July 10, 2005
doubled up inside
"Please could you stay awhile to share my grief,The sun just began its slow drop beneath the mountains to the West. It's hot on my shoulder and bits of light skip off my watch and dance on the walls. My window is open, and a scirocco-like wind occasionally billows against the sheer curtains. Sade is singing "By Your Side," and I really miss my wife right now.
The Sun and I are currenty secret friends, because I've seen both ends of his journey today — I played 3-6 with Paul Phillips and Lee Jones from 10 last night until 6:30 this morning. I had a few cinematic moments during the session . . . but I have to leave them for another time.
I went to the Wynn for brunch this afternoon. It's a beautiful hotel, and I was surprised at how small the poker room is. Unless there's a large area I missed, it's not much bigger than the room at the Mirage. I had a great people watching moment when a woman who was old enough to be my mother stumbled into me, sunglasses askew, clutching a twenty-four inch plastic tumbler of some libation or other. She wore a dirty t-shirt that said "Kaptain Kegger" on the front, and sported a lovely butch haircut. I've noticed that drunk adults tend to use the same stomping motion favored by infants who are just learning to walk, and it's equal parts pathetic and hilarious to watch.
After brunch (which was outstanding, but inexplicably did not come with the expected slice of cantaloupe at the end) I came back to my home base, and spent a few hours down by the pool. (The Writer woke up a couple of days ago, and I've been doing everything I can to stay out of His way. I find that sitting down by the pool with a couple of beers, some iced teas, and a notebook keeps Him very happy.)
On my way to find a lounge, I stopped by my regular bar to get an Anchor Steam. (In Vegas, hitting the same bar three days in a row officially qualifies you as a regular.) The bartender was someone I hadn't seen before today: an absolutely beautiful girl in her mid-twenties, jet black hair pulled back into a ponytail, gold eyes and olive skin. Freckles dusted across her shoulders matched the ones across her nose.
I approached, and saw her reading my "Shrödinger's Cat Is Dead" shirt.
"What does that mean?" She said.
"It's a very nerdy physics joke," I said.
"So it's not being cruel to animals?" She said.
"Well, there's a lot of Uncertainty about that," I said.
She frowned. "What?"
"That was also a very nerdy physics joke," I said, and explained Shrödinger's Cat to her.
" . . . so until you observe the results, the cat is both dead and alive," I said. "Which, I'm sure, is just thrilling to you."
She reached into the cooler and pulled a beer out of the bottom. Chunks of ice clung to the sides, and she wiped them off. As she opened it, she said, "Actually, I was listening to you because I think nerds are incredibly sexy." She bit down on her lower lip.
I'm sure I blushed, and said, "Well, on behalf of nerds everywhere, I'd like to thank you for that."
"You're welcome," she said, as she set my bottle on the bar. I paid her and got the hell out of there before my wit and charm started writing checks my body couldn't cash.
Moving on . . .
fifty-one hours earlier
I hung up the phone and made my way to the bathroom. For the first time since I got there, I didn't feel the need to shove my way past the throngs of tourists meandering through the too-narrow walkways.
After a quick piss, I called Doctor Pauly, and told him the news.
"Oh man, I'm sorry." He said.
"Thanks," I said. "Where are you?"
"I'm paying too much for a chicken sandwich," he said.
I laughed, because I knew that meant he could only be in one place.
"I'll be right there," I said. Ninety seconds later, I was.
I hardly know Pauly at all, but I like him. We have poker, writing, blogging and getting busted out early in common, so he was the best friend I had in the room. It closed a circle to see him after I busted, because he was the last person to wish me well before the tournament began.
I stood behind my seat, and set my shit down. Darwin took his seat on the rail, my notebook and card protectors sat on the felt next to him. The dealer looked at my player's card and gave me my starting stack. Before I could count it, I saw Pauly walking up the aisle.
"Hey Doc," I said.
"How are you feeling?" He said.
"You know, I was really nervous, but as soon as I got here," I tapped the table, "it was like my feet locked into the ground, and I feel . . . solid, if that makes sense." I said.
He smiled. "Yeah, it does. You're going to be fine."
A few other players arrived at the table and took their seats. Pauly leaned close to me and lowered his voice.
"I don't mean to get you down, but did you hear about London?" He said.
"Yeah," I said. "That's fucking terrible, man."
"It sort of puts this whole thing into perspective, doesn't it?"
I nodded my head. "Yeah, it sure does."
"I mean, this is cool and all, but it's really just poker, you know?" He said.
He stepped back, and spoke loud enough for the rest of the table to hear him. "Now don't play like a pussy."
The table laughed, and I smiled. He shook my hand, clapped me on the back, and vanished into the sea of spectators.
I sat down, and counted out my checks.
We turned toward the tournament area, but I couldn't bring myself to walk back in. I already felt like a loser, and walking right back in there would only magnify that feeling.
Pauly must have picked up on my hesitance, because he hung back with me.
"So . . . how'd you go out?" He said.
I looked through the doors and into the tournament area. I took a breath, told him about the crippling hand against Darden, and the disaster on table 148.
" . . . Ace-Jack of Spades versus pocket sevens, and he flopped a set." I said.
"Did you play smart?" He said.
"Yeah, I'm pretty sure I did. But I'm going to do a whole lot of second guessing for the next few days."
"Did you play like a pussy?"
We both know that these are two different things.
"I think I may have when I played the tens against Darden," I said. "But that's why I'm not a pro, you know?"
"Do you want to do an exit interview?" He said.
We talked for a few more minutes. When we were done, we walked across the tournament area to see Otis. On the way, we passed Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, who was talking with a couple of fans. I waved as we passed.
"Hey, Wil!" He said, "How many chips do you have?"
"Zero," I said.
"Oh, sorry man."
"Thanks." I pointed to his huge stack. "You're doing well, I presume?"
"So far," he said, "I got very lucky with aces, when I rivered a higher two-pair to double up."
"Goddam, man," I said, "If you need the river to help aces . . ."
He nodded. "Yep."
"Have you met Pauly?"
"I don't think so, " he said, so I introduced them. The three of us talked for a second, and I realized something: here I was, on the field of play, talking with a world champion, just like I was talking to a guy in a bar. Is there any other sport in the world where I could do this? How likely is it that I could walk right onto the infield at Yankee Stadium, and talk with Derek Jeter? Not fucking likely at all. And that's one of the things that I love about poker at this level: sure, there are players who are epic dickheads, but most of them are kind, gracious, and generous with their time . . . unless you're in a hand with them. If that's the case, you're just another target.
After a minute or two, Pauly said, "Well, we'll let you enjoy what's left of your break."
"Oh, yeah," I thought, "He's still playing in this thing, and he just spent half of his break bullshitting with a couple of knuckleheads."
"Good luck," I said.
He shook my hand. "Thanks, man. Good to meet you, Pauly."
"You too," Pauly said, "good luck." He turned to me, "You want to find Otis?"
"Yeah," I said.
We headed back toward media row, right past table 148. I stared at the empty 8 seat as we passed.
to be continued . . .
Posted by wil at July 10, 2005 06:31 PM
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