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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Closing Ceremonies –or- Poker When You Can

Our last day started as usual with our morning session of VP, followed by breakfast at Magnolia’s. Really, though, what did we have yet to prove? It had been an awesome trip, with Royals, poker wins, and non-stop thrilling R.F.G.G.O.F.O.L.V. action.

We kicked around Fremont for a while playing here and there, and then I remembered that I needed to check my Clean and Jerk $50 sports bet.

Sure enough, the Leafs and Canadiens had combined for only 5 goals and my ticket was worth $97.60! I was on the Clean and Jerk board in a big, big way in what had turned out to be an incredibly dull contest of gambling prowess. The final results were RF: $117.60 QQ: $64.75. It was another Olympic Gold Medal for yours truly.

Then I had a thought – we could try something we’d never tried before.

“Hey, let’s do the free daily slot tournament at the ElCo.”

We strolled in the spring sunshine to the El Cortez and got set up with a machine each at the slot club. Basically, once the five minute timer starts, you pound the Spin button as quickly as you can, non-stop, like some sort of gambling lab rat on crystal meth.

I was hitting a few things and getting some points.

“How’re you doing?” I asked.

“I have nothing… so far.”

“Hmmm. I have a couple thousand. Keep going!”

By the time our session was over, I’d picked up 10,984 points. Not bad.

“I got 10,984. What did you get?”

“Ummm. I have two.”

“Two entries? Two what?”

“Two points.”

We had to laugh. It was just ludicrous. I decided to see how I’d done compared to the leaders and checked it out on a display they have – and I was in the lead!

The day was young though and there would be many more competitors.

We played around the ElCo, reminiscing about our trip, having a few drinks at the bar and getting the odd dinger. Just before it was time to grab a free meat meal at the Fitz coffee shop, we checked the standings again. I was solidly in second place. If things held, I’d could win $250.

It would be the perfect ending to an amazing trip. It would be the capper experience to nicely button down all we’d experienced, all the trials, and all the victories that we’d won together.

That’s when I checked the rules.

The tournament ended at 3:00am - when we’d be at 39,000 feet on our way back to Flusherville Regional Aerodrome, via Toronto. Any prizes had to be claimed in person without 24 hours of the end of the tournament.

I was fuming.

I needed to shake the rust off and do something different. The Olympics were a lot of fun, sure enough, but we were just getting killed in the bankroll. (And by ‘we’ I mean ‘I’.) Maybe I was a little jealous of the Queen’s latest Royal. Maybe I was tired of video poker. I felt stale and jaded. Was it time to just fold the tent and go home?

No. For that would not be the Royal Flusher Way.

It was time to go on some sort of vision-quest-o-gambling and set off into the desert on my own, with nothing but a couple of pieces of Jerky from the Cal, a plug of licorice, a corn cob pipe, some lip balm, and maybe a half-bottle of water. I’d take it back to basics. No computer-driven gambling. No video screen. No beeps, grunts, or dingers. Just gambling about as pure as it can get, mano a mano – me, some cards, and 59 strangers.

A Vegas site was having a get together and I’d been invited to their annual poker tournament. I’d never met any of the participants in person before, so I buttoned my shirt down tight over my kidneys (in case they tried to harvest them), kissed Mme. Flushere, and said my goodbyes, knowing there was a better than even chance I would not come back (financially) alive.

After all, I’d played a lot of kitchen table poker, but precious little hold ‘em, never in a casino, never for real money, and never in a tournament.

Taking the Deuce through downtown towards the Flamingo, I looked at the boarded up businesses and wondered if I was in over my head. The ride seemed to take forever and with just 10 minutes to spare, and still a long Strip block from my destination, I toyed with the idea of just not showing up and saving my $65 buy-in.

Alone, I strolled through the doors of the Flamingo and found the poker room. I was the last to register and before I knew it I was assigned a seat, met two or three people, and the cards were flying.

I quickly learned how the blinds worked, and made some dumb mistakes – such as throwing out a chip bigger than the bet I wanted to make. If you didn’t call it first, the chip was your bet. I was stuck betting twice more than what I wanted.

It was nerve-wracking being a green beginner. I could barely handle my chips without knocking over my carefully piled stacks. Hell, I was playing against many extremely experienced recreational players, Vegas casino dealers, and even some folks who had played in the World Series of Poker. It was a Sticky situation.

I ordered a Jack on ice and caught pocket fours. The flop showed me another four and I raised. I caught two or three other players by the showdown and won a modest pot. A couple of hands later another three of a kind brought me another modest pot. I was playing cards.

Before much longer, the first player in the tournament was out. I said a silent prayer of thanks that it wasn’t me. And soon after that, the first player from our table was put out in a showdown.

The cards were coming to me. Sometimes they do, and sometimes no matter what you try, they don’t. But today, they were coming. I won a couple of additional pots, and even bet half my stack on a hand in which I ended up with a four of a kind that no-one saw.

The laughs were coming easier, and some of the people who had been put out were milling around, meeting new friends, and taking the piss out of old ones. I was starting to feel pretty comfortable. I’d had that quad, three sets of trips, and two flushes. It had been a pretty nice run so far.

Our table was down to three or four players out of the original ten and I had the chip lead out of the four of us. That was when the organizers consolidated the players still in the tournament into three full tables. I picked up my chips and moved to a new spot next to an affable big fellow named Hurricane Mikey. When I took a look around, I was probably about in the middle when it came to the chip count. Not bad.

Play resumed and after a few hands I was dealt Ace King of diamonds. The flop came down showing the Ten and the Jack of diamonds. I almost wet myself right there. I quickly figured out how many cards were left in the deck and almost wet myself right there again as I realized I had about a one in fifteen shot of getting a Royal Flush.

What else could I do? The Royal Flusher Way was to go all in. Everyone else ended up folding except one guy, who called me.

Now, I thought, I have about a fourteen in fifteen shot at getting my ass kicked and ending up out of the tournament.

The turn card gave me a pair, and the river card… was the wrong color. No Royal. My opponent had the same pair I did and we ended up splitting the pot back. I was still alive.

Time passed, I folded a lot, and then I made a deadly mistake. I was dealt King Jack unsuited and didn’t really believe in my cards, but for some reason I limped in on the betting, and then got stupid cocky and raised. I was re-raised by about triple my raise and instead of coming in way over the top in a big bluff, or simply calling, or even folding… I made a weak raise back. I might as well have showed my neck to the executioner.

My opponent jumped all over me with a huge raise and of course, I had to back down and fold. It was either that or go to the showdown with rags.

Well, I thought, at least I’d had a lot of fun in this tournament. And a little voice inside said, ‘Flusher… no… this is your poker vision quest. Listen to me, the little voice inside. Play the very best you can… do not mentally accept giving up. Keep going!’ 

Okay. I had some work to do.

Play continued and one or two players from our table were put out, and before I knew it the announcement came. There was another consolidation and a 20 minute break.

I’d made the final table of ten. And I had a decent amount of chips – probably the third highest at the table. I was in way over my head.

Because I was on a poker vision-quest, I hadn’t had lunch. And honestly, I was just starving and suffering from a low blood-sugar crash. I felt dizzy and nervous and shaky. I felt a bit loopy, somewhat spazzy, and a little itchy. And slightly sweaty. Yeah, I also felt slightly sweaty. But dehydrated. That was it, I felt dizzy, nervous, shaky, loopy, spazzy, itchy, sweaty and thirsty. And a very excited. And overwhelmed. And anxious. 

I high-tailed it off into the Flamingo in search of some quick food. I found… a huge Snickers bar at the gift shop. I also put in a call to the QQ since the tournament had been on for many hours and I was way later than I thought I’d be. I gave her the update and suggested I probably wouldn’t last much longer. But... I had a shot.

"How do you feel?" she asked?

"Dizzy, nervous, shaky, loopy, spazzy, itchy, sweaty, thirsty, excited, overwhelmed, and anxious."

Strolling back to the poker room, I noticed everyone was seated and ready to go. I’d almost missed the re-start and been disqualified. This whole enterprise had been hanging by a thread from the get-go. How much further could I really expect to get?

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