Our First Ever Solar System Series of Poker was a success beyond my wildest dreams. The game went off without a hitch, and the winner was a gracious, humble young man who everyone was thrilled to see walk away with the bracelet and giant cash prize. This was a kid who played with such grace that the other players felt good when he beat them out of a pot. This was a young man with so much charm that his opponents felt honored to be screamed at, berated, accused of cheating and occasionally slapped the few times they beat him. The ultimate champion was me.
Perhaps I am spoiling the suspense by telling you I won, but it is not my nature to sit silently when I have the opportunity to rub others' faces in my success. That's how champions are.
First, let me tell you how incredibly wonderful the Las Vegas Club poker room treated us. We're used to getting treated like something you'd find on your shoe, but the fine staff of the Club treated us like we were royalty. Even with the large number of rookies and dorks among us, the staff was never less than friendly and helpful for the entire ninety minutes. And arranging for the tournament with poker room manager Pete Bianchi was a breeze. All we had to do was show up and the chips were laid out and the room was ready. I highly recommend the Las Vegas Club poker room for beginners. Not only will they treat you well, two hours of play a day earns a $5 coffee shop comp, a special room rate ($19 weekdays/$27 weekend), and they have a $110 in chips for $100 buy-in special.
The game began at 10 a.m. Las Vegas time--the real world equivalent of 3:30 a.m.--and all the contestants were groggy and just a little bit grumpy. Well, not all contestants were groggy, early favorite and avid gamer David "Feldy" Feldman wasn't even there. He finally showed up and took his seat just as the first hand was dealt. He completed our two tables of ten players each.
Now is a good time to remind you that I won the tournament.
Texas Hold 'Em was the game. In it, each person is dealt two cards, and five are dealt to the center of the table. The object is to have the best five-card hand using your two and the five shared cards in the middle. It is not the object, as Phil "Bagels" Fleischmann assumed, to take your neighbor's cards and shove them down your pants and say "Let me warm those up for you."
For the $15 entry fee, each entrant got the exclusive Casino Boy T-shirt and $100 in tournament chips. Tournament chips are not real money, as I'm sure a few embarrassed players who pilfered theirs later learned. They are your tournament stake, and when they're gone, you're out of the game. The last man standing (me, I won!) was crowned Ultimate Champion and received $100 in real cash and a custom bracelet from Lucky Ned, second place was the Penultimate Champion and earned $60, while third place was crowned Wheezer and given $40 in walking-around money.
As Cheapos tend to do, the players hoarded their chips and it wasn't until 30 minutes into the game that we knocked out our first player. After polite applause, Shelley Hattan stood up from her seat and gave a short speech consisting of the F-word and screaming "Cheaters!"
Then, the wheat separated itself from the chaff. Our 20 became ten and those still alive squeezed onto one table. A crowd was gathering. My wife Amy stood by to tip me off as to what cards my opponents had and was asked what was going on by a young man with a goatee. When she explained it to him, the kid got misty eyed and said "I think that's so great you guys can get together like this. It's so cool." Only, the kid liberally sprinkled his statement with Shelley's favorite F-word. The crowd grew rowdy, and so did the players as, after 45 minutes, most of us finally understood what we were doing and that they serve free drinks in the poker room too.
I was thrilled to be at the final table, and to be in the chips against people who knew what they were doing was even better. I sized up the competition. I knew Feldy was a better player than he let on because who else would keep asking the audience "What's this? What do I do now?" Mieko Sunbury proved herself the "Jesus of Poker" by rising from the dead at least three times, winning when she had all she owned in the pot. And Burt Cohen had me worried because he dressed like a pro. He had huge gold medallions, a shiny El Cortez jacket that looked a different shade of purple from every angle, a cigar the size of a Geo Metro, and polyester pants that left nothing to the imagination about the severity of his hernia.
I was wrong about Feldy. He wasn't bluffing. He really didn't know what he was doing. As players went bust and left the table, my nerves started jangling. I thought, "I'll be thrilled to get fourth. Oh, good, he lost. I'll be thrilled to get third." But as people left, my stack of chips got larger, and I added to it when I beat Mieko with a pair of kings. As the crowd applauded and she left the table, I couldn't help but graciously holler "Where's your messiah now, Sunbury?" It's just one of those touches of class the Big Empire is known for.
In the end, it was down to Burt and me. Bagels, someone who has seen me win and behave badly before, noted "If Matt wins this thing it's really going to suck for the rest of us." I had a slight chip lead and I knew I would have to bully Burt off some pots if I wanted to win. So, I systematically went to work. As I got my cards I would say "Two aces again? These great cards I'm getting aren't fair!" See, I was bluffing. But it worked, and Burt finally shoved all his chips out on a pair of jacks. I had a pair of sevens, but I knew that the dealer would flip over another eight to give me two pair and the final pot.
And, of course, as champions are likely to be I was right. Sure, as I collected the final pot I heard some boos and cries of "Rigged." Sure, Burt refused to shake my hand and someone else peed in my water bottle. But I won, I was the Ultimate Champion. And you can bet I plan on repeating next year. You suckers want a piece of me?
Who are we? ©1998 by Randy Shandis Enterprises. Questions or Comments?