Last night as I was negiotiating the driveway to the Riviera parking garage, I noticed several people entering the casino with strange-looking tubular packages slung across their backs. It took me a few seconds to recognize what they were: pool cue cases!
Why is that exciting? Because pool players typically make enthusiastic but lousy poker players. I am indebted to my friend The Vegas Flea for first pointing this out to me. He's right.
My intention had been to try to put in 20 hours at the Riviera this week and thus qualify for their weekly Saturday freeroll tournament, which, by all accounts, is some of the easiest money in town. The obvious downside is that you have to sit your butt in the fairly icky Riviera poker room for 20 hours (though they have some double-hour times, which cuts down on the total amount of ickiness), which is exactly why I've never done it before.
But as soon as I saw that there was a pool tournament going on (which you can read about here), the prospect of grinding it out at the Riviera no longer seemed so daunting.
As it turns out, they have cancelled the freeroll promotion for this week because they can't afford to tie up their cash game tables with a tournament on Saturday when they are anticipating having so many more people wanting to play poker than usual. Although this is not what I anticipated when arriving last night, it's even better. It means that the place is virtually free of the local nits who clog up the tables on most weeknights, putting in their freeroll hours. The only way to make money from them is to pilfer their chips when they step away from the table, or assault them in the parking lot and steal their Social Security checks. With them gone and the stickmen in their place, it should be happy hunting for a while.
My general observation has been that people in town to participate in any sort of sporting competition (bowling, archery, darts, pool, etc.) make even more excellent--and by "excellent" I mean "terrible"--poker opponents than Joe Tourist or Joe Conventioneer, because they tend to have a keener competitive edge and a bigger spirit of adventure, without necessarily having the poker acumen to go with it.
I think that this is especially true of pool players, most of whom presumably have had to learn how to hustle their marks. They have to disguise their true skill until the big money is in. That's obviously a skill that is highly pertinent to poker, which, I suspect, tends to make them think that poker is a perfect pasttime when they're not shooting pool.
But while they may well have an exquisitely honed sense of how their pool skills rate relative to those of any opponent, in general they seem not to be nearly as sharp at figuring out when a poker opponent is a better player.
All of which means that they are excited to be in Vegas, they have spent the day showing off their world-class pool skills, they are brimming with self-confidence, they want to play poker for a break, and they will bring to the table their desire to hustle unsuspecting opponents. But in reality, they are the unsuspecting ones.
It's all perfectly delicious.
Of course, these are broad generalizations, and there are plenty of exceptions. Daniel Negreanu was a pool hustler before he took up poker seriously, for example. I know I've read of other poker pros who are also significant threats with a cue stick, though offhand I can't recall which ones.
So I won't be going to the Riviera this week complacent. But I will be going there.
As I was racking 'em up last night (the chips, that is), preparing to leave after an easy, profitable session, the dealer said to me, "See you tomorrow night." This struck me as odd, because if he recognized me as having been there before, which is likely, he would know that I tend to stop in only occasionally; I'm not what one would call a regular there. I don't think he says this to everybody, because I hadn't heard him say anything similar to other players as they left. I think he simply recognized from my general demeanor and style of play that (1) I'm there to take the money, (2) it was easy pickings, and (3) the good conditions are likely to be there again all week, and thus, (4) I wouldn't be able to resist coming back. Damn. I hate it when people read me so well.