This ‘n That…………….late night at the poker table
On the way to St. George, Utah, on Monday, May 18, to attend my granddaughter Erika’s high school graduation, I stopped in Las Vegas to play a tournament round of Texas Hold-Em. Fortunately, I had made a reservation at the Fitzgerald Hotel and Casino. Fortunately because….
[10:30 AM that same day]
I pulled out of the driveway here in Ridgecrest, California, headed for St. George via a stop in Lancaster, California, for a doctor’s appointment and then on to Las Vegas for poker. The Doc’s appointment for 1 PM had been made six months before and would have taken another four to six months to reschedule so the detour was required. It was only forty-odd minutes out of the way. If I left Lancaster at two, I would be in Las Vegas by six. Since the tournaments usually take four to five hours, it seemed prudent to spend the night.
Well, this particular physician is also a surgeon. Monday morning is on his surgery schedule. I am sorry for the patient and his family, but one of the doctor’s procedures was interrupted by a complication — the patient decided to have a myocardial infarct during a routine surgery.
I didn’t leave Lancaster until about 4:15 PM. I made up a little time and pulled into the Fitz at 8. I could not find the valet parking [my favorite]; actually, I made a wrong turn into the self-parking structure and ended up driving to the eighth floor to find a space. By the time I made it to the registration desk at 8:15, I got the not-so-pleasant news that the hotel computer system was undergoing backup and I could wait “over there” for 20 or so minutes.
Instead, I made the mistake of checking my bags at the bell captain’s desk and went looking for something to eat figuring I could register later. After all, I had a confirmed reservation.
The Fitzgerald’s restaurant is located near the poker room so I sauntered over that way to sign up for a tournament. Cripes! The last tournament was scheduled for 9 PM and it was 8:55. I paid my entry fee and made my way to the tables and my assigned seat.
Well, the tournament lasted four hours. Unfortunately, I only made it through three of them.
One of the players, actually the one sitting to my right, directly across from the dealer, was a local. All the dealers seemed to know him and called him by name, Norman.
Norman is a character. He has to be older than me by a yard or so. Probably 6’1or 2, and relatively heavier. His longish, stringy, frizzy gray hair poked out in random directions from under a canvas bucket hat festooned with dozens of pins — the trading kind. I could not quite see the designs but based on his ties, I would bet they were poker related.
His eyebrows looked like two overgrown caterpillars perched on the frames of his dark sunglasses. I’m sure the dark sunglasses are to hide their eyes from the other players. I have never tried them. Many players, including some of the pros, wear hooded sweatshirts. I am perfectly comfortable in a short-sleeved shirt. In Norman’s case, his extra layer was a tattered red or reddish brown sweater. I had this vision of him snagging one of the yarn ends poking out of the cuff and walking away as the sleeve unraveled behind him.
Oh, ties, plural. Yes, he wore two of them knotted loosely around his neck over a collarless black tee shirt. Both appeared wide enough to use as sails on a small dinghy and obscured whatever design adorned the shirt’s chest area. The darker one, almost black, was decorated with a variety of poker hands. The other bright red one sported a variety of playing cards scattered about.
We were moved to separate tables just after the first break. I guess our poker skills were about comparable. I saw Norman walk out of the poker room just before I lost my last chip. I remember him saying he played there every night so maybe we will meet again.
Around midnight I went to the bell-captains desk to retrieve my bags only to find a sign that said it was closed from 10PM to 6AM. I went to the registratation desk with the sure knowledge that we would be able to retrieve the bags in spite of the sign. And we did. Only problem was it took more than a half-hour to round up a registration clerk. I finally had to go to the security guard station to get them to go wake up the clerk. I was finally in bed asleep sometime around 2 AM.
Sometimes the little things just compound. It wouldn’t have been any fun at all without Norman… and a few hands of poker.