covered, so it broke the game. So I didn’t have to go back to work that night.

I tried a little more Pai Gow and blackjack, but I dumped another $150 before calling it quits. Dougie was still going strong in the tourney at the time, so I just headed back to the room and had a Coke and ate my leftover pizza while watching SportsCenter highlights.

Dougie finally made it back to the room eventually and gave me the rundown on the rest of the tournament, and yeah, he was kinda pissed at the winner too. I guess there was some sort of controversy about the payouts or something, I don’t know… So we stayed up talking and watching TV for awhile, and started packing, getting ready for departure the next morning.

Once we finally went lights out, Dougie was out cold, but I couldn’t sleep hardly at all—I tossed and turned for most of the night (I think my bed was too soft). I finally went to sleep about the time the sun was coming up, but by then I was so tired that I just passed out. Dougie got up and left—he went for breakfast at the Main Street Station buffet and did some shopping for his kids, while I slept. I was cool with that, because I’m no fan of buffets at all. He got back about the time I was getting out of the shower, and we called the bell desk and had them come and get the luggage.

We left the room for the last time, and while Dougie went to the front desk to settle our accounts, I hit the dice table again. Again, I had no luck. We played Pai Gow for awhile, but I could tell that my gambling mojo had been spent. I played it low and slow, and still didn’t really win anything to speak of. I even went over to Binion’s to play some dice, but could only break even over there.

We finally called it a trip around 1:30 that afternoon, and headed back over to the Nugget valet to pick up the truck. A few minutes later, we were on our way back to the airport. I dropped Dougie off at the Allegiant curb and we said goodbye until next time. I figured he wouldn’t be back until March, but just this afternoon he called and said he might be back next month for Thanksgiving week. (There’s another series of tournaments at the Nugget that week, right up our alley).

Once I left the airport, I pointed the truck towards Henderson and made a couple of stops. I still ended up on the plus side for the weekend, so I hit the bank to make a deposit, then grabbed a sub sandwich and came home. It was a great weekend, but it wore me out. I slept most of the afternoon before finally sitting down at the keyboard to get this story written.

Final Thoughts:

  • I didn’t have a single losing session while playing cash-game poker.
  • Binion’s and Golden Nugget are now BOTH Coca-Cola joints. No more of that vile Pepsi shiat is to be found anywhere on either property!
  • The Golden Nugget is a great place. Besides a couple of dipshiat Pai Gow dealers, everything there was damn near perfect. The restaurants, the rooms, the casino, the sports book, the pool—I can’t wait to go back and stay there again.
  • There were plenty of $5 and $10 tables all over downtown this past weekend. There was even a $3 craps table at Binion’s on Monday.
  • The El Cortez—it’s coming along nicely. It may not be your dad’s El Cortez, but yeah, it’s still the El Cortez.
  • Binion’s runs some of the best poker tournaments in all of Vegas.
  • Over the course of three days, the only casinos I set foot in were Binion’s, the Golden Nugget, and the El Cortez. No Vegas Club, no Plaza, no Golden Gate. I didn’t even get any deep-fried mystery food at Mermaids.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Still Writin'

Hey Gang!

I didn't want to leave you completely in the lurch, re-clicking over and over again without any kind of update. But as far as my weekend's activities go, I'm still writing, but I'm not-quite halfway through. I didn't get as much done yesterday as I'd hoped, and I just got home today from a very long (and extremely profitable) day at work. I'm pretty tired, as I didn't get a whole lotta sleep last night and I got called in early, so I'll probably take a nap and then spend my evening writing some more. It's coming along, but like Mr. Miyagi once said, Patience, grasshopper!

Yep, when I got in to work this morning, I was pretty bummed to see that the sign on the marquee out in front of the casino said that the poker jackpot was now "up to" $152,000. It resets to $150,000 when it hits, so it must've hit on Monday when I was out goofing off downtown. That's a complete bummer, because the higher that thing goes, the busier we get.

But I came in to find a very juicy no-limit game going--there were five players, and they all agreed that instead of the standard blinds they'd post a $5 ante every hand. That created a lot of action, and I was pushing *huge* pots around the table. Eventually, the group got whittled down to two guys playing heads up with $5 and $10 blinds, and I ended up doing very well. I was locked down on that game for four hours, and I had to have the floorman relieve me twice so that I could empty my pockets.

The old guys game got a late start, but the other dealer came in and got it going and we took turns dealing half-hours on the juicy no-limit game and the old guys limpfest game. But once the old fellas table got going, it filled up in a hurry so the money wasn't too bad there, either. In fact, today turned out to be one of my top-five toke days I've had since moving over to the poker room, and all I can say is Whew! I needed it. I've only got two days scheduled next week, and since the jackpot hit again, the lean times aren't going away anytime soon. So I thank god for drunks with big egos.

Anyhow, I'm back at home now, celebrating my good fortune with a chewy granola bar and a watery fountain Coke, and I'm about to turn on the TV and doze through Rome is Burning, Around the Horn, and Pardon the Interruption. Once I get my nap in, I'll spend the evening at the keyboard. Maybe there will be something for you to read in the morning.

Or maybe not.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

It's Good To Be Back!

As great as it was to get away for a few days, it's nice to finally be back home. I had a great weekend hanging out with Dougie and living like a tourist for a few days, but we were both certainly ready to call it a weekend just about the time I dropped him off at the airport. Poker, gambling, free drinks, late-night buffoonery, and epic people-watching are always great fun, and it was just what I needed--time away from the Real World.

Luckily I've got the chance to ease back into that real world--I'm just on call on Tuesday, and I'm guessing that I won't get called in, so the transition from drunken tourist to working stiff should be quite painless this time around. If I'm not working, I plan on spending the entire day writing--I have absolutely no chores to do or no place I have to be. The is no housework that needs to be done, and I only have one duffel bag full of dirty clothes from the weekend, so the laundry can wait, too.

But even while I was gone, living like an old-school Vegas buffoon, I was thinking of all of you good people. Whenever I got back to the room late at night, I stayed up for an hour or so jotting down notes about the day's adventures, so that I can write an entertaining 'trip report' about my Vegas experience. And I've got five pages of notes, all neatly organized on Golden Nugget stationary. I'm looking forward to sharing it...

So that's all for now--Posting may be a little light until I get this latest story written. I hope it's worth the wait.


Friday, October 24, 2008

Well Of Course It Always Happens That Way

Wouldn't ya know it. As soon as I realize that I have absolutely no time to do anything, the muse starts singing and I find myself ready to just go nuts at the keyboard and start writing like my fingers are on fire.

But I can't. I've still got about ten things on my list left to do, and I have to be at the airport in less than two hours to pick up Dougie.

Yep. Nothing all week, and then it hits me all at once. Actually, it hit me starting last night, but I was smart and jotted down a few notes. So once I get back from my weekend's buffoonery, I'll be good to go and you'll have plenty to read next week. But for now, I'm gonna say Adios for the weekend, and tell you that you probably won't see another update until at least Monday evening.

I'm off to play drunken tourist for a few days. It's a role for which I've become quite adept, kinda like Hugh Grant playing the harried metrosexual boyfriend.


Late On A Thursday Night

Ok, tonight I promise that that this update won't be a mailing-it-in food post. After years of writing stuff for this site, I've learned a few tricks. One, which is an old-school writers' block trick, is that when you can't think of anything to write, just write whatever you're thinking about and free-form from there. Good or bad, something usually turns up on the page. And two, there's no better way to generate comments and interest than to talk about everyone's favorite subject--food!

So yeah, I'll admit, I've been taking the easy way out this week. But the reason for that is because there's just not much of interest that's been happening in my circle of influence.

Luckily the past two days at work have been busier than usual, and the money's been better than I've expected, and certainly much better than it has been the last couple of weeks. The bummer is that I'm only working three days this week, so unless the money is just off-the-charts good, I'm still a little stressed. I work again tomorrow (Friday), but then, I'm off again until next Tuesday. Grrrrrr. And I can't even be On-Call over the weekend either, although I told them that I'd work early on Sunday morning if they needed me, but I have to be out by 3:00 pm at the latest, and as much as I'd hate to do it, I'd work Monday morning too, if needed. Dougie's gonna be here and we've got some plans, and I'd love to hang out and goof off the entire time, but I've still got obligations to meet, so if I can somehow manage to get a partial shift in over the weekend, it would be ideal.

Luckily, I got out from under my most crushing financial burdens earlier this past year, so I can live paycheck-to-paycheck on surprisingly little money, in short bursts. (I'd hate to be short-stacked for months on end, but for a few weeks at a time, it's not as painful as I was afraid of). And from the Finally Getting It department, I've become a fanatic (almost a religious fervor) about putting away at least 10% of my earnings in places where it's extremely tough to get to. See? I learned a few things during the last recession depression.

Anyhow, financial woes are nothing new, and I guess it's gonna be that way until the media quits talking the economy down and people start spending a little more money again. Hell, I'd settle for just getting better shifts and working four days a week at this point. Seriously, it sucks to be the lowest toad on the food chain in the poker room. Although, earlier today one of the bosses gave me a nice compliment. He said that for somebody who gets the shit sandwich as much as I do, I've got the best attitude of any of the dealers in the department. Heh. I'm guessing it's only because none of the other dealers had to spend three years out in the pit. My weekly shit sandwich tastes like ambrosia compared to what all those poor fools I left behind are eating.

Speaking of eating (you know I couldn't resist, didn't ya!), I never made my pierogies and kielbasa on Wednesday night. It all started on Tuesday night, when I had an early dinner and fell asleep much too early. I ended up waking up around 9:00 pm and was up all night. Once I got out of work the next day, I was starving, so I stopped and got some Chinese food for lunch. Once I ate that, I was good to go, and fell asleep again within an hour or so of getting home. I was in no mood to cook dinner later that night once I finally woke up again--I think I had a cup of yogurt and a tall glass of fruit juice (sans the rum).

I was up all night again on Wednesday, and once I got home from work today, I went straight to bed for three hours--I was dead on my feet for the last half of my shift, so it was inevitable that I'd crash as soon as I got home. But at least I set my alarm this time because 1) I didn't want to be up all night again tonight, and 2) I didn't want to miss the World Series game.

Once I got up, I did some laundry and did a bunch of housecleaning, and while I was downstairs I cooked my last two hotdogs and re-heated the leftover chili. It was just as good as it was the other day, and besides a tasty dinner, I got a lot of work done around the house. My roommate is having all the floors in the house professionally steam-cleaned this weekend, so I've been doing a bunch of scrubbing and such, and also getting as much junk stacked up and out of the way in preparation for the cleaners to come in shine up our carpets. This place should be pretty nice and spiffy when I come back home on Monday.

So that's about it from here tonight. As a reward for all of my hard work, I've fixed myself a tall glass of Coke and mixed in a couple of shots worth of Barbados' finest rum. We've got all the windows and doors of the house opened up, enjoying the cool night and the lights of the Strip off in the distance. Hell, we've even got all the tiki torches lit up in the backyard and the firepit is going too! It's a pretty nice night to be in Las Vegas Henderson, I have to admit.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Oh HELL Yeah!

Sometimes, when I'm feeling kinda bored and there's nothing on TV, or when I don't feel like reading or doing chores, I surf the internet. Yeah, I know--Shocker, huh? But it's a different kind of surfing when all of your favorite sites haven't updated in awhile (not that that ever happens here!). Tonight was kinda like that. I was surfing around for interesting recipes to try at some point, and I stumped across this masterpiece-- Bacon Apple Pie!

My first thought, of course, was Damn, now *that* sounds like a great idea! But then my second thought was Hmmm--I'm surprised that nobody has come up with this before.

After reading the article, it sounds like the author has tried it a couple of times and hasn't quite gotten it exactly right just yet. Looking over the recipe, I had the same thought that many of the people who commented did--maybe if you used bacon grease in the crust instead of shortening, that might tighten up the flavor a bit. Also, I would cook the lattice-top bacon down about halfway, just to get the grease factor down a bit. I dunno if that would work, but hey, if you're gonna experiment in the kitchen, it might as well be with two things as tasty as bacon and apple pie.

Of course, a dessert like this has gotta be the absolute worst thing in the world for the health-conscious among us, but then again, the holidays are coming and there's nothing wrong with a little indulgence. There will be time for exercise and healthy living habits come January, and this is something that would obviously be just a once-a-year treat, kinda like peanut butter balls or can-shaped cranberry sauce. That being said, the more I thought about this recipe, the more I thought about how to make it better. Bacon is quite salty, so I think it would be better balanced with more sugar in the recipe--think about how sweet a Hostess fruit pie is (apple of course), and then add a side of bacon. Now if you can somehow merge the two, then maybe you'd be on to something.

Like the author, I too believe that eventually this recipe could be tweaked to the point where you actually find the synergy of the ingredients and the sum would be greater than the whole of the parts. It just sounds too good not to be so, don't ya think?


I Got A Fever Baby...

But no, the prescription is not more cowbell--this time. I don't know why, but lately I've been craving a hot dog. And not one of those awful, overcooked mystery-meat dogs they serve on the stale bread in the dining room at work that's been marinating in hot swampy meat-water all day. I wanted one that would be good enough to eat at a ballgame or a cookout. But I haven't had a good one in a couple of months, and I felt it was time.

Normally I prefer the Oscar Mayer deli dogs or the Hebrew Nationals, so those cheapie Bar-S combo dogs with three kinds of 'meat' aren't for me. I only buy the 100% beef dogs, so I'll gladly pay extra for a high-quality tube-steak, and leave the lips-and-asshole varieties to the bargain shoppers.

So once I got up and got to moving around today, I headed out to the grocery store. Actually, would've preferred to take myself out to lunch and get a hot dog, restaurant-style, but I don't know of a good place near my neighborhood that serves them. (We have no Ted's here in Vegas)

The best hot-dog I've had here in Vegas was at one of the food stands out by the Carnaval Court at Harrah's, about five or six years ago. They used a Chicago-style poppy-seed bun and sprinkled it with celery salt, and it was quite tasty. But I certainly didn't want to go down to the Strip just to get a hot dog, so I had to find other options. A close second would be the snack bar at Costco, but I haven't had a Costco membership since I've lived here in Vegas. And getting a new membership, while useful, would've been an expensive way to eat lunch.

So it looked like I'd be cooking my own lunch and it would be coming from the grocery store.

But--the grocery store was a two-fold mission. I also found some Mrs. T's potato-cheese pierogies while I was there, so I grabbed a box. I couldn't very well eat them all by themselves, so I picked up a kielbasa and sweet onion to grill with 'em. But that'll be dinner on Wednesday. The mission at hand was to satisfy my hot dog craving.

I found some Hebrew Nationals, picked up a couple of cans of Hormel no-bean chili, and some fresh buns. I grabbed a few other odds and ends, and called it quits.

As soon as I got home, I made my lunch (boiling instead of grilling this time) and sat down to enjoy the afternoon of ESPN programming. I'm thinking that the best way to do hot dogs is with spicy mustard, chili, and topped with shredded cheese. I skipped the onions--I don't normally eat onions on chili-dogs unless they're already chopped up and available. I didn't feel like making the effort to dice them up. It seems that I kinda prefer them a little more 'minimalist' than the Chicago-style of 'dragging it through the garden'. Although--there's always a time and place for that--it just wasn't today. The weather is starting to cool off at night, so chili seemed appropriate.

Anyhow, it was a very good lunch, and it totally satisfied my hot-dog jones. And it gave me something to write about tonight, because, believe it or not, I just haven't had much to say for the past two days. I've been extremely lazy (I didn't manage to pick up another shift at work), and there has been nothing of interest happening around here today. I was almost 100% certain that I'd get called in, because one of our full-time dealers calls out every Tuesday, but apparently it was kinda slow today and they didn't need me. So all that time waiting by the phone was for naught.

My evening was spent drinking a little spiked Coca Cola and watching the World Series of Poker again (glad to see that rat bastard Hellmuth finally busted out!), and doing a bit of reading. It's almost to the point where it's cool enough at night to go out walking around the neighborhood (there's a park closeby), but we're not quite there just yet.

Once the WSOP ended, I found myself watching another cool show that was right up in my kitchen, Crusoe on the USA network. I guess it's on NBC on Friday nights and they re-air it or something, but I found it on USA tonight and really enjoyed it. It's got everything--pirates, tropical islands, treasure, swashbuckling, adventure, McGuyver-like boobie traps, double crosses, escapes, etc etc etc. So it's now on the auto-record list, along with the WSOP coverage, all episodes of Deadliest Catch, and The Unit.

More later, or as soon as I can think of anything interesting to write about.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Don't You Worry None, Little Camper--

I'll fix yer wagon...

See, there I was, in a foul mood on Friday, bitching about work. And here it is Sunday evening and it's all better now.

I was snoozin' in late today--I was up late looking at house plans again--and around 9:45 am my phone was ringing. And it was that familiar ring that means I'm either picking up a shift or getting fired. It's been pretty slow lately, but Sundays are generally busier than most other days, so my money was on picking up a shift.

And I was right--they were calling me in, asking if I could work at eleven. Oh hell yeah I could! The eleven am shift is about the best one available if you ask me. The daily tournament usually starts then, and that's a couple of downs worth of easy money, and sometime around 1pm or so, they'll usually have enough people on hand to start a no-limit game. Me and the other three dealers drew cards for our spots in the new rotation when we clocked in, and I got lucky and got the top of the push, meaning that I got the most tables before getting a break. That was just fine with me.

Once I finally got a break, a couple of hours later, I was starving. I went over to the pizza joint on property and got a couple of slices of crappy pizza and a drink for over ten bucks. I mean, I was shocked when they told me the total. A little bit proud of your prices, don't ya think? I said, as I handed over my eleven bucks. I mean, come on--greasy fake cheese and pepperoni sliced so thin you can see through it? I won't be going back.

But then I wandered over to the sports book, and took my usual spot in the back of the book by the service well, because one of my favorite gals spends her Sundays working in the book. Had I been smart about it, I could've saved almost three bucks by skipping the fountain drink from the pizza place and had the cocktail waitress bring me a drink for free. Well, I would've tossed her a buck, obviously, but I still would've gotten off cheaper.

Of course, while sitting there, I saw that my NFL picks were already in the dumper because of Miami and New Orleans, so there were no tickets to be cashed today. On the other hand, I offer this, an open letter to the 'twelf men' of Seattle:

Dear Seahawk fans:

I'm truly sorry for your recent misfortunes, but somebody has to wear the collar in the NFC West. It might as well be you clowns. Just do us Rams fans a favor--try not to mess up the basement too badly. We lived there for quite some time and found it rather comfortable, but we've since improved our lot in life. It looks like you guys will be probably there for some time, so just remember to pick up after yourselves. And try not to stain the furniture.

Thank you,

St. Louis Rams fans

Whew! That felt pretty good. And I gotta love my team beating up on the Cowboys like they did today. It just warms my heart.

Anyhow. Work pretty much flew by today--I was busy all day, and only had one bad table--four or five of our biggest stiffs and whiners were all concentrated on one table, so it was a cast-iron bitch of a half hour to sit there and grind it out and get stiffed every other hand. Ugh. But the other games more than made up for it and I had a fairly lucrative day. So I feel a whole lot better today than I did on Friday.

I'm on call for both Monday and Tuesday, but I'm hoping to avoid going in on Tuesday. It seems that I'm such a big wheel in Nevada politics that I got a 'VIP' invite to the Sarah Palin rally here in Henderson on Tuesday. I'd rather do that, obviously, but if work calls, I've gotta go answer to The Man.

Ooh, and I almost forgot. Somehow, somebody out there considers me a member of the Las Vegas press corps, and I got an invitation to Press Night at the new Ricks Cabaret Gentleman's Club (which, if I'm not mistaken, now occupies the space formerly held by Scores). Anyhow, all I needed to do was send them my RSVP and my affiliation, and a night of free cocktails and VIP service was mine for the taking. Of course, all of the lovely ladies of Rick's would be made available for pictures and interviews, also.

Can you imagine me sitting there trying to carry on an interview with a stripper? Sure beats Anne Rice's gig, I'm guessing, but it'd probably be tough to keep a straight face.

As much fun as it would be, I took a pass on that one. I know--I'm lettin' you guys down, but I've got enough problems with cocktail waitresses. I don't need to be getting friendly with any strippers. They're much further up the crazy scale, and I certainly don't need any of that right now. It's like Jay-Z said--I got 99 problems and a biatch ain't one of 'em!

I'd kinda like to keep it that way for awhile.


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Wasting The Day

Ok, I guess I'm now at peace with the fact that I've got a shiatty schedule at work this week and I'm gonna be a poor white boy for the foreseeable future. It's easy to be at peace with not working since all the bills are paid and I don't have to worry about any new ones for a few weeks. Besides, I've always been cool with that whole 'not working' thing. Maybe a little too cool with it...

Since I knew I wouldn't be working today, I embraced the insomnia last night and stayed up till well past 3:00 am. I did a few of the usual housekeeping things, but mostly I just surfed the internet. I ended up browsing new home plans all night long, which is pretty much a time-waster because I certainly can't afford my own place anytime soon, much less a new build. But you know, every now and then I get my hands on a Powerball ticket or think about riding my mad poker skills to a seven-figure payday, so it was every bit as fun for me to look at new home plans for several hours as it would be for a high-schooler to discover his uncle's porn stash while house-sitting over a long weekend.

Of course, staying up that late, I finally fell asleep once the sun started peeking up over the eastern mountains. That messed up my plans to get up early and watch Game Day, like I normally do, so I completely whiffed on the early games today.

But once I finally got up, around noon, I turned on the coffeemaker, did a load of laundry, and made some breakfast. Breakfast consisted of whole-wheat toast with butter, peanut butter, and a sprinkle of bacon salt, a pot of coffee, and some pina colada flavored Yoplait. It was pretty damn good, but I'm sure I'll be hungry again in a bit, and I have no idea what to do for dinner.

So I've done pretty much nothing all day but read, drink coffee, and keep an eye on the TV in the background. Every Saturday, I do an eight-team parlay for five bucks, which pays $1050 if I get 'em all right. Of course, I never win 'em, but to me, it's kinda like playing the lottery--a cheap and pleasant diversion which makes the college football day that much more interesting. But the cool thing is, I actually went 7 for 8 this week. Yep, Georgia cost me a thousand bucks by not covering against Vanderbilt.

I've ridden that Vandy bandwagon all year, and I think they're something like 6-1 against the spread. But starting a new quarterback and going on the road to Athens for homecoming weekend, I figured that the Dawgs would maul 'em, so I bet against the Commies. Georgia was laying fifteen points, but only won by ten, dammit. So that's a thousand bucks I won't be enjoying. Oh well, say-la-vee... Too much chalk, once again.

Anyhow, I have no big plans for the weekend. I'm livin' like a cheapass hermit for awhile, not going out and being social or trying new restaurants. First of all, I don't really have the bankroll to do it right now, and next weekend I'll be living like a tourist, staying downtown at the Nugget for three nights and playing poker with Dougie for about 72 hours straight. So I'm saving my meager ducketts for that adventure.

Tonight, I'm going to watch the Mizzou-Texas game, then I'll probably fix up a batch of my favorite recipe--Rum, Coke, Ice, and Limes, and then sit out on the back deck enjoying the view of the Strip while smoking a Black Label. Who says you gotta spend money to live large in Vegas?


Saturday Morning Update

Hey gang, just wanted to give an update for those reclickers out there who come to visit on the weekends.

First of all, the sickness-cold-illness worry was a false alarm. My immune system was up to the task and I picked up no harmful germs from the inconsiderate poker players. In fact, when I got up on Friday morning, I felt better than I had all week.

But as healthy as I feel, I'm fairly pissed off, otherwise. Not only is it a very slow month in the poker room, but I've only got three days scheduled next week. And all-three days are those worthless shifts where I go in at six, don't do shiat for two hours, then get sent home at eleven when all the day shift dealers come in.

Lean times, indeed.

I haven't been playing hardly any poker lately, so my four-month streak of making my truck payment with poker winnings has come to an end. I actually had to 'earn' this last payment, and I'm here to tell ya, that sucks, especially in a slow month like this.

But the thing that really set me off today was that I got sent home two hours early, again, and we had three games and five dealers at the time. But they insisted that they had to send me home, which I thought was a bullshit move at the time.

Instead of leaving right away, after clocking out, I wandered over and sat in the back row of the race book. I like to sit there and make my football picks, and it's right next to the service well where the cocktail waitresses pick up their drinks. So I sit there and flirt and chat with my girlies because it's slow for them, too, and they'll bring me free drinks.

Anyhow, after about a half hour, I wandered back around the corner to the poker room, and I saw that there were four full tables--two limit games, a no-limit game, and the final table of the daily tournament. What made it worse is that they were suddenly so short-handed that the poker room manager was actually dealing at the tournament table! The boss NEVER deals.

Seriously, I could've stayed another half hour and got another down in, and they wouldn't have been in the weeds like they were. But the floor manager saw me standing there by the entrance, and saw the pissed off look on my face, and came over to smooth things over. Of course, his hands were tied, he couldn't do anything about it, but the fact that they're just so tight with the hours was the real irritation. And it kind of bit them on the ass this time. So he promised to call me in if it got that busy again over the weekend (I'm scheduled to be off for the next four days, but I told them to put me on call). Also, the weird casino rules prevent me from clocking back in again, too, so they couldn't even use me although I was available.

So next week is gonna suck, at least as it stands right now. We'll see what happens, but damn, I for one am getting sick of this weak-ass economy, or at least the chicken-little over-reactions to it. According to the guys that have been out here in Vegas forever, they all tell me that election years are always the worst, and that business is always weak until the election is over. So I'm looking forward to November, that's for sure.

Of course, back in July and August, there was another stretch where I had only three days of work scheduled each week, but I always managed to pick up a shift or two. It's just that right now, I'm in that irritated stage where I feel like I've got no control and I feel like I'm getting screwed. But it always seems to work out in the end. I just have to remember that and get in the proper frame of mind.

I've got my fingers crossed.


I Have No Idea What I'm Talking About

But I'm trying to educate myself.

It seems that I've opened Pandora's Box again, and this time, it was full of Peirogies. One mention of it, and it's cole slaw time all over again! Yep, I got a few comments, but now my inbox is full of peirogie talk.

First of all, a picture to whet your appetite:

As far as I can tell, pierogies are basically the same thing as Italian ravioli or Chinese dumplings, although most Polish folk will insist that they came up with the idea first. (Actually, the proper plural of pierogie is, strangely enough, pierogie--no 's' on the end. Kinda like deer, I suppose). Anyhow, each culture has their own variety, and although I'm quite familiar with the Italian and Chinese versions, I've never had an official Polish pierogie.

Oh, I've had my chance before, but I took a pass and did the 'cab ride of shame' instead. About 12 or 13 years ago, I went out on New Year's Eve to a bar in Scottsdale, hooked up with a nice polish gal who had me drinking waaaaay too much vodka, and after the ball dropped, I found myself at her place.

The next morning, which was New Year's Day, of course, she insisted on cooking me pierogies for breakfast. Unfortunately, I turned her down. One, I'd never heard of them before and this was long before I was a culinary adventurist. Two, I wanted to get home and watch football and such, and three, well, once the evenings activities had concluded, conversation with her revealed that behind the attractive face and well-built chassis, she was packing a metric assload of bat-shiat crazy. So I beat a hasty retreat, home in time to catch the Rose Parade.

So I never got to try a pierogie.

Marlisha was kind enough to send me a couple of links to places here in Vegas where I can get some, and the one that intrigues me the most is a place called Polonez, down on Sahara and Maryland Parkway. So it's now at the top of the list, and although I've never heard of it, seen it, noticed it while driving by that intersection hundreds of times, I *think* it may be closed--I can't seem to find much info on the internet. There's also word of a Polish deli out on the west side at Charleston and Jones, but y'all know my thoughts about going out to the west side--I've got to have a damn good reason to cross I-15. So far, besides getting some good lovin', I've only come up with three reasons to go out there--NY Pizza & Pasta, Jamm's, and Capo's. We'll see if the desire to try some pierogies trumps my inherent laziness when it comes to driving across town.

But Suzette, the one who planted the seed in the first place, seems to be an expert on the subject, and according to her, I should only eat saurkraut or potato-filled pierogies, not those fake Russian ones with meat or prunes in them. Well, I can guarantee that I won't be eating anything with prunes in it anytime soon. And those potato or saurkraut morsels should be swimming in a pool of melted butter and grilled onions.

That actually sounds pretty damn good.

But in the course of my self-education, I've found that most pierogie-mongers will indeed offer meat-filled options, in addition to the more traditional varieties. I'm also fairly certain that I can get frozen pierogies at the grocery store if I look hard enough. So I might try a few different types if I can find them at the store.

While doing my research websurfing, I discovered a great recipe to go along with them--just brown some Kielbasa in a skillet, and then toss it in the crock pot with some onions, brown sugar, and applesauce. After a few hours, serve it with your pierogies. Sounds like my next kitchen experiment...


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Staring At the Blank Page. Again.

Man, as much as I'd love to post an entertaining update, the well is a little dry this week. Maybe Cruise Week took it out of me, but I'm also feeling a little out of sorts this week. I've not been sleeping well at all, and work has just really taken it out of me these past few days.

I'm afraid that I'm also on the way to getting sick, and probably sooner rather than later. Not only can I tell that my system isn't running at 100%, but there was some jackass at the poker table all day today coughing and wheezing all over the cards, chips, and in the air. And of course he spent the majority of the morning in seat #10, right next to me.

I did what I could--I got happy with the hand sanitizer as soon as I got off the table every time, and then when I got home, I drank an entire 46 oz bottle of V8 Fusion Light veggie & fruit juice, took some medicine and went to bed for a short nap. After work on Friday, I'm hitting the drug store for some Zycam or something to make sure that if I *do* get sick, it's a mild one.

I'd hate to get sick right now--Dougie's coming to town next weekend and we've got a three-day poker bender planned, so I've got to be feeling my best.

I haven't done much tonight--did some reading, a little online shopping, and watched Samantha Brown take a Carnival cruise that stopped in Cozumel. You know I'm lovin' that.

Otherwise, there just ain't much going on. Sorry to be so dull and boring, but I think the lack of visceral experience this week and low biorhythms are conspiring against my creative juices.

Maybe something interesting will happen this weekend.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Strange Things Are Afoot at the Circle K


I think I've got some gremlins monkeying around on my computer. In addition to a few changes I was trying to make that didn't work out quite right, I lost a bunch of comments overnight, and they're not in the pending moderation file either (I don't use that as a default anyways, but I've had that happen before).

Anyhow, if your comments are MIA, I apologize, but I'm off to the poker room for a couple of hours and don't have time to scratch my head over this.

Y'all have a happy day. I'll fart around with it later.


I've Got A New Girl Now. Or Two.

Nope, I'm not smitten with some new cocktail waitress (although I still flirt with my favorites), and no, I haven't convinced Nichole Hiltz to give up that crazy Hollywood lifestyle and come shack up with an underemployed poker dealer in Vegas. But I've got a couple of new favorite gals that I'd like to introduce to you. But first, we need a little sound and fury...

I'm almost ashamed to post this, but man, it's so chock-full of cheesy 80's goodness that I can no more resist doing it than I can resist clicking the link in an email promising pictures of Martha Quinn wearing nothing more than legwarmers and a hair scrunchie.

So here goes. Enjoy the Cheeze!

So I put that video up as an introduction to a couple of new gals I've added to my daily rotation, in addition to it being one of my favorite tunes from the Reagan years.

The first is Brigid from Home on the Range. I enjoy her writing quite a bit, and although it sometimes drifts off into the esoteric, I dig it. But it's mostly about guns and food, so there's plenty for me to enjoy. And she's a much better writer than I am, so you know, if you wanna feel smarter, get on over there for some highbrow blogging, then come on back over here for the literary equivalent of cartoons when you're done.

My other new favorite is Suzette, of Cripes, Suzette!. I wasted a couple of hours the other night giggling my way through her archives, and I must admit, I'm smitten. I don't know the first thing about her except that she's a Jersey girl and calls me "Honey" in her emails. And I can detect no overarching theme to her website, but it's a fun read. So far, it seems that she's into politics and dog-bloggin', kinda like Rachel. And her dog Stedman is so cool, it's like he's the Samuel L. Jackson of the canine world.

So I'm adding them to the daily rotation because not only do I enjoy them, I think you will too.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

At A Loss

Howdy y'all.

Here I am, home on a Tuesday night, ready to pound the keyboard for the next couple of hours, but I have a slight problem.

I just can't think of anything to write about. Life is rather dull right now. I worked (only six hours), had lunch, came home, watched the WSOP on ESPN, and saw Phil Helmuth act like a complete asshat again, just because he got outplayed on a hand.

I swear, if I were at that table when he started up again, I probably would've unloaded on him. Look, you got outplayed! Take it like a man and quit crying like a whiney little bitch, Sally... But that's just me. I have a short fuse when it comes to asshats.

I think I remember reading about it on the live update site back in July as it was happening, and I believe it was the last hand of the night and they gave him a ten minute penalty for the next day, but then they reversed it. I don't remember all the details, but the bottom line is that as good a poker player he is, he's just about as big a cocksucker as you'll ever meet at a poker table.


I've been getting a lot of feedback from Cruise Week, and it seemed to be a big hit. Much bigger than Cole Slaw Day or the No More Kimmy episode. It was such a big hit that my little sister Amy called me earlier tonight and we discussed it further. She suggested that I do some other 'themed' weeks, but I was kind of stuck for a subject. She wanted me to do a Beer Week, but I'm not quite enough of a beer snob to pull that off. And nobody wants to spend a week reading about Michelob Light, Pacifico, and Amber Bock. That's about all I drink anymore. Well, I'll indulge in a Peroni draft while dining at Grimaldi's, and I still kinda like Newcastle, and oh yeah, I have some Sam Adams Octoberfest in my mini-fridge, but otherwise, I really don't have much to say about beer besides "It tastes good".

I suggested something that'll stir up the comments section, like a Candy Week, but while it sounds like a good idea at first blush, the execution would be troublesome. I dunno. I guess I'll wait for inspiration to strike. It could happen tonight, or it might never come at all. That's the world I live in...

While we were talking, I told Amy that the topics that get the most traffic are usually food-related, so we somehow started talking about the Luther Burger.

Behold the unhealthy goodness of the Luther Burger:

For those of you who don't know what a Luther Burger is, it's a bacon-cheeseburger, and instead of a bun, it's served on a Krispy Kreme donut, cut in half and grilled. Oh hell yeah. Can't you just feel your arteries hardening just by thinking of eating that thing? Oh, and a traditional Luther Burger doesn't come with any veggies at all. No pickles, onions, lettuce, or tomato. That would make it somewhat healthy.

Why is it called a Luther Burger? Well, it has nothing to do with it's Protestant roots. (Although it certainly isn't a Catholic Burger either, more commonly known as the Filet-O-Fish). Actually, word on the street is that it was a favorite of Luther Vandross, and he ordered them all the time, kinda like how Elvis liked to have grilled peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

Myself, I've never had a Luther Burger, and I don't even know where I could get one out here in Vegas, unless I make one on my own. But the truth is, it's not very high on my must-do list. I've had bacon cheeseburgers. I've had Krispy Kreme donuts. I don't need to combine them. It would be kinda like putting a scoop of moose tracks on top of my pepperoni and mushroom pizza. Some things might be better just left alone.

But you never know unless you try. I thought strawberries marinated in balsamic vinegar would taste worse than liver dipped in buttermilk, but hey, it's actually pretty damn good.

Oh well. I still have nothing to write about. The suggestion box is open.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Because I Love You People

Hey, I know it's tough to go back to work on Monday morning following a week-long vacation. Even if you didn't go anywhere, it's hard to motivate yourself out of bed that first morning back in the real world, and it's twice as bad if you went somewhere sunny and tropical.

So you kind of have to ease back into the routine. You can't just go from Hawaiian-shirt wearing drunken buffoon to buttoned shirt-wearing office drone overnight. It's impossible. So you do little things--like wearing topsiders, so that you don't have to put on socks for another day. Or you still wear a Hawaiian print polo shirt, but at least it's tucked in while at the office. Maybe you keep your sunglasses on your head all day, giving off that I've still got one foot in the ocean vibe.

Whatever you do, I know it's hard to go back and face that pile of paperwork that was growing on your desk the entire time you were gone.

So my gift to you, dear readers, now that Cruise Week is over, is a few pictures I've collected that you can look at and daydream about when nobody's looking. Your body might be confined to a cube, a desk, and a computer monitor, but your mind can be anywhere else you want it to be.

Remember, clicky for full-sized goodness!