The day before the annual WPBT gathering, I was, of course, back to my usual indecisions, two hours before my alarm would go off and I would drive to the airport on frozen asphalt and through a cold that could crack steel. And of course it was my early arrival in Vegas that would cause me such consternation.
Do I rage solo and play in a poker room I haven't played? Or do I call some blogger friends, namely Bad Blood and StB, and see what they were doing?
Really, I hear you saying. This is what you were crunching in your cerebral cortex. You're right, of course. But yes.
I am type A. I actually like this about myself. It is why I'm successful at work: I never, ever miss a deadline. It is why I'm reasonably successful with my friends: I never, ever show up late or forget gatherings. It is why I can train for races, even half marathons: I never, ever blow the chunks of time it requires to do that and raise the wild animals that are our young children and keep the wife reasonably content.
But with the benefits come the issues, and anxiety can be a shadow of mine. 3 a.m. is the price I pay for that. It's though it's my biggest asset at work (besides my, um, creativity), it's also my biggest flaw: The news breaks when it wants, not at 9 a.m. when you've got three hours in your planner to handle it. When an editor approaches me with a story, I'm not always as, um, flexible as I should be. But I am creative!!!111
So planning out every detail of a weekend is not only smart, it's soothing. A place for everything and everything in its place, even the seconds of the day. Ahh.
Of course, one of the main reasons I come to the WPBT - the other is all the wonderful people - is the fact that I can live a weekend completely the opposite of my life back home. I can drink, stay up really late, wake up at 10 a.m., eat bad food, leave my running shoes at home and, most importantly, I can Let It Ride.
If you're truly going to enjoy a WBPT event, you can't plan it out. You really can't. Yes, you can have an agenda, but you also have to understand it may not be followed. It's an ethereal event, and the best moments are in the spur.
I always have a requirement to play in a poker room I haven't played before when I come to Vegas. I like the $1 chip that comes from that. All I have to do is look at the chip in my Man Room downstairs, and that triggers a rush of memories.
Of course, knowing how WBPT events work (you have to grab moments to EAT, let alone play in a poker room that probably won't interest anyone else since I've covered the big ones), I was worried I wouldn't get to that. So do I do that first, or see what the day brings Thursday?
(Yes, this is what Type A people worry about. At least I fret over things I can control, like my weekend, instead of how many women Tiger holed-in-one).
I'm not a "see what the day brings" kind of guy. I prefer to read the directions to the puzzle rather than just dumping the pieces on the floor and going with it.
But, like George in "Seinfeld" discovered, sometimes doing the opposite of what you would normally do can be a wonderful thing. And so I texted StB as soon as I got in my room.
"Hey," I said. "I'm here. Whatcha doing?"
• • •
Thursday after lunch, Stb asked me what I wanted to do. This is always a test. Do I push the poker room, even knowing that there would be plenty of poker that weekend, or do I Let It Ride? I took a deep breath.
"I don't care," I said. "What's going on?"
I was not only relaxing, I was BREAKING plans I had already made with Bad Blood and the G-Vegas crew to meet them at the Venetian poker room to play. But I'd get there. Stb wanted to head to the IP. Pauly and Speaker and Derek and AlCan'tHang were already there. Some guys, and more importantly writers, I truly admire, in other words. Sold!
I headed over to the Venetian buzzed after a couple hours of intoxicating conversation with some truly brilliant scribes. Or maybe it was just the boobies. The first sighting of Vegas itself is like that first hard shot. You have to just let it smack you and then you can shake your head and start to enjoy the buzz.
I've struggled this year online, as I said a couple of posts before (I refuse to link myself, sorry JJOK), but the Venetian gave me exactly the jolt I needed, like a gel in the middle of a half marathon. My table was as soft as my girls' cheeks. I knew exactly where I was almost all of the time and never, ever worried about getting pushed off a hand. I finished up $100 after two hours and realized online is much tougher than I remembered. I also found myself wishing I could play live more.
I think Thursday might be my favorite night of a WPBT gathering. There is a certain, addicting joy from seeing someone you haven't in a year and watching their eyes light up when they recognize you and beckon you over for a hug (even the guys, though that, of course, is mostly shoulder to shoulder, coughcoughcough). And there were SO MANY moments like that Thursday. Really, it's like being a kid at Christmas, only a really, really spoiled kid who gets like five presents to unwrap just from his uncle.
My tree held a small mountain of presents, and unwrapping them slowly, going from person to person, was so delicious.
And then the fun begins, and the alcohol flows and the stories start.
As you all know, I'm a runner, so I was determined to pace myself. A WPBT weekend is a half marathon (I would say a full but I don't know what that's like), a 14er, a backpacking trip, and you can't blow it in the first mile. At least I can't. By the second beer a slow buzz started to creep behind my skull, and I stopped, knowing that I'd be out in an hour if I continued.
Didn't stop me from going to bed at 3:30 a.m. tho. Which, from what I hear, was early.
• • •
Friday I got up at 8:30 a.m. - damn body clock - and ran 10 miles. Hah! Just kidding!!!1111. No, as I was still fully enjoying my week off from running, I jerked around on Facebook and then prepared for the day.
Friday is always a rager. I mean, it's Steel Panther day. That says it all, doesn't it?
It started with a good, long lunch with The Wife. As much as I love everyone at the WPBT, I still get a little edgy in large crowds and find myself preferring the small, sweet company with a few select, treasured friends. Jordan is one, and The Wife is another.
I didn't have dessert. I didn't need to.
I was, however, pleasantly surprised at how often so many others could fit that bill at any given moment. I felt far more comfortable this year than any other, and the reason is they are all friends now and seemed as genuinely happy to see me as I was to see them. Maybe I'm just a wide receiver. I need a third year.
The day sort of melted into traveling back and forth and gazing at all the mind candy until Jordan and I headed to the Hard Rock to play and wait for Pokerati' s 1/2 Pot Limit Omaha/NLHE game. What a wonderful present. Free food, good conversation and Omaha (!) live. It was dead when we got there - which is too bad, it really is a nice room - but our No Limit table eventually filled, and Jordan and I sat down to a bunch of tight players again. Jordan's antics eventually loosened them up, and I finished $50 up after three hours and the Omaha game began.
It was tighter than I thought it would be but a blast. I got involved in one huge hand with Jordan when I held top set and an open-ended straight draw and he flopped the straight. I got it all-in on the turn (which was a mistake, I should have done so on the flop, as CK pointed out) but we ran it twice and we split the pot. I got there on the first and didn't on the second.
And then....Steel Panther. What can I say that would truly capture the genius of that band? I can't. So I won't.
Plans formed out of thin air after the show - I think I was getting the hang of that - and we played 2/4 Limit with a full table of bloggers. As proof that I was fully embracing Let It Ride, the inevitable three-outer suckouts that cost me monster pots didn't even phase me.
Damn you, Doc and Drizz.
• • •
I sensed an early exit was coming in Saturday's blogger tournament. I had too much good fortune last year and finished 6th, and finished strong the year before as well, and sure enough, I was out way early, after only two hours. Eh. I thought so.
The Wife and I headed to the MGM poker room after a bite to eat, and occasionally I would ask her what was going on. There was this, there was that, and she constantly reassured me we could check it out if I wanted.
But I kept finding myself feeling...content. It was really fun, the table was easy and relatively douchebag free, and the lady sitting on my right was a good player and friendly. I could tell exactly where her narcolepsy uppers were in her bloodstream by the way she either chattered my cortex off or sat silently like a wax museum display. People stopped by. I told myself I should probably go back to the IP and take full advantage of the people I rarely get to see, but I finally decided that was not Letting It Ride. That was me being a planner.
I was having fun watching The Wife through her first 1-2 NL game, texting Doc to give him shit for sitting across from her and playing good poker. Plus I was winning again, and that always helps. Two big hands - my AK versus an older lady's KK dressed in a red sweatshirt with a Royal Flush embroidered on the left breast (she glared at me three hours later when she got KK again, but my Ace didn't hit that time) and my set of 6s against another set and two-pair - won me $500.
I went to bed Saturday night at 3 a.m. and set my alarm for 8:30 a.m.
• • •
I said my good-byes Sunday at the extremely hollerballa sports lounge CJ/Luckbox set up and went back to the airport to reflect and type this out. I wanted to finish this now because when I get home, it would be all kids, all the time (something I was looking forward to this time, I miss my little gals and the force that is my 4-year-old).
And so here I am.
It might be a bit of an eye-roller to call these trips life-changing. Really, I'm leaving my family and going to Vegas to see a bunch of gambling, drinking, hard-living degenerates. That's a bit irresponsible and maybe even childish.
But nah. Because not only are they insanely fun, I always learn so much about myself on these trips. And I always learn that perhaps a change or two is in order.
In 2007, my first time out, I learned to try new things, even doing something as crazy as flying to Vegas to meet a bunch of people I had only talked to online a few times. I knew them by their blogs, and that was it. Since then I've tried trail runs, races in the dirt and done things I would not have done before that trip.
In 2008, I learned to talk to anyone, not just those I believe will talk to me or, on the flip side, I believed I should talk to. Since then I've formed solid friendships with people in Colorado that I did not, and would not, have before that trip. I've even got what I consider a crew now, a group of people who meet every week to run for a couple hours, something I'll lean on even more starting in January (and more on that in a future post).
This year? Well, I've learned that my Type A personality is OK. It's served me well. But occasionally, it needs to be put to bed.
When you plan out every hour of your life, you're blocking and whacking away the little opportunities and moments that might otherwise slip through those creases. And those little opportunities and moments form some pretty damn good memories, and it's those memories that get me through traffic, or a high-decible tantrum, or the last mile of a tough race when I all I want to do is collapse.
Sometimes you just need to Let It Ride. And Monday, when my life returns to normal, I'll get up early, maybe get back on my running plan, and then I'll shower, smile and, after my 10 a.m. interview in my planner, go back and write the story.
And then I'll see what the day brings.