Viva Las Vegas -- part four
Part three of our turgid tale is here.
For the next hour, I only open two hands: once with Ajax, which I win when my bet on the turn gets no callers, and again with pocket fives, which I fold when the A-8-x flop is bet and raised ahead of me. I'm thrilled to be out of that hand when it goes into a heads-up-raising-fest-from-hell between Drunk Guy's Dead Man's hand, and Chicago, who holds a set of eights.
Chicago racks his chips, and can't leave fast enough. He's about halfway to the cashier before he comes back and flips a red chip to the dealer. A couple of hands later (8-3d: fold, A-4o: fold) he is replaced by a woman in her 40s. Short, short hair, no jewelry, light makeup, wears a black vest over a white blouse.
During the shuffle, I imagine her story:
Her name is . . . Rebecca. No, it's Dianne. Yeah, Dianne. She moved to Vegas four years ago because she's running away from something. Nothing criminal . . . probably a broken heart.
Las Vegas was the perfect destination: it's running away from things, even if only for a weekend, and she knew she'd be blend in among the transient population of tourists and fortune-seekers.
"I'm moving to Las Vegas," she told her sister one morning, while her niece played in a shaft of sunlight on the living room floor.
"I need a change."
"But why Vegas?"
"I don't know. It just feels right."
She packed her apartment into a few boxes, and drove across Interstate 10, with Wayne Dyer and Neil Diamond for company.
She has an apartment in Henderson, and a job at Lindy's in the Flamingo. The shifts are lousy, and so are the tips, but she's in a dealer's school right now, and has high hopes for the future. She has started over, and she is happy, if a little lonely.
About three weeks ago, she caught the eye of a poker dealer named Andy. Hold'Em has played an important part in their courtship, so here she is . . .
Or maybe she's just another tourist . . . but making up people's stories is fun for me, so that's what I do.
She gives five twenty dollar bills to a chip runner.
"One hundred behind," he says.
Dianne tells the dealer that she'd like to play this hand, and the cards are in the air.
I fold again, and get up to pee. When I come back, Moneymaker and Drunk Guy are standing up. They've probably dropped two hundred bucks between the two of them, but they don't seem to mind at all.
"Dude, let's go to Olympic Gardens," Drunk Guy says.
"We were just there last night," Moneymaker says.
"I know, dude!" Drunk Guy laughs, and they do that hitting-each-other's-fist thing that seems to have replaced the high-five.
As they walk away, I catch Pungent's eye. "I'm going to miss them," he says with a glance at his chips. The dealer laughs, then the whole table laughs.
"Two seats open!" The Dealer says, and we get two new players:
Seat Two: Late 40s, golf shirt, baseball cap perched above a high forehead. His wife kisses him when he sits down, and walks off with a stack of bills. I immediately like this guy.
Seat Four: If Gabe Kaplan had massive male-pattern baldness, and sweat like Roger Ebert, he'd be sitting across from me right now. This guy looks so terrified when he hands two fifties to the chip runner, I'm convinced it's an act . . . but why waste the effort at a 3-6 table? You know what I have to call him . . .
Kotter has a weird, nervous energy that would probably get him pulled out of line at the airport, and I notice that the players next to him slowly but deliberately move away from him. This shifts the whole table around, and I end up so close to the dealer, his left hand hits my elbow on the next few deals. I try to give him some room, but Golf Shirt is so close to me our knees bump together . . . which reveals a big, fat, juicy tell: when he likes his cards, he bounces his leg. This saves me a few "borderline" calls, which is pretty cool.
For another few orbits (that's what I call it when the button goes around the table) I don't see much of anything, but I don't mind, because I've got Catherine Wheel and then The Cure on my iPod, and well over 100 bucks in profit stacked up in front of me. It's also interesting to watch Kotter slowly bleed his stack away, one crying call at a time. When he finally does make a hand, it's one of the most tragic things I've ever seen.
He's in middle position, and Hipster has the button, and they go heads up on a flop of 6d-9s-8s. Kotter bets it out, just like he has every hand, so I put him on random cards, but probably an Ace, maybe A9, but I've gotten a pretty good read on Hipster, and I think he's made a set. They fire bets at each other until it's capped, and I pull one of my headphones out, so I can hear them talk.
The turn is the six of clubs. Kotter looks at the dealer and says, "What's the most I can bet?"
"Six dollars, sir."
Kotter picks up three chips in each hand, and deliberately slams each stack down in front of him. His eyes dart around the table; I avoid them.
Hipster frowns and says, "I raise."
"Six again, sir," the dealer says to Kotter.
"It's a six dollar raise, sir."
"Oh. Okay. I want to raise him back." The way he says it, it's like he's looking for permission. Weird.
"That's six more to you," the dealer says to Hipster.
"I call it."
The dealer rakes some chips off the pot, and drops them into a little box that's near his right hand. He burns the top card, and deals out the Ace of diamonds.
Golf Shirt mutters, "Someone's got quads," and we all look at Kotter. The sweat beads up so much on the top of his head, he looks like an ad for Turtle Wax.
"I bet six again," he says, nodding his head excitedly, and slams his chips out in the same motion as before. I can hear Phil Gordon in my head: "That's intended to make your opponent think you've got a strong hand when you're weak. That's usually a tell." Dave Foley makes a joke that falls somewhere into that gap between really clever and really awful.
"Raise him!" Says Hipster.
Kotter seems insulted, and says to the dealer, "Tell him I want to re-raise."
The dealer is so close to me, I pick up the tiniest hint of a smile turning up the corner of his mouth. "Okay, that's another six dollars, sir."
Hipster laughs this time. "Re-raise him!"
"Betting is capped," the dealer says. "Six dollars to call."
"I call him!" Kotter says. This time he slams down a $5 chip and a $1 chip, and flips over the 8 and 6 of hearts. "FULL HOUSE!"
Hipster flips up his cards, and I hear Dianne gasp before I can see them: two nines.
The Dealer calmly says, "Nines full of sixes," and pushes a mountain of chips to Hipster.
In slow motion, I turn my head back toward Kotter. I half expect to see him putting a gun into his mouth, but he just looks shocked.
The color has drained out of his face, and sweat drips off his nose as he says, "I . . . I had a full house . . . "
"Jesus," Golf Shirt says.
I feel genuinely sorry for the guy, but my survival instinct encourages me to keep my mouth shut.
Hipster tokes a dollar to the dealer, and just about the entire table chides him into giving more.
"Hey, that's worth at least two dollars," Pungent Nose says.
"Yeah, come on, man," adds Trucker Hat. I notice that Trucker Hat exudes Cloutier-like intimidation.
Hipster gives in, and tokes another two bucks to the dealer as he racks his chips and walks away.
Our dealer is tapped on the shoulder for a shift-change. "Okay, good luck, everyone," he says as he leaves. I wonder how many hands a day he sees like the one that just played out. I think about how I can't wait to write this up when I get home, and I wonder if any of this sticks in his mind the way I'm sticking it in mine.
Our new dealer is quite friendly. He's Rob, from North Dakota, but he went to college in New Orleans, and he's really worried about Ivan.
As soon as he sits down, he says, "Did you all hear about Ivan? It's going to make landfall right over New Orleans." He shakes his head, "Man, that city is already twenty-two feet below sea level, and the storm surge will be over forty feet." He looks around the table. "Everything that's not brick or stone in that city could be gone in the morning."
"I thought Ivan was bearing down on Florida," I say.
"Nope, it turned again. New Orleans at four a.m."
"Jesus." Again I mark how lucky I am to be here and not there.
Rob shuffles, riffles, shuffles, shuffles, riffles and shuffles.
"Blinds, please," he says, reaching across me to tap he felt in front of Golf Shirt, and pointing at Pungent Nose.
"Forty feet, man," he says quietly to himself, and the cards fly.
Pungent calls. Kotter looks numbly at his cards, and folds. Trucker Hat folds, grabs a pack of Pall Malls from his shirt pocket, and walks away. Siegfried calls, Dianne calls, and it's to me. I look down at 87o. It's not a hand I like to play, but I'm starting to get a little antsy, and I am in late position . . . so I call. Golf Shirt checks.
"Five players," Rob says.
The flop completely misses me. Pungent checks, Siegfried checks.
"Maybe it missed us all?"
"Maybe not." I fold.
Golf Shirt calls, Pungent folds, Siegfried calls. The three of them go down to the River, and Golf Shirt picks up the pot with a split pair of Cowboys when his 9 outkicks Dianne's 5.
This is the beginning of a rather frustrating run. For the next two or three orbits, whenever I get a marginal calling hand, I make the wrong choice. I get K-5 off-suit in early position, and when I fold it, the flop comes A-5-5. I get A-4 of clubs in late position, and when I call it, the flop is all spades. The most memorable hand is J-7 of hearts in early position. While I thought of calling, Golf Shirts started bouncing the hell out of his knee, so I folded . . . only to watch the Ace, King, and Five of hearts hit the flop. It ends up being a monster pot between Golf Shirt, who held Big Slick, and Siegfried, who made trips on the turn.
I know that I'm playing things "by the book," so I'm not too upset — especially when I count my chips and realize that I'm still ahead well over one hundred bucks after just about two hours. I recall some Lou Krieger advice: "If you play it wrong on just one hand, you can completely wipe out everything you've earned in your session, so play 'by the book,' and stick to it!" I'm pretty sure that my rush has come and gone, and I should get up and leave, but a seductive voice in my head says: "Let's just take down one more pot from these tourists, and then we'll go."
Ah, sweet hubris, how I love to hate thee.
Tomorrow: Part Five