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Saturday, August 4, 2012

Runnin' down an Olympic Dream - or - Cards of DEATH


Busted. Broke. Reamed. Crushed. Annihilated. Spanked with the loser stick. We’d both lost our entire stakes the day before, a rare occurrence. I had to wonder what we were doing wrong. Maybe we shouldn’t be downing short-poured casino shots of Crown Royal and Jack Daniels at ten in the morning. Maybe… maybe we should start at eight in the morning.

Things started looking up as we hammered the machines. I was dealt a nice $50 quad – four deuces, but not on Deuces Wild. Four hands later I held three to a royal and ended up with a 9 to King straight flush. One stinking card off a Royal.

Still, as we did an accounting while awaiting delivery of a nourishing gambling breakfast (Club Sandwich with better-than-dodgy bacon for her, eggs over hard with sausage disks, hash browned taters, and toast for him), we ascertained that our session had ended with a tidy profit… of two dollars and fifty cents. Beats the alternative, right?

One thing we needed to take care of was the awarding of Vegas Olympics Gold Medals, which the loser of each event had to provide for the winner. A reasonable limit on cost was set - $2.00 maximum per medal. With this in mind we scoured drugstores, souvenir shops and especially the dollar stores on east Fremont where rubbies bought bottles of rubbing alcohol, lighters, smokes, dented cans of stew, and other rubby supplies.

Back under the Fremont street canopy, I awarded Mrs. F with the Gold Medal for Target Shooting – a medallion with a globe on it and the capital letters C-A on the same kind of cheap chain attached to the plug in our bathroom sink (Cost: $1.00).

My medal for BJ Baseball was truly inspired. The QQ had put together a lovely commemorative piece consisting of a plastic El Cortez slot card ‘bungee’ cord for the ribbon (Cost: zero), and for the medal itself, an El Cortez souvenir photo keychain of a couple of unknown anonymous hotties, stolen from the rack at the El Cortez slot club (Cost: zero). I felt a little bad knowing these hoochie Vegas chicks might be very disappointed when they showed up to collect their photo keychain, but hey – it’s the R.F.G.G.O.F.O.L.V!

After completing our nutritious breakfast (as mentioned, of sodium, grease, carbohydrates, and coffee), we hit the casino again to figure out how to generate some luck. And I had just the thing. I ran up to the room to grab our coupons for the commemorative Year of the Rat Chinese New Year free gift. I redeemed my coupon at the slot club and placed a shiny gold cardboard box on the Queen’s machine.

“You now have…RAT POWER.”

We inspected the rat and it was cheap, gaudy, and cheesy – a silver, spray-painted cowering vermin, studded with pinkish rhinestones. To me, it was the very essence of Rat Power.

We’d had breakfast, now we needed shots. (Of liquor). The cocktail waitress obliged and we started pounding those plastic gambling buttons some more. Before very long, QQ hit four Kings.
We looked at each other with a sort of tipsy astonishment. “Rat Power!” she said. She took a break so I played her lucky Rat Power machine and hit ratty quad Jacks myself. Rat Power was really working!

I decided not to squander the Power of the Glittering Rat so I put it away for a while, to keep for emergency use.

And before long, we’d combined for a $300 pasting.

We killed some time with a room change to Main Street Station, dragging our luggage down Fremont by hand. Winners take cabs and limos. Losers drag their own luggage.

Our room was nice enough. It featured a breathtaking view of the multi-lane 515, a comfortable seven feet from our window. And, the room featured the strangest looking lamp, made of a lot of metal spheres. It looked like a long strand of welded anal beads with a shade on top.

Much as I would have loved to contemplate the anal bead love-lamp, for some reason, I instead felt like seeing lots of Hawaiians. There was only one thing to do – go next door to the California, whose long standing charter business brings Islanders by the planeload. If there was a casino in Hawaii called the Vegas, I suppose Californians would go there. We feel at home in the Cal, and its nice to see so many groups of friends and family enjoying each others company as they share a Vegas vacation.

We played here and there and settled into the Keno lounge to have some more much needed liquor, and mark a few squares, and go over the next Olympic event – the grueling, risky, some say dangerous Jacks or Better Video Poker Marathon.

The record time for a running marathon, as of this writing, is 2:04:26 set in the Berlin Marathon by Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia.

The rules are simple. We play for 2 hours, 4 minutes 26 seconds – exactly. No leaving the machine. No pee breaks. Leaving the machine means instant disqualification. Each competitor starts with $100 and adds money as necessary. The winner is whoever has won the most, or lost the least, in this foolhardy competition some call... The Widowmaker. (Or, in the Queen’s case, The Widowermaker.)

As I described the event rules to Mrs. Quadbuster, we got talking to a nice couple seated next to us, and described some of our Olympic competition results to them.

“So what’s the competition today?” asked Val, the Hawaiian drywaller.

“We’re playing video poker for 2 hours, 4 minutes, 26 seconds,” I explained.

“That’s the record marathon time!” Val the Hawaiian drywaller’s husband exclaimed.

“My husband is a marathoner,” explained Val the Hawaiian drywaller.

“I’ve been off running for a while though – injuries…”. He looked at me, his face softening, his eyes vacant, as if he were possessed by a specter that was trying to send a message through him. (Or maybe he was just half in the bag.)

It seemed, though, that he was desperately trying to tell me something. Was this entire meeting some sort of pre-ordained ghostly warning… from beyond?...

Maybe we wouldn’t just be playing video poker. Maybe we’d be playing… CARDS of DEATH!!!!!

My blood ran cold.

Then it ran a little warm. Then it ran room temperature, or maybe just a little on the cool side, where your blood might think about going up to the room to get a sweater, and then it ran much colder, and then it ran really, really cold! But at least it was running.

Was something trying to tell us not to attempt the JoB Marathon? Over two hours of required play – it could cost us hundreds, even thousands of dollars, it could cost us our health, or at least some nagging video poker hangnail injuries, and land us drunk at 1:00pm in a Keno lounge at the Cal with some marathoning Hawaiian drywallers, for God’s sake. And, eerily enough, the last part of all that had already happened!

But no, this was the Vegas Olympics, dammit.

We said our goodbyes, strolled purposefully through the Cal, up the escalator, and past a store which sells nothing but vacuum sealed packages of jerky. Beef, turkey, moose, badger, koala, firestone, michelin – jerky of all flavors.

“I don’t understand why anyone would take a perfectly good steak, dry it out, run it over 300 times, salt it enough to give an entire rowing crew hypertension, encase it in impenetrable plastic, and then hang it on a hook in the California for 18 months before someone gets around to buying it and breaking a tooth,” I said as we walked past.

“Maybe its hallucinogenic,” replied the QQ.

We turned left, past the plaques for the longest craps rolls, and headed across the elevated walkway that would lead to our doom. Or rather, the venue.

We did our pre-competition rituals, stretched our fingers, loaded our wallets, and emptied our bladders.

Finally, we each chose a machine. A couple of nice slant tops. Mine was strategically selected for the clear view of the cocktail waitress station at the end of the bar.

Ready to make Olympic history, we each slipped a hundred dollar bill into our machines, I called time, and we began the most grueling, ass-numbing competition yet, fingers flying, buttons pressing, credits dropping.

“So what about the scratch cards you get for each quad?” asked QQ.

Shit! I had forgotten all about them. When you get a quad at Main Street Station, you put your light on and they bring a bonus scratch card worth a few bucks – once they verify your quad.

“I guess we’ll both have to stop playing. Pretend its one of those water stations where you grab a cup, half drink it, crush it, and then throw it at some hapless spectator.”

We agreed that the value of the scratch cards would count towards our final score.

This is the way it unfolded…

…like a map, with soft creases over the important parts, and in such a way that it could never be folded up perfectly again. Because we had no longer started when, at the two minute mark, I hit the first quad. I put my light on and we waited for the scratch card as the seconds ticked away. Fortunately the attendant was right there. I revealed my gargantuan prize ($2) and we were off again!
Within three minutes, the Queen nailed a quad of her own and at the nine minute mark, she lined up another one. The score was QQ $146.25, RF $128.75. This was going great! It was like we were running downhill.

I started to drop though, as the QQ stayed even. I answered back at 23:00 with four eights but was still $20 behind her $146.25 on the meter. We played on and on.

At 57:00 the QQ banged out another quad. This competition was hot, and getting hotter.

Unfortunately I was the one getting burned because attrition was starting to take its toll on me. For the first time, I fell under my buy-in of $100. And two minutes later, the Queen’s video poker chariot stuck one of those extending axle blades into my balsa wood spokes – she hit a straight flush for $62.50. We were 59 minutes into the marathon, but the score was a towering $248.75 to my cowering ninety five bucks.

“Crap this isn’t even half over, and I’m screwed already! I might as well hand over the gold medal right now. I’m a loser! Useless! I’m a Video Plonker!” I whined.

“Take it easy. Keep playing.”

She was right. I had to soldier on. Hell bent for leather, I played, played, played like the wind. If she could win, maybe I could do the same.

Just then the cocktail waitress came by and to my surprise, the Queen ordered a bottled water.

“This could cost you. You realize that having to leave to take a whiz disqualifies you, you’ll have to forfeit,” I warned.

“I won’t leave.”

“Better keep the empty bottle, then.”

And at 1:04:00 I got a quad. Even so, the score was a lopsided $245 to $128.75. I was now running uphill. Hell I was running vertically, in bare feet, up a glass wall covered in oil, with giant boulders raining down on me thrown from above by anti-Royal Flusher giants who had bet all their gold coins on my wife kicking my ass yet again. Stupid giants!

Right now we were both getting quads way beyond the statistical norm. There was no way it could continue. But it did. At 1:10:00 I got another one. (Four Aces, again on the wrong machine – it paid $32.50 like all the other quads on Jacks.) There was a glimmer of hope – I was a little less than $100 behind.

But seven minutes later, the QQ all but finished me with yet another quad – Four Queens, from a hold of only one. It was $240 to $141.25 and I really felt I needed a lot of those paper cups to half drink, and crush and throw away at hapless spectators to get me to the finish. I signaled the cocktail waitress.

We hit the driest stretch of the marathon, playing almost half an hour, just grinding it out, before the Queen got yet another quad.

I pulled out all the stops and started to take crazy chances – the only thing that could save me now was a Royal Flush. The crowd leaned in closer, and a hush settled across the casino as they saw the ridiculous last-chance gambles I was taking. I could almost hear their quiet whispers.

‘Throwing away a low pair against one to a royal? What balls! What √©lan! What sheer stupidity!’

As time ran down I played faster and faster, pounding the buttons like a video-poker-playing butcher tenderizing a cheap cut of pork. I held four to a straight flush, tossing a paying pair. Denied. My pork got even cheaper.

Then I was dealt four to a royal in clubs – I perked up with excitement. Could this be it? But I got nothing out of it. Not even a flush.

Two minutes to go. No royal. One minute. And the warning horn sounded and the crowd cheered the Queen on to victory as she sprinted up the final stretch. And then… it was over.

We collapsed across the finish line, our little video poker fingers literally drenched in little video poker finger sweat.

Once I’d recovered my breath (about 3 seconds later), I made the announcement. “After 2 hours 4 minutes and 26 seconds of non-stop girl-on-girl video poker action (plus scratch cards) the final tally is Royal Flusher, $119.25, Quad Queen, with $220 on the meter plus $15 in scratch cards, the clear winner with $235, an amazing run of video poker, probably the best run you’ve ever had on video poker… HOW DOES IT FEEL?”


“Are you going to share the profits with your husband?” I prompted.


I had to look on the bright side. We’d played our asses off for two solid hours and we were both ahead on the session. Her Majesty was up on the day, and I was way down on the day.
But at least, my seat at the machine had stayed dry.*

The Score

Rat Power Quads: QQ 1, RF 1
Rat Power Deserted Us Ass Kickings: 1, for $300 Club (with dodgy bacon) Sandwiches: 3
Times Pondered Will QQ Order Something Different For The Love Of God: RF 3
Soused Hawaiian Drywallers Keno-played With: 2
Bladder Power VP Marathon Gold Medals: QQ 1
Clean and Jerk Standings (no change) QQ ($2 Big wheel): $10 RF ($2 Big wheel): $0
*this turned out to be a fateful foreshadowing of the horrifying events that befell me in Mandalay Bitch Bay, some 4 years later.


    1. Does the QQ eat a club sandwich for every meal?

    2. Many meals. It's important not to mess with a streak.


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