Sunday, January 17, 2010

Some Dance to Remember

Hey, whatever helps, right?

Right now, I'm trying to put together the pieces of the past four days or so, and it's all kind of a blur. If I thought it would help, I'd dig out the ol' Break Board and see if it could help jog the memory. It doesn't help that it's the middle of the night, I just got home, and I'm ridiculously tired, too. But since I've got all day Sunday to sit around and relax, I'll go ahead and see if I can piece together my whereabouts from the past 96 hours or so. If only I had carried a digital camera with me like those dudes from The Hangover, I could figure it all out...

I remember that work on Wednesday night was very good for me--I got called in early, and I had a great game that went all night long, so I made some good money that night. But I was locked down for about six hours straight, so when I finally got home, I was spent--shower, bed, snooze for about six or eight hours. After I finally woke up and shook off the cobwebs, I puttered around the house for a bit before heading down to meet Linda Lou down at the Freakin' Frog.

It was the one-year anniversary gathering of the Vegas Beer & Blogger crowd, and we were on the guest list. It was a nice mellow evening and I saw a lot of familiar faces, and it was good to be able to catch up with Linda again--we haven't hung out since the night before Thanksgiving when we had dinner at Casa di Amore.

I think we had a few rounds there, but then said our goodbyes to everyone else and drove over to Green Valley Ranch. Our plan for the rest of the evening was to hang out in the Ovation Lounge and watch the Lon Bronson All-Star Band. I've heard nothing but great things about them over the past several years, but I'd never gotten around to seeing one of their shows. And they play the same type of music that the Michael Grimm Band plays, who I loved--rock, soul, funk, etc.--, basically a big 'Blues Brothers' type of band. So I was really looking forward to the show.

They've got a huge following here in Vegas, and the showroom was packed, with lots of people standing in back, too. Unfortunately, they really didn't live up to the hype. I mean, the potential was there, but the show (well, what I saw of it) just sucked. They might've been having an off night, because they didn't seem very 'tight', and their song selection left a bit to be desired, too. There was one song they did that was just so bad it was almost embarrassing--kind of uncomfortable to sit though when everyone was looking at each other shrugging their shoulders and going WTF is this shiat? I mean, it was a big crowd that was looking to have a good time, but this one song (which I'd never heard before) just killed their mojo--everyone vacated the dance floor and just watched the musical train wreck unfold from their seats.

Another thing which really brought them down was the horn section. Normally, when there is a horn section in a live band, it's a good thing. But an angry horn section just sucks. You know what I'm talking about--where every musician has to do a ridiculous over-the-top solo that ends with that shrill screaming noise that just ruins an otherwise cool tune. It's like they're using every trick in the bag on every song, and it was just too much of a good thing. And don't even get me started on their 'dancer'. The whole experience was a synergy of suck, and oh my god, it was just too painful to watch.

Basically, as much as we wanted to dance and drink and carry on till the wee hours, we lasted one set--which by the way was only about seven songs--before we bailed out and called it a night. It was a surprisingly bad show, and it makes it even worse because I was really expecting to enjoy myself. I'm gonna think long and hard before I invest any more of my entertainment dollars going to see them again. Truly a disappointment.

Anyhow, Linda and I said our goodbyes, and just then I realized that I was still pretty tired. I was gonna go home, but instead of turning left on Paseo Verde Parkway when I left GVR, I turned right, towards St. Rose Parkway and the M Resort. I know it makes me sound like a huge dork, but I wanted to outsmart the light at Paseo Verde and St. Rose just one time. It's *always* red when I'm driving up St. Rose, and I sit there and get pissed because there are never any cars coming down Paseo Verde, yet the light is always green in that direction, even though there may be thirty cars in my line, just sitting there idling away. So just because I wanted to outsmart a stoplight, I decided to go over to the M and play some poker.

And of course the light was red when I got to St. Rose Parkway.


Anyhow, when I got to the M, there was only one 1-2 no-limit game going, but my gal Sammie was doing her brush-break, so we got to chat for a nice long time. Once she pushed into a low-limit game, I sat there and dozed at an empty table for about 45 minutes waiting for a seat. Finally, just as I was about to give up and go home, I got called over to the no-limit game.

A couple of the guys I played with the week before in that crazy all-night game were there, but it was a full table this time around and the play was a little more predictable. I don't remember any specific hands, but I did ok for the short time I was there. Sammie's table broke up, and she came over tell me that she was getting sent home instead of coming to my game on the next push. I was tired as hell anyways, up $68 for the session, so I decided to call it a night myself.

And you know that the damn stoplight on St. Rose and Paseo Verde was red for me on the way home, too. I've decided that it's my nemesis.

Anyhow, besides the crappy band and the stoplight giving me fits, it was a pretty good night. But I had to get home and get as much sleep as possible--Friday was destined to be a very long day.

Earlier in the week, my boss called and asked me if I'd be willing to work the Heartland Poker Tour up at Red Rock over the weekend, and when I heard that they were paying more than double what I made at the big free-roll the weekend before, I gladly accepted. So I had to be up there at noon on Friday to deal the celebrity-charity event.

Like I've said in the past--dealing tourneys is an easy gig, and players are much more well-behaved in an expensive tournament than they are in a drunken cash game on the graveyard shift. When I got there, I was glad to see that a couple of my buddies were also working it, so when we did the set-up, we all claimed table numbers that were four digits apart, figuring we'd get breaks at the same time.

I wasn't expecting much when I got there, but apparently, this was a big ol' shindig--they put some effort into it. I'd never before seen so many famous poker pros outside of the Rio as I did on Friday at Red Rock. And there were only 14 tables in the Celebrity-Charity tournament, plus I was locked down for pretty much the whole time, so I dealt to almost all of them. Just off the top of my head, at different times throughout the afternoon, I had the following people at my table:

Dennis Phillips
Kathy Liebert
Lou Diamond Phillips
Mike Eice
Layne Flack
Tiffany Michelle
Antonio Esfandiari
Laura Harring
and one of the dudes from Full Metal Jacket (no, not Gunnery Sergeant Hartmann or Private Pyle, one of the other guys)

There were also a couple of other internet heroes, poker writers, and C-listers who I can't remember, too.

Oh, and I also met Robin Leach. I was standing next to him for a few minutes before we got started, and I just thought he was some random player--he was wearing a ball cap, jeans, and a sweatshirt, but as soon as he asked me a question, I was like Oh yeah... But I totally didn't recognize him at first.

Of all the players, I had Dennis Phillips at my table the longest--since we were short on dealers, we didn't really push to different tables and we were locked down for hours at a time. But Dennis is a really nice guy--very gregarious and willing to sign autographs and pose for pictures with everyone. Not only that, every time he busted a player out of the tournament, he re-bought them back in out of his own pocket. I was talking to him at the end of it all, and he told me that he'd paid for 22 re-buys that afternoon. And don't let the nice-guy persona fool you--he's a damn good card player.

Besides Dennis Phillips, I also spent a whole lotta time with his brotha-from-anotha-motha at my table, Lou Diamond Phillips. He's a surprisingly good poker player, believe it or not. He went pretty deep in the Main Event at the WSOP this year, but a lot of people were saying he just got lucky. But I saw him play for several hours on Friday--he's got the chops. Hell, he made it to the final table of this event, too. He's also a very fun person to hang around with--he kept the table entertained all day long with one liners. Bummer for me though, I couldn't remember any good lines from Young Guns, but I got a laugh from everyone in one hand when he was distracted and I said The action's on you, Spirit World. I don't know if that one made it on camera, but I hope it did. (I had cameras on my table all afternoon).

I think the highlight of the afternoon was when it got down to the final two tables. Me and my buddy James we chosen to deal it down to the final ten, so we were locked in for over an hour. (A dealer from Red Rock dealt the entire final table). I had Dennis Phillips and Kathy Liebert at my table, and James had Layne Flack and Lou Diamond Phillips at his. BTW, a quick word about Kathy Liebert--she's very good. Head and shoulders above everyone else I saw that day. After about the first two or three hours, I decided that my money was on her to win the whole thing (and she actually ended up getting second place).

Anyhow, for a big tourney like that, it was a lot of fun, but it was unlike anything else I've ever done. I had two or three cameramen on my table almost the entire day, a producer standing behind me telling me when I could run out the cards, the host with his booming microphone talking the entire time calling the action, and I was working under the brightest damn lights this side of a tanning bed. Coupled with the fact that I had a famous poker pro or two sitting next to me almost the entire day, I find it amazing that I wasn't sweating like a contestant on The Biggest Loser.

But I brought honor upon my clan and didn't screw anything up all day long. Hell, I even corrected Kathy Liebert on a side-pot where she thought I'd done it wrong. I gave her a wink and said Ok, since you're new at this, lemme show you how we do it and I backed it up for her, earning me a laugh from the table. I also earned Most Favored Dealer status when she bluffed with 6-3 offsuit and ended up knocking a guy out who called her all-in.

Once they got down to ten players in the celebrity event, I thought my day was done. I couldn't have been more wrong. Friday night was the last session of the mega-satellite where you could play your way into the Main Event, and it was a total clusterf*ck. Just like the Main Event at the World Series, everyone waited until the last day to try and get in, and it was a zoo. People were waiting in line for hours and there just weren't enough seats to go around. They ended up putting several tables out in the pit, plus a few more in the regular poker room, in addition to the main room where I was stationed. When that didn't work, they put 11 chairs at each table. After that, they just said everyone else in line becomes an alternate. Seriously, it was a mess.

I think the folks at the HPT really underestimated how many people would show up at the last satellite, but after a rocky start, it went fairly smoothly. On the other hand, because so many people showed up, there were only four extra dealers after everyone was seated. So we were all locked down for over three hours straight before anyone got a push, much less a break. Thankfully I'd only had one bottle of water all day long, so I didn't have to pee, but damn that would've sucked because there was absolutely nobody around to provide relief. Thankfully, once the blinds started going up, people got knocked out and they started breaking tables.

Finally, after 12 hours, I got a break. The tournament director asked me what time I'd come in that day and when I was scheduled to come back on Saturday, and when I told him that I'd been there since noon and had to be back at 9:30 in the morning, he finally cut me loose.

Man, I was absolutely wiped out. Aside from the hour-and-a-half I had during the final table of the Celebrity event, I had been locked down dealing the entire day. I was spent. I could barely see straight and I was dead on my feet. But I was also starving--I hadn't had anything besides a Powerbar to eat since lunch the day before and I was mumbling to myself No more yankee my wankee, the Donger need food!

Luckily there was a huge food court on the way to the parking garage, so I treated myself to some midnight fish tacos from Rubio's. I was joined by a couple of my regular players from my home casino who'd been knocked out of the satellite about the same time I got cut loose, so we sat and told stories over our late-night dinner.

I managed to stay awake for that long drive back to Hendertucky from Red Rock, very happy to take a hot shower and crawl into bed. I was dead. I earned every penny on Friday.

A few last thoughts about that celebrity event; Tiffany Michelle gets pilloried in online poker forums and she gets a bad rap for a lot of stuff that happened away from the game, which is kind of stupid (also, she called a clock on somebody in the WSOP, and everyone acts like it was a disgraceful and heinous act. Whatever). But my experience with her was that not only is she cuter in person than she is on TV, but she's also really nice, and she has a whole helluva lot of personality which tends to make her more attractive. Her poker game is pretty good, but she's nowhere near Kathy Liebert's class. Also, while I was tempted to get photos of me with all the pros and such, I resisted the urge. I was working, for one, and I also didn't want to be 'that guy'. Besides, I dealt to and talked to them all day long, and it was an enjoyable experience that I didn't want to cheapen by asking for photos like everyone else did. It goes back to one of those timeless pieces of advice I remember from years back--Act like you've been there before... Besides, I'm sure I'll see them all again at some point, and I'm sure that they'll all remember me.

As far as the TV coverage goes, I never could get a definitive answer on when it would air. First of all, the Heartland Poker Tour isn't shown on any local station in Vegas, so I won't see it. I'm told that it's all over the midwest and south if you have DirectTV or the Dish Network satellite service. But they only filmed the celebrity-charity event and the final table of the Main Event. I only dealt Day One of the Main Event, so I didn't get any camera time there, but if sometime later this summer, you catch footage of the celebrity tournament, I'm all over that thing.

After just a few hours of sleep, Saturday came a little too bright and a little too early for my tastes. And I want to give a shout-out to my sister Amy and thank her for calling me about 20 minutes before my alarm went off. That was nice. Little Brat.

I crawled out of bed, much earlier than I wanted to, made my way to the shower, and just stood there in a daze like I was Han Solo getting thawed out of my carbonite block. I finally woke up enough to get myself dressed and out the door, but my first stop was at the convenience store on the corner where I grabbed an energy bar and a 1-liter bottle of Mountain Dew before pointing the truck towards Red Rock once again.

Saturday went much more smoothly than Friday did. The first session of the HPT Vegas Main Event started at 10:00, and there was a defined number of seats sold, so we didn't have the same issues as the previous night. On the other hand, not enough dealers showed up, so again, I was locked down at my first table for three-plus hours.

But the Main Event was sort of a deep-stacker type of structure with $15,000 in starting chips and 40-minute levels, so better play was a bigger factor than luck. I had a fairly tight table, and nobody busted out in the first hour. Also, since I was in the main showroom at a low-numbered table, there was no chance of breaking the table--it would be there until the end. On the other hand, I was waiting patiently for all of the tables out in the pit to break down, because then we'd get some extra dealers available and I could finally stand up and take a break.

Finally, around 2:30 or so, I got relieved and went up to the front where all of the dealers and tournament staff people were lurking around. When they asked who had worked the day before, three of us raised our hands, and when they asked how many hours we'd each worked, I was the winner with 12 hours, so I was the first one sent home. Woot!!!

That was a nice surprise, because I thought I'd be working until 5:00 pm at the very least. I hit the door before they could change their minds and instead of getting on the 215 and making my way home, I figured that since I was already on the West Side, I'd treat myself to lunch at NY Pizza & Pasta, the second-best pizza joint in all of Las Vegas. Unfortunately, due to the way the roads are laid out and the volume of traffic in the neighborhood, it is damn near impossible to get into the plaza where the restaurant is if you're traveling south on Jones or east on Sahara. Sitting there at the stoplight, I knew there was no way to get into the place from where I was, so when the light turned green, I just turned west on Sahara and kept heading towards the freeway, giving up on the idea of a pizza lunch.

I made it home at halftime of the the Cardinals-Saints game, but by the time the third quarter got underway, the game was a blowout and not worth watching. So I did household chores until the second game started. Just as the Colts game started, I grabbed and icy-cold Mexican Coke and sat down on the couch to watch. I saw them make their first drive that resulted in a field-goal, and promptly passed out until 7:30 that night.

I woke up in a darkened apartment, with only the flickering blue light of the local CBS affiliate providing any illumination, wondering for a second where I was and if I was late for work. I finally gathered my thoughts enough to realize when and where I was in the universe and thought about what I wanted to do with the rest of my night. I figured I should go back to work at my second job and earn a few bucks.

Calling down to the M Resort again, I asked them to put me on the list for 1-2 no-limit, and I said I'd be there about 45 minutes later. Once I groomed myself and put on some clean clothes, I headed back out.

I was second on the waiting list when I got to the casino, but they offered me an open seat playing 4-8 while I waited. In the past, I would've been all over it, but after the series of ridiculous bad beats and suckouts that I've suffered in that game, I've given it up and focused exclusively on no-limit for the past couple of weeks. So I opted to wait. I grabbed a seat in the little lounge area right next to the poker room, figuring I wouldn't have to wait long--there were three no-limit games going, and it shouldn't take too long for a couple of people to bust out or call it a night.

While I was sitting there, I started talking to a good-looking older (by maybe two or three years) blonde gal named Tina. She was apparently exasperated by a slot machine and decided to take a break and get a drink. So we chatted for a few minutes while I waited.

Since it's the worst-kept secret at the M that I'm hot for Sammie, the floor person came over and told me that she had an open seat at her 4-8 table if I wanted it. I couldn't resist that, so I said goodbye to my new friend and made my way to the limit game. I bought in for a hundred bucks, had a few laughs, flirted with my favorite dealer, and ordered a drink. It was nice to be free from the tournament world and able to relax again. Of course, I didn't win a single hand, took another suckout beating, and was down $24 when they called me over to take my seat at the no-limit table a half-hour later. But still, I was having fun.

My new table was a good one, and again, my no-limit hot streak continues, knock on wood. I've played five times in the past two weeks, and each time I've left a winner. I scored my first decent sized pot when I flopped trip sevens with an Ace kicker and the other guy with an Ace just couldn't help but build the pot for me. I thought I was on my way to an ass-kicking night because he was obviously the best player at the table, and I had just snapped him off for about forty bucks.

After that, however, I went card dead for about 45 minutes. Part of me wished that I would've remembered to bring my iPod, but I've found that I pay a lot more attention to the other players when I'm playing no-limit, and it's probably a good thing that I didn't have it with me. At one point, I looked down to see pocket Aces raised the action to $13 to go and got one caller--the guy with the big stack who I'd already pegged as the best player at the table. He was on the big blind and called for $11 more.

The flop came out Ace-rag-rag, rainbow, giving me top set. He checked, and I checked too. Normally in this situation I'll check unless there are two suited cards on the board or perhaps a big straight to be made. There was no danger on that flop, so I hoped the guy had a pair or maybe would make two pair on the turn. If the board paired, I could then be way ahead set-over-set or boat-over-boat and could expect a HUGE payday, so checking there was a little-risk, huge reward move. I didn't want him to think I had an Ace in my pocket, much less two of 'em.

The turn brought another rag, but it was a second diamond. My opponent checked but I figured enough was enough and I bet $20. He snap-called, so I had to figure he had at least a pair but more likely a flush draw. There was no danger of a straight on the board, so I settled on 'diamond draw'. The river brought a diamond, and he was just a little too smooth with his check, and I wasn't going to take the chance. I said Yep, you made your flush, so you cracked my trip Aces. I turned them over for everyone to see, and he showed his 7-9 of diamonds for the flush.

He muttered Damn, I played that about as shitty as I could... And I replied with Yep, and I lost about as little money as possible for flopping a set of Aces, too... Whew, I dodged a bullet there, but thinking about it later, I couldn't have played it any other way. I didn't want to bet out on the flop and have him fold, only picking up his initial $13 bet and the blinds--that's a no-value play. And I couldn't put him on diamonds until after I made that $20 bet on the turn. He had me covered, so even a $50 bet wouldn't have scared him off. And I certainly wasn't going to go all-in with my set for a $29 pot. Only truly bad players do that kind of overbetting. (Which I see all the time). Besides, it's been said many times, good players will let you win the small pots, which he would've done had I pushed on the flop or overbet the turn. He wanted to check-raise me on the river, but me, being the good player, wouldn't fall into that trap, and I let him win the small pot. (The key being 'small pot', not 'letting him win'). Anyhow--it gave me a lot to think about as I sat there card dead, and I was pretty proud of the way I played that hand.

Anyhow, a little while later, the game got short-handed, and I was thinking about leaving, but just then another couple of players showed up, one of them being a gal who was maybe three or four years younger than me but looked, sounded, and acted like an overbearing 50-year old Jewish mother.

She talked constantly, and although she was friendly and outgoing, it was truly annoying. Well, at least to me. Watching her play, I was salivating--she seemed to overbet everything and raise almost every hand pre-flop. It was time to get paid!

A few hands later I had 9-5 suited on the blind, and she raised it to $10. There were three other callers, so I figured 4-1 on my money was a good enough price to see the flop.

The flop hit me right between the eyes, 2-5-9 rainbow. I couldn't believe it. She bet out $25 and the everyone folded to me. I raised it to $75, hoping to entice her to go all-in, but she thought about it for a second and then folded. She showed me the bluff, which was a bummer. I was hoping that she had an over-pair.

After that, I didn't get any playable cards for awhile. Sammie pushed in to my game and as soon as she sat down she said Wow Mikey, you get me twice in one night!

Just like back in college, said I...

Anyhow, as much fun as I was having chatting with Sammie, my cards were just dead--I had nothing to go to war with, and the Jewish Mama had pushed all in twice with junk and knocked out a couple of players. She suddenly had over $500 in front of her and was raising every pot, whenever, of course, she took a break from talking. My problem was that I just didn't get anything to play with.

Once the new dealer pushed in and dealt me one hand--Seven-Deuce offsuit--I decided to call it a night. I was up $78 for the session, the game was shorthanded, Sammie wouldn't be coming back for round three, and the smokin' hot Cuban waitress had also gone home. I saw no reason to stick around. I cashed out and hit the restroom before going home.

On my way out the door, I saw that gal Tina I'd met earlier in the evening, sitting at a slot machine. I said something like Hey--are you still here? and she called me over to join her. We talked for a bit and I found out that she was kinda pissed at her friend that she was there with--her friend had met a boy and they were over at the club and such. So she asked me if I'd be willing to give her a ride home.


Uh huh...

She texted her friend, said she was leaving, and we took off. Turns out, she lived about a half mile from my old place over on Horizon Ridge. And when I got there, she invited me in...

She had a nice place, and I parked myself on the couch while she put on a CD with some mellow piano music and offered me a beer. It would be ungentlemanly of me to share the details of the rest of the evening, but let's just say that I was glad I was wearing matching socks and my lucky Elvis boxers.

About an hour-and-a-half later, as I was trying to figure out a way to make a graceful exit (By the way, we can put a man on the moon, but nobody has yet to come up with a smooth way to pull the ripcord after a one-nighter), I realized that the music that was playing was the same exact music at the end of Ocean's 11, when they've pulled their caper and were savoring the victory out there in front of the Bellagio fountains. Quite timely and appropriate, I thought...

Anyhow, I came up with an appropriate excuse and made my retreat, getting back here to the Batch Pad around 2:30 in the morning. As tired as I was, I figured I'd go right to sleep, but that just wasn't the case. I stayed up and started writing this little treatise...

I tried to make it until the football games came on, but I ended up sleeping through both of them, waking up in time for the 4th quarter of the Jets-Chargers. That gave me plenty of sleep, so I'm good to go. I have to work the graveyard shift again tonight, and as much as I want a nice long and lucrative night at work, part of me would be totally ok with it if the game broke early and I beat the sunrise back to my apartment.

Y'all have a happy Monday--and I'll try and get back here again before another four days pass by.


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