This is a continuation of the Adventures of Night Guy. If you haven’t already, click here for part one.
Mrs. Iddon had doubled down on a pair of queens. It was a huge bet – most of her money was riding on this one, and if it came good, she’d make £80.
That’s a lot of money on one card.
“Ace,” the dealer nodded. “Congratulations.”
The dealer pushed a bunch more chips in her direction. It was her first ever blackjack – or even casino – experience, and she was killing it. She walked in with a strict budget of £40, and now had £120. A profit of 300% in just fifteen minutes.
To her left was a mustachioed guy who had, conversely, progressed from £40 to £0. That’s a profit of minus infinity in just fifteen minutes.
She played another couple of sneaky hands, making an extra £20.
I threw some more chips down and instantly lost £20.
“This game is bullshit,” I declared, and went to the bar to get more drink. On the way, I got distracted by a sign notifying me of a poker tournament that was about to take place in one of the backrooms; that was way more within my comfort level.
My wife found me a little later, drinking wine and trying to figure out why anyone saw the appeal in roulette (and paying handsomely for the privilege.)
“I obviously signed us up for a poker tournament.”
She shot me – and my wine – a worried glance. “I’m not so sure about that.”
“Nonsense, it’ll be a triumph,” I mumbled, batting away her doubt with my hand and spilling wine up my sleeve. “It’s a rookie tournament, only 10 Euro buy in, so no pressure. It’ll just be a bit of fun!”
“Yeah, but will it, though?”
“Certainly! Much fun will be had!”
It was no fun at all.
We were stuck in a room with fifty of the most self-absorbed, miserable hipsters on the continent. Just to give you a scale of how self-absorbed and hipstery this group of people was, know that I was at the bottom end of the scale. Think of that.
If the sign hadn’t said “Rookie Tournament – 10 Euro Entry”, you’d have though we were sitting in the World Goddamn Series from the way people were acting. Everyone wore shades and baseball caps and acted like they were hot shit, and the dealers were all emotionless golems.
The entire room was silent, save for Mrs. Iddon on the other side of the room slowly chipping away at the serious demeanor on her own table with her chirpy small talk. I could hear her asking where everyone was from – she was answered in grunts. But she pressed on and broke them down. “Oooh, I like your t-shirt! Where did you get that?” was the only sound permeated from the far side of the room. It was absolutely hilarious.
Back on my own table, everyone had adopted a hyper-aggressive play style while the dealer barked at anyone for the slightest infarction of etiquette. At one point I absent-mindedly put my hands on my lap beneath the table, sans cards, and everyone acted like I’d taken my trousers down and curled out a log on the green felt. Y’know, as if I had traveled half-way around the world to try and cheat at a poxy 10 Euro poker tournament. Morons.
I finally get a solid hand with which to capitalize on these twonks’ reckless abandon. I go all in on what is pretty much a sure bet.
The Greek guy to my left, who smelled like someone had stuffed a pound of salami into an air conditioning unit, called. He had absolutely nothing, but by some freak luck the sneaky Greek caught the only card he could have beaten me with on the river.
I was the first one out of the tournament. Ack.
“Would you like to buy back in for ten Euros?” the dealer grunted.
“No. This game is bullshit,” I declared for the second time that night, and threw my two buy-in vouchers into the middle of the table.
I walked over to Mrs. Iddon, via the table with the complementary wine, and informed her of my bad luck while wishing her the best.
“Check out this guy’s t-shirt!”
“No, you’re okay. I’ll see you later.”
She was doing exceedingly well despite a similarly bad beat early in (her full house up against an even better full house), so I figured she’d be there for a while with her growing chip stack.
I left the tournament room via the table with the complimentary wine.
I took the complimentary wine.
Screw those guys, they didn’t need complimentary wine. I needed complimentary wine.
I bumbled around the casino and chatted to random gamblers on the floor – many of whom had fascinating stories of their own – topping my glass up with the complimentary bottle as I took stock of the situation. Unfortunately, as bottles are wont to do, it became empty and this was, frankly, unacceptable.
Still no wife. She must have been doing well. I headed back up to the tournament room, saw that there was another 90 minutes to go until the next break, and decided it was unreasonable, bordering on the perverted, to not leave without another glass of wine from the table by the door. I have to say the whole affair was all very complimentary.
But the casino was putting me in a funk. I surveyed the landscape, and it wasn’t a pretty place; Elderly white couples furiously yet mindlessly smacking on slot machine buttons. Sleazy, fifty year old guys in ill-fitting suits hitting on the table girls, and not being socially aware enough to see she wanted them to eat shit and die (in whichever order.) An equally sleazy casino manager in the corner, watching everyone. Me, a loser in the literal sense of the word, watching him.
It was too much.
And somewhere in the back of my brain – in the very seat of my consciousness – a switch flicked.
You should leave the casino.
Oh god. Please don’t…
Honestly. There’s probably a load of stuff out there that you need to go fuck with. Instead, you’re in here and you’re being fucked.
Look, do you want to take over for the rest of the night?
Sure. I’ll get us back on track.
It was Zeke who walked into the casino, but it was Night Guy who walked out.
The first stop was the bar across the road. I wandered down onto the patio area overlooking the sea; it was a beautiful night and I was instantly glad I’d left the casino.
Two people in suit, a woman and a man, approached me. “I’m sorry sir, but this area is closed. We’ve got a wedding party arriving.”
I nodded approvingly. A wedding sounded lovely.
“Very good. Is there somewhere nearby I could get a drink?”
She looked nonplussed at my hand.
“You already have a drink, sir?”
I also looked, nonplussed, at my hand, which was holding a full glass of wine. Ah, yes; I’d taken it out of the casino with me.
“This one isn’t suitable. I need to get another. Do you have any advice?”
“Actually, the main hotel bar is open. It’s just this area that is reserved.”
“Great. Where is that?”
“Oh, it’s just through that door and on the left.”
In the state I was in, I was never going to remember all that. I went through the door indicated, then turned right.
I ended up wandering through the hotel’s empty kitchen lit up with night lighting, which definitely felt wrong but at the same time it had some complimentary tiger prawns left out in a Tupperware box so it couldn’t have been all bad.
After bumbling around lost for five minutes, I eventually ended up in the bar. Literally; I’d emerged from a side entrance and found myself in the bar area, where the bar staff were doing bar things.
I hopped as quickly as possible through the bar and back onto the punter’s side, but I ended up bumping into who I assume was the head bar guy. Naturally, he seemed taken aback by a random customer walking through the staff-only area.
“I’m so sorry,” I mumbled. “I just came through the side-entrance. Sorry.”
He looked a bit annoyed. Or maybe he was still just surprised. I couldn’t tell which. Either way he was glaring at me, not saying much.
“Uh… could I get a drink?”
“Please! Take a seat!” he exclaimed, suddenly bursting into life. “But don’t order here! I’ll come to you!”
Now, let me just say that I’ve never had better customer service anywhere in the world than the times I’ve travelled to Malta, but this guy deserved an additional gold star.
I scanned the room. The bar was crammed with people, the majority of which were staring at the Euro Football Thing that was playing on the screens. I didn’t want any part of that, and spotted an empty booth in a darkened corner of the bar.
“I’m going to sit over there, out the way.”
“Yes, of course! I’ll be right over!”
Blimey. This guy was chipper.
I tucked myself away in the corner and checked Twitter. Before long, there was a tap on my shoulder followed by a throat clearing.
I looked up. The bar manager was back, and he was holding an ice bucket with a bottle of champagne in it.
“Complimentary, sir. I’m afraid nobody told us you’d be coming. If you need anything else, please don’t hesitate to let me know.”
What the f…
“Oh,” I exclaimed.
I realised the reason why he was taken aback earlier. He wasn’t surprised to see a customer in the bar area; he’d assumed a certain A-list actor had snook in through the side entrance to avoid public attention, and chosen the remote corner of the bar for the same reason. To be fair to him, it was pretty dark and I was wearing a hat.
“You’re… you’re not that actor, are you?”
“No, I’m afraid not,” I replied, weighing up my next words carefully. “But I’m keeping the champagne. Thanks for that.”
The rest of the bar staff periodically came over for a selfie and much merriment ensued as I drained the free bubbly.
By the end of it, I was utterly, utterly slaughtered by the time my phone alarm started beeping. It was telling me to remember to take the lasagne out of the oven, which made little sense in the current context, but I took it to mean that the half-time break for the World Championship Asshole Tournament was coming up.
Naturally, I returned to the casino and ordered another drink.
I hadn’t had two sips before Mrs. Iddon wandered down to the casino floor. She looked pretty miserable.
“How’s it going?”
“Not good,” she replied. “I’m… I’m out.”
And with that, she burst into tears.
Apparently the other guys at her table were being unreasonably ruthless and exceptionally overbearing towards her. It’s one thing to play aggressively, but it’s quite another to verbally collude with everyone else on the table to force another player to go all-in at every available opportunity, just because she was female and inexperienced.
Coupled with the pressure of playing your first tournament and then sitting in an oppressive atmosphere for two hours, I fully understood why it had gotten the better of her.
I also know how to deal with the situation.
Or, at least, Night Guy did.
“Well, I think we’re done here.”
“Probably best if we leave before we get thrown out.”
I’m not entirely sure what was running through my head. I think part of me just wanted to do something weird and unexpected to cheer her up.
The other half of me really, really just wanted to throw a large, full glass of wine across a casino.
It’s quite surprising how far one will travel with a good, underhand lob. The amount of mess it can make is equally surprising.
If there was a gramophone playing, it would have halted abruptly with a needle scratch. The entire casino – from the patrons to the staff – were staring at us, motionless. The only people who weren’t motionless were the security staff. On the contrary, they were very motion-ful.
“Time to go?”
“YES,” she emphatically agreed.
We left the casino in haste, security hot on our heels, laughing as we emerged into the hot Maltese evening.
“Well, thanks for that.”
“Any time. Do you fancy some champagne?”
“Champagne? Sure. Where?”
“I know a place.”