Posting my entries into the BBT writing contest today. I'm doing Part 2 first. Here's a tragi-comedy on the dangers of the delayed final table:
The Delayed WSOP Finale (A Five Minute Tale of a Four Month Delay)
Nov. 10, 2:55 a.m.
Even as the ace fell on the river I kept one eye on the stands.
Underneath my left hand were two cards – an ace and a king. My right hand was in my pocket, clutching the knife I bought at the Downtown pawn shop, just in case.
The crowd went wild when the ace fell. Truth was, they didn’t know me from Adam. They were just here to watch the final table of the good ol’ W-S-of-P and they knew that history had just been made. So they cheered. I, degenerate gambler and sports bettor extraordinaire, had just become the world champion of poker when my Big Slick outran my opponent’s pocket queens when we got it all in before the flop.
And even still I couldn’t rest easy. Because when you’ve got ten mil in your pocket, your debtors are going to come calling, and I didn’t plan to part with the money so easily.
I received the standard hearty congratulations from Jack Effel, Jeffrey Pollack, Nolan Dalla and the rest of Harrah’s brass. There was the official post-tournament interview and the presentation of the bracelet, but I just wanted to get the hell out of there. In a previous life I would have enjoyed the attention. “Damn that delayed final table,” I muttered under my breath.
July 14, 11:30 p.m.
I doubt you’ve ever seen nine people with bigger grins on their faces. Once Phil Hellmuth was eliminated in tenth place, kicking chairs over on his way out the door, our lips turned up quickly and precipitously toward our ears as we rose from our seats to shake hands and give high fives. Guaranteed a million with a chance at ten million. It was hard to imagine. Still there was four months to let it all soak in and, after each collecting our guaranteed money, now was time to celebrate.
My wife and I partied with the rest of the “November Nine” at the VooDoo lounge, stories above the desert floor at the Rio. I recalled the last time I was here in 2006, watching Joe Sebok macking on Shannon Elizabeth at the official WSOP party. This affair was smaller if not any less subdued, as we drank ourselves into a foggy stupor while gazing at the neon city.
“Does it get any better than this?” I asked while standing next to Barry Wainwright on the lounge’s balcony.
“Sure, it does,” replied the 39-year-old chiropractor from Yonkers, N.Y. “One of us is going to win the damn thing.”
Nov. 10, 3:45 a.m.
A man with a million bucks in his pocket can be a danger to himself.
I returned to some old habits when I went back home to Alabama, like picking the Crimson Tide to cover the spread, which is always a dicey proposition. And I was doing this betting with some mean sons of bitches from Walker County, where legend has it that if you want a fellow whacked you write his name on a piece of paper and insert it into a particular stump along with one Benjamin. I got indebted to these sons of bitches for a lot more than a Benjamin. In fact, you could probably buy an entire mobile home community with the money I owed these jokers, one of whom I spotted in the stands two hours before my victory.
With that kind of debt, playing poker for ten million on ESPN was not the best option, but what choice did I have? When I got back to Alabama I’d figure out another plan, but for now I had to make it back home first.
So after collecting my check and my wife, I didn’t bother going back to my room for my luggage before attempting to hail the nearest cab for McCarran. Our feet had barely hit the sidewalk at the Rio’s convention area entrance when Rufus stepped out from behind a palm tree with a gun in his hand.
“Where y’all going in such a hurry?” he asked. “You’ve got some debts to pay, boy.”
“I was coming to see you as soon as I got back to Tuscaloosa,” I replied, as I slid my right hand toward my pocket.
“Keep your hands right where they are!” Rufus shouted as he eyed my movement. His loudness had now captured the attention of the few people milling around the valet area. Thank God, I thought. Maybe someone would call the police.
“How do I have any assurances that you’re not going to run and hide when you get back home?” Rufus continued. I got mad just looking at this ugly sack of shit.
“I think you need to go ahead and give me some collateral now, and when we get back to Alabama we’ll figure out the rest. Hand over the check, boy.”
“That’s not going to happen, Rufus,” I said with fake confidence. “Just let us be and we’ll talk back home.” I hoped he couldn’t discern the nervousness in my voice. Bluffing with a gun in your face is a lot tougher than bluffing on the poker felt.
“The check or a bullet in your gut, whichever you prefer,” Rufus said as he cocked his .45.
As soon as the gun clicked, Rufus dropped to the ground in a blur. He had been tackled by a beast of a man with silver hair and glasses. Holy crap, I thought. It’s T.J. freakin’ Cloutier! With his linebacker’s shoulders and forearms, the 69-year-old Texan held Rufus face down on the pavement. In the Canadian Football League he’d have been called for holding.
“What do you want me to do with this punk?” Cloutier barked.
He heard no response and looked around, but we were nowhere to be found. We had already hightailed it to a cab to the airport.