Poker professional Dave Colclough has blonde moments all the time. “One of my opponents in the morning’s seven-card stud game was a pensioner in his 70s”

Dave Colclough takes a look back at his first time in Sin City and tells us how he became a fan of cheap T-shirts and casino hustlers

It’s that time of year again, when along with thousands of other Europeans, I make the annual pilgrimage to Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker. The WSOP is always a highlight for me, and is one of the reasons why Sin City is now the undisputed poker capital of the world. But back in 1990 that wasn’t quite the case.

I was still an occasional poker player, when my wife and I decided to hire a car and drive up the west coast of America. The highlight for me, of course, was always going to be Vegas. I can still remember driving up the hill from Los Angeles in the dead of night and seeing the glow from what seemed like a couple of hundred miles away. It was breathtaking; nothing to see for hours and then this ever-increasing glow on the horizon.

The route between California and Vegas was graced with a couple of casinos slap bang on the state line. Less than 100 yards into Nevada and after having driven for half a day, we chose to stop for the night at the wonderfully named ‘Whisky Pete’s Casino’.

To the cleaners

To my wife’s despair, I couldn’t help myself and managed to sneak in an hour of poker straight after breakfast. One of my opponents in the morning’s seven-card stud game was a pensioner in his 70s. He was a nice chap – but he seemed to carry a sad persona about him. Having lost a small pot, he peered over and asked what his opponent had. ‘Oh very good,’ he said. ‘I guess I lose again,’ giving the impression this was a regular occurrence. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him, assuming he was gradually working his way through his life savings.

Of course it was only a matter of time before we both got involved in a pot. I was rolled up (dealt three of a kind) and made a full house on 6th street. My aged opponent had unfortunately made a flush at the same time and was duly raising me. However, I chose not to re-raise back and checked on 7th street. I think I won the minimum from the pot. He left shortly afterwards and the dealer looked at me quizzically. ‘Why didn’t you raise with your full house?’ he said.

Flustered and uncomfortable, I mumbled something along the lines of feeling sorry for him. I was informed that the old codger had been making a living out of tourists like myself for about 30 years. His act was finetuned- to-perfection and today was his first losing day in about a month! I got up and cashed in. My wife found this experience hilarious, and shortly afterwards, we were back on the road to Vegas. Needless to say, I haven’t shown my face in Whisky Pete’s since.

Upon arriving in Sin City, I met my friend, Paul Maxfield, at Binion’s. He was sat at a $25/$50 pot-limit Omaha table wearing a ridiculous ‘I love Las Vegas’ T-shirt accompanied with a Mickey Mouse baseball cap. Now I know Paul has never had the best dress sense in the world, but this was embarrassing even by his standards. Unable to resist, I smugly said: ‘Nice T-shirt’. Paul threw daggers at me and said nothing. Back to the Omaha; I watched as Paul check-raised on the river with a nut flush for five large ones. He was instantly called by a local pro with a dodgy-looking straight. I was out onto Freemont Street and into the nearest tourist gift shop before Paul had even stacked his chips from the pot.

Playing dumb?

Three years later, Paul and I were in the first ESPN WSOP pot-limit Omaha final. I wonder if either of the Nevada residents mentioned ever got to see that show, or even the 2005 WPT Grand Final when Paul picked up $1.7 million thanks to a second-place finish. Paul is a pretty rare face on the poker circuit nowadays, but I doubt even he could get away with the ‘I’m a tourist and don’t know how to play scam’ anymore.

Dave is a columnist for PokerPlayer magazine. Not seen it? Then try a digital copy HERE

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