I heard about Vegaspalooza from Gadzooks's blog a few weeks ago, and have had tonight marked on my calendar ever since. A bunch of poker bloggers were descending on Vegas, and a major part of the plan was a mixed game at the MGM Grand tonight. I made sure to not only be there, but to be the first on the list. In addition to making sure I got a seat, this also allowed me to establish that it would be a $2-4 game--my preference, since I accurately foresaw that the betting was going to get wild. When it's primarily for fun and bragging rights, why make it expensive?
I had never met any of these people before (except for Shamus, who showed up after his PokerNews gig ended for the day, too late to get in on the game, and really just a short time before everything broke up). I tend to be pretty awkward about meeting people, since the whole concept of "small talk" is foreign to me. But they welcomed me warmly and openly, which made me feel like the nerd on the playground who has somehow gotten the cool kids to let him join their gang.
They say you should never play poker with a man called "Doc." Well, that aphorism might extend to playing poker with a table full of poker bloggers. It makes for a crazy game. You get things like the first round of betting capped without players having looked at their cards (which is considered cheating). You get players raising in razz with K-K-J showing. You get a lot of drinking. (As usual there, though, my non-imbibing ways put me at the enormous disadvantage of having to play sober.) You get dealers who have no idea how to control the game. You get an attractive, young, female member of the contingent promising a kiss right on the mouth to anybody who hits quads. (Sadly, only her husband got this particular jackpot--which seems kind of a waste, if you know what I mean.) You get dudes kissing each other (srsly). You get arguments about who is the gayest poker blogger (this, ironically, from a couple of the people who were alluded to in the preceding sentence). You get alleged adults sounding like kids with ADD, whining that we've been playing some particular game too long, when it has only been six hands.
You can also get scintillating conversation, such as these exchanges (which, as Dave Barry would say, I swear I am not making up):
"I'm folding just on principle."
"Have you looked at your cards yet?"
I had two memorable hands. One was in razz, calling a bet on the end with a J-7 low, and edging out a J-8 low. The other was when I caught the perfect card on the river in stud/8 that both filled my gutshot seven-high straight draw and made me a 6-low, for the scooper-dooper on a large three-way pot. Poker is all skill, you know.
The unfortunate part is that we really had enough people to fill two tables, but for reasons unexplained, MGM management wouldn't get a second one going. This meant that nearly half of the attendees never got to play a hand. The MGM mixed game is also a lot blander than what I've played at Treasure Island and Imperial Palace. The games were all, well, completely normal ones--no strange discards, no extra cards on the board, no passing trash, no putting a card on your forehead. Just Omaha/8, razz, straight stud, and stud/8. We even had to get special permission to replace boring ol' hold'em with Crazy Pineapple.
Most of the night's players have now moved on to the Spearmint Rhino. They politely invited me along, but I declined. Among other reasons, I wanted to be the first one to post about the game.
Now comes the hard part--trying to match names with the faces in the photos. Although I got introduced around, I didn't take very good notes, so I'm afraid that my associations of real-world names, blogosphere nicknames, and blog names got all jumbled up. There's also this problem: Some poker bloggers hide behind a pseudonym for some very good reason, such as an employment situation that would not be thrilled to learn that they are dedicated gamblers, and spend several hours a week writing about it. So even with the ones where I have a solid association of face, name, and blog, I'm a tad reluctant to make the identification here, because I don't know how fully "out" everybody is.
The one exception to this that I'm confident about is Gadzooks, since she has her photo at the top of her blog. (It was clear that everybody knew her. When she arrived, one heard a chorus of "Zooks!" reminding one of nothing so much as the "Cheers" crowd yelling "Norm!") She's standing, in a white t-shirt, in the photos above. F-Train came along after I had put the camera away, so no worries there. (Oddly enough, he and I had been spending a lot of hours this week working together on the WSOP, though several miles apart, each on our laptops, and thus never meeting in person previously).
For the rest of you degenerates, if it's OK with you for me to name names, either send me an email or put something in the comments. I'll add an addendum here later with a cross-referencing guide and pointers to those who are all right with it.
I don't have anything to say about tonight's event that will be particularly profound or meaningful to my readers. But I do have one thing to say that is important to me: Anytime you get a group such as this assembled, with some having never met others, introductions will often trigger a moment of recognition that you're shaking hands with somebody whose posts you have read and enjoyed. Just about the highest compliment you can pay to a blogger upon meeting him or her is "You're _______? Wow! I read you. Good stuff you're putting out."
To have heard words like that tonight, not from just readers, but from several others who share this strange habit of writing up our thoughts on the game we all love, was a sincere honor and thrill. It was not only a blast of fun, but greatly flattering and heartwarming to have been recognized and accepted as one of you. For that I thank you.