My suitcase looked like a mobile pharmacy. I had two bottles of painkillers, one envelope of blood pressure medicine, a few sheets of high-powered blood thinner, a vial of fish oil, some anti-cholesterol tablets and a whole galaxy of vitamins, E, D, C, calcium and senior multis.
I finally got the chance to meet – in person – my good friend and business partner, Alex “Assassinato” Fitzgerald.
During a break at the World Series Of Poker, I surprised him, walking up alongside in a Rio hallway. He initially veered away as I approached, as if John Lennon somehow recognized Mark Chapman before the shooting started.
I reached out my hand, he might’ve flinched. “Jack Welch,” I said.
His eyes expressed disbelief. “Dude, you’re huge.” Hard to respond to that.
“Really, you’re big as a bear. Jesus.”
“Good to meet you.” He was obviously in tournament mode, not absorbing much external stimulus.
“Those photos weren’t life-size,” I noted as I gave him – of all things – a bear hug.
Alex was sitting at Table 87. He’s been playing so very, very, very well. I thought I would rail him for the first time ever live. Couldn’t do it. Found myself getting sick to my stomach. Suppose he starts playing badly? Suppose I’m a jinx? I left. So, it was definitely not my fault he made his first boneheaded play of the WSOP and got knocked out. Not my fault.
Now feeling somehow released from potential jinx status, I returned for the next tourny. I found Alex in seat 3, nattily clad in a Sid Vicious t-shirt. I stood on the rail directly in front of him. Me, a “bear of a man” in a blue and white checked shirt, unfortunately high on the light-in-the-loafers scale. I stood there for a full five minutes without a glimmer of recognition from him.
Hell, my shirt even has epaulets.
His focus was somehow startling. I’d be scared to play with the man.
The first two days, I forgot I was carrying my camera. When the third day arrived, I remembered but didn’t pull it out.
I was interested somewhat in catching sight of certain TV poker celebrities, but they all seemed somehow washed out, less brilliant than when appearing on ESPN or Poker After Dark. In real life, the lighting is different. Daniel Negreanu was hamming it up for the crowd gathered around his table.
The only player I really wanted to interview was Phil Ivey and he is not here. I confirmed there is no truth to the rumor Jimmy Fricke is buying Howard Lederer’s share of Full Tilt. I would like to ask Howard when I might get my money back. And I would like to get Norm Chad’s autograph. Doesn’t everybody?
Saw my first mullet haircut today. Typically, on a normal day alone inside my own home, I am not as poorly clad as these vacationers at the Gold Coast. Here, I somehow manage to be overdressed in a clean pair of jeans and a crisp long-sleeved shirt.
I was initially surprised when I overheard every player in the hallway on his cellphone telling a bad beat story. Then I realized the tourny wasn’t on break.
When the break did start, it dawns on me, many of these MTTs have larger populations than the town I grew up in. The difficulty of winning a bracelet become much more concrete when you see the actual people who must be defeated. One man vs. an army.
No wonder this has become a young man’s game. My back hurts just looking at the chairs the players must sit in, hour after hour after hour.
Since the WSOP and the Rio generously saw fit to bestow upon me a press pass, I feel obliged to offer this observation – I never personally experienced a single problem. Thank you, Nolan Dalla.
Speaking of the Gold Coast. To be honest, I have stayed in worse places… a motel in Port Arthur, Texas, in 1990, comes to mind. I have a problem paying $12.99 daily for in-room Wi-Fi. A refrigerator can be had, if one can be found, for 15.99 weekly. There is no poker room. The cocktail waitresses are fully clothed. There aren’t even any “casino girls” hanging around. For those of you not in the know, a casino girl is a streetwalker who appreciates air-conditioning.
As for the Rio, it goes without saying it has a poker room or two. The press room at least has free Wi-Fi. The cocktail waitresses are wearing semi-see-through lace mini-dresses. More revealing than anything my wife might’ve worn back in the day to surprise me on our anniversary. Seriously, I have seen bigger bandannas.
I was once denied entry to a popular night spot because I was too old. And that was 20 years ago. So, please look elsewhere for info regarding the hot clubs in Sin City.
Truth be told, most of these places don’t even open their doors until my bedtime and most don’t start rockin’ until about the time of my first nocturnal bathroom visit.
Some candles only have one end.
Who am I kidding? I don’t want to go to a club that’ll let me in. How much fun would that be?
Then there are the shows. Nothing appealed to me but Wiz Khalifa at the Hard Rock and he’s been sold out for two weeks.
The Stratosphere beckons with BITE. “Topless Vampires. Classic Rock.” I am so over classic rock. But breasts? Their appeal continues.
I find myself playing video poker, instead of simply setting afire one $20 bill after another. An ATM, free drinks and video poker…what could possibly go wrong?
The whole week, I managed but one trip to the cashiers’ window.
So, I am walking through a big name casino, just passing by, I overhear some drunk pleading with an Asian woman with a skirt up to her hoohah. “Would you lick my ass for 300?” You had me at rim job….
More disappointing news from the WSOP. I have been here five days and no one has yet mistaken me for Patrick Antonius. Who, by the way, I never did see.
At dinner with Alex, Paul Varano and Faraz Jaka, I offer the following question, “Is winning a result or a procedure?” Hoping, of course, you can be a winner without an actual victory. That the way you compete and conduct yourself is a triumph in itself. To a man, they agreed I was probably full of crap. To be a winner, you have to win.
I leave town before the Main Event, feeling slightly overwhelmed. What a roller-coaster.
Ultimately, I decided this trip has been an exploration, a Beta test, for future visits. I know now what to expect next time, what to do next year. Proof once again, you can teach an old dog new tricks.
Next year, for example, I will bring more money.
Tomorrow’s supposed to be hotter.
Las Vegas is somebody’s idea of heaven and somebody else’s vision of hell. I am thinking they are both right. - JDW
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