I don’t like traveling.
In my late twenties I parked my car rather clumsily and upside-down on an Allegheny mountain and sitting in the same position for any length of time has been uncomfortable ever since. I also have poor eyesight which, combined with once being “forgotten” on a Majorca beach as a small child, has produced a fear of getting lost. This in turn makes new places and situations stressful.
So when my alarm went off at a ridiculous time in the morning I blinked at it blearily and wondered wtf I was doing.
Twenty minutes later I was being whisked to the Rio in the Lukamobile with Doug and Lady M.
On arrival I immediately realized I’d forgotten my breakfast bars. Fortunately the Poker Kitchen provides nutritious snacks during the series, so I invested $17.99 in a Snickers and a bag of mini-pretzels.
Half an hour later we were introduced to The Party Bus.
I’m not sure if playing poker combined with neuro-plasticity means that poker players tend to think the same, but it became immediately apparent that a common thought was coursing through the minds of the gathering Red Chippers.
The Party Bus was not large.
Once we boarded the bloody thing our driver, Sam, who was about to have a bad day, confirmed that The Party Bus was designed to comfortably seat twenty.
“Twenty what?” I mumbled to myself.
I can imagine that twenty third-grade soccer players might find the interior roomy, but for any group of people in which the average height exceeded four foot seven The Party Bus had a serious design flaw. The “seats” snaked around the interior with a minimal gap between them so that the only means of sitting down remotely comfortably was to interlace legs in a manner reminiscent of those dove-tail joints that you’re supposed to learn to make in shop class but never get round to because of the incident with the lathe and being transferred to home economics.
At least I had a seat. Doug had to sit on a beer cooler.
Because of my dislike of traveling, I rarely do. I moved to Vegas five years ago, and would not have left at all since then were it not for a legal matter. As part of the conditions for the resulting settlement I am not allowed to mention the name of the defendant nor his profession, but if he’s reading this let me just say: I don’t know if you’re an idiot, a crook, or both, but for the sake of those around you, please find a different line of work to which you are better suited. Solo high-altitude balloon flights might be a good start.
One thing I am allowed to reveal about my last excursion is that it involved a plane depositing me in Missouri which was, at the time, in the grips of a polar vortex. Given this track record I was not in the least surprised when, a few miles outside Primm, acrid blue smoke started belching out of the driver’s foot-well as the transmission of The Party Bus exploded.
We got off the bus. The sun beat down inexorably on the Mojave Desert. I was wearing all black. Sam handed out orange slices, thereby supporting my theory that the bus was designed for the transportation of soccer-playing children. I wondered what Hunter S. Thompson would do and realized that wasn’t currently practical.
Since the only deck of cards on the bus had been commandeered by Fausto and Sacha, who were now locked in the first of their heads-up battles, I decided I should focus on my breathing. And rather than having an anxiety attack I entertained a series of “What ifs?”
First, what if the International Man of Mystery had not done one of his mysterious international disappearing tricks and had made the trip as expected? He is tall and loud. Where would we have put him? And where was he anyway?
What if the transmission had held on for another couple of hours, finally giving up somewhere out of cell-phone contact and too far for a replacement bus, which we were now awaiting, to get us to The Bike on time?
What if I had never introduced myself to Doug Hull at Bally’s?
Time passed. We squinted to the East, looking for The Party Bus II.
It appeared on the horizon like the cavalry.
As the bus got closer we were immediately confronted with one of those good-news-bad-news deals.
The good news was that the friendly emblem on the front indicated it was a Mercedes rather than the p.o.s. Ford that had just died on us.
The bad news was that Party Bus II was smaller than its predecessor.
My recollection of the remainder of the journey is virtually non-existent. I do recall that Persuadeo has a bright future in front of him since it was he who sussed that riding shotgun with the driver was the only way to avoid ending up like a Poker Kitchen pretzel. I also recall that JoeOffsuit took over from Doug on the beer cooler and that he somehow managed to get The Ramones on the bus radio. For the rest of the trip I was breathing and thinking of kittens.
We arrived a few minutes late. I was greeted by my old friend Krazykowgirl with whom I was hoping to eat dinner, but half way through “Lovely to see you again” I was whisked away to the LATB booth. Nichoel removed my hat, jammed a headset over my ears, showed me the cough button and stuffed my hat over the headset.
“Hello, Limon!” I said. My hat fell off.
I’m not going to describe the game itself, partly because most of you are younger than me and thus likely members of the tl;dr generation, and partly because it will be dissected in depth in RCP videos.
But I do want to say a few words about Doug.
The day before the LATB trip, Doug hosted a RCP buffet meet-up and game, while simultaneously introducing Drawmaha to the poker-playing world. On the morning of the trip he set-up the RCP booth at the Rio and restocked the books. Throughout the transportation disaster, Doug kept on top of the situation and didn’t once lose his cool. That’s a mean feat standing in the Mojave Desert just after noon in June. And then he got felted twice.
Meanwhile, Limon and I were exchanging Doug-stories in the commentary, including that one time when Doug got out of a cab in the middle of traffic and got penned in by roadside barriers. And in one of those slightly surreal acts of symmetry, immediately after the show Doug once again revealed that he has a different view of roads than normal people.
We all needed food. Doug knew this Mexican place. My fear-of-getting-lost neurosis meant I stuck to Doug like glue. Which is why I found myself stepping over a lot of yellow curbs and through bushes and whatnot as Doug took a direct route through landscaping, traffic, and a drive-through.
The man is unique.
And despite the pressure of leading a trip which, through no fault of his own, frequently seemed to be trying to emulate the travels of Candide, Doug kept it together efficiently and with good grace.
What if I was in Doug’s shoes? It would have been a disaster and there would have been shouting.
What if I had never introduced myself to Doug Hull at Bally’s? I would’ve missed out on the company and friendship of a remarkable individual.
I recently tweeted: “Through poker I’ve met dozens of great people and hundreds of assholes.”
I’m starting to suspect I’m not really a people person, but on the way back from LA, crammed into the sardine can of The Party Bus II, I had the shocking realization that everybody I’d met on this trip was… well… not an asshole. While most of us had remarked about the less than ideal size of Party Buses I and II, nobody had gone off about it. Everybody was polite to the driver. I have no idea how this has come about, but I suspect one reason the RCP forums are so convivial and productive is that RCP subscribers are decent, interesting people, genuinely committed to creating a community in which we learn and grow together.
Reaching a conclusion like this is out of character, kittens. It’s true that as a result of being a professional pessimist and cynic my days are frequently filled with pleasant surprises, but they rarely include a positive reaction to members of my species.
One final note. On the drive back we watched the recording of the game. It passed the time nicely. And then once it was over, Soto took the stage and gave his analysis of several key hands. He was as knackered as the rest of us, but took the time and trouble to share his valuable (in a very real and monetizable sense) knowledge.
Thanks to all of you on the bus and the crew at the Bike. My back still hurts, but as a result of this trip I’m a tiny bit less cynical.
~ Kat Martin, June 2016.