Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Vegas Day 6 - Raging Bulls and Snake Eyes

Floating down the strip after my Spearmint Rhino adventures, I encounter a couple of drunken youths weaving in more-or-less the opposite direction.

Often this sort of interaction carries a slight edge, but Bill and Ted, as I immediately label them, aren't so much benign as benevolent, and wear grins as wide as mine.

One raises his hand in greeting. 'Hey man!', he yells, offering me a high-five.

'Dudes!', I reciprocate, with maybe a little more vigour than is polite. Alcohol and adrenalin, a potent combination.

Four hours later, I'm pretty sure they are in the midst of a long, deep sleep.

I, on the other hand, am staring vacantly at a hotel wall. Wondering what the hell to do with myself.

Three hours sleep. It just isn't right.

I drag myself downstairs to the Garden Cafe and feast on orange juice, Denver omelette, and a LOT of coffee.

The pool area is still in the shade. I don't feel like sleeping. There is only one option, and it lies just minutes away.

Around 11am, I take my seat in yet another $1/$2 NLH game in the MGM.

The place is rocking, as the Vikings and Bears battle out a high scoring game. Beer and cocktails flow freely.

Half my fellow players are more interested in the big screen action than the green felt action. Erupting mid-hand with yelps of anguish; cheers of joy; or declamations of officialdom.

One old boy spends most of the game with his head buried in some sort of football statistics book. I gaze around in amusement and allow a warm feeling of contentment to wash over me. What a place to come for a holiday!

Three hours later I cash out $100 down, after some of the most bizarre play I've seen on the trip. Highlights include:

- A huge, extremely quiet guy - who bears a startling resemblance to Evander Holyfield - gets into a big pot after his opponent flops two pair out-of-position and bets it hard.

Evander calls him down with the nut flush draw, and hits on the river. The other guy fires out a blocker. Evander by now is shaking visibly. His shovel-like hands fluttering like butterfly wings - barely able to grasp enough chips to call - yes, CALL - the river bet.

As the cards are tabled an inaudible but clearly detectable tremor goes around the table. Players shift in their seats, glances are exchanged.

Not a word is spoken, as the dealer pushes the chips to a still shaking Evander - who struggles manfully to stack them as the next hand progresses.

- A fat middle-aged guy under the gun makes it $10 to play. In mid-position I look down at pocket nines. What's he got behind? Only $40 more. No implied odds, I muse, and consider folding since surely someone who puts in $10 from $50 UTG must have a real hand?

Then I realise he is watching me intently, and looks like he feels a little sick. I don't play live often enough to have any real talent for making reads, but his play smells as bad as he looks. Unshaven, greasy hair. He may well be wearing last night's clothes.

I make it $50 to discourage anyone else from getting involved.

He shrugs, and throws in his last $40. At the MGM turning cards over when all-in is optional. Most players do it immediately. The others generally agree to do so. It's social, more exciting, just like they do on TV.

He holds his cards in his hand.

'I'm happy to turn them if you want to.', I tell him.

He stares straight ahead. Refuses to even acknowledge me. The dealer spreads a low flop. Inside my heart is pounding. I really want to beat this guy now. The king on the turn is a dagger to the heart. The river irrelevant.

He tosses a solitary K on the table. Throws the other card to the dealer.

'You must show both cards, sir.', chides the dealer, exposing an offsuit ten and pushing the pot his way. Good read. Bad result. Disappointing, but no disaster.

Before he can even stack the chips, he doubles through again with AQ v JT on an QJx flop, against someone who obviously doesn't believe him - and I can see why!

I'm pissed off now, tired, and eager for more sun on my last day, so it's back to the pool for a relaxing afternoon.

After which I return to my room to find a message from Speaker. I've to be at The Venetian at 7pm to register in advance for their 8pm tourney.

Which makes it a bad time for fatigue to finally catch up on me, as I doze off sprawled untidily across the bed.

I awake with a start and grab my watch. 6.45pm. Shit!

A quick shower, superfast change, and after much jinking and weaving through the rush-hour human traffic on The Strip, I arrive in time to join around eighty other players for what is effectively a $180 freezeout.

The Venetian cardroom is in keeping with the rest of the hotel. A thing of beauty.

Opulent, tastefully decorated, auto-shufflers at all tables, and patrolled by some super glamorous cocktail waitresses. All good!

Drawn in the one seat, I settle down and prepare to fold my way to the first break.

I'm harassed, tired, hungry, and seem to have acquired a tremor that would shame an eighty year old.

No fit state to get involved in any high jinks in the early stages of a relatively slow structure.

The guy in the two seat is a different story. Brawny, aggressive, and hyped up. Within two hands he is berating his hapless opponent with a stream of f-bombs after getting outdrawn on the turn.

With a pair of gold boxing gloves dangling from a heavy gold chain, and a New York accent straight out of the movie, I christen him Raging Bull.

Much as I'm unimpressed by his table antics, I do note he flashes top pair as he folds, and is duly rewarded when his victorious opponent unnecessarily shows a turned straight.

The deck co-operates with my initial strategy, and I'm within sight of the break with a diminished stack when I make a monumental error.

The table is a real limp-fest, including the guy directly to my right, who I have surmised through the table chat works for Full Tilt.

He's been in earnest conversation with a few other guys discussing anti-collusion strategies. All of which leads me to assume he has some clue about poker.

On my small blind, it's folded around to his button, and he limps again. I look down at A5s.

Normally I'd raise here, but I keep thinking, surely he must sometimes be trapping?

I complete, and we see a cheap flop.

A5x. Umm, check! Raging Bull bets. Full Tilt guy folds. I decide to get trappy and call.

Blank turn. Check-check. Damn!

River another Ace giving me a full house. I'm now praying Raging Bull has a big ace, or even a smaller full house.

If he does, I get paid. If he doesn't, how to get paid?

I decide to check and give him a chance to 'steal' it.

He checks behind. I'm gutted.

'Awww, you were supposed to bet!', I say pushing my cards forward, but crucially not turning them.

He shows King high, and the dealer sweeps my cards into the muck!!

wtf!? It all happens so fast I barely have time to open my mouth.

'Wait! No. Awww forget it.'

'You had me beat?', he asks. I nod.

'Oh. I thought you meant you should have bluffed cos I would have folded.'

The dealer thinks the same. Another accent/accentuation issue!

It's over so quickly, I'm pretty sure nobody to the right of the dealer even notices.

In retrospect I played the whole hand horribly anyway, and as I rationalise the hand over a coffee during the break, I realise I only lost a few chips, and I was never going to win many, so the net outcome is not totally disastrous.

There was no angle shooting, and it's something that happens to everyone eventually, so it could have been a whole lot worse.

'Antes kick in after the break.', observes Speaker, 'You've only one move now.'

Prescient words.

First hand after the break and I'm in early position and first in with KJo. With an M of under 5 there's only one move indeed. Everyone folds.

I lose my big blind to a raise, before a thing of great beauty occurs in my small blind.

Almost the whole table limps. I look down at A8o, and push. Everyone folds.

Unreal. We are in the home of live poker and nobody knows how to play with a running ante. The full house fiasco fades from memory.

'You don't play a hand for two hours, and now you're all-in twice in ten minutes!', exclaims Raging Bull.

'What did they feed you at the break?', asks an older guy.

'I'm a Celtic fan.', I shrug, gesturing at the growing pile of $25 chips. 'I like the colour.'

I now know what type my next hand needs to be. The dealer obliges within a few minutes with AKo.

I ship them in again. An amused murmur goes around the table. One guy thinks for a while - but not hard enough - and calls me with A3. He misses, and I'm back in the game.

By now Raging Bull and I are buddies. He tells me his gran was from Scotland. Her family name is Auld.

I butter him up with tales of Bertie Auld and the Lisbon Lions.

'A real legend. A true Hall of Fame guy.'

He seems delighted. It's all going well and I'm loving my table image, when to my great disappointment we break, and I'm moved to the right of an old guy who appears to be the chip daddy of the tournament.

First hand in, and my mood is restored when I'm dealt AKs, and manage to get it all-in pre-flop versus the chip daddy. Feeling like a real card rack, until he shows AA and sends me to the rail.

Well, at least I have a chance to grab some dinner now - sometime after 11pm.

I locate a deli-style cafe, and am surprised to see a young boy of around three or four sitting alone, perched on a stool turned to face out to the gaming floor.

He looks sad but not afraid or distressed.

The waitress tells me he's been dumped there unsupervised. She is disgusted, as am I.

Around ten minutes later a glamorous well dressed woman approaches. She gives him a cuddle and they walk off hand-in-hand.

I stare in bemusement. If you can afford to stay at The Venetian, and play at their tables, surely you can afford a childminder?

My mood is lightened as a rotund Uncle Buck type character stumbles into view.

Baggy shorts, socks, sandals, and a florid shirt. He appears to be as steady as the dollar, and entirely out of place amidst the elegance of The Venetian and its glamorous clientele.

I assume he is a survivor from the morning football extravaganza, and watch with amusement as he executes a perfect - but entirely unplanned - circuit around one of the thick columns that punctuate the aisles, and disappears from view, still vertical but almost on his knees.

Soon thereafter Speaker exits the tourney, and we head off some some -EV action.

Pai Gow and blackjack are doing a roaring trade along the central strip, but we find an affordable craps table for me to break my duck on. Another 'to do' ticked off.

The south end of the table comprises a bunch of younger American guys who are having a good time. The north end is a subdued mix of older couples.

We station ourselves to the south. Speaker is soon in the action. I tentatively follow with a few pass line bets.

As my grasp of the action grows, so does my enjoyment.

I'm a physical wreck as my body revolts against the Vegas regime. Rubber legs, churning stomach, quivering hands. To look at me, you'd probably never guess I was having a great time.

A woman from the north end catches my eye. Or rather, her chest catches my eye.

Late thirties/early forties, scraggy dirty blonde hair, in jeans and a white ribbed vest top. She's slim but nothing to write home about.

Except, that is, for a pair of the most outrageous false breasts ever to be displayed on the strip. They appear to be made of stone and superglued in position. Impervious to the lack of a supporting bra.

The pièce de résistance is the presence of nipples so prominent, they threaten to burst through the flimsy material at any second, with all the subtlety of an Alien escaping from stomach.

I can't help but notice. Speaker notices. The younger guys notice. A few points are hit. Tongues are loosened. We share our observations. It's her turn to shoot.

'Man we should have a bet on Snake Eyes', giggles one of our new friends to mild laughter.

Three throws later, she nails two ones. The south end of the table erupts in raucous acclaim, but not profit. Nobody bet it.

Still, I manage to stay in the black and cash out with a very small win from my first ever craps session. Great fun and something I definitely plan to do again.

Speaker and I say our farewells, and I set off on a familiar path. Soon to be interrupted by a familiar conversation.

'Hey sweetie...', in stereo, again. My fourth and fifth hookers of the week.

Within 200 yards, a cab driver adds to the mix. Yelling from his stationary vehicle, 'Hey buddy. I can take you to a strip club where there's no entrance fee.'

Not tempted!

Soon I'm in bed, with two alarms set. Please don't let this be the night I oversleep.

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