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 flightview.com 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.
- 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.