A little after the fight ended (see previous post), the guy to my left who I had been chatting with nodded over at a couple of very attractive girls who had just walked into the poker room. "Hey, look." The two girls were facing the other way and I figured he was just pointing out another couple of hot girls. "Nikki Hilton and Bijou Phillips," he said, and I realized he was exactly right.
"Wow, what the hell are THEY doing in the poker room?" I asked rhetorically. I'm not really sure if they can be considered big celebrities... I mean, they are known more for they're families and their partying than for their talent (particularly in Nikki's case), but still, these two would have to be considered among the most prominent and attractive young female socialites in the country today. Among poker players, who get a kick out of seeing ANY hot girl, this is a pretty significant sighting. I certainly wouldn't have expected to see them in the poker room. The guy to my left comments "if you want to play the lottery go over there and talk to them. If they like you, you're rich. I wish I were smoother... I'd go over there myself." I point out that they are already with a guy, but only one.
I assumed that Nikki and Bijou were just here to pick up a friend or maybe sit and watch someone play, but ten minutes later I notice that they are actually playing over at a 10-20 NL table. In fact, it is the same one where there had been a fight not long ago. I also notice that there are about four open seats at their table.
There are two general principles that every good pro poker player needs to understand. One is that no matter how good or bad you are, you will make a profit in the long run if your opponents are worse than you, and you will lose in the long run if your opponents are better than you. This is why I can make a living playing poker and why some players much better than me actually lose money. They are choosing much more skillful opponents. The second principle is that in the short run, anything can happen, and if you are playing at limits way above your head you are liable to run out of money before you have a chance to make any.
Now, 10-20 NL is a limit significantly higher than I had ever played, but if Nikki Hilton and Bijou Phillips are anywhere near as good as I am at poker, I figured it would be worth my $600 buy in to see it and be able to say I sat at their table for a while.
I told the guy who pointed out Nikki and Bijou that I'm thinking of heading over to their table. "Really? 10-20? You can afford that?" "Not really, but it's probably worth a shot, look who's playing over there." I got up and walked over to the guy in charge of the high limit tables and asked if the seats were open. He said they were. I also scanned the other players at the table to make sure none of them were any of the superstar players that occassionally play here are at the table. Nope, one of them was Nikki and Bijou's friend and the other two I didn't recognize. I returned to my 2-5 table to get my chips and tell the guy to my left that I'm leaving. "Where are you going?" he asked nervously. "Over to the 10-20 table," I answered even more nervously. "You should go, too," I tell him. "You'll be one of the better players at the table." I then folded one hand at the 2-5 table and carried my remaining $340 in chips over to the $10-20 table. The minimum buy-in here is $600 with no maximum, and I had about $800 on me, including my chips. I told the guy running the table that I'd like to sit and handed him my chips and $300 in cash. As I was standing there waiting for him to retreive my chips, I felt my knees getting weak and my hands getting shaky, so I picked a seat and sat down (two to Nikki's left, three to Bijou's, but around the corner of the table so they were just across from me). To my right was an open seat and then a man in his forties, and to my left was the dealer, two open seats, and then Nikki and Bijou's friend, over on the other side of the table. To Bijou's right, across from the dealer was another man in his forty's.
After sitting down, I said hi to everyone at the table, and the guy to my right said hi, and Bijou smiled at me. I smiled back and looked away but I was aware that she was still looking at me. Eventually I looked back at her again and smiled. A little later she was whispering to Nikki while glancing up at me. This sort of thing (mild flirting I think?) continued all night actually, with Bijou sometimes singing along with the casino's background music and even dancing a little in her seat when she caught my glance. After a while I started just laughing and raising my eyebrows at her for doing this, although I won't pretend I didn't enjoy it on some level. Also, sometimes when she or Nikki were in a hand that was somewhat intense she would look at me and grin and silently giggle at the situation. At one point we started talking about Phil Ivey, whom she is a big fan of, and I told her that he was playing thereat the Bellagio tonight, and she seemed quite impressed. Now, I'm not the type of guy who flirts or is accustomed to being flirted with, so I might have been misreading the situation, but there is no doubt that Bijou was focusing quite a bit of attention on me and I am pretty sure there was nothing on my face or shirt or anything like that. Anyway, enough about that. (Actually it was probably too much info for my girlfriend... I love you Brigid! Please don't hate me.)
By the time my thirty-two $20 chips arrived and the big blind came around to me (just a couple of hands), Nikki was on the button. Her friend, who had a European accent of some sort, was explaining, in a tone that could not be construed as anything but condescending but which I guess he must have thought was charmingly enthusiastic and helpful, that "you are in the BEST POSITION IN POKER, Nikki! You get to act after everyone else has already gone!" Nikki didn't seem as excited about it as he was. I asked her if this were her first time playing and she answered with a curt "no," so I didn't ask her anything else.
I put in my $20 blind bet and reminded myself to conserve my chips. If I ran out I wouldn't have enough to buy back in again. Looking around I noticed that I was significantly short-stacked, with everyone else with at least as many chips as me and also stacks of $100 bills. On this first hand, everyone except Nikki and Bijou limped in. I had 64o and checked my option, and the flop came JT5. The SB checked and for some reason I decided this was a good chance to bluff and put out $60 into the $80 pot. Euro-friend folded reluctantly after 15 seconds or so, the next guy called, and the SB folded. The turn comes 6, giving me a weak pair. I bet again, this time $120, and won the pot. If I had lost I would have been down to $440, but fortunately my foolhardiness paid off and I was up to $760. Nikki's friend then told me he folded pocket 6's.
I want to mention that Nikki, Bijou, and their friend all smoke, but only their friend seemed to think he was above the rules. He complained about having to stand 6 feet from the rail when smoking, and also complained about several other rules such as talking during the hand and talking in foreign languages.
A little later the guy I was talking to at the $2-5 table arrives and sits to the left of the dealer. He asks me how the table is and I tell him "they haven't played any hands yet." Around this time Nikki starts playing a lot of hands and wins several hundred, probably over $1000. In one of the most unpalatable displays of either condescension or ingratiation, I'm not quite sure which, Nikki's European friend led a round of applause each time she won a pot. "Yeah, Nikki! Good for you!" and Nikki smiled uncomfortably and gave the trademark Hilton forced "thank you." Even another player at the table joined in the applause whole-heartedly along with a railbird or two. I have no idea how these people could have considered this appropriate behavior. Nikki kept on betting and winning pots. Bijou joked that people must have been afraid that Nikki would bet one of her hotels and they wouldn't be able to call. Anyway, towards the end of Nikki's rush I limped in under the gun and my friend from the $2-5 table raised to $160. Nikki and the big blind called him. I folded my 98s. The flop came KJ4, the BB checked and the guy from $2-5 went all-in for about $400. To his dismay, Nikki called and the BB folded. He had 99 and Nikki had K7. The turn and river were 9-less and the $2-5 guy was knocked out. After another applause for Nikki, Bijou said "you're playing like Tobey!" which I assume was referring to Tobey Maguire, who is an excellent tournament poker player. By the way, Spiderman 2 was awesome. Go rent it if you haven't seen it already.
Around this point, Brian, from my "Tilting" post, walked by the table and took a look. This was the first I'd seen him since that post and I was hoping he wouldn't realize how much dead money was at this table and decide to sit down. Fortunately, he went on without a word.
It was probably about 4:30 AM now and I was getting pretty hungry. As this was a must-move table and I knew either Bijou or Nikki is next on the list, I decided to wait until one of them moved and then go get some food. It occured to me, though, that the three of them might all just get up and leave once they realized that they would have to be split up for a little while. In fact, this did become an issue. Fortunately, the floorman, a player at the table, and I were able to talk them into sticking around. Before long, we tell them, more seats will open up on the other table and they will all be together again. "Yeah Tina, you can just come back here and hang out with us until we get to move," suggested Bijou, who called Nikki Tina occassionally for some reason (at least I think that's what she said). Indeed, about 20 minutes later both Bijou and their friend moved to the new table, and I moved shortly after. This was a full table of nine or ten players, so I could no longer focus my advantage on the three or four weak players was playing with before. This table had a few players who are quite good.
After a few rounds I picked up AQo on the button. There had been about 3 limpers, including Nikki Hilton. I had $1000 in front of me, and everyone had me covered. Anyway, I raised to $160, and everyone but Nikki folded. So there was almost $400 in the pot. The flop came Ad, Kd, 7h. Nikki bet $60, I raised to $200, and she raised to $400. Up until now, Nikki had shown a pattern of betting on any pair, fitting into the over-valuing hands stereotype that I mentioned in my previous post. Still, it was also entirely possible that she could have something better, or maybe even a flush draw, I wasn't sure. Anyway, I figured that most likely I was ahead and I was afraid that if I re-raised her, she might fold with a king or seven. Even though there was a chance she would catch three of a kind or a second pair with those hands, I was about a 85% favorite in this situation, so I didn't want her folding. On the other hand, she was likely to keep on betting with these hands if I just kept calling. So if I called her here on the flop, I would have only $440 left. I figured there should be plenty of time to get that all in by the river, so there is no real rush to get more money in right now. So, I decide to just call her $200 raise on the flop. The turn was a four I think, not a diamond. Nikki bet $200 again and I called. I had $240 left and the pot was now about $1600. The river was another non-diamond, a 2. Nikki bet $400 and I called with my $240. If Nikki had two pair or better I was done for the night. I would say I was about 70% sure I was ahead. She turned over Q7 for a pair of sevens, and I pull in a pot worth almost $2100, almost certainly the biggest I've ever won.
A little later, just before 6 am, my $2100 had dwindled to about $1900 and decided I needed to go get some food. I picked up a $15 comp card and headed off for Cafe Bellagio, hoping Nikki and Bijou would still be reaching into their wallets for more chips when I returned.
Check back soon for the dramatic conclusion!