Monday, October 22, 2007
I awake on Friday with a head to match the weather. Dull and cloudy.
Four hours sleep last night. Maybe I should cut back on the Vodka and Red Bull?
Another trip to the Studio Cafe - why break a winning streak? - and my legs don't look quite so bad in the mirrored walls. The Vegas sun is working on me - though not always in a good way.
It's my last day at the MGM, and I had planned some time by the pool. Instead, I check out early using the room TV, and make the short trip across the walkway to drop my case at The Tropicana. I'll check in later in the day.
My next destination, a meeting with Cocktail Doll.
I find her easily enough, and intercept her as she serves a tray of drinks to more midday slot addicts.
'Excuse me, miss?'
'I'll be with you in ONE minute, sir.'
The voice is calm but commanding, and tales from her Daily Rounds spring instantly to life. I grin broadly, and take a seat at a machine.
Introductions are made, ice broken, and we chat animatedly for ten or fifteen minutes. I become conscious of time passing, and worry about causing hassles with her management.
She's as lovely as she looks, and I'm pretty sure I maintain eye contact for at least 50% of our time together. The NYNY outfits are a miracle of modern engineering.
Another waitress, Susan, approaches. Dollie introduces us and we chat briefly.
Susan departs, but not before giving Dollie some grief about having to cover her station.
After she's gone, I apologise to Dollie for intruding on her work time.
'Oh that's fine, don't worry about it. She's my best buddy. We were bra shopping at Victoria's Secret together yesterday!'
There's a dull thudding sensation in the side of my head, a rushing sound like waves crashing on a rocky coast. My blood pressure spikes somewhere in the 'imminent stroke' range.
That isn't the sort of thing you should tell a married man whose been away from his wife for four days.
Dollie hopes to get away early, but her boss isn't co-operating. We go our separate ways.
The atmosphere on The Strip has changed noticeably since Thursday.
More groups of young kids, more beers in hand, my first sightings of luminous yard-long margaritas.
It's buzzing, hordes of bodies slow the sidewalk pace to a crawl. The sun burns off the last of the morning clouds. The weekend starts here.
By late afternoon I'm checked in at The Tropicana, having negotiated a mercifully short queue of scarily young people.
The Island Tower room seems well worth an extra $10 per night. Bright, spacious, with a view across the pool area to The Strip ranging from NYNY and MGM Grand via Excalibur to Luxor.
Sure the fittings aren't as fancy as the MGM Grand, but it's clean and airy.
My only quibbles. A shower head located at midget height, and I'm not too sure what to make of the bamboo framed mirror located above the double bed.
I manage a quick nap. Shower, and shave. Poker's number one metrosexual blogger is in town, so I feel I should make an effort.
Miraculously, our meeting plans go perfectly, and after a more leisurely than expected snack at Ballys, we hit the town.
First lesson of the trip. America makes beers other than Budweiser and Miller.
Speaker introduces me to a fine brew that's more Czech Republic than California. By close of play, I'm too drunk to remember the name.
We look for a cheap blackjack table with spare seats. There are none. I can see Speaker is champing at the bit.
Pai Gow? His eyes illuminate. I get a quick rundown of the rules as we search for, and find, a table.
Two things ease my nerves as I spread out $100 on the felt. One, it's very like poker in hand rankings. Two, I'm assured it's OK to ask the dealer.
I get dealt my first hand. Speaker is at the other end of the table, and I find myself looking imploringly to the dealer for assistance, as I struggle to order the cards.
It seems I've got a 9-high and an 8-high hand. That can't be right? Oh, it can.
My first ever hand. The worst possible hand. A sign? I hope not!
My second hand looks way better. Two pair and an Ace-high second hand. Best check with the dealer to make sure I'm reading this right.
She tells me to split the two pair, and gives me a brief explanation why.
As she spreads her cards, she gives me an anguished glance, and I nod knowingly as we push.
'He wanted to keep the two pair', she tells the table, 'and he'd have won if he hadn't taken my advice to split.'
The rest of the table are a friendly bunch, and they sympathise, whilst assuring me the advice was sound. No problem. Here comes the cocktail waitress...
Some time, and a few dollars, later. Paris poker room. $1/2 NLH, but a $300 max buy-in. A VERY drunk table, with plenty chips in play, and wild action. Situation green.
A very drunk ex-soldier is three to my right. He seems to have a deadline to be somewhere else.
The less rowdy, but equally drunk, guy opposite me is due at the airport in a few hours. He appears to be operating on an elastic schedule.
'I need to go in 30 minutes so I can pack, check out, and get a cab to McCarran'.
30 minutes pass.
'I need to go in 30 minutes so I can throw my stuff in a case and get a cab to McCarran.'
Time moves on.
'Awww fuckit, I'll just get a cab from here and stop off at the hotel to grab my stuff.'
A faintly familiar face joins the table. My drink befuddled mind struggles to firm up my initial impression. Eventually it sinks in.
I mouth to Speaker 'Claudio Ranieri'. Speaker nods in agreement.
The more I look, the clearer it becomes. Twin-like looks, close in age, similar mannerisms. Though I doubt the little Italian football manager plays an OESD as aggressively as this guy.
We enlighten him as to his doppelganger. He seems amused.
'Actually you remind me of someone too.'
'Yeah?', I feel a punchline coming.
'Dennis Quaid'. He seems sincere.
'Hah!', I splutter, 'Don't know about that, but if you can sort me out with Meg Ryan...Umm wasn't he an alcoholic, or something?'
Another guy to my right joins in the fun.
'Never mind Meg Ryan. What have you done with Katie Holmes?'
For about 5 seconds, I am truly perplexed. I may be doing my goldfish impression. Finally the wheels turn.
'Huh!? You saying I look like Tom Cruise? Get real. I'm about a foot taller than him.'
He grins delightedly. 'Good answer'
Now I know these guys are truly drunk.
For a few months I've been bothered by a skin infection on my right cheek. It's been bubbling under the surface and flaring up in the form of a nasty shaving rash.
The Vegas sun seems to have driven it to the surface, and my cheek and jaw are glowing like a burns victim. The only Tom Cruise character I'm ever likely to resemble is the guy in Vanilla Sky.
The young guy to my right is, it's fair to say, a little on the well rounded side. He's also one of the quieter guys at the table. Not rude. Probably just not as gassed as the rest of us.
One of his pals wanders over and starts teasing him about something. I hear the word 'bracelet' mentioned.
The guy on the other side quizzes him a little. He tells us he won a $2k WSOP NLH event, and produces said bracelet from his pocket. It all seems very genuine.
'How come you are playing in this game after winning a bracelet event?', asks the other guy.
'I usually play at The Bellagio, but can't be bothered walking across there tonight.'
Seems fair to me.
He tells me his name. I look him up when I get home, and The Hendon Mob has a picture.
It seems Speaker and I did play cash poker with a bracelet winner.
Ben Ponzio took down $600k for that win, but unfortunately I couldn't get any of the chips off him on that Friday night.
Ex-soldier is buying drinks. I know I've had way too much, and decline his offer. Several others are not so wise.
'Bring us your best shots', is the extent of his order.
The waitress obliges with tumblers of sticky red fluid. The drinkers guzzle them down appreciatively, and speculate about the contents.
Cranberry juice and Jägermeister are swiftly identified as key components.
'What's that called?', I ask her.
'Red Headed Slut', she tells me. Ping! A light goes on in the deeper recesses of my head.
'Bring me one of those too! I wanna go home and be able to tell the wife I had a Red Headed Slut in Vegas, without getting slapped.'
She laughs. It proves to be an expensive drink.
Ex-soldier moves all-in UTG for his last $50 in a $3 pot. I make it $150 with AK.
His KJ doesn't improve and it's time to hit the road. The table breaks, leaving me with a small profit and great memories.
Things get blurry. There's a roulette wheel. I'm losing slowly.
A bunch of young English guys join the table. They talk like Arthur Daley's grandchildren, but there's an air of The Football Factory about them too. I don't engage them too deeply in conversation.
They haven't a clue how to bet. The dealer assists them. They correct their errors. The wheel spins. They try to bet again. 'NO more bets!'
They bet again. Wrongly. The dealer assists them, and so it goes on....
Speaker is drinking Blue Moon. A beer with an orange in it. I'm not tempted, but I have lost some more. I try to double through, and lose.
The English boys depart. The Odd Couple arrive. She, young, stunning Scandinavian looking blonde. He, middle aged, Mediterranean looking, and decidedly unstunning.
Speaker heads for his room. I decide to finish my drink, and do.
Blondie asks in an indeterminate accent if Speaker's seat is free now.
Ah, I think. That explains it. Another hooker.
She settles down beside me, and begins to play. Confused am I, but my drink is finished and it's past 6a.m. Time to go.
Hmmm. Under $100 left from $300 invested. Not good. But if I double through twice...
I shove it all on red, and win. The dealer looks to me expectantly.
'Let it ride'
We spin again. The ball clatters, bounces, and lands deliciously, definitively, in red.
Then agonisingly clambers up the wall of the slot, and with seemingly it's last Newton of energy, plops tauntingly into the black neighbour.
'Oh man!' I sigh. Illustrating my despondency with a Swiper the Fox-esque finger click.
Which sends a fully loaded glass of beer sprawling across the felt.
Huh! Where did that come from? The orange amidst the foaming beer tells a story.
Seems Blondie did some reorganising when she claimed her new seat.
Instantaneously the barman springs into action with two great handfuls of paper towels, produced from nowhere it seems.
Within seconds a cocktail waitress is reaching past me with two hand towels.
In 30 seconds the table is clear. I apologise profusely. No offence is taken. It's easy to forgive the guy who just donked off $300 at your table, I guess.
The shock gives me a push in the general direction of sobriety. As dawn breaks over Vegas, I find myself setting a brisk pace down the sidewalk.
Behind me I hear the tell tale clack-clack-clack of stiletto heels following an equally high tempo. Any quicker, and I'd be looking for a cantering horse.
I know what's coming next. Me, if she has her way. The clacking grows closer. Sure enough...
'Hey cutie, you lookin' for company tonight?'
I glance around, without letting the pace drop.
She has the legs of Naomi Campbell, and the body of Venus Williams. I pray she doesn't take rejection badly.
Holding my left hand prominently, I sweeten the pill.
'You're very pretty, but I've already got company.'
Unexpectedly, she smiles, and cantering becomes a trot.
'OK honey, but if you change your mind...'
So ends another Vegas night.