Saturday morning, I decided to prove that my recent success at my monthly home game was not a fluke and that I was ready to become a semi-pro poker player. I drove 40 miles through the magnificent expanse of the Rocky Mountains and arrived at the dingy blight of excess and greed we call Black Hawk. Once there, I entered the ungolden gates of The Golden Gates Casino, where they were holding The Heartland Poker Tour (yes, I'm horrified that I live in what's termed as "the heartland").
I was about to play in a $340 satellite qualifier. If I finished in the top 20% of this game, I would be entered into the main event. If I made the final table of the main event, I would be on television and I would get a piece of the $750K prize pool. I would also be elevated to the status of semi-pro poker player and I would play in huge tournaments and I would win insane amounts of money and everybody would admire me for my poker playing abilities. Or, I wouldn't.
Either way, I woke up at 7:00 AM after a long night of drinking, put on a white tuxedo (don't judge me because I wear a white tuxedo when I play poker) and had high hopes for the day. Strangely, it didn't turn out as I'd planned. First, I had underestimated the effect of being hungover at 8000 feet. I was sick and I was gassy. Second, in my excitement over playing in a "major" poker tournament, I had forgotten how much I hate Black Hawk and the people that go there.
Despite the Indian sounding name, Black Hawk's casinos are not run by Native Americans. You'd be hard pressed to find a single redskin in this town. Black Hawk legalized gambling in 1990 as a way to promote historic preservation. Sure - bring in degenerates, compulsive gamblers, and alcoholics and they'll take care of the legacy of this old mining town. Or, they'll destroy it with exhaust, capitalism, and breakfast buffets. I don't know a single person that goes to Black Hawk to take in the history. It's through and through a gaming paradise. By gaming paradise, I mean it's the only place to legally bet for several hundred miles.
I used to play at a place called The Gun Rummy Club. It was an illegal underground operation in Denver. There were rumors of mafia involvement there and a couple of my fellow players inexplicably died. Plus, most of the people that worked there were assholes. Recently, the owners were indicted for racketeering and the joint was shut down. Even if it was still around, Black Hawk would probably be a better option for getting my game on.
Unfortunately, the casinos at Blackhawk smell like old person. Ever since they banned indoor smoking there, the stench has become magnified tenfold. In Colorado, senior citizens have nothing better to do than to gamble. It's not like they're going to rock climb or snowboard or mountain bike. So, the proprietors of assisted living facilities and senior centers caravan their residents up to "the hill" daily by the hundreds and seat them and their walkers in front of 5 cent slot machines. When they leave, their odor stays. I'm so revolted by it that I can't even eat the $5.99 Prime Rib.
So, hungrily, I registered for the game. Believe it or not, I, with my 75% gray head and wrinkles from 20 years of smoking, got ID'd. What does that say about the rest of the patrons in this town? With my "legal for gambling" wristband, I waited for the game to start. I also watched my adversaries register. Despite it's recent popularity, poker still draws an interesting crowd - rednecks with non-ironic mustaches and NASCAR jackets, Asians with broken English and multiple iPods, poker nerds with sunglasses and hoodies (which, by the way, DO NOT make you a better player). Not exactly my idea of party people.
At my monthly home game, I play with people I like (or can at least tolerate). We shoot the shit, tell jokes, make fun of each other, and play cards. It's enjoyable. At the casinos in Black Hawk, it's not like that. Why, in my right mind, would I choose to spend 5 hours with a bull dyke, a 70 year-old Vietnamese man, a mechanic with a mullet and a Broncos jersey, a woman in a handi-scooter with an oxygen tank, and a 21 year-old kid who thinks he rules the world? I do not know. I do, however, find ways to make this time more bearable.
I cheat. That's right, I peek at my neighbors' hands. I hide Aces in my sleeves. I mark the cards with a Sharpie. Usually, I get caught, but when I claim ignorance, they usually let me slide. I also accuse people of cheating. Nothing is more fun than losing a hand and loudly indicting the player that won for defiling the sacred rules of this age old game.
I fart too. Yes, sitting in tight quarters at a small table with people you don't know is a great opportunity to emit my flatulent scents. No one ever calls me on it. They just accept this as one of the handicaps of playing the game at a high altitude. I also hum and cough and breathe loudly and violently yelp for no reason. And, I create dirty euphemisms for every action that could possibly occur during the game (e.g. "sucking the lactating nipple" means raising the bet; "plugging the anal fistula" means folding a hand). I like destroying concentration and ruining fun for innocent people, especially when they are sitting at my poker table.
Armed with my arsenal of distractions, I was all set to play in The Heartland Poker Tour. On my second hand, I knocked out a guy that looked like Charles Manson (currently) with a nut flush I nabbed runner runner on the turn and the river (yeah, I know the fucking lingo!). Manson didn't like that one bit. He stood on the sidelines the rest of my time in the game staring at me like I was Vincent Bugliosi. Yikes!
I sat for another couple of hours upsetting everyone and waiting to make a move. The overweight woman across from me took an insulin shot at the table. Uh huh, she was treating with her diabetes while I was trying to play poker. Come on! Then, a cocky kid that thinks poker's cool because Ben Affleck plays tried to muscle me out when I had pocket kings. That little bitch learned his lesson. I was on fire. When I got ace queen suited, I was ready to put this tourney to bed. I went all in, hoping for a caller.
A "chick" that looked exactly like Billie Jean King (shit, it probably was Billie Jean King) called me. She had pocket fives. I was clearly in the lead, but hit nothing. Just like that, I was out. Everybody that had to deal with my boisterous behavior and malodorous ass emissions stood up and applauded. I grabbed my white tuxedo jacket and left the table angrily.
On my way home, I decided that I no longer wanted to become a semi-pro poker player. Forget the fact that I wasn't good enough to win a regional satellite qualifier. I didn't want to spend the rest of my life going to places like Black Hawk and spending time with people who annoy and sometimes downright scare me. I think I'm just going to stick with my monthly home game. It's closer, it's cheaper, and my friends don't bastardize me for trying to entertain myself during the tedium of the game.