I met up this past weekend in Memphis for a weekend of BBQ competition and poker playing with ITH stalwart NukeDuke and his far too good for him spouse, Leigh_Leigh. If you have a weak stomach for serious drunken debauchery, stop reading now. I’m not talking about a few too many light beers drunken debauchery, I’m talking about a tale that would make a sailor blush. Things that should only be attempted by a select few frat boys or younger people with extremely capable livers. Things that the four of us should not have attempted. I’ll not bore you with tales of transportation gone awry. Suffice it to say that every single encounter with anyone in the travel business was a disaster in one way or another. Can’t get on this flight, lost that reservation, no name on the fancy name-in-lights board at Hertz, hotel shuttles gone amuck — you name it, it went wrong. We did meet a charming young lady from New Orleans who was so absolutely hammered that she was actually ejected from a plane bound for Las Vegas before it could take off. I believe that it was our shared eyerolls at this unfortunate young woman that doomed us later on. We did manage to get ourselves settled into a room in downtown Memphis and called for Nuke who arrived promptly to ferry us to the BBQ scene in his auto. A bit more promptly than we were prepared for, so we made them wait while we finished a few bites of lunch and Suited did whatever it is that women do in the restroom for days at a time. We were planning to walk back to the hotel, so Nuke and his brother-in-law drove in random circles en route to the BBQ place, pointing out areas of touristic interest along the way. At this point, I must tell you how awesome it was to have connections at the BBQ competition. Much of the festivities center around the private parties that each team holds in their own booth. Thanks to Nuke and Leigh, we were invited for backstage access to Leigh’s brother’s booth. He was a charming and convivial host, pouring drinks for us as soon as we arrived. Within a few minutes, we were introduced to his next door neighbor, who had a booth of her own. She happily invited us to crash at her booth and gave us directions and the secret password to get past the security. These booths were not ordinary stalls. You have no doubt attended some outdoor event where people set up large tents to gather under. There was some of that, but there were also high-rise skyscrapers with three floors of scaffolding and live music, elaborate decorations, full bars and, of course, giant smoke-belching BBQ setups. The neighbor’s booth was one of the high-rise variety. As we set out to explore the vast site, our host poured us all margaritas for the road. Eying our 16 ounce cups full of margaritas, he pronounced them inadequate for the long walk we were facing and poured a liter or so of extra margaritas into an empty booze bottle so that we would not get parched as we wandered along the BBQ pathways. After we walked a short distance, Nuke unexpectedly ran into his cousin, who was in town to visit and party and we now had backstage access to three tents. Score! I should have realized that any party that starts with a liter of margaritas is likely to end badly. There are things that happened that I dare not tell you, there are things that happened that I do not remember and there are things that I remember that did not happen. I will tell you that I believe that I drank every kind of alcohol that is made at some point or another. I had Buds from a giant metal trough and fine Scotch whiskey, jello shooters and full cups of Bourbon, lithesome girls dancing on the bar tilted my head back and poured some sugary rum concoction down my gaping maw. I probably had moonshine and muddy Mississippi river water. If you held it up to me, I would probably have drank it. I don’t think I have been that drunk since college. I don’t think I will ever get that drunk again in my life. There was dancing, earnest and serious conversation about poker, jobs and life, knocking over of tables, violent expulsion of stomach contents (not by me!) pink cowboy hats with rhinestone tiaras (worn by everyone — including people we did not know). Fortunately, Nuke and Leigh seem to have forgiven us for our bad behavior since they were willing to hang out with us the next day. I cannot believe how lucky we were to hook up with them. We would not have had one tenth as much fun without them and probably not even one hundredth as much booze. There is more to say about the BBQ proper, but you guys probably don’t really care and I do have some token poker content to share. The four us got up early and felt super-energetic the next day, so we met for breakfast around 2:00pm. After a sluggish start and about 10 cokes and/or coffees, some greasy food and a really bad waitress, we wandered through the BBQ to watch the judging and what not and then took off for Tunica, MS. We selected the Horseshoe as our room of choice and Nuke immediately settled into a 10/20 game. He snagged rockets in the first hand in his big blind, bombed in bets all the way down and got paid to the river. It was a fine start. I listed for the 20/40 game and the 10/20 game for good measure. The women arranged dinner at an excellent steakhouse (truly first-rate). Unfortunately, the only available time was 20 minutes from when I was seated, but we dealt with it. After some maneuvering to protect our seats for the longest possible time, we hoofed it to dinner. The steakhouse featured mutant versions of everything — shrimp the size of cats, baked potatoes the size of basketballs (this particularly troubled Suited, who seemed to think it might turn her into PotatoWoman or something). The food was quite good and helped to turn the corner for me and make me feel human or nearly so. We timed it perfectly and arrived in the poker room just as the floor was preparing to rack up our chips. There was some grumbling when I played about 4 hands and was offered a seat in the 20/40 game. I moved over there and found a shockingly soft game. There was a husband and wife who did not seem troubled by any fancy book learning on poker and the usual array of B&M players who think they are masters of the game. The only bad thing was that they all knew each other very well, so they had a few advantages I did not. It was pretty easy to figure out who had what reputation by watching closely and I got into the rhythm pretty quickly. With lots of action, especially pre-flop and on the flop, it was easy to lose $200 at a time if you went to showdown. I lost a fat pot with QQ to Aces-up when he rivered an Ace to pass me and dropped a number of small pots and stole one or two. I was down about $400, when I caught a flopped two pair with AJ and got a ton of action from an Ace-rag player who had a worse two pair. I then started to figure out whose blinds to target and chopped up a gain of about $600 at my peak. I then went cold, mostly missing flops and big draws and fell down about $200 after a few hours. The table got short and I stopped chopping (they all seemed to be fine with it, since we were short-handed). They mostly played very bad short-handed, like most live players. They also didn’t like it and one by one, they started to wander around the casino until there were just two of us left. He agreed to play heads-up and I was steamrolling his nicely, when the floor ruined my fun by finding him a new game to play. Heads-up was awesome, because the house stopped taking rake and he had absolutely no answer for my aggression heads-up. I won about $500 heads-up and was up $100 or so when I ran out of people to play. They took me back to Nuke’s 10/20 table and I finished the night there. The 10/20 game was actually much tougher than the 20/40 game and I got involved in too many pots and was feeling the effects of last night’s heavy schedule of drinking and excused myself around midnight down $75 for the night. Fortunately, Suited was dominating the $4/$8 game and more than covered my losses, so we cashed out up a few bucks. I forget the exact total, but it was more than enough to cover our elaborate dinner. We said our goodbyes and limped home, exhausted but well-fed and in need of a liver transplant. Nuke and Leigh were the absolute nuts — we had the best time we’ve had in years, thanks to their local connections and charming company. We’re thinking of making it an annual event (but don’t tell them yet).