Wednesday, January 30, 2008


If there’s one reason to get up early in Vegas (and let’s be honest, early morning aren’t exactly what Vegas is about) it’s to beat the morning tournament registration queues that have become a regular occurrence since everyone else became interested in poker. The sods.

One particular morning I even went down to the MGM poker room in my pajamas and complimentary dressing gown as a dirty protest against not being able to register remotely. The fact that no one raised an eyebrow or mentioned my choice of dress just confirmed that I was indeed in Vegas.

On the morning of this particular tale I was fortunate enough to bump into a rarity at the poker tables: a genuine psychic. No, really… Having organised my registration (and then danced gaily along the massive queue, waving my slip like a Willy Wonka golden ticket) I headed off for some hang-over breakfast action.

Returning 35 minutes later from a ludicrously large egg-based breakfast at the New York New York, my guts were fit to burst and gurgling like a dishwasher as an epic battle took place between three embittered factions: Sunny-Side-Ups, Scrambled, and Over-Easy. Happy in my egg-bound way (no toilet break would be required for at least 16 hours) I sat down at a limit cash game to kill some time before the tourney started.

For an impromptu time-filling game I did pretty well; with a couple of players on my table being kind enough to keep pumping their chips into losing pots like hemorrhaging Hungry Hippos. The rest of the cash session was actually reasonably dull until the poker room manager started calling for the tournament to begin and I played one last hand in a "getting-up-ready-to-leave" fashion.

78 offsuit would be my last hand of the game, kindly transforming into two pair on the flop. Now I've not mentioned any of my table chums yet, but hats off to the Vietnamese guy to my left who had attained the ranking of shit-faced before the clock even struck eleven. He was also ‘gifted’ with mystic psychic powers; magically able to tell you exactly what cards you had… (once you'd shown them to him, obviously).

It was pretty hard to take him seriously and also a tad tedious to be sat next to him. However, as his mind-bending powers hadn’t prevented him from financing my own personal rampage I’d been more than happy to let him dazzle himself with Derren Brown flights of fancy while I siphoned off his beer money.

Anyway, back to the 78 hand, which had developed into a surprisingly large affair thanks to my psychic chum and a solid player opposite raising and re-raising everything I threw at them. The board had become, frankly, fucking scary; with both flush and straight possibilities that had started to make my two pairs look somewhat wobbly… but I stuck with it, praying in turn to each of the many poker gods I worship (well, you have to hedge your bets) for a little act of kindness. Miracle of miracles, the river sent another 7 my way for a full house, and I knew for a fact that Mystic Mong hadn’t vaguely got a read on me despite his apparent Jedi mind-powers. Anyway, I went for maximum pay-off, pushing as much in front of me as the limit allowed. The smart guy opposite finally got out of the way allowing me and Brainiac to get on with it; handbags practically on the table at this point.

Now clearly I’m a particularly petty, self-centered man, so I couldn’t help but smile my absolute arse off when he flipped over his nothing of a hand and I dropped the bomb, only to hear him issue forth: "I knew you had the straight".

"Look again Mesmo!" I spat, finally reaching the point of no return, “I’ve got the house!”

"Yes,” he said, “I knew you had that".

“So why did you say you knew I had a straight just three seconds ago, you muppet?”

As I heard myself, I realised I was doing little for the game or people’s opinions of how Brits behave at the poker table. So I took a deep breath and gathered up my chips - spending an ENORMOUS amount of time lovingly arranging them into a rack while my ‘friend’ watched - before heading off to the tournament.

Behind me all I could hear was some mumbling and yet another bottle of Corona being ordered - no doubt to be opened using only the power of his awesome mind. Shazam.

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