Thursday, October 05, 2006
Adios, amigos. No more blogs, no more observations, no more Internet poker. The prudent men in Washington who help govern our lives have taken it upon themselves to shut us down. Apparently, playing poker for money online is detrimental to the public weal. Rather than finding a means to authorize, control and tax Internet casinos, our wise elected officials have preferred to label our activities immoral. Just why they condone some forms of gambling – horse racing, state lotteries, etc. - while condemning others is unclear. Just why they chose to ignore the desires of millions of their constituents in favor of heeding the voices of a handful of anachronistic moralists remains equally perplexing. By attaching the Internet Exclusion Act to a rider of an obscure bill, our well-meaning Solons have done nothing less than kick us out the back door rather than escort us out the front. I guess they think the evil that lurks in the heart of men is manifest by hundreds of thousands of individuals sitting in front of video screens trying to match wits with one another, for the most part with little money involved. Historically decrying public intervention in private affairs, a Republican congress and a Republican administration are contradicting their own traditional values, God only knows why. Lord save us from do-gooders, moralists and hypocrites, we can take care of monsters, bogeymen and sinners all by ourselves.
Monday, October 02, 2006
I have fallen in love with the Venetian Resort. Unlike other establishments in Las Vegas, the Venetian greets and sees to the comfort of poker players from the very moment of entry. Since poker gives the house a far lower profit margin than slots or traditional gaming tables, is it not anomalous for poker players to be welcomed with open arms? True, due to the current popularity of the game, the casinos have no choice but to offer Texas Hold ‘Em, Omaha, and variations of seven-card stud. Providing poker space brings in people who might end up playing craps, blackjack and roulette, but as a rule, poker players eschew such frivolities. Why compete against a monolithic juggernaut with the odds in its favor when you can play against other human beings possessed of the same weaknesses and foibles as oneself?
To keynote its difference, The Venetian has posted a sign on the fifth floor of the parking garage offering parking spaces for VIPs and poker players. Hats off to whoever suggested that! Naturally, anyone else is permitted to park there, but it is nice to know that someone in this impersonal city has given thought to those of us whose game of choice entails a good amount of patience, a modicum of discipline and no little cogitation.
Equally significant, the Venetian card room has set aside a comfortable area for players waiting to get into a game. Couches and armchairs are provided while poker magazines are distributed to those interested in tournament results or the opinions of superstars or ordinary beings in the rarified universe of poker. If that isn’t enough, cocktail waitresses come by offering drinks. Let me tell you, no other casino I know of instructs employees to pay attention to players not yet confirmed as clients. Along with the wealthiest men in the nation, Mr Edelson (founder and majority shareholder of the Venetian) deserves to be on a list of America’s most considerate men.
Another factor that sets the Venetian apart is the classical music piped into the men’s room (lady’s room too, I assume), a welcome relief from the tinny elevator tunes you hear just about everywhere else. Yesterday it was Tchaikovsky rather than the more appropriate Vivaldi (a citizen of that other Venice), but is there really all that much difference between the residence of the Czars and the Palace of the Doges?
Elegance, of course, is anything but understated at The Venetian. Appreciate it or not, this is Las Vegas. Garishness is part of the ambience. Designer carpets and acres of marble are supposed to be on permanent display. While we are at it, I’ll let you in on a secret: Old Venice, that city on the Adriatic is not exactly a prototype of modesty, or a locale noted for simplicity and restraint. Let it all hang out, I say, and who cares if Nevada gondoliers sing Neapolitan love songs rather than melodies from Northeastern Italy? Those fellows paddling and poling on the lagoon have been doing it for decades.
I have a confession to make. Lately I have been winning at the Venetian. ‘Pour’vu que ca dure,’ as Napoleon’s mother used to say (‘Just let it last.’) Naturally, I can think of nothing greater to reinforce the profundity of my feelings for a casino/resort than a genuine hot streak. Who knows why one place is lucky while another is a forbidden city where one cannot win a single pot? Take yesterday. Bought in for $200 at a $2-$5 No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em game, I went all-in with a suited ace-king on the second hand dealt me. A gentleman called holding pocket sevens. Both an ace and a king appeared on the board, but no seven. Several hands after doubling my stake, it was my turn to be dealt pocket sevens. Raising the big blind to $20, I was called by the same gentleman. The flop was a rainbow 3-4-6. I checked. My opponent bet $50. I called. The turn was the two of spades. I bet $150.
“Call and all-in,” said the fellow, turning over a pair of fours. No, I did not hit another seven, but the five of diamonds gave me a straight.
Maybe now you will understand why I love the Venetian. Nowhere else do I catch cards like this! So play me Vivaldi, show me Canalettos and bring out the carpaccio. Whether here on the Strip or there on the Lagoon, I can think of few places on earth so full of mystery, beauty and - at least for the moment -a bit of good fortune.
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Yesterday I went to Mandalay Bay again. Sounds like the opening line of a book, doesn’t it? A film too: directed by Hitchcock, starring Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine. “Rebecca,” was the name, by Daphne Du Maurier. I don’t have it quite right. It should go: “last night I dreamed I went to Mandalay again.” No, that’s not it. Manderley, not Mandalay! That's the name.
While there is no Manderley in Las Vegas, the southernmost mega resort on the Las Vegas Strip is Mandalay Bay. Exquisite looking from the outside - two golden towers rising majestically – it is equally impressive on the inside. The main gaming room might seem a bit overcrowded, but is not the establishment's business to provide table games and slots to people looking for action? Food, too. Along with Caesar’s, MGM Grand, Wynn and Bellagio, I'd say the best restaurants in town are at the Manadalay Bay. Dinner at the Aureole (Mandalay), Picasso (Bellagio), Robuchon (MGM), Guy Savoy (Caesar’s) or Alex (Wynn) might cost you a mortgage payment or two, but your taste buds will be treated to an incredible experience.
So yesterday I stepped into the Mandalay Bay again. Only a week previously, my wife and I had dined there at China Grille. This time I was accompanying my Portuguese pal, Pedro da Silva to the resort’s famous Hamburger Bar. Pedro is crazy about American burgers.
“On the road to Mandalay,” I burst into song, “where the flying fishes play, and the dawn comes up like thunder out of China ‘cross the bay.”
“What’s that?” said Pedro, eying me queerly.
“It was a poem originally,” I said. “By Kipling. The English once controlled Burma, you know?”
“Hong Kong, too,” he said. “We kept them out of Macao.”
“Well you won’t keep us out. Us Yankees, I mean. Nor will the Chinese. Both the Wynn and the Venetian have opened multi-billion dollar resorts in Macao.”
“They are going to have more clients than they can handle. No people gamble as much as the Chinese.”
We stopped off at the poker room. The director told us we had to buy in for between $200 and $400 at the $2-$5 No Limit game.
“What if I’m losing a bundle?” asked Pedro. “Can I buy in for more?”
“No, sir. $400 maximum.”
“That’s foolish,” said Pedro. “A player should not be restricted to maximum buy-ins.”
“It used to be worse,” I said. “At one time, both here and at The Bellagio you could only buy-in for $200, minimum or maximum! It took them long enough to change the rules. As far as I know, only Wynn and Binion’s offer the sky’s the limit.”
“Why is that?” asked Pedro.
“I guess the casinos want to avoid wealthy wise guys from buying in for tens of thousands and muscling everyone else around.”
“Speaking of muscles, mine are aching. Let’s eat.”
We lunched on the specialty of the house. They were damn good burgers, let me tell you! Well why not, at ten bucks apiece? Actually, they cost a lot more. Our requests for extra cheese, bacon and avocados added to the cost. Cocktails and beer brought our tab to $70 with tax and tip. We skipped desert.
Neither Pedro nor I felt like playing poker. We took a taxi to where I had left my car. That set us back another ten bucks. Pedro wanted to play blackjack at The Orleans, his lucky casino. I opted to go home for a nap. Still hungry, I pulled into a Burger King where, for about two dollars, I gobbled down a double bacon cheeseburger with pickles and lettuce. You know what? It tasted pretty much the same as the one on The Strip.
Monday, September 25, 2006
I was hardly settled in place at a $1-$2 No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em game last night when a young, curly-haired fellow sat up and proclaimed:
“Watch out for me, man. I am totally crazy.”
Imposing a lopsided grin on his face, he stuck out his tongue and wiggled it from side to side. I could see his pupils were dilated and glassy.
“I’ll take note of that,” I replied, accepting $100 worth of chips from the dealer.
“Don’t bother,” said a player a few seats to my right, “unless you want to suffer with the rest of us.”
“You don’t believe I’m a nut?” said the young fellow. “Watch this. Raise twenty bucks on the blind.”
Two players called. Dealt KH-3D, I had no trouble folding. I really do not like playing against idiots, drunks and fruitcakes.
The flop was a rainbow A-5-3.
“All-in,” said the young guy. “Wow, am I crazy!”
A player with suited A-5 called. The turn was a nine, the river a six.
“Whopee!” shouted the self-proclaimed lunatic. He turned over a four and a seven. “Now will you people believe me when I say I’m insane?”
“Let us not confuse madness with luck,” said the bloke (a Brit) who had lost the hand. “You might try talking a bit less while you are at it.”
His request fell on deaf ears. Rather than elaborate a host of meaningless details, let me assure you that aside from state capitals and Washington D.C., you would have to search far and wide to find a bigger windbag. Refusing to shut up, Curly continued to mention his absence of sanity.
I’ll say one thing for the fellow: he certainly animated the game. Betting hand after hand and bluffing continuously, the only thing he seemed to fear was exclusion from the action. While such play was sure to see him eventually go broke, for the moment he kept kicking my ass as well as that of the tall, heavyset gentleman on my immediate left. In a matter of minutes both of us were obliged to re-buy chips at the expense of the non-stop talker. I’m telling you, I’ll take the quiet, serious poker player over the loudmouth blusterer any day of the week.
I guess he had about $400 in chips in front of him when he went all-in with pocket queens. Deciding to dodge a bullet with suited A-9, I watched my neighbor count his chips.
“Call,” he said. “I'm afraid I have far less than you do.”
That was the beginning of the end of the wordy one. Holding KH-QS, the gentleman hit a straight on the river.
“How could you call with that?” asked the young man in amazement. “You must be as crazy as me.”
“You’re not crazy, you’re drunk,” replied my neighbor.
“I’m crazy, I tell you. I really am.”
“No sir,” said the heavyset man. “Anyone can tell you that an ignoramus will never admit to stupidity. By the same token, a truly irrational person will do everything possible to conceal his disorder. An admission of stupidity or madness may give pleasure to a fool who enjoys making a spectacle of himself, but nothing is more frightening to the authentic idiot or madman than the possibility his condition might be revealed.”
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Maurice de Talleyrand, the extraordinary statesman who served both Louis XVI and Napoleon Bonaparte often extolled ‘the sweetness of life’ under the French monarchy. Of course Paris was the center of everything. So too, after the Franco-Prussian War and World War I, the capital witnessed rebirths of gaiety and splendor. Once again the city experienced a similar period of magnificence after World War II. Much like the expatriates of the 1920s, those of us who spent time in Paris in the 50s and 60s were privileged to have known a metropolis clinging to a few final moments of post- bellum joy. That was before urban blight, street crime, pollution, inflation, racial disruptions and the general malaise that permeates all of France today came along.
When I first came to Paris, the city was majestic. Sylphs and sorcerers had taken turns to bless her with celestial stardust. Emerald leaves floated through enchanted trees. Golden ashes descended onto the arcades facing the Rue de Rivoli. Fountains of spectral mist sprayed the obelisk at the Place de la Concorde. Atop Montmartre, Sacre Coeur glowed in cool pink mornings. Lovers, passionate and serene, stopped to embrace in gardens and parks. Café sitters dozed in halos of dazzling light. With loud clicking heels, chic demoiselles glided on starling wings. Men and boys fished behind long wooden poles while elderly ladies, busy with needles and wool, occupied long green benches. Beneath a blue-gray sky, Parisians, individually and en masse, were frozen in a motionless tableau, joyously confirming the countless gifts bestowed upon their incomparable city.
I was an insomniac when I started playing poker. No matter how late I went to bed I could not sleep past five in the morning. That’s the time Paris wakes up. There is a poker expression for that. You won’t find it in any dictionary or guidebook. A heart flush is composed of five hearts, ‘cinq coeurs’ in French, homonymous with cinq heures or five o’clock. If you ever hear anybody at a French card table say: ‘Paris s’eveille’ (Paris is waking up), you can be sure he is announcing a heart flush.
The metro starts running at five-thirty. Cafes and newspaper kiosks open slightly earlier. As in any major metropolis, working class people dominate the early morning hours. Around five-fifteen I would buy the Herald Tribune, before going for coffee and croissants at Le Rallye, a café on the Place Saint-Andre-des-Arts. Michel the night man stayed on until nine in the morning. He and I liked to play a French dice game called four hundred twenty-one. We played for drinks, not for money. Every weekday morning Roger and Toto, a pair of brothers-in-law would arrive at the café with the first metro. Invariably, they drank a few glasses of melicasse, a combination of rum and red currant syrup. One day Toto stayed late instead of going to work. He wanted to play dice with Michel and me. The man had a hot hand. The bartender and I had to cough up dough for cocktail after cocktail. None of us was aware of the hour. Just before Michel was due to get off, Toto collapsed to the floor. Neither Michel nor I knew what to do. Another client called the fire department. Toto was taken across the river to the Hotel Dieu Hospital.
He was absent the following morning. Roger blamed Michel and me for getting him drunk. He called us every name in the book. Didn’t we know that Toto had a bad liver?
“You rats,” he concluded. “You could have killed him.”
Michel made a Gallic shrug. All his clients had bad livers. Roger would not be appeased. He and Toto stopped going to Le Rallye. For a while they went to the tobacco bar next door. Then they abandoned the Latin Quarter altogether. Shortly afterwards, Michel was fired. Not because of what had occurred with Toto, but because he was caught with his hand in the till.
The new night manager of the Rallye was a deadbeat. I started going to the café Jacques Coeur instead. Antoine, the owner thought I was wealthy. A lot of people in the neighborhood agreed with him. In those days, the French were convinced all Americans were loaded.
One morning Antoine accused me of coming on to his wife. Far from the only person on his list, he pointed an accusing finger at a dozen other customers. The crazy bastard went so far as to shoot a local tradesman. Pretty Beatrice was the only waitress at the café. While the victim had no reason not to be friendly with her, such logic made no impression on Antoine. He was sent to prison, but only for a year. Crimes of passion are treated lightly in Mediterranean Countries. Even though Paris is a long way from the sea, French thinking pays no attention to detaisl such as distance. Similar examples of so-called Cartesian logic worked out to my advantage at poker. My opponents were so lousy, I couldn’t miss winning nine games out of ten.
Not long after he regained his freedom, Antoine attacked another client for making eyes at Beatrice. As far as the French were concerned, there was nothing unusual about that. Nor were they surprised by my continuous success at poker. As the locals like to say: 'the more things change, the more they remain the same.' But that is not so. Today the Café Jacques Coeur is a souvenir shop, the Rallye is a secondhand bookstore and the poker games I frequent take place thousands of miles from Paris.
Monday, September 18, 2006
Anyone not familiar with the world of genies, pixies, elves and sprites is sure to be a stranger to no limit Texas Hold ‘Em. Conversely, show me the person who has played the game regularly and you are sure to find a person unable to deny that: “more things exist in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophies.” Because I’m telling you, inexplicable phenomena arrive all too frequently at cards games. In his book “Pale Fire,” Nabokov claims: “I know the world could not have occurred fortuitously, and that somehow Mind is involved as a main factor in the making of the universe. In trying to find the right name for that Universal Mind, or First Cause, or the Absolute, or Nature, I submit the Name of God has priority.” Whoa! Hold on there, Vladimir. Not for one moment can I imagine that white bearded figure holding a finger out to Adam on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, getting involved in Las Vegas poker games. Surely He has better things to do than decide who shall hit a straight or flush. Still, I know something – or somebody - has to be out there. Perhaps it’s The Creator’s way of allowing imps, sylphs, goblins and other supernatural mischief-makers to intervene in the affairs of men. For what reason? How would I know? I’m having enough trouble with poker to bother with theology.
Let me go back a month. I was playing $2-$5 NL at the Bellagio. Oh brother, what a game! Four players were throwing money around as though the end of the world were coming tomorrow. I mean, they were chasing after belly straights and calling $100 bets with hands worth less than a nickel. I ‘ll be darned if one of the loonies didn’t pay an all in bet with pocket sixes after two pairs Q-10 accompanied by a J appeared on the board. Another saw his chips dwindle from eight large piles to zero in the bat of an eyelash. Finally, after months of searching, I had found that mythical ultra loose table where with a decent hand or two a player could not miss going home with a four-figure profit. Bought in at the $200 minimum, I doubled my stake before the first round of play was finished, holding nothing better than an unsuited J-10.
“Tell me,” I said to the gentleman on my right, “doesn’t this draft bother you?”
“I had your place before I moved,” interjected a thin fellow seated across the table. “That seat you’re in is like ice fishing in Alaska.”
“That’s why I’m wearing a sweater,” said the fellow I had originally addressed. “Those overhead A/C vents are pointed directly at us.”
We were interrupted by a battle between two of the maniacal players. Don’t ask me to furnish details. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you how much money each put into the pot with cards any sane person would throw away.
I called over a floor manager and asked if it were possible to turn down the air conditioning.
“Sorry, Sir, it’s 100 degrees outside.”
No use arguing, particularly when I picked up K-Q of hearts. In France, a suited king-queen is called ‘belotte’ in an eponymous game that is far easier to play than this one. So without pause I raised the big blind to $40 and was followed by three of the crazies. Please, do not imagine that I am unaware of the dangers posed by wild men. Of course I know the loose goose is more apt to tear one apart than the opponent who measures probabilities. So what? Unless you are totally out of form, is it not advantageous to play with fruitcakes rather than knock heads with a bunch of Rocky Mountain goats?
A new series of blasts from the A/C sent shivers through me. As a child, both my old grannies had made a point of warning me to avoid draughts. In Paris it is axiomatic that a courant d’air will send you to the hospital, if not worse. Particularly susceptible to colds, sore throats and other respiratory ailments, I began to feel ill. I’m telling you, my eyes were tearing, I was coughing up phlegm and my temperature must have been rising like a fighter plane taking off.
“I can’t go on like this,” I said, picking up my chips and abandoning my seat.
Allowing health to take precedence over cards, I was quitting the best table I had played at since leaving Paris eight years previously. Damn it all! Why couldn’t this have happened in winter or spring?
As mentioned, that was about a month ago. I hadn’t returned to the Bellagio for any number of reasons, foremost of which was a desire to play in $50 and $125 tournaments offered by competing casinos. Tournaments played in this ornate palace range between $500 and $1,000. As well, I guess in the back of my mind was fear of having run out on a winning table. Mon Dieu, had I known those creatures of destiny were capable of playing such tricks, I would have risked pneumonia back then.
They started out immediately upon my arrival. Calling a hand with AC-7C, I was met by 7D-4S-2C on the flop. Unlike last month’s game, today’s session was dominated by pros from the Strip rather than by loonies from the heartland. Fine by me, and anyway, weren't my hole cards worth a $25 raise? And then, when the seven of hearts appeared on the turn, wasn’t I truly sitting pretty? I sure thought so when the river turned out to be the four of diamonds.
Unprepared for Accident #1, I swallowed hard. A shifty-eyed bastard I recognized from previous games laid down the two missing fours. Damn! That was the only combination that could beat me. Oh well, I had seen this happen before, and I was only down a single buy-in. From then on, like a boxer absorbing too many punches, I got smacked from the left, slammed on the right, hit by jabs, uppercuts, hooks and Sunday wallops that seemed to come from another world. Dealt pocket aces I raised in order to play against as few opponents as possible. Some tobacco-chewing grandpa called me. Q-8-3 was flopped. I went all-in. The old timer called with two nines. A nine on the river saw me reach for another buy-in. On the very next hand, it was I who was dealt pocket nines. Instead of recognizing a series of events stacked against me, I quadrupled the player who had raised the big blind to thirty. Oh man, so many picture cards appeared on the board you would have thought the house had ordered a mosaic of jacks, queens and kings for our table.
I took a deep breath. It was my turn to be the small blind. Dealt King of hearts and seven of clubs, I was deliberating my choices when a sudden breath of icy air – far colder and much closer than that from the faulty A/C – blew the cards out of my hand. For the first time in memory, I refused to add the few chips needed to go from small blind to big blind. So strong was that gust, my cards turned over and were exposed. Not only was the flop K-K-7, the player on my right showed me he was holding wired sevens. Bad enough I had missed out on winning a super pot, and worse still that everyone at the table knew about it.
What was wrong with me? Could I not see that diabolical forces were running amok at my expense? I guess not, because now as big blind holding 7H-2H, I bet $50 when three hearts came up on the flop. Paid by the gentleman sitting in the same seat I had vacated four weeks previously, I witnessed the queen of hearts turn over on Fourth Street. Not bothering to bet, I threw my cards in the air. It was payback time all right, and if those were not supernatural forces making fun of me for having refused a gift last time out, what the hell were they? No kidding, I was convinced beyond a doubt that I was faced with furies, nixies and pixies whose sole purpose was to see me lose hand after hand as ignobly as possible. Now on the button, I followed the blinds with 10S-9S. Lo and behold, the flop was JS-QS-AS. Well you guessed it. No other spade appeared, but the big blind was happy to call my all-in bet with his suited king-two of spades. In twenty minutes I had dropped eight hundred bucks.
Look, it’s nice to think we have free will. Maybe at times we do, but five will get you ten, not all the time. Because if external forces play no part in determining what happens to us, why are there days you can’t win a hand even when your cards seem pretty damn good?
Thursday, September 14, 2006
What a pleasant surprise to encounter fewer crybabies here in Las Vegas than those I was faced with during my thirty years of poker in Paris. Or so I thought until yesterday. Stuck in a $1-$3 No Limit game at The Wynn, the converse proved to be true. I say ‘stuck’ since I wanted to play at a $2-$5 table but no seats were available. Rather than sit around twiddling my thumbs, I chose to play in the smaller stakes game. Once again I was struck by the disadvantage of $3 chips over $2 chips. Let’s face it: betting in three-dollar increments is a pain in the neck. “Ill see those seventeen chips and raise you twenty-eight more.” How much does that make in cold hard cash?
But it’s crybabies I want to talk about, not the structure of games on The Strip. I’m telling you, we had two champions at yesterday’s table. The younger one, a kid sitting on my immediate right, couldn’t have been more than twenty-five. You could see the other whiner was close to three times his age. Hard to say who was more disagreeable, but I guess the kid would get the prize, if only because his voice was loud and strident. Worse still, he was winning his fair share of hands. The old timer, a geezer who looked as though he had spent the previous evening sleeping with the homeless on Main Street, couldn’t win a hand. You know what? I wouldn’t be surprised if he were one of those weird people who live on $200 a month then end up leaving millions of dollars to some obscure pet farm in Missoula or Grand Rapids City.
Let me give you an example of junior’s conduct. All-in head to head against an Oriental lady, the young man stood up and screamed “Oh no” when he saw her pocket queens across the table from his wired jacks. “Why does this always happen to me?”
Of course a jack came up on the turn. Rather than fall silent and regain his seat, the fellow continued to whine and moan.
“I was really scared for a moment. This kind of thing happens to me all the time.”
“What happens all the time?” asked a bearded gentleman. “You pull a miracle card against an opponent?”
No reply to that. Nor did the young man shut up. When not following a hand, he continued mumbling under his breath about his lousy hole cards. Come on, man, give me a break! I’ve been sitting here all afternoon with nines and fours, eights and threes, sevens and deuces.
About fifteen minutes passed with no action whatsoever. I guess that’s the nature of small stakes games where players feel constrained to be cautious. The betting is faster and far more aggressive when more money is in play.
Suddenly old Art raised the bearded gentleman’s $9 bet to $21. Au secours, - that's help in French - I thought to myself. Art hadn’t followed a hand since Marie Antoinette was telling the peasants that brioches were every bit as good as bread. Not put off in the least, the bearded man came in. The dealer turned over: QH-7S-2C.
“All in,” said Art.
El Beardo pushed his last chip into the pot before revealing two red sevens. Poor Art’s pocket aces looked like a bird with broken wings.
“Couldn’t you pick on someone else?” said the old man. “Can’t you see I’m in the shithouse? You could have been a good guy and folded those sevens.”
Silence ensued. It was an embarrassing and painful moment. Squirming in my seat, I could see the bearded fellow shake his head sadly.
Old Art reached into his pocket. It wouldn’t have surprised me if he took out a roll of $100 bills as thick as your fist or a torn handkerchief smeared with oil.
“I’ve been playing this game longer than most of you have been around,” said Art. “I still can’t get the hang of it.”
He withdrew a silver dollar from his pocket and examined it carefully.
“1929,” he said. “An unlucky year if ever there was one.”
“Why do you keep it?” asked the dealer.
“That’s the year I was born.”
Art bought in for another $100. Too discreet to let any of us see the size of his bankroll, he was soon engaged in another all-in hand, this time with the kid on my right. Both players turned over pocket kings.
“Oh God, no” said the youngster. “I know he’s going to get a flush.”
“Something tells me I’m not going to win this hand,” said Art.
“Can we chop?” asked the young man. “Is it all right if we don’t turn over the flop?”
“Fine by me,” said Art.
“No can do,” said the dealer. “Against the rules.”
The five common cards turned out to be: 4-5-6-7-8 of four different colors. As desired, the two players chopped the pot.
“I told you I couldn’t win that hand,” said Art.
“Wired kings,” said the young man. “What the hell does one have to do to win at this game?”
“Cry,” said the Oriental lady. “Like you have been doing all afternoon.”
Sure enough, the kid won a nice pot on the very next deal. A few minutes later, Art followed suit.
“Hand me a box of Kleenex, will you?” said I, their common victim, reaching into my pocket for additional funds. “If it’s crying that makes a man a winner, I can bawl as loud as anyone else.”