Better Late than Never

by Dave Hemming

Yeah, yeah, I've waited a week before posting. And everybody has already said all the stuff I would have said. But I did want to toss in my two penn'orth of gratitude to our organisers, note how offended I am by even an oblique connection to the Tournament of Kings, and generally say, "Hey - you're all people I'd want to meet again".

Blech. But you get the idea.

I arrived on Wednesday, checked in and wandered back downstairs. Some suspicious-looking types had checked in around the same time as me, but a natural reserve had kept me from randomly introducing myself to people just because they looked weird. Plus I would have been at it all week. I contented myself with slipping $5 into one of the quarter slots in the lobby, and hit the jackpot of $625 with a dollar to spare. "That's handy," I thought, "Now I don't have to spend my own money."

It's all a bit hazy after that - as others have noted, time is a fairly relaxed concept in Vegas - but at some point I met the suspicious-looking people again, and they turned out to be Novak and the Dillicks. Hawk and Bill may have been involved, too. A people momentum was gathering, and I'd met about ten people before the reception. I'd also found time to watch The Matrix, and will add my voice to those who thought it cool.

At the reception, a flood of names and faces washed over me and disappeared, never to return. Actually I did quite well; I'm usually terrible but I managed to hang on to quite a few of them. Despite having formed no mental image of some of the regulars, I was still surprised by their actual appearance; Tshen, for instance, was nothing like I hadn't imagined him. I experimented with Long Island Iced Tea, which I found got me drunk too quickly, so I switched to beer. I had a very good time at the reception, I think. I certainly had a hangover the next morning/afternoon. After we were thrown out, I overheard John and Hawk mentioning the word "coffee", which sounded like a good idea. I drifted along in their wake, and noted that I wasn't the only one.

We went to Binions, but after some considerable time without coffee appearing, I decided that I didn't need it that badly, and headed back to the hotel.

Friday I'm a little vague on, up until the dinner, but I'm pretty certain I enjoyed it. I'm pretty certain that was the day we went up to the strip, and wandered through the Mirage and did stuff. The dinner was excellent, company-wise - sitting next to Jim Hill may have had something to do with that. I had a grand time.

After that, it gets really vague. I deduce that Saturday was the major staking out of Binions $2 blackjack table, which was a boatload of fun especially once we had rasfwrjians in every seat. One of the highlights was when the dealer made Novak cut, and told him that he couldn't bitch or moan for the entire shoe, and would get half the blame for any bad hands. And it worked; John got quite a few blackjacks from that shoe, and accumulated a fair stack of chips. I learnt about not splitting tens, and doubling down, and John Dilick learnt that you can only split 4 times when his fifth eight came out. Eventually we headed off for food, leaving the hardcore gamblers to numb their butts still further.

My party was intercepted on the way to the Cheesecake Factory by Hawk, who told us of the delay and suggested we look elsewhere. We ended up having a very pleasant meal at Bertolinis, or something like that, before wandering back up to find the others still waiting for their food. Fortunately, they were ushered in within minutes of our gloating. After a certain amount of milling, I cadged a ride back to the Nugget, to sleep once more.

Sunday was fun. Plenty of hanging around the pool, trading stories and gags and such. I don't remember that much, just an overall impression of having a good time. I'm sure I'll remember more once I get the pictures developed.

Numbers were dwindling by Monday, and those hardy few left - Drew, Kenn, Noell, Eric and I - played penny ante poker by the pool. After a while, Drew switched the game to blackjack and demonstrated that the house really does win in the long run. I had a huge steak in (I think) the Four Queens, and we watched a couple more movies before everyone else departed around 11.

I got up around 5, finished packing and caught the 7:20am flight to Seattle, thus starting my 20 or so hours of travelling. Constitutionally incapable of sleeping on planes, I arrived home somewhat the worse for wear; I slept, got up and showered, slept again, ordered pizza and ate it, then slept again. Through a lack of communication, I went to work Friday to find that they weren't expecting me till Monday; rather than waste the day, I went home and found room for a little more sleep.

Mega-travel notwithstanding, I had an exceptional time in Vegas and would do it again in a heartbeat. When's the next one again?

PS. Not counting my room, I left with more money than I arrived with. Not bad...