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Trip Report: Tiltboys in Vegas [VERY LONG, WWW version available]

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Rafael Furst

Dec 1, 1995, 3:00:00 AM12/1/95

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Tiltboys in Vegas:
Six Sigmas Out


You've met them before if you've read any of the other reports in the
Tiltboys series -- if you haven't, why the hell not? (Check out Dan's
Trip Archive web page:


and look under "Geeks in Vegas" or "Vegas Pilgrimage").

As for the new players, well, you'll certainly come to know and
respect them for their obviously deviant personalities and penchant
for gambling.

Phil "Scam King" Gordon
Poker player. Scam King. Tilt-monster. The man who would hit on your
mother at your father's funeral (successfully), with a line like "No,
but seriously, all flirting aside, you have really beautiful hair."
(yes, he's actually said this). But 'scam' works both ways, because
he's also the guy most likely to devise a massive con to part you from
your money. Also, author of the last trip report. Of course, Rafe
posted it to the net, and got all the credit (putting Phil on
mega-tilt from hell).

Rafe "Tiltboy" Furst
Poker player. Deposed Angle-boy <:-( Lost the title to Dave Lambert
when Dave successfully angled *everybody* on the last Vegas trip.)
Tiltboy: the guy most likely to put you on tilt without even trying,
then smile disarmingly as if nothing happened.

Perry "So many opportunities, so little chance" Friedman
"The Fried." Poker player wanna-be. Couldn't stop chasing if you
stapled his feet to the floor. Roshambo king -- the odds-on favorite
in *any* rock-scissors-paper tournament. You think you can randomize?
Just try it against Perry. Green Apple boy: can consume Green Apples
(see Beverages, below) at a rate equivalent to the shuttle consuming
liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen on launch.

Dave "Dice Boy" Lambert
Six Sigma man himself (to be explained later.) He's the dice boy and
knows it. Lives it is more like it -- his expectation is better at
craps than at poker, and it is *positive* at both. Hell, dice boy
probably has a positive keno expectation, but doesn't play because it
isn't challenging enough and there's nobody he can put on tilt. The
original smiley-boy; you'll rarely catch him sans the smug grin.

Tony "Absoloot Fooken Screama" Glenning
Aussie. Tiltable. Tight. King of Low-Limit. Math Brain? We think not,
despite a Masters in Statistics from Stanford. Ultra-conservative
play style (for us, this means he's not in every pot) tempered by the
occasional well-placed bluff, as usually signaled by him catching a
scare card and intoning in that Aussie accent, "It's an Absoloot
Fooken' Screama!"

Johnny "Coffee" Lee
Vegas Pilgrimage Virgin. Coat-tailer: see him follow Phil's lead (to
riches or ruin? We'll see...) Known for his mind-numbing pauses when
making a heady $1 calling decision in the home game. When you've
waited long enough, just ask "Coffee, Johnny?" Somebody wake him up,

Josh "Invisible Man" Paley
Roshambo king wanna-be. Newcomer to the Wednesday Night game. Where
the hell is Josh? (Josh would anticipate this Vegas trip for weeks,
generating a flurry of e-mail about the poop sheet and his card
aspirations. Then, upon arriving at Vegas, he would disappear for the
entire weekend.)

Bruce "Heads up" Hayek
Rock. Solid. Will play anybody heads-up. Eminently corruptible.
Favorite choice for victim of scams, angles, and tilt maneuvers. Will
always look in the circle. The only winner from "Vegas Pilgrimage"
(last trip report), and don't you guys forget it. Deposed
space-cadet-and-side-show boy: on sleep deprivation the extent of his
muddle-headedness is amazing to behold -- as witnessed in the last
trip report -- but nothing compared to Stern's antics on this trip.

(I'll be your host on this adventure, though I'll be inserting stories
and details received from the other attendees.)

Russ "Gauss" Garber
Legendary. The original home-game man. Living the dream: no job
other than an occasional trip to the card room. Craps consultant.

Michael "Locked for both, winning half" Stern
Superstitious. Pai-gow man. Misses the obvious, but able to quickly
spot the unapparent (or non-existent.) New space-cadet-and-side-show
boy: when he's on sleep deprivation/(drugs?) he'll make your head


The previous trip reports explained why trips to Vegas are, for us, a
Pilgrimage to a land we consider sacred. They also explained that we
don't simply *play* poker, we live and breath it; we don't simply
enjoy an occasional fast one (angle) pulled on another Tiltboy, we
strive with all our might and being to con each other at any
opportunity; we don't simply make trivial fun wagers with one another,
we plan for months in advance elaborate scams with which to part other
Tiltboys from their money. That is to say, for us arbitrage is a way
of life.

Our vocabulary and expressions reflect this. To make sense of some of
the terms and stories in this report, here are a few preliminary

The Circle Game
I don't know where this game comes from, but apparently its
pretty old. Most of us learned it in high-school. The object is to form
a circle with your finger and thumb out of somebody's line of vision
and below the waist, and then somehow get him to look at it. If he
does,you get to hit him on the shoulder. Sound pretty trivial? Well,
with this group, it is the ultimate accomplishment, and to
successfully nail somebody makes you a hero. If you get nailed, on the
other hand,everybody laughs at you, you feel like an absolute ass, and
if that isn't enough, you get stung on the shoulder. No better way to
put somebody in our group on tilt. Which brings me to the next point...

If one of us pulls a fast one on another, it's pretty much a
guaranteed tilt. As a result, the angles that we have come up with,and
will come up with on this trip, are so deviant, so complex, so
inspired, that they are an art form of their own. Here is the
angle-boy icon we use: <:-)

For the poker-parlance purist, we tend to overuse/misuse this term,
we like it so much. "Tilt" simply means to be in a state of mind
(depressed, angered, vengeful -- even joyous or ecstatic) that
obscures optimal rationality. As I've said before, each of us
receives a deep, abiding satisfaction from successfully putting
another of the group on tilt, especially if we are able to take
monetary advantage (cha-ching!) of their tilted state. Every action we
take seems to have this goal at it's core.

Because our relative tilt-level is such a critical factor, we have
developed the following TiltMeter (tm) to indicate the Tiltboy
TiltLevel at various points in time.


Okay, so its not quite politically correct. But around here its the
law: If somebody in the group doesn't immediately go along with
whatever gambling, angling, tilting activity anybody else proposes,
they are labeled "pussy." Maybe it's a bit brutal, but this is how we
maintain our status as the most easily corruptible bunch of gamblers
ever to pilgrimage to Vegas.

We will find any, and I do mean any, excuse to bet with each other.
Often these bets turn out to be great angles, conceived to put the
bettee on some serious tilt. But regardless, the endless small bets we
make help us keep our gambling bugs well fed. One favorite is
Roshambo (rock, scissors, paper) -- a supposedly random game, but
one in which several of these gamblers claim to have an edge due to
their ability to read people and take the psychological upper hand. An
example from a recent bet:

Rafe: I'm going rock.
Victim: Okay, then I'm going paper.
Rafe: But you know that I wouldn't tell you the truth.
Victim: You might if you think I won't believe you.
Rafe: But I know you will compensate for that.
Victim: Just go! (exasperated at Rafe's continued scrutiny for tells)
Rafe: 1-2-3-(went rock)
Victim: (went scissors)
Rafe: (pocketing bet) You over-compensated.


This trip was to prove even more than a gambling pilgrimage. As we
came to realize the importance of Roshambo to our existence, we would
found a religion to celebrate the life-affirming tripartite nature of
Roshambo. For more info, consult the internet newsgroup:
alt.religion.roshambo, or play roshambo against an Artificial
Intelligence algorithm developed by one of the Tiltboys.


The Lambert Clench
It all happened one night during the Wednesday home game. Lambert
managed to catch his one card out to scoop a high-low pot. He was so
excited, he stood up and took an arms-clenched-down-and-in muscle-man
pose, stared at each of us in turn and gave us an aggressive "grrr!".
Now, Dave is about 5'10", weighs about 150 pounds, likes to sport a
straw hat when playing cards, smiles a hell of a lot, and is generally
not the kind of guy you picture threatening you with a muscle pose.
That night the group could barely breath for laughing, as Dave
persistently looked for suck-out opportunities that would allow him to
model his new signature pose. Of course, Dave gets more opportunities
than anybody to use this pose, being the original one-out boy (Perry
also often has one or less outs, but Perry doesn't get there.) Dave
now uses this pose to induce massive tilt in the players he snaps, and
believe me, it works. Occasionally a non-Lambert Tiltboy also strikes
the pose, but somehow it just doesn't work as well for us.

These expressions represent, respectively, a cash-register going
off(which we use to denote any positive occurrence, usually of a
monetary nature) and the classic Bay-101 Asian gambler's expression
of surprise, shock, etc. (which we use to denote surprise, shock, etc.)

Drinking being an integral part of any Vegas expedition, you will see
multiple references to these beverages:

Rusty Nail: Scotch and Drambui. Dice Boy introduced it at the home
game, and now he, Phil and Rafe drink them like there's no

Green Apple: Midori, Stoli, Sweet and Sour. A vaguely neon-green,
potent beverage favored by "The Fried", who drinks them like a
chain-smoker smokes.

Atlanta Tilt: Myer's Dark Rum and Peach Snapple (Peach schnapps will
do in a pinch.) Invented at the home game one night while Phil was
rummaging through his cupboards trying to concoct something to use up
the remaining alcohol and drinks in his refrigerator. Delicious! --
Well worth teaching the bartender how to make.

Meal-in-a-Glass: tomato juice with olives and celery. The only
non-alcoholic beverage of choice. Invented by Rafe during the last
trip -- a means of sustaining nourishment while playing for extended
sessions, without having to ever leave the table.


To understand the magnitude of this (mis)adventure, we have to take
you back about seven years to an adventurous time -- a time of poker,
beer, girls, angles, tilts, and very little else. A perfect time for
the beginning of the corruption process. Rafe explains...

To understand the psyche of the Tiltboys, a little bit of history is
necessary. You see, it all started when I met Russ Garber, the
undisputed king of degeneracy.

When I first started college I couldn't find a poker game. I tried
several times unsuccessfully to start games in the dorms, but for some
reason I couldn't get anything to last more than one or two sessions.
That all changed sophomore year when I met Russ. Russ then looked
then like he was 35, and acted like he was 55, even though he was only
a year older than me. To say that he was (and is) a product of his
New York heritage is an understatement. And while a character study
of what makes Russ tick would take 20 pages in itself, and would be
worth every page, suffice it to say that the most succinct explanation
I can come up with is to say that Russ is a caricature of himself.
Sort of a Jackie Gleason cum Archie Bunker cum Gabe Kaplan (from
Welcome Back Kotter.)

That Russ has been working as a special ed teacher at his old Brooklyn
high school -- not because he particularly enjoys teaching but because
it was the only job he could find that would let him live at his
parents house, sleep late, play basketball every day at 3pm and have a
ton of vacation -- is somewhat ironic given certain events of the
weekend you will soon be hearing about.

{Editor's Note: For those not aware, Gabe Kaplan (who played a special
ed teacher in Brooklyn named Mr. Kotter in the cheesy 70s sitcom
Welcome Back Kotter), himself retired from acting a number of years
ago to become a professional poker player. The Sweathogs were the
group of kids in the class that Kotter taught.}

But it is not half as ironic as the fact that Russ just recently
retired from teaching his own version of the Sweathogs to goof off,
and play a little poker. I hesitate to use the term "professional
poker player" because Russ doesn't like to think of himself as a
professional anything. He dislikes the concept of working so much
that he spent more time and energy in school thinking of ways to get
out of doing the assignments than he would have if he actually just
did the work. But I digress.

Everyone who has ever played the game of poker and has had any success
thinks they are God's gift to the game. I was no exception. After
all, I could beat a nickel-dime-quarter game in high school that
included several adults, including my calculus and history teachers
and my baseball coach. Talk about naive. Russ, on the other hand,
WAS good. By the time he was in college he was beating games at the
now defunct Brighton Beach Baths out of thousands of dollars. Not
that the players he was beating were any good necessarily, but let's
just say he was used to gambling with stakes hardly common among kids
his age. So when we first started playing together he would naturally
clean up each week. If it weren't for the generous donations from
several members of the Stanford football team (some of whom now play
professionally (football, that is, not poker), and none of whom still
play poker, Russ would assuredly have busted the rest of us too, and
quite possibly you would not be reading this article but instead might
be reading the tenth article in a thread debating who would win a
low-stakes slot machine freezeout tournament between Tom McEvoy and
Mason Malmuth. I'm not so sure you didn't get just a little unlucky
in that respect. But I digress again.

As you may have surmised, Russ's legacy of supreme degeneracy persists
today with many of the original cast members from the Stanford game
still playing in Palo Alto, forsaking loved ones and careers just to
play in a $1-$2 game each week until the wee hours of the morning.

{Editor's Note: the game referred to above is none other than the Palo
Alto Tiltboy's Best-Night-of-the-Week-Wednesday-Poker game.}

Now that we have real jobs, the money is inconsequential, but the
allure is as strong as ever. Several new members have been added over
the years and we have become a group which tilts its way into Vegas
every few months (weeks?) with the zealous fervor only found in people
who see gambling as good substitute for organized religion. To those
in the group who had not actually met Russ but have had to endure his
canonization by those of us who played with him, this trip would be an
opportunity to meet a living legend. To those of us who know Russ,
the trip could perhaps be equated to a pilgrimage to Tibet when the
Dalai Lama just happened to be in town.

Wow. That write-up of Rafe's should give you some indication of how
seriously we take this shit. As one of the Wednesday night player's
who was not a member of the original group, I (Bruce) had only heard
about Russ as spoken in reverent whisperings at the game (not to
mention playing a hand with him over the phone long distance when he
dialed in one Wednesday night -- he won.) This trip I was to meet him
in person. That's great, just so long as it didn't detract from my
playing time.

August 4: The Party, the T-shirts and the Plan

It was about this time that the group received the distressing news
that one of our bunch was leaving (Lenny "The Unluckiest Guy he Knows"
Augustine -- so named because no matter how well or poorly he played,
he always got his ass kicked when he showed up for the Wednesday Night
game. Lenny could beat cardroom games consistently, but could never
actually take money from another Tiltboy at poker.) Lenny was
departing to play a higher stakes poker game: he was going off to law

Now the other Tiltboys are all in agreement that, what with Lenny's
inability to ever successfully pull a bluff against a Tiltboy, we sure
as hell wouldn't want him to be our lawyer if we had, say, killed our
wife and her gay lover or some such. But on the off chance that one
of us was ever innocent of a crime we were to be tried for, we'd sure
as hell want Lenny's "can't tell a lie" face on the defense stand
beside us. We would all miss the regular donations ^H^H^H^H^H
attendance of Lenny at the Wednesday Night game, and Phil saw to it
that Lenny was sent off in classic Tiltboy style, with a blowout
dinner and beer fest. This also happened to coincide with Rafe's
birthday, so a raging evening was called for.

The night of the party, Phil would reveal two absolutely brilliant
products of his poker-corrupted imagination, in the form of a
going-away present for Lenny and a birthday present for Rafe.

(By the way, at the very same party, he would belie the very genius
attested to by these awesome gifts. Far be it from me, however, to
mention in this trip report that the same genius who conceived of
these two brilliant gifts (described below) would invite *5
ex-girlfriends* all to this same party, AND his current girlfriend,
and then get drunk and spend the entire party hitting on his exes
while ignoring the current one. Needless to say, Phil now has 6
ex-girlfriends to invite to the next party. Again, though, far be it
from me to bring up such unrelated topics. And if I do for some
reason, sorry Phil -- but the reader needs to understand why we call
you "Scam King" Gordon.)

The Gifts

Back to those cool gifts. The first -- for Rafe -- was a genuine
California personalized license plate, reading (what else?) TILTBOY.
The second -- for Lenny and the rest of us -- were custom made
T-shirts with a computer scanned photo of the 10 Tiltboys sitting
around Rafe's table during a Wednesday Night Game. Below the picture
are 10 card-suit bullets with our names and nick-names. Above the
picture is a list of our common poker expressions, such as
"cha-ching!", "Ai-yaa!", and "Full House no good -- you go home now."
On the back, in giant font letters, is printed MEGA-TILTED (at an
angle, of course <:-) and a list of all the games we play. This
incredible shirt would allow Lenny to remember the good old days while
away at school, and provide the rest of us with a security blanket for
when we found ourselves alone and apart from the Wednesday Night Game.

The Idea

It was the very next week, during the Wednesday Night Game, that I
mentioned how useful the shirts would be during a Vegas Trip. I mean,
imagine 10 young, arrogant punks like ourselves invading the Mirage
cardroom, acting like we are the king of any game we play (well, we
are) and sitting down among the locals and tourists. We'd all be
wearing our T-shirts of course, which proclaim that we think we are
special by virtue of having our face on a T-shirt that says "Palo Alto
Wednesday Night Poker -- The Best Night of the Week". In my story,
the other players all go on Tiltboy-induced-Tilt, and we walk away
from the tables after a few days with everybody's money in our racks,
flashing the MEGA-TILTED signs on the back of the T-shirts as we

No sooner do I mention this scenario when the next trip is planned,
plane tickets booked and rooms reserved for August 18.

Aug. 16: Wednesday night, The Best Night of the Week, 2 days 'til Vegas

With a Vegas approaching very fast, not many people would even
consider blowing off their other responsibilities early in the week for
some home-game poker action. Well, for this group, Wednesday night
poker is a ceremony we take seriously. If you're Catholic and it's the
week before Easter, does that mean you can blow off Wednesday night
service? Of course not! Likewise, the Wednesday game had full
attendance.Rafe's house, Palo Alto. The chatter was immense, everyone
was clearly stoked for the adventure. The angling started early, and
the poop sheet was fully populated with proposition after proposition.
Devised by Josh:

Official Betting Lines From The Home Office In Urbana, Illinois

To Win Most Money
Bruce 1-1
Josh 3-1
Phil 3-1
Rafe 4-1
Tony 5-1
Gauss 5-1
Dice Boy 5-1
Stern 6-1
Perry 6-1
Johnny 12-1

Win Most Money Over/Under
Bruce +450
Josh +250
Phil +400
Rafe +200
Tony +50
Gauss NL
Dice Boy -150
Stern -50
Perry -200
Johnny -150
Everyone -200

Lose Most Money
Perry 2-1
Dice Boy 4-1
Phil 4-1
Tony 10-1
Field 5-1

Roshambo differential
Dice Boy 8-1
Bruce 9-1
Phil 9-1
Rafe 9-1
Tony 9-1
Gauss 9-1
Jeff 9-1
Perry 9-1
Johnny 9-1
Josh 10-1

Golf Over/Under
Rafe 95
Phil 95
Dave 105
Tony 93
Group 388
Lost Balls 7
Penalty Strokes 13
Birdies 2

Circle Game Over/Under
Times we get Bruce on the trip 20
Times we get Phil on the trip 6
Times we get Dave on the trip 4
Times we get Rafe on the trip 1

On Women
Number of people attending a strip club 2
Number of women Phil hits on 8
Number of women Phil scores 0.5
Number of women slapping Phil 1

Bay 101
Rafe Leaves a winner EVEN
Phil Leaves a winner EVEN
Tony Leaves a winner EVEN
Dave Leaves a winner EVEN

Miscellaneous Over/Unders
Number of total roshambos 300
Number of roshambos played by Dice Boy in car en route to Bay 101 3
Number of games Bruce plays heads up on plane into Vegas 3
Number of games Bruce wins heads up on plane into Vegas 2
Number of times Perry pukes on someone's chips, trip 0.5
Number of beef slabs (prime rib/roast beef) Josh eats on trip 10.5
Number of double Martell Cordon-blues Michael consumes while
playing Pai-Gow in each sitting 4
Michael's Pai-Gow expectation -200
Diceboy's Pai-Gow expectation +200

Poor Josh. He volunteered to be the bookie, and being a relative
newcomer to the group, was unaware of several of the group's "quirks".
Of course, the Tiltboys showed no mercy and immediately piled into all
the bad lines -- can you say: "free money"? *Everybody* took Perry at
8-1 to win the roshambo differential (Perry is the creator of the
roshambot, see player intro's above). Everybody (except me) took the
under on Bruce as big winner -- after all, I'm such a rock, and with
the low variance brought on by playing tight, surely somebody like
Dave with variance through the roof would outdo me ;-). Everybody
took the over on me for the circle game, and everybody took the under
on Rafe, who never, ever, ever gets circled. Josh would end have to
indulge in a little maneuvering of his own (as you will see later) to
avoid losing his shirt as bookie.

The Angle

Perhaps the best line of the night (not my own opinion, but apparently
in the rest of the group's) was conceived by Phil: how to put me on
tilt even before we leave. Phil later would state that his goal was
to instigate such a massive tilt from me that I could not repeat as
this trip's big winner, and hence not gloat and badger the hell out of
everybody like I did last trip. And thus the first angle of the trip
was sprung:

Phil: "Bruce, did you see the scratch marks that girl from last night
put on my leg?"
Bruce: "Your kidding!" (I look gullibly at Phil's leg, dutifully staring
full into the circle Phil has waiting for me.) "Aii-Yaaa!"
Phil: (punches me HARD on the shoulder) "Bruce, you're so bad at the
circle game, it's absolutely unbelievable. In fact, I'm willing
to wager $10 that we can get you over 20 times as a group on the
Vegas trip." (20 times seemed about right -- I am legitimately
the worst circle game player in history, and 20 would seem like too
many for me to turn down, lest I be called a pussy for the whole
Bruce: "Yeah, well, you're on." (squeamish, I know I've been
successfully angled into a questionable bet.)


For the rest of the game we made grandiose plans for the trip, which
we knew were certain to be forgotten as soon as we sat down at that
eternal mind vacuum that is the poker table. Among these plans:

1) Have Perry (who I might add will do *anything* on a dare or for a
dollar) grab the front desk microphone and introduce our arrival to
the poker room: "And now, just in from Palo Alto, California, it's the
Tiltboys: Rafe "Tiltboy" Furst, Bruce "Heads Up" Hayek, etc."
2) Have Perry vomit on an opponents winning cards
3) Have Perry eat an opponents winning cards
4) Have Perry.... well, I think you've heard enough.

Anyway, the home game that night was loose as hell (not that this is
anything new) because all of us were anticipating playing our (6-12 up
to 20-40) big games in Vegas. Everybody went home early at around 4
AM, to dream blissful dreams about 45 minute runs at the craps table
and putting bad beats on Roy Cooke. I, however, would dream
horrifying nightmares involving many circles and bruised shoulders.

Thursday seemed to drag; a problem which some of us solve by falling
asleep at our desk for most of the day. (Somehow, the Best Night of
the week was always followed by Thursday, the Longest Workday of the
Week.) Such are the rigors that one bears as a devout Tiltboy.

Friday, August 18,... And Saturday,...And Sunday
(Days all seem to run together when there's little sleep...)

Friday. We were all eager to get in a good, productive day's work to
compensate for Thursday and have things in order before flying out.
As Rafe demonstrates here.

The email traffic before a Vegas trip, with everyone goading each
other into blowing off work early to go to Bay101 and such, is enough
to bring any hard-working soul to his knees, let alone slackers like
us. Phil, Tony and I decide not to burden our respective employers
with such lack of productivity, and agree to blow off the entire
afternoon and hit the Stanford golf course.

I woke up about an hour before our tee time, just enough time to read
my email from home and tell the folks at work to carry on without me.
The round was uneventful, which is to say, the Dice-boy wasn't there
to help me tilt Phil to his full potential and add the crucial strokes
to his score necessary for me to make some money. It was good just
being out there and not in the office fidgeting away the hours

Devotion like that just brings tears to your eyes, doesn't it? I
choose to spend my day more productively, collecting a group pool from
around the office for a blackjack parlay. (Flashback to the last
trip: I had collected $60 from several co-workers, with the
understanding that I would let it ride 2 times at blackjack and return
everybody fourfold their money, or nothing. I considered this just a
nice gesture for those poor souls back at work missing out on all the
fun. The profitable upside of this arrangement revealed itself at the
BJ table -- I won the first hand, thus giving me $120 for the second
bet. I was dealt presto (5,5) against the dealer's 6, and was able to
*double down with my own money* -- and win -- thus not only earning
the undying gratitude of my co-workers but allowing me to place a
seriously positive expectation bet at no cost to me, and make $120.
Kind of like real estate leveraging using Other People's Money. I
vowed to continue this practice with all future trips.) Anyway, I
raised another $60 for this trip, which I was to lose on the first
hand; and my coworkers undying gratitude? Dead. When I wasn't busy
with the pool, I was busy sending e-mail to the other Tiltboys at
work, badgering them to leave early and meet me at Bay 101...

Bay 101
So I arrive at Bay101 at 5:00 ;-) and quickly sit down at the 10-200
game. I've never played a game like this: blinds are $5 and $10, and
you can bet any amount between 10 and 200 at any time. But all the
regular limit games are full, and I can't possibly wait. I decide to
play conservatively and buy in for the minimum ($200.) Ten minutes
later I'm reaching for my second $200. I then suffered a flashback to
the last trip when my entire bankroll was only $1000 and I dropped
$250 of it playing 3-6 before getting on the plane to Vegas (How does
one lose $250 at 3-6? By winning only 1 hand in 3 hours of play). At
least this time I had $2000 -- gotta be careful not to lose it all
here though. Ten minutes later, the pot came to me on the big blind
after one raise to $30 and one call. I go all in ($180) with QQ, and
get a mere... 3 callers! (Even the big blind didn't want to miss the
fun.) Ai-yaaa! This pot has $800 in it! Please no card above a J,
please no card above a J... Flop came with no card above a J, turn
came a blank, river a K. Somebody asks to see all the hands: my QQ,
AQ, AK, KQs. I had 3-to-1 odds in the pot, and these guys were
drawing to 4 cards between the 3 of them! (Plus possible straights
and flushes). Anyway, I reached back for what I vowed would be my
last $200 at this game. Fortunately I was in a good mood and avoided
tilting massively.

Rafe showed up at 7:00, by which point I had made back my $400 and
made another $300 on top -- and loved this game! Uneventful from here
on, until one last hand before leaving: I am big blind with TJs. Four
callers for $10, I pump it $10. Flop comes 884, one of my suit. I
check, checked around. Turn comes a 7 of my suit (straight and flush
draw). I bet $60 as a semi-bluff into a $80 pot, hoping they'll put
me on a pocket pair that slow-played the flop. I get one caller.
River comes and makes my flush. I bet another $60, thinking that I
won't get called for a much bigger bet unless I'm beat. Somebody
raises $200! I think for a long time, and decide to call because I
realize I have a tight image at this table and this guy probably
thinks I'd fold with a pocket over-pair. Sure enough, I catch him
bluffing -- he had turned an open-ended straight draw. I cash out up
$600 -- man this is going to be a great trip! Rafe gives his version
of Bay101:

After golf, Tony and I didn't have much time before we had to meet the
others at Bay101. I rushed down as fast as possible since I needed to
get started winning quickly to reach my goal of 500 the first night.
You see, we have this rule that if anyone is up more than 500 by the
end of the first night (which in fact can, and usually does, stretch
into the mid morning hours for most of us), he is required to purchase
a massage from the hotel spa for himself. I'm not really sure how
this started or why it makes sense, but believe me, after hours of
sleep deprivation it seemed obvious to each of us that this is the way
it should be. While there's no rule against a massage under different
circumstances, it never somehow seems justified. Perhaps because if
you are not up 500 you undoubtedly stuck or close enough to even where
you don't feel like shelling out the 70 bucks. After my last two
Vegas performances, er, shellackings, both well documented, I had
established a pattern of getting stuck early and spending the rest of
the trip trying to dig myself out of a hole. Which is to say I felt
way overdue for both the massage and the cash it would imply. That,
and if you haven't figured it out by now, the Tilt Boys are just a tad
compulsive^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H competitive when it comes to outdoing
each other.

When I get to Bay101, I'm shocked to find only Fried, Stern and Bruce
already there with a half hour to go before we have to leave! Had I
not been tied up at the golf course, I would have been there at noon.
Sheesh, where are these guys' sense of corruption?!?! At least this
meant that I didn't have to catch up to many people for the 'biggest
winner of the trip so far', which is an unofficial badge of honor kept
throughout the trip, not unlike the yellow jersey in the Tour de
France, and certainly more important. Bruce is sitting in the short
handed 10-200 game with a good stack of chips and a smug grin on his
face. Perry is sitting watching over Bruce's shoulder, practicing his
moves (Phil agreed to give him $1 for every time he put one of Phil's
opponents on tilt, $2 every time he throws up on a poker table and $10
for eating a poker chip). I give Bruce the old conspiratorial
is-this-a-good-table? raised eyebrow, and he counters with the
subtle nod. So after watching the relatively young Bay101 prop
(forgot his name) set a perfect trap by checking his flopped top set
of jacks into pocket aces which put him all in, only to get brutally
snapped by the river ace, I sat down.

Now I'm not yet a big limit player, 15-30 being about my highest
comfortable limit currently, but for some reason 10-200 and even
no-limit games don't scare me as much as the prospect of a no-foldem
20-40 game. Betting $400 with the nuts isn't nearly as hard as having
to call down a family capped pot to the river with the nut flush draw
only to miss more times than not. Plus I like being able to isolate
players I think I can beat up on.

As you can guess from the build-up, I won a few hundred in that game.
Had I lost, the build up would have sounded like this, "I really am
more of a limit player, and don't like spread and no limit games
because I don't ever get the pot odds for my draws and the sharks can
isolate me easier, but I sat down anyway". Don't you hate it when
dorks like me extrapolate wildly based on a small number of trials?

{Editor's Note: Yes.}

Fear not, I'm not about to claim I'm any kind of superior no-limit
ring game player. No, my forte is actually no-limit heads-up
freeze-outs played on airplanes...

And so the fun began...At 9:45 we file out of Bay 101 and head for
Dave's van, which we traditionally take to the airport. Now, this van
has no back seat, so it's always a priority to get the front
seat. Otherwise, you're stuck on the hard floor (no carpeting) in the
back. So, being the eight disciples of Roshambo, we decide to
settle the matter like you knew we would -- a Roshambo tournament.
Single elimination, until it's heads up. "Are you in Bruce?",
somebody asks. (That should have been my clue that trouble was
brewing...) Eight of us stand in a circle in the Bay 101 parking lot,
getting eyed suspiciously by the security guards. I fail to notice
covert snickering around the circle, as we get Ready, Set, Roshambo!
Seven simultaneous "circles" appear below each waist, one ignorant
sucker goes rock, then goes on massive tilt. Seven punches in the
shoulder for me, leaving me almost paralyzed, and these assholes are
33% toward their goal of 20.

{INCLUDE: Image of tilt meter with Bruce on high}

Of course, everybody is too busy laughing to hear me try to explain
that I couldn't *possibly* have seen all seven circles at the same
time. They chalk me up for 7 anyway, and someone whispers that the
circle line on me is pretty much a lock. I really can't disagree.

San Jose Airport

We are bustling to get on the plane and start the freeze out
tournaments that will give us first bragging rights for the trip, when
somebody says (for the first of many times on the trip) "Hey, where
the hell is Josh?"

Looking back, Josh is being thoroughly worked over by airport
security, who seem convinced that he was planning to hi-jack a
SouthWest flight to Vegas. It takes him several minutes to break
away, at which point he joins us looking a tad flustered. Josh explains:

We are headed for Vegas, and we need to pass through security. Being
the good traveler, I put my keys in the little dish so as to avoid any
complications, but I end up being asked to stop, nonetheless.
Apparently, there is a problem with the contents of my duffel bag.

I am quite confused, perhaps wondering if one of the Tiltboys has set
me up. I had a lot packed into the bags--everything from poker
supplies for use on the plane to nutritional supplements.

"What is that?" asks the woman handling security? She is pointing to
something that looks very much like sticks of dynamite.

"I don't know," I responded. I was a little worried now, since I
really couldn't figure it out. What were seconds seemed like, well,
seconds by the time I realized what it was: poker chips.

I got to open the duffel ("slowly") and open the case ("slowly")
before I was on my way to the gate again.

Then Phil and Rafe abscond with the chips and I never see or use them
again for the trip.

I ended up sitting in a two row seat, so I play a couple of freezouts
with Tony. He's very hesitant to play for more than a few dollars
(could this be because last trip he joined a $50 no limit freezeout
with Rafe and I and busted out in the first hand?) so by the time we
got to Vegas I had won... $8.

Meanwhile, Rafe (airborne freezeout king that he is) worked Phil and
Dave, helping him break the $500 mark before even arriving in Vegas
and hence earning the coveted massage. Josh beat up on Johnny; the
$10 Josh won on the plane was to be his only positive poker session.

Arriving in Vegas, we have to wait for the golfers to get their bags
off the carousel, and endure the usual "first golf bag betting pool",
"golf bag side bets" and "luggage volume over-under" betting lines.
Dave of course gets his bag first, repeating his performance from the
previous trip, and proceeds to break out his putter and win $20 on
various carpet putting proposition bets ("okay, around the baggage
carousel, down the wheelchair ramp, past security and out in 2").

Everybody finally has their bag and marches out of the luggage area,
without bothering to show their luggage tags to the attendant. Phil
however, gets stopped by the attendant and asked to see *his* tag, at
which point he discovers that he left his return ticket and tag on the
plane. And suddenly, to the amazement of the rest of us, Phil is on

{INSERT: Tilt meter with Phil on Max}

Maybe it's because it's midnight and he's tired. Maybe it's because
he missed out on Rafe's and my own great Bay 101 action. Maybe it's
because the baggage check guy seemed to have it in for Phil, picking
him to check while the rest of us walked right through. Maybe it's
because the other Tiltboys are in tears laughing at Phil's
predicament. For whatever reason, Phil just lays into this guy full
force, while the guy gets more and more defensive and more and more
stubborn, and continues to bar Phil's exit. Phil breaks out a pen and
paper and takes down the guy's employee number. Phil assures the guy
that he will lose his job if he persists in badgering Phil. Phil does
everything but threaten to take out the guy's family, but Phil is
still standing inside the luggage area with his golf bag, barred by
this little old man. (Phil stands 6'9", and I'm pretty sure that if
he was towering over me with that red-faced look like he was going to
beat the shit out of me, I'd let him take the damn golf bag, even if
he was stealing it.) Somebody finally convinces the guy that Phil is
legitimate, and Phil storms through the gate ready to sue SouthWest
for the expected value taken away from his poker time.

Phil wasn't the only one who was inflamed. Or should I say flamed?
Dave explains:

We were in the cab from the airport to the hotel. Someone, probably
Rafe, made a comment about a syntax error in some article that they
had read. I responded, "Yeah, it's sort of like flammable and
inflammable. They both mean the same thing." At that point, everyone
in the cab turned around, looked at me like I was crazy (of course
this is how they usually look at me), and made a few comments about
the level of my intelligence. Although I was fairly certain I was
right, everyone seemed to disagree with me. I figured that I was
wrong, and I began to back down. Then the cabbie jumped into the
argument and said, "Ya know, I think he is right, flammable and
inflammable do mean the same thing."

That was all the convincing I needed. If a cabbie with a high school
education agreed with me, I knew that I was right. Obviously, all of
that higher education had screwed up everyone else's vocabulary. I
immediately offered a $10 wager with anyone over the definition of the
two words. Rafe took the bet, and paid me $10 in pennies two weeks



Ah, yes, the familiar sights and sounds of the Mirage poker room, our
home away from home. Chips clattering, smoke rising, players
cursing. Boba the floorman's disconsolate sigh when he spots Rafe.
The local wearing enough gold and diamonds to make your eyes water.
The almost audible "snap" as another pair of pocket aces goes up in
flames, reminding me that I want to play at the same table as Dave
"Diceboy" Lambert sometime this trip.

The Tiltboys walk in like we own the place. We're all quickly seated,
and before I've even played my first hand, Rafe comes by to report a
massive snap Dave has just administered. Rafe was able to spend a lot
of time watching Dave; they played at the same table most of the
weekend. As Rafe reports:

Some people will argue with you over whether the best show in Vegas is
the Cirque Du Soleil or Sigfried and Roy. These people are all
misguided if you ask me. The best show in Vegas is watching Dave
'Dice Boy' Lambert play poker. Dave can drive a table from zero to
mega-tilt in 10 minutes flat. Observing him in action has even lead
us to extend the poker-theoretical concept of implied odds to its more
useful form of "implied tilt odds."

When asked "Dave, how could you stay in with bottom pair and only the
runner-runner flush draw against the local rock who will obviously not
pay off your flush more than one bet even if you make it -- haven't
you ever heard of implied odds?" the smug-grinned (Diceboy grins *a
lot*) reply is "The implied *tilt* odds were huge. Did you see how he
hemorrhaged his last $600 after I sucked out on him?"

{Editor's note: the boring Sklansky concept of "implied odds"
describes an expected payoff in the future, if you make your hand.
For example, you might say "I didn't have pot odds to chase my flush
draw, but I knew the calling station in seat 3 would call me down if I
got there, so I had implied odds counting those expected extra two
bets." As Rafe describes by example the Tiltboys have coined the much
more interesting expression "implied *tilt* odds", which describes
expected payoffs from a player's poor play after he goes on tilt. In
an uncanny twist (or is it a canny twist?), Roy Cooke, a writer in
Card Player magazine and somebody who the Tiltboys often succeed in
earning implied tilt odds from (see later in trip report), unknowingly
stole this concept from us and wrote it up in a recent Card Player
article (sometime in September). Of course, Cooke didn't call it
implied tilt odds, but it was obvious what he meant, seeing as how the
article appeared suspiciously soon after our trip, and after he had
learned a lesson about implied tilt odds first hand, courtesy of the

Rafe stayed up watching Dave until 7 or 8 AM, by which time his
sensibilities were so offended that he had to drop off to sleep. The
rest of us dropped off one by one as well. Of course, every person
was eager to be the first up and back into the card room, so they
could earn the sleep deprivation title for the trip, which is awarded
to whoever goes home with the least sleep after three days. Dave
started this by sleeping only 7 hours during the entire first Vegas
Trip, and even now, you have no hope of taking down the title if you
sleep more than 9 or 10 hours during the three days.

Now I certainly don't intend to question this practice of ours, lest I
be called a pussy endlessly, but on the whole, I have to believe that
it doesn't make too much sense. We are all pilgrimaging to Vegas to
win the most money we can at poker, a game that ostensibly requires
some mental acumen (even if Diceboy says otherwise.) How this goal is
furthered by sitting in the card room in a bleary sleep-eyed stupor,
covertly looking around for other Tiltboys to find out whether you are
the last one to go to bed, is well beyond me. Yet somehow I find
myself caught up in the near-all-nighters every trip; I average 11
hours a trip. Of course, I've never won the title, but at least I
haven't lost the Tiltboys' respect by trying to sleep a reasonable
number of hours.

And so it was no surprise to arrive in the cardroom at 1 PM -- having
slept fitfully for four hours and taken a long, hot shower in hopes of
achieving some level of coherency -- and find most of the gang already
playing. I played all day myself, getting up only when the call came
to cash in our comps and eat dinner. I recall the significant hands
in the course of this session, which I walked away from with a pretty
$1500 profit (playing 20-40.)

Hand #1: I have JJ on the big blind. A rock raises it from middle
position, and the button calls. I just call, figuring there is a very
good chance I'm up against an overpair, and deciding to see what the
flop brings. The flop: 3-4-6, two spades. I bet out, rock raises,
loosey-goosey button calls. I just call, planning to lay down the
turn if rock bets again. The turn is another spade (I have no spade
in my hand), and I check as does the rock -- he's worried one of us
made a flush. The lovely, cooperative button player bets, and I,
fairly sure he doesn't have a flush, check-raise. The rock reads me
for a flush and chucks his hand, and the button calls. I bet the
river (a 9, I think) and the button calls with pocket 7s! Cha-ching!
The rock later admitted to mucking QQ -- even begrudgingly told me I
made a nice play.

Two Obligatory Bad Beat Hands

Hand#2: I have AA on the big blind. Somebody raises early, one
caller, then the small blind calls. I make it three, the original
raiser makes it four, the original caller caps, the conservative and
tight small blind calls (no, this isn't foreshadowing or anything) and
I call. Flop: K33, rainbow. I'm sure somebody has a K, and hope I'm
not up against KK, so I check. Original better bets, second guy
calls, small blind calls, I raise. First guy calls, so I don't put
him on KK -- probably AK. Second guy folds, small blind raises!
Ai-yaa! There's the KK. I just call, as does the other guy. Turn
and river are blanks, me and the other guy call down the small blind.
He then proudly turns over his T3 suited, and drags my $800 pot. This
same guy had been playing so cautiously just prior, and had lost a lot
on a few bad beats. He apparently went on tilt just before this hand,
and as he stacked my pot, I heard him say, "I was stuck so much, I
figured calling a big pot like that was the only way to get even."

Hand#3: I have QQ on the button. A maniac in middle position raises,
a medium guy calls. I reraise, and it's just the three of us. The
flop: 67Q. Checked to me on the flop, I bet, both call. Turn is a J.
Checked to me, I bet, both call. River is an A -- oh joy! This
should mean an extra call from the medium guy, right? The maniac bets
out, medium guy calls, I raise, maniac re-raises! I stare at the
board, already on tilt, as the medium guy folds and I have to call
down and see the TK offsuit that beats me.

Enough bad beats. That night as we convened for dinner, I was able to
hear the adventures of the other Tiltboy's, as recounted below by

Sitting at a 10-20 table in Vegas on Saturday night at the Mirage I
was playing and watching the Dice Boy Show in rare form. As usual he
had everyone on tilt with his antics. Everyone was after him and he
just kept racking up the chips. Snap after snap after snap. This one
poor local grind-it-out pro was taking the brunt of Dave's
high-variance style and was not very happy about it. Lambert kept
getting extra bets out of him with lines like, "Boy you are paying off
just like a slot machine tonight. Let me pull the handle here one
more time..." Dave bets, guy steam calls, Dave goes "...cha-ching" and
turns over the suckout nuts. Shortly thereafter, Dave is up about
$1500, everyone else at the table is stuck, and he announces that he's
going to go play some craps. Later I met up with him and he asked,
"Should I be insulted that the game broke up as soon as I left?"

Josh wasn't anywhere to be seen all day. Of course, Josh wasn't
anywhere to be seen for most of the trip, although we later pieced
together that he had hung out with Perry a lot of the time, which
accounted for the crazed look in his eyes on Monday morning when we
gathered for the flight out. Nobody maintains proximity to "the
Fried" for that length of time without some serious side-effects. He
did play a little poker, but apparently wasn't enthused with his
results. Josh explains:

Pocket aces. Multiple pre-flop bets. Flop comes Axx, all spades.
Some guy had J9 of spades. Not the worst beat in the world, but
perhaps a microcosm of the way poker went for me.

In two times around the table, I had KK (twice), QQ (once), AKs
(once), and (if memory serves) AK offsuit. I remember the pocket
kings and the AKs in that those hands got two callers with capped
pre-flop betting. One hand I lost against a 52 of diamonds on a
runner-runner flush (no pair on flop). On the hand where I had AKs, I
lost to Q3 (same suit) on a 3 on the river. In each of these big
hands, I was the leader pre-flop against drunken loons. Oh well.

A7s on button. Not a great hand, but with no raises before the flop,
why not? Flop comes A63, rainbow. A guy who has been completely
tight bets. Since I haven't seen him bet without top pair, I feel
like folding, but decide to call. The turn comes a 7. He bets, I
raise, he calls. I now put him on either worse aces up or an ace and
a good kicker. The river is a 3. He shows me 3s full of 6s.


Josh wasn't too much the worst for having spent as much time as he did
taking bad beats and watching Perry in action. He did mention reading
the Magician' Sculpture in front of the Mirage as "Sig, Fried and Roy"
on Sunday night -- a minor Perry-induced delusion. I'm sure, however,
that the ripple effects of this trip will be felt by Josh for years to
come in strange neurotic flashes, such as sudden spontaneous cravings
for black crayons. (Don't worry, this will make sense later.) Here's
the rest of Josh's Saturday, in his own words:

I have just received a lecture from a guy who, in a 1-4-8-8 spread
game, ALWAYS bets weak with a marginal hand, so you know you have him
dominated if you have top pair. Better still, he does this a lot, and
he is sitting on my right. So, three times, I raise him the full bet
to get him heads up only to have him suck out on me on the river, and,
EVEN BETTER, to have him explain, "I never raise until I have a
complete hand because people catch up. You will lose a lot of money
betting on the future." And then he would shake his head as if he
were disappointed in me as a human being. Oh, what a joy Saturday
night was.

Anyway, after being put on hyper-tilt by this bozo, I decided to
retreat to Treasure Island to play some cheap blackjack, a game that I
am notoriously poor at playing. Perry shows up, and it is clear that
he is planning on a night full of Green Apples. I am Tripe Boy, so I
cannot drink alcohol, but it appears that Perry can do the job for
both of us.

At some point, I get two 8s against a 7 which has me psyched since I
had a $13 bet on the hand (a lot for me). So, I split 'em, get
another 8, split those, get ANOTHER 8, and I end up with 19, 18, 21,
and 18. I figure CHA-CHING but then the dealer shows a 4 for an 11
total. Not to fear. Along comes a 3 and then, you know it, an 8. At
this point, I start to explain to the dealer how I "use the 8 like a

Two hands later, same shoe, I get two more 8s against a 9. I hate
this sort of thing, but I still have to split them. I hit another 8,
get 18, get a 3, double down and hit 21, and then get another 18.
After hitting the 21, Perry and I are both going nuts about the "8
like a weapon" business. After the dealer goes bust and I win 4 bets
at $30 a pop (my biggest wager ever on blackjack), the dealer is
rolling his eyes. Whatever 8s were left in the deck seemed to pop up
in time to match my 13s against 10s, or show up in the dealer's hand
to do just enough to let me win. It was beautiful. We are winning,
after being almost cleared out.

So I'm on this rush and I get an ace, and as the dealer slides out the
second round of cards, Perry and I are shouting, "... he steals the
puck at center ice (seat 3 gets card), he's in on goal (seat 4 gets
card), he SHOOTS (Perry gets card), HE SCORES (I get a Q)." The
dealer is totally on tilt. I realize, as I stack my red chips, that
if I were anyone else in the group (except maybe Tony or Johnny) I
would be up a couple grand with this run.

{Editor's Note: Tony and Johnny are two notoriously conservative and
cautious members of the Tiltboys, which is perhaps why they don't
appear in these trip reports as often as the less inhibited and more
roller-coaster-riding-eat-variance-for-lunch-all-or-nothing Tiltboys
like Dave, Phil and Rafe. I'm kind of in the middle, but I'm far more
corruptible than Johnny and Tony, which means that I often find myself
along for the ride. Josh is more towards the conservative end of the
spectrum, Mike is God-knows-where, and Perry is on a spectrum all his

On the next shoe, third hand, I get a pair of 8s against a 10. I get
pissed when only one of them wins (the other was a push). Perry has
had many Green Apples and continuously debates whether to hit 15s and
16s against a 7 (AIII-YAA!) and one hand has a soft 15 against a 7. I
try to tease him by suggesting that maybe he should stay with his soft
15 because "you never know if the next card will bust the dealer." He
points out the obvious, "But I am soft," he says and hits a jack.
"Are you hard now?" I ask him. The dealer actually grins and half the
table is laughing pretty solidly. Of course, the dealer reveals a 9
underneath and then hits a 3 to make 19 and crush us both.
Fortunately, Perry is a little to tipsy to realize what's happening.

I am convinced that this is the strategic advantage that Perry has to
which the rest of us can only aspire. He starts out so far away from
the "normal" thought process (a state that for most others would be
described as "on tilt") that nothing can faze him.

So, Perry and I both won a few bucks and we go for food. Then came
the moment which would have me out of sorts for the duration of the
weekend. Up until this point, all the music we had heard in the
casinos was along the lines of The Carpenters, Carly Simon, Gordon
Lightfoot, etc. The kind of stuff you think of when you think casino
or elevator. But all of the sudden, this Del Amitri tune, not more
than a month or two in the record stores, hits the casino. I am in
disbelief. And it was just the beginning. They kept piping in
contemporary music for hours. How is one supposed to concentrate with
modern rock being played in a casino?

I had to go to sleep. So I did.

Kotter meets the "Fried"

Then came a story that would be a thematic highlight for the
trip. Thematic, in that: a) it involved Perry unintentionally putting
somebody on tilt, as he does consistently and completely by accident,
just by being himself, and b) it involved Gabe Kaplan, who you by now
have noticed is a recurring element in this trip report.

In the course of playing that day I had heard several people
whispering that Gabe Kaplan was playing 3 way pot-limit at the corner
table, and appeared to be on tilt.

When I got up to eat dinner, I watched a few hands, and the last one I
saw was Kaplan raising a pot-sized bet ($3000) on the flop and getting
called by a flush-draw, which got there. Kaplan had flopped the nut
set. I mention this to the gang, and everybody starts cracking up.
Then Perry takes credit for Kaplan being on tilt, which I ignore until
everybody else confirms it. Perry explains:

So, I'm hanging out just outside the poker room at the Mirage telling
Stern, Dice, and Phil about the goings on in the lobby of TI with
myself, Rafe, and this random woman who I challenged to a roshambo
match. (I cleaned up 5 to 0). Well, as usual I was talking loudly
when from the high rollers table a familiar face turns around and says
"would you please take it somewhere else." It was Gabe "Welcome Back
Kotter" Kaplan. Resisting my urge to say "Sure thing, Mr Kot-TAIR!"
or to reply with the Vinnie Barbarino "Who? {you!} What? {you're
talking too loud!} Where? ..." I merely quieted down a bit and
continued. So we get ready to head out for craps when Stern says "OK.
From here on, I don't want to hear the 'S' word." So I turn to Stern
and say "What 'S' word?" He says, quietly, "Seven." To which I loudly
say "Oh! I thought you meant 'SWEATHOG!'" OK, maybe I had had a few
too many green apples already.


Perry may have single-handedly be responsible for Gabe Kaplan losing
thousands that day. As if that wasn't enough, Perry later put
numerous tourists to Caesar's Palace on tilt. Phil and Russ where
hitting on two ladies, and Perry offered to get lost and leave the
four alone. Apparently, one of the women asked Perry to hang around
and protect her from Russ, since she already had a boyfriend. In any
case, the five of them found themselves walking by Ceasar's fountain,
when Phil calls Perry on a dare we had discussed during the Wednesday
Night game. Perry agreed that for the right amount, he would swim
through the fountain. The "right amount" turns out to be $10, which
Phil produces. Perry takes the plunge. According to Phil, Perry
actually did "the elementary backstroke" for at least 10 yards, before
getting out, wringing out his shirt, and then walking into Mirage
dripping a torrent.

Another dare we had discussed on Wednesday was Perry eating a playing
card while playing poker or blackjack. Fortunately for us, and
probably more fortunately for Perry, he wasn't able to follow through
on this one:

I never did eat a card. I *did* spend most of the trip trying to get
a card to eat. Among my attempts were:
- Asking them for a card when they'd bring in new decks.
- Simply asking for a card.
- And the most elaborate play of all. I am sitting playing blackjack
when I notice that a seven of spades is cracked on the corner. I
point it out to the dealer, with whom I have a good rapport, but my
mind was actually far more devious. Clearly, it CAN'T be to my
advantage to report a marked card. It may not be a big edge,
especially for the stakes I was playing, but still, why give up
anything? Well, because I figured if he took the card out of play, I
might actually get a chance to EAT the card, thereby earning the
respect, and money, of the fellow Tiltboys. This dealer decided to
play on, but the next dealer took it out when I pointed it out to him.
The floorman was called over and I asked him if I could eat the card.
He looked at me kinda weird, and then to reassure him that I wouldn't
use it to cheat, I told him I'd eat it right there at the table. He
left, came back, took the card. And then came back again and gave me
a full deck and said to put it in my pocket! Aii-yah! OK, so I
didn't get to eat a real card that was in play, but I did get a free
deck of canceled cards.
As for the dealer with whom I had the good rapport, well, he had spent
much of the evening pointing out some gorgeous women (and there were
plenty of them, this being a fight weekend and all). Well, at one
point one of the fellow tiltboys had was watching me play and I can't
exactly say what overcame me but the mood was rather wacky at the time
and the dealer had just pointed someone out and we were joking around
so I asked him 'Have you seen one of these?' From my position as
anchorman of the blackjack table I entend my left arm out into the
aisle forming, yes, a circle with my thumb and index finger. The
dealer, of course, looked and in due fashion I punched him in the
right arm and wiped it off. A stare of disbelief encompassed the
table but not a word was spoken and the game went on. Ay yah! One
dealer circled and punched. Add it to the books. Hell, if I can't
eat a card...

By the way, if you're thinking to yourself -- "Maybe this Perry guy
isn't as weird as the Tiltboys make him out to be. Sure, he swims in
Ceasar's fountain and drinks Green Apples by the score, but at least
he doesn't eat playing cards." -- you should know that just to prove
the point, Perry ate a *KEM* plastic playing card at the next week's
home game (an event precedented by his eating a perfect five-card low
in college). Not to mention what happened at breakfast Sunday
morning, as Rafe tells it:

Breakfast at the Mirage is usually a no brainer. Just order the
American Breakfast from the Caribe Cafe, which gives you two eggs any
style, hash browns, bacon or sausage, toast, etc. Well, that is
unless they have a fresh stock of Keno crayons! Perry swears by
'em. But then Perry has been known to eat flowers, fliers, and other
things you might find on the tables of a college food service. Often
there's money involved, but sometimes it's just because Perry decides
that doing it is a better idea than not doing it. So when Perry,
Josh, Tony, Tony's brother (who none of us had met), and I sat down
for breakfast on Saturday, Perry immediately seized the opportunity:
"How much would you guys pay me to eat the Keno crayon?" Having seen
his schtick before, and because I was pretty sure it would get a rise
out of Tony's brother, I tried to think of the minimum it would cost
me to get him to eat the crayon. "I'll toss in a buck," I said, along
with a few others. "Deal," says Perry. It took less than a minute
for Perry's mouth to turn completely black, and for Tony's brother to
turn green. Best dollar I ever spent.

Josh corroborates the experience:

How much would it take to get you to eat a crayon?

In the case of Perry Friedman, it costs $3. Tony, Rafe, and I all
chipped in to watch Perry eat a keno crayon. Tony's brother, sitting
across from Perry at our table, only sat and watched in disbelief.

Incidentally, I suggest to those of you who even dabble remotely in
keno that paying someone to eat a keno crayon offers a far better
return on investment than using the crayon to play keno.

That weekend I heard this story about four times, and in each case
somebody mentioned the look on Tony's brother's face. Apparently the
guy was absolutely aghast. He was here on a business trip from
Australia, and I'm sure his impression of Tony's American friends will
be a lasting one.

Statistical Deviants

The final discussion of dinner was to be a monumental, almost
religious experience. Certainly the conclusion took on religious
importance, the conclusion being that *Dave is indeed Six Sigma Man.*
Dave remembers it thusly:

This started over dinner. Phil posed the question, "Do you believe
that there are people in this world who vastly over or underperform
their expectation over their entire lives?" (Keep in mind that he is
saying this after getting stuck $1200 counting cards at Blackjack.:-)
Rafe and I insist that there are no such people because everyone goes
through life with so many trials that it would be statistically
impossible to vastly over or underperform one's expectation in the
long run. I'm not quite clear what happened next, but I think that I
hinted at the fact that Phil was obviously referring to himself as
underperforming. I think that Phil then retorted, "shut up Six-Sigma
boy," referring to my apparent overperformance of expectation in the
recent (and some might argue, distant) past.

Yes. For those who haven't gleaned this yet, there are some among us
in the group who think the Diceboy's prowess at the craps table, and
his winning at poker despite a penchant for playing hands that Malmuth
would politely call, "ABSOLUTE FUCKING TRASH", (at least that's what
he'd call them after Dave had snapped him off with one) all indicate
that Dave is one of those rare individuals who lives on the far right
hand side of the normal distribution for luck meted out over one's
lifetime. The consensus is that he's actually about six sigmas out.
A sort of statistical singularity, if you will. No wonder he's always
got that damn self-assured grin on, even when he's drawing slim
against you in a huge pot. Rafe helps illustrate Dave's knack:

Here's a typical example from one time when Dave and I were traveling
in London and we stopped at one of the card clubs to see what poker
was like in the U.K. (at least this is how I remember it ;-):

Diceboy and a Brit are head's up on the river in a hand which the Brit
raised preflop under the gun. Flop had come AA2, turn 2, river 2.
Dave leads into him every round, the guy raises every time, and Dave
calls, except the river which he reraises. The Brit now is thinking
what to do.

Dave: You have an ace? I thought so. I started 3-2 off, and just
sucked out, so you should probably fold. Unless you want to
donate, in which case you should probably raise again.

Brit: [frown]

Dave: Ahh, that frown is a tell. I think you are going to fold. Nice

Brit: Listen up you young hooligan, you might be able to get away
with coffeehousing in the colonies, but here in Great
Britian we frown on that sort of thing.

Dave: Aha! I put you on a stuffy British attitude. I just won
another 5 pounds in a side bet with my friends. I could
tell just by looking at you that I was locked.

Brit: [tilt]. Raise!

Dave: Well, I guess you've got me. I should probably lay down, but
instead I'll pop it back once more. If you call, I'll muck though.
I'll even show you one card. [exposes the 3]. If you have pocket
aces, you should raise.

Brit: [mega tilt]. I raise, you imbecilic twit.

Dave: Did you know that 'imbesilic' and 'besilic' actually mean the
same thing? The cabbie on the way here told me. I'll just

Brit: [flips over AK]

Dave: Nut full house no good! Runner-runner quad deuces! [flips the
2, does his body-builder's clench]. Grrrrrr!!!

Brit: [hard power tilt, wings the cards at Dave and says] How can you
bet and call me the entire way with that fucking trash, you bloody

Dave: Didn't anyone tell you? I live about six sigmas out on the tail
of the normal distribution. My adjusted odds makes me a 3-1
favorite to win with 2-3 offsuit. I can't believe you called
me with AK suited.

Floorman: [Hears the Brit screaming and comes over]. I'm sorry sir,
but we have strict rules against throwing cards and using profanity
here. I'm afraid I'm going to have to have you removed.

Brit: [froths at the mouth and screams unintelligible profanities at
the top of his lungs as the security guards drag him out]

Dave: [to the rest of the table]: Geez, that guy should take it easy,
he could burst a blood vessel in his brain. Kinda reminds me
of the time I was in India and was playing a no-limit
karmic freezout with the Dalai Lama. Good player, the
Dalai, but has a tendency to go on tilt. So anyway, I put
him all-in with 3-2 and snapped his pocket kings. He
wanted to pay me cash instead of karma, but I didn't fall for
that trick. I've got good karma for the next twenty years
now. So I've got that going for me...

And the conclusion stands. Dave *is* Diceboy, and Six-Sigma-boy, and
has proved and will continue to prove that there is no such thing as a
"negative-expectation game" where he is concerned. He's already
beaten the Normal Distribution to a pulp at poker, craps and the stock
market. I personally refuse to buy a lottery ticket whenever Dave
does, choosing instead to take a piece of his action. I wait with
eager anticipation for the day Dave appears on the Big Spin, rolls
five consecutive "doubles" followed by the top prize, then turns to
the camera in a muscle-clench and "Grrrrs" at 50 million people. If
anybody can bankrupt the California Lotto, it's Dave.

Now I'm not going to make outrageous claims like that with out
substantiating them. The very next night, Dave dropped by the poker
room and casually mentioned that he was thinking about going and
shooting the dice a bit. Four Tiltboys immediately dove out of their
chairs and grabbed him, dragging him to the nearest craps pit. We
find a $10 table, and eagerly wait for the dice to pass to Dave. They
first have to pass through the hands of some rather dangerous looking
black dudes. (No I'm not prejudiced. These guys had the jewelry, the
attitude, the pagers... let's just say that if you were looking for
some stimulants, I think there's a pretty good chance these guys could
have provided them.) The bad dudes shot horribly, and dropped a
couple grand before passing the dice to Dave. So they weren't in very
good moods, while we, knowing that Dave was about to shoot, were. As
soon as the dice touched Dice's hand, we started in with our craps
chant. This creative and poetic mantra had served us good stead at
many previous sessions, and we weren't about to stop now. "Dave is
DiceBoy, Dave is DiceBoy, (ad nauseum)." Beautiful, ain't it?
Somehow our table companions didn't think so. "What the fuck is this
dice-boy shit?", says one. "Cut out that dice-boy crap", says
another. "Fuck dice-boy," says a third. At least, that's what they
said at first. 10 minutes later, when they were all up a couple
grand, they were singing a different tune: "Dave is da dice-boyyyyyy!"
No, I am not making this up. 3 bad-ass dudes joined in the chant
until Dave sevened out after shooting for 15 minutes, and accepted a
high-five from each of them. Soon we were all feeling pretty chummy,
smoking stogies and just waiting for the dice to come around again.
Stern was going nuts and almost got kicked out when he tried to take a
dealer's head off while high-fiving across the table.

But back to Saturday. Phil hadn't been seen very often in the poker
room, and it turned out that this was because he had taken one too
many bad beats and had decided to count down some blackjack decks and
do some scamming instead. He didn't get off to a good start, though,
as Perry describes:

OK, so I'm playing BJ and Phil is counting cards and betting on my
hand when it's right, and is waiting for a chair to open up. To my
right is a beautiful young women sitting down and a friend of hers
standing up. Phil and I are flirting, with Phil being the aggressive
flirter that he is and practically propositioning them. A guy leaves
and suddenly someone else sits in his place. I don't know why Phil
wasn't alert and didn't take the seat right away, but he tells the guy
that he's been waiting for the seat and the guy blows him off. Phil
starts really getting on the guy, making comments about him and
rooting against his cards and so on. The women to my right leave in
consternation and tell Phil off for being a jerk.

Here's strike two, again from Perry's perspective:

Phil was hitting on this one woman (same that went to Caesar's) and we
meet up with some drunk/stupid guys. This one guy is also hitting on
her. Well, he starts saying how he is so in with her and Phil is like
"Well, we'll see who Jen goes home with" or something like that, and
the guy says (looking dumbfounded, or at least dumb) "Who's Jen?"
Phil is laughing too hard to straighten this out, and a few minutes
later these girls take off.

This only appeared to be strike two. Phil later proved to still be
the Scam-King, in the following incident which put him on ultra-tilt.


Bruce Tilts Phil Without Even Trying

Sunday morning when I enter the room, the message light on my phone is
lit, and I figure it's a message from the guys before they left to
play Golf. I'm none too coherent as I pick up the phone for the
message, and I'm somewhat surprised to discover that Mirage has
voicemail instead of a live operator. So I listen to the message, at
which point it is deleted automatically. The message just says
something like, "Hi, this is Jen, I just wanted you to know I had fun
and would really like to hook up, so give me a call." No mention of
who she's calling for, no phone number. Not having been around Phil
yesterday, I had no idea who Jen was. Probably a wrong number. I
fell asleep and forgot the message completely until Sunday night at
dinner, when Phil mentions being on tilt about this Jen girl who never
called. At that point, some dim light cuts through the fog and I
hazily mention that I think I got a voicemail from her (turns out Phil
had given her the wrong room number.) Phil immediately leaps to his
feet, grabs me by the collar and attempts to shake some details out of
me. He is fully spasing out, but I'm am just too confused and can't
recreate the message. Rafe and Perry are busting up in the corner at
Phil's predicament, and while I feel helpless for not being able to
offer any information, I have to giggle a bit as well. Phil is
tilting more and more, and starting to look like he did when that
baggage check guy barred his way at the airport. Unfortunately, this
time he remained barred, as we were never able to piece together how
to get a hold of Jen. Phil missed out on his best opportunity -- two
ships in the night and all that -- and also missed out on his over
line for scoring. Such is the life of the Tiltboy Scam King.

{Editor's Note: On re-reading that above paragraph, I think it
reads exactly as I'd like it to. You see, after dinner, Rafe
approached me and explained that he and Perry were laughing like
maniacs because they thought there was a chance I was just making
the whole thing up to get even with Phil for past angles he'd
nailed me with. So when Rafe asked if it had really happened,
without a moment's hesitation I replied, "Of course not. I made
the whole thing up." Rafe went crazy, saying how it was an awe-
inspiring angle, executed perfectly. I got all kinds of credit
for putting Phil on such tilt that he would have no chance of
hitting his score line. Now that I've written the above item
for the trip report, apparantly airing the truth, an interesting
question arises: Did it really happen? Phil, Rafe, sorry, but
only I will ever know that for sure. As for the rest of you,
well, the story's pretty good either way, no?}

As for Strike 3, Phil would be able to watch instead of live it. Phil
tells it:

So, sometime around 1:00 Saturday night Russ finds me at the blackjack
table lamenting my terrible luck. I'm stuck like a pig, and not at
all happy about it. The only thing I have to show for it is a great

Russ: Phil, let's go check out the women scene around here.

Me: [always eager to scam, and remembering the over/under scoring line
has yet to be filled] I'm in, of course, just don't tell Perry, or
else we won't have a prayer!

Russ: [in a most reverent religious tone] Amen to that!

So, we walk around to the Carribean dance joint and start talking to
some girls. Need I remind you? Russ is a New Yorker. As such, he
has no fear of the approach -- I'm no slouch in that respect either,
so the two of us were hitting on just about anything that moved and
had breasts. It was a total blast. We're at it for about an hour
when Russ meets "Tanya", a really good looking Asian woman dressed in
an outfit to kill.

We decide to go to the Mirage piano lounge for a drink. Sit down,
Russ and Tanya are getting along really well. Now, I'm pretty naive
when it comes to the Vegas prostitute scene, so it didn't strike me at
all odd when she said she was in town for a "convention" and out on
the town by herself...

I eventually get bored watching Russ try to angle Tanya. I notice
that the piano player has quit -- I'm up for it. So, acting like I
own the joint, I walk right up, stuff a dollar or two into the brandy
glass on top of the piano, and start twinkling the keys. There were
about four couples in the lounge at the time. When I started, people
were a little shocked that the Mirage was classy enough to hire a
piano player to play for the 3AM shift, even if he was wearing rumpled
jeans and a Tiltboy t-shirt and looking broke and very, very tired.

I sat there and played my heart out for about an hour, which totally
relaxed me and hopefully the other patrons of the bar. My
professional piano playing debut -- at the Mirage no less! Highlight
of the evening came after a particularly stirring rendition of
"Arthur's Theme" when some guy came up and stuffed $1.25 into my tip
jar. Hey, another 600 hours and I'll be unstuck for the trip!

Brief Golf Summary

But Phil had other reasons to be on tilt, as Rafe describes from the
golf game Sunday morning:

Golf was surprisingly uneventful given the amount of sleep deprivation
everyone was on. But, of course two things can always be counted on:
1) Dave putting Phil on mega-tilt, and 2) me losing to Phil on the
skins match, but angling him out of larger proposition bets.

Phil, to his credit, tried to avoid the former by taking me in
confidence before the round and saying, "Rafe, you gotta help me
out. Please ride in the cart with me this time. I'm already feeling a
no-sleep-tilt coming on and I'll lose it if I ride with the
Diceboy. Please?" Of course, being the nice guy that I am, I consoled
Phil by telling him that I'd ride with him, and I wouldn't try to
angle him any more than necessary to win the bets. In the middle of
this conversation, Dave comes up and says (unaware of what we were
talking about), "Hey Phil, I assume you and I are riding together,
right?" As if taken over by lurking demons, contrary to the immediate
conversation we had just had, Phil's tilt-meter goes off and I hear
him say "Of course!" I just walked away shaking my head. By the
seventh hole, Dave has Phil in such a lather that, after missing a key
putt for several skins, Phil wings his putter into the sand trap, and
breaks the head clean off.

The second inevitable came on the 18th hole, when Phil was about 100
yards from the green, I gave him 7-1 odds on $10 that he wouldn't be
up and down in two from where he was. (My reasoning was that, while
those were about true odds, if he didn't flub the first shot --a not
uncommon scenario -- the putt for $70 would have him shaking like a
leaf and he'd be locked out.) He made a decent pitch shot to within
15 feet of the hole, but he had a tough putt, and, it being hard to
putt with your hand shaking like a widow's vibrator, missed. This
profit helped make up for my skins-match debacle.

For those of you who appreciated the much longer and more detailed
golf report from the last trip, too bad. I mean, sorry. Fact of the
matter is, everybody was so incoherent and sleepy that the golfers
could barely piece together what had happened. Rafe of course
remembers his successful angles, and since "Phil on tilt when golfing
with Dave" is pretty much a redundancy, he remembers that. But
descriptions of the brilliant weapons that Dave uses to repeatedly
drive Phil into the depths of tiltdom are unfortunately lost, at least
until the next trip...

The Math Brain Speaks Up

During the cab ride back from golf, Tony, Math Brain that he is (he
could tell you whether you had pot odds on a 4-way side pot, drawing
to a double-gutter with one over-card and a flush draw on the board,
down to the penny) would demonstrate his great talent. Rafe tells the
story best:

In the cab on the way back from golf, we continued to talk about
people who were way off their expectation in stochastic events over
the course of their lifetime. How many Diceboy's really exist? Some
of us were arguing that it would be nearly impossible for such people
to exist. A lifetime of betting is a long enough run for the
proverbial long-run to kick in for everyone. We decided to get
practical about it and do some calculations.

Assume for the sake of argument that the every person has the
equivalent of 30,000 coin-flips that they wager on in their lifetime.
We agreed that if someone were to be off by 2000 or more from the
expectation of 15,000 heads (i.e. had more than 17,000 or less than
13,000 heads) then they'd be considered in Diceboy's league. Several
of us guessed that with 5 Billion people on the planet, not one would
be expected to accomplish this feat. Others, like the more
statistically brilliant among us, guessed that at one in every 50-100
Million people would. "And furthermore", says Tony 'Math Brain'
Glenning, "I'd be willing to wager on that."

{Editor's Note: this is a landmark in itself: Tony making a wager on a
non-lock proposition. I have previously described Tony's cautious
betting outlook, and he would never make a bet unless certain he was
the odds-on favorite. Tony must have been quite sure of himself at
that point...}

The true answer, we discovered after doing the calculations back home,
is that only one in 10^105 people would be expected to accomplish such
a feat. Ai-yaaa! (and cha-ching!) See Math Brain Tilt. Tilt Tony


Dave came back from the golf game in exceedingly high spirits, his
patented Diceboy grin practically splitting skin. He was in such good
spirits that he immediately sat down in the 20-40 game I was playing
at, instead of working his way up as he usually does. Finally, I
would get to play at the same table as Diceboy and witness the six
sigma phenomenon first-hand. "Just remember to stay out of his
way," I thought to myself, as he unloaded his rack and asked the table
at large: "Okay, who's going to double me up first?"

Cooking Cooke

And the answer turned out to be... (no, not Gabe Kaplan) Roy Cooke!
Yes, within twenty minutes I would witness, though not be involved in,
the following slaughter:

Roy pops it from middle position, Dave calls on the button, one of the
blinds makes it 3, called around. 5 handed pot, $300 already in
there. Flop comes King, blank, blank. 3 suits. Checked to the guy
on Dave's right, who bets. Dave calls, all fold to Cooke, who
check-raises. Dave and the other guy call. Turn is an 8 of the
fourth suit. Cooke bets, other guy folds, Dave calls. River is an 8,
Cooke bets, Dave raises! ("Ai-fricking-yaa!", says me to myself.
"Diceboy has done it again!") Sure enough, Cooke calls and
disgustedly mucks his AK when Dave shows his A8s! I casually pointed
out to Dave that runner-runner flush and runner-runner 8's were his
only outs, since his Ace draw was dead. He shrugs, grins, plays with
the money, tips his straw hat to Cooke for the payoff, and generally
appears to not realize that he is surfing the whitewater of the Normal
Distribution curve. Six-Sigma boy lives!

Then, I guess I must confess, I somehow got caught up in Six-Sigma
fever, or was it beat-up-on-Cooke fever? A couple of hands later, I
have a 89s on the small blind and call a 1-raise 5 way pot. The big
blind of course feels he must reraise, and the original raiser (Cooke)
puts in 4, so here I am with a mediocre hand in a $400 pot. The flop
is A56, one of my suit. Now usually in this position, I would call
one bet but not two. This time however, when it came to me as two
bets, I called (I was pretty sure the original better wasn't making it
three.) The turn was a 6, and for some reason it got checked around.
The river was a blessed 7, which I bet and got called in two places,
including Cooke with, yup: an AK. He was an idiot for checking the
turn -- cost me 4 big bets. I drag a beaut, high five Dave and start
thinking I like this high-variance stuff. Then I realize that this
way madness lies, unless you're the Diceboy. When I fully grasped
this, I took my $800 profit for the session and walked, as Roy shook
his head disgustedly. I think Dave stayed and snapped him around a
bit more.

The Blackjack Debacle

I managed to find Rafe, getting ready to go hang out and drink with
Phil, Perry and Johnny who are playing blackjack. Phil is counting,
and Johnny is coattailing, trying to vary his bets along with Phil.
Perry is of course doing his own thing, paying no attention whatsoever
to the deck count, as long as he can keep chugging those green apples.
He'd had at least 10 when I got there.

Shortly thereafter, the count goes way up, and Phil bets $100. Then I
see an amazing sight. Johnny bets the same amount! Without even
thinking about it! This is the same Johnny who deliberates a $1 call
on Wednesday's as if he won't be able to eat Thursday if he loses. I
stare at Rafe with my jaw open, and Rafe says that Johnny's been
coattailing Phil the whole time. I look at Johnny again, and he
shrugs, carefree, even as the dealer collects his losing bet. We must
be in Vegas, this is too weird. And it was to get weirder.

A few hands later, Phil bets $300. Ah, I say to myself, he's just
trying to shake Johnny. No way Johnny matches *that* bet.
What... Johnny, what the hell are you doing?!? Johnny appears
oblivious, like he's in some hypnotized state and just performing
actions automatically. No indication that he's risking more on one
hand then he wins or loses in the home game in a year. Phil,
whispering something about the shoe being +25, puts another $100 on
top of Perry's $5 bet. Johnny does likewise.

Perry threatens to hit the hand to 29 unless Phil and Johnny pay him
off for space usage. Phil hits Perry.

Then I watched in slow motion as the dealer hit 3 cards to his 13 to
score a 20, beating all three of the Tiltboy hands for a total of
$805. And suddenly, Johnny seems to gain comprehension of what's
happening. 'Course, it's a little late at this point -- but suddenly
his face *looks* like somebody who's just dropped 4 bills in 20
seconds. Fortunately, he doesn't look like he's going to slit his
wrists or anything, but I decide I've watched about as much as I can
bear. I have a new respect for "Coffee" Johnny. He and Phil would go
on to a session score of only losing 100-200 each, so it wasn't all a
bloodbath. (Phil at one point earlier in the day was stuck a $1000
from poker and blackjack. With the deck at +20, he bet the big black
and got even in 3 hands! Ai-yaaa!)

The Stranger Side of Stern

Meanwhile Dave had left the poker table up seven bills and joined us,
reporting that Roy Cooke had got up to go when he saw Dave leaving.
At that point Rafe said something that triggered a hilarious memory
for me: he said, "Have you guys noticed that Mike is acting weird?" I
started laughing because Mike had actually done two weird things in my
presence that day, both baffling me, and I had intended to ask these
guys whether he was okay.

The first was, he had sat down at a game I was playing in, looked
right at me without saying anything, and just started cackling. He
laughed for a couple of seconds while unloading his rack, smiled
conspiratorially at me and never said a word. If he was trying to
avoid giving the impression that we knew each other by not talking to
me, he failed miserably. If he was trying to entertain and confuse
me, he succeeded admirably. But not nearly so much as the other
strange thing he did.

I was playing at a different table a little later, and Mike walked up
to the table and beckoned me. It was the beginning of a new deal, but
I got up anyway and missed a hand or two to hear what he had to say.
I mean, it had to be important if he's calling me away from the table
in the middle of the game like that. Maybe he knows that there are
partners at the table, or knows of a really juicy game with an open
seat? So I slide out and walk up to him a couple of yards away, where
he whispers: "That lady in seat 3? She'll always call before the flop
if she has an Ace in her hand." I kind of laugh, I mean, he's gotta
be joking right? He didn't just want to tell me that, right? Wrong.
He walks away with a self-content smile, his burden lifted by telling
me that somehow critical piece of information. I went back to my game
and puzzled over the riddle hidden in these seemingly simple words.
Never did solve it, either.

So I relate this to Rafe, and he and Dave go ballistic. It turns out
they have had almost identical experiences with Mike! Dave recounts:

Rafe and I had noticed Stern was exhibiting some psychotic tendencies.
We were trying to figure out if he was on drugs, and, if so, what
drug, or if his sleep deprivation was so massive that only the prime
numbered neurons in his brain were firing.

Here are two of the strange encounters I had with Mike:

Stern comes up to me while I'm at a poker table and in a hushed,
secretive tone whispers "she's gonna get him" in my ear. He then lets
out a slight laugh, like an insane physics professor who's been
sniffing glue, and returns to his table without any explanation. I am
left completely baffled.

Russ and I walk up to use a phone that is near the table where
Mike is playing. Mike looks at me, gets a very concerned look on his
face, and blurts out, completely of the blue "man Dave, are you ok?
Is something wrong? I'm really worried about you, lets go and talk."
I tell him that I'm fine, but Mike is unconvinced. He insists that
something is wrong and tells me I look like I am about to cry. (I had
just cashed out +$700 from a 20-40 game having had a great suck-out on
Roy Cooke, so sadness and misery were about the last things on my
mind.) I insist again that everything is ok and I spend the next two
minutes convincing him of that fact in front of his table. The other
players at his table were trying not to stare, but were too bewildered
not to.

Here's Rafe's version:

Let me just add that this was Sunday night, and Mike had had about 2
hours of sleep the entire trip. I was playing with him at the 10-20
table and he's acting really weird. At one point he says to me in a
hushed conspiratorial tone. "Rafe, remind me to tell you something
later". Thinking that he was going to criticize my play of the hand
before which I thought I played correctly even though I lost, I say,
"Okay, Mike, whatever". Realizing I was blowing him off a bit, he
says in an even more serious tone, "Something important." Getting the
feeling he is about to reveal some deep dark secret, I say, "Okay,
Mike, let's go walk around and talk some." He rejects this idea and
goes back to his alternation between mania and brooding.

About an hour later I ran into Dave and Bruce sweating Phil, Johnny
and Perry at the blackjack table and overheard them talking about how
Mike is acting funny. I got all excited because now I knew I'm wasn't
imagining things and proceeded to tell them my story. We were
debating whether Mike a) has dropped acid, b) is really sleep deprived
and starting to hallucinate, or c) is loonier than we've all given him
credit for in the past. The debate turned into a philosophical
discussion of various drugs and which of them would make him act like
he's acting. We narrowed it down to several likely candidates but
thought that, since he hadn't offered us any, the smart money was on
options b) or c).

And, as if simply acting weird isn't enough,

Frank Irwin

Dec 4, 1995, 3:00:00 AM12/4/95
>The profitable upside of this arrangement revealed itself at the
>BJ table -- I won the first hand, thus giving me $120 for the second
>bet. I was dealt presto (5,5) against the dealer's 6, and was able to

Nope. The original "Presto!" (and I believe that this is in the FAQ)
was a natural in Blackjack (e.g. AK). Only when the blackjack geeks
turned into poker geeks did a hand of pocket 5's become know as "Presto!"

I explained this to John Vorhaus in my e-mail to him, but it didn't
make it into his column. I also thought I had made it clear that
someone else coined "Irwin?" as the counter-sign, but he gave me
credit for it.

Frank Irwin | "If you understood everything I said,
VMARK Software, Inc. | you'd be me. " | -- Miles Davis

Jay Sipelstein

Dec 5, 1995, 3:00:00 AM12/5/95
In <<49vnkn$>>, Frank Irwin <> wrote:
>I explained this to John Vorhaus in my e-mail to him, but it didn't
>make it into his column. I also thought I had made it clear that
>someone else coined "Irwin?" as the counter-sign, but he gave me
>credit for it.

We need to start being careful about too much "Presto"ing.

I was playing in the Resort's holdem tournament a few weeks ago,
and was chatting with a young guy to my left. He was reading Card
Player, and said that he was a "storehouse of useless poker trivia."
When someone won a hand with 55, I declared a Presto. He looked at
me and responded with an "Irwin." (Note, statement, note question.)
I looked at him in surprise (I had been using my Fich-made bronze
BARGE coin as a card protector). He said that he remembered Vorhaus'
article (useless trivia indeed).

The cat's out of the bag.

-- Jay Sipelstein

Tim Dierks

Dec 8, 1995, 3:00:00 AM12/8/95
In article <slrn4c93j5...@VEGAS.SCANDAL.CS.CMU.EDU>, wrote:

>In <<49vnkn$>>, Frank Irwin <>
>>I explained this to John Vorhaus in my e-mail to him, but it didn't
>>make it into his column. I also thought I had made it clear that
>>someone else coined "Irwin?" as the counter-sign, but he gave me
>>credit for it.

>I was playing in the Resort's holdem tournament a few weeks ago,
>and was chatting with a young guy to my left. He was reading Card
>Player, and said that he was a "storehouse of useless poker trivia."
>When someone won a hand with 55, I declared a Presto. He looked at
>me and responded with an "Irwin." (Note, statement, note question.)
>I looked at him in surprise (I had been using my Fich-made bronze
>BARGE coin as a card protector). He said that he remembered Vorhaus'
>article (useless trivia indeed).

Indeed. At Bay 101, which I'll say (without any justification whatsoever)
has more regular rec.gamblers than any other cardroom, "Presto" was
recognized as a term for pocket fives as long as 6 months ago or so by
other regulars and dealers. I don't think I ever heard a non rec.gambler
say it, but a lot of them knew what it meant.

Maybe we need a new secret handshake.

- Tim

Tim Dierks - Software Haruspex -
If you can't lick 'em, stick 'em on with a big piece of tape. - Negativland

Stephen H. Landrum

Dec 11, 1995, 3:00:00 AM12/11/95
Tim Dierks wrote:
> In article <slrn4c93j5...@VEGAS.SCANDAL.CS.CMU.EDU>,
> wrote:
>> [ Presto ancedote where stranger recognizes it ]

> Indeed. At Bay 101, which I'll say (without any justification whatsoever)
> has more regular rec.gamblers than any other cardroom, "Presto" was
> recognized as a term for pocket fives as long as 6 months ago or so by
> other regulars and dealers. I don't think I ever heard a non rec.gambler
> say it, but a lot of them knew what it meant.

Well... There are at two rec.gambling lurkers among the dealers at
Bay 101, and one dealer who posts occasionally to ba-poker. Paul
Chadband is also a rec.gambler. I have also found quite a number of
lurkers at the Bay 101, so don't assume that someone you don't
recognize as a rec.gambler is not actually a rec.gambler. They might
not want to spoil their image by admitting to using computers.

Stephen H. Landrum voice: (415)261-2626 email:
System software programmer, M2 graphics division.
For general 3DO questions email

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