4am in Vegas
Tuesday, 26 June 2012
In For Richer, For Poorer, there’s a whole chapter about things that have happened to me at 4am. If I were writing it now, I could include the fact that I just broke up a catfight between two prostitutes. It’s 4am in Vegas, noon at home, and it’s been a strange day.
I woke up at 7am, in a jet lag sort of way, and had a calm morning of emails and reading. At midday, I went to play my first event of the 2012 World Series of Poker: the $2500 No Limit Holdem. It started well, but soon enough I had my aces cracked and thus my first WSOP exit of the season. I was sorry, as I always am - but I didn’t really mind because my great friend Neil Channing was on the final table of Event 43 ($1500 No Limit Holdem) and I really wanted to watch him play.
It was a long night, throughout which Neil played brilliantly to get heads-up for the bracelet. It was a sign of the power of jet lag that at some point, with only one opponent left between Neil and World Series victory, a security guard had to shake me awake and tell me I wasn’t allowed to sleep on the rail. I though this was a bit rich, since a few days ago JP Kelly was on a final table and the British supporters were told to be less noisy. So: not too noisy, but not asleep either. A middle ground of awake, quiet support is clearly the rule…
When Neil finished 2nd, I felt gutted for him. That will sound strange to non-players, because 2nd place is an incredible result out here and came with a $400,000 prize. But Neil isn’t a dilettante like me; he’s been a serious professional poker player for many years, usually comes out for the whole series to play a lot of events, and (with an amazing 32 previous cashes in WSOP events) is close to the record for number of cashes without a bracelet. A bracelet means so much. It’s a stamp of historic poker success, and they can never take it away from you. This could so easily have been his moment.
Then again, what the hell, he finished second for $400,000! We went off for a celebratory / consolation drink with Neil’s girlfriend Anne and a group of UK faces.
God, the Rio is a depressing place. It’s low-rent and cheap, but pretends to be grand and expensive. The rooms are “suites”. The prices are relatively high. Yet it has neither the elegance of an expensive all-suite hotel, nor the charm of an honest low-rent dive (like, say, The Gold Coast, where The Sweep and I stayed the first year the Series moved uptown).
Our first well-done-and-unlucky-Neil drink was at a bar in the casino, among the roulette tables, where the waitresses dance. In a poignant sort of way. It’s not a cheery, everyone-dancing sort of vibe. It’s a bar surrounded by a lot of gloomy people playing desperate roulette. Every so often, one of the waitresses puts down her tray, hauls out a set of wooden steps, climbs up them, and wiggles around in a see-through skirt on a small square podium - ignored by everyone around her, slightly out of time to the music. They take it in turns to do it. When they’ve finished, they climb down and put the steps away again, so that drunks and losing gamblers don’t bang their knees. One of the girls tried to make the tidying-away-of-the-steps sexy by pushing them back with her bum. At that point, I asked if we could go for a drink somewhere else.
So we went across the casino to another bar, where the waitresses don’t dance. We were all having a nice drink and a chat. Suddenly, there was a lot of screaming. I looked across and two women were grappling in the middle of the bar, pulling each other’s hair and spitting and swearing. They weren’t definitely prostitutes, but when rough-looking women are alone in a casino bar at night, wearing glittery dresses and nursing cocktails… well, they usually are.
The women were clearly causing each other proper physical pain. One was much bigger than the other. The big one had a great clump of the little one’s hair in her fist. They were kicking each other. Nobody did anything. You can’t just ignore this kind of thing; I was worried that one of them was going to smash her cocktail glass in the other’s face. So I did my best to pull them apart, and pin one to the bar - at which point, luckily, a man stepped in to hold back the other one. Then security came.
I left the Rio then, and came back to my hotel with my friend Kirsty. We had a chat with the cab driver about Anne Boleyn. I lost a bit of money playing blackjack. I’m back in my room now. I’ve got a huge window in here, floor-to-ceiling, with all the lights of Las Vegas glittering outside it and stretching out into the desert. I’ve got a cup of tea. I’ve got a book to finish. I’ve got a bruise coming up on my face, where the big one punched me while I was holding them apart. I’m quite proud that I didn’t let go. And I didn’t hit her back, either.
Sometimes I wonder what I’m doing in this town. I like gardening and crosswords and Radio 4.
Then again, what can you do? I love it here too.