Monday, April 30, 2007

Shamus in Vegas: Episode 8 -- They Even Have Books About Crazy Pineapple

The Gambler's Bookshop, located 630 South 11th Street, Las VegasFollowing my glossy, foldaway pocket map of Vegas, I cross back over Las Vegas Blvd. and walk six blocks southeast on Fremont Street, then take a right and go down 11th Street almost to Charleston Blvd. Takes around 20-25 minutes to get to my destination. Am a bit self-conscious here walking around with a wad of bills on me. Saw a few homeless folks along Fremont, a couple of whom asked me for change. 11th street takes you through a neighborhood where blistering, drought-plagued summers have encouraged homeowners to forgo grass lawns and instead fill their properties with rocks of various hues. Not terribly picturesque, but what’re you gonna do? Finally I reach the doorstep of the Gambler’s Bookshop (a.k.a. the Gambler’s Book Club, or GBC) and after snapping a pic I walk inside.

As I walk in, I see a balding man with glasses moving toward the back of the store. Could only be Howard Schwartz, the marketing director and proprietor of the store. John and Edna Luckman first opened the store back in 1964, and the couple hired Howard early on. John passed away in 1987, and Edna continued to run the store until her death in 2003. (Here’s a website identifying John Luckman as one of the “first 100 persons who shaped southern Nevada” that tells the story of how the store came to be. To learn more about the GBC and about Howard, click here to listen to Lou Krieger’s excellent interview with Howard from last summer.)

Howard halts and asks me if I need any help, I say I’m just looking, and he disappears into the back. A young man in his early twenties sits by the cash register. Another occasionally appears among the shelves to place and arrange books. A television tuned to CNN alternates between two stories: a gunman has a hostage in the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and Alec Baldwin has called his daughter a rude, thoughtless little pig.

The poker section occupies an entire wall. Above the shelves every inch of space is filled with framed photographs of poker pros and other celebrities. I move over and begin scanning through the hundreds of titles. Interspersed among the familiar spines I see several examples of the many privately-published books produced by the store, including some manuscripts that have simply been photocopied and spiral-bound. In addition to selling books, the GBC has also been a publishing house of sorts over the years, having produced 134 titles to date. Besides the large array of books on Hold ’em, Stud, and Omaha, there are several books devoted to Caribbean stud, three- and four-card poker, Pai Gow, Video Poker, and Badougi. There’s even a text called Crazy Pineapple High-Low Split.

Inside the Gambler's BookshopI take my time moving through the other sections devoted to other casino games, sports betting, the history of Vegas, card and magic tricks, gambling-related videos, DVDs, and software, and more. A separate room houses used books and magazines. After about 40 minutes, I’ve selected a couple of David Spaniers and Bob Ciaffone’s Omaha Poker. Had considered really indulging, but one can always order titles from the Gambler’s Bookshop website, which also includes a catalogue of everything under their roof.

As I make my purchase I ask the young man if Howard is available. A quick check discovers he’s still on a call. I ask if it is okay to snap a few pictures. After a few minutes, Howard emerges. “So here’s our photographer,” he says with a handshake. I introduce myself and explain how I’d heard the Krieger interview and had to check the place out. “So now you can go back and tell all your friends to come to the nice store where they give you a lollipop and a bottle of water,” he says. What’s that? Next thing I know, Howard is literally offering me a lollipop and bottle of water. I take both.

We chat a bit more and -- as Wade had predicted -- he takes me back to show me some of the old archives he’s kept over the years. I mention the blog and how I’ll probably write about the visit, and he quickly retrieves a copy of Jesse May’ The Gambler’s Guide to the World and makes a photocopy of May’s write-up of the store for me to take with me. He then shows me the stacks of clippings he’s collected over the years, all destined for what May describes as “a filing cabinet that would be the envy of any newspaper chief in the world.” Howard is himself a walking encyclopedia of gambling and Vegas history -- he considers himself a “librarian for gamblers” -- and has made his knowledge and vast resources available to many writers over the years.

I ask Howard if I can take his picture. “You want me to hold up a book?” he asks. He grabs three.

Howard Schwartz, proprietor of the Gambler's Bookshop















You might notice The Education of a Poker Player among the books he is holding. I mention to him I had read Yardley’s book recently. (Here’s my post about it.) As we move back out into the store we talk about Yardley and the Black Chamber, and he leads me back over to the history section to show me a biography of the codebraker-slash-poker player.

We start to move toward the door, and Howard commends me for wearing a hat since rain is in the forecast. He also suggests watching my wallet if I plan to do a lot more walking in the area. I thank him and the others, then make may way back out onto 11th and over to Las Vegas Blvd. to catch the Deuce back uptown.

Yet another highlight in a week full of ’em. Do check out the GBC if yr in Vegas. Might even score a Black Cherry Charms Blow Pop, if you play your cards right.

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Shamus in Vegas: Episode 7 -- Pass the Tequila

Wade Andrews of Hold 'em RadioAfter cashing my chips I ambled back around the poker room to the Hold ’em Radio booth. As I drew near I overheard the man in the black cap and red flowery shirt bidding adieu to the person leaning over the five-foot high surrounding glass walls. I recognized the speaker’s baritone twang immediately -- Wade Andrews, host of Wade’s World and the station’s producer.

I stepped forward and said I was a listener who just wanted to say hello. When I mentioned Hard-Boiled Poker, Wade said “Oh, yeah . . . I know you. Come on around.” I stepped into the booth and took a seat behind the laptops and microphones.

Hold ’em Radio first went live in early 2005, initially broadcasting from Austin, Texas. The internet station carries numerous live poker shows, most of which are also made available as downloadable podcasts and via RSS feeds. The station has broadcast something like two dozen different regular poker shows over the last two years.

I found Hold ’em Radio sometime last year, and while I’ve sampled several of the shows my favorites have been Keep Flopping Aces (hosted by Amy Calistri and Lou Krieger) and Beyond the Table. (Beyond the Table has recently gone “independent,” although my understanding is that its old shows will continue to be archived in the Hold ’em Radio “vault.”) A new show, Poker Psychology, hosted by Dr. Al Schoonmaker, also looks interesting, having already brought in Mason Malmuth, David Sklansky, and Barry Tanenbaum as guests.

The station made the move to Vegas to set up shop there in Binion’s just a few weeks ago. The move is an excellent idea, and should mean an increase in the number of big-name guests on the various shows.

As I took my seat I could hear an interview playing over the speakers inside the booth. Wade double-checked the status of the file, then we chatted about various topics. We talked a bit about the station’s new digs and the logistics of operating an internet radio station. Wade mentioned how Sklansky had been in that week (for the Schoonmaker show) and how contrary to expectations he had been a fun interview. (Will have to check that out.) Wade also noted the station’s plans to start video streams of shows in the near future.

We discussed Beyond the Table, the travails of getting money in and out of online poker sites, and a bit of Omaha and Stud strategy. Wade has a warm, inviting personality -- probably the best sort of profile to manage the many different characters who appear on Hold ’em Radio. That fact -- along with our many common interests -- made it a true pleasure just to sit and shoot the breeze with him for the half-hour or so I ended up sticking around. Here’s a shot of Wade in action behind the mic:

Wade at the mic















(If you look in the upper-left portion of the picture, you can barely make out the table where I had just finished playing, still full of the same players.)

I told Wade how I’d enjoyed listening to Lou Krieger’s interview with Howard Schwartz, owner of the Gambler’s Bookshop, from last summer -- you can find it here -- and how that was my next stop. Wade recommended talking to Howard and seeing if he’d show me some of his archives in the back of the shop. We talked a bit about the station’s Friday night parties when they host tourneys over on Cake Poker and broadcast live, and Wade showed me the nearly empty bottle of tequila kept under the table for such occasions.

As I got up to leave, Wade invited me to come back the next day for some live broadcasting. “We’ll put you on the air,” he said. I said that sounded like it would be a lot of fun. I thought I might come back, too, but ended up not being able to make it back downtown on Saturday. I noticed the sign for “Benny’s Bullpen” to the left and asked Wade if it were okay to go up the stairs to see what was going on. He said it was fine, but nothing was really happening up there. He was right.

I came back down and waved goodbye to Wade as I walked back through the poker room. It was around 2 p.m. I ended up grabbing a super sloppy chili-and-cheese hot dog and a Coke there at Binion’s before making my way back out to Fremont Street.

Next stop, the Gambler’s Bookshop.

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Shamus in Vegas: Episode 6 -- The Place That Made Poker Famous

Binion's Gambling Hall and CasinoTook the shuttle Friday morning back up to the strip, then caught the Deuce (the crosstown bus, so named ’cos it’s two bucks a ride) to Fremont Street. Arrived about 11 a.m. and spent a good while just wandering around the “Fremont Street Experience,” those five blocks covered by the barrel canopy where one finds historic places like the Golden Nugget, the Four Queens, and -- my intended destination here -- Binion’s Gambling Hall and Casino.

Took my time, walking all of the way around the perimeter of Binion’s, then finally walked through one of the many entrances. Moved quickly through the standard array of slots and blackjack tables to find the “World Famous Poker Room” -- probably the largest space devoted to poker of any of the places I played or visited during the week. Not a lot was happening, but there were a few tables running, including one full table of 2/4 limit. I actually hadn’t specifically intended to play at Binion’s, but seeing the opportunity went ahead and put my name on the list. I had a few other items on my schedule for the afternoon -- including visiting the Gambler’s Bookshop (located a few blocks away from Binion’s) -- and so knew I wouldn’t necessarily be playing more than a couple of hours.

Binion's entranceEventually enough of us gathered for a new table to be opened, and I took my seat along with four others at a table near the back of the room. As had happened at the MGM, the game began short-handed, but it didn’t take very long for the empty seats to get filled with players. I sat down in seat 3, and from my vantage point could see the Hold ’em Radio booth where a man in a red-and-yellow Hawaiian shirt and black baseball cap was stationed behind a couple of computers and a microphone. Made a mental note to stop over there when I was done.

Binion’s was probably my favorite of all the rooms I played last week. The staff was friendly, the dealers solid (and in a couple of cases, highly entertaining), and most of the other players were fun to be around. Also worth noting -- while Binion’s also takes the standard 10% or $4 maximum rake, they give players a break when you’re shorthanded, only charging $1 max. when five-handed, and $2 max. when six-handed. They also allow new players to be dealt into a hand right away without posting.

People came and went, but here’s an idea of what the table looked like for most of the time I was there:



A dealer early on asked where everyone was from, which explains some of those names. Heineken Harry had worried me a bit when he first sat down to my left, but he turned out to be a so-so player who would eventually lose his whole buy-in chasing hands while ordering beer after beer. (When he finally busted, he scurried away quickly before the waitress could return with yet another.) Sammy Sideburns probably won the most while I was there, sucking out on multiple occasions (though essentially playing solid poker). Hawaiian Hothead did throw his cards once after an unfortunate beat and had to be reprimanded by the dealer for his language. My toughest opponent turned out to be Tricky Teacher -- a young woman with whom I ended up chatting a bit. Learned that she taught reading to dyslexic ten-year-olds. Also learned she was a successful NL player who’d played at Binion’s before. I’d end up tangling with her a couple of times (see below).

I again bought in for $100 and started out folding a lot of hands (my usual modus operandi, I was discovering). Had trickled down to $85 or so when I picked up pocket rockets in late position and got everybody to fold after a ragged flop. Back to even. If you can believe it, I would get aces two more times at Binion’s -- meaning I had AA in the pocket a total of five times during the 7-8 total hours I played in Vegas. Saw maybe 220-230 hands total, so I ended up getting way more than my fair share of aces last week.

Looking at my notes, I see six hands worth relating. Here they are (in the order they occurred):

(1) After the Nebraska Newlywed raises from UTG, I decide not to call the two bets with 6c5c. A couple of other players call and the flop comes K65-rainbow. Gentle Jim ends up winning the hand with two pair. His holding? 65-offsuit.

(2) Get AsAc on the button. Two players limp, including Tough Luck Tommy. I raise and both call. Flop comes K32 and I bet. Only Tommy calls. The turn is a trey and Tommy bets out. I hesitate a moment, then raise. He just calls. The river is another ace, giving me aces full. Tommy check-calls me, then mucks. I ask him if he had the trey and he nods.

(3) Get aces yet again, this time in the SB. After raising preflop I am left with two opponents, Gentle Jim and Scottish Shannon. The flop comes J75-rainbow. I bet and both call fairly quickly. The turn is another 5, and as the card comes off I actually see Shannon across the table reaching for chips. I check, Jim bets, and Shannon just calls. I debate with myself for a moment whether or not I actually spotted a tell, then decide to let the hand go. The river is a 4. Jim bets, Shannon calls, and Jim shows 86 for a rivered straight. I don’t get to find out what Shannon had, although afterwards I doubted the significance of her having reached for chips. She probably just had a jack and the early reach just meant she was sticking around (and not that the 5 was anything special). Either way, my fold saved me some chips.

(4) I call in late position with a pair of sevens. About five players see a flop of Q22-rainbow. It checks to me and I bet. Only Vocal Vietnamese sticks around. I call him that because of his running commentary on every hand in which he was involved. The turn is a 4, and as he check-calls I think I hear him saying something about high cards (?). The river is a trey. We both check and he waits for me to show first. I go ahead and turn over my sevens, and he mucks. (I have no idea what he was drawing to -- probably had KJ or something.)

I’m sitting right around even when these last two hands occur, both of which see me heads-up against the Tricky Teacher.

(5) I’m UTG and get AT-offsuit. I call and three other players limp in, including Tricky. The flop comes A76 and I bet out. She raises, two other players call, and while I am fairly certain Tricky has me, I stubbornly call as well. The turn is a K and I check. She bets, one player calls, and I stay in. The river I don’t recall, but we check-call Tricky to see her turn over a pair of sixes for a flopped set. I lose $14 on the hand as she takes a nice-sized pot.

(6) The very next hand I’m in the BB and get 4s3h. Tricky limps in, as does most of the table. The flop comes 6c4d2s and I bet. Tricky calls, and (incredibly) the rest of the table folds. The turn is the 4c and I bet again only for Tricky to raise me. “Sixes again?” I ask. She responds with her best Mona Lisa. I call her raise. The river brings the 5d, giving me my gutshot straight. I bet out, and she calls and shows Ad4h. I turn over my hand, nudging the trey out so the dealer can see it. I sheepishly tell Tricky I got lucky, and she doesn’t seem all that put out by it. I profit $16 on that hand.

I leave shortly afterwards, exactly $9 ahead. Up $90.50 overall for the trip.

Walk over to the cage and cash my chips, then stroll over to the Hold ’em Radio booth to see if that guy in the shirt is who I think he is.

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Friday, April 27, 2007

Shamus in Vegas: Episode 5 -- “It's Only Money”

Imperial PalaceThe Imperial Palace poker “room” (or, more properly, “area”) is modestly-sized, with no more than a dozen tables or so curled around a bar in the front right-corner of the building. The 2/4 limit game was at the table nearest the gateway-like entrance. I sat down in the just vacated seat 7. When I began, all of the players were men, and while several would come and go during the two-and-a-half hours I remained at the table, the table would remain all men throughout -- with one highly conspicuous exception (more later).

Took just a few orbits for me to figure out that the fish were mostly gathered on the other side of the table, and the better players were sitting on either side of me. Not the best arrangement. Still, I think my end of the table was more entertaining.

To the left of the dealer (in seat 10) was a largish gentleman whose baseball cap and accent identified him as a Chicagoan. At one point he said he’d “spent forty years in strip b-AH-s and casinos,” so I suppose he’d played a fair amount of poker in his life. I’ll call him Windy City (did a lot of talking, not much winning). To his left was a younger, stronger player whom I’ll call Mr. Grins because he managed to keep us all cracking up throughout the session. Mr. Grins had good reason to grin -- he won a bundle. He was a good player, but also had some good fortune -- twice he had AK and flopped two pair, then had an opponent (the same poor guy) turn a straight, then made his four-outer boat on the river. On another hand, he held a pair of nines and turned a boat, then said if the fourth nine had come on the river he would have taken off his pants and run around the table. Mr. Grins did a good job keeping us laughing while taking our chips.

To Mr. Grins’ left (and my right) was an older, quieter player -- Old Granite -- who never bet without at least two pair, and didn’t preflop raise when he got big slick. The last player I’ll refer to -- Action Joe -- actually didn’t come to the table until after the first hour or so, once the afternoon tourney had finished. He arrived telling the dealer (and us) that he’d chopped the tourney, thus giving him $900 in tourney winnings for the week. Soon afterwards he’d mention he was a television executive (in Vegas for the big conference that was concluding Friday). He was also a fairly crafty player. Unfortunately for me, Action Joe was seated to my left.

As I had done at the MGM, I bought in for $100. Spent the first couple of orbits folding sub-par hands and watching. A lot more preflop raising going on here than at MGM. I had trickled down to $85 or so when I pick up QT on the button. Somehow six players had limped in without a raise, and eager to see a flop I limp as well. About $30 in the pot, then, when the flop comes QT7-rainbow. One early position player on the other end of the table bets, and it folds to me. I raise, he calls, and everyone else skedaddles. The turn was another queen. Sweet sassy molassey, I thought. Easy game when you hold the nuts. Again EP bets. I might’ve slow-played, but decided to raise since I thought he could draw out on me somehow. He called. Now there’s $55 or so in the pot. The river is a deuce, and he bets again. I raise and he three-bets.

I think for a moment and reassess my hand. Have been playing a lot of Omaha, where sometimes quads sneaks up and bites you on the ass when you think you’re holding the nuts. Nope, I assure myself, my hand cannot be topped here. The dealer explains that since we went the river heads-up, there is no longer a cap on the betting. I’m wondering if I could just announce “all in” at this point. (Anybody know?) I didn’t know, and so reraise once again. By this point, I was about 90% sure my opponent was also holding the QT and we were about to chop a huge pot. The rake had already reached its limit (10% or $4 max.), though, so there was no reason not to keep betting with the nuts. To my surprise, he just calls the fourth bet, turning over Q7 for a lesser boat. I scoop what was probably the biggest pot I won all week -- $70+ or thereabouts. That put me nearly $30 up for the session.

I know what you’re thinking. Just when, exactly, is all this horseshoe-up-yr-keister stuff gonna end, Shamus? How about right now.

Following that huge hand, I endure a fairly long stretch where I have a hard time picking up anything playable or connecting with any boards. All the preflop raising is making it harder, also, for me to play the speculative hands. Chips are starting to dribble away. Finally I get AsKc in late position and raise it up. Three or four players call, and the flop comes 6h8hTh. Criminy. All check to me, I bet, and all call. The turn is the 4h and I make scarce. I’m now about $10 up.

Another hand finds Mr. Grins and Windy City in a heads-up situation. On the turn, Windy City decides to fold, saying “playing heads-up is like kissing your sister” as he does. Can’t say I really understood his precise meaning, but Mr. Grins offered to clarify.

“Oh, right. You mean like it feels good at the time but you feel bad about it later.”

No one got it, so I chimed in with a “Wa-a-a-ait a minute.” Everyone cracked up, and Mr. Grins felt obligated to explain that, in fact, he had no interest in making out with his sister.

An orbit or two later I pick up AdAh in the cutoff. I get a couple of callers, including Action Joe from the button. Flop comes K55 and the early position player checks. I bet and both of my opponents call. The turn is a deuce, and when I bet this time only Action Joe stays with me. The river is a jack. I bet and Action Joe raises.

I had thought he’d probably have stuck around with a king, and perhaps he’s paired his kicker here as well. I knew he was no dummy, though. A dummy with KJ might raise here, not thinking about rockets beating him. I called and he showed 85-offsuit. (Clever call preflop, eh?) “Nice hand,” I told him. And it was, actually. He had extracted the maximum from me. I was now down about $10 for the session.

Emboldened, Action Joe started making straddle bets every time he was UTG. This was new to me. A straddle is essentially a raise in the dark, meaning before the cards were dealt, the blinds plus the straddle’s four dollars were already on the table, and thus it would take $4 to call (or $6 to raise) if one wanted to enter the pot. The straddles, coupled with an already aggressive preflop table and crummy starting hands, made it even harder for me to get to a flop.

One hand I’m dealt 33 in middle position and end up folding it preflop in the face of a reraise before me. The board ended up coming Ad7d3d 8cAc. I would’ve come in second. Two players had flushes, and the winner had A8.

Another hand I’m in the BB with QsJc. It folds all of the way around to Mr. Grins on the button who raises. Old Granite calls, and I do as well. The flop comes AcKd7d. Old Granite bets, and I recklessly call with my lame gutshot. (I’m getting frustrated, clearly.) Mr. Grins raises, Old Granite calls, and now I’m telling myself I have to call, too. The turn is 8d and Old Granite checks. I decide to represent the flush and bet, but Mr. Grins raises me. We both fold, and Mr. Grins shows Ad2d. Bad hand for me there. I’m now down around $25.

Around this time a dark-haired, tanned woman with a low-cut blouse arrives with a flourish to take a seat at the other end. Lots of testosterone-inspired murmurs on my end of the table. Her blonde-haired girlfriend sits down behind her. The player looks to be in her early twenties. Would’ve made an impression with this crowd no matter how she played.

But let me tell you how she played.

It took exactly one hand to figure out her style. Every time the action was on her, she would bet or raise. At the turn she always had to be told by the dealer how much to bet. Couldn’t exactly tell if she was drunk or just crazy. Probably the former, as the dealer had to tell her more than once not to use foul language. In either case, she she clearly had no idea she wasn’t at a craps table or playing some other game where you place your bets and cross your fingers. At the end of that first hand, she showed down six-high, dropping over $30. Soon she’d run through her initial $100 and rebought. Mr. Grins picked up big slick yet again, flopped an ace, and as the hand progressed provided us with a running narration (“That’s right, honey . . . oh, yes . . . watch, I’m going to get paid here . . . ”). Reactions to hands become increasingly animated, but she seems utterly nonplussed.

“It’s only money,” she says, her only explanation. Let’s call her Wild Woman.

I’m not picking up anything worth playing, and lose a few more bets just trying to get involved. Then comes the craziest hand of the week.

Wild Woman is in the small blind. Several limp, I throw away my J2 or something like it from late position, more call, then Wild Woman raises, leaning back and talking to her girlfriend as she does. Everyone calls (there are about six players in the hand). The flop comes Qc6d7s and the action is on Wild Woman. She’s still leaned backwards, jabbering on, and holding her cards in her right hand. The dealer is telling her it is her turn . . . .

I realize suddenly I can see her cards: 4c8c. (Good raising hand, eh?) Man, if only I could get in a hand . . . !

The dealer warns Wild Woman to cover her cards, but Action Joe (who is between me and her) announces he has also seen her hand. The floor gets called over and rules that Wild Woman must now place her cards face up on the table for all to see. She does so, somewhat petulantly. Then she is reminded again it is her turn to act. What does she do?

She bets, of course. Expressions of amazement. When all five of her opponents call, I keep my expressions of amazement to myself.

The turn brings the Jc. And a chorus of “oohs.” Wild Woman has probably just quadrupled her outs. She bets again. “I’d bet with that hand, too,” someone says. This time four call, one fold. The pot is up around $50. The river is . . . the 3c. She bets, and all fold.

Insanity.

Eventually she gives all those chips back to the game (of course), and buys in again, though this time just for $50 more. I’m starting to feel a little desperate, having not had a chance to play a hand with her. Being down around $35-$40 for the session or so ain’t helping my mood. And I’m going to have to leave soon to meet Vera for the show. So I decide to do something unorthodox.

I’m in the cutoff with Kc2s. Wild Woman is in the big blind, so I know she’s going to be in the hand. A couple of players limp, and I decide to raise. I know I’ve got crap cards -- the “devil’s cards,” as Henry and Zog of PokerDiagram call K2 -- but I’m also trying to use my tight image here. I actually hadn’t raised a hand preflop since my rockets had gotten busted. In fact, as Action Joe calls me, he makes reference to that hand. “Oh well, I’ll call and give you back some of your chips,” he says. “Or I might win, but then I’ll feel bad.” “You wouldn’t feel that bad,” I reply. Wild Woman calls (had thought she might raise), as do the limpers, so there are actually five of us to see the flop. (Not such a great attempt at isolation, I know.)

The flop is KJ7-rainbow and Wild Woman bets out. Both the limpers fold (yes!), and I raise, but Action Joe calls the two bets (no!). Wild Woman just calls. $30 or so in the pot.

The turn is a Q and Wild Woman bets again. I raise again, and this time Action Joe gets out. She just calls. I don’t realize it, but she’s almost out of chips again. In fact, for the last few hands her girlfriend has been keeping her chips on the small table behind her. (That can’t be allowed, can it?)

The river is another 7 and she bets her last three dollars. I call, praying this isn’t the one hand where she actually has something. She shows 10-high, and I show my king-deuce. “You raised with that?” exclaims Action Joe. I smile and say something about taking a chance. He clearly didn’t think I was capable of such applesauce. I am back to around $80 total. To the groans of the table, Wild Woman and her girlfriend leave.

The very next hand I pick up AsKs and raise it up again. Again Action Joe calls, though I can tell he’s a little unsteady. A king comes on the flop, and I eventually get Joe to fold on the turn, picking up a few more chips. I have exactly $86.50 (for some reason, the Imperial mixes quarters in with the chips, I suppose when the rake isn’t exactly a dollar). I decide to move on.

So a losing session, but with my $95 win at the MGM I’m still up $81.50 overall. Winning that first day surely made the ups and downs at the Imperial easier to endure. Probably also caused me to play more conservatively, though, which was not necessarily a good thing at this table. Still, I was glad to get out without having taken much of a hit.

I met Vera at 6 p.m. and we grabbed a bite and then saw “O.” Pretty wild stuff. They may well have made the sport of synchronized swimming obsolete with that show -- nothing left to do, really. We made it back to the hotel before it was too late, then Friday morning Vera took off for some more dressage at the FEI. Meanwhile, I set my sights on downtown. Had a few places I wanted to see, but one in particular.

Binion’s.

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