05 Jul 2008
Little Day 1: As opposed to Big Day 1, which would be the first tournament day. I got up this morning at 5:00 am to go fly fishing for sockeye. My impressions at the beginning of the dayslate-gray mountains with snowfields coming up out of the water, forests, and the sound of water washing over the weirare going to be quite different than my impressions at the end of the daymechanical music from slot machines, crowds of people, endless traffic, neon lights taller than sitka spruce, and the total absence of any natural sound or sensation. There must be something connecting those two worlds, because Im able to live in and enjoy both, but I have a preference, and there is a reason Ive lived in Alaska for 13 years.
The weirdness that often accompanies trips to Las Vegas began at the Anchorage airport with the hand off, the drop, the exchange, so to speak. I had to pick up what I thought would be a cashiers check to pay for the tournament buy-in, in the amount of $10,000, which I won at a satellite tournament in Anchorage. I had 50 minutes to change planes. Plenty of time if the plane was on time, but the contingency plan for a missed hand off was nebulous at best. Oh, well figure something out, I was told, as if that would allay my concerns. I didnt sleep well last night.
But the plane was on time, and I met the bag man, and he handed me a wad of bills in a green plastic bag. Cash. Seventy $100 bills and sixty $50 bills. If that didnt feel like a drug deal, I dont know what would have. He passed me the bag in front of security and laughed, recognizing the awkwardness. I didnt know how to disguise it, he chuckled. I was not about to flash 10 grand in public, so I took it and stuffed it into my pocket without counting it. I thanked Larry, who was not involved in the tourney, and had done this as a favor to me and the tournament organizer, and I got back into the security line with a bulge in my pocket. Not that I was doing anything illegal, but carrying 10 large (Ive always wanted to say that) in cash is considered suspicious behavior and can quickly land you in an interrogation room, leading to missed flights and a possible prostate exam by a complete stranger and untrained professional.
So as Im pulling my change out of my pocket before passing through the metal detector, I realize Im still carrying my keys, to which is attached a small Swiss Army knife. Now Ive lost at least of dozen of those to security since 9-11, and losing another, though annoying, was not foremost in my mind. I could only think about avoiding a pat down and the words, Sir, can you remove the large honking wad in your pocket that looks suspiciously like 10 thousand dollars in drug money.
I had somehow gotten through security in Cordova, but I didnt know whether that was luck or not. I know a guy that got through security with a 30-06 bullet in his pack and got caught further down the line.
Ive often suspected that these metal detectors work on total mass of metal, and I had not much more than the size of a belt buckle in my pocket. Send the same knife through an x-ray machine, and it would glow like radon, but it might be small enough to go unnoticed through a metal detector. I took off my watch off, emptied my change, and hoped for the best. Lo and behold, I did not buzz. I collected my stuff and high-tailed it to the first bathroom I could find to count my money. Strangely I did not feel uncomfortable carrying the money. The feeling was much like traveling to another country and carrying my only safety netspassport and ATM cardon my body. A sudden awareness and vigilance takes over.
Its amazing how much noise, in a silent bathroom, the unrolling of a plastic bag, the snapping of a rubber band, and the shuffling of money can make when youre sitting a foot and a half away from the person on the other side of the divider and your toes are almost touching. People were doing what they normally do in bathrooms, and there I was, sitting on the pot, staring at the largest wad of money Id ever held and probably sounding like I was shooting up.
It was all there, as I knew it would be. $10,000. Be assured that the though entered my mind to put it back in my pocket and take the next flight home, but we all know how that story goes, and if it went any other way, it would have to be a story about someone else. There was no way in hell Paul was about to do anything but take that money straiht to the Rio and by in for the Main Event. My practicality was fleeting.
I guess it was wise not to give me that cash back in April when I won it. Had it sat in my bank account, it may have gotten comfortable there. It may have actually gone out and paid my credit card bills. Cash is crazy and unpredictable like that. But once I got the flight to Vegas and the hotel, there was no turning back. On to destiny, on to fame, on to possibly a very large mistake. But on, none-the-less.
Little Day 2: Las Vegas is as hot as Cordova is wet. Its a heavy, enervating heat. I got in at midnight and it was still 95 degrees, after a high of 115. I got to my hotel and went straight to the Rio, walking through a questionable part of town with my money now lodged in my waist. I got in line for the buy-in, and had only a moment of second thought as I undid the rubber band around my bankroll and handed over a stack of bills. I was in. My first day is Sat. I start at noon.
I went to play in a cash game and stayed up until 5:00. 24 hours with little more than catnaps on the plane.
Thurs. I went in to see the first day of play. Along with any big event is the usual trade show. All the booths and PR folks crammed into a big room, situated to funnel you through the most possible marketing gimics, the most standard of which is the presence of supermodels in skin-tight shorts or mini-skirts.
When I finally got to the convention center I entered a room that was probably the size of the Cordova High School, and it was filled with tables and people. I saw many pros Id seen on TV. Im not one for idol worship, but it was cool to see these guys playing. You can see the intensity in some of the pros. They are watching, focused. They have one thing on their mind, and its not to get to know you.
The room was huge, and 3,000 people sat at tables, playing cards with another 1000 people standing around watching. And underneath the normal crowd noise was the sound of clicking chips. It was weird; this big, hollow room being filled with such a small sound that was somehow amplified by sheer numbers. It reminded me of the sound of a thousand frogs in a quiet forest, or crickets on a silent evening. I didnt know that shuffling chips could make that much noise.
posted Saturday July 2008