I wish our first two days in Vegas were as easy as the drive out from Los Angeles. Though we managed to drive 300 miles, pick up our keys, and shlep all our stuff from the car to our apartment at the Del Bocca Vista in less than five hours, Pauly managed to break a mirror in the bedroom before we could even finish unpacking. I’m not superstitious so I didn’t think much of it, but for him, it was akin to the seventh sign of the apocalypse. Everyone’s favorite internet doctor was genuinely spooked.
By 7:30 we were starving, so we decided to grab a bite at the Red Rock and play some poker. I couldn’t wait to dig into one of my favorite Las Vegas dishes– the Grand Cafe’s BBQ Chicken Salad– but was sick of driving, as I’d stayed behind the wheel for the full duration of the LA-LV haul. So Pauly got in the driver’s seat. This would prove to be a very bad decision. As he backed out of the parking space, he didn’t see the pole on the left side of our parking space and hit it with the left front corner of the car, leaving a hefty scratch on my six-week old Mazda. Between the mirror, losing $300 playing $8-16 on Full Tilt, and now scratching the car, he was starting to lose it.
“OK, I’m driving.”
I wasn’t mad about the car. It was an accident. Cars get scratched all the time. It was easily fixable. But Pauly was totally convinced that the stars were aligning against him, not only for today, but for the duration of our stay in Vegas for the WSOP.
“It’s an omen” he said.
“It’s naat an ooomen” I replied in my best Arnold Schwarzenegger voice.
Getting seated at Table 13 in the Red Rock poker room didn’t help things in that department, though the game was good– at least for me. After not flopping a set in what seemed like weeks, I flopped three in three hours, including a river two-outer that put one of the cranky locals on uber-tilt. I caught A-A three times and they all held up. By the end of the night, the retired history teacher from New Jersey on my left was terrified of me. I finished the session up $100 after getting stuck $120 within the first 30 minutes.
Pauly played like a lunatic, raising every kill pot with any two cards. The folks at my end of the table thought he was completely off his rocker, yet were incapable of playing back at him. I sat across from a delicate, dark-haired girl from the Netherlands. She was out here for the WSOP with her family, most of whom play poker and are friendly with some of the top Dutch pros. The blonde hipster guy sitting on her left flirted with her wildly and the two were downing rum and cokes and playfully touching each other by the time we quit the game.
Wednesday afternoon we had a PokerNews meeting at Marie Callender’s of all places. I hadn’t been there since the late 80′s, back when my mom would take Mandy and I out for bowls of their potato cheese soup on rainy days. I ordered it for old time’s sake and it was even thicker and cheesier than I remembered. For the first and perhaps the only time, the entire PokerNews WSOP team was in one room, almost 40 strong, including B.J. Nemeth, who had just driven cross-country with his dog and Mean Gene, whom I got to re-meet after being introduced to him on that fateful night at the MGM Grand when I passed out in the bathroom, grabbed Pauly’s junk in a blackout, and was loaded into a taxi with two big black hookers. I also finally got to meet Jonno, from PokerNews’ Melbourne offices. I’d been messaging with him for months and finally got to put a face to a name. His Aussie accent is the nuts.
After a brief stop at the apartment (where I spent 90 minutes on the phone with Cox Communications trying to get our high-speed internet to work) we departed for Treasure Island and Jen Leo’s birthday celebration at Isla. The birthday girl looked very chic, having just come from the salon where she got her hair cut and straightened. I downed a couple of cadillac margaritas at the bar and was more than a little loopy by the time we all adjourned to the poker room to play the 7 PM tourney.
44 players started and 6 would be paid. I got seated at a table with Pauly on my left and Mean Gene two to my right. The structure was very fast– 2000 chips to start, 20 minute levels and steep blinds– and I tried to adjust accordingly. I wound up picking up a lot of small pots on the flop when my opponents had clearly missed (I had missed too but they didn’t know that I had about 4500 at the break and we were down to two tables shortly thereafter. Pauly, Leigh (of Poker Atlas fame), and Jonno were all at my table. Everyone was short-stacked and the blinds were enormous at this point. With 12 players remaining and 1k-2k blinds, the average stack was just over 7,000. So with 12.5K, I was pretty confident I’d at least make the money.
I played four big hands in the tournament endgame. I raised with K-Q and Leigh called all-in with A-T. The flop was Q-Q-X and I hit a K on the turn to add insult to injury. A few hands later, I won a race with A-T vs. pocket fours when I made a club flush on the river. Pauly said he folded the ace of clubs, though I would have had him dominated pre-flop. I found K-Q again a few hands later and raised from EP and Pauly re-raised me from the small blind. I laid it down and he told me later he had K-K.
Then there was the final hand. Pauly, Jonno and I all made the money. The blinds were so high (2k-4k) that it was all-in or fold for everyone, even Pauly, who was the chip leader with over 20K. Pauly moved all-in from UTG and everyone folded around to me in the big blind. I looked down at K-Q (again) and I had less than 10K chips after putting in my 4k big blind. With Pauly moving in on maybe 75% of his hands, I thought it was a good spot to get my chips in.
“Fuck!” He said, as he tabled the 4-6 of clubs.
I don’t remember the flop exactly, except that there were two clubs in it. The turn gave him more outs with a straight draw. And the river was a 4. I was out in 5th place for $161, happy to have cashed another Vegas tournament, but disappointed of course that I had missed out on the more significant payouts. But I’d make that call again and again. 1st place would have doubled my bankroll. 2nd and 3rd would have increased it by at least 50%. And I was playing to win. Pauly ended up finishing 3rd and Jonno was the runner-up, after the donkey girl who won it sucked out on him three times in a row. I think the three of us represented PokerNews Global spectacularly.
Of course, then I blew $70 of my win playing Pai Gow with Jonno, Pauly, and Mean Gene. Gene and Jonno were both Pai Gow virgins, so it was only my duty to further their descent into Vegas degeneracy. By the end of our session, though the margaritas had metabolized and I had developed a splitting headache. It was time to call it a night. I crashed as soon as we got home.
Today is our last day of freedom before the 47-day marathon that is the WSOP. Hopefully we’ll get to hang out with some of our pals like JW and Friedman tonight before we become prisoners of the Amazon Room come 10 AM tomorrow.