I spent last weekend with some of the most mean, rude, miserable, abusive and downright unpleasant people I have ever had the misfortune to meet. No, I'm not talking about the waiting room at West Bromwich Job Centre, I'm talking about the poker room at the Bicycle Casino, Los Angeles.
The plan was simple - Play a little poker whilst I'm here in LA to make some of money to pay for a little bit of my trip. Little did I realise how much like work it would actually be...
In Vegas gambling is fun. People play poker for recreation. Tips flow and so does the beer - It's a fun place to play. At 'The Bike' things are very different, at least in the games I played. Grim faced, moody and even downright angry, the players hurl a constant stream of abuse and often their cards at the long-suffering dealers.
There is completely crazy superstition. People won't play when certain people deal, they always need to sit in certain seats and the regularly request the deck is changed for no other reason except they just lost a hand. Players regularly berate others for their perceived poor quality of play. Thankfully I was able to play the clueless, bumbling Englishman to perfection. Hugh Grant would have been proud...
Why are these people there? Why indeed was I there when the experience was such a drag?
Well for one, I was staying in a hotel ever the road and I didn't know how to get anywhere else in LA because of the mindbogglingly confusing public transport network. There are no maps or schedules at stops and half the time it doesn't even say where the bus is going. Drivers are generally monosyllabic and best of all, there are paper timetables on the buses themselves for completely random other routes with no connection to the one you are on!
In the end I viewed it as simply a money making exercise and grinded it out. But hey, the free Chinese food is very nice and I made my wages the two days I played there, so it wasn't at all bad.
One of my more interesting opponents was a Sri Lankan doctor who sat next to me and played for a few hours. He was very friendly, we chatted and inevitably the conversation turned to his profession.
Now, I'm not questioning the medical ethics or integrity of this man, but all I do know is that within an hour of meeting me he offered me all manner or drugs, prescription or otherwise, all for "very reasonable prices."
It seems one of his biggest trades was in tablets to treat erectile dysfunction. This is the reason why I am currently carrying a Viagra tablet around in my wallet.
I tried to explain to the good doctor that I really didn't have any trouble in that department. And when I confessed that I'd never even used Viagra or Cialis, a veritable gasp went up around the table (average age of about 70).
"You have to try it, your life will never be the same" urged the doctor, ignoring my vehement protests. "Take a look at Larry over here" he said, gesturing to another of our opponents. One glance at the smile on Larry's face told me that both him and his wife were very happy indeed.
To placate him, I accepted his offer of a free sample. "You find yourself a nice chica, you take the pill and how do you say in England? ....... boom boom....."
Well I wasn't sure what Basil Brush had to do with anything, but I put the pill in my wallet along with his card, where it has remained ever since. I guess I should throw it away or something, just in case in a moment of madness I think it is a paracetamol and take it. Instead of soothing my headache it could lead to a completely different kind of ache...