I suppose I should try and get this up before I end up back in Vegas (that's February).
I've been going to these things since the summer of 2006 (I missed the Winter gathering that year though), and they're always a good time. This year was no exception, although things were a bit different.
These weekends used to be preceded by warnings of how to drink properly and maintaining a buddy system so someone would run a welfare check on you if you disappeared after 29 hours of greyhounds and soco shots. Now people talk about running in marathons and hiking through canyons.
Something something growing up.
For me, it's always about seeing friends I see but once a year, twice if I'm lucky. It could be a weekend in an empty room with food and bathroom breaks and it'd still be a good time with this group. Of course, we'd undoubtedly come up with new forms of gambling by the end of it.
I arrived, I played slots and craps and poker and the like. I drank, but nowhere near to excess. I ate tasty food, had an ambulance called for me, worried a dozen people, talked hockey with a celebrity, walked through some hills, took a bunch of photos, and lost a few bucks. All-in-all, a good time
Dan/Peaker posted an innocent question a month or so before the trip - "I want to go on a hike, is anybody interested?" 14 of us said "YES!" and he now had to herd
Amazingly, everyone showed up on time. It should be stated that "on time" means "within half an hour of the we're-leaving-without-out deadline". We drove out to the wilderness, where any able-bodied mountain climber turned runner could easily subdue and bury 14 people that would never be found. Surprisingly, that's not foreshadowing.
The hike, despite Dan's claims of it being "at least a class 15, uphill both ways, definitely requiring crampons and years of training" was mostly a nice walk through some rocks and over a creek. I took pictures.
There was something like an 80% survival rate, which I think is pretty good.
That was Friday morning. Little did I know that an aquatic creature would nearly kill me that night.
Post-hike was the usual activities of cleaning up, gambling, having a couple drinks, and patching together plans for diner. It was Friday on the Strip, so options seemed limited. But in today's world of apps, making a reservation for 4 that becomes 7 that becomes 12 is fairly easy. To China Poblano we did go. It's a solid restaurant that I've enjoyed in the past.
We took over our table, ordered a whack of dishes for the table, and generally had a good time. My drink took longer than expected to arrive, but I didn't care. The food arrived, and I dove into the tuna ceviche. With a crunch.
I called over the waitress and asked what was in their ceviche. She ran through the list of ingredients, finishing with "pecans". Right, that would be the issue. I calmly explained my nut allergy, and she calmly went into an "ohshitohshitohshit" panic.
The thing with my nut allergy - it takes a little bit to kick in, so I'm never sure if I caught it in time. Those around me worried, and I collected my thoughts. I sucked on some lemons, a trick that used to work fairly well, but not so much this time. I felt the anaphylaxis coming on and asked Carol to get me some Benadryl. I'd already asked the hostess for some, but she seemed to have missed that memo.
As the staff was converging on me and asking if I wanted paramedics, or anything, Carol returned with the magic pink knock-out pills. I took a couple, and then left with the nice security man to fill out a report and determine if a hospital visit was in order. Again, Carol was great and stuck with me to make sure I wasn't knocked over the head and buried on a hiking trail to avoid liability and lawsuits.
Form filled out and lip noticeably swelled, I decided paramedics wouldn't suck. My Canadian brain was estimating US hospital costs and trying to remember if I had to let my insurance provider know before or after the trip in order to be paid back. Of course, not knowing my policy # or anything didn't help. I was led through the back halls of the Cosmopolitan, which are pretty boring, and by the time I was downstairs, the paramedics had arrived.
The first two through the door had a stretcher... for the person who had fallen and whacked their head in the elevator. My guys came afterwards. A bit of discussion and more forms later, we all agreed that the Benadryl was doing its thing and they couldn't do much more for me outside of charging me ridiculous sums of money. I was on the road to recovery.
Back through the casino to my awaiting friends who had polished off what I'm sure was a delicious dinner. People seemed relieved that I was alive, then asked if I was upset they had already started joking about my death. Seeing as how I'd be the first to do the same if it was them, no hard feelings were had.
Of course, the restaurant didn't comp a single damned thing off the menu. But Michelle wielded her mighty might and talked them into taking off all the orders of the offending ceviche of death. Someone forgot to tell the waiter though, who then chased us out of the restaurant for the missing portion of the bill. Then he questioned Michelle's math while Carol stormed back in to grab the hostess. It was incredibly amusing to see the waiter wilt under Michelle's glare while the hostess came out like a scolded pet behind an angry local. Needless to say, all was quickly settled and we continued on our way.
The interesting thing about Benadryl is that it knocks you on your ass. More fun is when you've consumed a high-caffeine mint or two just before dinner and they're fighting it out, swimming in the booze you've consumed between those times. The best option is of course to play poker on a screwed-up table with wooden posts all over it.
I think I said "it might be the Benadryl talking, but..." more than a few times during that game. I left a winner. "I almost died tonight" also came into play when needed. When did I ever claim to have pride?
Thanks to my two "moms" for the night in Carol and April. Who had various medications spread between the two of them and made sure to ask repeatedly how I was doing. It was appreciated, as I was myself a bit unsure about being alone until I knew I was in the clear.
The centrepiece of these gatherings is the tournament.The whole lot shows up to play bad poker for not insignificant winnings.
I went out relatively early to my lust for Grange's mugs. Two beautiful copper Moscow Mule mugs were his bounty, and I wanted them. I doubled him up, and then gave him the rest of my chips on hands I have since forgotten. What a dick. To get him back, I had dinner with him and PokerVixen and OnAFoldDraw later that night at Herbs and Rye. I may not know what "get him back" means.
As with all tournaments, you want to go out early or in the money. I had plenty of time after my ousting to lose money and have some more drinks. To BrainMC and Chilly - Hey orange! You're up!
The tournament went until 11ish and finished with CJ beating TheWookieWay. I missed the 10th and 9th place finishers I think. But managed to grab a shot of the final 8.
The final two looked like this:
It was obvious from early on that CJ would win. Why? Because his flight left at 11:20, so the Poker Gods would make sure he was in the tournament as late as possible. He could have pushed every hand heads-up and he would have won. Maybe he did. I left about 3 minutes before it wrapped up. Congrats to everyone who cashed though.
I had some great meals - Carnevino with Fuel, Bayne, and a buddy of Fuel's. Steak aged something like 8 months that tasted great, but fell short of what I expected. I'm happy I did it, I don't need to do it again. Fantastic wine. Herbs and Rye with Grange, Poker Vixen, and On A Fold Draw meant some good drinks (Mule, and a solid Blood and Sand), and way too much food. Tao was worth doing as well, but like much of the Venetian, the menu is showing its age, trends have moved beyond the trends it was catering to. That said, I wouldn't have passed up dinner with the Penners and Brian if it had been at McDonald's. Carol also introduced me to Bachi Burger on my way out of town, which is on my list of places to return to. Great burgers.
I once again missed the chance to greet the runners as they finished. I tried to make it over there with a Penner and his fiancée, but we severely underestimated the crowds and route and made it too late. I did, however, spend the night post-dinner with a few of those who ran, and many who didn't, around a poker table in the Mirage. I left down cash, but up huge in fun. You haven't played advanced poker until you've called off 2/3 of your stack with K2o on a board that completely missed you. I made the right read on Penner the younger, he just had slightly less nothing than I thought... oops.
I met Wil Wheaton who had made it out for the first time in years, and he came across as a genuinely nice guy who was happy to be among friends. I also took some of his money with a boat over his pair of 4s, and shot the shit about hockey with him. He's a notorious Leafs-basher, but after a couple shots (we've heard 'em all), he seemed to actually be interested in what the fanbase of the most loved/hated team in the league is like. Regardless of your team, all us hockey fans just want them back on the ice.
I brought contraband across the border in the form of Kinder Eggs for Absinthetics. I do hope his family hasn't choked to death... they seem really nice.
Drinks with the Nassis (wow, you've got to be careful typing that), Marty, Chilly, F-Train and M. Templeton rye at the bar by the sports book (it lives up to the hype. The rye, not the bar). Walking the strip with Alan and Kat (not that one, the one he's engaged to). More poker than I've played in previous trips with various friends. Up all night playing video roulette with Vinnay (bastard wins a bunch, I continue to lose). Learning open-face Chinese poker with Vinnay and Carol in Vinnay's room when we should have really all gone to sleep already. Getting a ride with LVCabChronicles and it being the cheapest airport-to-Aria ride EVER (seriously, $14.50! Everyone else was ripped off). Losing money to friends. Winning money from friends. Watching my MLife points climb at way too terrible an exchange rate. Being mildly insulted by Grange and his fervent anti-Canadianism (aka: jealousy).
Oh, and finding an incredibly hard to get bottle of boubon at a liquor store on the way to the airport. Like needle-in-a-field-full-of-haystacks hard.
All great memories. I'm sure I've missed some, and missed people. I apologize, no slights were intentional.
It was also a year of change. The IP is now no more. It's The Quad now. The Geisha bar was gone before we got there. I didn't even go in the IP this year, and only passed it on my way to dinner in the Venetian. This was our traditional meeting spot. The cheapest rooms on the strip, dealertainers, and $5 Pai Gow and craps. I couldn't tell you what it looks like now. That was a refrain often heard - "I haven't even been near it." The Aria is the new base of operations. The Excalibur made its return as the cheap game and cheap bar venue of choice. This decentralization seemed to help - people had to reach out. Texts and tweets were frequently sent as people sought out the next thing that was going on. I spent more time with more people than previous years. It was a sentiment I heard echoed a few times. In many ways, this diaspora brought the community closer together. I definitely look forward to 2013, where I expect to see at least some of you outside of Vegas before we all reconvene.
And I'll throw in a couple more pictures. These from the walk from the Aria to Venetian during the marathon. All these and more are also over here.
Is it next December yet?
Monday, December 31, 2012
I suppose I should try and get this up before I end up back in Vegas (that's February).