It was a cold January day; Larry wanted to get out of New York. He had already told his poker buddy, Samantha, that he would visit her in Fort Myers in either January or February. Larry went online and checked Kayak.com for which weekend was the cheapest to go to
. He settled on February
1-3. He texted Samantha to see if she was going to be home that
weekend. It took three or four days but she texted back that it was
okay. He booked the flight and texted his flight information. A few
days later, Samantha called Larry. She hadn’t gotten back to him about
his flight information so Larry was happy to get some sort of confirmation that
he would have someone to pick him up at the airport. They discussed the
logistics of what they planned to do in Fort Myers and then caught up. Samantha had informed
him of her desire to play in the World Series of Poker main event that
year. Larry told her that if she made the November 9 or the people who
make the final table of the main event, he would fly to Vegas to cheer her
on. Little did he know that this was something he’d have to remember
agreeing to. Fort
When Larry flew to
, he prepared his mind for some poker.
During his trip, they went to a gun range and Larry got to shoot a hand gun for
the first time in his life. They also went to a restaurant where you
could see dolphins swimming and visited Samantha’s sister and niece but these
activities were just things to do on their off time for the real reason of the
trip; poker. Samantha had scoped out the surrounding casinos in Fort
Myers to see where
good poker tournament were and they played at a local dog track that had a
poker room. Samantha had always dreamed of getting the high hand so she
could have $ 5,000 in her pocket. Samantha didn’t really like playing
poker at the dog track so they agreed to just go for a couple hours and
see if one of them got the high hand agreeing to split the money. They
sat down at a 2-4 limit table so they could take more risks on hands that they
wouldn’t dream of playing in a no limit game. Larry was dealt a 6,8 of
clubs. He smiled, normally he wouldn’t play this hand but for $2, he needed to
see if he would get that straight flush. He put in his $2 and hoped
nobody raised. Nobody did. The flop came out 5 of clubs, 9 of clubs
and A of hearts. Larry checked this and hoped he could see a free
card. There were 5 people in the hand, which meant that the minimum bet
for the high hand had been reached. Someone bet the required two dollars
and Larry threw in his. A flush wouldn’t be too bad. The turn came
jack of diamonds. This time everyone checked, four dollars was too much
for anyone to initiate the action. The river came 7 of clubs. Larry
couldn’t believe his luck. He bet out four dollars and two people
folded, the rest paid the four dollars. Someone raised him to eight
dollars. Larry was annoyed, there was enough in the pot for the high
hand, he just wanted his $ 5,000.00. He resisted the urge to re-raise
just to spite the guy. Larry figured he picked up a flush and knew he
would get called if he re-raised but when he was looking at 5,000 dollars, an
additional four or eight dollars didn’t seem to Matter. The second
the dealer said, “Showdown” Larry flipped over his cards and screamed, “High
hand!” He knew he’d have to wait a couple hours to make it official but he
doubted that anyone that day would beat 5-9 straight flush. The
raiser mucked his hand and the dealer called over the pit boss to document what
had just happened. Larry collected his chips and shoved five dollars to
the dealer. He thought the dealer got money from the casino for dealing
the high hand so didn’t feel bad about this. Florida
Samantha heard Larry yell from the other table and came over. They agreed to stop; winning $ 2,500 in a 2-4 limit game was enough for them. Besides, Larry didn’t really want to deal with the envious eyes and people gunning for him now that they knew there was a possibility he’d win. They grabbed some food at the dog track and hung out until the time came to come back to the poker room to see if the high hand held up. It had, Larry was given his five thousand dollars and he handed Samantha 2,500. Drinks were definitely in order.
Larry’s luck turned out not to have stopped at the dog track. When they went to other casinos, he won in both blackjack and poker. He managed to accumulate thirty seven hundred dollars including the high hand he had won when he caught his plane back to
, where he lived. Samantha
also did well in the casinos and began to think that Larry was a good luck
charm. For a long time she had envisioned winning the high hand but it
never happened. Now she had in a way even if it wasn’t her who actually
received the cards. New York
Throughout the year, Samantha continued to play poker online. As she was a professional, she always tried to find sponsors for her to play in tournaments. As it so happened, during an online tournament she had impressed someone at the table and he contacted her. Samantha was extremely cautious at first but upon doing some research she decided he was legitimate. He turned out to want to sponsor her to play in the World Series Main event. She obviously agreed and called Larry to share her joy. Larry thought it was awesome. He didn’t remember the last time a woman had made it to the final table of the main event and as far as he was concerned it only happened once since Rounders made the world series popular. Win or lose, playing in the world series main event was awesome.
As the tournament happened, Larry made sure to keep up with Samantha’s progress. This was very easy because Samantha would usually call him during breaks but any time he saw the main event on TV, he watched hoping Samantha would be at the feature table or he would spot her. He was surprised when he did but usually it was a long delay so it was more like watching history and confirming Samantha wasn’t lying about being in the World Series. It was also very seldom that she was shown. When Larry received the phone call at the end of day 2 that Samantha was still in it, he began to believe. Larry had known one person who had played in the main event. He was the son of a wealthy stock broker and one of his best friend’s brother. He was also one of the only people he knew that could throw away $10,000 of his parent’s money without his parents minding at all. It wasn’t that he was a bad poker player; Larry knew he won many tournaments online but winning online tournaments and the main event were two different things. That kid bragged about making it 13 hours. Samantha had just made it to day 3. Larry recapped his year of poker. In 2012, he had lost pocket Aces seven out of eight times. The eighth was the only time someone didn’t call his large raise pre-flop so who knows what the cards would have read. That year, 2013, he had won the high hand in
. He thought of the odds of
both things happening and figured it was low. Maybe, just maybe, Samantha
could do it. Fort Myers
As the World Series progressed, the delay between televised and real time got less and less. Now, Samantha had garnered a lot of attention as there weren’t too many women left. Larry watched religiously and now when Samantha called him, he already knew what happened. Samantha used this to ask Larry about hands she had played to see what other people had to check her reading skills. Because of this, Larry started documenting every hand he saw that Samantha was in. Samantha regularly called Larry about poker games and he was always shocked at how intimately and accurately she remembered a hand. He could never tell you who folded in what position in hands he played in even the same day let alone recapping what happened a while ago. Unlike most poker players who only remember the losses, Samantha remembered the wins too. Larry didn’t remember either. This helped him because he wouldn’t go on tilt since he knew the odds never changed. The aces bad luck streak was the only exception but even then he still played them the same way. He just wasn’t as excited as he normally would have been, which may be good since it was harder to read. This continued until Larry started a conversation as, “Congratulations Samantha, you’re the last woman standing in the World Series”
Samantha didn’t know it at the time. She smiled and said, “Really?!” she had called Larry to give her normal routine of telling him how the day was even though Larry had been watching. To Samantha, she wasn’t going to change the routine; it was working. They went through their normal discussion. Larry made a point now to focus on the players to try to pick up any tells. He knew this was dangerous because if he told Samantha and he was wrong, it may cost her a lot of money but he figured he’d bring it up. He never really believed Samantha valued his opinion on poker anyway. After all, she was the professional.
Larry’s alarm went off at 6:55AM like it always did. As usual, Larry was lying awake in bed waiting for the alarm to tell him when to actually get up. He had always been an early riser but this morning was different, he couldn’t sleep because of the anticipation of the end of the day. He turned off his alarm and walked to the bathroom. He took off his watch and put it in the sink and turned the water on for his shower. In the shower he couldn’t help but smile and day dream about the possibilities of what would occur that night. After about 10 minutes, he turned the water off and grabbed his towel to dry off. He wrapped it around him and stepped out of the shower in front of his sink. He dried the pale white spot on his wrist from wearing a watch for longer than he could remember. He put the watch on and turned the faucet on. He grabbed his toothbrush and squeezed his Crest 3D whitening toothpaste on it. He wet the toothpaste and violently drove the toothbrush across his teeth both in front, on top and behind. After thoroughly brushing his teeth, he took the toothbrush out of his mouth and spit into the sink. He washed off his toothbrush and repeated the same routine this time with no toothpaste on the brush. He repeated this step one more time before putting his toothpaste down and cupping his hands to hold water and brought it to his mouth. He swished the water around his mouth to gather anything his brush may have missed and spit it into the sink. He then grabbed his bottle of Listerine, poured it into the cap and dumped the contents into his mouth. He looked at his watch and swished it around his mouth; he grabbed his deodorant, took the cap off, and wiped it under his armpits. He then grabbed a Q-tip and cleaned out his ears. He looked at his watch and watched it until it had informed him he had been swishing the Listerine in his mouth for a full minute before spitting it back in the sink and rinsing his mouth out again. He grabbed his shaving cream and pressed it onto his finger and brought it along his face. He picked up his razor and shaved both with and against the grain. Even though he had since learned you weren’t supposed to shave against the grain with a razor, he was way too old to change his routine. Besides this was only for men who complained about razor burn. Larry had been shaving with a razor since he was 14 and still really had no idea what people meant by that. He originally thought the commercial for some brand name of razors made it up but when he voiced this, many men had told him that they got it. The other men informed him it was because he didn’t have sensitive skin. Larry had a different theory but he never told them.
When he was done, he washed his face and walked to his room to put on his shirt, tie and pants. Sweat formulated on his face. It was summertime in
New York, which got as hot as .
Despite this, Larry never turned his air conditioner on because he loved the
heat. The sweating never bothered him. As far as he was concerned,
his air conditioner was only for when he hosted guests. He sat on the couch
and turned on the TV. He accessed the DVR and pressed Sportscenter and
hit play. He had 25 minutes before he had to leave for work. He
watched Sportscenter and fast forwarded through the commercials. He knew
he would only get about halfway through before he had to stop watching.
When the clock read 7:55, he turned the TV off. He went into his room put
his keys in his pocket, unplugged his cell phone from the charger and put it in
the same pocket. He then grabbed his wallet and put it in the other pants
pocket and carried something to read on the subway to work. As he walked
all he could think about was the night. He knew he’d have to pick up some
5-hour energy on the way home. It would be a very long day at work
today. For the anticipation of tonight would make minutes seem like
hours. It would all he’d be able to talk to his co-workers about.
Today was the day he would find out what he had wondered for over 6
months. He walked to Jamaica 96th
street and descended the stairs to the 6 train and
started his commute to work.
Finally the day ended. He rushed to the subway and reversed his commute home. He stopped at CVS and bought a 5-hour energy. He hoped he would need it. When the time came, he sat in front of his TV. He wouldn’t be leaving his apartment for a while. He turned it on and turned it to one of the ESPN channels and heard the announcers announce that today we would discover who the November 9 would be. Larry had his paper out to take notes of hands. Today the delays would only be about a half hour from real time. He always felt this was unfair to the players because people could call them about hands and tells during breaks. Business was business though and the viewers wanted live action. Over the years, ESPN had been trying to maintain the balance between the players in the event and the millions who watched. Obviously the viewers were more important as they were the ones who generated the money for ESPN but they tried to throw a bone to the players. Larry had no qualms that the players’ problem was exactly what he was going to do for Samantha. He had no illusions, he knew there were literally millions of people who could probably better pick up patterns than he but he did what he could for Samantha. It really would come down to talent and a little bit of luck. Larry watched intently trying to gauge how he would play a hand. He got nervous when he saw Samantha in a hand but he had confidence in her. When the pots got large and her stack seemed to dwindle, his leg would start shaking. It was much harder watching than playing. Samantha seemed cool under pressure just as he expected. The other men at her table would make flirtatious comments to her but she had been playing way too long to let that affect her.
Although it was technically morning, since Larry hadn’t slept, it was late night for him. The clock read a time that most people wake up at to get ready for work. Larry figured he’d go to his computer and send an e-mail to work saying he wouldn’t be in the next day. An e-mail he hoped he would have to send and now it looked like he would. While watching, Larry saw a middle stack person say, “all in.”
Although Larry had heard these two words countless times over the past few months, this time it was different. There were 10 people left, the day started with 18. One man who had more chips than he did called. Either the telecast would end on this hand, or we played on with one person having twice his money and the other hurt. The all in player turned over an AQ off suit. Larry thought it was weak. The caller, Kyle, flipped over a pair of 8’s. Flop came out K, 3, J, everyone held their breath. It was a good flop for the all in call. The turn revealed a 5. No help to either player. It was down to one card. If the all in gets a 10, he more than doubles his money. The dealer places one card face down and flips the next card over. Literally millions of eyes are staring at this card that may determine the final table. It reads 7. The all in call’s shoulders drop and he sighs. He starts shaking the hands of the people sitting around him. Kyle is seated on the other side of the table so all in walks around and shakes his hand. He makes his way over to Samantha. Samantha was dreading this part. It was customary to shake the hand of the guy who beat you and maybe those in your immediate vicinity but you certainly didn’t have to shake hands with everyone. A handshake would have been fine but Samantha knew what was expected of her. She hated being touched. Even her close male friends she avoided hugging but the game she preferred was to be under the radar and accumulate chips without anyone at the table knowing. This was harder as more and more women were eliminated but it was working so far. She knew that if she snubbed him on national television, she may be viewed as a bitch and then the final table would be 8 other men gunning for her because she was a bitch. It was hard being a woman sometimes. She had been forced a few times during the tournament to hug a guy who was eliminated. In the beginning it was easier because people just ignored her but not now. Every time she hugged a complete stranger she hoped they didn’t take the opportunity to lower their hands and graze her ass or, worse, actually grab it daring her to make a scene in the middle of a crowd with mostly men. She knew she wouldn’t make a scene but she’d be sure to seek them out privately and take a measure of revenge either verbally or physically. It hadn’t happened yet, and it didn’t happen with all in. It was just a quick hug, hands contacted her in the middle of her back and then he let go and walked out. He’d still be getting a substantial amount of money so there was no reason to be upset. Samantha smiled and lowered her head, she was doing what very few women have done and hadn’t done in a long time; make it to the final table of the World Series of Poker Main Event.
When Larry saw that seven turn over, he screamed in joy and stood up from his couch. If people in his apartment building weren’t awake before, they certainly were now. He pumped his fists and started punching the air. Shortly thereafter, he started jumping, thank God the people downstairs left for work at 5AM and it was much after that. He hopped over to his cabinet and poured himself a shot of rum, which he already determined he’d take if Samantha made it. If he had slept that night, he never would have done that because he doesn’t drink before noon, however, it still seemed like nighttime to him despite the sun being high in the sky illuminating
He raised his glass and even though Samantha was about 3,000 miles away, he
toasted her and poured the shot down his throat in one gulp. New York City
He stared at his computer; he had planned to book a flight to Vegas for November for the World Series just like he had promised Samantha months before if this moment happened. Right now though, he was too tired. He didn’t want to risk clicking the wrong date or something like that. Better do it after a long nap. He plugged in his phone and collapsed onto his bed. It turned out that although he was exhausted, he couldn’t sleep. He was so happy for Samantha and he daydreamed about the final table and watching her win it. He lost track of time but his phone rang. He had his phone programmed so that every person had a different ringtone. This one was Samantha’s. He rolled around and picked up his phone and answered. Samantha was no longer in poker mode, she was ecstatic. She was screaming in the phone in ecstasy. Larry responded groggily. Samantha calmed down and said, “Did you see it?”
Larry said, “Yea, Kyle won with pocket 8’s vs. AQ off suit.”
Samantha was a little annoyed Larry wasn’t happy and sharing in her joy. She assumed he was just jealous but she kept that to herself. As if he could read her mind, Larry said, “Look Samantha, it’s awesome but I was up all night and day watching you, I’m in bed. You’re getting back to me a while after it happened.”
“I was up all night too”
“it’s a little different playing poker and watching poker but whatever, congratulations, that’s awesome. Looks like I have to book a flight to Vegas in November”
“Yes you do” Samantha said with a big smile that could be heard in her voice “What happened with the hand I folded when the guy raised me four times my bet?”
Larry chuckled to himself. He realized he couldn’t go to bed yet. He got up and walked to his living room where he had the notebook of hands Samantha was in. He flipped through and found the hand she was referring to, he said, “He had the nuts” meaning the best possible hand.
“I knew it” said Samantha who did fold in that hand. Glad I folded my two pair
They talked for a while and then Samantha said she had to go because she was going out to celebrate. Vegas was the perfect city for a celebration and Samantha took advantage.
Larry immediately went back to sleep and this time quickly fell into a deep sleep. When he woke up he booked his flight to Vegas in November during the World Series. He sent an e-mail to work letting them know he would be gone that week. His co-workers knew what that meant and they congratulated him for Samantha’s success. The whole day at work, Larry couldn’t stop smiling. He hated that Samantha couldn’t have seen or talked to him now or shortly after it happened so she would realize how happy he was. Instead, she contacted him when he’d been in his bed trying to sleep. Ah well, that’s life.
Larry arrived home from work. Larry’s high school friend Tom called him later that night. Larry and he had gone to Vegas several times together. The casinos sent Tom e-mails about deals for him to come due to his frequently visiting Vegas. Since it was always in his name, Larry was more under the radar so didn’t get these e-mails. Since he had player’s cards, casinos did e-mail Larry but he always deleted them without opening them thinking they were spam. He asked Tom if any casinos had deals for that week. Tom was returning Larry’s phone call to answer that question. Obviously the answer was no. Given that it was the week of the World Series, luring people to Vegas that week wasn’t really a problem. The week after, however, there were plenty of deals. That made sense, people who were going to go in November picked the week of the final table rather than other weeks, thus there was sure to be a drop off. As simple economics would tell you, decrease in demand with no change in supply, meant a lower price. Larry was thinking where he wanted to stay. He planned on staying at Cesar’s because it was the best and it was on the street the
Rio, where the event would take place, would be. It
was also one of the most expensive casinos. He debated staying at the
Golden Nugget, they had a pool and a slide that went through a shark
tank. The tank and pool are separated by clear glass but it still seemed
like it would be a little intense if you’re swimming and a shark comes near
you. Larry knew scuba divers who swam in the ocean with sharks…it turned
out they didn’t bother you. It was a very overexaggerated risk.
More people died from vending machine accidents than shark attacks so
objectively there really should be no fear of shark attacks but given the 1970s
movie, truth and people’s perception would never be the same. He then
remembered that he would be going in November, not exactly pool weather even in
Vegas. He had been in cooler months, nobody was at the pools. Which
also made Cesar’s unattractive. Cesar’s had the best pool area he had
ever see. The cool thing about it is you didn’t have to be a guest of
Cesar’s to use the pool….at least, nobody ever said anything to him when he
went in the summer months. No, Cesar’s didn’t seem to be worth the
price. The Palms and Rio were obviously
sold out. Samantha was staying at the Rio
he knew as all the players were. It made sense, stay at the place you’ll
be playing. Larry wanted to avoid staying on far ends of the strip.
The road to the Rio intersected Las Vegas Blvd in
the middle of the strip. It wasn’t that big of a drive but he was willing
to splurge a little for this, most likely, once in a lifetime event. A
little bit of him was telling him that Samantha was now a millionaire not
him. He didn’t think Samantha would spot him any money for the hotel
because then she would have to for everyone coming to see her. Larry
thought he might be an exception because he had sponsored her when she first
turned pro, but Larry didn’t count on this. He always would rather be
pleasantly surprised rather than disappointed. He scrolled through the
prices of the casinos trying to place them on the strip in his memory.
Since he knew he had no sense of direction and a horrible memory when it came
to these kinds of things, he had Tom on the phone to help him out. The
cheapest hotel near Cesar’s was The Paris. Larry refused to stay
there. He had once for a bachelor party for his friend in 2008 and he
liked staying at new places. Although this was true, and that was the
excuse he used, he knew deep down that wasn’t the real reason. Larry had
been to 29 countries and the only one he vowed never to return to was .
He had been there twice and both times he found the people to be as rude and
stuck up as advertized. Even though “The Paris” is not France but
merely a replica of it, he still refused due solely on prejudice against French
people. It was illogical and petty but what prejudice isn’t? He
kept scrolling down and saw the Venetian. Larry liked the Venetian a
lot. It was the largest casino in Vegas, complete with a river where you
could go on a gondola ride and real Italian stores. Larry had been to France Venice and had lived in Florence
for four months and he appreciated how authentic the Venetian came to . Of
is covered with pigeons the likes he has never seen anywhere else and seagulls
are killing fish in the canals and eating them on the streets. None of
this happens in The Venetian but hey you can’t have everything. The
problem with the Venetian, he knew, was that it was designed to confuse
people. This kept people inside the Venetian. The logic was that
people try to leave, get lost, get frustrated trying to find the exit, so they
just decide to gamble more. Larry was pretty sure this had never happened
to him and he thought that logic was stupid. Then again, he didn’t doubt
that it happened often enough to make the owner of the casino design it this
way. He reasoned that he gets lost in every casino unless Tom was with
him so why not the Venetian where at least he had an excuse. Yes, that
was his hotel. Venice
He booked the room and then wondered if someone would room with him. He called his friend Janilsa. Janilsa and Samantha had been best friends in high school and she was really close with Larry. Janilsa was also one of the only women that shared a room with Larry on vacation and didn’t want to kill him at the end of the trip. Janilsa told him that although she was going to Vegas, she would be rooming with her girlfriend who was going to keep her company as Janilsa supported Samantha. Larry knew the girl and got along with her. He told her he understood and thought who else he could get. Tom already told him he couldn’t go since he already used his vacation days on a gambling trip Larry and he took earlier in the year. If Larry would have known Samantha would make the November 9, they would have planned it for that week but even then Larry doubted Tom would come. Tom was very frugal with money and given the jacked up hotel rates, Larry doubted Tom would have come and even if they did, they’d stay at some off the strip hotel like Palace Station, which may force Larry to rent a car since it was a long walk. As it stood the strip was a long walk to the
Rio. Larry heard many times of the infamous mirage
effect of Vegas where you walk toward a building that seems so close but you
just keep walking and walking and it never seems to get closer. Larry
never had this experience because it didn’t seem to exist on the strip, where
he spent a majority of his time. That is he never had the experience
until he wanted to play poker at the Rio and
tried walking there from the strip. He and Tom were absolutely exhausted
when they got there as they had drastically underestimated how far it was.
Still though, he wanted to be on the strip, he figured he would be
gambling in Vegas and avoiding long walks back from a night of drinking and
gambling through deserted streets was enough to justify a higher cost.
Even Tom had only stayed at Palace Station once with Larry.
Larry was friends with Samantha’s older sister Natalie. He contemplated rooming with her but at the end of the day he was afraid of her. Sure they spent time together, Larry had slept at her apartment and she at his but a hotel room for an extended amount of time, no that worried Larry. Especially since Natalie was now married. Larry knew her husband would never take that much time off work to fly to Vegas just to watch Samantha play poker. Natalie was unemployed so it wasn’t a problem for her. No, Natalie just wouldn’t do.
Larry sighed. He really was that much of a dork and/or that difficult to deal with that he couldn’t get one person to room with him. He’d have to suck up the cost himself. He didn’t want to room with a random friend of Samantha’s he hardly knew and Janilsa was the only one he knew well. Oh well, he would have his privacy. He booked the room for the Venetian. Larry didn’t believe in Karma or the secret or anything like that but at times like this he hoped he was wrong about that and fortune would bring the money back to him. The problem was any time it had previously, he never gave it any credit because he just pointed to the times it didn’t. These thoughts were quickly extinguished. Money was never something Larry valued very much. He had watched his entire extended family turn against his immediate family for investing in his dad and brother’s companies that tanked. To Larry, they chose to give them their money, they knew it was a risk, they can’t be mad if they lost it. Larry had made bad investments too that he had lost thousands of dollars on but he didn’t hold it against the people he invested in. Money just was never significant enough for him to lose a friend over. This trip wouldn’t hurt him. It’s not like he’d have trouble paying his rent or anything. He went about his day forgetting all about the price of the Venetian and the flight to Vegas.
At last it was November. It was time for the World Series. Samantha had been busy the past couple months with people offering to coach her and sponsors coming out of the wood work now. She remained loyal to the original sponsor but she kept a charming attitude in case she needed them down the road. No matter what, she was a millionaire, even if she was the first one out. She had made it. The list of people that always supported her being a professional poker player was short, but she would never forget who they were. She studied tape of the 9 players trying to catch some tells and devising her strategy. She hardly talked to Larry during these months, there was just no time. She was happy that her friends and family were coming to support her. To her, there was no doubt she was going to win the World Series; it was just a Matter of time. She had dreamt of this moment for so long and it was finally here; the final table.
Larry took the flight to Vegas. He always felt it was funny the way he checked a backpack rather than carry it on. To him, though, he wanted to have his knives with him and he didn’t want to worry about what the regulation size for Listerine was. He also hated carrying a bag on a plane; he wanted to walk with nothing. It was stupid, he knew, he was literally throwing money away. Was it really worth $ 50 to have a knife on you and not have something attached to your back when you walked? Honestly, no, but he did it anyway. He didn’t trust the mail or Fed-Ex. He tried that once, it didn’t arrive when he wanted it to. Even though he was still at the hotel when it was delivered, it bothered him. What if he wasn’t? What if there was no room in the overhead compartment? Then he has to put it under his seat and decrease his legroom. What was the point of having a knife for protection if you didn’t have it with you when you needed to protect yourself? Despite the hype, Larry felt safest in
than anywhere else. It had
become the safest big city in the New York and Larry believed it was even
safer than small towns where there were never a lot of witnesses. In US , there were
always people in the subways and on the street. Not to say that they
would help if something went wrong but it was a deterrent for anyone to try
anything. You just never knew what the on lookers were capable of. Larry
wanted his knife more when he was out of New York . Especially in Vegas where he may take
money from someone and have them wait outside the casino for him. Or if
he was overly excited for how much money he made at a blackjack table and
someone felt the need to mug him for it. He had one guy stare him down
and make all outward motions he was going to attack. The man was much
bigger than Larry but Larry stood his ground not because of the knife clipped
to his waist but the 6 security guards he saw within two steps of he and the
guy just waiting for one of them to try something. Larry knew it wouldn’t
be him and after five long contentious minutes the guy walked out of the casino
without trying anything and Larry smiled as the security guards
He landed in McCarran and was herded to the baggage claim where he retrieved his backpack, reached into the pocket with his knives and clipped them to his waist. Since it was cold in
, he still had long sleeves and
pants on with a winter jacket. Larry took off his jacket and put it in
his backpack. The long sleeves he’d leave on, after all, heat never really
bothered him. He waited around for Samantha’s family. They had all
flown out together saving Larry cab fare both to JFK and to the hotel.
McCarran airport was not near the Vegas strip and it was a decent size cab
fare. Larry checked into the Venetian. Vegas was cool that day,
somewhere in the 60s so he decided not the change. He also realized he
probably should have packed more long sleeves…aside from what he had on; he
only had T-shirts and shorts. Larry wondered how many times he would make
the mistake of thinking that just because Vegas was in the desert, doesn’t mean
it’s hot year round before he started bringing long sleeves. Probably
never. He was meeting Samantha’s family for dinner. They had gotten
tickets at the New York Rio. Given that it was
sold out for Larry, he figured Samantha was able to pull some strings given
that she was a player. It dawned on Larry that he should have asked Samantha
but then he realized that he really didn’t want to stay at the Rio. He told Samantha’s parents that the Voodo
lounge on top of the Rio had amazing
food. It was a little pricey but it was worth the cost. He had gone
there with his friend’s father during his bachelor party in 2008 and never forgot
it. Samantha’s mom mentioned the all you can eat buffets in the
lobby. The seafood was supposed to be to die for, Larry had had it twice
and both times he felt sick. The food was just bad. Common sense
really, Vegas is in the middle of the desert, you’re not near water so the
seafood has to travel long distances before it gets to Vegas. When in
Vegas, they make it in such abundance in order to justify a 24 hour all you can
eat buffet. When you have this massive quantity of food that isn’t made
to order but made and set out waiting for people to grab, freshness and quality
lack. The seafood buffet at the Rio was,
in Larry’s mind, just a publicity scam. People’s mentality was “Well, all
the magazines and articles on the internet say it’s the best, so it must be and
if I don’t like it then there’s something wrong with me because everyone likes
Larry didn’t have this mentality. He knew that anyone can be paid to say nice things and casinos didn’t want for money. He had no problem going against the grain. He would love to see Natalie at this world famous all you can eat buffet, she’d tear it a new one in about 2.5 seconds. Larry may be someone that wasn’t afraid to go against society’s rules and commonly held beliefs but he couldn’t hold a candle to Natalie. That was the main reason he liked hanging out with Natalie despite his fear of her. He had no idea what social norm she was going to break next. Unlike non-conformist conformists, or Goth people, Natalie didn’t go by the opposite of what everyone else believed, she didn’t know or care what everyone believed and judged for herself. The only contradiction to Larry’s logic about this seafood buffet was that the seafood in the voodoo lounge was really good. But that only explains why the transportation argument didn’t make sense, not the second part. Larry convinced Samantha’s parents to try the Voodoo lounge. He knew that later Mrs. Han would go to the seafood buffet but Larry would not be accompanying them there. The “All World” buffet was also world famous. Larry had never tried it because lines were normally at least three hours long. The idea of waiting three hours for a buffet seemed asinine to him. At first, he thought that maybe since tourists are fewer in November, it may not be that long but then again, it was the World Series. That tilted the tourist number back up. They ate at the Voodoo lounge and nobody, not even Natalie, was disappointed. Natalie didn’t say much at dinner. This was weird to Larry, when it was just he and her, she talked a lot but you add a third or more people, even if it was Natalie’s sisters, cousins or other family members, she shut up. Larry mentioned this to her on several occasions but never got a satisfactory answer. Larry took a cab back to his hotel and tried to sleep, after all tomorrow the final table started.
Samantha had tried to make her rounds and greet as many people as possible. She had a large contingent that came to visit her and she loved it. In the back of her mind, she knew that a lot of people she would barely call an acquaintance had come just in case she decided to be generous with her now millions of dollars. It was like the way the number of people’s family members all of a sudden skyrocketed when they won the lottery. All the cockroaches come looking for a handout when someone that they know no Matter how skimpy the connection make it big. Samantha knew who loved her before she had her money though. She wasn’t overly fooled by praise, she knew the score. She had seen Larry at the Voodoo lounge with her parents as she joined them for dinner. The dinner went well but she had other obligations and needed to mentally prepare for the World Series. She was nervous but also very confident. She didn’t eat much at the lounge and tried smoking marijuana to help her eat. It had minimal success. The casino had provided security for her, which she thought was cool. Surprisingly she slept very well that night; instinctively perhaps she knew she needed it for her long day tomorrow at the final table.
Larry showed up a couple hours before the event. He wanted to get toward the front. Janilsa and her girlfriend were flying in that day and would miss the start of the tournament. A little while later, Samantha’s family showed up. They saw Larry in the front and pushed their way through with Larry waving them through. Larry had no idea how people let them do that; they had been standing there for a while. The idea that one person can hold a spot for a group of people was ridiculous to him. Then again, he had been in many situations where he let someone go in front for the same reason. Nobody wants to be seen as rude and they sacrificed their rights to do so. All it took was some inconsiderate person to feel entitled that just because they knew someone up ahead, they had the right to stroll in late. It wasn’t like Larry would say anything to them. In the back of his mind, Larry told himself not to condemn them for this. In the same situation, he would probably do the exact same thing. No fault, but Larry believed in objective justice and although he would do it, it still made it wrong. Ah well, nobody to enforce it so who cares? They started watching the action unfold. Janilsa came a short while later, and Larry texted her where they were and she also pushed her way to the front. Whenever Samantha won, they screamed as loud as they possibly could. After a few hours, Janilsa’s girlfriend left to get some food. The crowd had dwindled, not many people could watch poker being played for hours upon hours but Larry was one of them. He wasn’t leaving. Samantha’s dad had been commenting for pretty much the whole time how it sucked watching it here because you couldn’t see the hole cards even after the play was over. This was for obvious reasons, you can’t have a delay when it was live and the players at least got this amount of fairness. When Samantha won a big hand, she would get up and slap five with her group. Samantha was actually getting the highest amount of cheers but it was noticeably higher pitched than the cheers for the other players. A lot of women cheered for her simply because she was a woman. There were also a group of men that supported her simply because she was good looking. Samantha quickly became a fan favorite which Larry knew she didn’t like. Hard to be under the radar when you’re the fan favorite. But that was the professional side of her. From a personal side, she liked being loved. Samantha’s mom kept scolding her husband and reminding him that they were here supporting their daughter. After a while, they decided they would try the seafood buffet. To Larry’s surprise, Janilsa had been the only one to stay with him the whole time.
The hours progressed and the crowd oscillated its size continually. Tricia, Janilsa’s girlfriend, was bringing back food for Larry and Janilsa since she had the least stake in this. She was here to keep Janilsa company while she supported her friend. It’s not to say Larry paid attention the whole time, he talked with the people he knew and sometimes had no idea what was happening at the table. He just wasn’t going to leave and he didn’t have to because he was being fed. He often wondered how he always got away with this. People just felt the need to feed him and take care of him. Obviously, he didn’t complain. People started getting eliminated. Samantha was not one of them. During the breaks, Samantha would come and talk with Larry, Janilsa and whoever else was there at the time of the breaks. Natalie had gone back to the hotel because she was tired. Samantha’s younger sister, Jackee, was watching on TV in the hotel room with her baby girl. She was undecided when to come down to see Samantha. She definitely knew if it came down to two people and Samantha was one, she’d come down but how would she know if Samantha was about to lose? All ins can happen so fast but she couldn’t keep a baby stationary for hours at a time. She did go down when there were about four people left and had the least problem pushing her way to the front. Babies were good for that. Nobody is going to push back on a mother carrying a baby. Ally, Samantha’s niece, didn’t really have any problem with being occupied in the crowd. Everyone wanted to hold her and play with her.
The fourth place person had been established and eliminated. Everyone had given Samantha a hug when they were eliminated and she was getting numb to it now. Some sacrifices need to be made for millions of dollars. Larry had watched the final table before. He knew that when it was down to three it seemed to take eons before it was heads up. Once it was heads up it all of a sudden was over real quick. This was no different. During the breaks in the latter part of the tournament, Samantha no longer talked with her group. Instead she talked with the other players behind closed doors. At first Samantha’s family felt snubbed but Larry let them in on what was going on. These final tables are rarely, if ever, winner take all. Gamblers were like anyone else, they hedged their bets. Deals were being made now. Almost always the last two people split the winnings. This happened all the time in the small tournaments that Larry played in Vegas. The heads up showdown at the end was just for the cameras. By then, win or lose, the amount was pretty much if not exactly equal based on the deal. That’s why the final two always went so quick, people just threw all in to get it over with. The money was already decided. Finally after many hours, the third place person had a name. He got up and congratulated both Samantha and the other participant. He looked again at Samantha and smiled. Now, everyone was in her corner. They wanted to see history. Chants rang out for Samantha, which Samantha’s closest friends and families took as a challenge to try to outcheer them despite their vastly lower numbers. There was a break now but this time it was different than all the other breaks. This time they were waiting for men with briefcases to bring out the cash that represented the prize for the winner. Millions of dollars in cold hard cash laid out on a table. Most heads up main event participants expressed that they would rather this didn’t happen. Playing with chips made it easier to forget that it represented money. Having to stare at a mound of cash; much more poignant than colored round shaped objects much bigger than coins.
As Larry assumed, it didn’t take long for it to be over, Samantha looked at her hole cards and turned to Larry with a huge smile. Larry knew exactly what it meant….Samantha was holding pocket 9’s. Larry believed that Samantha could never lose pocket 9’s because he saw her win so much with them. Samantha had shown Larry that online her most lost hand was pocket 9’s. Larry always explained that by telling her it was because he wasn’t there. Earlier in the year when Samantha called Larry to talk about him visiting Fort Myers Samantha was playing poker online. She had pocket 9’s and wanted to fold but just played them for Larry. She lost a lot of money on the hand. Larry said nothing, he knew she’d win it back and so did Samantha. It was a tournament game if Larry remembered correctly; you could only expect to win 15% of those anyway. Samantha told him it was only for him and Larry told her that it was her negative energy that made her lose it. This was ironic because Larry didn’t believe in negative energy but Samantha did. Despite her opponent being a good enough poker player to make it heads up in the final table of the World Series of Poker, there was no way he could pick up on this tell. Samantha and Larry were the only two people on the planet that knew this. Samantha bet big and was called. The flop came out 10,10,A. The man was the first to act and he bet out 5 times the minimum. Samantha showed nothing but she was conflicted inside. She knew she should fold; one over card, a 10 beats her. The guy was representing something. She could feel Larry willing her to call, which he was in his head. Larry never learned. You had to adapt to the cards. A well timed fold was just as important as betting a big hand, if not more. It took all her strength not to look back at Larry; she knew what he would look like. Yea he was a poker player and normally didn’t wear his emotion on his sleeve but he wouldn’t be concealing it now. She failed to keep her composure; she looked from the corner of her eye without moving her head pretending to be replaying the hand, which was barely started. There he was, Larry’s expectant eyes saying, “Who gives a shit about the cards, call.” The deal was made for Samantha; this was just for show now. She decided to just appease Larry, he had come all this way, and was one of the few people not to ask even jokingly for money. So many of her friends asked her to pay for the hotel and flight to Vegas but Larry never mentioned one word. Larry had always supported her when she turned pro. She could throw away this one hand. She’d still yell at him later, but Larry made a good punching bag, he wasn’t very sensitive. She called to a loud ovation that made her jump a little. The crowd had definitely gotten louder for her. The turn came out a 9. Samantha’s inside screamed, “Are you fucking kidding me!” but nothing on her body moved a millimeter. Two pair was a monster hand heads up but a full house was a monster hand no Matter how many people were in. Pocket 10’s, pocket aces, Ace 10 beats her. She didn’t have the nuts. The guy bet a third of his stack. Samantha had fewer chips than him but not by much. Samantha raised all In, she was here to gamble after all. Pre-flop he didn’t bet like he had pocket Aces but he had something. The guy hesitated for a while then called. He flipped over an A, 9. He had two outs, the other 2 aces. Samantha thought she should have been more aggressive pre-flop and maybe could have avoided this hand. The river came out a 5. The crowd was deafening. Loud cheers from everywhere. Samantha had almost all the chips now. Although she hated touching people, she got up ran to Larry and gave him a big hug. She would have folded if it wasn’t for him. She walked back to the table noticing and trying to ignore the whistles. Little did she know that now everyone would assume she was dating Larry. Why is it when women showed the slightest form of affection toward a man, people automatically assumed they were dating? She came back to the table. She strong armed him into losing a couple blinds before he took a desperation stab. He won that one but Samantha kept her aggressive play letting the odds play out, she could afford it. It worked, in a short amount of time, she had all the chips. A hug and a European kiss to the runner up before she waved her arms in the air in victory to a thunderous ovation and chants from the crowd. She walked toward her group and her niece ran up to her. Samantha picked her up and kissed her on the cheek, which garnered some “awwws” from the crowd. There were a couple things she had to do now like get interviewed by ESPN and take photos with the stash of cash. The fulfillment of the deal she had made with those at the final table would come later when all the cameras were gone. She had done it. The World Series of Poker representatives brought out the gold bracelet. Samantha had heard how heavy it was but until it was around her wrist, she never realized how right they were. She smiled and said “Bracelets were meant for women anyway.”
It is unsure whether she realized it or not but there were microphones and the whole world heard this comment. After a couple days of celebration in Vegas, everyone went back to their respective homes. Samantha used the money to open a charter school so she could teach kids the right way. She was very disheartened by the way schools were taught nowadays where the kids were sacrificed for quotas and getting more money from the government. It was even worse in New York where the sole purpose was for the Regents, a statewide proficiency test. She had known good teachers that came to help. She was cold enough not to believe in nepotism, after all, that would just lead to the same problem, a school that isn’t in it for the children. It was very successful. She still lived in Fort Myers as the cold New York winters bothered her. Her life really was never the same. She didn’t spend much time at the charter school, just came by every now and then to make sure things were still running by her standards. Now she could walk into any tournament she wanted. Finding sponsors was not a problem. Now she could negotiate her cut. She traveled the world playing poker. Her and Larry kept in contact. One interviewer asked her about him AKA “Who’s the guy you hugged?” The question bothered her but she told the truth that he was just a friend. Some commentators made jokes about this and put words in Larry’s mouth but he didn’t care. Larry knew he’d be forgotten in a Matter of days…it might have even been sooner than that. Samantha and Larry remained friends but they didn’t see much of each other. Samantha didn’t care about having support from friends or family at poker tournaments anymore. It wasn’t fair now, she was in so many big tournaments, and she couldn’t expect them to come to all of them. Larry just asked her to tell him if she was playing in a country that he hadn’t been to. He wanted to see a new country every year and when Samantha happened to be playing poker in a country he hadn’t been to was reason enough to make that county the new country for that year. Samantha obliged. Deep down one of the most gratifying things of winning the World Series Main Event wasn’t the money or a confirmation of her ability. It was the “fuck you” it signified to all the people that scolded her for quitting her job and becoming a professional poker player. A fuck you to an ex-fiancee who was a poker dealer and all his friends for never giving her credit for her skills, An extra fuck you to her parents for always favoring her younger brother who didn’t even have the decency to come to Vegas to support her. She helped her dad out with his financial problems to put a cherry on top of her getting back at him. He was a chauvinist; never thought his daughters would amount to anything. Well now she was wealthier than he could ever dream of. Yea, the money was nice, but the respect was better. She defied the odds, she had achieved her goal. Larry may not believe in the secret but that’s how this whole thing started. No Matter what happened to her, she’d always be a main event champion.