Wil Wheaton called me a few weeks ago and asked me if I wanted to be his guest at the Barge banquet here in Las Vegas. I was playing a MTT on Party Poker at the time at the Redneck Riviera, while watching an episode of Entourage when Wil called. He was invited to be the keynote speaker at Barge and he seemed excited to be included. His wife couldn't make it and asked me if I wanted to tag along as his guest.
"Fuck yeah," I said.
Barge had been running all week at the Plaza and I skipped out on everything except the banquet, which was held on Saturday. I had been burnt out on poker and after Senor's visit last weekend, I needed to recover so I declined to option to attend all of the events during the week. After catching a glimpse of what went down, I definitely want to participate next year. The last two poker blogger get togethers were tiny compared to the week long festivities at Barge.
Barge consisted of the moderators and original posters on RGP and other poker newsgroups and two hundred other poker enthusiasts. Due to the current lunacy of RGP, some of those heavy hitters stopped posting or moved over to 2+2. Last year, Barge member Greg Raymer spoke at the banquet. He was at this year's event as well.
When Wil woke me up with a phone call on Saturday afternoon, he said, "Bring your business cards, Doc. You probably have more fans here than I do. Everyone got excited when they found out I was bringing you."
Plenty of Barge members read poker blogs and had been keeping up with the WSOP via my poker blog. I must have met a dozen or so enthusiastic fans. My favorite comment, "I was a monkey on crack, refreshing your site every three minutes."
I bumped into Russell Fox who originally invited me to Barge months ago. I promised him as long as Barge didn't conflict with the WSOP (which it might) I would be there in 2006. I also saw John from Poker News and Jen Leo, along with Sarah Bellum. Tuscaloosa Johnny was in attendance. Nolan Dalla was excited to see me and he spoke briefly at the banquet. I was spotted by Marc, who's friends with Shirley. They both invited me to LA to participate as a guest commentator for Live at the Bike.
I also ran into Lou Kreiger. I've been a fan of Lou's ever since I read one of his many poker books. Since Amy Calistri introduced me on the first day of work at the WSOP, he's been a huge fan of mine. He was even cool enough to find me some freelance work. Thanks, Lou!
When I arrived at the Plaza, the final table for the $1000 main Barge event was going on. Wil got knocked out a few hours earlier. I put my name on a list for $4/8 and headed to the bar with Jen Leo. We then settled on a Pai Gow table. I've been on an awesome run at the Pai Gow tables since I moved to Las Vegas. Blind ignorance I'm sure. Alas, I was quickly cold decked and happily ran over to the poker room when my name was called. I luckily sat at the same table as Wil, exactly to his left. Also at his table were all Barge attendees including a cool Deadhead I met who dug my hat and he also thouht that the Grateful Dead achieved perfection in 1977. To my left was the luckiest Canuck in Las Vegas. He looked like Bill Murray and he would live straddle and cap the betting preflop with junk. He put a bad beat on Wil and cracked his pocket Kings. I'm gonna start calling Wil Wheaton the Hamlet of poker bloggers after his unlucky streak with K-K. I was knocking back SoCos to kill my hangover. It worked. I went from having a splitting headache to tipsy within a few orbits.
I dropped about $100 at that wild table but the coolest part was that Wil and I finally got to sit at the same table together. I should have straddled his blind!
We left and headed over to the Las Vegas club for the Barge banquet. Yet in another bizarre moment of my life, I found myself sitting at the front table with Wil, Barge founder Peter Secor, Lee Jones, and a couple of big wigs who run the poker room at the Plaza. Yeah I was sitting front row during Wil's speech. Wil said they made a mistake and I was ordered a vegetarian meal instead of the surf and turf. It was fine and the veggie lasagna looked better than the steak and shrimp. The desert was a yummy raspberry cheese cake. My only complaint... cash bar.
During dinner, Wil and I got to talk about a few writer's things specifically something I call "writer's tilt" when you can't get into the zone and you're not churning out your best work. He admitted to me he was a little nervous but I knew he was going to doing just fine.
Jen Leo posted a great recap of Wil's performance. Check it out. Wil started off saying that he was severely out of place and would use the time to entertain everyone instead of lecturing to them about poker. He read an abridged version of Lying in Odessa, which I still think is some of Wil's best poker related writings. His original story is broken into four parts: I, II, III, and IV.
As Jen said, he had impeccable timing. It was funny, extremely descriptive, and although I've read that specific piece a few times before, I was excited to witness Will perform it. He got plenty of laughs during his poker-related jokes, but some of my favorite one-liners were his inside jokes about LA and Hollyweird. At one point, Lee Jones was laughing so hard that he almost fell out of his chair.
By the reaction of the crowd, it was obvious that Wil hit a home run. It was more than cool to be there since I had never seen Wil perform live before. He also spoke breifly about his experiences at the WSOP and how he was Paul Darden's bitch during the main event. That bit was priceless.
Thanks again to Wil for letting me crash the Barge party. Now if he can only get me into the Playboy Mansion...