Sunday, January 18, 2009

And His Mama Cries...

Ok, so it wasn't quite as bad as I thought it would be. Y'all know how much I was dreading having to go up and deal that free-roll tourney, but it turns out that it wasn't completely awful. I'm not saying I enjoyed the hell out of it, but then again, it didn't suck like crap on a stick, either. More like crap on toasted Parmesan bread with a hint of garlic.

It was tough for me to sleep the night before, so I was not well-rested before heading out. But I was out the door by 6:30 in the morning and found my way to the North Vegas ghetto a half-hour later. I'd never even been to that part of town, having never set foot inside of Texas Station before. But it was easy to find--it's maybe five minutes from downtown.

I had no idea where I was going when I got there, but I just followed a couple of other people that looked like poker dealers (yeah, we have a certain look, I'm convinced) and I ended up in the right place, one of the huge ballrooms back in the convention center. I found my crew--four other dealers, the boss, and two of our floormen--and sat down and joined them. The veterans told me to lay claim to a really low-numbered table or a really high-numbered one and the day would be a lot easier, just because they break tables from the outside in, so you didn't want to be stuck at a table in the middle of the room and get worked like (even more of) a bitch all day.

As far as the tournament went, there were like 2500 players invited, and they broke them up into four different start times--8:00 am, 11:00 am, 2:00 pm, and 5:00 pm. Each session would play down to a hundred players, and the last four hundred would come back today for the final session.

So I went in at 7:00 am and put in twelve very long hours yesterday.

My biggest gripe going into the thing was that the money was going to be awful. Besides the minimum-wage that the house paid us, the toke rate in these free-rolls is legendarily bad. Whenever I'm dealing a tournament in my own room, we usually make anywhere from $15 to $25 per half-hour 'down'. In these free-rolls, word is that we're lucky to make five bucks per down, if that. Ugh.

So before they opened the doors for the first session, the tournament director announced that we'd each be getting an extra $150 from the house on top of our hourly wage and tokes. That put everyone in a much better mood, and it'll work out to a little over $20 per hour when it's all said and done. I can live with that--that's what I make whenever I do temp gigs or deal private tourneys through the school, so my outlook immediately improved when they made that announcement.

Also, the structure of the tournament was designed to just blow people out as quickly as possible--each player only got $700 worth of chips, and the blind levels were only 15 minutes long. That would never work in an entry-fee tournament, as there is too much of a luck factor involved, but as a free-roll, it worked perfectly. Once the cards went in the air, we were breaking one table about every two minutes. It only took two hours to go from 600+ players down to a hundred. Then they'd clear the room and do it all over again an hour later.

Because of the structure that knocked people out so fast, there was a lot of free time. Even though I was there 12 hours, I only had nine or ten downs worth of dealing. But it's not like it was easy, as there were all kinds of little chores to do between each session--we had to turn the room over four times and set up all the tables so that it looked like a brand-new tournament for each group of people that came in. Coupled with the fact that I'd had so little sleep the night before, it made for a very long day. Besides, dealing a tournament like that involves an inordinate amount of babysitting. It seemed like half the players in there had never played in a tournament before, so it was kind of a grind. Plus, with all of the constant all-ins, it was sidepot city--much more work than dealing a regular game, or even a 'normal' tournament.

Any poker dealer will tell you that the longer a tournament goes, the easier it is to deal. Early on, there's just so much going on and you have to keep explaining the rules and betting structure over and over again. By the time the blinds are high, most of the worst offenders have been busted out and everyone is acclimated and in the flow of the game--it just goes much more smoothly after the first couple of hours. But in this thing, we'd work for a couple of hours, and just as it was getting good and easy, the session was over, and we had to start all over again from the beginning. Believe me, that just sucks the life out of you.

Another thing that made it tough was that the first three levels were 'limit' poker, with the second level being Omaha, and then after the third level, it went back to being all no-limit Hold 'em. Limit tournaments are a pain in the ass because everyone is always betting the wrong amounts, and on top of that, I'd say a good 30% of the people in there had NO clue whatsoever about how to play Omaha. And I guess that is a feature more than a bug because Omaha is such a high action game, it served it's purpose and broke a lot of people.

But it was an interesting day. First of all, the 'misery loves company' factor was high, and it was actually kind of fun to be there working with a bunch of my friends. We made the most of it and had a lot of laughs. And the poker world is much more laid-back and easygoing than the pit-games world, so there ain't much stress involved. Plus, we had the smug satisfaction of seeing some of our more dick-headed players that nobody likes get busted out early. Yep, after each session, we'd be sitting around bragging about the bad beats we'd dealt that befell deserving individuals.

Of course, being used to dealing in a nice room in a nice casino in a nice area of town, it was a given that I'd put my foot in my mouth, too. The players were from all over the city, and during one of the sessions, somebody had found a set of keys on the ground. The tournament director got on the PA system and announced that they had some car keys up at the podium. He joked and said Yeah, I think they are keys to a Lamborghini, so if anyone is missing them, please come up and claim it. It got a polite chuckle from the crowd, but not thinking, I rolled my eyes and said Oh yeah, I always bring my fancy Italian sportscar with me when I drive up the the North Las Vegas ghetto. One or two people at the table laughed, but I got the stink-eye from a couple of other ones, and immediately realized that they were playing on their home turf. Doh!

One of them spoke up and said What, are you some kinda snob from Henderson or something?

There's nothing to do at that point except be honest so I responded the only way I knew how.

Why yes, yes I am!


Anyhow, the day was kind of interesting, but man, getting ready to open the doors for the fourth and final session of the day, we were all just wiped out. By then everyone had been there for 10 hours or more, and we just wanted the day to end.

I saw that I was the lucky dog for the final session and that my table was one of the designated 'break' tables, meaning that after my first half-hour down, once I got tapped out, I was to go on break. But at the end of the day, that meant that I was likely to be one of the first people to get to go home because I likely wouldn't have a table to go back to a half-hour later due to being on the 'outskirts' of the room.

So once I got tapped out, I went up to the front to see if I could split, but then they told us that they couldn't let anyone go because they still needed dealers to push in for the next break tables. Ugh. Dejected, I went over to the side of the room to sit with the rest of the dealers who had just gotten the same bad news as I did.

It was like walking into the Village of the Damned. Everyone had that same sunken look in their eyes, listless shuffle, the glazed and exhausted pall of veterans that had seen far too much combat. There was no conversation at that point. Everyone was either slouched over dozing with their chin on their chest or had the thousand-yard stare going, oblivious to the commotion going on around them.

I sat there for another half hour, hoping they'd hurry and get down to the final hundred players before the top of the hour, but no such luck. I got another table assignment. Luckily, after 20 minutes or so, my table broke and my day was done. Once I closed it down and did my paperwork, I said goodbye to everyone and hit the door, hoping I wouldn't fall asleep at the wheel on the drive home.

I *really* wanted a cocktail, so I hit the convenience store on the corner for a big-assed fountain Coke before I came home. I came upstairs, turned on the shower as hot as I could stand it, and poured about three fingers worth of the Captain into my Coke. I stood there under the steaming rain for a good ten minutes, slurping on my drink like Nicholas Cage in Leaving Las Vegas.

I dried off and got into bed, but got on the computer for a minute or two. I popped into the T2V chatroom to talk to the buffoons for a bit, but my head was just too heavy to hang around and chat. I didn't make it a half-hour before I gave up and passed out.

I woke up this morning with a half-glass of watery booze on the nightstand, but finally feeling somewhat normal after getting nine hours of sleep.

Luckily today will be much easier. I don't have to be up there at Texas Station again until 11:00, and I'm pretty sure I'll be done by three or four. Word is that I have to check in with the home poker room before I can call it a night, but I'm guessing that I'll have the rest of the night off.

If that's the case, then I might finally get around to buying some crackers...


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