To Sin City and back again

I’ve been debating over the past couple weeks whether or not to make a second sojourn to Sin City this summer. The first trip was the longest Las Vegas adventure I’ve experienced and really occurred in two parts. First was the three-day, 14-person bachelor party that did not share similar plot lines with “The Hangover,” but did involve sleeping on floors and some hazy, questionable financial decisions.

Had that been my only reason for heading to Vegas on my way back from the east coast to Kauai, those three days would have been more than enough. But after the niceties the Aria suite afforded had run their course, I took my baggage – physically and figuratively – across town and stumbled into the Gold Coast Hotel & Casino.

The symbolism was not lost on me, or my cab driver, for that matter. This town can bring you face to face with changes of fortune in an instant. But since I don’t really have any diva tendencies, the Gold Coast was absolutely perfect for my needs. I had a bed, high-speed WiFi and a 24-hour TGIFriday’s. The biggest perk of the Gold Coast is its proximity to the Rio, home to the World Series of Poker. No cabs necessary, just one quick game of Frogger across an eight-lane strip of asphalt.

I’ve been wrestling with the decision to head back because I had so much fun at the WSOP and trying to play the Main Event is what anyone who’s ever ruffled their chips dreams about. Now, I’m a guy on a budget – an even stricter one after the bachelor party shenanigans – so while I was there, I played some small daily tournaments, some cash games and a whole lot of satellites.

Satellites are tournaments that provide entry to larger buy-in tournaments for the winners. There are some with multiple tables and then single-table “sit-and-go’s” where 10 people sign up and begin once the table fills.

As an online player, sit-and-go’s used to be my specialty. Because they begin at any time, I could sign up for multiple tables and was able to play them simultaneously. As a human in a brick and mortar casino, multi-tabling isn’t a possibility, according to my limited recollection of physics. So during the final few days of my trip, I was just playing one sit-and-go after another, hoping to accumulate “lammers.” A new word in my vocabulary, lammers are just large tournament chips that cannot be cashed at the cage. They’re only good for buying into WSOP tournaments but they are transferrable, so players sell them between one another.

In that lammer pursuit, I met many interesting characters. The faces I was playing with changed every couple of hours, which adds flavor to the experience. My fellow east coasters were certainly out in full force. I sat next to “Patty D”, formerly of New Jersey and now a Vegas resident. She spotted old-school pro “Oklahoma Johnny” riding his Rascal into the room and said “Watch, when I say hi to Johnny, he’ll say ‘Hey, pretty lady!’” She was right.

I sat next to “Tony Muscles” from Long Island, N.Y., who needed no explanation for his nickname. In his cutoff shirt, Tony looked more like he belonged in front of a night club than at a poker table, but he is an accomplished player (according to him).

I wasn’t at his table, but I did sit behind Robert Iler, better known as TV’s A.J. Soprano. Iler looked exactly as he did in those final few seasons of “The Sopranos” and I had to hold myself back from spouting lines from the show in his direction. (Especially one involving ziti.)

(Briefly off-topic, I was so sad to hear of James Gandolfini [Tony Soprano] passing away last week. That show was one of the great dramas of my lifetime and will always hold a special place in my heart, as in many from my neck of the woods.)

I had to play peacemaker at one table when a Filipino gentleman didn’t take too kindly to a British gentleman calling him a donkey. In poker, a “donkey” is a derogatory term for a bad player. It was heated for a few minutes, but we had them both laughing shortly thereafter.

I did really well in that revolving door of single-table tournaments, which stoked my interest to return. I thought if I could grind away at the sit-and-go’s for a few 20-hour days before the Main Event – which begins Saturday – maybe I could work my way up to that $10,000 buy-in.

But in the end, high-priced holiday-week fares and the happiness of being back home on Kauai won out. I’ve instead focused my attention towards next year, when my extensive WSOP experience – all six days of it – will help in my quest for that seat at the Main Event.

And really, what’s more American than that? Have a happy and safe Fourth of July.

• ‘My Thoughts Exactly’ appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays in The Garden Island. Email David Simon your comments or questions to Follow David on Twitter @SimonTGI


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