Bill & Arty's Excellent Gulf Coast Adventure, Part 1:
A MARGE III And N'Awlins Trip Report
By Bill Alan
This will be a very long trip report and there will not be a lot in it about poker. My only reason for playing poker is that I place a high value on the joy of the game itself, and an even higher one on the importance in my life of a select number of fine people I have come to know in ARG events.
So this trip report will be a lot more about people than it will be about poker. And I will pause, briefly, to give those of you who may care to do so an opportunity to move on.
It is truly difficult to assign to one happening the very best of the fun of an event such as MARGE III.
Actually, as it came to pass, that would be quite easy for me. I fell in love. But not, mind you, in any sort of physical love.
Unlike those who may seek love from "ladies of negotiable affection", I fell in love with a lady for whom I have no carnal desires. Still if I were 30 years younger, and not willing to risk my close friendship with her husband, I would kill for her.
I am speaking of the charming Stephanie Secor...the delightful woman who is married to Peter, a man who virtually everyone regards as the "Mr. Congeniality" of ARG poker. Thus it would fall unto me, were I young enough and silly enough to hit on the lovely Stephanie, to be pilloried in the RGP community. Apart from that I also admit that I wouldn't stand a chance.
In any event, when Arty & I met up with Peter & Stephanie on Bourbon Street on Sunday night, one of the most perfect "fun" nights in my long life began. I know Arty agrees.
Stephanie has that rare quality of being a true Fun Seeker. And, without it, I wonder if she & Fold'em would be as much in love as they obviously are today. Much more about this wondrous encounter in a later chapter, entitled "Serendipity".
But I digress.
Wednesday, November 7, 2001
Getting There Is Not Half The Fun
The sad events of September 11th had caused a great many problems. Among those of no importance was that Arty & I were forced to re-schedule a relatively pleasant plane ride from NY to N'awlins on another airline. Arty, Semper Paratus, managed to score a non-stop flight on JetBlue from JFK to MSY for only $130 round trip.
With looooong lines predicted by JFK security we had to be there two hours B4 our 9 AM flight. This meant that I had to get up at 2 AM to drive to Arty's house on the shore in Norwalk, CT, to meet with Connecticut Limo which took us to JFK. What fun.
The flight was (a) fine and (b) awful. Fine because it was blessed with a very well organized check-in and "on time" performance by JetBlue, including much shorter lines than the major carriers and (b) awful because it was not up to the measure of comfort I have grown accustomed to over the years -- 1st Class.
Now let me make one thing clear here.
I'm not a regular 1st Class traveler, nor do I pretend to be one. Years ago, when I had a real job, I was entitled to it. And these days I have a basketful of FF miles from Tom Hafey's business to get me anywhere I choose to go.
Willynilly, Arty & I arrive in N'awlins on time at about noon. We took the efficient & affordable, yet seriously unpleasant, Coachliner bus to Biloxi and arrived at the Bayview Grand in the early PM. A hint: If you take this wretched bus do not do what I did and sit directly over the rear axle. Wild Turkey has done enough damage to my vital organs and the corduroy nature of US 10, through Bayou country, left my kidneys in sad shape.
To his credit, Arty had done yeoman work in helping me get around with a leg I had broken two weeks earlier. He wheeled me around both airports and did a lot of baggage handling etc. If you want a good guy on your side you should always pick Art Santella.
We hied ourselves on over to the Bayside Hotel (See Note 1) thanks to an electric cart I had rented (See Note 2). After several near-accidents with me at the tiller (Arty's report on this is accurate) we made it to the Grand's splendid poker room. And, thanks to our early arrival I was spared any catcalls having to do with my WalMart cart and my temporarily dysfunctional left leg.
Indeed old ladies opened doors for me:No significant poker action to report today. I tested my skills against all of the available Hold'em games and came up largely a loser. Ah well, I thought, the weekend has only begun. Trouble is, for me at least, the poker part of the rest of the week was even less kind to me than its beginning.
"I have become accustomed to
the kindness of strangers."
A Streetcar Named Desire
So who cares, I thought. I have come here to seek fun.
And find it I did!
"Oldbear", the distinguished Mark Hughes, had steered us to the Brew Pub in the Beau Rivage for the obligatory "smoker" that night. Having been financially castrated by $140 smokers at ARG events in the past, I was more than pleased to find superb food & drink available at a price I could deal with.
I had been designated by my fellow ADBs to observe Rick Charles, our tentative 2001 postulant during this bacchanal, taking close notes to report to our fellows that he could comply with our basic requirements. For those of you who are unpleasant enough to assume that being an ADB demands not only the ability to consume a serious quantity of certain beverages, his/her conduct during the ensuing evaluation is also taken into account. Being loud & abusive, while frowned upon, does not blackball anyone. Passing out (worse still, puking) is an automatic disqualifier. (Zaftig ladies are given a certain amount of leeway in all of the above.)
In any event our candidate was given high marks and would become an ADB at week's end, subject only to final approval by our leader -- ADB Fold'em -- when he arrives on Thursday.
Obiter Dictum: On the confident assumption that any ADB, candidate or existing member, does not screw up his everyday life with booze, we do encourage drinking as a purely fun thing. People with an alcohol problem will not feel welcome in our group.
The day had worn heavily on Your Obedient Servant and thus ends this first day.
Note 1 -
My only complaint about the Biloxi Grand is the long schlepp between the casino and the Bayview. I will leave it to the organizers to see if something can be done about this. But I, for one, would gladly pay some serious juice for a room in the Casino hotel.
Note 2 -
I was told, when I asked for casino-side reservations following my broken leg accident two weeks previously, that while they couldn't give me such a room they would make an electric WalMart-type cart "available" to me. In Grand-Casino-speak this is not the same thing as "renting" me such a cart at $25 a day. Indeed, I am seriously considering going into the crippled-person-cart business at the Biloxi Grand where I would gross enough in one month to pay for the darn cart.
Thursday, November 8
"Thursday Morning Coming Down"
I do not agree with those who say that poker is, essentially, one long game -- with cumulative winnings & losses carried from one session to the next.
If this were so, how could I rejoice with my serious 4-figure winnings at FARGO a few weeks ago and not be bummed out by the equally serious losses I was to face in the three days ahead of me?
Perhaps this is why you will not read many poker stories in what follows. I don't even have any bad-beat stories to report, for godsakes, let alone any triumphant ones. So if I were to give you a play-by-play for the weekend it would be the most totally boring trip report you have ever read.
So I have elected, as of the close of the MARGE III weekend, to write mainly about fun -- not my usual excellent performance at the tables.
To begin today's report I must quote my usual Kris Kristofferson lines -- prompted by Wednesday's bacchanal at the Beau Rivage.
Well I woke up Thursday morning(I usually reserve this memorable lyric -- "Sunday Morning Coming Down" -- for the last day at an ARG event but it fits better here.)
With no way to hold my head it didn't hurt.
And the beer I had for breakfast tasted good
So I had one more for desert.
Then I reached into my closet for clothes
And found my cleanest dirty shirt.
And I brushed my teeth and combed my hair
And stumbled down the stairs to greet the day.
Arty & I had a decent breakfast at The Island View Café but it was not up to my usual room service version. (I have long believed that the most excellent benefit of being on the road is room service. Arty's, OTOH, is the selection of dirty movies available on the TV. Chacun a son gout.)
On, then, to the poker room.
This is as good a place as any to voice my feelings about the excellent poker room at the Biloxi Grand. I can say, without any reservation, that Tony and his people run the very best poker room in my 50+ years of visiting such places. Everyone involved busted their butts to make our MARGE experience better than any of the 12 ARG events I have attended B4. Not only were the dealers superb, they could quickly accommodate themselves to the arcane games we are wont to play (e.g. Chow-A-Ha). I was particularly impressed by the ease with which a dealer could signal the amount of money in the pot in a PL game; dealers at Foxwoods have a problem simply dealing it.
All of the other perks have been reported in these pages. Lots of free (and good) snack food, generous comps, etc. etc. If I could only handle the wet & buggy Summer months, I would most certainly retire to the Gulf Coast.
Today we play a game I play only once a year -- when I come to MARGE. I have always thought of Omaha, in any form, to be a close runner-up to deuces wild at the poker table. I understand why Omaha is loved, since it brings much early money into the pot. But Texas Hold'em demands a greater skill, IMHO, which is often evident B4 the flop...when luck plays a much smaller part.
There must be, although I am not ready to support it now, an important algorithm which deals with the mindset of Yankees vs. Rebels when it comes to preferences in many things. Suffice it to say that, while Yankees are generally not risk takers, the Good Old Boys tend to enjoy life more.
Hence Jambalaya, Gumbo...yes, and Omaha.
I was once in a small stakes ring game at Foxwoods and a player I knew to be a very high stakes player sat in. I said to him "Isn't this a little below your usual game Mike?" His answer was the right one: "Poker is Poker Bill".
Which is all by way of saying that Omaha is poker, so I can win at Omaha. Hence, with this faulty logic in place, I began to lose. Either I was looking to find both a low & a high hand in my four hole cards (This game was high only!) or I was using more, or less, than two cards from the hole to make up my nut hand.
In due course I wised up, though, and I am now planning to put low-stakes Omaha High on my menu whenever I can't book a Hold'em game.
Oh yes -- I finished somewhere in the middle of the pack.
I futzed around for the rest of the afternoon at every Hold'em table from 10-20 on down with no luck at all -- a sample of things to come.
At about 5 PM Y.O.S., Arty, Bob Ogus, and Stephen "ADB Pain" cashed our $8 automatic comp at The Island View coffee shop to sample the heavily touted "incredible food bargain" there: "Surf & Turf" (which you can order as Surf & Surf, Turf & Turf, etc.). I carefully asked the waitperson, a matronly and therefor (presumably) honest & reliable lady, if the lobster was indeed a real Maine Lobster. "Absolutely", she replied although she did not, to be fair, expand upon that one fact with any words that menu-English invariably does -- words like "succulent", "delicious", or "melts in your mouth".
Nor did she mention the fact that a lobsterman in New England would have been in deep doo-doo if he were caught not throwing these babies back into the sea for the few more years it would take to grow up and be keepers.
Nor did she mention that they were one-claw lobsters, ("culls") which had been cannibalized, probably by their legal-sized ilk, while waiting to be hauled up in their trap.
Nor did she mention the fact that the coveted lobster meat we were greedily lusting for might have been described with a single, but defining, word.
So much for bargain lobsters at The Island View. I quietly pushed my "surf & surf" to one side and ordered a cheeseburger, paying for both.
The dinner situation was not a total loss however. One of us had prompted Bob to tell us about himself...his job, mainly...but anything.
Let's face it people. Not all of us, including YOS, are cel-ebbrities within our own ranks. We have people like Nut-Z, old bear, Johnny 'd and Fold'em, loaded with personality. We have past MARGE winners. We have, of course, the organizers. And we have those who post heavily to RGP.
Sadly, people like Bob Ogus tend to fall between the cracks. Unless you know Bob, as I did not at the time, you tend to make stupid first-impression judgements relating to the observable facts that Bob is...
- Middle aged
- Needs a cane to get about
Perhaps the best thing I can say here is that, following an absorbing and brief self-resume, I count Bob Ogus among the MARGE people for whom I reserve maximum respect.
Bob, as is "Ice" Eisenstein, is a serious Vietnam veteran. His cane, as is his impending hip surgery, is due to his having taken a round in 'Nam.
Thank you Bob.
I will leave it to others to tell you more about Bob Ogus. But I came away from this dinner party satisfied that I had met a guy I want to know better...and I urge all of you to join me in welcoming everyone to our ARG events. Peter Secor, as he usually does, says it best:
"An ARGer is a friend you haven't yet met".
As we left the dinner table at The Island View someone remarked "This has been a hell of a dinner!"
Rubber lobsters not withstanding, I agree. Bob had saved the day.
The rest of the evening was, for me, a succession of unplayable hands at various levels of Hold'em. So I tried to change my luck by visiting the crap tables, which had been most generous to me at MARGE I, in 1999.
"When", as the fine lyric goes, "will we ever learn?"
The Biloxi Grand deals a very generous craps game. You can back up a $5 line bet with a $50 odds bet giving you an almost zero edge against the house. There is none better in the pit games at The Grand. But after quite a few fifty-five dollar sevens, I gave it up and went to bed.
An important aside...
The ADBs had been waiting for our leader, Fold'em, to arrive and had concocted a welcoming "hurrah" to be triggered whenever he entered the poker room.
Well, a need for sustenance (and the false promise of what turned out to be a rubber lobster) got in the way and we arrived back at the poker room shortly after Peter had made his entrance...to much applause, none of which came from his absent ADB'ers...Arty, Pain, and me.
Peter, always the one who will go the xtra mile, had created an incredible collection of "The Best Of" CDs, from every year to the present. He had, in his trusty bag, what would be a priceless collection...intended to give each of us a super-souvenir of MARGE III. (I am not sure, but I believe these were intended to go to those who had lasted longer than he did in the various events. However, I scored my favorite year...1960...with no concern about my future performance. It is good to be a friend of Peter.)
What a guy!
Friday, November 9
Today was largely another uneventful poker day for Your Obedient Servant.
I continued to bleed serious money in the side games and had come to welcome the "T.O.C." tournament as an event I could (a) possibly place well in and (b) limit my severe losses in ring games for a couple of hours.
A few observations...
I would like to see 5-card draw as part of the mix of games to be played in future MARGE gatherings.
The word poker is derived from the middle low German word poken, which means "to brag" or "to bluff".
And, I submit, that Draw Poker lends itself to this definition much more so than does any other form of poker, with the noted exception of No Limit Hold'em.
On to the banquet in one of the Grand's many ballrooms, where we were made, once again, to walk through an adjoining ballroom where a splendid tuxedo & evening dress affair was going on.
It put me in mind of two years ago, same scene, where "Ice" came up with perhaps the greatest ad lib I've ever heard: We were decked out in our tee-shirt finery and, Ice, not missing a beat said to us.
"OK people...blend in!"
Barry Shulman, our featured guest, delivered one of the best poker speeches I have ever heard.
Trophies were then awarded to much applause. But, to a select few, the highlight of the evening was the induction of Rick "Da Voice" Charles as our new ADB. Rick hinted that he may well be on the bubble for a major career move and we have since seen evidence of it as he now seems to be linked up with CardPlayer, doing play-by-play at major tournaments throughout the country. Mazel Tov, Rick!
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