Sunday, March 09, 2008

Vegas - Leap Year 2008 - Part I

The key to success in Vegas is avoiding TILT. I know this. I know the plethora of pitfalls - the TILT-traps lurking all over the place. Still, somehow, I am never able to make it two hundred yards from my apartment door on the way to the airport without being simmered into a potentially furious state of bajungi TILT.
If you live in New York City you've been in enough dirty cabs with completely incompetent drivers to know that the smart play when you're going to the airport is to call a car service. You can get a nice town car for virtually the same price as a cab, and you have the expectation of a more comfortable ride, and hopefully a driver that knows how to avoid some of the airport traffic pitfalls. Of course, you have to give a little to get a little - and what you give is usually your olfactory sanity: the town cars are frequently perfumed with a more potent brain throbbing odor than the Venetian's signature smell.
As I looked out the window on Thursday morning at 8am, wolfing down a bowl of cereal, and searching for my car, my wife remarked, "Why do you bother with them? Why don't you just take a taxi?" I gently explained my reasons (see paragraph above!), but she was smirking and shaking her head when I was on the phone with the car service 10 minutes later, being told that my car was on 35th and 2nd Ave. Now, they are already 10 minutes late, and at least 20 minutes away. I not so politely informed the woman on the other end of the phone that this was not acceptable, and she suavely quashed my rant by telling me that she agreed with me. I hung up the phone, now on full tilt, especially since you can't SLAM a cell phone down, and hightailed it out the door to find a cab. There are times in New York when you can't find a cab: in midtown at rush hour, in the Village at midnight on Friday, and ANY time you are trying to get to the airport to make a flight. Of course, I'm standing in the street wearing a zipper down fleece, prepared for Vegas 70 degree weather, not the NYC 20 degree ice box I was now stuck in due to the complete incompetence of Allstate Car and Limo - NEVER use those cockchuggers. I managed to hail a mini-van cab - and since it was 8:30 on Thursday morning and I was going TO JFK instead of FROM JFK, was able to relax as we hit virtually no traffic.
I had time to stop at the US Airways check-in counter and move my seat to an exit row aisle, which turned into a nice parlay when the middle seat was empty as well! Alternating between the pages of Carl Hiaasen's Basket Case and 30 minute naps, I survived the flight (a mere 5 hours due to beneficial tailwinds) in good shape, save for some mild starvation. I hit Chops with the patented "The eagle has landed" text, which was quickly greeted with a "sweet - i was waiting for that" reply, followed by "Pure 9pm heads up red carpet." Chops, media mogul that he is, has VIP access to the red carpet session for the National Heads Up Poker Championship.
A bonus when you arrive in Vegas at noon on Thursday is that the cab line at McCarran is also non-existent, and I pulled out my sunglasses as I told my driver: "Palazzo." He repeated it back to me in a voice that sounded far too much like "The Plaza," so I reconfirmed, and he smiled knowingly. Cabbies in Vegas are always a fantastic source of information, even if not all of it is true. Hey - as long as the fucker doesn't try to take me "the fast way" on the highway, I'm happy to listen to stories about what's going on in town. This time, we talked about real estate - the incredible amount of development that's going on in Vegas still. Any doubts I had about the scale of the bubble were erased when we pulled up at the Palazzo and the cabbie handed me his card, telling me he was also a real estate broker. How do I short Las Vegas real estate? Man - getting back my deposit for a unit at the Cosmopolitan was probably the best financial decision I've made in the last 5 years.
I breezed through check-in at the Palazzo, handing the woman my credit card, as I confirmed, "The room is complementary, right?" Indeed - courtesy of the play of Big Show and Kid Dynamite at the Venetian on our prior trip, we'd been taken care of this time. Freerollllll! I dropped my bag in the room, which looked just like the rooms at the Venetian, and headed downstairs in search of sustenance. The Palazzo gaming floor is very spacious - high ceilinged and wide-aisled, it has a nice, roomy, not at all claustrophobic feel. I strolled into Dos Caminos - an upscale Mexican-fusion New York export, and had a margarita and some chipotle brisket taquitos at the bar, before heading over to the Venetian poker room.
Mildly tilted by the ill-advised directions I was given, I wandered aimlessly through the Grand Canal Shops as I checked in with Big Show who was still at work. Eventually, I found my way out, and was quickly seated in a 2-5NL game at the Venetian, where I sat down and raised the first FIVE hands I was dealt (99, AK, KQ, KQ, AK) - all the while trying to explain to the table that I had monster hands and was so lucky - shrugging as I continuation bet flops that missed me completely and taking down pots that surely did not belong to me. I escaped disaster when a doucheball limp-reraised me preflop and then check-raised me on the flop - oy vey - DYKWTFIA?!?!?! Several hands later I looked into the soul of another cockchugger to make a tremendous call, only to have him suck out and chop the pot with me. Unfortunately, an hour later, I started a trend for this trip - as I ran into an opponent holding the nuts for the first of at least 50 times.
Moving to the 5-10NL game, I treaded water for hours waiting for the Big Show. The game was mediocre - with several young pros I recognized from my previous trip - and I ran into the nuts two more times, stacking myself in the process. Finally, Big Show sent me a text letting me know he had landed, and I racked up down $650 and headed for the room. I explained to Big Show that Chops had the hookup at Caesar's for the NHUPC event, but that it was doubtful we'd be able to get into the party they had for the heads up bracket draw at Pure. Still, we decided to head over there, and dumped a buy-in at the Let-It-Ride table at Caesar's before the cellphone sprang to life: "CHOPS HERE."
We cruised over to the red carpet outside Pure, where Chops was set up with his camera girl Denise, doing interviews for Rawvegas.TV. Even though I thought I'd be infinitely more entertaining than Denise with the red carpet questions, she's a Playboy playmate, and her boobs are marginally nicer than mine, so Chops would not relent to my pleas to let me handle the mic. Rapidly a crowd gathered, as the who's who of poker royalty showed up. Everyone was there - but the great thing about these poker players is that they're just normal people - with a few notable exceptions they really don't know how to act like, or want to act like celebrities. Big Show was pretty grossed out by a few toothless Matusow groupies - a husband and wife team where the wife made Mikey sign her magazine and her jean jacket. When it became clear we wouldn't be able to get into Pure for the party, Big Show and I headed back to the Palazzo to dominate their double deck blackjack game.
Somehow, after squeezing out a blackjack at one point, I stood up and exclaimed "I. DRINK. YOUR. MILKSHAKE!" In the style of Daniel Day-Lewis's Daniel Plainview from There Will Be Blood. Now, it may not sound like much, but I can assure you it was hilarious, and UBER-tilt inducing for the dealers. They found it funny... for like the first 3 hours... Then, I could see carotid arteries throb each time Big Show or I would belt out I DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE after spiking a five card 21 or a blackjack. Sadly, we couldn't get our dealer to return the favor by taunting us when he rolled over a blackjack - which would have lessened the pain.
Finally, bombed and tired, Big Show and I took a walk around the casino floor around 3am, surveying the desperation and business proceedings. As the hookers at the bar trolled for customers, I pondered aloud to Big Show, "Maybe we can get a whore to eat her own poop..."
He just laughed in awe, as I hit the elevator and crashed for some much needed rest:
stay tuned for part II.

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