At the end of my Vegas trip I was feeling pretty weary and was desperate to get the F out of Dodge. Fortunately degeneracy defeated desperation and I still entered a $500 Event at the Wynn Classic the morning before my red eye left town. As it turned out, I had to reschedule my flight because I ended up final tabling the thing. I ran like God during the period following the bubble then ran roughshod through some folks, arriving at the final table third in chips. The two players who had me outchipped were my talented friend Vinny Pahuja and poker megastar Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier. We eventually were the last three standing, and for a few brief glimpses I seemed to be on the verge of wresting control of the table from those two very formidable opponents. However ElkY got the best of me in a couple of big pots, then I met my fate (Pajuhja’d!) by running AQ into Vinny’s AK. I made $14,000 and certainly cannot complain.
Vinny overcame a short deficit to defeat ElkY, who is widely considered one of the best heads up NLHE players in the world. This is a terrific accomplishment and another notch in the already heavily notched belt of Vicious Vinny. Congrats sir!
You may be wondering what the hell ElkY was doing in a $500 Event. So was I. I still don’t know the answer. I do know that he was either unamused by or did not understand the moniker I gave him and repeatedly called him: “Elkapotamus.” English is like ElkY’s eleventh language, so my bloated ego likes the latter explanation. And now for a quick scene from Las Vegas.
I am at the Venetian awaiting the start of the Deep Stack Main Event. I’ve arrived over an hour early, so I decide to grab a bite at the closest restaurant, which happens to be Grand Luxe Cafe. I stroll in and decline the hostess’ offer of a table for one and seat myself at the bar. I peruse the menu for a few moments, decide on the chopped salad, and wait to be served.
The bartender is a sturdy raven-haired woman who looks to be about thirty. She’s attending to some folks at the other end of the bar. I can tell by the way she’s effortlessly handling the beverage gun and slinging pints of soda down there that this ain’t her first rodeo. She faces me and walks over. She’s healthy and strong, but her face wears the expression of a person who has been dragged through some disappointment or some sleepless nights. Or both. I imagine her finishing up her shift, driving her trusty Camry down into Henderson, picking her kid up from day care and fixing him some macaroni and cheese dinner.
“What can I get you?” she asks with the saccharine Vegas smile that even tired probable single moms are required to wear. I order my chopped salad and an iced tea. Before she departs, she glances at my book and breaks into a smaller but more legitimate smile.
“Is it better than the movie? I loved the movie.”
I have no absolutely idea what she’s talking about. It takes me about five seconds before I realize that the book I picked up in the Miami airport on a lark, Into The Wild, must have gotten the motion picture treatment recently.
“The movie’s probably better, I’m not loving this book,” I answer truthfully. The bartender shrugs and walks off. My salad and iced tea arrive less than five minutes later. I begin to eat, thinking about my early tournament strategy.
Before long, I realize someone has occupied the seat to my right. It’s a sprightly blond girl in her early twenties. She is wearing a grey pantsuit and her hair is pulled back into a tight ponytail. There is a hole in her left nostril which was recently occupied by a stud of some sort. She glances around her, then inhales deeply. She puffs her chest out, then lets loose a sharp, exaggerated exhale. She’s nervous. I correctly surmise that she’s not here for lunch.
“Can I help you?” the bartender asks our new arrival.
“Hi, I’m Amanda. I’m here for my interview for the hostess position.” Amanda isn’t doing a great job of concealing her anxiety; she’s got a death grip on the napkin in front of her.
“Oh, okay. Randy will be back in ten minutes,” says the bartender. Now she gives Amanda a once-over and a kindhearted grin. “You new in town?”
“New-ish. I’ve been here three months,” says Amanda. “I’m a server right now.” I presume this means that she fetches drinks in a casino.
“So do you like Vegas?” asks the bartender, drawing slightly closer to Amanda.
“Tell the truth, don’t bullshit me,” interrupts the bartender. Amanda gathers her thoughts for a moment before replying. The bartender clearly wants the answer to be no.
“It’s okay so far. I’ve met a few nice people, but I miss a lot of things back home.”
“Orlando. It’s not the same here,” she says wistfully. “I miss car shows, basketball games, cookouts…. I still don’t feel totally at home here.”
I want to blurt out “Vegas doesn’t have car shows?!” but I just continue staring straight ahead and sip my iced tea.
“And the guys here… I’m not impressed so far.”
This topic arouses the bartender. She fixes Amanda with an intense stare that needs no explanation, then makes a gesture with her index finger that I’ve seen from attorneys in courtrooms before. The bartender has a key point to make.
“Honey, you don’t know the half. Let me tell you something. Vegas guys suck. Don’t listen to anything they tell you, it’s all lies. Most of them have just moved here and are dead broke. They put on their fancy clothes, walk around like they’re hot shit and they all have some kind of dumb hustle going on. If one more guy tells me he’s a professional poker player I’m going to vomit.” Upon hearing this comment, I chortle audibly, stop forking around in my salad and glance over at them, but they don’t notice.
“The guys here suck. Plain and simple,” continues the bartender. “And the tourists are just as bad. People are so out of touch. These people want to tell me stories about how much money they just lost; how they lost it, how bad their luck is.” She’s on a roll.
“Hello?! I work twenty feet from the casino floor. Your story means nothing to me, it’s the same as the last guy’s. I don’t care!” she says with wide-eyed amazement.
The bartender’s rant ends at just the right moment. Randy is on the scene. Randy shakes Amanda’s little sweaty hand, then she’s off on her interview. The bartender wishes her luck, Amanda thanks her and I continue eating.
Less than two minutes later, as if on cue, a man replaces Amanda in the seat next to mine. He’s middle aged with glasses and a Venetian ball cap. He arrives quickly and forcefully, almost with determination. He’s wearing a pair of neatly creased beige shorts. Tucked into his shorts, with the help of a thick black belt, is a button-down shirt, the kind I wore at my law firm on casual Fridays. This man is seriously overweight; his shirt is fighting an uphill battle to keep all the gut contained. Even though he is seated a healthy distance from the bar, his gut/shirt is smushed uncomfortably against the mahogany divider. He receives his menu, opens it for one second, grimaces, closes it, and places it back on the bar. I sense some negative energy.
He flags our trusty bartender down.
“Gimme two eggs, over easy and an order of crispy bacon. And a coffee… Does that come with potatoes?”
“Yes, it comes with either…” begins the bartender.
“I don’t want potatoes!” Fat guy is yelling for no apparent reason. I instinctively cringe and slide to my left. “What can i get instead of potatoes?!”
“We have sliced tomatoes,” says the bartender.
“No tomatoes! I don’t like tomatoes! What can I get besides potatoes and tomatoes? Give me something else!” This fat guy is practically barking. I’m growing seriously uncomfortable, but the bartender is nonplussed.
“There aren’t too many other options. We have different vegetables that I can ask the kitchen if they’ll…”
“What vegetables?!” he screams. “I’m done with that menu. And I’m not a mind reader. You have to TELL me here. What vegetables?!” Spittle is actually flying out of the fat guy’s mouth.
“Broccoli. We have broccoli.”
“Good, give me broccoli, but steamed. Don’t overcook it. EGGS. CRISPY BACON. BROCOLI. And I”m in a hurry.”
Wow, what a douchebag. The bartender walks off.
And with that, the fat guy pulls two sheets of paper out of his front pocket, lays them side by side in front of him and attempts to smooth the creases out of them. He was ordering food only seconds earlier but now fatty is completely engrossed with these sheets. He’s poring over them with such intensity that he’d probably fail to notice if I smack him in the back of the head, which I have the distinct urge to do. Fat guy proceeds to pull out a pen and goes to work. He makes a few X’s. He makes a couple of circles. In one particular spot, he makes about sixteen circles for emphasis. He writes some numbers in the margins. Fat guy is working these sheets over like a topographer who just discovered a previously unexplored island. What are they?
I take a gander. One sheet has printed on it the Venetian’s sports book’s NBA offerings for the day, and the other appears to be some kind of tout sheet produced by one of those hacks-about-town handicappers. He’s divining tonight’s basketball winners by looking at two pieces of paper. In other words, this fat bastard is exactly what he appears to be: a self-important loser. Chalk one up for the bartender. I finish my food, pay my bill, and leave the idiot to his studies.
I’m back on the east coast playing some tournies at Caesar’s AC WSOP Circuit now. I’ve bricked all the daily events but have won a seat in the main event so far. Also I’m currently winning a prop bet that I will explain in the next entry.