My friend Jae has been in town recently, visiting from Brooklyn, and
we’ve been on a mini poker marathon.  Neither of us had been doing too
well until we discovered a cool little no-limit Hold-’em tournament at
the Fiesta in North Las Vegas, held nightly at midnight.  The card room
at the Fiesta is one of the last places in Vegas which allows smoking
around the clock, which means that it attracts a better sort of player,
cheerful, tolerant, democratic in a style you don’t find much in
American society today outside of casinos.

There are usually about thirty players who sign up for the tournament,
many of them regulars.  The buy-in is $25, with an optional $10 re-buy
at the break.  We’ve played it four times now — each time Jae has made
the final table but never cashed until last night, when he went out in
4th place and got his buy-in back.  (Only the last three players are
guaranteed prize money, but when it gets down to the final four there’s
a tradition of voting to reimburse the buy-in of the player who goes
out in 4th — which has the effect of speeding up the game at a stage
when everbody is playing super tight to avoid finishing one out of the

On the first three nights I busted out about halfway through the
tournament but last night I made the final table with Jae — was chip
leader at about 3am when my two tablemates urged that we split the
potential prize money three ways then and there so they could go home
and get some sleep.  I agreed reluctantly, but they were nice guys and
it seemed like the friendly thing to do.

I won $218 as my share of the prize money, my best take ever at a poker
session.  I got amazingly good cards all through the tournament, and
one miracle river card when I was close to all-in, but I played the
cards well and didn’t make any calamitous boneheaded blunders.

It was a sweet night.