THURSDAY H H H H H H H H H H H H H
"Fame sometimes hath created something of nothing."
- Thomas Fuller

Despite what the quote above suggests, often your typical overnight-success story results from years of practice and patience; providence plays its part, but you want to leave as little to Lady Luck as possible. That means spending as much time as you can training for your Big Moment. In this case, 36 hours is as much time as possible. Giddy. Up.

I play in more satellites as, one by one, my crew arrive at the Rio. I am cultivating what is known in the poker world as a good table image. You want players to think you are more thoughtful, mature, and serious than most people in the card room are. You can accomplish this simply by not acting like a spoiled, whiny moron, which is how 42 percent of all poker players you encounter act. So I bring a rock-solid demeanor and a $12 pair of sunglasses I picked up at 7-Eleven. But they don't help, as my pocket­ queens fall to a jack and a five. (Attention poker geeks: I will not be getting into detailed hand discussions in this article, though I would obviously love to and often do nothing but.)

A lawyer friend, TBR, arrives with several other Batfaces. TBR fancies himself the best poker player in our group and takes the game very seriously, which makes him unbelievably easy to mock. He finished in the top 160 of more than 5,000 entrants in the big WSOP Hold'em championship in 2005, and he likes to remind people of that constantly. Also, he's been playing in a game with rich lawyers lately and, in June, had won more money than I made my first year out of college (that was in the '90s). However, in the two weeks prior to our trip, TBR had managed to lose more money than I made my second year out of college. To say he arrives bitter and angry is to say that Céline Dion is slender. To help matters, we stand behind him and giggle as he goes down in satellite after satellite. It's what friends do for each other.

Before rendezvousing with the Batfaces, I was asked to dinner by a public relations manager and a marketing manager with Caesars so they could reiterate to me how awesome my awesome digs were. I put on a different nice suit and sauntered into the very posh restaurant at Caesars named Guy Savoy. Men with accents swarmed, and I was given a sparkling water and escorted to wait for my party in another room. A few minutes later, a very apologetic waiter approached.

"Zir, I eem so sorry. You are in zee wrong restaurant."

See, they apologize to you even when you're the doofus who can't get his restaurants straight. That's just good service.

I sprinted downstairs and through the casino to the equally magnificent Bradley Ogden, where I was directed toward two stunning young women sipping martinis at the bar.

I was determined not to let their appearances disrupt my professionalism. After all, I was there on behalf of this magazine, for work reasons. Which is why, during dinner, we discussed the new marketing push for Caesars (upscale); the trendy nightclub Pure, across the casino; and the stellar reviews on the new Augustus Tower, where I was staying. And which is also why I won't discuss the ill-timed text message from my fellow Batface, Big Todd, that asked, "Is she hot? Is she hot?" Because that would be juvenile. Just as it would have been if I'd secretly texted "Duh."

Instead, I will say only that the French wine we consumed was sublime, the gazpacho and king salmon were moan-inducing, and our dessert - a fantastic cheeseboard, some sorbet, and a scoop of blueberry cobbler - was abfab. I should also mention that, after we'd finished a glass of port, I made the gentlemanly offer to my dining companions to come meet the gang.

They smartly declined.

We are to meet at Fix, in the Bellagio.

I smile as I approach the hostess. "I'm with the quiet table," I say. She smiles and waves me toward the screams coming from the center table.