Thursday, August 31, 2006

Barrow Street

I was telling JoeC earlier today that the Meatpacking District bottle service velvet rope scene isn't my style. Yeah, I know how to roll, but I prefer to relax in a lower key environment like my old standby dive, the Barrow Street Alehouse.

I've been going to the Barrow Street Alehouse since 1998, when I moved to New York City. Back then, Greg and I would go, Wall Street Rookies, not yet making the big bucks, and enjoy the low stools, sawdust on the floor, cheap drinks, house cat, and chunky waitress who gave us every other round for free. We'd tip her 50% and feel like the kings of the world - you can never get enough freeroll.

Now, eight years later, Barrow Street is still my favorite bar, and I once again live right around the corner from it. They've since replaced the sawdust and 2 foot stools with 4 1/2 foot high tables and high backless bar stools, but the downstairs area with darts, a pool table, and a love seat that I'm pretty sure is harboring more diseases than the CDC, is still untouched. Most importantly, BS Alehouse still serves top notch bar food, and the best Buffalo Chicken sandwich in the City.

So this afternoon when Greg IM'ed me "Where are we meeting?" I replied, naturally, "Barrow Street." Greg's only reply was a contented smiley face. Greg called me later to tell me that he was at Barrow Street, and I threw some food down for Oscar and headed over to meet him. Barrow Street is about 200 yards from my apartment, and I've been there countless times, but this time, as I walked through the doors, I was confused.

The walls were paneled in richly grained wood, and the scuffed floor was now pristine and coated with 1/8th of an inch of shiny polyurethane. The table and backless bar stools had been replaced by high end booths made of real wood and dark high quality leather. I walked in, and blinked 3 times. Greg was in a booth right by the door, and pointed at me, laughing at my confusion. I looked up, walked around in a circle 3 times, and looked at him: "What the fuck is THIS?" I asked.

Greg laughed "I know - they've gone high end - sit down," he urged me, but I had some business to attend to. I walked down the bar, like a kid who just found out that Hanukkah Harry doesn't really exist.

I approached the bartender: "When did THIS happen?" I asked, waving my arms.

"The booths came in last Thursday," he explained, as I looked for the old standby chalkboard which showed the list of draught beers - GONE. The tube tv's were replaced by an army of plasma screens, and the ladies room sported a nice new neon sign advertising it's location. There was only one question: what was downstairs? Would I find a lounge with blacklights, and 2 foot square velvet stools? Would there be waitresses in short black cocktail dresses, and flickering candles? I stumbled down the stairs, as if in a dream, and found some solace in seeing that the dungeon was still untouched: same dartboards, same pool table, same crappy concrete floor, same used-by-NYU-kids-for-heavy-petting loveseat stained by 1000 beer spills.

I slouched back up the stairs to find Greg, slumping into the booth, telling him "This sucks."
"I know," Greg commiserated, "but they have $15 all you can drink draught beer from 6-9pm!" Now, Greg can drink beer. He's a born and bred Revere, MA native, and he drinks beer at at LEAST twice the speed I do, so my EV sense is thinking "FREE ROLL!" Even if I breakeven on the arbitrage, I know Greg will crush it.

Our waitress comes over to take my order, as Greg is already enjoying a 12oz plastic cup of Oktoberfest: college style. When we're 1/2way through our first beer, we ask the waitress (who failed her test mightily when she took 5 minutes to bring me my first round) for another round. "You have to finish that round first - you use the same cup," she explained. No problem - do you know who the fuck we are? We've been coming here since you were in diapers, sugartits. We pound our beers, and I jokingly turn mine over my head and pretend to "flip cup" it, as Greg tells her, "Now, THAT is his cup, and THIS is mine."

"You aren't going to get the same cup back," she tells us.

"No problem, as long as we don't get someone else's," Greg answers, thinking we'll get new cups.

"No - you might get someone else's cup," she deadpans. And she's not kidding.

I interrupt: "Wait a second: he just wants to make sure he doesn't get someone else's cooties...or herpes... or chlamydia," and flash her a smile.

"You might get someone else's cup - we have no control of it," she is getting annoyed, not smiling.

"What do you mean - do you have a magic marker? I'll put my name on this one - I don't want someone else's cup." I mean seriously, I'm all for the college-throwback-refill-the-plastic-cup-all-you-can-drink gig, but I don't want some NYU whoo-hah's cup.

"I'm really busy - I have a lot of other tables to take care of - do you guys want another round?" She's legitimately pissed now.

"Look, can we go to the bar and get our own refills?" I try diplomacy.

"Sure, I mean, it's better for me if you order from me, but you can do that," she bargains.

"We'll take care of you, don't worry," and I mutter under my breath to Greg: "I'll pay you 20% to leave us the fuck alone."

Greg cackles out loud, and she shrugs and goes on to her other tables. Greg proceeds to make beer runs to the bar for the next two hours, ensuring that our cups are not tainted by the young blood in the bar.

I order a Blue Moon Belgian White, which comes with a lemon wedge on it. Greg laughs at me, but I gloat, "ah HAH! Lemon Wedge Cup Marker! Suck it!" and do a sitting dance in the booth. After a Magic Hat #9 and buffalo chicken sandwich for me, Greg, I think 3 beers ahead of me at this point, has to take off to meet his fiance uptown. He'd already put her off with a text message constructed on the fly, after I told him to make sure he avoided the MTV VMA awards in Rock Center when he took a cab uptown.

"IN A CAB, STUCK IN TRAFFIC" he enunciated word by word to me, as he typed into his phone. "MTV VMA AWARDS - GRIDLOCK" he mouthed, and shrugged, laughing. "SEND." I laughed hysterically, as Greg pondered "I have to remember not to answer the phone or she'll hear I'm in a bar."

I get the check, smile at the evolution of the Barrow Street Alehouse, and promise to myself: If they put a bouncer and a velvet rope out front, I'm finding a new home bar.

Until then, I'll meet you at Barrow Street.


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Rude Awakening

4:25am. I am awakened by the boom of my own hand and head smacking against my headboard. Mrs. Dynamite bolts upright. Oscar bolts upright. What the fuck just happened? I immediately start to laugh as I realize:

I was having a vivid dream that I was back home on the street I grew up on, playing soccer. For some reason, I was guarding Chelsea and England superstar Joe Cole. My team was pressing the action, and I was talking some shit to Cole, as I defended him ruthlessly, shadowing his every move. Someone played a long ball for Joe, and he took off for it, with me turning to bolt with him as soon as the ball was kicked. The only problem was, I turned and bolted in bed too, and made it about 4 inches before I slammed into the headboard. Good morning!

Mrs. Dynamite was confused, but I couldn't stop laughing at the insanity of the situation. Then I remembered a great sleepwalking story from when I was in college. During the summer in my fraternity house, some people lived in rooms different from their rooms during the school year. One such case was Pascal, who lived one floor up from the room he had occupied during the school year. The problem was that the 5th floor and 4th floor had slightly different layouts: from Pascal's 4th floor room, he could stagger out of his room hugging the wall, and fall right into the bathroom. When he tried this stunt on the 5th floor, however, he fell right into Joe's room.

Pascal stumbled into Joe's room, wasted and barely conscious, and went right over to where the urinal was supposed to be. He unleashed a piss storm all over Joe's desk and computer, as Joe shouted in vain, trying to wake up the slumbering giant. Good times. What's college without a melange of drunken urinary exploits? My personal favorite is the picture I have of myself, a young MIT rebel, pissing on the Harvard Law School sign in an act of defiance and conquering. The picture was great because the stream of pee was captured like a strobe effect.

somehow, exploits like those are hard to justify nowadays...


Monday, August 21, 2006

Vegas: Summer Slam 2006 - Part II

If you haven't read Part One - what the fuck are you waiting for? It's some of my finest work...

I woke up Tuesday morning ready to get down to business. No more fucking around in the peach chip berry patch - I was ready to tilt some locals in the 2-5 NL game.

I rolled into the poker room, and sat in a 1-3NL rock garden for 15 minutes as I waited for a 2-5NL seat. I had free reign of the 1-3 game, but I decided I didn't want to spend the next 4 hours trying to steal $24 pots from the rocks, and took the 2-5NL seat.

Several wise locals left when I sat down, and the open seats quickly filled in as follows:

seat 1: local nitty lady
seat 2: local old Chinese guy
seat 3: local generic old White guy (GOWG)
seat 4: Tilty McTiltson: I'll explain (TILTY)
seat 5: FISH ON! (Fishy)
seat 6: young pro from St. Louis - played a very solid game (PRO)
seat 7: local Asian young gun - tight
seat 8: Kid Dynamite (KD)
seat 9: young Asian girl - local, tight (YAG)

So, the action was fair, considering the lineup, and my stack seesawed between $400 and $700. I was down to about $400 when I found AA in MP. Fishy raised it up to $10 UTG. I bumped it to $40, and YAG called, as did Fishy.

The flop came J-6-7 and Fishy bet out $25 into the $120+ pot. I raised to $100, and YAG smooth called, which I absolutely hated. Fishy overcalled.

The turn was an 8, and Fishy now checked it to me. He and YAG each had about $225 left, I had them slightly covered, and I pushed all in. YAG went into the tank, and I was praying she wasn't just acting, trying to seduce Fishy into another overcall with her set. She finally called, and Fishy called with a shrug.

I tabled my aces, which were good: Fishy had QQ, and I have no clue what YAG had.

I took another pot off the Pro, when I flopped and open ended straight draw in position, and smooth called his flop bet, and then smooth called again on the turn when I made my hand. I extracted another river bet, and was rolling.

Tilty donked off almost his whole $900 stack when GOWG opened for $30, and Tilty reraised to $100. GOWG came back over the top for $400 total, and Tilty thought for 2 minutes before calling. GOWG announced "I'm all in" for $400 more before the flop came down: jack high. Tilty said "I have to call you," and his queens were crushed by GOWG's aces of course. Tilty took his last $100 and raised the old Chinese guy on the next hand, cracking pocket jacks when his 6-4 turned trips.

Then he double through again when his A-6 offsuit made a flush on the river against YAG's pocket queens, and suddenly he was back to about $600 in chips, when he decided to fuck with KD.

GOWG limped, Tilty limped, and the Pro limped. I looked down to find AQ in the small blind. "I love the smell of AQ in the morning," I thought, "What better way to get stacked," as I raised $35 more. They all called!

The flop was a seemingly nice: 2d4dQh. I did not have a diamond. I led out for $105, and GOWG folded. Tilty INSTA-raised all-in, and insta-counted down his stack: $468 more. Pro looked at him and shook his head, saying "I'm laying down the winner," and it was back on me.

Now, I can't play AQ like a pussy just because it's a historic trouble hand for me, so I thought this one through - I took about as long as I've ever taken at a table, really going through everything in my head, and looking into my opponent's soul (although in a non-Hellmuthian, non-douchebally way.) "Unless you have a set of Q's, I think I have you beat," Tilty tells me.

I look at Tilty. He looks at me. He smiles. Hmmm... I shake my head. I sit silently for 2 minutes. "What do you think I have?" I ask him. "I think you have aces - they've been going around," he replies. "Hmmm - and you claim to beat aces? Or you think I'll lay them down?" I tried to get more information. "We'll see," he pulled back a little. I doubt he has a set of 2's or 4's: I think an all-in there with those hands is an advanced play, and I don't think he's thinking on that level right now. 2-4 two pair is possible, but even he may not have called my preflop reraise with that.

"If I fold will you show me?" I asked him. He paused a second too long, before answering "It'll cost you." "Fair enough - how much?" I'm going to open him up like a clam! "$20." he tells me. I nod. I don't put him on AA or KK - he's not going to play them like that preflop, and it's looking like KQ or QJ, or a flush draw.

I begin to count chips. I watch him as I pull out stack after stack of red chips. I get nothing from him. He looks at me again, and smiles again. I smile back. I have him. The nail in his coffin is the way he counted out his raise: I've done it many times just like he did: quickly and confidently counting down my stack - and it usually means weakness.

After 5 minutes, two people call for a clock. The dealer, of course, doesn't call the floor, and I continue to evaluate. After 6+ minutes, I have made up my mind, and slide my $468 into the middle, staring at Tilty. "I call."

Tilty tried to maintain his cool, but after about 1 and a half seconds, a look of terror came over his face, as he begged, "I need a diamond." I silently congratulated myself on a nice call, as the dealer burned and turned..... ten of clubs. I eyed Tilty, as the dealer burned and turned the river... a red... ace... of... diamonds... I shook my head. Tilty spiked the K-8 of diamonds on the table, and I shook my head again as I spiked my AQ facedown.

Now, this wasn't a bad beat - I'm only a 55-45 favorite against his flush draw + overcard (actually, it's more like 60-40 when you account for the fact that the Pro probably had diamonds too - which he claimed: 5d6d), but I'd taken so much time to make such a well thought out and proper call, that this beat hurt as much as any of the recent river cards which have been the thorn in my side.

I knuckled up, hunkered down and took another tough beat for $335 when I turned a straight on a flop with 3 spades which was checked around, and I misread an opponent - I thought her turn raise meant "bare ace flush draw" but in reality it meant "flopped flush." Then Tilty left, as did most of the rest of the table, and I took on the two Pros two my right and one other lady 4 handed, where I had KK cracked by a flopped set of sixes, which cost me another $300.

After all this pain, I was only down $190, but it felt like more as I'd been up $1k before. I decided to go donk it up in the Peach Chip game, where Big Show had a seat. I asked the floor, "Do you have a 1-3NL seat open," "Right there," she points to table 8. "No - I want that seat," I point to table 28, and she realizes who the fuck I am, and seats me to BigShow's right, which is a fair handicap because I'm a far better player than he is.

BigShow tells me "Watch out - someone took a card south!" "No way - how'd they know?" I think he's joking. "The shufflemaster caught it," he explains, and before I can even post my blind, the floor comes over and says "Sir, can you please lift your hands up." I oblige, lifting my hands up, and the manager lifts the padding from the rail, and pulls the Ace of Clubs out from directly in front of my chips.

I reacted just like MikeyMcD in the scene in the Lodge at Rounders when Worm catches the hanger dealing seconds to Mikey: I stood up with my hands above my head and pleaded "Whoa - I JUST sat down," as I'm worried that this looks seriously bad. The 7 of diamonds would be one thing, but the fuckin' ace of clubs - holy kaibash.

"It's ok sir, surveilance found the card - they have verified that it was purely incidental," and I breathe a sigh of relief, wondering what kind of doucheball could lose the fucking ace of clubs.

I proceed to get absolutely owned by a team of Asian fish in the 1-3 game. I can make nothing work - my only solace coming when one doucheball checked to me on the button, and I began to stack off 4-stacks of peach chips. As I'd stacked off my second stack and put my third stack down, he announced prematurely "I'm all in," and I had a sweet angle shoot, pulling back the third stack and the rest of my chips, and leaving the two small stacks I'd already completely released, as I mucked my cards. BigShow laughed in awe.

We left the Peach Chip game, as I ate another $60 loss in two hours, and headed over to the Mirage for some double deck BJ, where we had the pleasure of playing with a guy in the first base seat who played absolutely perfectly for about 3 hours - not one fucking mistake to mess up our table mojo.

I lost a bet on the RedSox, which BigShow booked for me, and another $310 in the Mirage game, but was satisfied by another patented blackjack angleshoot by the BigShow: he had A-4 against a dealer 6, and doubled down. As the dealer tried to throw the cut card into the shoe, another card got stuck to it, which I didn't even notice. She painted a 9 on BigShow's A-4, and he sprang to life: "Wait - this isn't my card - this is YOUR card. THAT is my card," He said, pointing to the unseen card facedown next to the cut card, but knowing it couldn't be worse than a nine, and that it would be nice to plug the dealer with the nine.

The pit boss came over and ruled that BigShow could have the other card, but that the dealer would take the next card, not the nine. BigShow shrugged, "Ok," and took the other card: a FOUR! I laughed at the huge negative Karma we'd just built up, but the dealer proceeded to bust, and BigShow was again successful with an advanced advantage play.

Back at the Frontier, we ran into some insanely superstitious Asian gamblers in the $25 double deck game. Our man in first base slammed a top of the deck blackjack 3 decks in a row, so on the fourth one, his buddy pulls out $300 in cash and drops it behind his boy's $50 wager. "Backing up his boy for the top of the deck BJ - advanced play!" BigShow and I admired the faith, but it didn't work this time, and the bravado induced a dealer 4-card 21.

BigShow's buddy had "gotten us a reservation" at Wynn's SW steakhouse, but at 5pm we decided we'd just go gamble instead, and we walked into SW to cancel the ressie. "Oh, we were just talking about you," the receptionist said, as we gave BigShow's name. "Really? What were you saying?" I was curious. "You know your meal is taken care of right?" She explained. Ahhh.. yesss.... of course.. we knew that. BigShow and I look at each other. He ad-libs "We just need to push it back, we can't make it at 8pm," and we settle on 9:30. Freeeeeeroollllllllll. I took $350 out of the Wynn $100 double deck bj table after we'd cleaned ourselves up, and we hit SW.

The hookup has set us up with a full comp, on account of his $15k per hand BJ and Dice play. He told us to ask for his man at the restaurant, Noey, who would take care of us, and to ask for the Kobe beef, which isn't on the menu. We ask the waiter, who goes to the kitchen, and comes back to tell us that they have no Kobe tonight. Noey, the sommelier, comes over to greet us, and tells us not to worry, he'll talk to the kitchen. After 3 minutes, Noey returns, telling us, "let me make a phone call." And 10 minutes later, he is sauntering back through the SW Steakhouse with a raw 16oz piece of Kobe in his hand - he'd gone to one of Wynn's other restaurants to get the meat for us!

I have had Kobe beef before, and didn't think it was worth the hassle and price, but this was far and away the best steak I'd ever had. Absolutely incredible and indescribable - each bite, which looked like normal sirloin, disappeared like cotton candy as it touched your tongue. Ludicrous. It was nice living the life of the real high roller - and also easy to see how the equation works from the casino's point of view - even if our dinner cost $500, that's basically the vig on less than ONE SHOE of play at the $15k/hand level.

We took it easy Tuesday night, and got up Wednesday to assault a cornucopia of double deck games across the strip. I hit Harrah's for $280, then Paris for $350 - although neither had the Frontier's desirable "double after split" rules. We ended up at the Mirage, and sat in a nice 2-5NL game, this time with BigShow to my right.

I waited 4 hands to post my BB, and on my second hand in the SB, I looked down at AhKh. UTG raised to $30 and was called by the player to his left. The next player made it $130 to go, and it was folded back to me. I thought for 60 seconds, and decided to move all in for $400. The UTG raiser and the caller insta-folded, and the $130 raiser went into the tank. He thought for 3 minutes, and finally made a defeatist call, admitting "I can just rebuild." His jacks held up, and I shook my head at his call, and my inability to catch a friggin card.

The game was the juiciest of the trip - stacked with players who overvalued top pair - but I could not make a hand to save my life. I was probably dealt 15 medium pocket pairs, and couldn't flop a set. I played very few drawing hands, but only because I wasn't dealt them. A wannabe pro to BigShow's right explained how he had the vanity plate TXHLDM on his car. "What kind of car - an IROC?" I was in his face - seriously what kind of doucheball has that plate? He said everyone thought it was about taxes or something, and pegged him for an accountant. "I peg you for a doucheball," I muttered to the BigShow, and then I challenged JohnnyJacks to a heads up PL Omaha match, after he said he was on the list (but the game clearly was not going to happen). He pussed out (probably a mistake - I'm no heads up PLO assassin), and I looked for another opportunity to exact my revenge, but failed time after time.

I was whittled down to a short stack, and told BigShow I was about to Juanda-fy the table - putting on a short stack exhibition for the ages. I double up twice, back to about $240, and then BigShow put a legitimate MUTHER FUCKING DISGUSTING BEAT on me:

He was UTG+1, and I had raising chips in my hand, looking at AJ. He raised to $20 before me, and I smooth called, as the rest of the table folded. The flop came down J-6-4, and BigShow bet $45. I raised to $140, and he moved all-in after 15 seconds. I shook my head, and called. "I have a big pair," BigShow told me. Ok - fine. If I ran into a monster, I ran into a monster. The turn was a queen, and BigShow asked "is that you?" I shook my head. When a ten peeled off on the river, he said "I have a set of tens," and he did. I calmly exited the table, and attempted to give BigShow a wet-willie as he cashed out at the cage, but he had the IPOD headphone defense up. I slugged him in the shoulder for his vicious 90-10 dog suckout, and was on FULL TILT. I made BigShow pay for his 2 out suckout by bitching about it nonstop for the rest of our trip.

We cruised over to the Venetian, and played in a nice $25 double deck game, dropping a few units before a gut-busting dinner at the usually solid Grand Luxe cafe. This time, the meal was a pure fat American fried downer, weighing heavily for the rest of the night. After dinner, we returned to the BJ pit, where the table limit had been raised to $200. I asked the pit boss to role it back for us, as the table was empty, and he obliged, but an hour later he raised the limit again, and told us we were NOT grandfathered in - which I have never heard of! We decided to head over to the Wynn for some Peach Chip fun.

My 1-3NL bad luck continued, as I got stacked early on set-under-set to a nice crazy Asian lady, and continued to run into roadblocks at every flop, as BigShow build up a $1200 profit in the game! It was uber-fishy, and at least he took some of the money I was unable to capture. When the Asian lady flopped a second set on me, I looked at her and laughed, and she cackled "I only like your money!" She seemed serious, as she liberally distributed my chips to the rest of the table.

My session was best summed up by the hand where I finally flopped a set: 2-2 on a K-K-2 board. Dirty Dave asked "What happened - KJ caught up to you on the turn?" No - at least that would mean I'd gotten action! Everyone checked to me on the flop, and I bet, POSITIVE that one of my 4 opponents had a king, but they folded like dominos. I laughed out loud and offered the tableside masseuse $10 if she'd give BigShow a wet willie. She declined, but a random dude at the table asked if he could claim it. I said sure, but he pussed out.

This is how fishy the game was: one fish sat down in the seat to my left, and turned to my chips, "Are these mine?" He asked. I looked at him. He was serious. "No, son. Those are mine. Get your own fucking chips," I told him, as other players watched in awe. I dropped $630 in 5 hours of peach chip hell, bringing my total poker loss on the trip to $1600.

We returned to the Frontier, where we were told that they indeed did NOT offer surrender. "Whoops - someone made a mistake the other night," I muttered, but the pitboss was clueless. I went on a rush, and like a true addict, bemoaned my $525 winning session: if I'd been playing the $100 game at the Wynn, I'd be up $2600! That's true degenerate thinking though, and I actually enjoy $25 blackjack more than $100, as I simply hate losing. Something about the utility tree, where although a big win is great, since I don't need the money, it doesn't seem to compensate from the anger of a big loss (which, still, shouldn't hurt as much if I can still pay the rent, but anyway...) Maybe I'm just a pussy when I don't have an edge.

We dragged ourselves back to Wynn, and played $25 PaiGow with two Asians at 4am. The Asian lady was betting $600 a hand, and the guy was betting $2100 a hand! I was just thankful that my ignorant Gaijin ass couldn't fuck up their hands by playing poorly - as a bad blackjack player could. Also, my PaiGow play is flawless, and nothing beats screaming paiGOW at 5am as you drop the $1.25 commission your winning bet. The lady hit quad aces for a nice bonus payout, and I staggered off to bed at 5:30, up $25, and captured 2 1/2 hours sleep before the brutal eastbound cross country flight home.

Overall, I finished up a few hundred in blackjack, and down $1600+ in poker. The games were ok - definitely different from the weekend games, but certainly beatable. The low limit no limit games (1-3NL) were very soft, but players frequently had short stacks to go along with their short skill. The Wynn 2-5NL games weren't consistently soft, but the Mirage 2-5NL game was definitely juicy.

As I left the hotel room, BigShow called after me: "We need to plan the next trip. How's October?"

until next time,

Friday, August 18, 2006

Vegas: Summer Slam 2006 - Part 1

There are Those Guys you see in Vegas - you know, MOST of them in fact. The Meatheads, screaming "Vegas Baby!" every 10 minutes, and wearing straw hats and shirts that say "Porn Star" on them. They pound drinks on the plane and burnout before they even arrive in The Promised Land. I'm not one of Those Guys. I've been to Vegas. I'm not a rookie - I'm not an amateur - I go to Vegas enough that I don't have to act like a douchebag while I'm there because it will not be a once in a lifetime experience for me. Yeah, I'll wear a Party Shirt when I go out, but it won't be made of silk, and it won't have flames, dragons, dice or $100 bills silk-screened on it.

Of course, I will quote Swingers in every possible situation:

"We're gonna be up five HUNDY by midnight!" - all the time

"I'll have the pancakes, in the Age of Enlightenment" - any time we order food

"If you hurry back I have a shiny silver dollar with your name on it," - after each tableside cocktail order

"I'm gonna make Gretzky's head bleed for Superfan 99 here," - glaring at the dealer, after putting multiple units in play at the blackjack table resplitting 8's against a dealer 6

This trip was a focused mission: Kid Dynamite and the Big Show. No posse, no wives, no girlfriends - just bankroll, Tylenol, and the focus of a special ops assassin. I planned the details of the trip with an anticipatory eye that the Douchebags would never take the care to use, with a careful analysis of everything from ticket purchase, to flight time, to seat selection, to carry on packing procedure.

I know from prior experience that NYC--> Vegas airfare is a volatile beast: and I flat out REFUSED to pay the $650+ that Delta, America West and JetBlue each wanted for a round trip ticket, but with a mere 2 weeks until departure, I was playing a very dangerous waiting game. I felt like I was firing a 3-barrel bluff at the Peach Chip game, and just praying my opponent wasn't fishy enough to call me down with Q high. I was blinded by a memory of a prior trip I had booked on short notice, where the prices were similar, but as I checked each day, I had been able to scoop a ticket for sub $350 one day less than a week before the flight, like the Young Grasshopper snatching the stone from the Sensei's hand.

This time, I again waited... and waited... Unfortunately, the week before I was to go to Vegas, I'd be away from internet access, and may not be able to fully exploit potential fare bargains, so I scooped a $485 roundtrip rate on JetBlue 11 days prior to my trip. Of course, there were still issues to decide: do I take the 11am flight or sleep in and take the 1pm? Dirty Dave answered: "Easy - you're already missing work, so you take the 11am." As for seat selection, JetBlue complicates things by showing you a bullshit map of the plane that shows the seats at the back of the plane having "more" legroom or something (which empirical evidence suggests is total crap). As any experienced traveler knows, it's best to sit in the front of the plane, get the fuck off and beat the taxi line when you land. However, there was the additional potential for an "empty middle seat" freeroll in row 24, so I dropped the hammer on seat 24F.

Then, 3 days before my trip, some new terrorist shit goes down, and all liquids and gels are banned from carry on bags. I again consult my sensei, Dirty Dave, with my options:

a) check my bag and eat the time waiting at the baggage carousel.

b) ditch the toothpaste, deodorant and hair gel, carry my bag on, and replace the toiletries at a higher cost in Vegas, hopefully paid for by the winnings I incurred at the tables while I was NOT waiting for my bag at baggage claim.

Like Confucius, Dirty Dave replied, "Check the bag- the familiar toiletry brand will prevent you from TILTing off your stack with AQ..." and just like that, it was done.

The driver of the car I had called to take me to JFK was a tremendous character, but very hard to describe. When we drove past a film crew shooting on 10th street, he began to regale me with a story, in heavily broken and accented English, of a time back in his home village in Pakistan where they were shooting a movie. There was a scene where a man grabbed up a woman on the back of a carriage, but unfortunately, a Hero came to the lady's rescue, thinking she was being kidnapped. This hero (not part of the movie!) pulled out a machete, and the police arrived just in time, explaining that it was just a movie.

He then explained to me how in his village it was ok to look at someone else's wife once. The second time, you had a problem, and the third time, they would kill you. Also, it was ok for a man to have multiple wives, but a woman could only have one husband. Furthermore, if he were to marry a woman, and found out that she had a prior boyfriend, he would be justified in killing this ex-boyfriend. I sat back and smiled, enjoying his tales, and thanked him for the stories, as I arrived at JFK.

The airport security wasn't bad at all, and when I finally boarded my flight, I relished in the potential for an empty middle seat. As each person boarded, I sweated their seat selection - as if I'd just been called 3 times after raising in early position with AK and deep stacks, and was waiting for the flop. When they finally closed the plane door, my middle seat was still empty, and I let out a muffled howl, much to the confusion of the woman in the aisle. I was unable to find a way to comfortably optimize the two seats, trying to have the courtesy to not rub my ass up against the elbow of this woman, as I attempted in vain to curl my almost 6-foot frame into these two seats. After then trying the patented "diagonal straight legged stretch," also to no avail, I finally settled for some extra legroom, and, unable to sleep, was brainwashed into watching shitty daytime programming.

Seriously: what is the big fucking deal with JetBlue's in flight DirectTV service? Am I the only person in the world who couldn't care less about watching the Celebrity Poker Showdown marathon on Bravo, or Rachel Ray on the Food Network? (confession - those were the best shows I could find) I was happy to watch Sportscenter - but fine - that's 30 minutes - and ESPN airs it on a repeat loop all morning. By the 3rd hour of the flight, I was tempted to try to hustle one of the idiots in front of me, "Hey - I bet you this guy charges the mound."

Landing in Vegas, I was only mildly tilted by the baggage carousel, but quickly reversed that TILT when the taxi-line, which can be a serious Vegas buzzkill, was non-existent. I arrived at the Wynn before 2pm, and was told that there were no rooms with two beds ready yet, so I checked my bag and hit the Office - the Poker Room.

The Peach Chip 1-3NL game was soft, so I sat in it, and crushed it for 5 hours to the tune of $228, while I waited for the Big Show to arrive. Somewhere in the middle of my session, I returned to the front desk and secured a room: 1444. Now, I'm a somewhat superstitious guy, and everyone knows that 4 is the death number according to Asian gamblers. At the same time, there is another hard and fast rule amongst gamblers: you don't want to mess with Karma, which is why if you go to buy a lottery ticket, and you get the wrong numbers by accident, you HAVE to keep that ticket and buy the correct numbers: you NEVER cancel a printed lottery ticket, or it will win, of course.

So, I cringe, and ask the woman behind the desk, "Oy, you wouldn't give that room to an Asian guest would you?" "No way honey," she practically taunts me, "they'd never stay in any room with a 4 in it."

"Ummm, but this one is a good one, right?" I'm desperate now, despondent that I'd just been saddled with a triple 4: hoping that somehow MORE 4's would cancel each other out or something. "You bet - this is a VERY lucky room," she spews the corporate bullshit at me, and I promise to come back at the end of my trip and take care of her if she was right. It wasn't until later, when I finally made it to my room at 4am, that I realized that the situation was potentially even MORE dire: the hotel maintains the superstition of not having a 13th floor: so the 14th floor is really the 13th floor! Aiyahh!

Anyway, BigShow arrived, and I picked up from the Peach Chip game, as we headed off to play some blackjack. As our cordial dealer at the Wynn 6-deck shoe (the only 6-deck shoe we'd play all week) crushed me to the tune of $400, and laughed at our jokes, I asked her, "Have you ever met Steve Wynn?" "Yeah - but not really face to face," she explained. "Do me a favor," I asked her. "Sure - what's that?" She was eager to please. "Next time you see him, tell him to go fuck himself," I smiled, and she laughed out loud as BigShow let out a howl, nearly coughing his beer on the table like Men the Master.

Although I'd already enjoyed a fine poker-table-side tuna sandwich, BigShow was hungry, so we hit the PandaExpress at the Venetian food court. "Is that John Juanda?" I joked, pointing to an Asian guy 3 tables away. BigShow laughed and countered, "Luckbox?"

I took a second look at the guy, and fired again: "It's Billy Chen!" BigShow checked him out and agreed - holy shit - none other than two time 2006 WSOP bracelet winner Bill Chen. As we made our way down to check out the Venetian poker room, we bumped into Bill at the tournament sign up, where he explained that he was there for BARGE, and I salivated like one of Pavlov's dogs at the chance to circle Phil Gordon, who was sure to be in the House.

The Venetian poker room is nice: very roomy, spreading hold'em from 3-6 to 40-80, with 1-2NL and 2-5NL. They also have a decent daily tourney with 30 minute rounds and adequate starting stacks. The problem is, like the rest of the Venetian, they seem to pump some sort of horrible perfumed aroma into the place. I'm sure this aroma was scientifically designed to make people happy and dump their money in the casino, but I must be allergic to it because it drives me absolutely fucking crazy. I go on TILT just smelling the Venetian. The tournament didn't work out for me, and I went to the board while I waited for BigShow to bust out.

"Do you have any seats open?" I asked, ready to play anything. "I'll put you on the lists, Dear," the woman told me. "Nothing open at all?" I didn't come to Vegas on a Monday to wait on lists! "I have a stud seat: 1-5 limit," she told me, and I laughed: "I'll take it!" Do you know who the fuck I am? Kid Dynamite plays any and all games!

I sat down in the 1-5 Stud rock garden, where the players each had about $20 in front of them. On the first hand I folded an ace, drawing some eyebrows. "I'm a hold'em player," I explained, and they started salivating. "Hold'em players are the ones who love to play aces in stud!" they drawled, shocked. I just smiled. I played 5 hands before I was called for the $9-$18 limit hold'em game, stacking a guy for $13 in the process, when my 2-2-A-K-x-x-x crushed his 2-2-A-9-x-x-x busted flush draw.

I returned to the cage to color-change my chips: the 9-18 game uses the chocolate colored $3 chips. I posted the $6 small blind, and looked down at 3-3. The action went like this: UTG limps, UTG+1 calls, UTG+2 raises. folded to the button, who calls, as do I, the BB, and the two limpers.

The flop is K-6-2 with 2 spades. I check. BB checks. UTG bets. UTG+1 raises. Initial raiser makes it $27. UTG calls. UTG + 1 raises to $36, and the preflop raiser makes it $45. UTG and UTG+1 call.

The turn is a Q. UTG bets. UTG+1 calls. Preflop raiser raises. UTG re-raises, UTG +1 calls, Preflop raiser finally just calls. There is a MOUNTAIN of chocolate $3 chips in the pot at this point.

The river blanks off, and UTG checks (???). UTG+1 checks his busted flush draw, and the preflop raiser tables his AA, which is no good of course, UTG has a set of 6's (horrible river check!)

After 3 more hands, I'm called to the 1-2NL game, and carry my rack of $3's to this table. "I guess I'll go change these chips again, unless you guys want me to use the doodee colored chips," I mock, as a few players laugh. I go to the cage to change the chips, but BigShow sidles up, busted out of the tournament, so we decide to instead tackle the deep penetration double deck game at the Frontier.

At the Frontier, we benefited from a dealer who didn't know that they did NOT allow surrender, and even made the mistake of offering the angle-shooting BigShow the ultimate freeroll: she had an ace showing, and asked if anyone wanted insurance. BigShow turned his 16 over and said "surrender," which she obliged, BEFORE checking her hole card! She returned 1/2 of BigShow's bet, and then proceeded to turn over her blackjack, and sweep the rest of the bets! Angle Shoot of the Week by the BigShow.

When the pit boss came by later to change the decks, I asked her, as I've asked every pit boss for the last 4 years, "Can I have a joker," as she peeled them out of the new deck. She hands me the joker, and I'm flat out shocked. I look at her with my mouth open, "Can I have another one?" and she hands me a blue deck joker to complement my red deck joker. BigShow immediately pipes in "Let's go hit the PaiGow table," and I'm laughing out of control (in PaiGow, jokers actually play, which is only ONE of the reasons the casinos never EVER give them to a player.) I'm extremely grateful for the jokers, finally successful after years of asking, but turn to BigShow and mutter, "this probably means they're tearing the place down in 6 weeks."

I cash out of the Frontier +$257, and get a $16 cheeseburger at the Wynn to take up to my room before crashing at 4am. I lie in bed twitching like a cockroach - the burger, red bull, and vodka at WAR in my stomach and central nervous system, and I swear there are bedbugs eating me. I periodically turn on the lights to check and verify that there are actually not any bugs in the bed, and notice that BigShow is still not back. He rolls in around 8am, having hammered the Wynn craps game and double deck blackjack graveyard shift.

stay tuned for part two, which will include a world class call by Kid Dynamite in a big NLHE pot, taking cards off the table at the Wynn Peach Chip game, the best steak I've ever had, and BigShow sticking a fork in me by putting a violent bad beat on me at the Mirage NLHE game.

until next time,

Sunday, August 13, 2006


Me and the Big Show are off to Vegas Monday through Wednesday. There is a chance I'll be able to bump into Chops, if he's not too busy hobknobbing with the kings of poker.

If you're in Vegas this week, look for me in the usual spots:

-Behind a mountain of chips in a NL game at Wynn or Mirage
-Tilting dealers in the IP Champagne Pit double deck blackjack game
-Angling for a cabana comp at one of any number of pools
-getting stacked in the WPT All-In Hold'em table game at Harrah's
-Screaming "Pai GOW!" as I scoop a Pai Gow hand at the Mirage
-Screaming "Hassan HABBBBIIIIIIIIIB" as I spike a 3 outer in NLHE
-The only guy under 70 years old in an early morning Omaha8 6-12 game
-Rocking the deep penetration double deck bj game at the Frontier
-Fully Tilted, wandering inside of Caesar's trying to find the way out.

trip report to follow, of course.

until next time,

Friday, August 11, 2006

Oscar Update

Here are a few pics of my boy, Oscar, from our week off last week. He was in heaven; jumping in the long grass in Nantucket, playing with our friend's 140 lb. Newfoundland, Paco, riding in the Jeep, and chomping on a lobster tail in Hyannis. The high life - Stud. If anyone knows how I can get this guy on TV or in film, let me know.


Thursday, August 10, 2006


So I'm back from vacation - weekend in Nantucket and 3 days on the Cape. Oscar had the time of his life - pictures and stories to come. I'm off to Vegas on Monday for three days, and I'll have to bang out a quality post about my vacation tomorrow (along with plenty of Oscar pics - don't worry), but first, I must rant...

DOUCHEBALLS... 3 come to mind, first and foremost:

1). These fucking terrorists with the plan to blow up planes out of England. Apparently this is a big fucking deal, and these doucheballs were actually close to attempting some sort of shit, because the airlines have banning all sorts of carry on items including all beverages, and any sort of gel: like toothpaste or hairgel. This puts me to a very tough EV decision for which I must consult with Dirty Dave: when I go to Vegas on Monday, I am clearly planning on just carrying my bag onto the plane. However, with the new policy, I can't bring toothpaste or hairgel, and who knows if they'll change their mind about deodorant.

So, do I check my bag and blow another 25 minutes at the luggage carousel, OR, do I leave all that crap at home and pay the Wynn Gift Shop premium for toiletry items, using the 25 minutes saved to try to make up the cost by dominating the Peach Chip Game? A raw EV dilemma...

2) Maurice Clarett. From national champion and future superstar, to imminent convict with a $5 million bond on his head. Instead of a $5 million NFL contract, Clarett landed a $5MM bond after he was arrested following a police chase, wearing a bulletproof vest, and carrying 4 weapons, including an AK-47. The bail is so high because "they were concerned that Clarett was driving with the guns only a few blocks from the home of a woman who was set to testify against him next week in an alleged robbery outside a Columbus bar." Maybe Clarett didn't realize that you don't actually have to be a hitman to play for the Mahoning Valley Hitmen, one of five teams in the Eastern Indoor Football League, where Clarett was supposed to play because he fucked up his life and blew his NFL opportunities.

I hope Clarett and his people don't hunt me down for talking shit about him, but really, this guy is exhibit A in the "Wasted Opportunity" file. Congrats, Doucheball!

3) Jamie Gold: Final Table WSOP Main Event chip leader, and possible soon-to-be World Champion. Now, admittedly, Gold has certainly not achieved the same level of Doucheballery as the terrorists or Clarett, but his comments about how he'd rather come in second, and how he doesn't want to be famous certainly qualify him as a doucheball. The boys at Wickedchops have all the Jamie "don't call me Ari" Gold background details.

I worry that I'm being too harsh on poor Jamie, but when I read a quote like this: "There might be a story,'' Gold said, "if I dump at the end because I don't want to be famous,'' I really have to wonder...

until next time,

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Tipping Point

The Red Sox failed to make a big name trade as MLB's trade deadline passed. The Yankees dipped into their limitless coffers to fork out $22mm for Bobby Abreau, the best hitter available. Trot Nixon is out for at least 3 weeks, Jason Varitek twisted his knee, a virtual death sentence for a catcher, and David Wells failed miserably in his return from the disabled list, getting spanked for 8 runs in 4-odd innings. I went to bed thinking "this could be the turning point in the season, and not in a good way." With the Sox trailing 8-6, they'd fall into a tie with the Yankees for first place.

Then David Ortiz took over.

Big Papi's walkoff 3-run HR is simply superhuman - because he does it so often. Five walkoff hits in the last 51 days. Clutch? No. Invincible . Ortiz has approached a status in Boston that few before have attained. Boston's holy sports trinity has always been Larry Bird, Bobby Orr and Ted Williams, but it seems like Ortiz is approaching Bird-like status - simply as clutch as one can possibly be. Infallible.

And for anyone who is really wondering why opposing pitchers don't pitch around Ortiz in these situations, the answer is simple: with men on base, you cannot put Ortiz on to pitch to Manny Ramirez. Ortiz knows this, and made damn sure the Sox didn't lose Manny in the past offseason.

In other news, I was severely TILTED today when I head about this company. They sell ice made from spring water... But wait - it's not even frozen: you buy these little prepackaged water packs that look like miniature pudding containers, and then you put them in the freezer. WHAT THE FUCK? Seriously - I want to know who the fuck is buying these things. Why wouldn't you just buy a bottle of water and pour it into your ice tray if you're into purified ice? Even if you buy this dumb ass product, you still have to put it in the freezer! Aiyahh! I'm fucking steaming that there are a bunch of French doucheballs somewhere getting rich off this shit. FUCK.

that is all.