Day One: Atlantic City
6 Weeks Ago T-42 days
It’s my dream. Sarah needed to go see her elder grandmother and she gave me a pass to go play poker in Atlantic City for 3 days. I’ve logged enough time in the Tropicana poker room under my Poker Card that I now can call and get a room at the reduced poker rate which is $80 or $90 a night. I pick a Thursday/Friday/Saturday stay and clutch my reservation number like it’s a travel visa out of Cuba or a ticket to see the 99 virgins in Hassan i-Sabbah’s assassin’s paradise.
Over the next few weeks I go through my list of poker buddies to selectively invite them on the trip. I get a hit on the second one, and the trip is set: Chris, one of the friends I’ve made through the DC Poker Meetup and I are headed to AC. Chris will be a great traveling partner. He’s extremely polite, he’s a real grown up beyond his years, and he loves to study poker. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard him say anything critical about anyone else that wasn’t really deserved. He’s got no ego that needs to be appeased, so I don’t have to worry about his needing to show me how smart he is by outplaying me if we’re at the same table together. And we’re at about the same level of skill in poker, I think.
Like me, Chris studies the game. He reads books, he analyzes hands, and he finds the intellectual end of poker as fascinating as I do. Along with my other poker buddy Katie, he’s the person I know I can comfortably discuss poker strategy with.
And he’s a culinary master of meat. An admirable skill that probably won’t be of use on this trip. He can make brisket well (which means edible, not tough). If you’re a guy and you have any interest in cooking meat, making a tender brisket is the souffle of the barbecue world. Chris is the shit.
T-1 days to Atlantic City
IM Chat Log:
Chris: So are you excited to go to Atlantic City tomorrow?
Shabbir: I’ve prepared a spreadsheet of every poker tournament happening in every poker room in AC during our stay, categorised by cost of entry and format of tournament sorted by start time. If need be we can travel from casino to casino as we play and get busted out of tournaments.
Chris: So you’re excited.
Shabbir: I’ve only sent you one e-mail today about the trip; I’m restraining myself.
T-0 DEPARTURE DAY
Work is fascinating but I can barely concentrate. Still, I have a REALLY GOOD IDEA for a client pitch that comes to me during a walk out to get coffee, and I oversee several ongoing projects that need my supervision. At 6pm I ditch work and run home to feed and exercise the dogs. After a half hour of running the dogs ragged with the laser pointer on a darkened football field, I make some sandwiches, pack a bag, leave a note for the house sitter, and go to pick up Chris. My iPod is loaded with a crapload of podcasts and the audiobook version of professional poker player Annie Duke’s autobiography. We hit the road and arrive in AC without incident, if you don’t count rolling our eyes and forcefully turning off Annie Duke’s aggravating audiobook.
Upon arrival I discover that the poker room booker has failed to set me up for late registration, so they’ve given away our room. The clerk wants to send us to the Days Inn and comp our night, but I am annoyed and don’t think $80 is enough compensation for what I’ve been through.
I ask for the hotel manager and pull my “deeply disappointed but not angry” customer service act. She shows up and I am clearly disappointed without being angry or unreasonable. And then I’m silent.
This is my standard MO whenever I’m in a situation where customer service has messed up and clearly needs to sincerely attempt to make me happy. I find it’s much more effective at arguing, yelling, or losing my cool. Only I can release the tension in this exchange now. Either I lose my cool and give her a reason to walk away, or I let her off the hook. I wait. She apologizes. I say I’m disappointed. She apologizes. I say that a reservation should be golden. She apologizes. I say that 6 weeks ago I had my choice of casinos but I picked the Tropicana.
She offers me a room upgrade and to comp my room tomorrow. Fireworks go off in my head. "Thank you for making this right, ma’am, I really appreciate it." She’s off the hook.
Our total hotel bill for the trip will be $110, $55 per person. In case you’re bad at math, that’s $18.33 per night per person. I totally rock. We hit the hay with dreams of a long day of poker tomorrow.