Poker goes Platinum: 2004 WSOP (Part 4)

“Oh the humanity!”
–Ignatius T. Reilly
Saturday, 11:30 AM
I wake up and see a crack of sunshine through the Hard Rock curtains, amazed that I’m not hung over. It’s like the scene in Pulp Fiction where Sam Jackson is shot at about 10 times, and looks down in confusion to find that all of the bullets missed him. I got up and guzzled the remainder of the $6 bottle of water (they could have charged me $60 at that moment and it wouldn’t have mattered), and by some strange trick of metabolism, discovered that I was neither drunk nor hungover, and was able to completely recall all the events of the previous night’s debacle.
One surreal episode that stood out was a trip to the Rio, who was hosting the Full Tilt Poker party. Flashback to Friday afternoon, the press room at the Horseshoe. The Blogfather and I sit down in front of a couple of PCs, and load up the old hotmail. I get a note from my buddy RDub, who tells me that the Tiltboys, Rafe Furst and Phil Gordon want to meet up with me. Yeah, you read that correctly. Surrounded by the insanity in Binion’s, and I’m supposed to hook up with two of the coolest people in poker at a high roller party at the Rio. I jot down Rafe’s number, and figure at the least we can probably get some free drinks out of it (wait, we’re surrounded by free drinks).
Of course, when we show up at the Party, there are about 5 bouncers who direct us to the VIP line. I tell them I should be on the list, as I wrote an article for this magazine, blah blah blah, and the guy shows me the list… it’s about 10 people long, and the only name I see is “Ben Affleck”. I call Rafe, but his phone is off, so we’ve got no way in. As I sadly wander away, we run into David Spade, who refuses our challenge to play heads up in his suite.
Back to the present. I down another bottle of water and wake up the crew, ready for some breakfast. We call Iggy’s hotel room, but he’s nowhere to be found, so M and I stumble hazily into a cab, steeling ourselves for the insanity we’ll shortly face at the Horseshoe. The first day of the big one, and we arrive at Binion’s at around 2:00 PM to battle our way through a huge crowd of observers. ESPN cameras and boom mikes hover around Hellmuth, Doyle sits calmly, and a crowd has gathered behind the window in back of Johnny Chan’s seat.
I’d never thought much of the WSOP. There’s just too much luck involved in winning one big tournament, and I never really understood all the hype. But sitting there, looking at the best of the best at the beginning of a 7 day shootout for all the money, I finally got it. It’s the experience. Nobody in this thing really expects to win, but the rush of playing the best in the world, and just having a chance… that’s what the WSOP is all about.
A bloody mary clears a little of the fog away, and after getting a feel for the tournament, we head over to the Nugget to try to (finally) play a hand of poker. But the wait is 50 players deep, and we stand around the beautiful poker room for a few minutes before finally sitting down to play some double deck blackjack. I finally hit a nice run of cards, and win around $200 after a few big bets. While we play a group of about 10 very scantily clad young ladies parade by, wearing very small shorts and shirts with PartyPoker logos. Our dealer tells us on their first trip by, they had nothing on top, except a little body paint. Oh the humanity.
M and I pocket our winnings and head back towards the Horseshoe to see what’s going on. In the Starbucks at the front of the Nugget, we run into Rafe and Phil, and I muster up the courage to introduce myself. Rafe apologizes for not getting us in the party, and tells us to pull up a chair after introducing us to Phil. Phil is on break, and downs a Subway sub as I ask him about strategy:
Phil: “I just want to win 200 BBs. That’ll put me in great shape if I can do that by the end of the day.”
H: “How’s your table? You got a good read yet?”
Phil: “They light up like Christmas trees when they’ve got a hand. I’m liking it.”
I talk to Rafe about the All In article and the blogs, and he is a really nice and laid back guy. He tells me that there is a huge Pot-Limit Omaha game going on, and I can see his eyes wandering back to a big hand he had played the night before. Chris “Jesus” Ferguson saunters up, and Rafe introduces M and I to the champ. The hangover is in full swing now, and I have absolutely no idea what’s going on anymore. We wish Phil luck and head back to the Horseshoe, and I marvel at the strangeness of meeting the Pokerati.
Still no Iggy. I ask M if we should check the jail, or perhaps see if anyone is scaling the Luxor, but we’re too tired, and decide to grab a cab back to the Hard Rock for dinner. About 2 minutes into the ride, the cabbie nearly plows into the back of a car in front of us, slamming on the brakes and jolting M and I awake. I make some joke about driving while asleep, and he jolts to life, loudly apologizing. He rambles on for a minute, and then I make the biggest mistake of the trip. Never, I repeat, never say the words “Taxicab Confessions” in a Las Vegas cab. I don’t know how it came out of my mouth, but those two magic words kicked off a string of the most vulgar invective and the most perverse tales I’d ever heard. Add to that the fact that the cabbie’s volume level seemed to be set to the max at all times, and my brain was in zombie state thanks to too many double shots, and you get an idea of the beauty of the cab ride home. I can’t repeat everything that was said, but the words “SNATCH” and “MUFF” were featured prominently in the tales, along with many other slang favorites. As we stepped out of the cab, he was still screaming vulgarity as I slammed the door and sprinted to the hotel.
We finally get in touch with The Blogfather, who tells us he continued last night’s drinking debacle at the Key Largo Casino (my favorite place to stay in Vegas), and just woke up. We plan to meet him after dinner, which we eat at a restaurant in the Hard Rock, called (I kid you not) “The Pink Taco”.
Leaving the vulgarity behind, M, Mrs. Double and I meet Iggy and head over to the Bellagio to try to play some real poker. Second verse, same as the first, and we’re denied yet again. The wait is endless (again over 50 people in front of us, and no one is getting up), so we grab some beers and wonder if we’ll play a single hand together on the entire trip. Jesus is there talking to some big wigs outside the poker room. I suspect that he’s following me.
A half hour goes by and we sadly give up, getting a cab back to the infamous Terrible’s casino. The craps dealers welcome us back with wry smiles, and disappointedly inform us that Don Rickles went home early. We recreate last night’s scene, although I refuse the double shots and stick to beer. The table is cold tonight though, and M quickly drops a bunch of red chips and begins to go all in on the pass line. After a couple crap rolls, he sits out, just as Iggy gets hot again and wins me back everything I’d lost on the table. M can’t take it anymore, and disappears, while Iggy continues to build my stack of chips. 2 minutes later, M returns with 2 black chips and a huge style, yelling “DOSTOEVSKY!” victoriously.
It’s 4 AM at Terrible’s, and Iggy and M are ready to play some poker. I hem and haw and try to weasel my way out, seeing as I can barely keep my eyes open. Of course Iggy pulls out the “I came 2000 miles to watch you go to sleep?” (easy to say when you sleep till 6 pm), and I reluctantly tell him of the tourist game at Excalibur. A short time later, we’re seated at the $100 buy in NL game with a bunch of young players who look a lot tougher than they play. I’m seated across the table from Iggy, and after a few missed flops, I find myself reraised holding JJ. I push my stack in, and he beats me into the pot and flips AA. Not a good start.
But after a couple of coffees I wake up, and start making moves. I think my first pot came after rivering my third 7 heads-up against Iggy, although he wisely folded to my all-in on the river. The last time I was in a pot with Iggy I rivered a straight flush with the lucky pocket sevens, beating his Ace high flush. Luck or Karma? You make the call.
I continued to build my stack as Iggy rolled off the quotes:
“I didn’t come to Las Vegas to fold.”
(after a drunk whooped it up after raking a $50 pot)
“Is this the world series?”
This one resulted in the dealer having to take a 30 second break because she was laughing so hard:
“Sometimes I pee when I sneeze.”
And my personal favorite, to a guy who’d done 3 tours in Vietnam, after the vet had told Iggy he was from Columbus:
Iggy: “So what part of Columbus are you from?”
Vet: “I’m surprised you don’t recognize me…”
Iggy: (completely straight faced) “I recognize you. There’s a statue of you out in front of the courthouse!”
Vet: (looking off into the distance) “It don’t matter, we’re all going to hell anyway.”
At the other end of a table, a seven foot kid with a World Series badge hanging from his jeans sat building his stack. It turns out he was playing in the big one in a few hours. I’m not sure which amazed me more: the fact that he was playing in this game at the Excalibur, or the fact that he wore his WSOP entry ticket on his waist. I thoroughly enjoyed bluffing him out of a couple pots, although to his credit, he seemed like a solid player. I played the hammer about 5 times, and unfortunately was never able to make a move with it. Grubby would have chided me for not going all in with so many opportunities, but the calling stations at the table weren’t going to lay down their hands.
Finally, at 9 AM, I could last no longer. To sleep, perchance to leave this great table, it wasn’t a rub. Normally I have no problem staying up for the whole weekend, but the double shots had taken their toll. I cashed out up $250, not bad after dropping my first buy in 15 minutes. It was a blast to play at the same table with The Blogfather, but I wished I had been more awake and that the competition would have been more interesting. M and I sadly said farewell to Iggy, and we agreed that we’d all be back next year.
The trip was a blast. I got to spend the weekend with 3 great people, and was able to see the poker boom come to fruition in the record-breaking tournament. Ignoring Mrs. Double’s slot losses, I ended up around $500 for the weekend. I’ll be back next year, and I strongly encourage anybody else who’s reading to join me. Thanks to Iggy for making the long trip back to his old stomping ground (and the double shots, I think).
The Golden Age of Poker is upon us. Without a doubt, 2004 will be the best year in history to be a poker player. Build your bankroll and get your game ready– now is the time.
Final Tally:
1. Best hand of the weekend?
A straight, 9 high.
–Nobody got this, but I’m giving this to Paul (the Intrepid Card Player) since I was hoping for this hand: “Full house, 7’s full of 2’s… (you will play the HAMMER, won’t you?)”
2. Number of beers consumed total, rounded to the nearest 10 (Iggy + HDouble)?
I’m going to conservatively estimate 70 here.
–Otis was closest with 60.
3. Number of big bets won/lost HDouble (if I can keep track)?
Since we played only no limit, this one is tough. I’m going to say that a winning 1.5 times the buy-in in a 4 hour NL session is roughly equivalent to around 4 BBs/HR in a soft limit game. So 16 BBs.
–Johnny FlopBoot was closest with 14.
4. Number of posts made from Vegas?
–Everybody was right about this one. I shouldn’t have even tried.
5. More money won (or less money lost) on blackjack or craps?
This one was close. I definitely won more money per hour playing Blackjack, but I think craps had a higher overall total win(the Friday night drunken blackjack session is foggy).
–Paul the Intrepid Card Player was the only one who said craps.
So the winner is… The Intrepid Card Player! Paul gets a copy of the premiere issue of “All In Magazine” for his wisdom (it’s not much, but hey, I’ve gotta support the wife’s slot habit).
Thanks for reading, and I hope to see everybody in Vegas next year!

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