LAS VEGAS Sometimes you eat the bear.
Sometimes the bear eats you.
And sometimes well, sometimes you just lie down by the side of the road and turn to dust, while the bear walks by, totally ignoring what is left of you.
That's pretty much what happened to me during my first three days in the Town That God Forgot, as I embarked on the final leg the seven-week 2005 WSOP festival of my odyssey through the weird and wonderful world of high-stakes poker.
Day 1 June 1
After an uneventful flight, I arrived at the Rio at about 5 p.m., in the fine company of Ashley Adams, author of "Winning 7-Card Stud." There were no signs anywhere heralding the imminent arrival of the World Series of Poker only the biggest event in the game which was scheduled to start the next day with a dealers' tournament and a bunch of one-table satellites and super-satellites. This blew Ashley's mind. A bundle of enthusiasm even in the worst of conditions, he couldn't understand why the Rio was burying the WSOP's light under a bushel basket, not to mention failing to provide useful directions. Momentarily lost and disoriented, we wandered past a small stage, surrounded by 10 slot machines, upon which "danced" a scantily clad gentleman, to the obvious delight of a gaggle of glassy-eyed grannies absentmindedly pumping quarters into their jingling one-armed bandits.
Eventually, we made our way toward the regular poker room, which, sadly, was preparing to close and to remain closed for the duration of the WSOP. Finally, a guy with an eye patch (hey, you can't make this stuff up) explained that the WSOP would be held, starting the next day, in a large room, usually reserved for major conventions, downstairs, but there would be absolutely nothing going on today. No poker for a whole day at the Rio? Seemed hard to believe. And sure enough, when Ashley and I went downstairs to take a look around, there sure appeared to be some poker going on. It seems as if a bunch of players had invaded what was supposed to be a new-dealer training session, someone "upstairs" had given the go-ahead, and now there were a couple of dozen $175 and $65 buy-in one-table satellites in full swing according to all the science tomes I later consulted, definitely a rare occurrence of spontaneous poker combustion.
As soon as a table opened up, I sat down at a $175 satellite (winner-take-all, three $500 chips that could be used to play in any WSOP tournament, plus $120 in cash). I began folding right away, and continued to do so through the first 15 hands or so. Apparently, folding can get to be a habit. On the next hand blinds were at Level 2 ($25-50), there were nine players left, and I had a stack of $850 (we'd started with $1,000 in chips) I was on the button, and looked down to find my first playable hand: 9-9. Everybody folded around to a guy two seats to my right, who raised to $250. I had no read on the guy's betting pattern (he hadn't played many hands either), so I had to assume a fairly large range of hands, from A-A to A-x to some kind of promising stealing hand, like J-10 suited. I considered my options: