Went to Reno on Tuesday with my coworkers for our semi-annual day of bonding.
The first order of business was playing in a Texas Hold 'Em No Limit poker tournament at the Peppermill casino. Successful poker is part skill, part luck, and part attitude. Since my attitude tends more towards smart-ass than bad-ass, I'm not so good at that part. I got a good lesson in attitude within minutes of arriving in Reno though.
Coming through the airport, the man in front of me on the escalator was a pretty tough looking guy. He had a shaved head, muscley arms, and what appeared to be a tattoo on the outside edge of his ear. HIS FREAKIN' EAR! (Note that I just spent a few minutes trying to google a picture of a similar tattoo location, but no luck. This tattoo type is a rarity.)
The tattoo looked like writing, but I couldn't quite make out the letters, so I leaned as far forward as I could without being obvious. Slowly, it came into focus... First an 'E', then an 'A'... and then what looked like a 'T'...
"EAT SHIT" His tattoo on his FREAKIN EAR said, "EAT SHIT". Charming.
I wasn't sure why he deemed that an appropriate sentiment to permanently etch on his body, or why he chose to use the rim of his ear as his canvas, but there it was, and it spoke to me. Inspiration has come from stranger places. I would follow in this gentleman's earsteps and be a poker bad-ass.
My buddies and I made our way to the Peppermill casino. This used to be my favorite place to gamble, but ever since being banned from blackjack there, I have avoided the place like the plague. Unfortunately, they offered the most convenient poker tournament that day, so I swallowed my pride and strutted/skulked/minced into the 'Mill.
We had an hour to kill before the tournament, so we hit the craps tables where my buddy Pablo was an unstoppable dice-throwing machine. By tournament time, I was up $170. It was a good omen.
56 people signed up for the tournament and soon I sat down at a table with 9 other players. Within the first 20 minutes I landed a good hand (three 9s) and became the chip leader at our table. I was also doing my best to analyze the other players and categorize them (e.g. bluffer, conservative, by-the-book, idiot, etc). In general I suck at looking for visual "tells" that would indicate if someone has a strong hand or not, but I'm perfectly capable of constructing a simplistic profile of the other players.
I tried to keep up some friendly chatter while maintaining my inner "bad-ass" attitude. Some new guy sat down next to me and started doing fancy chip tricks, shuffling them and rolling them from one hand to another. "Ok, I'm intimidated by your chip handling," I said warmly to him.
"Well, that's what ADD will do for you," he pleasantly replied. I smiled but I was secretly pretending that my ears were commanding him to consume feces.
Poker-wise, things were going pretty smoothly. I used my "big stack" to push around the other players a bit and made a few successful bluffs. I also did a superb job of guessing when some folks were bluffing based on their betting patterns. I was getting decent cards and I was playing them solidly.
After about two hours, I found myself at the final table with about 7 other players. The top 5 spots were going to get paid and it looked like I had the fewest chips of anyone. Things looked grim.
I went "all-in" at my first opportunity with a J-10 (suited) and got lucky when several other people called it and I ended up with the best hand. I now had a medium-sized chip stack. The very next hand the guy to my right called all-in. I looked down at my cards and was pleasantly surprised to see my best hand of the night, pocket aces. I called him and won again. Now, I had a pretty big stack.
Things went poorly from there, but I held on to get 4th place, which earned me about $100 on top of my entry fee. Not bad! Out of the 3 guys who beat me, one will be attending the World Series of Poker this year for the 2nd time, and the other guy was a very strong player who apparently makes his living playing video poker (which astonished me, but is apparently possible). I didn't feel so bad about losing to those guys.
So, I strolled/pranced out of the Peppermill with $270 of profit! Hoo hoo! My buddies and I went over to the Atlantis to spend the rest of the day playing blackjack and carousing.
Of course the remainder of my gambling was abysmal. I had, perhaps, the worst blackjack experience of life. The dealers were unable to bust and it made me (irrationally?) fear that I've been spotted as a card-counter in this casino too. Although my hands didn't seem overly horrible, the dealers would routinely turn a 5 or a 6 into 20 or 21. This happened A LOT. I don't know if casinos actually manipulate decks to cheat, but it suuuure seemed suspicious. I'll chalk this up to bad luck, but if it happens again next time at the Atlantis, it'll be my last time there.
Between the craps, poker, horrendous blackjack, and a few good baseball bets, I ended up a little more than $100 down. I've done worse.
Yay for poker. I am a bad-ass.