Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Eating Las Vegas: Part 2

I arrived at Mandalay Bay for the eBay conference and was immediately overwhelmed, just like any tradeshow. There were tons of booths and vendors, giveaways and goodies, seminars and training classes. Plus, after a quick review of my conference guide, I discovered that competitive eating champ Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas was signing copies of the eBay Community Cookbook.

Realizing this just before the appointed time I hightailed it over to the booth, had Sonya sign my cookbook, asked an eBay employee to snap a picture of us together, and had a chance to chat with IFOCE Commissioner Charles Hardy. I told them about being there when Sonya made history at the Crabcake Eating Championship earlier this year and Hardy promised they'd be back in Charm City for another contest, possibly as early as this fall.

After several hours of training and chatting with fellow eBayers I was ready to grab a bus and head back to my hotel at the other end of The Strip. My brother would be arriving in a few hours and I figured that it would give me some time to test my luck at the roulette wheel.

Notice how I didn't say "skill"? That's why I like roulette... there's no real skill involved, just you and Lady Luck. Plus, I dig the low stakes, free beer and relaxed pace. During my last visit to Vegas (back in 2001) I owned roulette wheels from the Alladin to the Bellagio. I couldn't walk into a casino without making money and I was convinced my luck had held over the last five years.

And, based on initial results, I was right. I parked myself at a $10 limit table, got myself $100 in $1 chips and began playing "My Numbers": 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 24, 29 and 30. There's only one other person at the table when I arrive but pretty soon it's hopping. Two women from Austria and I have a disjointed conversation about sunglass clad crooner Heino. Sung, the wheel man, and I begin bonding over everything from pro hockey to Monday Night Football.

An immigrant from Korea, Sung arrived in the US and adopted the Philadelphia Flyers as his favorite hockey team because they had "all the best players." As time progressed and the team traded or released players like Eric Lindros and Rod Brind'Amour (good move there Clarkie!) Sung's allegiance waned and he ended up loving the NY Rangers and NJ Devils. Not sure how you make that move, but what the hell.

A quick glance down at my chips confirms that I've doubled my $100 investment and the rational part of my brain is instructing me to tip Sung and walk away. The irrational side, flush with success and surrounded by beer, keeps me at the table even when Sung is replaced by Mo, a surly guy who doesn't seem to like anything.

With Mo behind the wheel I get ice cold. The chip pile dwindles and I grow surly and impatient. Sung returns (yay!) and so does my luck. I'm back even and then up again before Mo returns (boo!) and my fortunes go south. Way south. A call from JT saves the day -- at least momentarily -- and I'm rescued from the cruel turn of fortune.

The bar beckons... TO BE CONTINUED

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