Thursday, December 16, 2004

Day 1, Part II: Cowboys, Iggy, and the Hammer!
"Our WPBT event coincided with the National Rodeo Finals. That meant Vegas played host to the largest collection of cowboy hats and plastic breasts since the release of Western Barbie." - CJ
8:34PM PCT... I was up $7 for a seven hour session at the Excalibur. With dealer tips ($1 per pot, $2 for big ones) and giving away a $1 everytime I ordered a drink, I was probably up $40 or $50. I was starving and headed for a quick dinner at the diner next door to the poker room with Bad Blood, Daddy, Derek, and Maudie. That was the first time we all got to chat without poker chips and cards in front of us and the ambient casino background sounds of slots machines, cocktail waitresses whoring watered down drinks, and some rip roaring drunk Cowboy from Amarillo hootin' and hollerin' at a nearby blackjack table.

During our lengthy dinner, we chatted about some personal stuff. I felt that meals, the few which I had in Vegas, were the rare opportunities to truly get to know my fellow bloggers. Man, I never knew that Daddy was an engineer! Bad Blood was an ivy leaguer? Never knew... because I never asked. Maudie played the role of Ariel? (Sorry for the Shakespeare reference). Even my brother let his guard down and admitted he worked for a major insurance company on Wall Street. For some folks poker is an escape from their 9-to-5 lives and the last thing they want to do is chat at the tables about their personal lives... family, work, inner demons, etc.. That's why although I felt I knew some intimate details of my fellow bloggers' lives... I definitely didn't know some of the basics. I honestly had no idea what the majority of them did for a living (aside from fleecing the fish on Party Poker). I guess that's because I never judge anyone on what they do make money. I don't allow someone's job description to define who they are as a person. In America, especially in New York City, that's exactly how you are judged, pegged, and pigeonholed.

Hearing Maudie's subtle Oklahoma drawl was something that just doesn't translate over an IM or in the chat on Party Poker. It's those little things that made the weekend fascinating. Putting together the little pieces of the physical person and having that mesh with the internalized projection of that specific blogger. Next time I'm on Party Poker, the blogger sitting in seat 3 is not just a blank face... I can now imagine Bad Blood flexing his muscles as he calls an all in pre flop bet and takes down a monster. I can picture Maudie shooing away her cats from the keyboard. And I can visualize Iggy swigging a bottle of his favorite beer while penning one of his uber-posts.

After some stellar conversation, we headed back to the tables. I was still waiting on the parts of NYC crew to arrive, along with CJ, and Grubby who was AWOL. I eventually got to sit with Maudie again!
Late Night Cowboy Table:
Seat 1: Aunt Maudie
Seat 2: Old Cowboy aka Black Bart then later me
Seat 3: Tourist then later Iggy
Seat 4: Young guy w/ his girlfriend sweating him then later Derek
Seat 5: Another Cowboy
Seat 6: Young Cowboy named Cody
Seat 7: Dr. Pauly
Seat 8: Young Cowboy named Shane
Seat 9: Tourist
Seat 10: Cowboy
Now if you don't know by now, the rodeo was in town. The rodeo finals draws cowboys from all over the country and late night the poker room is flooded with them. It reminded me about the last few times I was in Vegas to see Phish concerts and the casinos were filled with random neo-hippies. Just like the cowboys you can spot them from a mile away. The tables are filled with fishy cowboys too. Seriously, the bigger the cowboy hat, the bigger the fish. These are the types of guys who will see anything to the river. They like to "keep you honest" and call you on the river even if they know top pair is a loser against a flush. Yep. You can't bluff the hybrid Cowboyfish. But they are fun to play with although plenty of dealers were complaining because they did not tip after winning a pot. I felt bad for them and over compensated. I would give $2 or $3 per pot (instead of $1) to make up for the miserly cowboys.

Now let me tell you about the two young cowboys that sandwiched me. Their names were Shane and Cody. I'm not making this up or changing it for "privacy purposes". You can ask BG if you don't believe me. He sat with them later on in the trip. Anyway, these guys were in their late 20s and flew in from Utah. They were decked out in cowboy boots, the most popular form of footwear for folks heading to the rodeo finals. They both wore blue jeans, held up by belt buckles the size of CDs and plaid shirts. They had goatees and drank Budwesier. One of them was decked out in a black cowboy hat and the other a white one. That's how I was able to distinguish the two from one another.

"So which one of you is the bad guy?" I said as I sat down and stacked up my chips into neat columns. "You got the black hat on," as I pointed to Shane, "I'm willing to bet $1 it's you."

"Yer, Gawd dam'd riiight!" he said as he took a huge sip. "Where are you from?"

"I'll tell you, but I don't think you've ever heard of it... it's very small town."

"Tell me."

"New York City."

It took several seconds before he got the joke and started laughing. Nice to know that cowboys from Utah operated on a seven second comedic delay. Seriously, they were hilarious. Cody was a nice fella. They both were for that matter, just two guys in town having a blast drinking and yapping at the poker table while their wives were off blowing vacation money at the slots. These guys were loose and Shane was seeing every flop. Maudie was running over the both of them before I sat down. That's when I let them know that she's my aunt.

"She's yer aunt?" Shane blurted out after he swigged the last backwash of his beer. "Shit. I'm scared of yer aunt."

"You should be, pal. She's going to pay for her trip on fishy plays from cowboys like yerself."

OK, I didn't say that. I really wanted to... that's what the wise ass New Yorker in me would say... but just smiled and kept my mouth shut. I wasn't going to blow Aunt Maudie's cover. Don't tap the glass, right?

"So, New York, what kind of hands to you play?" Cody seriously asked me after I bought a round of drinks for them and a Corona for myself... and by saying bought I mean that I tipped the waitress $3 for all three of us. It was a small investment but the drunker they got the better the chances we'd get even more river calls with bottom pair.

"I only play good cards."

That got a chuckle from the cowboys. Both the dealer and Maudie giggled.

"I like playing any Jack, like J-2, J-3. Are them good cards?" inquired Shane.

"Yes. Yes they are," I agreed trying to hold a straight face. That was my biggest bluff of the trip.

Shane and Cody also bestowed upon me the most original nickname I ever got... New York... which they'd shout out at me when I'd see them from time to time in the poker room over the weekend.

So, there was an old cowboy sitting next to Maudie who looked like Black Bart. His face was weathered like an old catcher's mit. You know that guy's had at least a dozen of empty Jack Daniel's bottles smashed over his head in various backroom brawls in his younger and wilder days. Some of the scars on his hands and face were older than me. The dealer was getting pissed at him after he won three big pots in one orbit and never tipped her once. Black Bart took a monster pot from me. In fact everyone at the table was taking pots from me as I suffered some brutal river suckouts. My Hilton's lost to Cody's J-10. Slick suited lost to the Shane's Varkoyni. My Hellmuths lost to Big Bart's Q9. That really hurt. Maudie told me that he was calling me a "terrorist" for raising pots preflop. Oh well. He had a monster stack and I was going to bust his loose eventually. It was a scene out of a classic John Ford western movie when I, the obvious outsider, was destined to take out the aging, morally corrupt gunslinger and teach the Wild West that there's going to be a new Sheriff in town ending his tyrannic rule of the poker table. Here's what Maudie had to say:
Played for several hours until I could barely think. I mostly folded. I was astounded at the stretch of cold cards - 9-2, J-3, T-4 and on and on. Cowboy Tom to my left was warning folks at my end of the table that the guy at the other end (Pauly - who'd been table hopping and had returned to this one) that "that feller over thar will play Ace King 'n, well Ace-King..." Pauly was wiping up. I continued to play tight and do my best to maximize my good hands. I was liking live play a lot!
Lucky for me I caught Big Slick at least ten times over the next few hours. In a few hands I wiped out my early losses and I was on my way to doubling up thanks to all the loose cowboys at the table. I made sure I got two Bud's for Shane and Cody everytime the waitress came by.

Bill Rini had finally arrived to the jam packed poker room and I met him up front for a quick chat. He sat down at a table and grinded his way to a good night. He's one blogger that I wish I had more time to hang out with and specifically play at his table. CJ, one of the tallest poker bloggers (he's up there... er, literally with HDouble and Mr. Decker) magically appeared. It seemed like within an hour he already had a Hammer story! Here's one of my favorite hand of the weekend as recanted by CJ:
I'm dealt two black 6's and Otis raises in front of me. I call, hoping to catch a 6 on the flop. It didn't come, but it wasn't the worst flop ever: 2-3-5, all clubs. Otis checks, I bet out $6 and I believe Otis raised me. I was worried about a flush, but had to call. The turn was the 4 of clubs. Jackpot. I've never had a straight flush at a B&M table before, but I think I hid it well. I was really hoping Otis didn't have the ace of clubs. That would be a hellish beat. He checked and I bet out.
"I can't call you," Otis told me. I said he could and that I wouldn't bet anymore. He paused, and then sheepishly turned over the Poker Bloggers favorite hand, the HAMMER. That's right, I cracked his HAMMER with a straight flush.

When I turned over my 6, the table erupted. It also meant I got to spin the Excalibur's money wheel that brought me an extra 20 dollars (and a really awful baseball cap).
I admit I was not playing every hand and took a lot of breaks. I was getting up to walk around the poker room every twenty minutes or so. I always checked up on my brother. I'd head over to Bad Blood's NL table or find the Otis' crew's table. Everytime I checked up on Bill, he had more and more chips. CJ and I would stand in the middle of the poker room and just give a quick update on the blogger tables.

"I just dropped the hammer... Derek's Hilton's were cracked by 76o... Maudie's running over the cowboys... Where the fuck's Grubby?"

I can't tell you how cool it was to be checking out different tables and seeing someone you knew there. It was almost like a Friday night on Party Poker except we were in Las Fuckin' Vegas and I had my pants on.

HDouble, sporting a LA Dodgers hat, eventually wandered in and we recognized each other right away. By that point Al Cant Hang was just that... not hanging. He was out cold. That was the first shocker of the weekend. Al Cant Hang was the first to crash... before Midnight of all things. Little did we know, he was just taking a cat nap, and was ready to unleash a wicked bender.

Maudie was getting cold cards and after Black Bart left, I switched seats next to her. Derek joined the table and we had bloggers on one end, and drunk Cowboys on the other. After a few orbits a guy came over to us. I had seen him playing on HDouble's NL table the few times I wandered over to talk.

"Hey, I just wanted to say that I'm a friend of Hank's from LA. I read both of your blogs and I really like them."

Maudie was flabbergasted. I've met fans before so that was not a new experience for me. I still don't know how to handle it, but I'm getting better with handling compliments from readers and people I never met before. I thanked him and something about him struck a wave of familiarity with him. Yeah I got that sense that we met before. I pointed to Derek.

"This is my brother."

"Oh, Derek from Poker in the Weeds," he quickly said.

Even Derek got suspicious. No one aside from bloggers reads his blog... and only a handful do; Halverson, Daddy, Bob Genius and Boy Genius, AlCantHang, and.... Iggy.

"Iggy?" I half whispered.

He smiled. I gave him a big hug. At that moment I knew that no matter what else happened in Vegas, the entire trip was worth it, even if I was beaten to a bloody pulp by a guy named Vito or got drugged by a sexy starlet at one of the casino bars and lost both of my kidneys by a sophisticated ring of Chinese organ thieves... none of that mattered because I met the Blogfather! And he was drinking... Budwesier. Huh?

At least the two biggest rumors on the net were squashed. Only rumors about Lindsay Lohan's fake boobs were burning up the Internet as much as the actual identity of Iggy. Yes, it's true. Iggy was a normal sized human and he was not a sober housewife from Ohio as I originally hypothesized. Otis... on the other hand... is a 93 year old Grandma in a walker, the ones with tennis balls on the bottom instead of wheels. And that old broad can drink!

With the internet rumors squashed I let out a sigh of relief. When I set up this event there was one person I had set in my mind that I really wanted to meet more so than everyone else... Iggy, naturally. When he told me he couldn't come I didn't want to push. I let Al do that and it worked. He had me fooled for sure. The night before I left for Vegas we played on a table at Party Poker together. I felt bad that the bloggers (Sean, SirF, Glyphic) I was playing with would not be able to come with. Little did I know Iggy knew he's be seeing me the next day. The fucker!

I also realized how hard it is for a guy like Iggy to find time for everyone in Vegas and I was honored for the time we did get to hang out. Every fuckin' second. He found a seat at my table and all I kept thinking was how much the trip was getting better and better. Maudie, Me, Iggy, and Derek... all in a row. Man oh man. 2:13am PCT on Saturday in Vegas was a moment I'll never forget. There was no other place on Earth I'd rather be.

We played for a few more hours and the cards were a blur. I chatted with Iggy about so many things. Our blogs, his horses, living in Vegas, the trip so far. He was trying to keep his identity a secret and eventually told Boy Genius, Otis, and CJ. I cashed out... up a few bucks and we were off to wake up Daddy who passed out in my bed hours before. On the way to our room, we spotted a bar. I really wanted Krispy Kreme, but how could I pass up having a drink (or three) with Iggy in Las Vegas at 4am. We stopped at the Sherwood Forest Bar and became engrossed in a conversation that I wish I could have kept going until sunrise. Maudie, Iggy, and Derek were all yapping about poker and life and blogs. Maudie has some life experience and has plenty of stories to tell. Afterwards, Maudie retreated for some sleep and we ran up stairs to wake up Daddy. He had no clue Iggy was coming and was pumped when Iggy woke his fat ass up! We hung out for a while before they went downstairs.

Now the late night mini-parties in our room (Derek and I shared a room) are a serious blur. I'd wake up and find the room trashed and empty bottles all over the place and I'd forget exactly who was up there hours earlier. I can't recall the full roaster of people there on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or Monday and it's probably best we don't talk about what happened between the hours of 4:20am and 6am in Vegas. It's just a personal rule of mine. Events transpired in Las Vegas County between those said times are not in anyway blogworthy... that's the stuff you'd have to read about in my novels or in sealed court documents.

With that being said, I was exhausted. I only had 3 hours of slumber in my previous two days! I had to get some semblance of rest before the big event... the Holiday Classic at Sam's Town. I also had a couple of hours of personal writing that I had to do before I slept. I fell asleep at my laptop, when I woke up an hour later I shut the fucker, rolled over and as soon as I closed my eyes, I swear... the phone was ringing. It was my wake up call. Wake up? I just went to bed! I was still wearing all my clothes from the night before. I was suffering from mental dehydration and had a wicked case of cotton mouth. As I stared up at the ceiling, all I could think about was... where the fuck was Grubby?

... to be continued.
Here's the timetable of the rest of my trip reports:

12.17 - Day 2, Part I: Sam's Town Meet & Greet and tourney report
12.18 - Day 2, Part II: More blogger tables, Hammers, & late night hijinks
12.20 - Day 3, Part I: Sun. am shots and NFL betting at Mandalay Bay
12.21 - Day 3, Part II: Late night hijinks including Bellagio hookers
12.22 - Day 4, Part I: Aladdin tourney report & hanging w/ Grubby & Derek
12.23 - Day 4, Part II: The Brawl revisited and Late Night with Otis
12.24 - Day 5: Afterthoughts plus my fav. pictures & quotes

And here are the ones I have already posted:

Day 1, Part I
Stay tuned for more wild and wacky Vegas stories. There are plenty fo Hammer stories too. In the meantime, please visit everyone's blog for their kickass trip reports; Iggy, Derek, Poker Prof, Flip Chip, and Foiled Coup from Lasvegasvegas, Dick from Buy It In Vegas, Riding the F Train, Boy Genius, Bad Blood, Bill Rini, Felicia, Glenn, Otis & CJ & G-Rob, Al Cant Hang & EvaCanHang, Maudie, Signor Ferrari, - EV, Bob, Grubby, Mas from Genius of Poker, Martin from JMC Automatic and Brian, Linda from Poker Works, and Daddy from Snail Trax. Did I miss anybody? Some are up, some are in the process of writing them, and some people like my brother are swamped with work, so I'm sure you'll be reading about this trip over the next few weeks. Thanks for stopping by.

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