Saturday, April 18, 2009

Some Call It A Bender...

I'll just call it Another Week in the Life.

But I'm beginning to think that the more weeks I have like this, the fewer weeks I'm gonna have overall, so I should probably dial it down a bit.

Actually, it wasn't as bad as I'm making it sound--I had a great couple of days that were high on the buffoonery scale, but not really too bad on the drunkenness scale. I'm just worn out, that's all...

Let's see, where did I leave off? Sometime Tuesday, I believe it was...

I remember Tuesday starting off as a very long night--I got called into work early on Monday night ('Early' being 10:30 that night), and having to work the entire night, getting locked down for like the last six hours straight. When the morning dealer finally showed up at 6:30 on Tuesday morning, nobody was happier to see him than I was. Talk about the 'Hard Eight', I did it.

The highlight of the night (besides the great money, of course) was that my gal Audrey was in the game and stayed all night until the game broke. She's one of them young hotties that crushed me in the no-limit game a week ago, and said she felt bad about rivering me, but we still had a lot of fun together. Anyhow, after my shift was over, we took off from the casino and had breakfast together over at Sierra Gold, where I introduced her to the wonders of the clam chowder bread bowl. Actually, I had their graveyard special ham-steak and eggs, but the wind was kicking up and the temperature outside was dropping, so it was a good meal to enjoy after a long night at the poker table.

And the clam chowder there at Sierra Gold, while pretty damn good, isn't over-the-top wonderful, but the whole sourdough bread bowl thing, along with the toasted crown, well, it's a pretty damn good combination, especially on a chilly day. And with a hearty beer like Newcastle or even a Guinness, it makes for a fine meal.

We sat and chatted for a bit, but I had to get going--I was tired as hell, and knew that I had an appointment to go look at new living quarters, and I wanted to shower and freshen up and get a few things done from the to-do list. So we exchanged numbers and called it a night around nine in the morning. As I was driving Audrey back to her car, we made plans to get together again that night, since we both had the night off. She likes to play poker as much as I do, so our plan was to divide and conquer the 4/8 game later that night, after we got some sleep.

I already mentioned that the new living arrangements were a total bust, so that turned out to be an annoying waste of time which only served to deprive me of much-needed sleep. I got back to the house and tried to take a nap--I was exhausted--but my phone kept ringing all afternoon. It seems that all of my siblings, god bless 'em, prefer to call me whenever they're stuck in traffic during the afternoon commute back east. So whenever there's an accident on I-65 or I-24 back in Nashville, I'm sure I'll hear from Amy, and if Reverend Dave is stuck behind a tractor or a herd of pigs down in Alabama, that's when he calls. Tuesday must've been a perfect storm of bad traffic down south, not to mention all the wrong numbers and random text messages I recieve throughout the day. And being On-Call 24/7, turning off the phone isn't really an option for me.

The bottom line is, I didn't get much sleep at all on Tuesday, but around 6 pm or so, I decided to stop fighting it and I got up and took a shower, got dressed, and ready to go out for the evening. I called Audrey, but she cancelled--she had been out running around the entire day, after being up all night, so she said she was going to bed and would call me again on Wednesday.

No problemo, I thought--I can find something to do in this town on my own.

I puttered around for a bit, but eventually made it down to the poker room and put myself on the waiting list. But there only two 4-8 games, and both of them looked pretty tight, full of old regulars and not much action. I sat around for about 15 minutes, and nobody was getting up, either (it takes a long time for players to go broke when they're not betting). It didn't look like it was gonna get much better anytime soon, so I told the floorman to take my name off the list and that I'd just go find another game somewhere else--there was no money to be made in our room that night.

So I took off and fought the wind as I drove over to the M. Seriously, a little secret that most tourists don't realize is that Vegas is a very windy city, and sometimes it just gets ridiculous here--they're always putting out high wind advisories, and Tuesday night was just crazy outside. It was blowing like stink with gusts up into the 50 mph range, making it tough to drive, much less walk. But I got to the M without having to take a detour to Oz, and found my way to the poker room.

There was a waiting list, but I was first on it. So I grabbed a beer and a comfy leather chair there in the sportsbook and waited for my name to be called. I gotta admit, the M is quickly becoming my favorite casino in all of Vegas--they got everything right, and the whole property is a beautiful and comfortable place. For years, I thought Green Valley Ranch was the best of the best, but the M is rapidly climbing to the top of the list. Just sitting in the book and having a beer was a nice way to kill time, and unlike the higher-end joints on the Strip, I don't feel like everything there was designed to get every last dime out of my pocket (Mandalay Bay, I'm lookin at YOU!).

I didn't have to wait long for my name to called and as soon as I sat down at the table, who did I see sitting across from me, but the infamous 'Sara'. She's a legend here in Vegas--I swear, you could walk into any poker room in Vegas and just mention the name 'Sara' and you'll be met with eye rolls and groans from everyone on staff and half the players. I could write volumes on my own experiences with her, but the bottom line is that she's the biggest pain in the ass ever foisted upon the poker community in Vegas--she's almost like a human version of a biblical plague. She's been thrown out of every card room in southern Nevada at some point or another, and has been banned permanently from several of them--including the one I work in.

Of course, as soon as she saw me, she was all sweet and friendly, but luckily she was short stacked and looked like she was ready to leave soon anyways. Thank god. While waiting for the button to pass me, I called back over to my poker room to tell them that Sara was sitting across from me, and of course the floorman just laughed and said "That's what you get for leaving here!".

Anyhow, on my first hand of the night, I looked down and saw pocket deuces. Of course I limped in to see the flop--I normally do with any pair, regardless of position, just in case I get lucky and flop a set.

Which I did--the flop was a 2-4-6 rainbow, so I only had to fear a bigger set or somebody playing 3-5. Luckily some bigger cards came that paired people up, so I raked a nice pot to start the night. Two hands later, I got pocket Aces. There was nothing higher than a Queen on the board, and even though there were three cards to a flush out there, I didn't fear that from my opponent, and again, I was stacking chips after pushing the action the whole way and then getting raised at the end.

On the very next hand, I had Ace-Nine, and the flop came 9-9-6, with two hearts. It got checked around, and the Ace of Hearts came on the turn, giving me a full house. I hoped it gave somebody a King-high flush, it did, and he had the bad sense to re-raise me twice, so again, I raked a huge pot. About two hands later, I caught another monster and somebody else was doing all of the pot-building for me, so after just ten minutes, I was already up a hundred bucks!

Have I mentioned that I love the M?

Once I finished stacking my chips, I had to brag a little, so I sent out a text message to a few people letting 'em know how good I was running.

I was on a heater, but the downside of that is that people started to give me a wide berth. Yeah, it was easy to steal blinds whenever I had something, but on the other hand, nobody would give me action, either. As soon as I'd raise, it was like Everybody outta the pool!

There was on jackass who walked up later who seemed to have learned all he knew about poker from watching TV, and every time he'd make a bet, he slam the chips down hard and cut out his bet as fast as humanly possible, trying to create a table image of somebody not to be trifled with. But it was just comical watching him and every time he made a bet, everyone else at the table would start chuckling and making eyes at each other as if to say My god, what an idiot.

So I just had to get up into his kitchen. Every time he made a bet I'd needle him a bit. So man, did you learn that move on TV? Or, Do you practice betting on the ironing board back at the house?, and Don't bet angry!, stuff like that. I could tell that I was getting to him, as he started throwing his cards in the muck like somebody who was pissed off, and he'd accompany every fold with a heavy sigh. The other players were giggling at him too, like they wanted to say something to him but happy that I was the one speaking for the entire group. Besides, I was the big stack at the table anyways, so the group dynamics were pretty much in my favor. I might've been running over the game, but I wasn't being a dick about it--I was friendly and gregarious and we had a fun game going on until that guy sat down and tried to plant his flag. So it was nine against one, and I was the ringleader of the nine.

I figured I could snap the guy off, eventually, but I wanted to do it with some flair. Normally, I keep my chips in stacks of twenty so that they're easy to track. But I discreetly started making stacks of 4, 8, and 16 just so I could grab whatever I needed without having to count 'em whenever I had to bet.

After a few hands passed, the perfect hand came along. I was in the big blind with 9-Jack offsuit, and Mr. I Can Bet Louder And Faster Than Anyone was on the button. About three or four players limped in, and he raised, so I called.

The flop was a thing of beauty--it came out 8-10-Queen, giving me the nut straight. I bet out, being in first position. I got a caller, but then the idiot on the button raised it to eight bucks, with his now-famous betting style. The turn was a rag, so I bet again, with the intention of just calling his raise. We were heads-up by then, and I could tell that everyone at the table was rooting for me. Of course he raised again, so I figured that he had pocket Queens, Kings or Aces. I just smooth-called, making a comment like I don't know if I can beat a bet that intense. Everyone else at the table kinda chuckled.

The river was another low card, and there was no flush possibility, so I had the stone-cold unbeatable nuts. Again, I bet out, representing two pair, hoping he had pocket Queens. I figured if he just called, he only had Kings or Aces, but if he raised, he had three ladies.

Lucky for me, he raised! Sixteen of his chips hit the felt at lightning speed.

Since I couldn't be beaten, I grabbed a stack of sixteen and did my best sloppy imitation of him. I announced my raise and then slammed the table with two hands, and cut out four messed-up stacks of four, splashing them all over the place in front of me, making everyone else at the table laugh out loud.

He re-raised, so I did it again! The second time, he just called, and I said Your Queens are no good--I flopped the nuts. He showed 'em, slammed them into the muck, and stomped off, swearing. I played two more hands, waiting for my button to pass, and after stacking my chips back into towers of twenty, I realized that I was up $176 and had barely been there an hour.

Not bad at all!

So I racked up and cashed out, happy with another profitable night at the poker table. I was thinking about going over to the Red Cup Cafe and giving them another try, but a friend of mine was playing in a crazy 4-8 Omaha Hi-Lo game, so I decided to stick around and watch that for a little while instead.

I lurked behind her for a little bit, but watching live poker ain't nearly as fun as seeing it on TV with the hole-card cam and hearing Norman Chad talking about his ex-wives, so I gave up after about ten minutes. On the walk back to the valet, I decided that I wasn't hungry at all and realized how tired I was, so I opted to just go back home and go to bed. I'd had a good night and I was still fairly worn out from lack of sleep.

When I got to the valet, I was amazed at how bad the weather had gotten. The wind was absolutely howling outside, and the temperature had dropped about ten degrees. Before, it was windy and cool--now it was windy and cold. Not only that, but it was dangerously windy. Not that they had to tell people, but the guys at the valet insisted that everyone wait inside for their cars. So there was a crowd of people in the vestibule between the two sets of doors leading to the lobby. While we were standing there, the pitch of the wind went up even higher, and the glass doors started to shake. And there at the M, just as you're walking in, there are these big 4 x 6 welcome mats that must weigh about thirty pounds each--while I was waiting there, the wind picked 'em right up and hurled them down the driveway. Had anybody been hit by one of those, it would've done some real damage.

My truck finally arrived a few minutes later, and just walking out to get it was an interesting experience. I gave the valet guy a buck of my profits and I took off, dodging all the blowing tumbleweeds and detritus along St. Rose Parkway, and made my way home without further incident. I went straight to bed, happy that I'd put the flannel sheets back on earlier in the week. Baby, it was cold outside!

Around three in the morning, my phone went off. It was the poker room. I uttered a four-letter word and answered, pissed off that they'd be calling me. I was much happier in my warm bed, and I had no desire to go to work.

I knew my buddy James was working the floor that night, so the first thing I said was Man, are you frickin' serious???

Luckily, he came back with "Hey, I've got a question for you--and no, I'm not calling you into work, we've only got one game going."

Ok, what do you need?

"Who sings that song 'I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight'?"

WTF? You woke me up to ask me that?!?!?

"Well, it was playing overhead in the casino, and nobody in the game could figure out who the artist was, and Kevin (one of the players) said 'Hey, call Mikey, he knows every song from the 80s', so here we are. You know who sings it?"

Cutting Crew, you assholes.

"Hey, by the way, you should come down here--the game is seven-handed, and five of them really suck."

Really? *perk*

So I rolled out of bed, put my clothes back on, stopped at the 7-11 for can of Starbucks double-shot, and made my way back to the poker room.

The game only lasted another hour or so, but James was right--it was full of drunks and bad players.

I was surprised, however, to see that one of the guys who only plays no-limit was in the game, too. He's a decent no-limit player, but every time I get in the game with him, he tries to bully me whenever he's got position. Every time I make a bet, he always raises me. And in the 4-8 game I just sat down in, he was three seats to my left.

It was more of the same, and although he's an aggressive player, he's not a bad guy, so I enjoy playing with him, knowing that he'll give me action whenever I have a good hand. Anyhow, as soon as I sat down, he started raising every time I limped into a pot. It must've happened five or six times, and the flops were missing me completely. So even though he was kinda short-stacked, he still stole a lot of chips from me.

I finally told him, after about the sixth time he raised me, that he wasn't gonna get away with it again, and that I was gonna come after him. He laughed and said "Bring it!"

So on the next hand, it was a Kill Pot (he'd won two hands in a row, so the game changed from 4-8 to 6-12). I was in the blind with 5-2 of Clubs. For no other reason than to just rattle his cage, I raised the action to $9 to go. He called, but then somebody else re-raised to $15. I reluctantly called, falling back on The Donkey's Mantra of 'But they're *suited*'. But then my opponent that I was gunning for capped it at $21.

Shiat. I *hate* the Call-Raise. It usually means that somebody was slow-playing a monster, and once they see they have enough action, they pump it. That's what I was up against.

I hated my hand, but by then the pot was so huge that I had to see a flop (there were five players still in!). So I called.

The flop came out Ace-Four-King, and the Ace and the Four were both clubs, giving me the straight flush draw! I could see the monitor over my opponent's shoulder, and there it was, big as day, advertising the High Hand of the Day (which I'd already won twice to the tune of $500+) as the Ace-Five straight flush! The prize money was only like $121 at the time, but hey, that was nothing compared to winning a huge pot and sticking it to the guy who'd been raising me ever since I sat down. (With the added bonus of giving my boss a conniption fit if I won another one)

Being in early position, I bet out $6, thinking that 1) six bucks is cheap and it'll put people off of guessing what I'm holding, 2) somebody might fold, and 3) if I make my hand, I want this pot to be as big as possible--I might not get any action if that Three of Clubs, or any club, hits the board.

Unfortunately, and just like clockwork, my opponent raised. It caused everyone else to fold, and that left me. But I wasn't going anywhere, drawing to a monster like a straight flush like I was. So I called.

Turn brought the Three of Diamonds--not a straight flush, but it gave me the nut straight. I checked, disguising my hand and giving my opponent a little rope with which to hang himself. Of course he bet $12, and I called him.

The river was a complete rag--I didn't get a club for a low (and dangerous) flush, the board didn't pair and nor did my straight get sabotaged.

So I bet out, saying, I think I'm good here.

Of course he raised another $12, but I re-raised, holding an unbeatable hand. He didn't have much left by then, so he raised all-in for his last $22. I called, and he turned over pocket Kings--he'd flopped trips and I saw that his pre-flop play was legitimate.

I just shook my head and said, Sorry man, you're gonna hate me for this... and I turned over the Five-Deuce to show the straight. A huge groan/cheer went up from the table as everyone saw the hand. (As a side note, somebody needs to coin a word to describe the noise that comes from a poker table after a big showdown--it's a combination of swearing, cheering, groans, high-fives, and disbelief--but it's a very distinctive sound, that's for sure).

My opponent just laughed, shook his head, called me a lucky bastard, and asked for another rack of white. If it were anyone else, they would've probably come unglued, but he knew that I knew that he'd been stealing from me, and right before that I told him that I was coming after him. I watched him for a bit, and although he wasn't tilting, I could see him over across the table shaking his head, thinking How could that rat bastard raise with five-deuce?. I didn't rub it in, and he was a good sport. And I'm sure he'll get me back at some point in the future...

The game was pretty lame after that--that one big pot had made everyone else beyond short-stacked, they were mini-stacked, so it didn't take long for the table to break for the night. I frittered away a few chips here and there, not catching anything, and by the time we got down to four-handed, I was up $157 for my efforts. Again, not bad for an hour's worth of poker, but I'll be the first to admit that most of it came from one hand where I got extremely lucky.

I hung around a bit while they closed the room. All the players took off, as did the dealer, but James had to stick around and wait for the morning crew. So I told him that I'd stick around and shoot the shiat with him and the cocktail waitress while we waited for 7:00 am to roll around, only because I knew that he'd want to go get breakfast at Sierra Gold after he got off work.

I was all for that--Since I stopped buying groceries for this house, I hadn't had anything to eat since breakfast with Audrey the day before. I was ready for a meal.

This time around, instead of the Vegas-style ham-steak breakfast, I opted for some popcorn shrimp and the Asian chicken salad (damn that thing is good!). I fed twenty five bucks of my $325 in winnings from the previous night into that ten-cent triple play machine, but I got no love whatsoever. While I was eating, I slid over one seat so that James could give it a try, and wouldn't you know it--that rat bastard hit two quick four-of-a-kinds! Grrr...

Oh well, I can't complain. While we were there, the bartender reminded me that I was entered into the Tax Day slot tournament that night and that I needed to be back by six. I said I'd be there, but James declined as he said he'd be sleeping then--That's like three in the morning to me! (We both won entry by getting a four of a kind at video poker anytime from April 1st to the 15th).

So, after breakfast, I made my way home with the intention of tackling a growing to-do list, but my personal road to hell is double-paved with good intentions. I ended up listening to a couple of podcasts, surfing the Craiglist ads for new living accommodations (nothing good there), watching some SportsCenter reruns, and I also watched the season premiere of The Deadliest Catch that I'd recorded the night before--love that show.

I managed to catch a nap for a couple of hours in the afternoon, but I woke up at 4:00 pm to the stark realization that I still hadn't filed my taxes. Damn! I totally forgot about it--I'd gathered all the forms and paperwork back in February, put it all together on a clipboard, and it had been sitting there on my printer gathering dust for two months. Luckily, I didn't have a complicated return this year, and it only took me about an hour to get it done. And since my reported earnings dropped right off the edge of the table last May, I'm due for a $291 refund. Nice! But I'll never see it--the guys running the racket over at the Department of Education keep it all to pay down the old student loans. That's where all them 'stimulus checks' have been going, too.

Anyhow, once I finished my bidness with the gub-mint, I considered going back to bed. I was mightily tired, and playing in a video poker tournament didn't appeal to me very much. But it was free money--They were paying five places and I think there were only about 25 people entered. Besides, there was free grub, too. Y'all know I love the vittles over at Sierra Gold anyways, but free is especially tasty.

So I showered and got dressed, and made my way down to the bar, with every intention of playing the tourney, grabbing a bite to eat, then hitting WalMart for a few things before coming back home and going to bed.

That was my intention.

I got to the bar, and it was packed--no seats at the bar at all, so I had to get a table off on the side. Besides the bar staff, I didn't see any familiar faces whatsoever. So I just ordered a beer, watched the Marlins/Braves game, and waited for them to call my name. I checked in for the tourney, but it got kind of a late start. There were a few drawings for door prizes, but I didn't get in on any of those. Eventually, the put out a buffet spread of pizza, wings, nachos, chicken tenders, etc., so I grabbed a plate and had some garlic wings and some BBQ chicken pizza. The pizza was good, but I found that the garlic wings aren't my cup of tea.

Eventually, a seat at the bar opened up and I took it. They finally called my name, along with the gal sitting next to me, so we went over to the tournament machines and took our turn in round one. Basically, we had two-and-a-half minutes to play as many hands of video poker as possible, and the top ten people advanced to the second round.

Both of us did well enough to make the cut, so we had something to talk about once we returned to our seats. Her name was 'Jen' and she's a bartender down on the Strip, but lives out here in Henderson just like the rest of us. I found her to be fairly attractive, but even better, she was fun to talk to and made the waiting around part much more enjoyable. So we sat around for over an hour, chatting, sipping on a few beers, just waiting to get called over again.

We played heads-up again in round two, but she destroyed me--she outscored me by about 30%. It wasn't a heads-up competition though, it was raw scores, so I still had a chance to make the top five and the money, depending on what other people did.

We hung out for a bit more, laughing it up and such, and I decided that I was glad that I decided to get out of bed that afternoon and come down to the bar. Not only had a met a cute gal, who by that time had decided it was ok to rest her hand on my leg as we talked, but I still had a chance to win the slot tourney, too.

While chatting it up and making progress with her, my phone went off--it was Audrey texting me, telling me to meet her over in the poker room in a few minutes. Damn--when it rains, it pours!

I texted her back, saying I'd be there in a bit, as I was still in a slot tournament over at Sierra Gold. The typical guy in me opted not to invite her over to join me, though...

Eventually, I found out that I was the bubble boy--out in sixth place, but I stuck around to see how Jen faired. She ended up winning the thing outright, so that was pretty cool. I think she got like $350 or something. And my phone number... (the *real* prize, if you ask me!)

But we said our goodbyes and I headed over to the poker room to meet up with Audrey. She was all decked out in high heels and short skirt and looking all kinds of hot, so I considered myself very lucky that the seat next to her at the poker table was the first one to open up when I got there.

As tired as I felt, I thought it was a good choice, again, to get out of bed that afternoon.

I thought I was off to a good start, as on my first hand, I looked down and saw pocket fours. I limped in, flopped trips, pushed the action, and was beaten on the river by a straight. Damn.

I probably should've stopped there, because the Poker Gods decided that I needed to be humbled. Over the course of the next four or five hours, I lost $240 with pocket Aces (twice), pocket Kings (also twice), pocket Queens, Ace-King and Ace-Queen too many times to mention, and three times I lost with flushes against two pair that boated on the river. The most frustrating thing was losing three different times when I had flopped trips. Nothing pisses me off more than that. It was an absolutely amazing string of suckouts--I didn't have a big hand hold up all night. It was just one of those poker sessions that happens once in a blue moon where it doesn't matter how well you play, you're going to lose, and you're going to lose big pots because it's always on the river.

The frustrating thing about it was that I was playing against some really bad players--people who I normally beat like a drum (the guy who kept raising my four Aces was at the table, for instance). But this time, they all made their draws. Audrey was faring no better, and by the time the table broke, she was down about three bills, and I was down that previously mentioned $240.

When I got to the poker room earlier that evening, I had $270 in my wallet, and it was almost all gone.

Since our game broke (most of the other players took our money, cashed out, and ran), we figured that our luck must change if we sat in a different game. I hit the ATM while Audrey secured two seats. I took out another $200, thinking that there was no possible way on The Flying Spaghetti Monster's green earth that I could lose over $300 in one night playing 4-8 limit Holdem. Nobody is that bad, and only Eddie Mush from A Bronx Tale is that unlucky. And I am no Eddie Mush, at least not at the poker table.

I guess you could say that my luck changed--the suckouts were fewer and further between, but Audrey was getting her has kicked. I think she actually lost another hundred before giving up in disgust, but by the time that game broke around 4:00 am, I had $115 worth of chips in front of me--and I'd bought in for a hundred. So I guess I was only down $225 for the night.

Still, that sucked completely.

On the other hand, Audrey and I had a wonderful time--we had a lot of laughs all through the night and even for being part of a major losing session at the poker table, we still had a lot of fun, and even though I was dead-tired, I didn't want to call it a night.

So as we were walking out of the poker room, I asked her if she wanted to go grab some breakfast.

Nah, not hungry...

Wanna get a drink instead?

Nah, I'm not gonna drink anymore...

Hmm... I could tell that she wasn't ready to go home, but I couldn't swing for the fences just yet. First of all, this was like the first time we'd gone out together, second of all, back at the house, my room was a complete mess with dirty laundry everywhere and unsuitable for any guests, and third of all, I could tell that her losses at the poker table kinda stung and killed her mood. I was about to give up and save my mojo for another day, when she suggested we go play some Pai Gow.

I was all for that, but then we had to decide where to go.

How about the new M Resort?, I suggested.

She was up for that, but we'd have to take separate cars, as I lived there in Green Valley Ranch, but she lives over closer to the M, and she knew she'd be half asleep when we finally called it quits and wanted the short drive home instead of having to come back and fetch her car. So she followed me over there, and we were wandering into the casino just before 5:00 am.

She'd never been to the M before, and was properly impressed. There was only one Pai Gow table open at the time, but luckily there were two seats available right next to each other. We both bought in for a hundred and settled in for the long haul.

It was a fun table with cool players and a couple of really nice dealers, plus a very mellow floorperson who only had our table to watch. Audrey stopped drinking completely, and went with straight Coke to sip on while she played, but I alternated between coffee with Bailey's & Kahlua or bottled water.

Our Pai Gow session was a lot of fun, and even though I started on a positive note, I found myself re-buying for another hundred after about an hour and a half. Honestly, I was ready to leave, or at least take a break and get some breakfast, but Audrey was on a mission to win back the poker losses. So I put another Benjamin into the local economy, hoping for a miracle comeback.

But anyone who has spent anytime playing Pai Gow knows that it's a slow grind, and unless you get spectacularly lucky or unlucky, you're gonna be playing on the same money for a good long time--the losses aren't that big, nor are the wins, so we were hoping for some big bonus hands. We had a stretch that brought us back a bit--at one point I had just over $300 in front of me, and I was feeling pretty good. Both of us came so close to monster hands--I missed the Royal by one card a couple of times, and I came so close to getting straight flushes probably a dozen times. The same thing went for Audrey--she was so tantalizingly close to making huge hands so many times that we felt like we were knocking on the door. So we kept playing.

But just as players go on hot streaks, so do the dealers. Around ten in the morning, the table was full, and everyone was playing at least $25 per hand. In fact, I think at that time, the table minimum was $100 per hand. That's when the dealer dealt herself, on a full table no less, a Straight Flush with a pair on top. Had the random number generator spit out any other seat number at the beginning of the hand, we would've all gotten paid an Envy bonus, but as it was, the dealer crushed us all. It was huge hand and there was probably about $1200 in action on the table at the time.

Just as she set her hand, Audrey knocked over a full glass of Coke all over the table, ruining the cards, hosing down all the chips, and christening that brand-new layout. It also ran down into the rack, so the game came to a complete stop while they cleaned up the mess. And oh what a beautiful mess it was. I couldn't decide whether to laugh or feel bad. Audrey was more pissed off than embarrassed, but everyone took it in stride (Hey, we'd been tipping the hell out of the dealers all night, so her and the floorperson were cool about it). After a few minutes, they decided that the mess was too severe to continue, so they just closed the table and had security come deal with it, while we all picked up and moved to the next table over.

It probably took a good twenty minutes or so to get the table opened and the game going, but once we did, I felt like I was on the comback trail. I had my stack back up to $300, but I just couldn't get over the hump. The floorman and dealer were still in a good mood, and even comped Audrey a pack of cigarettes, while she earned the temporary nickname 'Sippy Cup'. It was still a lot of fun, and I couldn't believe that I'd been chugging along for almost 18 hours by that point.

We had to say goodbye to our graveyard shift dealer, as the day shift crew came on to replace her. By then we knew we were on an epic bender of historical significance. I hadn't gambled like that in years--not even during recent March Madness gatherings had I logged this much time at the tables. And it was a matter of pride, too. Audrey had been teasing me about being old, so I wanted to show her that I could keep up with the young whippersnappers like her. Besides--I felt like I was due for a major comeback. That, and the fact that I'd probably drunk about three pots worth of coffee that night were what kept me going.

Our day shift dealer, although very nice and friendly, was killing us. It drove me nuts that no matter how big of a hand I'd have, she'd have just enough to beat me, or if it was a monster, all I could do was push.

Hand after hand, I'd get three pair, she'd get a full house. I'd get a full house, split it, and she'd get a straight on the bottom. I'd get a straight, she'd get a flush. It was uncanny, and it was driving me absolutely stark raving batshiat insane.

Every time she flipped over a hand, I had the same reaction... ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

I wasn't being abusive or swearing or being an annoying prick, but I was just dumbfounded how the dealer could keep making hand after hand after hand. Eventually, Audrey lost $200 there, bringing her losses for the night to someplace just north of five bills. She'd had enough. I was still up $100 there at the M, but down about $150 for the night. I offered to call it quits and take her to breakfast, but she said she'd just watch me play for a few minutes.

About ten minutes after that, I'd had enough of the dealer getting monsters, so I banked the table and took the dealer's hand. Yep, just my luck--I got a Queen high Pai Gow. Unbelievable. I was thisclose to going all Duran Duran on the table and tossing it over and permanently ending my brief association with the M Resort right then and there, but cooler heads prevailed. Audrey suggested that I take a walk and get some fresh air by walking her to her car.

Yep, that sounded like a good plan.

So we slowly made our way back to the parking lot, where I kissed her goodbye and told her what a great time I had, regardless of gambling losses. She said that she was considering calling in sick to work that night and she'd give me a call if she did. I told her not to do that, but to go make some money back. Besides, I *knew* I'd be sleeping like a corpse with severe case of narcolepsy by the time Thursday night rolled around.

I took my time strolling back to the Pai Gow table. I stopped by the pit and saw my gal Jovanka--she's now working over there full time. We had a brief visit and did the whole let's-get-together-sometime thing, but her schedule is directly opposite of mine--the only two days I'm definitely scheduled each week are the only two days she has off. It might be awhile before I see her again.

Anyhow, when I got back to the table, I was in a proper frame of mind, and ready to get over the hump. I caught a few hands, made a few bucks back, and saw that I was within striking distance of that magical break-even point. Remember, I'd lost $240 at the poker table, and was in for $200 at the M's Pai Gow table. I was just short of $400 within twenty minutes of saying goodbye to Audrey. I was tired and ready to go, but I wanted to break even--I figured two more winning hands would get me there.

Right after I counted down my stacks, I finally caught my miracle hand--I was dealt A-K-6-8-8-8-8. Yep, Four of a Kind! That pays 25 to 1 on the Fortune bonus, and I had a nickel out there.


I set my hand as quickly as I could, and told the dealer If I lose this hand, I'll never play Pai Gow again! She peeked at my top two cards, saw the Ace-King, and said "What about a push?"

I told her that I was cool with a push.

But it didn't matter, I won the hand outright for $28.50 and a $125 bonus. Cha-ching!

I tipped out the dealer and then said to color me up--I was going home. I sent a quick text to Audrey to let her know of my good fortune--

Four eights baby, and a purple chip to go!

--but her response was the electronic equivalent of showing me the finger. Heh. But she wrote back a few minutes later, happy that I finally got over the hump.

When I colored up, I ended up with $550--one purple and two greens. Gotta love that. I got to the poker room the night before with $270 in my pocket, plus hit the ATM for another two hundred, but once all was said and done, I had $565, a $95 profit, and I finally got it all back on the last hand of the day.

As tired as I was, I had a spring in my step as I made my way to the cashier. It was past 2:00 in the afternoon by then, and I'd been going for almost 22 hours straight! I made my way out into the piercing sunlight and headed for home.

Knowing I'd be dead to the world soon, I decided to stop at the bank and deposit my funds before going to bed. I was also starving, having not eaten since six o'clock the night before, so I broke my own code and hit the McDonald's drive-thru for a double cheeseburger and a Sprite (no more caffeine, thank you very much!).

I made that quick post as soon as I got home, but I was feeling rather droopy. A long hot shower rinsed all of the casino funk off of me, and I dove straight into bed, where I remained for the next 13 hours or so.

Yep, I can hang with the young chicks and play cards and gamble all night, but man, I don't think I wanna do it very often. Benders are great fun, but only if taken in moderation.


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