Bordering on the Adriatic slot hoki


When we last left Otis, he’d busted out in 12th at the Holiday Classic and rode in a dissociative fugue back to the Excalibur. After spending 30 hours in Vegas without a hotel room in his name, he was finally ready to find a bed. It was 4:00pm

I suspected that I might be on the verge of some sort of physical catastrophe that would eventually be the stuff of Vegas lore and launch some promising slot hoki medical researcher to fame after he studied what was left of my addled corpse and wrote about it in JAMA or Boy’s Life. I wanted to tongue kiss the plump little girl who finally gave me my 8th floor room key and bid me a good weekend.

You don’t know the half of it, I wanted to say. Instead I grunted something in the way of a thank you and–with G-Rob in tow–floated toward Tower 1.

Sleep, precious slumber, my own little slice of death was within reach.

Finally, I would rest.

Or so I thought. Instead, I laid in bed for three hours, listening to my internal machine grinding on un-oiled gears against itself. For one very long hour between 6pm and 7pm, I considered the possibility that I might die in Vegas. A younger more jaded Otis would’ve thought the concept to be vaguely romantic, or at the very least, a good story to tell Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin during a Cloud Nine jam session.

This Otis, however, slipped further into self-loathing.

You’re an adult now. You’re a father now. You have responsibilities greater than pushing your physical limits to the extreme and hoping you survive. Grow up, you schmuck.

The words ran on a loop in my head until sometime around 7:15pm on Saturday night, I drifted off into unconciousness. With the exception of a 45 minute power nap, I’d been awake for more than 40 hours.


One thing Vegas works very hard to do is convince its guests that time is irrelevant. Still, it offers alarm clocks in its hotel rooms. When I opened my eyes to a red LED screen that began with the numbers 12:, I cringed. I couldn’t believe I’d just slept away 17 precious hours while on vacation.

I stood and walked toward the shower, hoping to make it to Mandalay Bay in time to meet the rest of the blogger crew for the NFL games. As I fumbled around with my duffle bag, I looked toward the window. It was dark outside.

I’d only been asleep for five hours.

While part of me felt like I hadn’t given myself enough rest, there was that atavistic part of me that celebrated.

It was only midnight, and I was sure to find friends still up and running.

Welcome to Albania, please show your chrome at the door

Freshly showered, I rode the elevator downstairs. I had a plan. Play cards with a fresh head for four hours, go back to sleep for five hours, then get up in time to lay down some money on the early NFL games.

Somebody once wrote something about plans, and mice, and men, and such. I forget.

When I arrived in the poker room, it was in full effect. At the very back of the room, my brother, Dr. Jeff, was entering his eighth straight hour at a low-limit spread game. My bar-owning, school-teaching, number-talking buddy from Denver, Joey Two-Hands, sat in the one seat.

“Hungry?” Dr. Jeff asked.

I thought about it. I hadn’t eaten food in a very long time.

“There’s this place back by the sports book,” he said. “You can get two tacos really cheap.”

I bolted back to Little John’s Deli, ate me some tacos, and brought two back for Two-Hands.

By 1am, I was fully refreshed. Dr. Jeff always knew the right prescription. I vowed to follow my little brother’s lead for the rest of the night.

The twoseat was open and I sat down. What a good way to kill four hours until bed, I thought.

“Have you seen the monkey?” Jeff asked. I had not. He told me to just wait.

Within a few minutes, Jeff screamed, “MONKEY!” While the occasional outburst is not out of character for my brother, he usually doesn’t break out the monkey-scream in poker rooms.

So, imagine my surprise when most of the poker room answered back in unison, “MONKEY!” and cheered like Dr. Jeff had just saved a nun’s life.

I turned to look over my shoulder at the big screen TV. There, in giant monkey-assed technicolor, was Whiplash the Dog-Riding monkey. On Rodeo TV, Whiplash was the star. He rode that dog like Luke Perry in “Eight Seconds.” I got the feeling the monkey knew how much joy he was bringing a room full of poker-playing degenerates. Either that or he was tied onto the dog and had no real choice. One or the other.

When it was over, I felt sad and Dr. Jeff could see it on my face.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “He’ll be back in about two hours. Just watch for the clown. He comes up after that.”

As I said, Dr. Jeff knows how to make people feel good.


The cast of charcters at the table was better than any table at which I sat the entire weekend. It was constatly changing. Lyle from the O8 game was there for a while (and is still the subject of a future post). Some retired restauranteur who never stopped talking sat there for a long time. A freshly-21-year-old kid from New Jersey sat beside me for a long time. I met his father later and wondered how the kid turned out to be such a balanced individual. The dealers were good, too, as they joined along in the monkey-fun and indulged our hammer-dropping silliness. One of the dealers dealt to me two nights later and remembered a line I dropped on G-Rob and Dr. Jeff:

“Well, since he raised and you called, I have to re-raise.”

The dealer repeated it word for word 48 hours later. That either means he has a fantastic memory or we left quite an impression on him.

But above all the characters, Albania was the best.

Albania arrived in a quiet whoosh of funk and bed-fashion. I questioned for a while whether he had teeth. I could tell he was from out of town (way out of town) but couldn’t get a read on his personality otherwise. That was until someone beat him on one hand and he degenerated into the quickest tilt I’ve ever seen. Then, I was fascinated by his rebound, as he came back two hands later and laid a beat on somebody, slammed his cards on the table a’ la Phil Hellmuth and beamed with pride.

Finally, someone got up the courage to ask, “So, where you from, bud?”

His one word answer set the stage for the next several hours: “Albania.”

Dr. Jeff and I looked at each other across the table. The song clicked with both of us at the same time.

To the tune of “When the Saints Go Marching In” we began singing, “Albania, Albania, you border on the Adriatic…”

The table looked at us, expecting an explanation. We could only offer that the song was from an old version of the show Cheers in which Coach was studying for some geography exam and needed songs to help him remember his countries. Sadly, for a long time, we couldn’t remember the rest of the song.

Albania’s catch-phrase was “You be nice to me, I’ll be nice to you.” Albania didn’t like to be checked-raised, slow-played, or otherwise hammer-inflicted. Anytime he felt like he was wandering into a trap, he’d sit up in his chair, look at his opponent and say in his thick Albanian accent, “You be nice to me, I’ll be nice to you.”

He said it to Dr. Jeff at one point, to which Dr. Jeff with more poise than I’d expect from a guy 12 hours into a session, responded “How about this? I’ll play my hand and we’ll just see how it turns out.” As it turned out, Dr. Jeff won the pot.