Over the past week, I’ve seen quite a bit. Last night, a 75-year-old man fell down beside me. I thought he just tripped. When ten security guys came to his aid and eventually took him by force out of the poker room, I realized he was drunk. Thirty minutes later, another man who had been playing $1/$2 NL all night was nearly dragged from the room by security after spilling a drink all over a table full of people who hated him. Last week, a man literally stood in his chair and rained handfuls of $100 bills down on the table while he was making a bet. All the while, two guys were sitting over at a back table playing Chinese sbo Poker for $100 a point.
And all around them there are people playing everything from $4/$8 to games that could fund the Salvation Army for a year. Ask any of the 2500 people in the poker warehouse if they are a card player, and 99% of them will look up from their cards just long enough to say, “What does it look like, asshole?”
So, this particular night, I’d gone to the Mirage. Minutes before I walked out the door of my hotel, I’d been in the cash game area of the WSOP and found myself tilting for the first time in as long as I could remember. A tattooed kid from Alaska entered the flop in a capped pot and called my kings all the way down to the river with an ace, which hit on the river. No draw, three outs. When he check-raised me on the river, I lost my cool for the first time ever at a poker table. “Did you hit that fucking ace?” He turned it up. I scanned the board and saw two spades. “Did you even have fucking spades?”
“Nope,” he said, as he pulled in the mountain of reds. “I just felt it.”
I composed myself, mentally elbowing my side, and reminding myself that I’m not the guy that gets mad at the table. “I picked up the remainder of my chips, said “good game, guys,” and walked out.
I needed a change of scenery and walked straight for the cab line. It was full of drunk 20-somethings, chugging their drinks so they wouldn’t have to throw them away before getting in the cab. In the middle of the storm was the venerable Barry Greenstein, clutching an armload of his new books. I wondered why he didn’t have a car. By the time I was done wondering, I was sitting in the card room at the Mirage.
I sat down at a $6/$12 table and ordered a hot chocolate. Before long, two kids from Denmark, in town to play in the main event, sat down at the table. One beside me was painfully drunk and very talkative. For an hour, he and his buddy battled, essentially heads up for bragging rights, not caring much who got caught in the middle. When one of them left, the guy sitting to my right seemed embarassed. He explained that they’d been drinking for a long time and were just blowing off some steam.
The kid then said he wanted to play his best game, regardless if he was playing $40/$80 or $6/$12. I smiled and thought it impossible. Then he surprised me and seemed to sober up immediately. He started playing a good tight-aggressive game. He pegged me for a solid player, it seemed, and stayed out of my pots. Before long, we got to talking. For a solid hour, we talked bankroll management, strategy, and all things poker and poker life related. I realized, just about the time the floor people put out finger sandwiches and danishes, that I was having a good time again. When I check-raised from the big blind with an open-ended straight draw and pushed an early-position limper off the flop, my buddy from Denmark whispered, “I don’t know if you had it or not, but I like the way you played that.”
Ordinarily, I’d take that kind of comment as the ramblings of a drunk kid or a seasoned pro trying to needle me a bit. This time, though, I thought he was being sincere. And I found msyelf thinking, You know, I like the way I played that, too.
I left the game later, a little bit to the good, and hopped in the cab. Eventually, I would get back to the hotel, walk into the elevator and slump into the corner. Before the doors closed, Chris “Jesus” Ferguson jumped in with wild eyes and the look of a guy who has been at a club all night.
“Howya doing?” he said.
“I can’t complain,” I said.
“You’re about the only one,” he said with a smile.
As he got off on his floor, he said, “Seeya around.” I looked at my watch and realized he had just a few hours to sleep before his tournament started.
In the taxi, the cabbie had asked, “Are you a card player?”
At the time, I barely thought before responding, “Yeah, I’m a card player.”
It was an easy response to an easy question. But sometimes, responses aren’t answers.
And frankly, I’m not sure I know the answer to that question. What’s more, I’m not sure I want to know.