That Time We Invited John Duthie to Play Pai Gow

by Wil Wheaton

Otis, Pauly and I made our way out of the tournament area very, very late on Saturday night. In fact, it would be more accurate to say that it was early Sunday morning.

As we entered the main casino area, I stopped and said, "Where in the hell did all these people come from?"

"It's Saturday, man," Otis said.

The entire world slowed for just a second, while the sounds of Vegas faded out and I looked at my mental calendar. Yeah, that's right. Even though it's just another day during the World Series for us, it's Saturday for everyone else in the world, and they're here to party.

"Yeah," I said, "I guess it is."

"Hey, let's get a drink at the hooker bar," Pauly said.

Getting a drink at the end of a long day is on page two of the Blogger's Survival Handbook, so we grabbed a couple of seats, pushed a double sawbuck into the video poker machine, and played a game-within-the-game that we play almost every day. Maybe you've heard of it; it's called, "will my drink be free, or end up costing me twenty bucks?"

I was tired, and knew that a beer would put me to sleep, so I just got water. Pauly got a beer, and Otis ordered a greyhound. A few other writers joined us, and within twenty minutes or so, we had a little party going at the end of the bar. Hey, it was Saturday Night (err, Sunday morning), and we were finally off work. This is on page four of the handbook.

The tourneys that had been playing that day were breaking for the night (morning) and I saw a lot of pro players walk past us: Scotty Nguyen, Mel Judah, Doyle Brunson (who sped past us all on his Rascal, prompting me to bet Otis that he couldn't outrun Doyle. Otis wisely -- and respectfully -- declined) and John Gale, fresh off winning his first WSOP bracelet. We stopped John, and gave him congratulations, hugs, and a ridiculous invitation to stay and play some video poker with us. He politely declined, and I remembered that "Do not invite bracelet winners to play video poker with you at the bar" is on page eleven of the handbook.

Shortly after my water went from free to forty bucks, Team PokerStars' John Duthie walked up. Now, many Americans won't recognize John's name, but in Europe he is the stone cold nuts. Not only is he a BAFTA award winner, he is also responsible for Late Night Poker, which is at the root of televised poker's family tree.

I hadn't met John before Saturday night (err, Sunday morning) but I've heard that he's an incredibly nice guy, so I introduced myself and we chatted for a few minutes. He was as friendly, humble, and soft-spoken as advertised, and he fit into our little motley crew quite nicely.

"So what's in your plans for the rest of the evening?" He said.

"We're thinking about some -EV gambling," I said.

His eyebrows arched, and he said, "Oh? Perhaps some . . ." he paused dramaticaly, "Pai Gow?"

If we'd been into our third drink, I think we would have erupted into applause. Pai Gow (or as we call it, "Chinese Poker for Stupid People" is the late night (early morning) -EV game of choice among the writers I hang out with here.

Instead, I just said, "That is exactly what we're doing, sir. We're walking over to the Gold Coast in just a few minutes. Would you like to join us?"

"Oh, that would be lovely," he said politely, "but I have to go to Bellagio and get some money out of my box, so I think I'll just play there."

"You donkey," I thought. "You just asked John Duthie to play ten dollar Pai Gow. Why don't you go find Floyd Landis and see if he wants to ride dirt bikes in the vacant lot behind 7-11? 'Come on, Floyd! We'll do jumps!' Haven't you read your handbook?"

We talked for a few more minutes, and John never once called attention to my gaffe. We parted company shortly thereafter, and left the common ground of the Rio for our own worlds. Four hours later, while John was no doubt enjoying a single malt scotch and wagering more on a single hand than we had in our collective bankroll, we ate Keno crayons and tourists who wore plastic Viking helmets yelled at us for disrupting their Roulette game with our jubilant cries of "Pai Gow!" (Sorry, suckers; you may have a "Roulette system," but we have the Dragon and the handbook. That's just how we roll.)

On our way back to the Rio, I said to Otis, "It's a bummer John didn't come with us. I think he would have had a good time."

As he picked chunks of crayon out of his teeth, Otis said, "I'm not entirely sure about that."

"Well," I said, "I think I'll ask him next time anyway."

"There's a waxy aftertaste in my mouth," Otis said.

"Yeah," I said, "that's a typical side effect of eating keno crayons."

We crossed the street as the sun began to lighten the sky and shouted, "PAI GOW!"

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in World Series of Poker