1am. I found myself deep into a bender and was sitting at a “high roller” Pai Gow table. Johnnie and I were the only ones playing Pai Gow. He told me about the dingy backroom casino in the back of a bowling alley somewhere on the outskirts of Seattle.
"Didn’t the Green River serial killer pick up crack whores down the street? Are we going to get jacked in the parking lot by a bunch of meth heads?"
Both question rattled through my head as I gazed at my King-high Pai Gow. The dealer was an Asian woman who could have been 30 or 60 years old. You never know. Like vampires, Pai Gow dealers do not age. Her name was Minnie and she had a small Minnie Mouse pin on her vest and a tiny scorpion tattoo on her forearm. The only other action in the backroom was a blackjack table in the far corner, where a shitfaced WW2 vet sat in front of a wall of redbirds. The blackjack dealer wore a Matt Hassleback jersey. A poker table in the opposite corner had a bunch of older Asian men, the local Joey Knishes, who were nitting it up playing short-handed Omaha 8.
In the distance you could hear the smacking and crackling of pins. That was the only reminder that a bowling alley was on the other side of the thin wall. The backroom reeked of lane wax and that putrid disinfectant smell that they spray inside bowling shoes to keep them clean and free of foot fungi.
Sometimes you end up in the last place you’d expect, like at a bowling alley on the fringe of the city at 1am. Was I really playing Pai Gow? Is this real life?
At least it was commission-free Pai Gow. The waitress charged us $1 for watered down, stale, tepid Bud Light drafts. Soft drinks were free though, but I guess you can’t complain about $1 pints, even if it was warm beer.
Johnnie was on a heater and nailed straight flush with a Joker. 7s-6s-JOKER-4s-3s. The half-asleep pit boss lumbered over and confirmed the bonus hand. Minnie the dealer pulled out a stack of green chips and put them in front of Johnnie.
Me? I got cold-decked by yet another Pai Gow dealer. King-high Pai Gow. Queen-high Pai Gow. Jack-high Pai Gow. Doesn’t matter if I’m on the Las Vegas Strip or if I’m in a shitty “casino” in the back of a bowling alley… the Asian Games Gods always fuck with me.
Sometimes you end up places you never dreamed about going. I could blame the odd assortment of painkillers for leading me down a treacherous path, but in the end, I could have asked Johnnie to head downtown so we could watch a crappy band comprised of burned out hippies jamming out badly arranged Allman Brothers covers… or we could take a walk on the wild side and check out a bowing alley casino where dreams go to die.
When we started our day, nothing on Sunday’s agenda indicated a late-night trip to a hole-in-the-wall casino, yet that’s what happened.
Saturday afternoon betting was ugly, fugly, ugly and the ugly spilled into Saturday night. No one likes to talk about a losing streak while it’s happening, but I knew deep down that the only thing that could end a losing streak was winning a bet. Any bet. Small. Medium. Large. It didn’t matter. We just needed to win something to get us back on track. That was the Denver Nuggets. Oh, the mighty Nugs pulled us out of the doldrums…. so when I woke up on Sunday, I was in a chipper mood despite the hit to the bankroll.
I should say, I woke up super late for a Sunday. Almost 9:30am PT. Usually I’m up at the crack of dawn. 6am or so. On lazy days, I sleep in until 7am before I work the phones, watch the lines move, and gather any last second intelligence before setting fantasy rosters and making any last minute bets or recommendations to friends (and the stray client).
Stuck in the middle of a 2-day bender, I had passed out in the wee hours, got confused by a power outage as I stumbled around in the dark completely faded, only to wake up super late on Johnnie’s couch. My entire Sunday morning routine was out of whack and we had less than an hour to get ready for a pre-party. I flew up to Seattle to see my hometown New York Jets get whipped by the mighty might Seachickens. Whenever Seattle plays at home… they play like the Seahawks, but whenever they’re on the road, they play like frightened Seachickens.
The pre-party consisted on shrugging off the pharmie hangover and dreaded noon slouch (at 10am). We drove to the International District (a P.C. way of saying old-school Chinatown) for Dim Sum. There’s a stretch of amazing unknown restaurants a few blocks from the sports stadiums in SoDo (South of the Dome for you non-Seattle people… yes the Dome is no longer, but the last time I saw a football game in Seattle was inside the Kingdome when the Jets beat the Seachickens back in 1997). Johnnie’s buddy got us a reservation at one of the most crowded Dim Sum joints in the Pacific Northwest. I gotta say, I wasn’t in good shape while waiting in a small vestibule with a hundred other starving people. I was scrunched up against a tank with crabs and lobsters stacked up against each other in cloudy water.
"Do crabs shit?" I thought out loud. "Is the water was filled with crab shit and lobster feces?"
My questions went unanswered and we were finally seated upon which we inhaled a ton of food, while elderly Chinese ladies pushed carts around the crowded restaurant. It only cost $8 per person for the feast and Johnnie’s old man picked up the tab.
We walked to the stadium in a light drizzle. I did not miss the grey existential bleakness of the Pacific Northwest but since I had become a resident of Southern California, I felt a sharp coldness in my bones. That’s when I knew it was time to pay a visit to Mr. Percosett before we wandered into the stadium.
If you have never been to an NFL game… it’s sort of like going to church, but with drunken slobs decked out in football jerseys. I saw a smattering of Jets jerseys, but I was walking through a sea of Seahawks faithfuls.
"You can go to the game with us," said Johnnie. "But you can’t wear any Jets gear."
"What do you mean? I bought a TEBOW #69 jersey just for the occasion."
I went back and forth all week deciding whether or not we’d take a side on the Jets-Seachickens game. I was skeptical that Rex Ryan might use the bye week to get Sanchez and Tebow and company well prepared for the Seahawks stingy defense. But, the clinching factor was that I was going to the game. Seattle plays outdoors and the forecast was rain and rain and rain. If I was going to sit through the rain and watch the Jets get their handed to them, I might as well bet on the Seachickens -6 so I could blend in with all the other fans. Plus, I was going to be sitting with season ticket holders… so I did not want to make my host uneasy about a rowdy Jets fan sitting in his seats.
The Seachickens won 28-7 and the only Jets TD was courtesy of their defense. Yes, the Jets offense got shut out once again. The low point happened when the Jets had the ball deep in the Red Zone. Tim Tebow trotted on the field and it was obvious that he was going to hike the ball and run a QB keeper into the end zone for his first TD of the season. Alas, something went awry and the Jets got flagged by Ed Hochuli for a false start. A frustrated Tebow walked off the field visibly upset. He’s a God-fearing man and doesn’t curse, but it was obvious he was pissed off.
With the Jets backed up 10 yards, Sanchez returned to the field and promptly threw an INT at the one yard line. A touchdown would have put the Jets only down by a score… but an untimely Sanchez turnover in the Red Zone cost the Jets the game. It might have cost Rex Ryan his job.
The best play of the game was a little trickery that Pete Carroll called when wideout Golden Tate threw a TD. The big joke in the stands that went around was that Tate threw more TDs than Tebow and Sanchez combined. We were sitting right by the corner of the end zone where they scored a TD. You can watch the play unfold in the below…
So, what happened on Sunday?
Those last minute bets that suck the soul out of your well being. I’m referring to a wager on Detroit -3. We got it in minutes before kickoff and it was one of those instances I wish we got shutout because Minnesota came to play and sunk our bet. Beware of those divisional home dogs… something we were well aware of, but we also watched Christian Ponder stink up the joint the last couple games. Minnesota is one of those teams that totally fucks us over. When we bet them, they lose. Whenever we fade them, they win.
Atlanta got off to a slow start in New Orleans, which looked like a different team than the last few weeks. What happened to that porous D that gave up a gajillion yards? Atlanta mounted a comeback and got the ball twice late in the game… yet Matty Ice couldn’t pull off any last second magic in the Big Easy. Mucho props to New Orleans goal line D that stuffed Atlanta on four straight downs with the game on the line. Had Atlanta punched the ball in the end zone, they would’ve won… but more importantly… covered. New Orleans spoiled Atlanta’s perfect season and handed them their first loss. New Orleans has had Atlanta’s number the last two seasons… something we overlooked before pulling the trigger on Atlanta. I thought this game reeked like a trap when it opened at only -1. Tons of money went down on Atlanta, which pushed the spread to -3 in some places.
Tampa Bay won their game… and I didn’t get to see any of it, but who cares because they won and covered. The final score is all I needed to know.
We finished 2-2 in the NFL but we turned a profit because we bet Seattle heavily… or I should say, we were fading the Jets big time. Somehow, someway, we figured out how to get unstuck after an ugly Saturday. I guess Sanchez and the Jets finally did something positive for us. His bonehead INT helped seal the victory for Seattle and we emerged dead even after a long, long weekend.
The Jets? Talk about a clown show.
Several hours later after getting unstuck, I took up Johnnie on his offer to show me the bowling alley casino. He really wanted me to experience the local Pai Gow action for myself. I saw… sat down… and lost some money. Such is life. The casino in the bowling alley was the equivalent of a dive bar and the only ones gambling in the gaming area looked like they had just eaten watered-down potato soup at a half-way house for reformed crack addicts. Despite the classy clientele, we’re damn lucky we didn’t get shanked in the dimly lit parking lot or contract a mutated version of SARS or some other flesh eating disease.