Thursday, August 30, 2012


That's the only word that kept going through my mind as I left Caesars Palace.

The plan had been simple: I arrived around 5:00 p.m. with the idea that I would play for one to two hours, take home a quick and easy profit, chat with Cardgrrl, watch this week's WSOP installment on TV, then get to bed early so that I could get up early for another morning bike ride.*

None of that happened.

I quickly found myself in the loudest, wildest, drunkest, craziest game I've seen in months, maybe a year. We had a shifting lineup of two or three solid, conservative players who knew what they were doing. But the rest of them--my God, the rest of them! It was exactly the scenario we grinders scour the city's poker rooms to find (and Caesars is not usually the most fertile grounds for such games). They were horrible players at baseline, made worse by the free flow of alcohol. They were buying each other shots, going all-in without looking at their cards, calling down to the river after hitting any fragment of the flop, busting and rebuying chips as if they were free. The drunkest man was a pure calling station who hit every hand for the first couple of hours, amassing a stack of $700-800, then facing the inevitable reversal of fortune and giving it all back over the next couple. The drunkest woman apparently had a horn-o-plenty of $100 bills in her enormous purse. She burned through at least $1200 and maybe as much as $1500 in about four hours--I lost count.

Such situations are highly profitable, obviously, but also come with extreme variance. It seemed that my fate was to run in place. For the first nearly six hours, I could not get either up or down by more than $100. Normal poker logic didn't apply; many decisions on later streets devolved to pure guesswork, and I was only hitting about 50/50. As a result, I'd get up a little bit, then slip backward. It was enormously frustrating not to be able to make consistent progress. In a perverse way, I'd have preferred to lose all my chips, at which time I could decide it wasn't my day and go do something else instead. Sitting there for hour after hour with nothing to show for it was maddening, when the chips were flying from stack to stack so loosely.

But I persevered, maintaining my composure and talking myself out of tendencies to tilt after the inevitable bad beats and erroneous moves. I endured what seemed like endless deserts of card-deaditude without giving in to the urge to try to force the action, which would be disastrous at a table like this.

About six hours in, I finally hit the breakthrough hand. Oddly, it turned out to be against one of the few sober, generally solid opponents, not one of the drunk spewers. I raised to $10 with As-Ts, got two callers. Flop: Js-5s-5d. I bet $20. He min-raised me, which gave me decent odds to draw to the nut flush, reading him for the trips. Turn: Ks. Ding! I checked, he bet $50, I raised to $150, he pushed, I called. He had suited connectors, 4h-5h. The 2c on the river did not complete my royal flush for the $500 high-hand bonus, but it did manage to avoid making my opponent's full house, and doubled me up.

This was the most loud, raucous, convivial table I've been at in a very, very long time. Nobody was ever angry. Jokes and good-natured trash-talking were continual. We usually had a ring of onlookers, and people at the other tables kept looking over at us to see what all the commotion was about. F-bombs were exploding all over the place, such that two players would ordinarily have been ejected for ignoring repeated warnings. Fortunately, the dealers all recognized that it was all harmless fun, not provocatively angry with potential to erupt into fights, so they diplomatically disregarded most of it rather than intervene heavy-handedly, else we would have lost the games biggest donors.

The downside to such games is that the hand-per-hour count can come to a near standstill. Nobody is paying attention to the action, and drunk people have no sense of how much time they're taking on their decisions. Again, the dealers were mostly great. As each one sat down, I took advantage of my position in Seat One to quietly inform them that the table needed a great deal of assertive prompting to keep things moving, and nearly all of them adopted a firm guiding hand without getting irritated at the inattentive drunks. Tips were flowing as freely as the booze, which helped.

If you have any sense of my personality, you might guess, correctly, that this kind of table is not the kind of social setting I like best. It was loud and chaotic, neither of which will ever be found listed among my favorite adjectives. However, I not only put up with it, I actually managed to enjoy a couple of the other players--smart and funny people who appreciated and played off of my occasional injections of wit and smart-aleckery.

I stayed much longer than I had planned to because it was so obviously a +++++++EV situation. At least in theory I would have been willing to stay as long as it remained so, and the money did not seem to have stopped flowing by the time I left at 1:00 a.m. But I felt my sharpness, decision-making, and tolerance for the social shenanigans faltering, so I finally decided I was better off pocketing my modest winnings and letting somebody else take over one of the juiciest seats in the Vegas poker world. My net profit was $242 in about eight hours. That's certainly above my long-term hourly average, yet still disappointing under the circumstances, where there was potential for such riches. That's the longest session I've registered in several months--quite a bit longer than I prefer and longer than is optimal for my attention span. But unusual situations call for unusual solutions.

This was actual work. It wore me out to handle the monetary swings and the social craziness. Keeping my mind on the poker when others are paying it little attention is mentally fatiguing. Doing so while trying to help foster the carefree interpersonal interactions is, for me, a continual uphill slog. Strange as it may sound, succeeding in this kind of setting did more to make me feel like a professional than when I'm engaged in heavy intellectual combat with comparably experienced foes, although the skill set I had to call on was completely different. I'm best suited for fairly short-duration but intensely focused sessions of a low-variance style, whereas this table demanded a relaxed patience, forbearance, and willingness to take large risks. I don't mind admitting that I am left with a sense of pride that on my better days I have enough flexibility of personal resources to adapt to this kind of opportunity.

I trust that Cardgrrl, who has taken advantage of her share of such unexpectedly profitable games, will understand and forgive my failure to get home for our daily chat as planned. It will probably be a long time before I stumble upon a table like that again.

*Speaking of the bike, I'm astounded by how much ancillary stuff one needs, even for one with no aspirations for anything even remotely looking like racing. So far I have acquired or ordered a helmet, a lock, a bell, front and rear lights, a water bottle and mounting bracket, full-size tire pump for home, tiny portable pump, spare tube, tire repair kit, portable tool kit, two pressure gauges (bike tires have two different types of valves, which require different gauges, and I oddly have one of each), book on maintenance and repairs, pants-leg clips, and an under-seat bag for the tools. Still under consideration are a mirror, speedometer/odometer, and rear baskets for errands around town. I have spent almost as much on the accessories as the machine itself. The world will note with a sigh of relief that Spandex bike shorts are not on this list.


FlushDraww said...

Grump, do you and the blog Ramblings of a Madman have an unpleasant history? His latest post was a bit unflattering to say the least.

Anonymous said...

Grump, FlushDraww has a point and yet....Waffles wasn't being that bad...for Waffles. He had a different opinion of the play.


Anonymous said...

Check out the Map My Ride. No need for an odometer/sppedometer.

Also, the spandex bike shorts should be the first thing on your last! They make a *massive* difference. Actually second on the list after a helmet. Seriously, they're awesome.