The most common question you’re asked after you spend a week in Vegas: “Did you win?”
As improbable as this might sound, I actually had a chance to finish on the positive side after six consecutive days of gambling — with bronchitis, no less — which would have catapulted me into the Gambling Hall of Fame (located at Art Schlichter’s childhood home in rural Ohio).
Down about $135 for the trip on Sunday, I made a “$90 to win $75” tease on the Steelers and the Patriots (up to plus-14 against the Rams). After the Steelers covered, I slapped down another “$88 to win $80” wager on the Rams (giving eight to the Patriots), which meant I was trying to “middle” the Pats-Rams game — if the game ended with the Rams winning and the spread falling between 8 and 14, I would win both bets for $155 (the most I could lose was $15).
Couple of problems here. First of all, I was betting on a game involving my favorite team, always a no-no. Even worse, I needed them to lose by a certain number, which meant I was subconsciously rooting for the Rams and fighting those nagging “I can’t believe I bet against my favorite team” thoughts. And even worse, I was setting myself up for the dreaded Double Whammy — the Rams beating the Pats by less than eight, which would mean that I didn’t win any money and I would have to deal with the fact that I jinxed the Pats.
So what happened? The Pats hung tough all game, cutting it to seven with a few minutes remaining. When the Rams drove down the field on the ensuing drive, trying to run out the clock, I was rooting for the Pats, not my bet … but as soon as the Rams crossed the New England 30, the Evil Gambling Side took over and caused me to root for a field goal (and a 10-point lead).
In the sports book, I was making rationalizations to justify the fact that I was suddenly rooting against the Pats — Interconference games don’t matter. They weren’t supposed to win this game anyway. This was a moral victory just keeping close with St. Louis, etc. — but the fact remains that I turned on the Pats in “Shawn Michaels super-kicking Marty Janetty through a plate-glass window” fashion. All this was missing was WWF announcer Jim Ross screaming, “Noooooo! Nooooooo! Nooooooooo! What is the Sports Guy doing? I can’t believe this!”
Anyway, it came down to one play: Right before the two-minute warning, the Rams had a third-and-3 on the New England 20. If the Pats stopped them there, Jeff Wilkins would have trotted out to kick a 37-yarder and catapulted me into gambling glory. So Warner hands off to Marshall Faulk … who slices through the line, gets the first down and makes it all the way to the 10 before getting tackled at the two-minute warning. Ugh. Close, but no cigar.
So I dropped about $150 in six days on gambling ($148 to be exact). And irony of ironies, the Sports Book ended up doing in the Sports Guy: I squandered about $250 on dumb sports bets over the past three days. Go figure.
Here are the final totals:
- Poker: plus-$125 (plus-$350 on Saturday)
Blackjack: minus-$60 (plus-$200 on Sunday)
Sports Book: minus-$213 (4-6 NBA, 0-1 Hasim Rahman-Lennox Lewis, 1-1 NFL)
Hey, I’m not arguing. Going into this trip, I was just hoping that my losses would remain under the “$100 per day” mark, so leaving Vegas at minus-$148 feels like a moral victory … kind of like how Bill Belichick and the Patriots felt after hanging close with the Rams for four quarters. Things have a strange way of coming around when you’re in Vegas.
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Some leftover notes from the Rahman-Lewis fight, which was the whole reason ESPN.com sent me to Las Vegas in the first place:
(If you tape the fight on HBO this Saturday, check out Rahman’s face as he’s coming out before Round 1 — he looks totally overwhelmed. The fight was over right there. The guy put too much pressure on himself, and it ended up destroying him. Lewis just finished the job.)
Then something neat happened: Since nobody could hear Jewel, everyone in the crowd decided to just sing along. It ended up being one of those quirky “Everyone in the stadium banding together” moments that make sports so endearing. My favorite part of the whole night.
I mean … look at that list again. Good Lord. Couldn’t they have gotten Sammy to sing “Over the Top” before the main event? Does Montell Williams still quailify as a celebrity? (Can I get a ruling on this?) And how does David Schwimmer ever get introduced in public without at least 10 people lobbing bags of urine into the ring?
Sports Guy’s lists
1. Mandalay (Best lighting, best crowd, best sports book)
2. Venetian (Classiest place, biggest rooms, good sports book, good lighting)
3. Hard Rock (Hippest crowd, best music, coolest atmosphere)
4. Treasure Island (Easiest place to get a $10 table, nicest dealers, the House That Sports Guy Built)
5. Rio (Best people watching)
6. MGM Grand (Sprawling, best bang for your buck)
(By the way, after they introduced everyone, I spent about 10 minutes trying to figure out the most awkward possible three-way conversation among the people in that group and decided it would involve Bernard Hopkins, Serena Williams and David Spade. Not sure why. Fun game to try if you’re bored. I bet you get sucked in.)
— Hopper: “This place is loaded with hookers, bimbos and old Jewish guys.”
— Me: “Sounds like my prom night!”
(One thing about those parties: The number of groupies and professional harlots is simply staggering. You can totally understand why so many athletes and celebrities eventually knock people up … these women were dressed to the nines and ready to roll. They all looked like they were auditioning for the “J-Lo Story” or the “Lil’ Kim Story.”)
— Paul: “Are there gonna be hot chicks at this party? There better be (bleeping) hot chicks at this party.”
— Penny (rolling her eyes): “Yes, Paul, there are going to be (bleeping) hot chicks at this party.”
(You have to love Vegas.)
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Time for a gambling story:
On Saturday afternoon, I’m playing seven-card stud and staying alive in what’s shaping up as a gigantic pot. I’m holding two kings, two queens, a jack and a 10 and looking for either a full house, a flush (one more heart). It never even dawns on me that I could have a possible straight.
So I’m dealt the nine of hearts. Boom. There’s my flush. Impossible to beat unless the people I’m going against have a full house. I’m rearranging my hand and …
Wait a second…
King, Queen, Jack, 10, Nine.
All in hearts.
Three things you need to know about a straight flush:
1) It’s the poker equivalent of a pitcher throwing a no-hitter.
2) Only a Royal Flush can beat it (and that’s a once-in-a-lifetime hand).
3) Straight flushes are so rare that the house actually gives you money when you get one.
I’m trying to keep my eyes from bugging out of my head. I bet $5, desperately hoping that someone will raise me and remembering that I might never have a “sure thing” hand again. The guy to my left folds. The grumpy, unhappy guy across the table decides to call, throwing in $5 and turning over two aces and two kings. Yeah, right. I take my sweet time dropping my cards down, King-though-Nine, all hearts.
“That’s a straight flush!” says the dealer.
You betcha. The house ended up paying me $265, I raked in another $85 with the pot and wound up cashing in $350 in chips. And the best part was watching all the unhappy people at the table looking pissed because the preppy kid just drew a straight flush.
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Some other memories from the week that was:
Anyway, Bish and I were walking around searching for the table where we staged the comeback and realized that Treasure Island had shifted things around, added a few slot machines and dumped that section of tables. I actually felt a twinge of sadness about the whole thing. And if you don’t understand that … well, you’ve never been to Vegas.
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Finally, here’s my random Vegas story of the week:
I’m going downstairs to buy some cough syrup and pills at 3 a.m. Monday (my cold kept rearing its ugly head throughout the week — and the gambling marathon that lasted ’til 5 a.m. Friday wasn’t helping one bit). I’m half-asleep, in one of those hazy, surreal, “I’m so sick that I’m not even sure if I’m really awake right now” states. I’m wearing my glasses. Everything’s dead-quiet on my floor. I ride the elevator down, the doors open … and I’m in a casino! People gambling, people cheering, people screaming and whooping it up. It was jolting. You forget, Vegas never sleeps.
Anyway, I buy my cough syrup and end up getting back on an elevator with four people, including a woman who looks like a hooker and asks the guy accompanying her, “What floor are we going to?” Hmmmm. Even Jimy Williams could figure this one out.
So, the elevator starts going up and the hooker turns to the guy standing in front of me, who’s wearing an Eminem-type club outfit; suddenly she looks concerned, asking him, “Are you OK?”
Eminem turns a little. He’s bleeding from the nose, the left side of his face is already starting to swell up and the front of his shirt looks like somebody dumped a quart of blood on it. It’s obvious that he just got his butt kicked. As I try to take 15 steps back in a 4-by-6 elevator, he starts mumbling, barely coherent and slurring his words.
“Dgdgsgshshm,” he says. “Mdbdgfd fhfhfgs glgkfhjs afsfwds dbcdgdsg shshsg fkfkfdkds mndnsmn.”
(Translation: “Yeah, I’m OK. I got sucker-punched at the club I was at. I’m changing my shirt, then I’m gonna go find those guys.”)
The elevator stops, the doors open, and Eminem wobbles out, presumably to change, go find his gat and become the lead suspect in the next episode of “CSI.” The doors close, and we start shaking our heads.
“He looked pretty messed up,” says the hooker sadly. “I hope he’s OK.”
We have one of those unspoken, “Shaking our head/the world is a crazy place” moments. Then the elevator stops, and the doors open again. “This is our floor,” says the hooker’s date. He puts his arm behind her and gently pushes her out, but not before she smiles sweetly at me and the other man on the elevator and says goodbye. She’s about to go have sex with a strange man and get paid for it.
Now the doors close one final time. The other guy and I glance at each other and start smiling. The guy shrugs.
“Vegas,” he says.
Bill Simmons writes three columns a week for Page 2.