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Arty & Bill’s Excellent Atlantic City Vacation
By Bill Alan

Arty (“The One-Man Party”) Santella and Bill Alan were invited by Steven Goldman to be weekend guests at his family’s vacation home in Ventnor, the next town South of Atlantic City, for Derby Day. Upon our arrival Steven (“Goldie”) was uncomfortable informing us that his parents had decided to take over the premises for the weekend.

Not to worry, Goldie. When a nice Jewish boy fails to honor his parents’ priorities the world we live in is surely going to poo poo.

Plus it gave Arty & me an opportunity to host Goldie for a change. More about that later.

For reasons best known to themselves The Showboat had invited me to spend a night there gratis. (I haven’t played there in at least 10 years.) We took them up on it and it was a hell of a lot more than a free room. To begin with, the lovely casino host - Carol Boyd - made it clear upon our arrival that the comp included a gourmet-level dinner and anything else we wanted. (Arty, of course, suggested that we stretch “anything else” to include all sorts of kinky stuff. But I am more strict in my RC upbringing than he is, so we settled for the splendid dinner and room service breakfast.)

Sadly the steakhouse was closed for the evening. But, upon inquiry, I determined that the fancy Italian restaurant could manage a simple steak unspoiled with stuff peculiar to Piedmont or Neopolitan tastes. Arty, who was in his chosen milieu, had no such concerns of course.

We then proceeded to pig out.

Arty, who would go on to regret it, had at least two of his vaunted Vodka martinis whilst I had only a single proper one . . . made, of course, with gin.(I did have one glass of a pleasantly soft Merlot with dinner and a lovely vintage Port with desert.)

But then Arty met a challenge he could not deal with. While I (sensibly) ordered a huge, unadorned, Porterhouse Arti opted for the Osso Buco. What can I say? Anyone who would eat the knee of a baby cow deserves just what he gets. Arty was not fit for duty the rest of the night.

Too bad I wasn’t.

The casino has a devious purpose, of course, in offering RFB comps. I delivered. I went through a $1,000 marker rather quickly at the blackjack table, playing my hitherto unbeatable bet escalation system. As Tom Sims is fond of saying, “The smart money was on Goliath”.

This, of course, put me on tilt for poker next door at the Taj (They have none at The Boat.) and I went on to further dismal happenings there until bedtime.

We had an abundant room service breakfast (comped) and then I experienced something I had never seen before. I was told by Carol that there would be $100 waiting for me at the cage, but I expected a chit for slot play. Not so. I was handed a crisp Ben Franklin, no strings attached.

We then hied on over to The Taj, where we spent the next two nights courtesy of Arty’s pal, poker room manager Tommy Gitto, who was able to arrange it at the last minute . . . difficult to do on a Friday/Saturday night. (Arty must have serious juice with Tommy!)

My luck at the poker tables was not much better than that at blackjack, but by now I had retreated to $5-$10 hold’em and managed to break about even for the day.

That night was another trip highlight. We had invited Goldie to dine with us as a very small gesture of our gratitude for his intended (and past) generosity. I had suggested The Safari Room, but Arty insisted on a (to me) semi-arcane joint on Pacific Avenue called The Atlantic City Bar & Grille. My enthusiasm for the place negative-peaked when Arty pulled into a parking lot which looked like a miniature diorama of Hiroshima the day after we dropped the big one on August 6, 1945.

Well of course Arty was right once again. We all ate & drank large with hot appetizers, main course, etc. (All of which were unbelievably fine.) and the tab, with a quite generous tip, came to less than $70 for three. (Note to Tiger: I strongly suggest this place for the smoker at ATLARGE next spring.) Then back to the Taj, where the poker gods had still not woken up for me, causing me to make another mistake . . . this one involving dice. Suffice it to say that I was riding some seriously bad Karma for the second day in a row.

So up to bed.

Per Arty’s post my love for room service caused me to phone up for a late night snack. A single (or so I thought) Martini, a glass of milk, and a triple-decker turkey club seemed to be in order and it was promptly delivered to the room by a comely wench who, in days past, I would have lusted after.

Now let me tell you about room service Martinis at the Taj.

I had ordered one “straight up” with a single olive, as is my custom. It came as ordered, but with a backup water-sized glass with the equivalent of two Martinis worth of gin, plus a smaller glass full of olives. Waste not, want not, I proceeded to drink the entire offering and was pretty well snookered by the time Arty entered the room. It is now appropriate for my usual paean to one of God’s finest creations . . .

There’s something about a Martini, A tingle remarkably pleasant. There’s something about a Martini, I wish that I had one at present.

There’s something about a Martini, Ere the dining and dancing begin. And to tell you the truth, It’s not the Vermouth, I think, perhaps,it’s the Gin.

-Ogden Nash

Saturday proved to be rather uneventful for me again, although I booked a modest win at the poker tables. I have not played much at the Taj over the years but I am not terribly fond of the place. For one thing I have yet to learn the layout of the casino floor and found myself getting disoriented with regard to the poker room. I much prefer the Trop, and I find the poker room there a much better organized and friendly place.

Nothing other than the usual to report on our 2nd day at the Taj, so off to the Trop . . . where things changed dramatically for me.

When I entered the Trop poker room I was greeted, across the room, by a remarkable guy . . . T.K. He had not seen me for a year and a half, since ATLARGE ’00. Still he waved me over, gave me a big hug, and called me by name. Now to me that kind of personal attention is worth more than any comp I will ever receive. Tommy will keep me coming back to the Trop whenever I am in town.

The minute we got to the poker room there was a $40 Hi-Lo Stud tournament about to go. Luckily, with an assist from T.K. I was able to buy the last available open seat.


I dislike split games. But I’ve read all the books and I did play Hi-Lo Omaha at MARGE two years ago, as it was part of the tournament package.

And, for crying out loud, poker is poker.

As I always do in hold’em tournaments, I played like a rock during the first few levels. What I like least about any form of stud is that you don’t see enough of your final hand until 5th street. (On the other hand, as you know, you may seldom see a flop in hold’em if you play only top-quality starting hands . . . and sometimes, when you do play them, a big pair can cost you a lot of checks, only to turn to drek when the flop comes.)

Anyway, my tight play notwithstanding, I did get more than my share of “must play” starting hands and had doubled my $300 stack B4 the first level closed. (BTW, I absolutely love the Trop’s information board on the telly spaced around the area . . . which I have never seen elsewhere.)

I continued to advance, slowly, until the game rose to “play it or die” stakes. And when we got down to 36 (out of 72) players I was in decent chip position. Quite honestly, I hadn’t expected to get this far. And, with a possibility of getting to the final table in sight, I recalled some obvious & elementary advice from (either) T.J. or Tom McEvoy: If you don’t make the final table there’s no way you’re going to win it.

So I got a bit looser. My favorite poker game is no (or pot) limit, which I can afford to play these days only in cheap tournaments . . . so there is seldom an opportunity to bluff. But by now many of the players still in the game had noticed my earlier rock play and I found I was able to scare them off now & then with my much looser play.

I did make the final table. 1st place would pay about $1100 and 8th place about $85. I was like an Academy Award nominee . . . it was an honor to be there. And my only buddy in the event, Herbie Allen, was also at the table. Now Herbie and I have played each other B4, at FARGO and ATLARGE. And he knows that I am strictly a recreational player. (On a scale of 10, I put Herbie at 10 and maybe 6 or 7 for me.) But I have a feeling that he wanted to see me do well.

Herbie typifies the kind of player I want to come up against. For starters, he is a certified nice guy. And I sense that winning a pissant tournament is of little importance to him . . . while, at the same time, he would know that just making the final table is an ego event for me.

Long story short. In due course the game was down to 6 of us and I get dealt a monster . . . 3 on top, A-2-under, all suited. And my position was great, to the right of the high hand. I slow play because the limits were such that I could surely play the hand much like no-limit when the time came. And I know I am going to go to the river with this hand. My second up card was another A. Active betting continues with nothing but high hands against me. Now I’m thinking scooper. Next comes a 5, suited to my A-2-3.

Now I’m thinking the steel wheel. But, regardless, I have more outs than I can ever remember having B4. One card to a . . .

Straight flush
6-5 Low
7-5 Low
8-5 Low
A set of Aces
Aces up
Even a pair of Aces
Naturally I have all of my chips in the pot. If I win this one I will dominate the game and probably end up taking 2nd to Herbie’s 1st place. But then it comes . . .

A 5 spot . . . not, of course, suited. It counterfeits my low and puts me second to a small set for high.

Do I care? Not at all . . . really. Getting to the final table in a game I have truly never played B4 is enough. And I was pleased to read, in Arty’s post, that Herbie Allen went on to take 2nd money. Nice things do happen to nice people.

I’d had my Andy Warhol 15 minutes. Nothing, now, could spoil my weekend. And I went on to do very nicely in ring games for the rest of our stay.


Yes, Arty is right.

I do abuse my body with steak and baked stuffed shrimp, and such, all of which are eaten with too much butter. I drink more Wild Turkey and gin than I should (Although always responsibly. I never drive a car, never pick fights, never obnoxious. If I harm anyone I only harm myself.)

But, at age 71, I have dodged a lot of bullets. They were shooting at me in Korea. I’ve been on the operating table big time. Excepting only my sweet Wife, no one need concern themselves when I croak. But I have long since decided that I am more interested in the quality of my life than the quantity.

In the words of the immortal Popeye The Sailor, “I am what I am”.

And I remain certain that those few of you who might be critical of my lifestyle might better concern themselves with their own.

Bill Alan

Addenda -

For much of the last couple years I have had to be absent from events I dearly love, most notably ATLARGE last Spring. Many of you have been kind enough to express concern about my health.

Here is the current tally.

I have prostate cancer. I have learned that it can be treated in three basic ways . . . frequently related to the medical specialty you are talking to. Surgeons want to cut. Nuclear medicine types want to radiate. Medical people want to do chemo. Finally, I checked into Memorial Sloane Kettering in NYC . . . arguably the finest cancer hospital in the world. I went away with advice I chose to take. Fugeddaboutit . . . you’ll undoubtedly outlive it.

I have a long list of other stuff. . .the most upsetting of which is that I have very little stamina when I am standing or walking. Frankly I went to AC with Arty to see how I could deal with long poker sessions and stupid eating and drinking habits. None of them caused me any problems.


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