It’s in the middle of the night–not to mention the middle of the week–in downtown Las Vegas and I get the sense that if a cinematographer was looking for a post-apocalyptic movie set, he would choose the emptiness under the Fremont Street Experience. I am the only one breathing within earshot and I’m breathing hard. The 2:00am Binion’s tournament starts in two minutes and I am nowhere near the tournament room. rtp online Wil Wheaton is hungry–starving maybe–and on the verge of homicidal low blood sugar madness. My brother, Dr. Jeff, would say this low blood sugar shit is for the birds, but at the moment I’m not listening to Dr. Jeff. I’m listening to Wheaton, who needs a sandwich. Or peanuts. Or a bag of sugar.
On the Strip, I could’ve wandered into Fat Burger and picked up something greasy to soil Wheaton’s cards. Instead, there’s nothing. Nobody is breathing. There are no hookers, no strip club denizens, no hustlers. For a moment, I longed for a New Orleans Lucky Dog vendor. Wheaton would never eat it, but it would be a good way to tilt him.
No, I’ve made it my mission–as a friend, as a fanboy, as the primary reason we’d ended up in a Stephen King version of Las Vegas at 2am–to make sure Wheaton survives long enough to actually compete for the last longer bet we’ve made with Absinthe and Spaceman.
The only problem is, Stephen King didn’t write a diner into this zombie movie and I have a tournament to play.
Absinthe would later write that no one should listen to me after one in the morning. Apparently, I am incapable of rational thought after Vegas’ version of the 13:00 hours. That night, the same night Phil Hellmuth won his tenth bracelet, my friends had no such warning. They’d mistakenly hopped on the Otis Tilt-a-Whirl and were on the ride for the duration.
Our ride took us from the now infamous confines of the Tilted Kilt, to the side of the poker table as Phil Hellmuth celebrated his tenth bracelet, to the Ultimate Bet hospitality suite, to a taxi cab where the driver told actual fish stories and tried to convince the lot of us that Treasures strip club had the best steak house in all of Vegas.
Ultimately, we landed in front of Binions and in another world. We stood in front of the place that made the World Series of Poker famous. It was where Hunter Thompson, Al Alverez, Tony Holden, and Jim McManus had found the inspiration for each of their most famous books. Nearly every poker legend that we knew had made their bones inside the rundown building. As recently as one year before, Binion’s still played host to the biggest event in all of poker–and, arguably, the richest event in all of sports or gaming.
Now, it was 1:58am and I had more name recognition than most people within stumbling distance. I would learn this half an hour later when the dealer looked up at me and said, “You’re Otis” and the guy in the one seat said, “Holy shit, you are Otis.” A world where I get recognized is not a world that God created.
If it hadn’t been for the complete vacuum enveloping all of Fremont Street, my footsteps would’ve echoed. It was not a cavern of despair. For despair to exist, it would require someone actually caring. Instead, it was simply a black hole for things forgotten.
Everybody knows the little shop I’m talking about. It’s the place you go when every bar and every gift shop in Binion’s has closed down for the night. It’s the first corner store you see when you breach Binion’s air conditioning and step into the superheated Vegas air. If it weren’t for the completely depressing nature of such a store in the tourism capital of the southwest, it might be considered a beacon of hope. Instead, it was the only place I was going to find sustenance for Wheaton.
I jogged through the door and then sprinted past the zombie behind the counter. He mumbled something about “brains,” and I thought, “None here, sir.” With time being of the essence and all (the tournament was now starting in less than one minute), I let marketing decide how to best feed Wheaton’s beast.
“Snickers satisfies,” I thought. I was a zombie for a good marketing campaign. I grabbed one candy bar, then decided I couldn’t be sure that Wheaton wasn’t on the verge of real meltdown.
“Three oughta do it,” I said to myself. I threw some money at the zombie and ran for the door.
As I reached escape velocity, I spotted a giant bin of cheap sunglasses.
“Yes,” I thought, my 2:00am trance kicking in something fierce. Poker players wear sunglasses. I should wear them for the tournament.
Another voice, this one near my medulla oblongata (incidentally, I think the zombie was eying that particular cut of my noodle), spoke to reason. “You don’t have time to buy sunglasses. The tournament is starting in thirty seconds.”
I’m not sure where the third voice came from, but it was emphatic as Wheaton was when he said he needed food.