I got up just in time to grab a buffet (breakfast and an ice cream sundae) before the tournament. I found my seat and glanced up at the televisions hung above the tables in the Gold Strike poker room. On the screen was an ad for the ESPN poker show "Tilt," a promo I had seen at least a hundred times in the last few weeks. The audio was on mute, but I could hear in my head the old man counseling the young bucks, who I suppose could be better looking versions of Phil Ivey, Jennifer Harman and pick your favorite twentysomething dark-haired pro.
"If you want to hurt him in a cash game, you've got to get out of the kiddie pool and start making moves," the poker Yoda said of the Matador, the apparent big shot of the show.
Unlike drama, in the real poker world there is no one stud in poker. You've got a collection of names who at one time or another will accomplish something (say, win a tournament or get busted for drugs) and get their name in the spotlight. And then you have some no-name like Chris Moneymaker or Greg Raymer who seemingly pops up out of nowhere. I guess that's my goal too. It's all I have.
I certainly wasn't going to do it Saturday in a $500 limit tournament, but you've got to pay your dues and work your way up. Unlike at the Grand Casino, the folks at the WPO allow players to have electronic devices so I popped out my iPod and settled into the six seat of table seven.
The tournament was spread from the Gold Strike poker room to the main tournament area in the ballroom down the hall, over to the Shoe and more tables set up in the back of that casino. I had a seat in the Gold Strike poker room, but would have preferred a seat in the ballroom with its 50 or so tables. You feel like you're more a part of the action when you're playing in there.
The tournament was sadly another short one for me thanks to a beat from drawout artist extraordinare in the eight seat. This fellow would call with any two suited cards in the BB to a raise and seemed to make a flush or other winning hand nearly every time. He crippled me when I raised with QQ and he called. The flop was 7-10-J with two hearts. He called my bet. The turn was a duece of hearts. He called again. The river was an 8 and I checked. He bet and I made a crying call. While the guy loved to chase, he usually had it when he bet. He turned over 88, hitting the set on the river. He did have a gut straight draw on the flop and picked up a medium flush draw on the turn, but those aren't the kinds of chances you want to put your tournament life on. I was eliminated in short order after that drubbing.
I waited a couple of hours for another $10-$20 seat and was put at another tough table with a bunch of ringers in it. George, a retired heart surgeon from Miami sitting to my left, kept bragging on me and the two guys to my right, saying how good we are, but he had nearly $1,000 chips in front of him.
"Sometimes pigeon flies like eagle and shits on your head," he said.
George, who said he knows Sam Farha, was full of interesting tales, including one of Bill Gates playing a white chip game at the Bellagio. Supposedly, the high limit players in the back sent a letter inviting Gates to leave the $6-$12 game and join them. Gates allegedly sent word back that he would join the pros' game only if they raised the stakes to $1 million-$2 million. Both offers were declined.
I escaped from that tough game happily with an $80 win, but decided late at night to try my luck in another $10-$20 game. Even though the game was easier, I booked a $150 loss. Perhaps it was due to the distraction of the rather plump man getting a deep massage from a hot chick to my right. Perhaps it was just bad luck. Perhaps it was playing too late. Poker, like life, is just one long session, so I can't worry about one weekend of misfortune.
I headed up to the room at about 5:30 a.m. to catch some zzzs before the drive home. In the elevator an Asian man spotted my World Series of Poker baseball cap.
"You play poker?" he asked.
"Not very well this weekend," I replied.
"You play poker too late," he said. "Poker makes you dead."