“Keys, wallet, passport?”
Saron and I were wheeling our luggage through the foyer of the hotel. I smiled, like I always do when she asks me that and did that exaggerated ‘patting down of my front and back pockets’ routine. My brow furrowed. I slipped my right hand into my trousers pocket. Keys – check. Wallet – check. I reached into my inside jacket pocket. She looked at me incredulously, remembering all the times I’ve done this before, times when I was bluffing, times different from this time, although she didn’t know that yet…
Last May, I visited Bucharest for the first time, a city that has long been on my wish list of places to see. ‘Little Paris’, as it is known, did not disappoint. First and foremost, the people are incredible – some of the coolest and warmest people I have ever met. The older generation have a great appreciation of their history and carry themselves with humility and stoicism. The younger generation are hipster Europeans – well-educated, articulate, fashionable and ambitious. The Old Town, still mercifully intact after Ceaușescu’s regime, is an elegant monument to the best of old and new – exquisite buildings and cobbled streets abuzz with trendy cafes, restaurants, art galleries and bars.
For a thrifty poker player like myself, Bucharest is the nuts. It’s easy to find good value accommodation and it’s hard to spend money once you get there. A three course dinner with wine in the Old Town will only set you back €15-€20 and the booze is super-cheap! On my first night out back in May, fellow poker player Gary Clarke and I had a great night out for less than twenty quid. The cover charge for the nightclub was 80c, pints were just over €1 and the ‘fish and chips’ supper on the walk home was €3. On my day off from the poker, Saron and I cycled around the beautiful Herastrau Park, renting bikes for €1 per hour. That night, we had dinner with some local guys who told us that we had been ripped off and that there was a place just outside the park where we could have gotten bikes for free.
It’s no wonder then that I have been on the lookout for opportunity to go back. Well lo and behold, Unibet have delivered such an opportunity. From December 1st-5th, they are hosting a poker festival in the JW Marriott Grand Hotel in Bucharest. Not only that but they are slapping a half million euro guarantee onto the Unibet Open Main Event. Personally I can’t wait. I’ve booked my flights and for any poker players out there considering a Winter break, let me paraphrase Audrey Hepburn in the movie ‘Sabrina’ and assure you that ‘Little Paris is always a good idea’.
“You’re a gobshite!”
“I’m sure it’s in my bag”.
I took a knee and unzipped the front pocket of my suitcase.
“When was the last time you had it?”
“I remember having it in that money changing place in the old town.”
“The kebab shop?”
“Yeah, they asked me for it so they could do the exchange.”
“Did they give it back?”
“I think so.”
“You think so?”
“Yeah, I think so.”
I rifled through every pocket of my case, swearing like Hugh Grant in the opening scene of ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’. I opened the main body of the case, dumping worn underwear and t-shirts out onto the ground.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, FUCK!!!”
“What about the casino?”
My eyes lit up.
“The High-roller… I cashed the High-roller!”
“They would have needed to see ID to pay you, right?”
I stuffed my clothes back into my case, zipped up the bag and we bee-lined for the casino, where we were headed anyway to get our cab. Crossing the road, I stopped in my tracks.
“Shit, shit, shit, shit, SHIT!!!”
“The exchange place was after the High-roller.”
“You mean the kebab shop.”
“Look, it had the cheapest rate.”
The tension dissolved into laughter.
“You’re a gobshite!”
“So there’s no way you left it in the casino?”
“No. Look, you go on to the casino and ask anyway. I’ll run back to the hotel. Maybe it fell out of my pocket somewhere.”
“I’m really sorry.”
I ran back to the hotel, got the key to our old room and turned the place over. My passport was nowhere to be seen. I sprinted from the hotel to the casino outside which Saron was standing. My shaking head told the tale.
“I let the taxi go.”
“You shouldn’t have.”
“Well I wasn’t going to just leave you.”
“What are you going to do?”
“I don’t know. What time is it?”
“Quarter to eleven.”
“And the flight is at one fifteen. There’s no chance anyone eats kebabs before then.”
“We need to book you another cab. There’s no point us both missing the flight.”
“I’ll go to reception. You check your case one more time. EVERY pocket.”
I nodded solemnly and went through every pocket, every compartment, emptying everything out onto the ground. Saron came back outside and pointed to one pile of my stuff.
“Oh my God, there it is!”
“Nah, that’s my old one.”
“Why do you still have that?”
“It has my American Visa in it.”
I picked up my old passport and opened it on the page with the American Visa.
“Hmmm, you don’t think..?”
“Uh, I doubt it.”
“It is a legal travel document.”
“Yeah but it’s the wrong one.”
“True but it’s got to be worth a try.”
The cab pulled up. Stuffing clothes back into my case, I shrugged. Saron looked at me skeptically. I just laughed.
“C’mon, sure what have I got to lose?”
To Be Continued…