Posting when I am extremely tired is much like posting when I’m drunk in terms of how disorganized and incoherant my thoughts are, but with less entertainment value. Therefore, I make no promises about the quality of this entry. I’m pretty sure it will be so long that even my mom doesn’t make it to the end. I’m also too tired to reread and proof. So there.
My first set of thoughts is about the parallel universe that exists in the travel business. When things go wrong at the airport, there is the world that exists for 95% of the travelling public and then there is the secret world for frequent travellers who know the tips and tricks. It doesn’t make things perfect, but it makes them better. For instance, last night my flight from Richmond was getting the usual two hour delay 15 minutes at a time treatment. Eventually they admit there will be a substantial delay and urge anyone making connections to come to the podium. A mob scene out of a bad movie ensues and people line up for a quarter mile from the agent out to the TSA screening station. Instead of joining the massive line, I phone up the frequent flier help desk and ask them what can be done. They review all the alternatives with me and we settle on still waiting for the Philly flight in the hopes that my Las Vegas connection will be equally delayed. Just in case, however, they also “protect me” on the first flight out of Richmond into Charlotte connecting through to Las Vegas in the morning, arriving at 9:30AM. She tells me this is important because the flight only has two seats left. A full hour later, the guy who was sitting next to me when they made the announcement returns to his side and tells me dejectedly that he is taking his chances on connecting in Philly, as it turns out to Las Vegas. His next best option doesn’t arrive until dinner time the following day into Vegas. I murmur something sympathetic and excuse myself as they are now boarding the first class section. I sit down and nurse my aggrivations with a bourbon and ginger ale. They advise me to drink up because it will too rough to serve me in the air, so they suggest I can get two drinks in while we wait for the rest of the people to board. Cheers to that! I nod to my new friend in a pleasantly buzzed way as he files past me later. When we land, my phone chirps with a text to let me know I missed the connection because the Vegas flight has already left. Everyone is urged to go to special services to get a new ticket if they need help. The line is already long before my plane load of people join it. I go buzz the door on the “Club” and tell the very sympathetic lady at the front desk my tale of woe. These ladies have far more lattitude than the people at Special Services and there was no line. I explain my goals and problems to her and she suggests that I would benefit from a drink at the bar while she works on the issue on my behalf. With a smile, she proffers a free drink coupon. I return a few moments later with a drink in hand and she is madly pounding on keys. She tells me that the phone people were wise to hold the Charlotte flight, because they have nothing until late the next day from Philly and she wouldn’t want me to have to fly stand-by. It turns out that the flight to Charlotte is also quite late, so I can get to Charlotte that night.
She tells me that the system is being stubborn and refusing to give me my first class upgrade because the flight is completely full and other folks have already claimed the precious long distance upgrades. Not satisfied with this outcomes, she mutters and types and eventually forces me into a first class seat. I’m not sure how she did it, because when I view my reservation online it goes wonky and prints a bunch of **** characters and can’t even figure out if I am in coach or first. However, I have the boarding pass and they are going to have to wrestle me out of the seat now! She also makes a few phone calls and finds a free hotel room for me in Charlotte. This is quite unusual these days because they really don’t have to put you up if the flight was delayed by weather. After indulging in one last drink, I file out to catch my flight to Charlotte. On the way to the gate, I pass my friend from Richmond. He tells me that it took 90 minutes to get the front of the special services line, at which point they tell him that the soonest they can promise he can get to Vegas is 10:00pm the next day and he has to pay for his own hotel room. They offer him no help in finding one. They do tell him he can spend all day in the airport the next day and if they happen to have any empty seats on an earlier flight, they will squeeze him in. He doesn’t look very happy. I’m not buzzed enough not to feel sorry for him. I tell him that I am flying to Charlotte where I will take my chances there the next day. He offers sympathies, thinking I have it worse than him. I don’t have the heart to tell him that I have confirmed first class seats and I’ve been sitting down watching TV and drinking bourbon the whole time.
Most of the time, those lounges simply provide a relatively more quiet place to stay and wait for your flight. The seats are a bit nicer and there are snacks and drinks, but that isn’t why hte lounges are worth the money. The ability of the ladies at the desk to work miracles when the weather is bad or a flight is delayed is worth twice the price. At a minimum.
I have been entertaining myself by reliving some of the events of my deep run last year in the Limit event. As I reread and listened to the old podcasts, I remembered so many things that I had forgotten. There was a window of time on Day Two of that event where I was in a kind of poor man’s perfect poker Zen state. I felt perfectly in tune with the table and the players facing me. I seemed to notice everything. The one small twinkle of delight that passed on the player’s face as he celebrated what I now deduced to be a succesful bluff. The brief expression of disgust from the folding player who was watching the bluffer intently for exactly the sign that I saw. The narrowed eyes and angry contenance that told me he was going to tilt for a while.
The podcasts reminded me of one of my favorite personal poker moments of all time. Bull was watching me from the rail and providing moral support on the breaks. Either on a break or an impromptu conference on the rail I mentioned that a player on my right was looking like a good target. A short while later, I pressured him off a hand on the flop. Shortly thereafter, we got a break and as I shuffled to the rail Bull asked me what I had in that hand. I told him truthfully “Nothing, but I knew he would fold.” Bull gave me a look that made me feel good. We both knew I was playing good poker and that I really had a good sense of what was going to work at that table. For at the least this once, I really was playing the player more than the cards.
Those moments where I felt like I had a perfect feeling for the flow of the game and felt almost like I could tell them “These are the not the droids you are looking for” were really the best high I’ve got from poker. I don’t seem to be able to stay in that zone forever. Maybe sometimes I can’t do it with some players at all. But when I can get in that state, it is one of the best feelings I know. I think it is what most of chase down in the Amazon Room. Those moments where you are perfectly in the moment, completely able to make the optimal decision and able to take each situation as it comes. The real struggle in poker is to play as close to that level as we can during the other moments. But I really don’t think I’ve ever found anything as great as the way I feel in those moments. It would be brilliant if it also came with a bracelet and millions of dollars, but to be honest if I can just feel myself in that zone for a few hours again I’d do it every year. (Hopefully Suited didn’t read this far, because I’m pretty sure she really hopes that this year is the last).
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