Sunday, June 26, 2011

Why I almost but didn't quite make it to the casino chip collectors' convention

I mentioned the other day that the year's biggest casino chips collectors' convention was in town this week, and that I would be scrupulously staying away so as to avoid any temptation to buy some collectible goodies that I can't really afford.


Well, apparently I have a lot of chip collectors among my readership, because I received a surprising number of messages through the blog comments, by email, by text, and even in person at the tables over the last few days, all passing on this thought: You really should go, because it's cool and amazing.

Today is the show's last day. When I woke up late this morning and checked the overnight Twitter feed, I learned a couple of useful things: (1) The Rio's daily deepstack event, which I've been wanting to try, had been pushed back to 4:00 pm instead of its usual 2:00 pm. (2) Daniel "Jungleman" Cates was having the last of his series of ticket giveaways for a seat in the WSOP Main Event at McFadden's at the Rio from 12:30 to 1:30. (You can read much more about Dan in the New York Times Magazine here, and in the cover story of Bluff Magazine Europe here.)

I formulated a plan. I would head to the Rio, pick up my Jungleman drawing ticket, register for the deepstacks tournament while the lines were still short, then drive to South Point, spend a couple of hours looking at poker chips--without buying any--then be back at the Rio by 4:00 to play. As my day-planning goes, this one was positively brilliant: Geographically efficient, productive, and fun.

Let me pause for a minute and tell you about the drawing, because you might not have heard of it. As reported on Cates' blog and a YouTube video, and as I first learned from the Twitter feed of my friend Jason Simon (Thanks, Jason! I owe you one bowl of soup next visit!), Daniel decided to hold a free raffle to give away a seat to the World Series of Poker main event, as his way of giving something back to the poker community from which he feels he has benefited so richly. It's a lovely, generous offer.

The only eligibility criterion was that the recipient had not previously played in a Main Event. However, in order to pick up tickets, you had to go to where Daniel was holding court, in a one-hour window of time, with just a couple of hours of advance notice on Twitter. As a practical matter, that severely limited the field of contenders to those living in Vegas, with a car, with no day job, and who checked Twitter frequently. Hey--that's me!

I don't usually enter drawings and other such things, but I did some mental math on this one. I made a guesstimate that they probably wouldn't have more than about a hundred people able to make it to the locations specified under those conditions. If I did it every time, I might therefore have 1% or maybe even as much as 2% of all the tickets in the bowl. With the prize worth $10,000, my equity in it would be something like $100-$200. If there were four ticket days, my total time expenditure would be less than four hours. That seemed like a worthwhile endeavor. So I did it. I picked up a ticket at each of the four events, scattered between May 24 and today:





Back to my day. I didn't stick around McFadden's, even though I knew they would be holding the drawing at 1:30. I thought my chances of winning weren't high enough to make it worth cutting into my chip-ogling time. Besides, they had been clear that one didn't need to be present to win, and they had promised to telephone the winner.

When I got to South Point, I found the convention center rooms where the casino chips vendors had their displays. As a bonus, though I had read online that it was $10 to enter, a sign announced that entry would be free Saturday, as the show was closing. But I decided to check my messages before strolling around inside the rooms.

You have to understand that virtually nobody calls me on my cell. I give the number to very few people, and, well, even they don't like me very much, so they leave me alone. OK, that's not quite true, but my friends know that I dislike talking on the phone except for short exchanges of information as necessary. I'm not a chatter. I literally get less than one phone call a week.

So when I saw missed-call and voice-mail alerts from an out-of-state, unknown number, with a time stamp of 1:33 pm, you can bet it caught my attention. Could that really be what I thought it might be? I sat down in an easy chair just outside the convention hall to listen to the message:





I bet every one of you would have pressed "4" to listen again. I sure did.

(If I just violated a wiretapping law or something like that with the above recording, well, I'll throw myself on the mercy of the court and hope the judge is a poker player.)

The next thing I did might surprise you. I didn't call him back instantly. Instead, I called Cardgrrl. She means the world to me, and I had to share with her my excitement even before calling to confirm that this wasn't some terrible prank or misunderstanding. She figured out where the story was going even before I got to the punchline, and was interrupting me with "No way!" and Elaine-esque "Get out!" even before I could announce, "I won!"

But I kept it short, and contacted my benefactor immediately thereafter. By the time I was done with a quick call to him, the news was already on Twitter from both @JunglemanDan and @MicheleLewis (who had been recruited to pull the name out of the ice bucket), and friends who knew my real name were translating that that was none other than @PokerGrump. In fact, I was already getting buzzed by text messages from friends urging me to check Twitter, if I hadn't already heard.

I was way too excited to care about poker chips by then, so I left South Point--having made it to within 30 feet of the show's entrance--returned home, picked up all of my drawing ticket stubs, and went back to the Rio, not yet sure when I might need to meet up with Daniel. I'm sure the chip vendors will be back next year, and who knows--by then I might have a little more money I can spend with them!

For the record, the winning ticket was the second one shown above, picked up at PT's Pub on Rainbow the afternoon of June 6.

There are still some details to be worked out, such as Daniel's publicist, Lara, getting verification from WSOP officials that I have never registered for a Main Event before (I promise I haven't), logistics of doing the buy-in, and getting together for some training from Daniel, which is thrown in as part of the offer. (Just when you thought it couldn't get any better, eh?) But that's all just details.

There's one other thing that I have to arrange. I had already purchased airline tickets to fly out to D.C. for a visit to Cardgrrl the week that the Main Event starts. Before I had a chance to point out to her that I'd have to change travel plans, she said, "You'll have to change your plane ticket." Some girlfriends would get in a huff about a visit being postponed in order to play a game. Not her. She is the most supportive person ever, and nearly as excited for me as I am.

A couple of people have already asked me about this, so let me address it up front: I will not be selling pieces of my action. Had I won a satellite for $10,000 in lammers, I would certainly be mulling over how to reduce my variance with various kinds of deals. But this is a gift, and an almost unbelievably generous one at that. After only a minute or two of thought, I knew that selling pieces of a gift seemed, well, kind of tacky. I would frankly feel embarrassed to tell Daniel that I had commodified his kindness in that way.



When I was a little boy, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl was my favorite book. I'm sure I read it more than a dozen times. The desk in our family room always had some notepaper in a little wooden holder that my brother had made, and one time, when I was in about sixth grade, it was stocked with yellow-orange paper. To my small eyes, it looked like gold. I took one of those 3" x 5" slips and copied onto it the entire text of the Willy Wonka golden ticket from the book. I had to write really small, because there were so many words to fit onto it. But when it was done, it allowed me to feel the way I imagined that Charlie himself must have felt when holding that precious piece of gold leaf. I held on to that imaginary ticket until I moved out of my parents' house when I got married at age 23.

Today is the closest I've come to that feeling since I made my own Willy Wonka ticket. Thank you, Daniel, for giving me a rebirth of that sensation of hope and anticipation of great things about to happen. I will try not to let you down.



(Image from here.)



Addendum:

I see that a couple of other sites have already beaten me to posting about the drawing results. See Wasted Aces here (though with my name misspelled), Michele Lewis here.

I understand that there will be other PR moments associated with this. Obviously I'll keep you up to date as I learn about any such things.

31 comments:

Minton said...

Congrats Grump...let me know table and seat #'s I'll try to sweat you and be the official twitter updater if possible!!!

Anonymous said...

Congrats. I hope you go deep in the ME.

Anonymous said...

Congrats. Hope you do well in the ME.

alex said...

Congrats. Hope you do well.

Jim Cheseborough said...

Congrats Grump!

Anonymous said...

WOW!!!!!!!! GRUMP!!!!!

CONGRATS AND GOOD LUCK IN THE BIG DANCE GOGOGOGOGOGOGO!!!!!!!

T-A-K-E I-T D-O-W-N

/caps

So happy for you,

Good luck from UK

Summerlin

zippyboy said...

Fantastic! Don't get unlucky!

John G. Hartness said...

Congrats, pal! Good for you!

West said...

I hope you beat Helmuth heads-up, your mighty 2-4 crushing his pathetic A-A.

Herb said...

Awesome, and good luck!

Michael said...

Congratulations, well deserved.

Wasted Aces Poker said...

Congrats again Grump! Sorry about the misspelling. It has been corrected. We have never been good with the 'Government Names' we are great with the nicknames ;-) Run good and make us proud!

Sauza said...

Congratulations on your windfall, and thanks for sharing the details of how the day played out.

jamescorbin13 said...

Your good kharma has now been rewarded by the spirits of poker.

You know what to do.

Now go and seek the cash.

Memphis MOJO said...

Good things happen to good people. Congrats and tear 'em up!

bastinptc said...

Wonderful!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations and best wishes! Looking forward to following along.

-Chuck

ManInBlack said...

COngrats

Anonymous said...

I've been reading your blog for several years, and never dropped a line - but congrats! Pulling for you in the big dance.

Paboo said...

Congrats! Grump for the Win!

There are some who call me... Tim said...

Very Cool.

Moviedogs said...

So great! Enjoy every second of it.

Wine Guy said...

I believe this to be the Golden moment for you. Fate..luck..shining personality??? Who cares. You won a free pass in to the Main Event..I predict that we will be seeing the Grump in the fall. The bonus as well will be his in depth analysis as he plays the tables..

Go Grump Go!

BLAARGH! said...

I look forward to your posts from your swiss chalet after you take this sucker down...

Congrats and good luck!

Michele Lewis said...

Congratulations, Bob. Looking forward to seeing you play!

NoMetal said...

Fantastic news! Good luck and we all expect an in-depth analysis with your usual flair for story-telling. Here's hoping to you winning it all and if not, at the very least running deep.

Short-Stacked Shamus said...

Congrats, friend. Love it.

PARADISETWOPOINTOH said...

I hope I can speak for the mostly silent masses when I say "We're on your side."

Credentials: I read nearly every day, but I have only commented a handful of times (mostly anonymously).
Irrational exuberance: Your good fortune feels almost like my own.
Ergo: Represent!

David Woolley said...

I'll be rooting for ya, bro.

yestbay said...

May the luck that got your name drawn for the entry carry over into the Main Event and take you deep.

lightning36 said...

Wow -- fantastic! Best o' luck!