Everybody has a favorite version of Elvis: the hip-swivellin’ 1950s hep-cat, the swarmy good ‘ol boy of his many second rate films, the leather-clad comeback kid of 1968, the sequined-suited star of Vegas, and, sadly, the fat bloated disaster of the late ‘70s before he met his maker, 35 years ago today. My particular favorite is the post-comeback Vegas Elvis of 1970 as heard and seen in the film “That’s The Way It Is.” The film was shot at The International Hotel in Vegas in August 1970 and it highlighted the fabulous entertainer Elvis could be when he took himself somewhat seriously. Here we have his cover of the Barry Man-Cynthia Weil classic “I Just Can’t Help Believing” which was currently a big hit for B.J. Thomas at the time of this recording. Elvis’ was touring with his finest band featuring the ever dependable James Burton on guitar, John Wilkinson on rhythm guitar, Glen D. Hardin on keyboards, Jerry Scheff on bass, Ron Tutt on drums, Charlie Hodge on guitar and vocals, plus Millie Kirkham, The Imperials and Sweet Inspirations on vocals. If you’ve never seen the film, what are you waiting for? If you have, now’s a good time to see it again!
Normally, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, or so says the clever marketing campaign. Unless that happens to be one of the best non-conference college basketball games that didn’t take place in a March tournament setting.
I had waffled on attending this game, but finally decided to cover it and secured a credential, flight, and hotel for the weekend. A friend and UNC alum drove up from Phoenix. My flight got in late, barely escaping a snow shut down at the Milwaukee airport. I think did my best OJ Simpson, running through the Phoenix airport to make the connecting flight to Vegas. I need not have walked at an Olympic pace. Others were delayed and boarded after I did. Then it was a quick 45 minute flight to Sin City.
What are friends for? To have an cold beer waiting for you at the lobby bar at the Paris Hotel.
The only hiccup in the entire weekend was waiting in line for twenty plus minutes to check into the hotel.
By then, it was after midnight, but undaunted, we sought out the fourth meal. In this case, it was a return to my current burger bistro of choice, Gordon Ramsay’s BurGR (@BURgrLV) at Planet Hollywood. It always lives up to expectations.
The rest of that evening will stay in Vegas, other than to state that it ended around three in the morning.
Needless to say, there was no early rise. Instead, I packed up my recording gear, and we headed off for the bigger better breakfast. Back to Planet Hollywood for brunch at the Spice Market Buffet. All those casino points have to be worth something, and in this case, it easily covered the $27.50 each price tag. The $5.99 and $6.99 all you can eat are a thing of the past. At least on the Vegas Strip hotels. The choices for the morning’s feast were plentiful and included American, Mexican, Italian, Asian, and Middle Eastern fare. See their menu.
Then it was a short walk over to the new T-Mobile Arena. I’ve been in numerous venues to see sports and this was one of the nicest as well as most functional for working press. It was an excellent use of space including luxury suites located in what would have been dead space behind the lower level seats. There were beautiful concourses, ample room to walk around, and easy access to the seating areas. Also there is a nice outdoor dining and entertainment area called The Park between Las Vegas Boulevard and the arena, bordering the New York, New York and Monte Carlo Casinos. The restaurants include a California Pizza Kitchen, Beerhaus, a fancy waffle place, and a Japanese eatery.
As press, what makes a venue top notch, is having the interview, work area, and locker room all in close proximity. Gladly, someone was paying attention in the design phase. Plus, access to the court area was great as well.
This whole road trip was to see not one, but two games. The appetizer was UCLA against Ohio State. Even though the Buckeyes were not a top twenty team, they gave the second ranked Bruins everything they had until the very end. The 86-73 final was not indicative of how close this game had been. I sat with my friend for that game in his upper level seat and had no qualms about the corner view. The stadium certainly possesses excellent sight lines.
However, after attending the post game press conferences, I decided to remain in the lower level. I spotted several empty seats located four rows behind the UNC benches. There I remained for the entire second game, only shifting over a few places, as patrons emerged from the luxury suites into the seating area. That perch provided me with an incredible view of what turned out to be one an all time classic college basketball contest. The Kentucky Wildcats emerged victorious in a 103-100 shootout, that wasn’t decided until the last shot in the last second of the game.
It isn’t too often that my team loses and I am not visibly upset. The game featured two phenomenal shooting performances. North Carolina’s Justin Jackson, a 6-8 junior from Tromball, Texas had a career high 34 points, to go along with 5 rebounds and 3 assists. However, he was topped by freshman Malik Monk’s 47 points, tying him for the second highest total ever scored against a Tar Heel team. These were not easy baskets either. Eight of his eighteen buckets came from beyond the three point arc. On many of those shots, he was tightly guarded by a Carolina defender. He was simply unstoppable.
North Carolina only lead in the early stages of the game, and with less than two minutes to play. The Wildcats grabbed the lead for good with 22 seconds to play on another of Monk’s three pointers. This game was a great test for both teams, who could easily meet again in March.
UNC fought back from a ten point deficit. Coach Roy Williams in his post game comments noted, “It looked like we were out of it, and we kept playing and kept playing and got back in it. I’m proud of the way they competed down the stretch.”
Kentucky coach John Calipari hit on a key observation, “The biggest thing for us, and we talked all week, is we outrebounded them [39-35.] I can’t believe it. Never thought it would happen.” He’s referring to the size of UNC’s front line players Kennedy Meeks at 6 foot 10, and Isaiah Hicks at 6-9.
Monk took his performance in stride. “As soon as we walked to the court it was crazy,” he noted. “It was a packed house , everybody was going crazy. But we executed well, and were able to come out with a win.”
After the press conferences, and a brief visit to the UNC locker room, I caught up with my friend at the Beerhaus. It was full of patrons from each of the four schools, though there were many, many people sporting the dark Kentucky blue all over Vegas. That fan base travels extremely well.
The rest of the evening was spent bar hopping at the various hotels, including O’Shea’s – the closest thing to a dive bar along the Strip, Bally’s, and the Tilted Kilt at the Linq Promenade. It was beer and live music, the perfect combination for a Saturday night, but not so much that I couldn’t make my 6:40 AM flight on Sunday.
Finally, at long last the drought is over. Or as White Sox announcer Ken Harrelson would exclaim, “The drought is ovah.”
At 1:15 PM PT, I was finally in possession of a winner’s share of a prize pool. It wasn’t substantial, but it was more cash than I put into the tournament.
Two things happened. First, I started to get some cards. Pocket kings fell into my lap twice, as did aces, ten, and a few ace-queens. Secondly, I didn’t make any crucial mistakes, and thanks to an all in at the final table, I claimed eighth place out of 72 entrants into Planet Hollywood’s morning tourney.
This tourney was going to pay nine places. When we got to the final table, everyone agreed to chip in $5 to pay the bubble boy (or girl) so they would get back $50 of the $65 entry fee. With no pressure and my stack short, I was forced to all-in, in the small blind. As I usually do, I didn’t even look at my cards. The button called me with A-K, then, I flipped over my cards. It was a queen and a three. However, the dealer put not one, but two lovely ladies on the board to keep me alive. In the meantime, another player busted out, so I moved up a notch.
Two hands later, I caught a suited ace-jack. All but one player folded around to me, so I once again pushed my chips into the middle. The big blind also called. Of all the little cards out there, none was an ace or a jack. Then the big blind flips over pocket nines (again!) and out I go. I swear, those nines whacked me on at least four separate occasions. Five if you count the quad nines that crushed me on day one.
Believe it or not, I was still not through seeing nines. My last tournament foray brought me to Harrah’s for their 8 PM event. Even though I got there at 7:30 all the regular seats were sold out. I settled for an alternate slot, that got me in after level four. Probably not the smartest idea, but a player who also began late, was crushing it, and had tripled his stack two positions over. Waiting for my turn to enter, I squandered away $30 at the slots and another $50 paying some 1-2 no limit.
Despite getting some small pocket pairs and a few small aces, my stack was decreasing. A player to my left with a giant stack was bullying the table, raising any time he had cards. Once, I had a pair of tens, but a king and queen showed up on the flop. Alternatively, my A-4 or A-6 found no companions, and I was forced to throw them away.
By this time the blinds were 500/1000. Everyone folded to the button, who raised to 2500 chips. I looked at my cards and saw a pair of jacks.
Mistake #1 – instead of re-raising all-in, I simply called, hoping to get more of his chips.
When the flop arrived with a nine as the high card, it was the perfect flop for my over pair.
Mistake #2 – not realizing the nine out there was trouble.
I checked. The button went all in. I called. He flips over Q-9. Of course, I mutter to myself. At least I have the best hand.
Well, that didn’t last long. The very next card was a queen. His two pairs crushed me.
Small solace for the early victory. But I had made an important decision earlier in the afternoon. I decided to rent a car, and get out of Sin City.
I found out my mom and her husband were spending the weekend in Sedonna, AZ. Google maps confirmed that it was only a four and a half hour drive from Vegas, so I called them up and offered to visit for Father’s day.
One Hertz rent a car later, and I was zipping off to Arizona in a shiny silver Toyota Corolla. I took my time and even stopped a few instances along the way to snap some pictures of the beautiful terrain. I even spotted a In-N-Out burger in Kingman, Arizona, which I managed to stop at on the return trip to get my double-double with cheese fix. Those of you in California, Arizona, Vegas, and Utah (and some parts of Texas I guess) don’t fully appreciate what a “tasty burger” (with apologies to Samuel L.) you have there. We don’t have that franchise in the Midwest, which is probably a good thing. But any trip out West usually includes a pilgrimage to In-N-Out.
I got to Sedonna by lunchtime, and had the mercury not hovered above 100 all day, we might have taken in more sights there. Sedonna and Oak Creek are renown for their red rock formations, and I sure did snap of lots of good red rock pics.
I was well fed, and even managed to be useful, helping to change some light bulbs up in their 12-foot ceilings, and also helped them with their web sites. My stepfather is writing a book on the meltdown of ethics in this country, and I got to preview a few chapters of the book.
The following day, I left after an early dinner. Early by my standards, but not for the geriatric set, and once again took my time heading north on 89A towards Flagstaff. That road takes you through Oak Creek Canyon and the Coconino National Forest. Not only does it feature the red rocks, but also a ponderosa pine forest, several lakes and streams. The only bummer was that the scenic overlook had closed by the time I drove past.
The rest of the drive was uneventful. It’s quiet a contrast as you leave the western part of Arizona, with it’s dearth of civilization, and you come over railroad pass just over the border and see the sprawl that Vegas has become.
I was headed to the Bellagio, because one, I knew it was a good central location to ditch the car, and I wanted to place a bet on behalf of a friend who like Houston at 15-1 to win the 2013 Super Bowl. Unfortunately for him, but perhaps not his wallet, the sports book was closed for the night, as was the one at Caesar’s.
That didn’t stop me from waltzing into the poker room, which is next to the sports book at Caesar’s. Nowadays, just about everything is a No Limit game, so I was seated at a 1-2 table with some serious stacks.
I was strongly buoyed by the fact that my first hand was a pair of aces, followed shortly after that by not one, but two pairs of pocket kings. In a span of about 40 minutes I had parleyed my hundred bucks into three hundred. Then a good thing happened. The table broke up as several players left, and I smartly cashed out.
The bad news was that I still had nearly four hours to kill.
So, another fifty bucks disappeared at Bill’s Saloon, across from Bally’s, before I said enough is enough and retrieved my car and proceeded to the airport early, where the final touches are being applied to this story. I’m booked on the 6 AM back to Milwaukee, where I plan to sleep for a few days when I return home.
My tournament poker got much better even if the results don’t show it. As always, I maintain a love-hate relationship with this town, and I’m sure I’ll be back next year.
That is the one distinction that no poker player wants, yet I was one yesterday. The bubble boy is the moniker given to the unfortunate player who is the last one ousted from a tourney before the remaining players are “in the money.” I’ve heard players say they’d rather bust out early than play for three hours and end up with nothing. Well, that’s exactly what I did in my first foray on Thursday.
I played in the 9 AM Mega-satellite again at the Rio. There were about 115 entries and I was actually starting to see some cards. My biggest chip up was when I doubled my stack with a pair of pocket kings. In another hand I was actually an underdog against a better ace, but made a straight to knock another player out.
As the field was getting narrowed and the tourney was approaching the three hour mark, I was actually trying to broker a deal so that the remaining 17 or 18 players would all get paid, instead of the 14 that were officially going to cash in this event. I’m not some greedy bastard. My philosophy is if you get that far, you shouldn’t walk away empty-handed. Deals are fairly common in tournament poker. Higher finishers will often pull a few bucks out of the winners’ share to give to those just out of the money. However, everyone at the table has to agree, and there were two players who refused to budge.
“If it weren’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have any luck at all.” – Born Under A Bad Sign (Albert King)
So it’s back to the felt. I had about 20,000 chips, more than enough to hang in there. But the blinds are at 4000/8000, which gets pretty pricey. There was an all-in as we got down to sixteen players, but everyone survived. Then at fifteen players, with two tables still going, the action goes hand-for hand, which means that each table plays a single hand so that no one at either of the two remaining tables can stall and wait for another to bust out first.
That was when I made my first mistake of the day. It’s never obvious until after the fact. I was in early position (just after the big blind) when I saw that I had pocket tens. Most people are very conservative when the prize money is in within reach. So I went all-in. Most people would fold unless they had a good hand. As it went around, to my utter shock, not one, but two people called, for good reason. One had pocket Jacks, the other, two Queens. My tens held up about as well as the Bears offensive line, and although I had more chips than both players, I was left with 7500 chips after that fisasco. I was in the big blind next, and every last chip I had went into the middle of the table. Everyone was willing to give me a “walk” or fold to me, since I was the one trying to help the table, and would have allowed me to live for another hand. All, except one idiot, who decided to toss his chips in and call me with a King-nine. So out I went with bupkis. While the players feigned sympathy for me, inside, they were all happy to cash out.
I’m hopping mad; I’m as steamed as the weather outside. I want to break some furniture, but what am I going to do? I wanted to let out a few primal screams inside of me, and I walked out of the complex to cool my jets. So what does a degenerate poker player do as soon as he gets back to his hotel? Walk down to the poker room at the Planet Hollywood, only to find that the 1 PM tourney has just started. Big mistake. I don’t think I made it past the second round of that one. I can’t even remember now how I bowed out of that one.
So now I had a few hours to simmer down and regroup. Well it’s Las Vegas, so why not choose something else to play. How about blackjack? Well as quickly as I went up $60, and turned around and lost it and dropped a hundred. That’s why don’t always like to play that game. You have to have a strong stomach and a big bankroll to handle the ups and downs. Here’s a shoutout to my friend Ralph “the Hammer” Labuda, who is the blackjack king. He comes out here a few times a year, and mostly plays blackjack. And because he does that, and never plays for less than twenty-five bucks a hand, he get comped on everything here. Room, food, show tickets, you name it. The only thing I have been cash positive so far on, was the penny slots, where I won a whopping $11.20.
This story does get better, to a point. Late in the afternoon, I couldn’t resist the urge, and had to take another shot at getting the cash to play in the WSOP event. So once again I returned to the Rio and plunked down another $185 for the 6 PM deep stack.
It looked like another case of déjà vu as I started out like every other event so far, with a lot of crappy cards. So what I normally do in that situation is study my tablemates, in hopes that if I get some cards, I can try to take advantage of someone else’s weakness. Much to my surprise, I found myself in early position with pocket aces. Normally I don’t like to “limp” in, making the minimum bet, because any fool could call and get two cards to a better hand on the flop, but the player in the big blind had been super aggressive, raising all game long. Sure enough, he raised, and I thought for a second, acting the part, and then pushed all my chips into the middle. I was delighted when he called, and I quickly doubled my starting stack of about 10,000 chips.
Then, something magical happened. I started getting some good cards and taking out several players at the table. The next thing I knew, the stack had grown to over thirty thousand, then fifty thousand chips. I was getting Kings, Jacks, even a few aces. Every time it seemed I called an all-in, I won the pot, and the few times I raised a pot, everyone folded to me.
There were over 330 entrants into that event, paying the top 34 finishers. Wednesday night I made it through half the field before getting knocked out. This time, things looked good as I even had more than the average chip stack of 36,000, which is a good barometer of how one is doing versus the field.
Too good to be true? Absolutely. Next, I went “card dead” again, getting nothing but junk. This allowed other players to increase their stacks versus mine. Whereas an hour earlier I might have been out ahead of everyone at the table, they began to catch up to me.
This is when I made my one and only critical mistake. Up to then I’d been playing pretty good poker. My typical game is conservative, then aggressive when I have the cards to back me up. With my stack down to just about 40,000, I bet out 7,000 chips (with the blinds at 1500/3000) in early position with a suited A-7. Everyone folded except the small blind. That should have been my first hint of trouble. The flop contained a queen, not in my suit, and some other inconsequential cards. The small blind checked. Proper play is to make a continuation bet, so I pushed out one of my stack of yellow 1000 chips (20,000) in all, and the small blind immediately went all-in. Oops. Now I’m in trouble. He had enough chips to knock me out. I had no choice, but to fold. I lost more than half of my chips on that one hand alone. It’s always easier to know that in retrospect, I should have made a minimum bet to gauge if he had a better hand. Two hands later the big blind came around to me, and I had a Jack and Queen of spades. The player who had the biggest stack at the table and was properly betting big in late position to steal blinds and ante made a raise. So instead of calling, the dummy I am went all in. I know the poker gods have a sense of humor, because he flipped over pocket nines, the hand that has been killing me all week. This story gets better, because I’ll see those dreaded nines again.
Anyways, I’m out in 54th place, and if I hadn’t misplayed my A-7 so badly, I might have notched my first cash of the week. As so often happens in tournament poker, you can go from the penthouse to the outhouse in minutes. So I went home again, empty handed, mad at myself for having played pretty well, and them coming unglued in such a short span of time.
I had yet another restless night’s sleep. As anyone who travels occasionally knows, it’s sometimes tough to get a good night sleep in bed away from home.
So thinking I was refreshed, I hopped in the elevator down to the casino right here at the Planet Hollywood. Have I mentioned that the PH is my favorite Vegas hotel?
How nice it is to have a poker room three minutes away. At home the nearest decent poker room is an hour away in Milwaukee or down in Hammond, Indiana, just across the state line. Perhaps that’s a good thing, or I’d be there too often for my own good.
Anyway, I dropped in on their 10 AM tourney. It’s a $65 buy-in with a guaranteed prize pool of $2000, half of which goes to the winner.
It seemed my card streak is still going, getting some pocket pairs and even A-J and other A-5. Except this time, none of the flops are working for me. I had pocket tens in the big blind, and I called a small raise instead of re-raising. So when a jack and queen showed up on the flop there was nothing I could do. Same for the ace-jack. The board has a king and nothing else. My starting stack of 3000 chips was dwindling fast. Pocket fives and sevens, no luck. So when I saw an A-10 of spades in my hand, I went all in. The only caller was the big blind, and can you believe it – she had a pair of nines?
Needless to say, that was the end of that tourney. It’s a good thing there’s no Golden Gate or Brooklyn Bridge here in Las Vegas, because I might have been tempted to jump off it. Instead I finally did what any rational human being should have done, which is to quit playing for the day. Instead of wasting another dollar, I went for a quick stroll around the Miracle Mile shops, which is the old Desert Passage shopping center, from the days when this place was The Aladdin Hotel.
I also finally went to the buffet here at the hotel. The Spice Market lunch buffet for $18.99 is a hell of a deal. I chowed down some oriental salad, Middle Eastern delights, chicken tandoori, and stuffed tomatoes with lamb, before I even got to the carved roast beef and turkey. I never even made it to the traditional salads or Italian cuisine, let alone dessert, since I’m trying to shed some excess weight. I probably didn’t help my cause with my impromptu three-course meal, but it was breakfast and lunch, so I can justify anything, I suppose.
The rest of the day was spent watching the US Open golf and the England-Sweden soccer match with a bunch of Brits at one of the hotel’s many bars. In the late afternoon after a well-deserved nap, I went to the hotel’s pool. They have two pools at the Planet Hollywood. One is for adults eighteen and up. It was crowded and a deejay was playing very loud music I did not care for. So I waltzed over to the all-ages pool, pausing briefly by the bar, only to see that beers were eight bucks a pop. Never mind, that’s hotel pricing for you. The other pool was sparsely populated, which seemed pretty good. I found a pool chair upon which to stow my stuff, and made a beeline for the water. Even at 6 PM, it was still quite warm out, but shockingly, the pool water was cold. As crazy as it seems, I spent most of an hour out there in the Jacuzzi, with occasional forays into the pool to cool off.
Lastly, as we bring this sad saga to a close, I have retreated back to my room, mainly to write this update and stay away from the temptation to throw more good money away. I didn’t even want to return to the Rio, only to be depressed at watching the Senior Open proceed without me.
Some Coke and Bacardi seem to be all the motivation I need to compose this latest update and stay out of trouble. Perhaps I’ll watch “The Social Network” for the umpteenth time on my laptop. It always gets me jazzed about being an Internet entrepreneur, although my latest “preneur” hasn’t been nearly as successful as Mark Zuckerberg’s. It’s still a work in progress.
After a semblance of sleep, the effect of yesterday’s gastric tidal wave a fading memory, I set off for the Rio in search of tournament glory.
The first hurdle was getting to the Rio, home of the WSOP. After trekking all the way to Bally’s to catch the shuttle bus, I found out that the buses don’t begin hauling poker wannabes like me until 10 AM. This was about 8:30, and I wanted to get my credentials and take a shot at the 9 o’clock mega-satellite. So I snagged a cab, and ten dollars later he deposited me at the poker entrance.
A lot has changed since I was last here at the 2007 WSOP. For one, gaming takes place in three separate rooms now. The Pavilion where the cash games, turbo satellites, and the deep stack daily tourneys take place. Over in the Brasilia Room, the first leg of the WSOP events take place. Today, there was a $1500 HORSE event beginning. As the field gets whittled down, they move across the hall to the Amazon Room for subsequent days on these multi-day events.
I caught up with Greg “Fossilman” Raymer, winner of the 2004 Main Event. He was kind enough to chat with me for a few minutes about some of his favorite games in the HORSE event, a rotating, mixed game of Hold ‘Em, Omaha, Razz, and Stud poker. He went on to explain some of his stud strategy and why he likes that game. Raymer then excused himself to go take his seat. I followed up a few hours later, but he apparently had no luck, and was gone.
In the aforementioned Amazon room, there was a Six-Handed No Limit event that was down to three tables, and included pro Freddy Deeb. Deeb has two WSOP bracelets, including one in the $50,000 HORSE event which netted him over two million dollars. On the other side of the room the Omaha Hi-Lo event was down to sixteen players. There were some notable names there as well including Phil Ivey, Mike Matusow, and the always affable Scotty Nguyen.
But those guys all fared better than I did. In my first foray, that early morning turbo mega satellite, I chipped up when my Q-9 bested a Q-K. At our table it seemed that nine was a lucky number, which is why I pushed against a better hand. What goes around comes when not long after that, I looked at my cards to see pocket aces. One player went all in and I called. He flipped over pocket nines. That is usually a good thing, until the flop came 9-Q-9 for flopped quads. That crippled me, and I never recovered.
The next attempt was in a single table event with one thousand in starting chips and blind levels increasing every ten minutes. You have to chip up fast. The cards didn’t show up until I got a Q-K, which I raised, and got called down with a Q-9, who caught a straight on the river to end that foray. There’s that pesky nine again!
Lastly, I took a shot at the 6 PM deep stack. Nice setup – 10,000 in chips and 30-minute levels. There were 311 entrants, and I made it through half the field before the blinds started to get expensive, and I saw two two face cards, so I pushed my last 4700 chips into the middle and got called by guess what? 9-9. The board had nothing but little cards so out I went after four hours of maybe playing five or six hands. The only two winners were a pair of Kings and an A-10 that I semi bluffed with. I had so many 8-3, 7-4, 9-2’s, that I seriously considered switching to blackjack.
So I left the Rio with my tail between my legs and didn’t even bother to watch any of the other action still unfolding in the big buy-in events.
Tomorrow is another day.
I should have known this wouldn’t be an ordinary trip when I showed up at the airport and checked my seat assignment – 27B. The dreaded middle seat. Of course, with a free/no charge/gratis ticket I shouldn’t have expected much.
My complimentary ticket was made possible by my generosity (and greed) over spring break when I “volunteered” to be bumped on the return home.
With those freebies come a few restrictions, like mid-week travel, and a year to use my four earned round trippers. I won’t name names, but the carrier starts with “A” and ends with “Tran.” No point going to Florida this time of year. Instead, it was off to Las Vegas to check out the 2012 World Series of Poker.
It didn’t look like a full flight at the gate, but as passengers kept shuffling in, with their oversized carry-on’s, the possibilities of shifting to a window grew about as dim as the Cubs’ chances of turning their season around. Then two very rotund middle-aged ladies approached my aisle. That scenario is only exceeded by having a three hundred pound “bubba” with a keg for a belly and bad body odor as your seat mate. Fortunately, the women took a seat in the aisle across, and two guys about my size ended up on either side of me.
Nope, the second worst-case seat scenario occurred, when a young woman carrying and infant and trailing a toddler ended up behind me. The little boy reached to tug at my sleeve about four or five times, and her other kid was seated in her mommy’s lap, and tussled and turned half the flight, kicking the back of my seat.
To add insult to injury, there was yet another couple, with the proverbial screaming baby a row behind the fidgety kids.
Noise cancelling headphones and my Rolling Stones playlist did their best, but not completely to dampen the day care scenario at 40,000 feet. I kept repeating the mantra, “It’s a free ticket…It’s just a free ticket.”
Why am I spending so much of this first column about a plane trip, and not my arrival in the city of Lost Wages? Well, the combination of the above, and perhaps a bad deli sandwich forced me to spend the rest of the afternoon hugging porcelain. The only gaming I saw were the slot machines that run rampant at the Vegas airport.
One nice thing about Planet Hollywood, my hotel of choice in Sin City, is that you check in on a level below the casino, and are not forced to walk past the one-armed bandits and blackjack tables to get to your room.
After sleeping off my ills, I awoke in time to catch the fourth quarter of the NBA Finals game one. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook put on quite a show, with Westbrook missing a triple double by two rebounds.
Hardly re-energized, but very hungry, I went in search for some “mild” food for my first meal in ten hours.
Even at nearly one in the morning, there were more than a dozen tables occupied in the hotel’s coffee shop. A smoothie, a six-dollar baked potato, and some grilled vegetables did the trick.
I took the long, circuitous walk back to the elevators. Even at that late hour, on a weeknight, plenty of blackjack tables and slots machines were occupied.
Lastly, I ventured into the poker room, where more than half of the tables were in use. The manager informed me that they were all $1-$2 no limit. Seeing that most of them had players with large stacks of five-dollar chips, my better instincts told me to keep going. Instead, I’m crafting this update at 2 AM Vegas time, and I’ll regroup in the morning to head over to the Rio, to begin my real adventure, which is to cover, and hopefully play in a World Series of Poker event.