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July 10, 2005

doubled up inside

"Please could you stay awhile to share my grief,
For it's such a lovely day."
— Portishead
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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» "Well, on behalf of nerds everywhere, I'd like to thank you for that." from Rob A's (Im)personal Blog
I was flipping through some of the sites I frequent, after being away for an extended weekend, and read the title quote at Wil Wheaton's blog (yes, that Wil Wheaton). It seems after making various geek/nerd jokes (specifically, intelligent with scien [Read More]

Tracked on July 11, 2005 08:03 AM

Damn, I really shoulda gone to Vegas for this, even though I couldn't play in the event. Sounds like fun, even though you busted early.

Posted by: alan [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 10, 2005 10:00 PM

That first story was funny as hell, Wil! And how good is that for the ego, getting macked-out by a 20-something year old bombshell? I'd be thinking to myself, "cha-ching!" or something much cooler than that. I don't know. I'm not cool enough to think of anything that spiffy, and I'm not a guy, so what the hell do I know about what a guy would think to himself?

Posted by: porkerella [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 10, 2005 10:05 PM

Quick... run Pauly over to that bar and tell that bartender that he's a nerd. But first give him a couple of geeky things to say... because if you don't, he'll be kinda lost ;-)

Posted by: CJ [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 10, 2005 10:10 PM

Damn Wil, Jesus knows you by name, badass man.

I paid her and got the hell out of there before my wit and charm started writing checks my body couldn't cash.

Brilliantly written, Wil. Poker anecdotes with a dash of Vegas-hijinx will never fail to amuse.

Posted by: Clint V. [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 10, 2005 11:06 PM

Y'know, tonight's Robot Chicken had a "nerds are sexy" joke too...

Posted by: tregoweth [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 11, 2005 12:07 AM


You need to write a fiction novel/screenplay about poker. You show more talent in your blog than most writers do in the best sellers. Sorry to hear about your hard luck in Vegas but it sure makes for good reading.

And nerds ARE sexy. My fiance tells me that all the time. ;)

Posted by: Chaz [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 11, 2005 12:14 AM

Ahhh. I have a photo tucked somewhere of a young college girl that I snapped in my senior year. She was the very typical tan-skinned, highlighted hair, jangly braceleted pre-sorority sort of girl.

She was wearing a green shirt, quite tight, that proclaimed "I

Girls like her never in a million years actually like geeks or nerds. They just like the idea of finding some rich, charming guy who just has all these quirky little habits but cleans up well. All the package and none of the real guts of the matter.

What girl like that would put up with their boyfriend's Warhammer 40K addition? Who would willingly be dragged around conventions looking for a rare Japanese-only doujinshi? What girl would listen to the newest science article on weather patterns, physics or plant husbandry?

I've found the latest trend of "girls who dig nerds" to be rather appalling. Mostly because it's girls that really don't know what it's like to actually love or appreciate geeks/nerds. That their interests aren't "cute," they are "interesting."

As someone who has been a career nerd-lover, I find this new uprising of the "hot chicks" flirting with the largely-nerdy community to be something like an annoying swarm of flies. Please, back off my man. He isn't interested in you unless you can quote Stargate to him.

Posted by: NicoDeyo [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 11, 2005 12:27 AM

"I paid her and got the hell out of there before my wit and charm started writing checks my body couldn't cash."

Awesome line, Mr. Wheaton, and sound advice. *makes a note of that*

I should never be allowed out unchaperoned. In fact, if I think about it, I'm not. It's not easy being a Goddess.

Aylaleia - Goddess of Justice and Vengeance

Posted by: Aylaleia [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 11, 2005 03:43 AM

Wil the only reason you are in Vegas is so the writer can do his job. You are doing some of your best stuff right now.

Posted by: ColleenS [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 11, 2005 03:58 AM

Ah, and the talent shines bright yet again! Thanks for the good read - it makes getting up at 430am that much more bearable!

Posted by: Khali [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 11, 2005 05:09 AM

Playing poker with the pros, impressing the hot bartenders with the uncertainty principle....you, sir, are living the dream.

Posted by: Marty McSuperFly [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 11, 2005 05:28 AM

For some reason, I was really rooting for you ( a total stranger whose weblog I frequent) to do well in the WSOP. Reading on the edge of my folding chair, face up to the monitor and all. I'm deflated that you're out, and proud at the same time. And still reading, so you're writing quite the page-turner. Thanks for sharing the experience with us; we know how visceral losing can be. I hope you keep it up.

And actually, *I* thought the tenor of the moment shone best at "on behalf of nerds everywhere..." But maybe that's just cuz I'm a girl. :-)

Posted by: Minim Dancer [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 11, 2005 06:08 AM

"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?"

Curling. Hey, you asked.

Posted by: Paul [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 11, 2005 06:11 AM

There's always darts, too. :)

Sucks on the beats - learn from them, and then let them be.

Good luck on your next tournament, and enjoy the sun. Get Pauly outside in the daytime for a few minutes too, wouldja? He's starting to fade. After you introduce him to the bartender and geekify him a bit, though.

The writing is kicking ass, btw - Vegas agrees with you.

Posted by: sparky1234 [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 11, 2005 07:33 AM

Hey Wil, while I was sorry to hear about your getting busted out, I'm really enjoying your excellent writing from Vegas. Now all I need to do is find a girl like that bartender you were talking to...don't know if there are many women like that in Wisconsin, though.

Posted by: Chuck [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 11, 2005 07:39 AM

Excellent Wil. Your inner writer is brimming.
Enjoyable read.

Posted by: Sky [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 11, 2005 07:59 AM

You were the first website I hit into this morning -- right after my e-mail. And your writing is why. I don't understand most of the poker lingo, but it reads like poetry, and that works for me.
umm, we need the next book, Wil, like NOW?!

Posted by: evalucent [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 11, 2005 08:03 AM

You wave at "Jesus," and he recognizes you and calls you by name. No question: you have arrived, dude. I've no doubts you'll be in more tournaments soon, doing better than this time out. Maybe by next year, you'll make the final table at the Main Event.

I envy you; I'd like to play the Main Event at least once, just to say that I've done it. It wouldn't matter whether I busted out the first day or not. Unfortunately, I don't happen to have a spare $10K lying around, and I don't think I'd catch the eye of PokerStars as easily as you...

Oh, and the scene with the bartender: Priceless! (My wife would probably agree with her; most of the men she's dated in her lifetime have been pilots, musicians, or programmers, all of which are nerds to various degrees.)

I agree; you need to write a book on your poker experiences. I still think the title Wil Wheaton Has The Nuts would be great, as kind of a triple pun.

Posted by: Erbo [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 11, 2005 08:33 AM

Hobnobbing with the stars, are we? In the words of Zoidburg: "Now Wil's the popular one!"

Dude, you are always getting hit on. I've taken a moment out of my busy schedule to come up with an explanation (not to brag, but i've caught a few girls smiling a little too sweetly at my geek with me standing right there. not cool. it's alright for me to think he's hot. i'm his wife. it's okay for others to think so too...from a distance.) There are very few REALLY good looking geeks out there so when a girl finds one, it's a bit hard not to be taken in to whatever they are talking about. I say whatever because most of the time, we can't understand a word you're saying but the fact that you're talking to us is good enough.

Posted by: VeronicaKnight [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 11, 2005 09:11 AM

If Shrodinger's cat died in a forest, and no one was around to observe it, is it really dead?

My favorite nerd joke =) Keep the good writing coming!

Posted by: Toriko [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 11, 2005 10:03 AM

I'm sure you had a good run at poker, but seriously, you couldn't have told the bartender that you knew LOADS of sexy nerds, that are just lying in wait for her at your website, particularly in the comments section?

Good job in Vegas, can't wait to see how much you learn by next year's WSOP.

Posted by: DrunkMc [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 11, 2005 10:24 AM

exit interview?

(waiting for next installment...)

Posted by: naiah christine earhart [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 11, 2005 11:51 AM

Well now. If you ever find that t-shirt is becoming too dangerous for you I would be willing to keep it in a safe, undisclosed location.


Posted by: Matthias [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 11, 2005 12:30 PM

I just saw on Pauly's blog that you left Darwin in the room today! How are you going to receive our Monkey Mojo(TM) now??


Posted by: VineyardDawg [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 11, 2005 01:10 PM

Reminds me of an Andy Capp cartoon I saw years ago: "That's life. Sometimes you get results, sometimes consequences."

Posted by: FNRThomas [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 11, 2005 01:39 PM

Great account of your time, Wil. I hope that the rest of your time in Vegas is great, especially the Poker.

Oh, very cool how the chicks still dig you. *giggles* You are just a cutie nerd. ;)

Posted by: Quincey [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 11, 2005 02:44 PM

"...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? ... And that's one of the things that I love about poker at this level: ...but most of them are kind, gracious, and generous with their time . . . "

Thats very cool, it's nice to meet people who are in the top of thier field/sport... and haven't let it go to their heads. They're down to earth, kind, gracious, thats something of value.

Posted by: Mynna [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 11, 2005 05:26 PM

Geeks/nerds are awesome, i wish i had some nerdiness to balance out my geekiness. Chicks do have a soft spot for geeks, the ones who don't email you pie charts and flow charts and ask your opinion of the color scheme or the like.. oy /wince

I'm gonna have to look up Shrödinger. I want to take physics someday just so i can competantly say "according go the laws of physics". Should be interesting.

Posted by: Mynna [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 11, 2005 05:31 PM
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