Poker, I Hardly Know Her

I know, I know, you come to this site expecting perfect puns, not hand me downs. But I’m trying to set a certain kind of mood and this is the kind of humor you can expect when you go to a casino.

It’s not common knowledge that Los Angeles is the poker capital of the world. There are five casinos within an hour’s drive. Probably my favorite is the Hustler casino. In spite of it’s name, the dealers are not topless porn stars. Usually it’s an Asian dude with sizable moles. The place gets its name because it’s owned by avid poker player, pornographer, and subject of a bio-pic, Larry Flynt. It’s the cleanest of all LA card houses and has some pretty decent food. But lately I’d found myself luckier at the Commerce Casino.

Saturday night I drove down to the world’s largest poker casino. There was a long line to get in the low stakes game. I got confused and wondered if they moved the Statue of Liberty a bit east of the I-5 freeway because here were the tired, the poor, the huddled masses, and the wretched refuse.

I sat down around 11 pm. This was a table of true degenerates. Silent and desperately hoping that next card might give them something. Nothing’s more boring then hearing other people’s poker stories, so I’ll spare too many details. But after hanging by my fingernails I finally get two pairs. I make a raise of four dollars, someone reraises to twelve. I then put all of my chips, fifty more dollars, at risk. This other clown calls. He has a four and a nine of spades. He has two more cards to catch a flush and beat my hand. Of course he catches a victory.

“Really?” I say in disgust. “You stayed in with a four and a nine.” Any poker veteran will agree that was a ridiculously stupid move, after such a large bet on my part.

“It’s my son’s birthday.” He said as he raked in the chips.”Ninetyfour.”

“I hope your son has a horrible birthday.” I stormed away from the table.

I shouldn’t get so upset. After years of playing Texas Hold ‘Em I should accept that the reason the game became so popular is that idiots can and do win. You can make exactly the right bet and you’ll make it against the schmuck, who has a hunch he’ll get lucky, and against you it seems he always does.

Brian McQuery will attest to this. Brian is an avid reader of this site and hosts the Monday night poker game I’ve been attending the past few years. This past Monday, whereas I could do no wrong, nothing went right for him. His queens would lose to a flush. His straight to a full house. And then came the most insulting of hands. Below you will see his king high flush lost to the rarest of hands, a straight flush.

8824_102728806410087_100000189040080_82824_2857721_sAs he reeled from having to put more cash in to keep playing he said to me, “I hope this makes your blog.”

It has, Brian, it has. (And you too can get your name on here for the right price.)

Back at Commerce to get to my car I had to pass the higher stakes games. I decided to test my luck. There were two Armenian knuckleheads at the table. They were in their twenties wearing gaudy, diamondish studded cross necklaces, tatted up, and seemingly on cocaine. They were speaking in Armenian to each other, which is a major no-no. “English only” all immigrants are told at the table.

The Armenians claimed. “We not cheating. We good guys.”

They were not good guys, but if they were conspiring they were doing a terrible job of it. One time the Armenian claimed to have the best hand. It was 3 am by then and the dealer agreed even though this was not the case. The Armenian flipped the cards over and started taking the chips, but then the wise supreme court of the other players called him out on it. This was grounds to kick him out of the casino, but no one requested his expulsion because he was going to put another hundred at stake.

I always wonder where these guys get their money. Undoubtedly you will have someone at your table who has a bottomless wallet and is constantly putting more cash into the game. Yes, there is a large element of luck, but over enough time a good player will take the shirt off a bad player’s back.  It seems they would have a better shot playing the Powerball Lotto.

I am too compassionate with the sad sacks. I caught a full house that night and was being sneaky about it. The guy next to me told me how he was down $1200 losing $600 in the first hour. He was about to raise. I whispered to him, “Get out.” He looked at me unsure whether to believe me. “Trust me, get out.”

He folded. I ended up cleaning out some other poor Asian kid in his twenties with a Charlie Brown t-shirt and the worst acne I’d ever seen.

I was up for the night now considerably, and the very next hand the dealer gave me two aces. This is the best hand you can be dealt, but it is also the worst. I have never in my life folded aces, no matter what came out there. You can very easily lose it all.

I bet fifteen and had a couple callers. The flop came a six and two eights giving me two pairs, but leaving open the possibility of a straight or a flush. I made a bet of thirty. This Asian man of 30 was the only caller. I dubbed him “the professor” because he liked to lecture  how everyone misplayed their hands. The next card was a meaningless two. I bet thirty more. He thought really hard before calling. The final card was an ace, giving me a full house. This was a difficult decision. What was the most I could bet without him folding? I bet another thirty. He called.

“You’re going to hate me.” I told him and showed my second full house in the row.

“You very lucky.” The professor told me. “I take all your money if I get that club.”  True, but as the wise Tom Petty once said, “Even the losers get lucky sometimes.”

I was way up now and the clock was getting closer to four. It can be so difficult to leave the table. I mentioned in another post how I was playing poker in Vegas when the fire alarm went off. The siren was a deafening wail and the strobe lights were at a quick enough pace to cause an epileptic seizure. But no one got up from the table. Not the players, not the dealer.

To these monks the alarm was a meaningless distraction during meditation. Nothing else in the world mattered,  but what that next card was going to be.


2 thoughts on “Poker, I Hardly Know Her

  1. My father was a gambler and bookie who ultimatley was consumed by his compulsive lifestyle. When I was 4 yrs old he lost our home, my mother’s maid service, and then his wife and 3 children as he was run out of Chicago under threat of car trunk diving in the Chicago river.

    On my child custody visits with him he would bring me to smokey card halls alive with the clatter of poker chips being stacked and gutteral coughs. Not one of my more pleasant childhood memories.

    For me, there is nothing glamorous about frittering ones life away under the delusion that you will hit the jackpot. Your imagery and depictions of gamblers dredged up all these unpleasant memories. Thats a compliment.

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