Passively, through increasingly drunk ears, I listened to the guy who was still talking. And just like when I hear 10-89 (local police ten-code for death) pop out of the police scanner, I heard something from my left that made me slip back into active listening.

The word was “dwarf.”

Fold.

I turned to my left and saw the smile creeping in the corners of the guy’s mouth. Indeed, he had said “dwarf.”

Somehow, I just knew.

I bounded from my chair and wrapped the guy in a hug like I would a brother I hadn’t seen in years.

“You son of a bitch,” I said.

Iggy had arrived.

Read the rest of this, including the first Pai sbo Gow run, at “Let’s Get to Saturday, shall we?”

Number four: A city that never sleeps

When the Bloggers are in town, there is rarely a moment when there isn’t somebody to hang with. Even wen you want to sleep, there are people wanting to party with you.

My ribs and stomach were starting to hurt. Something very wrong was happening to my body.

Through the clouds, I heard the voice of some Monty Python-esque god.

“Get up.”

I think I answered, “No.” I might’ve said, “I’m ill-equipped.”

“Get up.”

I smlled cigarette smoke and the pain was growing worse.

I opened my eyes to mere slits and looked up. There–more than six feet above me–stood G-Rob, his hair a mess, a cigarette dangling from his lips. He was kicking me in the ribs and stomach. Repeatedly.

“Get up. Big Mike just called for a stretch Excursion to take us to Sam’s Town.”

Within a few minutes, unshowered, in the same clothes I’d been wearing for 36 hours, I stood up, grabbed my Otis jacket and hat, and followed G-Rob back to the elevators.

One thing I learned on this trip: When Big Mike is being generous, it is a foolish man who doesn’t accept the generosity.

For the whole story of how most of the bloggers were awake for a straight 48, read “Decisions, decisions”

Number five: Only one person can win the tournament, but everybody can have fun

Now, I feel shame that, as much as I wanted to enjoy the Holiday Classic tournament, I was ill-equipped. In fact, I was ill-eqippued for all of it.

As Charlie spoke, Evelyn Ng walked in the door. My mind again shifted. The lack of sleep started getting to me again. I could tell that Daddy recognized this from his seat in front of me. More than recognizing it, I felt like he empathized. He vocalized what was going through my head. Loathe to misquote him, I only remember that his first few words were, “In terms of weird…”

He continued, but I already knew where he was going. Here we were, a couple of schlubs, surrounded by some of the greatest pros, on our way to a private tournament set up in our honor, working on a few minutes sleep, after a rock-star night and morning that we shoud not have survived, and Evelyn Ng just walked into the room on a virtual hydrofoil of beauty.

In terms of weird, indeed.

That’s when I broke down. It all just became too much for one tired Otis to handle. I felt myself breaking up and didn’t want to disturb Charlie’s speech. As quietly as I could, I slipped out a side door into the faux open air of the Sam’s Town Casino courtyard.

To read what happened in the actual tournament, you can read, “The Holiday Classic through Otisian eyes”

But the point is this…even if you’re not playing in the tournament, everyone will be there. Most people will bust out and be there on the rail with you. Go play slots with Grubby. Go do soco shots with the ACHE. Hit on Mrs. Otis. There will be things to do.

Number Six: The characters

When you start slinging chips with the bloggers in the sidegames, you’ll meet a cast of characters you’ll remember forever. Just last Friday, I told the story of Albania.

Albania arrived in a quiet whoosh of funk and bed-fashion. I questioned for a while whether he had teeth. I could tell he was from out of town (way out of town) but couldn’t get a read on his personality otherwise. That was until someone beat him on one hand and he degenerated into the quickest tilt I’ve ever seen. Then, I was fascinated by his rebound, as he came back two hands later and laid a beat on somebody, slammed his cards on the table a’ la Phil Hellmuth and beamed with pride.

Finally, someone got up the courage to ask, “So, where you from, bud?”

His one word answer set the stage for the next several hours: “Albania.”

Dr. Jeff and I looked at each other across the table. The song clicked with both of us at the same time.

To the tune of “When the Saints Go Marching In” we began singing, “Albania, Albania, you border on the Adriatic…”

The table looked at us, expecting an explanation. We could only offer that the song was from an old version of the show Cheers in which Coach was studying for some geography exam and needed songs to help him remember his countries. Sadly, for a long time, we couldn’t remember the rest of the song.

Albania’s catch-phrase was “You be nice to me, I’ll be nice to you.” Albania didn’t like to be checked-raised, slow-played, or otherwise hammer-inflicted. Anytime he felt like he was wandering into a trap, he’d sit up in his chair, look at his opponent and say in his thick Albanian accent, “You be nice to me, I’ll be nice to you.”

He said it to Dr. Jeff at one point, to which Dr. Jeff with more poise than I’d expect from a guy 12 hours into a session, responded “How about this? I’ll play my hand and we’ll just see how it turns out.” As it turned out, Dr. Jeff won the pot.