I was thinking this morning about how Dr. Pauly might tell this one. By the way, that picture of the sunset, taken from our hotel, comes from the ones he took while we were in Lima.
Pauly would probably start out in documentary-like fashion, drawing us in with a few easily verifiable details. Then, at some point around the tale’s midpoint -- like a member of the group crossing a street just before the light changed, leaving his less adventurous mates on the corner -- he’d mischievously race over toward the line between fact and fiction, then merrily trip over it. From there he’d carry us all into a wild, Wonderland-like finale perhaps inspired by visions of Machu Picchu or other experiences he’d gathered during those extra days he remained in Peru.
But I’m no Pauly. No, you’ll more likely find me with the others, waiting on the corner for the “Walk” sign to light up. So I’ll tell it straight. (Mostly, anyway.)
The last day of the tournament was on a Sunday. After a final table lasting seven hours or so, a regular at the Atlantic City Casino -- one more apt to be found at the craps tables than in the poker room, we’d learned -- had won the sucker. A boisterous fellow, often smiling and cracking wise even before his victory, he’d apparently played the event on a whim, having been put in by someone else.
Among those at the final table, the runner-up from Panama had struck us as perhaps the most skilled player, yet the Peruvian didn’t appear to have a lot of difficulty taking care of him. Pauly, Reinaldo, and F-Train each had different takes on what had happened, their interpretations perhaps reflecting their personalities. To summarize each, Pauly was conspiratorial about it, Ray saw karma playing a role, while F-Train was more stoic in his assessment.
While the final day was a short one relatively speaking, having concluded by early evening, it had felt like an especially long week, made more so by its having been rudely divided by “Black Friday.” So once all the reporting loose ends had been fully tied, the four of us were more than ready to relax a bit before separately renewing our travels the next day.
We went down to the Larcomar mall and enjoyed a relaxing dinner outdoors, able to hear if not perfectly see the waves crashing along the coast as night descended. Evoking our friend and colleague Mickey -- who somehow manages to inspire tourney reporters from thousands of miles away -- I ordered a vanilla milkshake. Afterwards we went back to the Thunderbird Fiesta hotel. Soon a pack of cards was produced, and as midnight came and went we did what millions of people around the world like to do every day, often online.
We played poker.
Big Deuce was the game of choice. That picture -- the only one I took during the game -- shows a hand I’d drawn. After a half-dozen hands Ray had jumped out to a lead, though we losers’ spirits remained high, kept up by some hilariously profane trash-talking from Ray.
It was good to laugh. Hell, we needed to laugh. Given the uncertainty caused by Black Friday -- for online poker, for our prospects for future employment as poker scribes, etc. -- you couldn’t blame us too much for feeling a tad apocalyptic about everything.
I mean, Pauly and I had seen a dead body our first day in Lima. We’d visited ruins where sacrifices once occurred (and, apparently, more bodies were still to be found). Websites had vanished entirely, replaced by FBI and DOJ seals and stern statements about “seizures” and “warrants” and “violations” and such. “#pokerpanic” had become a much-used hashtag on Twitter.
So we dealt another round, each of us perhaps thinking privately that, well, maybe (in a way) this really was the Last Game.
Ray sneakily saved a deuce to take down yet another hand, and while I shuffled we chuckled some more as he again described in detail to us his greatness. Meanwhile, laptops and phones kept us connected to the world outside the hotel room. Soon we were further entertained by a tweet sent earlier in the night by the witty and literary-minded Absinthe. Who, coincidentally, wrote an especially good post a couple of days ago which like this story involves finding humor (and meaning) amid grim circumstances.
Wrote Absinthe, “I’d like to think that in an alternate universe, @ftrainpoker, @taopauly and @hardboiledpoker are down in Peru plotting a revolution.”
We didn’t really discuss the tweet directly, but I knew we all appreciated it. And perhaps were inspired by it a little, too, as soon Pauly suggested we begin sending out tweets ourselves, inventing a situation out of whole cloth to baffle and amuse our followers. As I recall, the good doctor didn’t say anything specifically about an “alternate universe” or a “revolution,” but I immediately imagined the scenario he was contemplating to represent both.
The suggestion from Pauly was for us all to start tweeting that Humberto Brenes (who had played and cashed in the tourney) had joined our game. Immediately we all began helping compose the imagined missive, as well as the several follow-up tweets and Twitpics F-Train, Reinaldo, and I might subsequently send to lend the whole story further legitimacy.
“Last night in Lima, playing Big Deuce with Humberto, @ftrainpoker, @hardboiledpoker, @nalgorras” Pauly would send.
Then, a short while later, I would write: “OMG! Did Humberto really just call @ftrainpoker Dumberto? I may never stop laughing.”
Then Reinaldo: “Humberto @ftrainpoker Dumberto!!!! jajajajjajjajjjajja”
Then F-Train: “FML. Playing Big Deuce with Humberto and he just called me Dumberto.”
The story continued from there, though not before several instances of Brenes delivering his line were performed by each of us. “I am Humberto,” he’d say with exaggerated deliberation, thumbs touching the chest. Then, slowly pointing forward with both fingers and looking up, “You... are Dumberto!”
From there the fiction continued forward to include a hungover breakfast followed by still further episodes, our merry band trekking across South America as though we were Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo hurtling across the Nevada desert.
The game finally wound down around 4 a.m., I think. I noticed some time later that Pauly really did send out a tweet about Brenes and Big Deuce. There were no follow-ups, though. The rest of us had stayed on the corner, waiting for the light to change.
So while we didn’t necessarily plot any revolutions, we did create a plot. And there was something utterly liberating about it all. After the drama-filled days that came before, we were more than ready to laugh and laugh and laugh. And at least to imagine an alternate universe in which no one could ever tell us we couldn’t play cards if we wanted to.