Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Shamus in Vegas: Episode 10 -- Stargazing

World Poker TourI get off the Deuce at the Bellagio and wait a bit before meeting Vera. Eventually we get together with some others for dinner at Mon Ami Gabi over at the Paris. Had reservations, but still end up having to wait a good while. During the wait I wander over to the nearby poker room and rail a bit. Eight tables, if I remember correctly, with a couple of excitable 1/2 NL games and one very sober-looking, short-handed 3/6 limit game. Looked like a nice enough place to play. Signage indicates plans to expand the room in the near future. We finally get seated and I enjoy a tasty filet mignon with merlot butter and red wine reduction. Delish. After dinner we stroll around the faux cobblestone walkways of the Paris, occasionally looking up at the trompe-l’œil ceiling painted to resemble a blue, cloudy sky.

Saturday morning Vera and I awake without any specific plans for the day other than to head over that evening to the Thomas & Mack for the big dressage finale of the FEI World Cup. Earlier in the week Vera had expressed a desire to watch me play some poker, but after puttering around the hotel room a bit I tell her I’d rather just hang out with her. Plus -- as anyone who has read this blog before well knows -- I like the idea of taking my chips from the table. (Final tally: $90.50 in the black.) In fact, I ended up using my poker winnings to fund our activities for the day.

We decide to go back up to the Bellagio to check out the start of the WPT Championship (beginning at noon), then shop a while before heading over to the World Cup. Got there around 11:30 a.m. As we are walking through, Vera spots a fellow in a dark jacket whose hat is failing to tame his curly locks. “That’s the funny guy,” she says. I look and sure enough it is Gavin Smith, hastily making his way toward the poker room. Vera also picks out Gus Hansen, white button-up shirt untucked, moving in the same direction. We grab sandwiches at Café Palio, then go back over to the poker room.

I run into Rick again -- Paul’s friend -- and we chat a bit. Soon after I again see Gavin Smith at a near table and start watching some hands. We must have arrived not too long after the spat he ended up talking about on the April 22 episode of PokerWire Radio (w/Todd Brunson) in which another player calls him “ugly face.” Now everyone appears quiet and studious.

Here’s one hand I saw in particular. Gavin is in either the SB or BB. A player in middle position makes a medium-sized raise and all fold to Gavin who thinks a bit and then calls. The flop is Q43-rainbow. Gavin checks, the MP player makes a smallish-looking bet, and Gavin calls quickly. The turn is a deuce, and both players check. The river is a 6. Gavin checks, the MP makes another stab, and Gavin calls showing 6d4d for two pair. MP mucks.

I keep scanning the room, trying to find familiar faces. Vera clues me in that I should watch the woman with the intimidating-looking camera as wherever she is the famous folks aren’t far away. I see Josh Arieh, decked out in full Bodog gear, looking a bit bored here in Level 1. A little afterward I see a green baseball cap about halfway back. Look closer and sure enough, it’s Dan Harrington.

We then move over to the Fontana Room for a short while. Vera spots David Williams, but as she points him out to me a man in a suit jacket standing near the table blocks our view. Eventually he turns around and strides out of the room -- it’s Marcel Luske. I quickly narrate to Vera the story of the 2004 WSOP where those two first became friends. As I’m whispering, a Joey Ramone-looking fellow stands up in the middle of the room -- Issac Haxton.

Kind of fun stargazing like that. Somewhere during the week I also saw Andrew Black in a red hooded sweatshirt, sporting a huge life-is-good smile, as well as John Shipley (whose name I didn’t recall until I saw a clip of the 2002 WSOP final table over on Just Poker Talk).

We leave soon afterwards and do a lot of walking through the Bellagio, Caesar’s, and back over to the Paris. By dinner time we’re at the Thomas & Mack to see Isabell Werth and her horse Warum Nicht FRH take the 2007 Rolex FEI World Cup Dressage crown. (Here's that story.) For Vera, who also rides dressage, the week was similarly a chance for her to see in person the best of the best compete in the sport she loves.

Had to get up at the god-awful hour of 3:30 a.m. to catch our early flight Sunday morning. We made it back fine, though. All around, a terrific trip. Am presently scheming (in a very non-specific way) to get back to Vegas sometime this summer, though at this point that’s probably unlikely.

Thanks for reading this here travelogue, all! Will be getting back to the usual “shots in the dark,” responses to “the rumble,” and other Hard-Boiled type activity here in short order. Might even have to share a pot limit Omaha hand or two with you, as well . . . .

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