Wednesday, June 26, 2013

2013 WSOP, Day 28: The Old Timers’ Game

I said yesterday how I was hoping to gather some color to report, having found myself with a day off after a week’s worth of 15-hour days reporting from the World Series of Poker.

Part of the plan also was to catch up on sleep, as I’d probably been averaging around 3-4 hours most nights during that first week. Unfortunately after finally hitting the sack around 4 a.m. Tuesday morning, the hotel phone was ringing promptly at 8 a.m. with some applesauce about the bill going forward not being paid.

“No, this room isn’t paid for,” insisted the person the other end, soon forcing me into full consciousness. Soon I was dressed and talking in person with my accuser, and while eventually all was settled (they were mistaken) I’d lost my chance to sleep away the morning.

Ended up doing some work in the room, then by early afternoon had enough energy to do some errands, including on a whim deciding to visit the Palms just to see what the poker room looked like now that they’ve moved it to a new location.

The room remains quite modest with only a few tables, although the ambience is better than it was previously. Instead of a closed in, smallish space, it now sits on the edge of the sportsbook which now features an amazing wrap-around screen that extends nearly 180 degrees left to right, positioned high on the wall overlooking the bettors (see above). Rather than being a series of connected screens, it’s one continuous one with all the games, races, and wagering opportunities on display.

It being the early afternoon, there were just a couple of $2-$4 low limit tables going, and I decided to sit down for a short while. The new screen was the initial topic of conversation, with a dealer opining that it would be fun to show the Super Bowl on it with a long, continuous, wide shot of the entire field end-to-end. I agreed it would be an interesting way to see a game.

The old timers were at the table, and I soon realized I was about to pick up some of that color I was looking for. Most played there frequently, perhaps every day, with many referring to each other and the dealers by their first names. One gregarious fellow kept starting conversations with people by asking them how old they were, which brought the whole idea of aging to the foreground as a kind of theme.

He’d bet and raise a lot, too, regardless of his hand, and the first couple of times I’d three-bet him he referred to me as “big shot” as he called my reraise. It was only after I saw him betting into a fellow on the river who’d already tabled his better hand that I realized he’d entered into the still-functioning-but-no-longer-comprehending stage of drunkenness.

At one point he was quizzing the fellow to my left about his age. “What year were you born?” he asked. “1953,” came the reply. “What month were you born in?” “September... I’ll be 60 in a couple of months.”

The interviewer was interrupted as he had to be reminded the action was on him. He folded, then continued. “September you say?! What day?” “September 21st,” was the answer.

“Ah, okay okay.” He leaned back, suddenly looking tired. “I ask because my father was born in September, too... September 8, 1932.” He’d pronounced the year like it had much more significance than anyone realized, enunciating carefully so as not to slur. Nine.. teen.. thirty... TWO!

It was evolving into the most trivial conversation ever had until my neighbor said something about wanting 20 more years to live. At that the drunken questioner perked up.

“Why?” he asked. There was a pause suggesting my neighbor hadn’t expected the question. “Twenty more years to play poker,” he said, the inflection of his voice making it sound like he was shrugging even if he weren’t.

“Ah well that’s all right then,” was the verbalized judgment, although the questioner didn’t sound too convinced. He’d already established that he, too, was 60, and he added something that sounded like he thought that was enough life to live, although I didn’t quite catch what he’d said precisely.

It wasn’t a competitive game, and without even picking up too many hands I managed to win a dozen big bets’ worth without much trouble. One of the ladies at the other end of the table said something like “I have a rule... no set, no bet,” indicating the general passivity of all. There were various promotions -- “aces cracked,” “high hand,” etc. -- occupying everyone’s attentions at least as much as the hands being played. One Asian woman made a straight flush and got a bonus for that, putting a lasting smile on her face and faint ones on the others, too.

At another point I found myself sitting between two other elderly Asian men. The one on my left was asking the one on my right the name of a female dealer sitting at another table. He knew her, but couldn’t remember her name. The fellow on my right was the oldest of the bunch, and the most feeble, too, and had difficulty understanding what exactly he was being asked.

Finally he figured out what the question was, and eventually the pair got a floorperson to supply the missing name. A moment later, the older man on my right leaned forward to ask a question of his own.

“What... do you wanna f*ck with her?”

The one on my left acted like he didn’t hear the question. As did I, although if anyone were watching me my widened eyes might’ve given away that I had.

I thought about the dealers a little, all of whom were fine at managing the game and amiable custodians of the little social club of retirees. They knew several of these players, too, and I suppose some of these people have become somewhat significant supporting cast in their lives as well.

On the one hand, the game exhibited a desperate seeming pointlessness that’s hard to ignore, the kind of thing that made the idea of “twenty more years to play poker” a decidedly less than attractive fate to consider. But there’s also something meaningful going on, too, in the time these people share together sitting around a table hoping to pick up aces and lose with them.

In any event, was interesting to sit in on the old timers’ game for a short while. I’d like to play more serious poker while I’m here, especially after having had some success early in the trip, but as the old guys kind of helped point out, time is limited.

I left after an hour, stopped by the grocery store to pick up a few items, then headed back to the home-away-from-home with an intention to do more work. But I was too tired to do much of anything. Got a decent night’s sleep this time, and am extra energized as Vera Valmore arrives for her visit today.

I’d like to take her over to Red Rock Canyon to see what I got to see last summer when F-Train and I visited there. But the temps appear unfavorable for hiking, so we may just drive through and enjoy the sights from within the comfort of an air-conditioned automobile. We might try to got to Penn & Teller tonight, too, one of those shows we’ve thought about seeing every summer but never have.

Whatever we do, I’ll be greatly valuing our time we get to spend together. ’Cos that’s where the meaning comes from in this life, I think -- the getting together -- as we each otherwise individually play our hands.

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Blogger darrelplant said...

See Penn & Teller. I haven't seen the live show for a few years, but it's quite entertaining, which is all you can ask.

6/26/2013 6:39 PM  

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