Saturday, November 29, 2008

Speed kills...

Thoughts of a bad-ass poker player v. 1.

I looked down at pocket 5s, I wanted a cigarette pretty bad, but I had a feeling about the hand. A pretty flop of A59 rainbow played out in my head. I scratched my temple. Might even raise this bitch I thought to myself.

I spat out two the big chips spinning them in the air and them coming to rest on one another. I half-laughed half-sneered and leaned back eyeing the idiots at my table. I licked my lips in anticipation as one after another called me down thinking I was overplaying another shitty hand again.

I tried to run my fingers smoothly through my hair but they caught on the dirt and tangled curls so I just scratched the back of my head. The lady in seat two caught my awkward movement and I tightened my eyes into a glare. She looked away.

The dealer, another jackass with a rap, the same one, over and over again, put the flop cards down, and teased us before turning them saying his catchphrase, "Wait for it..."

I didn't even bother looking. I fired out a bet, confident my set was there and lost one of them callers. The two other fools hadn't had enough though.

A tall guy in seat 8, studied the board waiting for the turn. He was on a draw, that was clear enough to see. I smiled, "Chasers, never learn."

The turn looked like brick city to the guy in seat 8. I fired a larger bet without even thinking. The guy in the middle called and seat 8, despite a good price, but not quite the right price folded. See you meat, I muttered.

I decided the board was irrelevant. I eyed the dirtbag in the 5 seat. He had a mullet, a couple of Phil Mickelsons (man-boobs), and ability to call you down with rags. He was good for the game.

The dealer said, "Wait for it" again. I tilted my head at him and he saw I was irritated and fired out the river.

Out of the corner of my eye I watched seat 5 try and check out of turn. MORON.

I don't need to play a board, I don't need to see my cards. "All you can handle," I pushed my stack in toppling the chips.

The dirtbag turned to me with a straw in his mouth, " I was hoping you'd say that."

He turned over A2.

I showed my 55.

The dealer smiled and said, "Wait for it" one more time. Then pushed the pot to the dumbass.

"Pocket 5s, you a stupid shit aren't you, speeding with that mess,"

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Quick Note

I think at times, it is good to step back, and recognize these works of fiction as just that. They are fictional accounts. Nobody here condones, endorses, or supports cheating or collusion or any of the tactics used by the characters in these stories. In fact, part of writing about them is to expose their methods to a broader base of poker players. The material for these stories were heavily influenced by a couple of books written about how to protect yourself from card cheats. We encourage our readers to research these topics to better protect themselves when they play a card game anywhere. Many of the episodes that were to come were going to deal with signaling, mechanics, and methods employed by cheaters. We hope these stories are infomative and educational as well as entertaining. Just like a movie studio doesn't endorse the violence of its characters nor do we endorse cheating.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Pitch’n Cards

"Moral of the story," seat 9 a drunkard from out of town said dramatically, "don't chase, because you might hit," his cards were almost at the center of the table, he slowly turned one over and then next, "...and still lose." He cackled and nobody joined him.

"Good pot," I say. The jerk in the nine seat wins again. A $500 pot and he tosses me a single. Generous.

His opponent, Gene D, a regular wearing his hoodie with his website, emblazoned all over it, is irate. He turns red and lowers his sunglasses to glare at seat 9. Gene D does not like to get slow rolled.

As I go to the shuffle machine I meet eyes with Gene. He shakes his head in anger. I nod. I understand completely.

When I'm pitching cards I do little things to keep it interesting. I'll try and land them under a player's hands if they are resting on the table, I'll try and topple a chip stack if it's close to the action or I'll make a complaining player have to stretch to get to them. The nine seat has had to do a lot of stretching to get to his cards. He's been on a 5 hour heater and is weighing down his side of the table with redbirds and yet he's barely thrown us dealers a bone. Plus, he's slowrolling like his a 9th grader playing cards for the first time.

At the dealer change, Janie told me to beware and she wasn't kidding, Seat 9 is a no tipping asshole.

Assholes that don't tip deserve to be fucked with. I'm not obvious about it as sometimes the nice people that actually do tip, tend to take sides against a lippy dealer. But if they really push me, like this guy has done a couple of times, most people will side with the dealer.

It's tough being liked when you are pitching cards. Only one person can be happy per hand. And per revolution that means I've made most of the table mostly unhappy. The idiots don't seem to grasp they are only "entitled" to win one hand in 10. If they have any talent they might be able to drag 2 or 3 out of ten or win huge pots instead of small ones and turn a profit. But the way they see it, they want to win 10 hands in 10.

Sure I say the sarcastic "thank you" when they give me nothing, but with a jerk like this one it means nothing. Right over his head. Or sometimes they'll catch it, as he did a hand ago. "I've tipped you already," he bitched. "You want all my profit? This rake's killing me anyway. Moral of the story, just do your job, deal the cards, and be thankful you found somebody willing to give you a paycheck. Or go to college and get real job." He winked too. I hate fucking winkers. Moral of the story?

Sometimes, I make a face when I push a pot and nothing's pushed my way. On this guy, that would be worthless, so I just join the other 9 players in hating him and in wishing bad karma on the dude. Problem is it's not coming.

On top of that the rest of the table starts to get mad at me because this guy's winning so big. Like it's my fault. Like we dealers want the dipshits that don't tip to win all the pots. Like we want to piss off the regulars in seat 1 and 2 that "over" tip on a good night. Like we want more of this guy's abuse.

I subtlety try to clue in a couple of the familiar faces I'm pulling for them. They don't get it as they angrily throw their cards to the muck.

Another pot to him and he informs the table it's like taking candy from 9 babies. He's got a table on tilt. Sweet.

Seat 1 gets involved in a big hand. Seat 1 is a tight ass. He's not going to showdown without second nuts at a minimum. I fear that's all he'll have though and seat 9 will have the nuts. The way the night's been going of course he will.

At the river, the board gets paired and suddenly the flopped flush is in danger. Looks like seat 9 just got lucky… again. He's bellying up to the table, "What you got?" he says to seat one. My dealer shift is over after this hand. Phuong is waiting behind me, I give him the look and he knows just what kind of person seat 9 is.

All the chips were in at the turn. Seat 9, the slowrolling asshole pushes his cards forward just a bit. It's the dramatic flair the dick employs, "I ain't got much…"

Seat 1 knows he's beat and shows the flush fully aware he's about to get slowrolled. Seat 9 "Wow, ace high flush." Just like he did to Gene D, he further pushes his cards face down toward the center of the table as though he's beat. I wink at seat 1. And as quickly as I can, before the speech starts, I sweep up seat 9's cards with a no-look motion and put them into the muck.

Seat 9 is enraged. "You pushed them to the muck, sir." I sweep the huge pot to seat 1, eye Phuong again and quickly leave.

Moral of the story asshole, don't fuck with the dealer.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Shark Chum LuAnne IX: Who Guards the Guards?

Randall followed Cuba on a smoke break. It was going according to plan. All the players were in place. Temptation in a low cut dress was one seat change away from working her magic on Tran. As he walked he thought about how the kid had been playing.

Very solid. He was picking up on the same soft spots Randall had identified. He was betting with impunigty at just the right times and folding when he was narrowly beat. He had a real talent for it. He got into a bit of trouble only once or twice when his opponent hit river cards and so cheaply bet the kid had to call with losers but other than that he was good.

Cuba interrupted Randall's thoughts, "Hey, man you know anybody in Mississippi that can unload some laptops?"

Randall had been out of the unloading game for some time but his curiousity was piqued, "Laptops?"

Cuba grinned, "Yeah, we've been running the metal plate polka."

Even to Randall this was a new one, "Refresh me."

"Well, with all these long lines for security these days we run a variation on an old hustle," Cuba looked left and right even though everybody walking by was focused on something else and the slot machine chatter was drowning out the conservation even two feet away. "We buy a plane ticket for say 10 pm and get to the airport there at 10 am. We wait until we see a guy with a laptop bag and get in security in front of him. When we are about to get waved through the metal detector we stall until the laptop gets into the machine. Once it's in the X-rayer the first guy goes through. Then the second guy, lights up the metal detector like it's christmas. Oops, I forgot this huge belt buckle I'm wearing. Did my key chain do it this time? Did this metal pen I got from work do it? And finally, you know what, bossman, it must be this metal plate I got stowed in my pocket."

"Right. I get it," Randall nodded. "Meanwhile your buddy is making a U-Turn out the terminal with that guy's laptop. Not bad. You can pull off what three or four a day? Each terminal and maybe a shift change or two."

"Actually, a little better. We got a ton of busted laptops that we switch out. It used to be better when they didn't make people take their laptops out of their bags. We'd be able to switch it out with a comparable weight, and nobody would know until they were 10000 feet up. Now, we need to match laptops. We'd pull that scam 10 to 20 times a day the old way. Now 6 is pushing it. Kind of like that story you told me that one time about Chuckie D, in Austin," Cuba's eyes gleamed. "Sometimes the easiest place to steal something is where the people are too busy protecting something else. Didn't you used to say that."

"Chuckie D in Austin?" Stacey walked up. Randall still couldn't get over her dress, "Do tell..."

Randall looked back toward the table.

"I'm third man walking sugar, " Stacey said. "Hi Cuba, eyes up here please. Randall, the kid's not going anywhere. The four seat is tilting and Tran's just dying for a hand to snap him off again. Tell me about Chuckie D in Austin."

"Alright," Randall relented. "Short version. One night after a game of cards Chuckie D was showing off this gold plated pistol. Real James Bond Golden Gun shit. I knew Chuckie D didn't have the slightest clue where to buy something like that. He could afford it but it's not like he'd be getting something special made. He had to have stolen it. He starts claiming he killed a Vietnamese general during the war and took the gun then. People were eating it up.

"For whatever reason, maybe it's because Chuckie D's such a snake, I decide to mess with him a bit. I tell him he didn't and that he was lying. And you know how Chuckie D hates to get called out. He says, if he's lying I got to prove it or else I was getting a golden bullet to the skull. I bet him $5,000 grand I could prove it in three days. And since it was stolen, not only would I be able to prove to everybody it was stolen and I'd also steal it from him. I think I said because I didn't trust him, I'd bring the gun myself. Something like that. Anyway, when he'd show he'd give me the five grand and I'd give him the gun. To sweeten it, if I didn't have the gun he'd get 5 large regardless."

"Stealing from Chuckie D?" Stacey's eyes lit up. "No wonder you never told me. That's not the brightest thing you've ever done."

"I didn't steal from Chuckie D," Randall grimaced. "I stole from the police."

"Stole from the police..." Stacey shook her head. "Now, you are sounding like Chuckie D.... Go on."

"Tell her whatcha did," Cuba said nearly giddy.

"That's what I'm doing. So, before Chuckie D left that night, I call my friend at the force and ask him if anybody's 'lost' a golden gun. Sure enough some rancher had been burgalrized while he was at a card game across town. So, I tell my buddy to send somebody to the parking lot out back, to wait for a gunshot and they'd have their crook. 30 minutes later I get to talking to Chuckie D again and tell him the gun's a fake and it probably doesn't even fire. Within about two minutes he's shooting a round off in the parking lot and the troopers pull up."

"So he's in the tin and the gun is in the evidence room. Next morning, around the same time he was making bail, I had his golden gun in my hand. Had my partner at the time from El Paso walk right in there with a FBI badge and a fake warrant connecting the gun to a crime in L.A. Sure enough, Chuckie D came back three nights later fully aware everyone knew the gun was stolen because he got arrested, but confident he'd still win the bet because I wouldn't have the gun. He loves his technicalities. I gave him the gun and he gave me the 5k. Course, I made myself scarce around Austin for a while after that. Just to let him cool down."

"The easiest time to steal something is when everybody there is too busy protecting something else," Cuba inhaled deeply on his cigarette. "Now, let's get back to the table folks."

Monday, August 4, 2008

Shark Chum LuAnne VIII: Queens are a comin'

Randall bided his time. He knew Tran would put in a long session and it was later that it would be time for the cleavage to close the deal. In the short run, Randall and Cuba focused on breaking Tran's brother. They'd want the geek to themselves and the wannabee hustler had to be out of the picture for that.

The kid was good, he barrelled through opponents and showed a lot of moxie. Of course like a lot of chip bullies he had a pretty good tell. Like a dog fixing for a fight raising his hackles, Randall noticed the kid turned up the volume even higher when he didn't want a call. When his holding was marginal he'd intimidate his opponent even more.

Still, the tell wasn't 100% on a couple of players he'd just up and check it down. Nonetheless, Randall was going to goad him a bit. After getting him off the table, he'd goad Tran, and then if he past his tests, it would be time for temptation in a dress.

Tran's brother got in a big pot with Cuba. On the river Randall saw him flinch almost imperceptibly when a 10 of spades hit the board. He had been gabbing preflop to river but suddenly quieted. Cuba had correctly been calling him because he was weak, but now the 10 had to help. No flush draw... what did he hit. A gutterball. Cuba lifted his chips thinking about betting and Randall eyed him and ever so slightly shook his head.

Cuba, paused and thought about it. He stared at the 10. How could that have helped the kid. Randall waited for his former partner to get it. Cuba laughed and said, "You got that gutterball on me? You bet me all the way to the river with a bad draw, and you land that gutterball. I'm going to check to you but I ain't giving you another cent."

Tran's brother laughed heartily,"Yeah, I hit that straight." He threw his cards onto the table and forgoed betting the nuts to show off his hand. Randall, now watched as Tran slightly shook his head.

A hour later after the four of them had cleared off the table with everybody but the nit a new face, Randall and Tran's brother locked horns with their Big Stacks. Randall held two black jacks and limped into the pot. Tran's brother, as he did with a multi-way limp fired a bet into the table, and challenged people to call.

In his head Randall immediately went through the range of hands the guy could have. He was we7ak but he something to mix it up with. Maybe A9, A10 or a low pocket pair. This was pretty good situation for him. He called after a moment of thought.

"Watch you got George Clooney?" the kid asked him. "You got something to play with? You got Queens or something?"

"Yeah, Queens or something, one of those two. What you got? A9?" Randall asked.

The dealer flopped a j87 rainbow board. Top set. Randall checked and started his prayers for an Ace to come. Tran's brother led out with another ambitious bet. Randall called.

The turn was a brick 4 of clubs completing the four suits. Randall checked and Tran's brother stewed.

"You got Queens? You trying to trap me? You want me to bet out? Well, I'm the mouse coming after the cheese!" He pushed in half his stack and stood behind his seat. Randall stewed. The kid kept talking. He wanted the kid to think he had a chance to buy the pot on the river. He went into acting mode but tried not to over-do it. The kid was good enough to spot a poser.

Randall called and looked toward the center of the table with just the slightest bit of consternation. The river was a glorious Ace.

The kid zipped up. Randall acted quickly, "I'm all in," and prayed the kid would call without thinking it through...

His plan worked as he got insta-called and the kid almost fell over his chips putting them in the pot. He showed his losing hand first: A8, two pair. Randall show his set of Jacks and scooped the pot.

For a second Randall thought he caught Tran glare at his brother. Interesting, Randall thought, maybe there was more to the family dynamic then first appeared.

Tran's brother quickly rebought for 600 although his roll looked like it was about spent.

Randall eyed his female co-hort a table away. Time for her to request a table change. If he or Cuba could felt Tran's brother soon the real action would start. Time for the needle.

He raised his eyebrows at Cuba who gladly played the part.

"Oh, you got another 600 to piss away?" Cuba smiled at the kid, "It was obvious to everybody but you he had you crippled." The Alabama cowboy let out a big chortle.

"You think it funny? You laugh. I tell you what you play a hand with me. I take your money every other weekend Cuban, I'll take it again tonight."

"Really, not if you going to call off you chips like that. You feeling sick? Kind of like you are homesick but instead of missing home you miss your chips. I call you chipsick. It's okay there they are, in front of... George Clooney. Maybe he'll let you visit them." The table got behind Cuba. "If you walk away from the table you can probably call them. Seems like only a minute okay you had them but they grow and go so fast these days."

"Don't worry they'll soon be back. And I'll have some of your orphans too."

"The prodigal sons will return?" Cuba laughed. "Why you'll only give them away again."

Tran's brother looked at his first card and quickly said, "Yeah, I'm all in."

He's got an ace Randall thought. The dealer reminded him he was betting out of turn.

"Don't matter, it's binding, I'm all in."

Alabama cowboy was first to act and limped. When it got to Tran's brother he shoved never looking at his second card. Randall had a mild decision to make as he got pocket 8s. Something about the cowboy's limp threw up a warning flag. He folded and sure enough the cowboy called and turned over two red queens.

"There's your queens," Cuba laughed.

Tran's brother showed his Ace then slowly peeled off his second card a seven.

When the flop came out 779 he jumped up and exclaimed, "That's what I'm talking about!"

The cowboy was crestfallen, so was Randall inside. His night was about to get much longer.

Then on the river the Queen of Spades brought chaos and turned the hand upside down all over again. Tran's brother couldn't believe it.

"Fuck that!"

"Sir, no cussing... you know..." the dealer spoke up.

"Yeah, fuck that, I'm playing some black jack."

"Okay... Player out."

On the inside Randall smiled.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Shark Chum LuAnne VII: Cowboy Bet

Randall pretty quickly finagled a seat where Tran would be placed by slipping the floor man a c note. Within a couple of minutes Randall bulldozed over some passive players and started to build a bit of stack. He had bought in for half the big stack and with some disappointment looked at a nit sitting behind it that he had played with numerous times before. Cuba Perrilloux sat down seconds later and rolled his eyes at Randall when he saw who the big stack was.

The nit, an old former navy man, was as tight as they came. He had 5 carefully manicured chip stacks in front of him, with the borders of each chip matching one another and each forming tight columns. He was an old man that took his time making up his mind, but was agitated easily when others took the same time to ponder. Randall imagined him in the slow lane of the highway mad when the car in front of him was going slightly slower but ignorant to the slow-downs he'd cause himself.

Randall didn't know how he'd get that the nit's money into play but spotted some other targets that weren't just sitting around waiting for the best hand. A kid in early position called a pot all the way down with second pair. He lost to top pair top kicker. His play wasn't what made Randall recognize him as a fish, but it was his play verse a specific an opponent.

The opponent was the nit, who raised with AQ and bet the Queen high board all the way. Kid, called off half his stack, with pocket 10s. He said, "I thought you wuz bluffing." Randall thought to himself, that guy forgot how to bluff years ago, probably when the Titanic went down.

Randall made a point to see flops with both these guys. He hoped the nit would get a huge overpair and he could flop a set or something. He started to get a feel for the rest of his table and only one or two guys worried him slighty.

Still, despite the action making his blood flow, his focus wasn't solely on the game. He could beat these nine in his sleep, and if not for them occasionally chasing when they shouldn't and catching on him he felt confident he'd bowl them over.

As he waited for Tran to hit the table, in between scooping a pot with two pair and ordering a drink he watched the humble Tran practically sinking into the garish scenary. He was easy to miss as his brother was so emphatic in his gesticulations, and at that moment, Randall felt a different kind of action buzz. This kid could make him a lot of money. Nobody would see him coming or going, nor suspect him being in on fleecing the game. He imagined the kid dragging a huge pot with LuAnne driving up the action and all the local sharks trying to call her down.

He hoped the kid was as good as Cuba claimed. Then he realized in a moment of introspection, part of his excitement was the potential challenge the kid would bring to the table. Randall, was about to play some serious poker with a new opponent, one that supposedly would outclass the field as easily as he. He eagerly awaited the dealer to whisper into the walkie talkie, "Seat open." When the old man nit flopped a set of Aces and busted two tourists, Randall heard the magic words. He watched the floor man point to Tran and his brother, and he felt the hairs on his arm raise a little bit.

Sure enough Tran's brother came to the table brashly proclaiming, "How many suckas we got here today? Looks like 9 of them."

Tran smiled briefly and adjusted his glasses. His brother threw down a wad of 100s on the table in a flourish and Tran quietly pulled the same amount from his wallet. A couple of the regulars eyed each other and Randall knew there would be some more open seats in few moments. So much for learning the table.

Tran played solid poker, and kept chipping up in small pots. When he wasn't involved in the hand his eyes slowly circled the table studying each player. Randall, put on a pair of reflective sunglasses so he could solely watch the kid without being obvious about it. He watched Tran's eyes linger a little longer on the lesser players and then a few hands later he'd watch Tran outplay them, either value betting a marginal hand and getting a call from a worse one, or probably betting a better hand out of the pot. On one such hand, a guy with an Alabama drawl and a cowboy hat said, "That's a little bit too much for me to play this hand with... when you pretty obviously hit your flush. Good hand kid." The man showed KQ on a Queen high board. Tran smiled politely and dragged the pot.

His brother turned the needle for him. "You folded KQ, you had a pair of queens with king kicker. YOU PLAY TOO TIGHT! You think that kid had a flush. He didn't have nothin'. You should have showed that bluff," he said to Tran, "I would have showed the bluff. I would have bet you off that hand, cowboy, with Seven Deuce offsuit."

"If you had bet son," the Alabama cowboy stared him down, "I would have put all my chips in the middle. You play crap. That kid knows what he's doing."

"I play crap?" the brother laughed. "I wouldn't have folded to the "flush" he didn't have if I were you, betcha you he had pocket 7s or something."

"I'll betcha 5 dollars, son, he didn't have pocket 7s."

"Make it 20 and I'll do it."

"Deal," the cowboy and Tran's brother stared at Tran.

Ahh... A morality test. Randall welcomed the opportunity to watch this play out.

Tran looked from his brother to the man. He seemed genuinely uncomfortable. Randall just like the brother, was willing him to "Say pocket 7s, say pocket 7s, say pocket 7s."

The cowboy came to his senses or to his latent racism, "Wait, a second, you two will proably stick together on account of..."

"On account of what?" Tran's brother stood from his seat.

"On account of... you guys probably knowing each other," the Alabama cowboy backed down a bit.

"You want the bet or not. You already agreed, what are you racist? Saying just because we are Vietnamese he'll lie for me?" He's going to chase a fish away, Randall grimaced.

"No... not that, but you guys are probably friends, I'm not from a round here, I don't know who knows who."

Tran spoke up, "I won't say what I had but I will say it was suited." Randall painfully listened to his potential prodigy play the honest poker player and thought about getting up. Lie for $20 kid, He had to stop himself from shaking his head in disappointment.

"IT WAS SUITED! Couldn't be a pair. Unless you guys are using fishy decks. Pay up son, I knew he had the flush."

Tran's brother shook his head and tossed four red chips across the table, "He might not have had sevens but he definitely didn't have the flush. I at least know that, Cowboy."

"Oh yeah, I'll bet you on that, too."

"Hundred dolla," Tran's brother flashed another c-note.

"Double or nothing," the Cowboy hedged.

"Hundred dolla or nuthin, unless you scared, you know I right! That too much for you," Not bad baiting, Randall thought.

"You're own." What's this, Randall thought to himself. What's this indeed.

The pair stared at Tran again. Waiting for an answer. Tran looked from the man to his brother and displayed deep discomfort.

"No, I didn't have the flush," Tran said sheepishly. Randall thought the kid was telling them truth but was still delighted to hear it. Cuba's eyes lit up when Tran said it and locked in on Randall. Randall nodded his appreciation.

The Alabama cowboy was floored, "Well, how do we know he's telling the truth. I need to see the cards."

"Uh-uh, bro, you had no problem taking my money without seeing his cards!" Tran's brother replied quickly. The rest of the table nodded in unison and after a pause the Alabama cowboy tossed the kid a hundred dollar bill buckling to the silent peer pressure.

"Just a hundred anyway, even if you did cheat me," Then he muttered, "We should have turned that jungle into a hole."

Tran and his brother ignored the comment.

Randall liked what he just witnessed. He thought it might be a hustle. He hoped it was a hustle. He prayed it was a hustle.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Shark Chum LuAnne VI: Tran the Man

Tran led a group of five Asian kids into the poker room. The floorman recognized him on sight and was already inputing him into the system. He knew the hangers on too and was typing quickly to get them on the list.

Tran had the hip hop aesthetic down pat. His hat cocked a bit to the side, tight flat bill, and a logo that was an Asian character. The same letter hung from his neck glittering in diamonds. His pants hung low on his waist, but his track suit jacket two sizes too big hung even lower than his belt line. He wore tinted glasses, that were neither obviously perscription or sunglasses, because the tint was so light. Randall couldn't tell if it was for effect or not.

He made a mental note, of the entire room eyeing Tran's entrance. Not exactly a complete unknown. He watched the reaction of several players, old salts that have seen everything, and the rolling of their eyes at Tran's arrival was a bad thing.

Cuba nodded at the kid as the group moved by in one racous movement, and Tran smiled, "What up skinny man." Randall slowly eyed the player from top to bottom. He didn't like three things from the jump.

"What's the problem with his tooth?" He whispered into Cuba's ear.

"Problem what do you mean?" Cuba asked. "Does he have summer teeth or something? I haven't noticed,"

Of course, you haven't Randall thought. "No, it's.. it's..."

"You know sum-er here, some are theer, summer teeth" Cuba cracked.

Randall ignored the joke, "No, his right canine... it's..."


"His tooth it's... blinged out in diamonds."

"Yeah," Cuba equivocated, "That's kind of his thing. His look you know."

It wasn't his front tooth, so that made it slightly better, but still a canine drench in diamonds was going to attract attention. Randall thought of all the good grifters that insisted on getting tatoos and instead of being inconspicious made themselves walking targets. Already, Tran stood out, what would happen if and when Randall put some real money in his pocket.

"I guess teeth can be pulled, huh?" Randall raised his eyebrows. Cuba seemed taken aback.

"You are going to pull his tooth?"

"No." Randall stewed. "Not yet, anyway."

The second thing that bothered Randall was Tran's bluetooth earpiece. Like the group he traveled with it indicated this kid was easy to access and had a wide traveling party. People in Randall's line of business needed to have streamlined personal lives. With each person in the inner circle there was an exponential increase of risk. It was much easier when a potential horse or cohort was a loner, even better a loser with a silent I hate the world attitude. So much easier to train. This wasn't going well, Randall thought.

The final thing that bugged Randall and would figure into his assesment of the kid, wasn't his cocksure confidence, good players have a little arrogance so that could be overcome, but it was his inability to conceal his intentions. He made a show of studying the tables to look for the soft money, he made a spectacle of himself as surveyed every corner, and the players didn't like him, that much was obvious. Not because he was good, but because, as Randall realized... "He's a bit of a prick, huh, Cuba?"

Cuba turned and looked at him with a smile, "Yeah, that kid is a prick."

"Okay, so let me obvious question," Randall spun on his stool facing Cuba fully, "How does a prick, that clearly has pissed off most of this room, who travels with a posse of wannabe gangsters, have a conscience? My first impulse is this kid may be too much of a live wire and untrustworthy, hardly the kind of kid we need to talk into a con, he looks like he's on the make right now... so fill me in."

"Because... I said there's Tran. I didn't say that kid was Tran. That's his brother... Johnny. The geek in the back, the guy you probably didn't even notice. That's Tran. That's our man."

Randall's eyes went from the flashy leader to the pack behind him. Four out of five were wannabes, duping the leader's gait, flashing some bling of their own, and kind of making asses of themselves. The fifth blended into the scenary. He had small glasses, a black sweatshirt, and jeans worn like they were meant to be worn.

Randall, for the first time in a long time, was surprised.

Cuba's eyes sparkled, "Yeah."

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Shark Chum LuAnne VI: Cold Cuba

Walking into Hart's Casino poker room in New Orleans, was a surreal experience for Randall. To the unknowing, the room looked like a cross-section of America. Conventioneers, tourists, businessmen, sometimes local politicians, and generally good folk sat elbow to elbow in usually cordial games. To Randall who knew by reputation or face the seedier players in town it was like he walked in with a special pair of goggles. He'd instantly spot the partners running signs at one table, a team of three or four at another table, and the grifters, sharps, lowlifes, "reformed" criminals, and degenerates spread throughout the room. Everybody else was blissfully unaware.

On one table, there was a thug who Randall knew was responsible for killing at least two people sitting next to a doctor from Peoria. On another table a bad card sharp who dealt seconds in a bar game sat next to a large women tourist. Some of the cheats even wore Mardi Gras beads like they were from out of town. And sprinkled through that lot were the local pros that somehow managed to make a living even with the minefield of deep-pockets chasing flush dreams on every hand, and crooked players attempting squeeze plays or whipsaws at every turn.

As Randall surveyed the 28 table room, looking for Taun and getting a lay of the land, the smell of stale smoke overwhelmed him, and a raspy voice whispered into his ear, "Who you looking for Randall... the next you?"

He turned and and immediately felt the hand of Cuba Perilloux slide into his own. "Where you been stranger?" Cuba's eyes sparkled. Randall took in the cartoon of a man. A cigarette defying physics hung on his lower lip, a dirty painter's cap sat slightly askew on a nest of stringy brown hair, and out from his t-shirts and shorts sprouted four un-toned tubes of flesh that were his arms and legs. His grip indicated a surprising sinewy strength and Randall returned it.

A necessary evil he thought and turned on the charm, "Cuba, Cuba, Cuba, how's life?"

"I can't complain," he took a satisfied drag from his cigarette and blew into the faces of a group of tourists walking by. "Course it'd be better if this was still a smoking room. You know I missed a jackpot 6 months ago coming to the rail to smoke."

"Smoking will kill you."

"Nah, Randall, not me, as you always said something else or somebody else will first," Cuba never lost his gallows humor, and laughed at his own wit, "Right?"

Randall, nodded and watched Stacy enter the poker room and put her name on the list and sit at the bar,"So How's ya mamma?"

"She ain't too bad, look the kid ain't here yet, he will be. Give it a couple of hours. There's a soft game on table 8. Maybe we can trap those tourists in seats 8 and 9. Like old times."

Randall squinted and studied the table. Running squeezes and passing signals with Cuba was not anything he was looking to get involved with at this time. Within seconds he was laughing to himself. The "tourists" in 8 and 9 were running their own traps working with seat 3. In fact, they were whipsawing the player in seat 1 as he watched. He grasped their system within seconds.

They weren't using the most common system of placing chips on different spots on their cards to signal to their teammates the strength of their hands but they were using a variation. He could probably break the code fairly easily but he already knew it had to do with the position they placed their cards after looking at them and the number of chips they played with in their hands or riffled on the table after doing so.

In one way Cuba was right, they would be a soft table because Randall would know their cards
every time, but he had other things on his mind. "Let's get a beer, Cuba," Randall pointed to the bar.

"This game's so soft though," Cuba raised his eyebrows.

"Let's get a beer."

Randall led them to side of the semi-circle bar Stacy wasn't on and ordered quickly, Cuba getting a Bud Lite and Randall an Abita Amber.

Cuba, had tipped off Randall about Tuan, he was kind of Randall's scouting service for Hart's casino. If Taun played as well as Cuba promised, Cuba would get a nice little finder's fee. Randall had worked with Cuba for many years, and kind of outgrew the scamp, but still fed him small tasks like this one as he was a likable rogue.

Cuba, tried to make his mark by dealing seconds and wasn't half bad, unlike Lazy though he lacked the grifter's innate sense of timing. His problem was juicing his customers too much. In fact, Randall found Cuba when the kid tried to cold-deck a room full of deep pockets in a game they played on the West Bank. Randall, of course, was setting his own trap with a more subtle game plan, when Cuba and a buddy slipped a cold deck into the game.

Randall spotted it immediately. The first mistake was Cuba snapped his fingers at a girl and in a raspy voice said, "It's Bloody Mary time." It felt out of place, and Randall had long ago cultivated a feel for when things were out of step from what they should be. The girl brought out his bloody Mary drinks on a platter and placed the platter half over the table. Randall eyed Cuba as she did it and spotted the transition that was fairly smoothly done. Under the tray was a sleeve, that held a deck of cards and with Cuba's turn to deal he quickly slid the deck out that he was using for the new one. Everybody's eyes of course were on the waitress above the table and not Cuba's hands below it. The near spill of the Bloody Mary was an obvious and needed touch that even the players not eye-cornering her cleavage had to focus on. Except of course Randall.

Randall's scam was slightly more sophisticated but he determined to see how Cuba's cold deck would play out.

Cuba turned to the player next to him and ask for the cut. As the idiot had done all night he just tapped. A small smile started at the corner of Cuba's lips. Must of have known the player to his left was a tapper, and planned on his seat placement Randall thought. Not bad.

They were playing seven card stud. When Randall got his hand he felt conflicted emotions. Wow, it's funny, he thought I was a target, kid has no clue. His top jack was matched by two more underneath. Though funny this kid had thought Randall a mark this was also troubling. This attempt looked like it was going to be a ham-fisted scam. Randall looked on with dismay as the players showing an A and K, his two targets, couldn't contain their happiness.

The cold deck, so called because, an older used deck is swapped out of play, for a deck that has been preset with cards in a certain arrangement got it's name because the cards from the new deck would literally be cold. The friction of playing a deck of cards heated them, you put a new deck into action and there was a notable absence of heat. As a result, getting coolered or cold decked also referred to having a huge hand lose to one of the few hands that could possibly be higher, because cheats would prearrange for these monsters to go to toe-to-toe in huge pots.

Randall's, anger grew as the first round of betting played out. The targets showing an A or K weren't born yesterday, and if Cuba's cold-deck, which apparently was going to consist of three or four huge hands losing at showdown to his straight flush, or low quads, played out the targets would get wise. Once the game was suspicious of foul play Randall would never be able to run his play later in the night.

He made a snap decision. When Cuba put the deck down, Randall elbowed the Bloody Mary right onto it. Cuba's eyes went wide with horror. "What the Fuck--man!" he screamed at Randall. Even better. Randall would have an excuse to take the kid outside and be alone with him.
The table leaped to help. Randall, made it worse as he "fumbled" the glass and dumped the full Bloody Mary all over the cold deck. No chance those cards would play.

He acted weak, "I'm... I'm... Sorry."

Cuba took the bait, "You fucking idiot!"

The players needed a distraction from their own big hands, they were about to get fleeced with, because they were going to be angry too. And Randall determined that distraction would be him taking Cuba outside. Plus, they knew Randall didn't take to being called a fucking anything.
Randall turned from the cards throwing his three jacks into the muck and jabbed his forearm into Cuba's throat. All 170 pounds of Cuba backtracked gasping. With his other arm Randall kept him up and pushed him out the door.

"Call me... Call ME a fucking idiot? You'll be lucky I don't kill you kid."

The other players forgot about the hand and followed them out the door.

Randall winked at his partner to let him know he hadn't completely flipped his lid.

Cuba took two hard slaps to the face, they landed like punches. His testosterone melting under Randall's ruthless slaps, he slumped against the wall. Randall kneed him in the stomach taking his wind. Cuba grasped at air and fell to the pavement.

Randall waved the onlookers away, he had done his damage.

Then he knelt and whispered into Cuba's ear, "You pull that cold deck stunt again, they'll be fishing you out of Lake Pontchartrain. Listen to me very closely you fucking leech. When we get back in there you tell that little waitress of yours to get lost with that tray. And you deal the rest of the night honest, and me and you will have a little conversation later. You do those things and I want need to lay another hand on you. You don't... and I'll drop you off the Causeway myself, tonight."

Randall, let Cuba roll on the ground and went back inside to do damage control. Before the two targets could start whining about their trip Ks and Aces they had to give up, Randall commanded the spotlight. "Now, let's get this shit cleaned up. We're playing Hold 'Em now. And I'm so god-damned pissed I don't want to hear another peep from anybody for two hands."

"We can't talk for two hands?" Randall's partner, thankfully, asked the obvious before someone else could.

"That's right, you say another word you'll be lying in the gutter with that guy," Randall menacingly eyeballed his secret buddy.

The other players didn't take to being talked to that way either. But they knew Randall well enough to give him a couple of hands to cool off. And Randall broke the silence quickly enough mid-way into the second hand with a long, tale that meandered over a couple hands, and soon the trip Aces and Kings were forgotten.

At the end of the night, Randall took Cuba on a drive and he took the kid under his wing for a bit. The first lesson he taught the kid that night was never underestimate your marks or anybody for that matter. "Don't make it obvious going for a big score all at once," he had said. Sure enough the kid was going to beat four sets of quads with a straight flush. Fucking idiot Randall told him. He made sure the kid got the picture that Randall probably saved his life by kicking his ass. Problem was Cuba never could stop being sloppy or figure out how to conceal his angles. Randall had to cut him loose at one point, but kept him around for harmless jobs like this one. Some people never change and Cuba was one of them, he was a guy that could never see the big picture even now.

Randall listened to him drone on about stealing big chips from his table mates. He'd risk getting banned from the casino, that he made his livelihood, in over stealing a couple of black-chips. Kid just didn't get it. He refrained from giving Cuba another lecture, that time had long since passed.
Then Cuba, very obviously jumped up from his seat, and pointed to a group of Vietnamese kids walking toward to the poker room, "That's Tuan."

"That's subtle," Randall thought rolling his eyes.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Shark Chum LuAnne V: Troubled Water

As Stacy's rickety truck shook from the temporary bridging of the twin span riding into New Orleans, Randall was lost in thought. The ride had been one of long silences and trivial conversations. They were almost there but there was much to be resolved. Or would it just linger longer, Randall thought as he eyed her toned calves.

A old Paul Young song came through on the radio. They didn't realize the lyrics until too late and the silent mood worsened. "Every time you go away, you take a piece of me..." Randall rolled his eyes as he turned to look out the window. This was going to be brutal. As it played on, he recognzied that Stacy couldn't and wouldn't change the channel because then it would be her acknowledging the sentiment.

He contemplated turning the radio down and discussing Tuan or the plan, but he worried doing so would be him acknowledging it. So the song lingered, trapping them. He didn't like ballads and he liked this one even less. Syrupy, he thought.

Stacy picked up the speed a little bit, as if she could fast forward the song, by passing cars.

Finally, she spoke, "The new twin span is coming along. Should be an impressive bridge." A line of cranes and concrete poles in the water flittered by. They looked promising. They looked new. That was good to see.

"Two years after Katrina," Randall replied, welcoming the interjection "and still not finished."

"Bridges take a long time to build," Stacy muttered absently.

"Yeah." Ugh, he thought to himself.

The silence returned. They knew nothing more to add to the bridges conversation.

The water lapped at the concrete stantions. As they rode it looked almost tranquil and serene with hardly a whitetop. The concrete stantions looked like giant spears coming out of the water and contrasted the still blue sky. Construction workers milled around atop each one. They didn't seem to be in a hurry. Randall searched for something to interrupt the song's lyrics.

He was going to comment on a dark mercedes with tinted windows speeding past but the Paul Young tune mercifully abated. A temporary reprieve at best as the intro of "She's Gone" by Hall and Oates started. Randall, quickly turned off the radio, "I'm tired of the 80s. So... what's your approach?"

"What's my approach? You want me to run it past you?" Stacy had a little venom to her tone as she passed another SUV.

"Never hurts to practice."

"Like run lines? I don't think so," She realigned her grip on the steering wheel, "I'm going to sit down next to this kid, flash my bankroll, flash my cleavage, and take an interest in all things Taun. I'll shower him with compliments, I'll let my eyes promise more than I'll deliver, and after a couple of hours of being impressed with his play, and doing some heavy flirting, I'll offer to bankroll him in a couple of the bigger buy-in circuit events coming in a couple of months with an extremely generous split for him. It's a piece of cake. We've done this a 1000 times."


"And... Of course," she testily eyed him. "I'll get his number and then I'll call him and tell I want to put him in up in the private game next week. Kind of a trial period, then we'll get him in LuAnne DuBois' game and the plan will unfold."

"You are a pro, this is just like the time..."

"No, Randall, we aren't going to share war stories," she interupted. "We can avoid discussing "us" all you want but this is a one time thing. It's LuAnne DuBois and that's it. I'm not coming back in the fold. I'm doing you a... no, I'm doing myself a favor."

"A favor? You need some new statues?"

"No. College tuition ain't cheap. I got all I need. Statues...," she allowed herself a laugh, "But I want to keep it and have some left over for my son."

"Look... about...,"

"About? Wow, that's loaded. No. Randall, no," She spoke resolutely, "We'll discuss it... but we won't now." No we won't. He thought.

"It," he thought to himself. He had bad car rides but never with something so heavy hanging over him. It was like going to a funeral of a guy who died only because he knew Randall. He had been to a few of those, but this was like riding with the corpse to the funeral.

As they finished driving over the last of the twin-span he went back into internal thought. He pondered things that normally never filtered into his consciousness. He didn't think he had ever loved anybody. He was always focused on the current hustle and the next hustle, and living in a seedy business as his, he never trusted anybody until the money was doled out and he was a 100 miles out of their lives. Double crosses and after-the-money-split hold ups were like traffic accidents and your house. Most accidents are within 5 miles of where the person lives. Same with "third-party" hold-ups which are usually just friends of your partner, they usually take place 5 minutes into a drive-off.

Stacy had never crossed him. He was never pulled over by masked men with shot-guns after his take. She had never taken up with a younger better Randall. He always thought he meet that guy after a job, under a ski-mask and a too itchy finger, but it never happened. Stacy could have. She was dangerous as they came. She pulled emotional strings with detachment but like a sociopath she could fake any emotion and convince you she cared about anything especially you. He always wondered if she was playing him from the start. If she truly cared about "It" or it was just emotional capital. Certainly, she got a bigger take because of her leverage.

He wondered again, if he was right when he thought for a while she was as empty and bankrupt as he was inside. Yet... her love for her son seemed sincere. He hoped it was and recognized it was the first time in a long time, he hoped somebody else had a decent honest emotion just for them and not because it helped out some angle he was playing.

He wondered if he was denying that there was always something tugging them both to each other. Most people were simply pawns to Randall, they had to be, he couldn't survive or do what he did if they weren't. It's a fools fault if you fool them, was his code, and everybody's a fool. Once you care about the fool, you're the fool.

Had he made her this way? He had let her fall for him when she was young and simply eye-candy, and then he pushed her into situations like a pimp. Pimp, the word she called him in Reno. Then, he saw she was quite devious, her assets weren't solely physical and then when he continued to step on her heart, she became calloused. Of course, she fell for a target or a recruit every now and then, yet she never double-crossed Randall. He expected to her too, but she didn't. Not once.

He didn't know why she was so loyal. And it was that loyality, touched at something in a space he long thought vacant. He prayed they wouldn't discuss "It."

As the city beckoned Randall spoke again, "I am going to test him though."

"Test him?"

"See how the pressure affects the kid. I'll be playing too. I'm going to be gunning for a win... of course but at the same time, I'm going ride that kid like he's Secretariat. The heat is coming."

"The heat... Oh, jeez," Stacy smiled again and arched that eyebrow.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Shark Chum LuAnne IV: Spear Fishing

Lazy and Stacy studied the faces on the screen carefully. They were humoring Randall but were getting something out of it. They never doubted his methods because his results were always lucrative but he did take things a bit too far. This was a war-room and most of the faces were familar to them. They knew who they wanted to fleece and who they needed to fleece."

"This is Tom 'Lead Foot' Givens, from Huntsville, former nightclub owner and sleaze peddler, now a poker player that plays the big club games in Atlanta and Birmingham, including some legit ones where the dealer isn't on his take, and plays them well," Randall flicked through slides keeping an eye on Lazy as he was keeping an eye on Stacy. "He'll be here. He'll have a lot of money. He's a principle target."

"This feels an awful lot like school," Lazy drawled.

Stacy laughed.

Randall didn't mind the comment but did the reaction. She was bordering on flirting with Lazy. Randall knew why. He chose to ignore it for the moment. He waited.

They comported themselves and Stacey broke the silence, "Lead Foot?"

"He gives out multiple reasons for the nickname," Randall answered. "Sometimes he lies and says he used to drive stock cars. He'd probably tell you that. He didn't. Though his Granddaddy did, like most of the moonshiners. Lead Foot also plays fast, lives fast, and acts fast. Just about the opposite of the one and only Lazy."

"No call for that..." Lazy feigned hurt.

"What are the other lies?" Stacy asked.

"One. His foot's a prosthetic and made out lead. War injury. He might tell that one to you, Lazy. It's not. He never served. He does have a club foot and once wore a protective boot. Never was lead though. Two, and this one has many variations but essentially boils down to giving people the lead foot when they cross him made famous by any number of incidents he'll make up. Anyway, he's a steady cautious player that usually only puts his money on the line when he has the nuts or an edge. He's not afraid to make sure he has the nuts or an edge either. Course when he's in a hand he's pushing on you hard. Giving you the lead foot."

Randall went through some of the other targets but didn't invest too much time covering the material. The meeting was lacking the key player and that was the real object of this meeting deciding who that would be. After picking him they'd review their targets more carefully. He would be the player who would scoop the biggest pot, the player nobody would see coming and nobody would know was leaving. Randall needed an unknown. He almost wished Lazy wasn't his sleeper and his player, but reminded himself only Lazy could pull off his job.

"Let's get to the candidates," he said. He toggled up another slide on the laptop projector, it was a Vietnamese kid who looked all of 15.

"This is Tran Hung Dao. He's from New Orleans. He's gifted. He doesn't realize how gifted he is. Him finding a backer to get him into a game is plausible."

"Can we trust him?" Stacy asked.

"Can you gain his trust is the more important question," Randall left it there and waited. Stacy didn't show her ire, but he knew she didn't like recruiting and as she got older and her recruits stayed the same age it bothered her on a couple of different levels. He suspected her son's ascension into young adulthood was one of them. She was a pro though, she'd get it done.

"Tran Hung Dao..." Lazy repeated. "I've dealt that kid. Tran Hung Dao. Interesting name. That's the name of a famous Vietnamese general who stopped Khubla Khan's armies."

"How do you know these things?" Randall asked.

"What is most interesting," continued Lazy, "besides probably creating hit and run military tactics, this guys' most successful victory involved what I guess you could call a con. In the battle of Bach Dan River General Tran's men in small boats baited and lured the larger Mongol vessels to follow them in successive skirmishes until they got to a shallow part of the river. As the Mongols prepared to overwhelm them, the tide went out and their boats were crippled as they sank and ran aground because of the spears Tran's army had placed in the riverbed. So the kid is named after a con-man. Oh, he was also a poet and unoriginal as the same ploy was used against the Chinese two centuries previous. Still, a con's a con."

"Again, how do you know these thing?" Randall asked.

"I read A... lot. Who's the other candidate?"

"Will we get another lecture with him too?" Stacy teased Lazy. He smiled in return. Stacy accepted it with one of her own barely glancing at Randall through the side of her eye.

"Depends on the name. Patton... yes... Rommel... certainly..."

"How about Beau Broussard?" Randall interrupted as Tran's slide came off the screen.

"Beausoleil? Because yes, I got quite a bit on a Beausoleil Brouss..."

"It's just Beau," Randall clicked the slide to show a rail-thin LSU student, "He's better known as BB2Cartman on Fulltilt, as BBCuNRaZU on Stars and BBustnDOnkeys on absolute account. I didn't think he was real, and maybe an online scammer because he can mulit-table 25 hands at the same time but he is real. He's lethal. Only problem is he's never played live."

"Do I get to woo this kid too?" Stacy arched an eyebrow, angrily but seductively. She was channeling a black and white film star.

"No. That's another problem. I think he's gay. He's been rumored to have a relationship with an Italian pro, the flamboyant one."

"Aren't all the Italian pros flamboyant?" Lazy asked. "It's in their DNA. Like Alberta Tomba."

"Silly," Stacy whispered, "Tomba wasn't gay. But... how may Italian pros are there, I can think of two the pirate looking dude and that scarf wearing kid, though I'd have to call them both flamboyant. Is one of them..."

"His boyfriend is irrelevant because he no longer has one... which makes things easier... however, his sexuality is relavant because that presents a bit of a problem. We'd need a different tactic with him then just Stacy's considerable charms."

"What's wrong with the Asian, again?" Lazy asked.

"He's got a leak."

"What a coke habit? Everybody's got a leak," Lazy rolled his eyes.

"He's got a conscience."

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Shark Chum LuAnne III: Fish Spice

Randall realized a phone call wasn't going to do the trick. This hustle was going to require Stacy, and unfortunately Stacy would require a visit. This was going to be easy.

As he pulled up the shell driveway, he eyed Stacy's ramshackle, rambling house. It one long series of additions, and far enough from the coast to survive the storm despite it's rundown appearence. Like Stacy's life itself, its add-ons sprawled across the property in fits and starts, that meandered everywhere but at the same time nowhere at all. From the outside it looked a do-it-yourselfer mess, but the inside was a different story.

She had learned to not show her ill-gotted gains ostentatiously from Randall, her beat up pick up truck parked on the grass with it's lifetime of miles was testament to that, and so too was the house. However, just because she didn't show them didn't mean she didn't have them. The first room to the house, a kind of trailer park family room that was the white trash mess of shag carpeting it should be was for prying eyes. The dogs barking like mad that rushed the chain linked fence around the back of the house took care of the other windows.

Most people hide their mess in the back of the house and greet their guests in a formal room that represents a way of living nobody lives. Stacy's did the opposite. One door led to the rest of the house and it was always closed. But opening it led to a tacky luxury of lottery winner from West Virginia. Only a few people saw past that first room. And those did were suprised by marble floors, Italian statues of woodland nymphs cavorting in the nude, a center fountain, and woven tapestries everywhere. It was Stacy's best guess of what a rich person's house should look like.

Stacy was the inverse of house in one way as all her upgrades were on the outside. And only in the inside were the vestiges of the white-trash cocktail waitress Randall had picked up all those years ago. But her outside was malleable and like the calculated messiness of her greeting room, she give her face and posture the polish of society dame or take on the baring of a butch lesbian. Randall always thought if he needed her to play a man she could pull it off even if she had to piss on a fence with their targets. Her body was her palette and her looks were always a perfect representation of who she was playing.

When she opened the screen-door, the recogntion of Randall was instant, her icy blue-gray eyes burned into him. Today, she looked like a hot housewife. A really hot housewife.

"I didn't expect to..." she started. Then she stiffened, "No, no, no."

"You haven't heard me yet," Randall said. "You don't know."

"I do know. Just like I knew in Reno. Just like I knew in Tunica. Just like I knew the last time in Pensacola, I know." Randall couldn't help but notice Stacy's ample chest as she shouted at him, she had gone up a size, she was pushing not be able to pull off classy. His eyes lingered as his mind forgot the hustle for a second. He always liked a fiery girl. He always liked Stacy. He liked Stacy a lot.

She was still protesting, "I don't do this anymore... What are you looking.... Get your fuckin' eyes up! You gave up your looking privileges a long time ago, Randall."

Randall nodded like a sheepish school boy then couldn't help himself and muttered "You don't wear that shirt if you don't want 'em looked at."

"Randall get the fuck out of here."

He smiled, it always used to melt her. It didn't.

"Alright, I'm not looking.... but, yes, you can do this."

"No I was serious when I told you the last time we were done," she spitted it out.
"We ARE done everything. Done working. Done everything. I can't this time or any time"

"You always can," Randall said, "It's what you do. And you are the best," a little flattery, she always likes flattery. But it was true. She was the best.

"No. I got... I got my son."

"Oh," Randall frowned for a second, "Call his dad."

"No. Not call his dad. Get the fuck out here." She pushed on the screen door and leaned into him.

Randall held up one finger, "You won't be saying that in 3o seconds. Call his dad."

She tilted her head exasperated, "His dad's dead. My son lives here now."

"Oh. I'm sorry to hear that," Randall lowered his head, "Well.... call his babysitter."

"Jack is 15."

"How old?" She couldn't possibly have a 15 year old. Were they that old?

"He's 15. He doesn't need a babysitter."

"Good." Randall smiled, "Let's get going we've got a lot to talk about."

"We do have a lot to talk about. . . but I have a feeling that's not what you want to discuss. Look, I can't do this anymore. I have to be here. I swore I'd never let you in my life again and now I don't even have to think about it. My first obligation is to Jack. Randall please leave."

"This one's different..." Randall kept her from closing the screen door.

"There's not a thing you can say Randall. The answer is... No!"

"It's LuAnne Dubois."


"I know..."

"But you'd need a..."

"Lazy Eddie been at the Belle for six months..."

"He's dying..." Then it hit her. "You motherfucker! Of course. Of fucking course."

"So... let's go."

"LuAnne Dubois?"


Friday, June 6, 2008

Shark Chum LuAnne II: The Sleeper

Randall Breaux's first phone call was to Lazy Eddie, a dealer at the Belle Riveria, and the most important piece of the hustle. Lazy, contrary to his name, was one of the hardest workers in the business. He grew up in a family of grifters, and after his dad had shorted him one time too many he took his grift on the road and became an "entrepreneur." He started out as a pool hustler and then moved to cards before he started to become too well known. He had talented hands and found manipulating a deck as easy as a making a combination shot on a crowded table

On his own, he'd work a city over in a couple of months. When focused on poker, he'd move into town, find the best game, usually at a country club or in back of a bar and fleece everybody one crazy night. He had a knack for slowly walking away with everyone's money. Then he'd be gone. Then he'd be just a story, the guy that had the run of his life the other night, then it was that one guy last week, then it was this dude a month ago, and then it was remember that one guy that one time who talked real slow, moved real slow and got run over by the cards. He'd never wear out his welcome but when he'd disapear he'd be on the cusp of it. Still, there were always a few players who'd never forget his face.

Rumor on the coast was that six months ago when Lazy came back into town he had gone straight. He had never been prosecuted for cheating or been arrested for anything at all but even as careful as Lazy was, people knew he won a might too much for just a poker player. Other people traveled the same circuits he did, and heard the same stories repeated time and time again. Only so many times can the same guy leave town with a bulk of the locals bankrolls before the rounders learned they had to get to town before Lazy not after him. Lazy might have been discreet, but he was by no means anonymous to the other rounders. In fact, he bordered on legend status.

So when he came to Biloxi, at first no pro would ever sit in a game he'd deal but plenty of idiots would. A room manager that owed Randall some favors and quite a bit of football money hired Lazy, and after six months of constant surveillance Lazy had proven himself even to the manager who thought Randall was running some sort of uber scam. Even the locals who knew to be suspicious saw nary a wrong move now remained seated when he came to deal at their table instead of taking their customary 30 minute walks. Lazy, actually did quite well as an honest man, he was well liked as a dealer, his patter was sharp, and the players tipped him well because he never made a mistake and could take all the grief even the worst drunk could dish out.

His best skill was cultivating his likable persona, he did everything slow except of course his job, he dealt the cards as quickly as anyone. When he talked he had the effect of putting his listener on the edge of his seat just because they were forced to wait for the every word to come. Lazy remembered everybody's names, and winked at the players when they ran a bluff. He never misread a hand and the right guy always scooped the pot. Course Lazy would always talk about what he'd rather be doing and would walk between the tables as if going the wrong way on escalator; slowly, awkwardly, making little progress.

Before his first day, a story circulated that Lazy was in fact sick, and he had gotten a steady job to pay for his hospital bills. His weekly trips to New Orleans supported that belief, so too the hospital wrist bands from Oscher's cancer ward he'd sometimes forget to pull off. This helped his tips, and even the most grizzled rounders now thought Lazy was on the straight and narrow. Lazy's weight loss was the most telling indicator that he was not long for life. There was a certain pity that the shark was now forced to give up his freedom just to fight death.

Randall smiled when Lazy answered the phone, "I only got two minutes right now... and maybe, 5 months for a future... so make it... snappy." People were laughing in the background. Randall could tell Lazy was at one of the beach bars.

Randall spoke but six words, "LuAnne Dubois. It's on. Next weekend."

"See, you got... the wrong number.. and for a guy that ain't got much time, that's a terrible thing... to do," Lazy replied, "Besides, I don't work on Fridays... bossman." More laughter.

After the click, Randall smugly thought about how carefully he had placed his sleeper in the casino and how stellar an asset Lazy was. It had been a while since he had used a sleeper but it was going to be one of his bigger payoffs. Randall and Lazy had worked a sleeper scam once before, in Berlin, Germany of all places, where he set up his horse in a fake office with a fake secretary, an ugly one who scared away even the most committed salesman or snooping local, and paid him to sit tight for six months. That was the toughest part for a sleeper. Randall had tried that gambit other times in the States only to have an action junkie or a less professional grifter cost him a lot of money by playing in town thinking a venue away from the hustle was safe. It never was. The community was too small.

With Lazy, Randall had found just the right sleeper, in Berlin he was content to "work" his 9 to 5 every day and lay low. He was an awkward looking prodigy who looked like a Lynard Skynard roadie, but for the Berlin hustle Randall had him looking like a stockbroker. Randall found him when he was still mostly a poker shark, working over yokels in a Delaware beach bar on his way to Atlantic City and the kid was almost unaware of how gifted he really was. They formed an uneasy and temporary partnership. Lazy knew in his business he couldn't even trust his father, and though that wasn't his father's intention it was a valuable lesson he learned by shorting the kid so much. Each time Randall gave him his weekly stipend, Lazy trusted him for seven more days. Randall for his part never trusted anybody especially his horses.

Randall took care of getting them passports, got the Euros they needed and they embarked on a bold plan. The Berlin scam was simple, every couple of nights they'd walk into the pool hall next door to their "office." Randall would make a show of losing money to his stud and would tell everybody how good the kid was but still be willing to put money on the line to lose to him. The bar catered to what remained of the U.S. servicemen there and sympathic English speaking Germans. He sold that the kid was the greatest pool player ever and he sold that he was dumb enough to keep wagering with him despite knowing that. He'd get drunk and yell how his guy could beat anybody in the room, of course, anybody watching would know the only guy Randall's horse could beat was Randall.

They'd also note Lazy didn't drink and sometimes would return Randall's money! He'd also always refuse a game for money from anyone else because as he'd slowly tell them he didn't gamble to make money but just to have fun with his partner. Firstly, he was a business man trying to make a go of international commodities trading, though Randall hinted they were involved in more cash friendly businesses. To everybody he met, Lazy was a square with just a little bit of talent. Some thought he was some sort of math nerd Randall was exploiting to build his ample bankroll, that bankroll combined with what looked like Lazy's average pool skills, and Randall's inflated opinion of them made them target number one in Berlin.

The real target was the bar owner. He was in the crosshairs for Randall and Lazy because he had a penchant for playing over his head for lots of money. After losing too much to a couple of gifted American army boys he stopped looking for games. He had his hands in a lot of questionable businesses, making his place a one-stop sin destination for the bored U.S. Army. As a result he had plenty of cash he didn't deposit in banks. He'd still play for huge stakes now, but only if he knew the player. He was the kind of guy, a sleeper scam would have to be used but the payout would be worth the months of laying in wait. Randall was happy to pay his cousin who was stationed in Berlin a nice finder's fee for the tip.

Six months in, Lazy, the international commodities broker, and Randall were being the usual obnoxious beasts, but this time they were celebrating and this time, for the first time, the kid was drinking. Randall was at his loudest and flashing money again. He couldn't help but brag about their huge score that day and it was no coincidence that just that night the owner was also playing. The owner who was finally ready to take the Americans' money and after catering to the less moral of the American he had adopted a bit of the European belief that Americans were arrogant and needed a to be taken down a peg or two.

He enjoyed putting them in their place and he made the loud mouthed Randall a proposition. If they played tonight he'd play for 5k a game. If they didn't play, he intimated they'd not be welcome back because the patrons and he himself had just about enough. Randall acted insulted and then lashed back they would play for 20k or nothing. This was music to the owner's ears, but he didn't think Randall had that kind of money. Randall smiled and went next door to the "stockbroker's" office. He returned with a briefcase full of Euros.

They had just completed the deal of their lives and had a lot of cash on hand. They moved to a private room and the game was on. 20 grand it was. The owner was going to take special satisfaction in finally beating down the idiot that was annoying his patrons every couple of nights.
Lazy, the drunk horse, lost the first one badly, even though the owner tried his best to make it look close. Randall doubled or nothing it, after paying out the cash. The owner agreed and Randall's guy seemed to get his barings straight. When the match was over. The owner knew he had given the stockbroker too much rope trying to make it look close to get another game and ended up hanging himself. Of course, when Randall giddy with the win and now fall down drunk taunted him for the contents of the case the owner was all too ready to play for it. Randall counted out 150k. Randall, told them he was going to double his money, but he turned the knife a little bit as this time it was he that questioned the owner if he had that kind of scratch.

The owner couldn't believe his ears. He had seen this guy for six months stink up the joint and now these idiots wanted to play him for 150k. This was the opportunity of a lifetime. He made all the phone calls he needed to get that kind of cash on hand, and within an hour it was there. So to was an extra 150k. He was glad to see the horse was still drinking and he overheard Lazy privately cussing Randall for setting up those kind of stakes. It was too much pressure, he didn't feel comfortable, he said and Randall dumbly assured him it would be alright. Fools, the owner thought, drunk fools. The owner knew this series wouldn't be close. He didn't even bother drugging their drinks, he had watched this kid for six months he didn't need to.

He was really surprised when it was close. He was even moreso when Lazy won. The kid had had the night of his life.

Lazy only won by one game and was in the zone getting just the right rolls every time. They won ultimately by the skin of their teeth but they won. At least that's what the locals thought. Randall smiled, realizing as always, winning the money was the easy part, getting out of the bar and then out of town was the tough part. When the owner had offered to play for another for 200k, the insisted they would but the next day. Randall hated to leave the money on the table, but he knew they couldn't play that game. Greed kills. If they won, they'd never leave the city. The were on a plane that night. He sipped his drink and felt real remorse that his cousin was later found dead but that was the game Randall Breaux played, high stakes sometimes meant deadly stakes.

Anyway, he had his horse in place, with far more lucrative returns awaiting them. He licked his lips and reached for his phone again, now his recipe needed just the right dash of spice.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Shark Chum LuAnne I: Fish to Fry

The hustle was on. Randal Breaux put down the phone after thanking the travel agent that he now owed a big check to. It was a simple squeeze really, Luanne DuBois was coming to town, and the room was going to be a feeding frenzy of sharks, looking to take her money... little did they know, Randal thought, the fishing on the coast this week was shark meat.

Luanne Dubois, was chum, pure and simple. Sharkbait that'd bring all the deep pockets into a casino. She led a legendary life and news of her impending arrival would make it around the coast in no time. Her husband had died young, to her he was a wannabe, a gambler with a trust fund who had enough of a bankroll to impress her, but little else. And soon enough, that bankroll wasn't enough. She was tired of him after she got finished saying the words, "I do," and it didn't surprise many that he died under strange circumstances in the French Quarter after a terrible run in a private game. There were too many suspects from all the money he ended up owing but there were also plenty of secret fingers pointed at LuAnne.

The one thing Luanne got out of her marriage and inherited from her husband was his love of cards. It was a parting infection. She also got a couple hundred thousand in insurance money but that didn't last long. She felt rich. And she played poker to prove it. She blew through the insurance money quickly at the casinos in New Orleans, the inept gold digger had become a great hole digger. She tried to dig her way out of the hole, because as much as she enjoyed cards even the casual players agreed she couldn't play for shit.

You'd think she was pretty unlucky in life. Tried to marry up, trading in her boring given name Stubing for DuBois, only to find out her husband was a denegerate and probably the black sheep of a family she never met. He was burning through the remains of his wealth buying her gaudy trinkets and trying to earn a living on the felt. To make matters worse, their boring and lifeless marriage, came to an end with his early demise. She lamented her bad luck wondering how opponents always held better hands and were given better lots in life.

When she was finally dry, without a cent to spare in her bank account, she endured two months, two long months, and she had a tough go. Friends she looked down upon when she thought she was ascending society's ladder now dismissed her without a second glance. She was an outcast and a tragic story whispered about in poker rooms. She borrowed money to eat, but would lose most of it on the tables. She tried to laugh it off, poverty was the best diet she ever had. Still, she thought she was one slot machine hit from turning it around. Her reckless spending was replaced by reckless pawning as the jewelry her husband probably couldn't afford to give her, but she insisted on receiving, became deals of the century for shrewd pawnshop owners who could smell her desperation when she walked in the door the first time. The third or fourth time they were simply stealing from her.

So yes, she was unlucky. Then in the third month after burning through the insurance money, and losing friendships over borrowed money, and three full years after her husband's passing, and having reached the bottom of the hole that could go no deeper, because she literally had nothing left, an attorney found her just as she was reading the eviction notice on her apartment.

She asked for dinner if he wanted to meet with her. He agreed, then he told her the unfortunate news of her father-in-law's recent death. He read a emotional letter written a few years before that spoke of a life of missed opportunities between father and son. It reminded her of the American Pie song by Don McClean. She was bored by the sorrow, and now only resented her passed husband even more for making her suffer through this meeting and listening to his "tragic" relationship.

Yet, within moments, instantly American Pie became her new favorite song because when the attorney finished the letter, he abrubtly stated the DuBois fortune was now hers. Fortune? She thought her husband had already burned through the lot. The lawyer told her, her father-in-law always was wealthy, and had willed his son, her dead husband, half despite his personal failings and their lifelong tension. Even better, her dead husband was to get the other half if his sister had passed. She had. Leukemia. LuAnne knew none of this. Then there was the caveat she or their nonexistent children would get the inheritance if something happend to her husband Vince DuBois.

Luanne, of course, had happenend to Vince DuBois. She asked, "Am I a millionaire?" The attorney responded she was a billionaire. While she took this in, he confided how astonishingly lucky LuAnne was because somebody as brillant as Vince's father had never ammended his will.

"Perhaps, it was from the sadness of losing his wife and children," the lawyer said. "Maybe, not changing the will didn't make their loss real. Maybe that's why he never reached out to her. The letter tears at me. They spent a lifetime in conflict and only in death could they reach out to one another. Yet, the son died first." He shook his head. She didn't respond with an obligatory expression of sadness, instead she pelted the lawyer with questions about her new money.

The lawyer, the dutiful lifelong attorney for the DuBois family, was of course disgusted by this interloper's aquisition of the fortune and though in private he schemed of ways to get a piece himself, he was angered by her unworthy windfall. He wanted to spit venom at her. He had half an idea to sue on behalf of a trust he could say Mr. DuBois had wanted to start with... him at the helm. He could forge documents, he could make it happen, but instead he gave a waxy, thin smile and realized perhaps fighting Ms. DuBois wasn't the easiest way to get his. Within ten minutes he was her new lawyer and advisor. He left his law firm with a terse phone call to the partner he thought was stealing the most from the firm and called an accountant friend of his with flexible policies.

So, unlucky LuAnne was suddenly lucky again. She was one of the wealthiest women in New Orleans and suddenly the owner of an international corporation. She was lucky because she was so wealthy and the corporation so stable it would take even her years to waste that kind of money or bankrupt the organization. Her lawyer, who was stealing a mint from her, was also business savvy enough to keep her in line and was determined to keep her from losing all of her vast fortune too quickly or to anybody but him. Plus, the more she made the more he did.

He convinced her to move to New York, to make gambling an excursion, to take up world travel and to satisfy her need to piss money away to give generously to charities. It was cheaper that way. She did give generously but not because she was charitable but because it got her on the society pages. Still, when LuAnne DuBois, went on her gambling excursions, she didn't piss money away she hemoraghed it. Like a recovering alcoholic on his first bender, the dam would come bursting open and whoever was lucky enough to play with her would get drenched.

When she came into town, poker players that couldn't get loans from anyone, could get loans from everyone if they could get a seat at her table. Sure, her chasing of hands sometimes broke even the richest pros when her miracle cards would hit and their bankrolls would be on the table, but for the most part it was Christmas on the coast. Literally her mere presence would turn an average night in the poker room to an event.

Ms. DuBois was coming to the Belle Riveria in Biloxi, and once Randal Breaux got the word out so was everybody else. Randal had some more phone calls to make. It was time for the team to come out of retirement.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Strip Poker

I fancied myself a pretty good judge of character, what I liked about Marcy was she had none of it. She seemed like she'd be up for anything, and maybe it was because she didn't have a curfew or a reason to be home, but if I could come up with a crazy idea she'd see it through.

The rest of our group, high schoolers with conservative parents who had nice surburbian houses on the right side of the tracks, we had people to answer to, images to protect, and a clear-cut future ahead of us. Yet, we didn't have fun unless she was with us.

One night, Robby snuck out a bottle of Jack Daniels, Charis her mother's gin, and Alison got some vermuth and vodka her grandmother made Manhatten's with. I had said let's get drunk, and Marcy in between Turkish cigarettes had enacted the plan. This was our first experience with alcohol and an hour into it, Charis had hit the gin too hard and was throwing up. Alison comforted her and Robby and I quarreled over nonsense. Looked like the party was over.

Charis seemed to get her bearings back after she stopped drinking and upon Marcy's advice hit the water. We were in Marcy's dad's house, he was out of town on business, though when Marcy said business she mimicked a blow-job so I didn't quite know what she meant. She told us he was a real stickler about his alcohol. He marked it with a sharpie on the bottles to make sure no one stole it. By no one, I realized he meant Marcy. Marcy said our parents would start doing the same soon enough, but for now we had to bring the booze.

We played a game called quarters, but Marcy said the hard alcohol would make it go too quick. She was right. Soon, Robby, me and Alison were also drunk. I felt like puking too. I managed to swallow my spit and after a while I got a head rush and an electric buzz. It was my first.

What now? We were blissfully drunk and excited about it. Everything seemed a little funnier and we had this group energy kicking in. Suddenly, we were all like Marcy and up for anything.

"Let's play another game!" Robby said.

"I don't have many games," Marcy responded.

We searched her room and found Clue and Mastermind. Robby fiddled with Mastermind for a little bit and Alison offered a bad suggestion about turning it into a drinking game. We passed. Marcy did find a deck of cards.

"You know how to play poker?" She smiled fanning the cards out.

"Yeah, kind of," answered Robby. "My dad plays with some of the lawyers on Saturday nights. He's let me play a hand or two."

"Is it like Bonco?" asked Charis, "My mom plays Bonco."

"I know how to play, I play it on Yahoo Games, don't you guys watch it on TV?" Alison smirked, she loved it when she knew something about anything we didn't. Sometimes I hated her, this night however, she was one of the most beautiful girls I had ever seen. Instead of resenting her, I found myself privately admiring her. I was thinking about just this and looking at her hair, when I noticed all eyes on me.

"Yeah, I kind of know how to play," I said, shrugging looking at Marcy but not really knowing.

"Okay, here's what will do," she took another long drag of her menthol cigarette. "Charis, you pair up with Robby, I'll play my own hands, Alison will play her own hands, and you, do you feel comfortable playing on your own?"

I didn't, but I said yes anyway.

Robby asked the question I wouldn't have thought to ask, "What do we do for chips?"

Marcy smiled, "We are playing strip poker."

We started to giggle. No way, I thought. We started to laugh really hard. Absolutely not. Marcy joined us in the laughter. "I'm serious. We'll use our clothes as our chips."

Charis seemed uncomfortable but felt okay enough to take another pull of her mother's gin. Robby and I drank some Jack and chased it with our cokes. Alison winced, "If everybody's playing I'll play," she looked at Charis as though expecting her cheerleader friend to back out.

Charis pulled on the gin again, this time laughing even harder, "Fuck it."

Marcy looked us over and shuffled the cards. "We'll play hold 'em. Just like on TV. You get two down cards, and there are five community cards. You bet an article of clothing when you look at your cards, if you want to see the first three community cards, same thing to see the fourth and the fifth. You can check or call or raise. Best five cards make your hand."

"So I can look at my cards and just fold?" I asked.

She nodded.

I tried to slyly eye Robby but I was too drunk to be sly and everybody caught it and laughed.

"You can not just fold," Alison said, "and make us girls play and lose our clothes."

"No," Marcy grabbed at my collar, "Absolutely not. Every rotation you'll be in the blind, and you'll start with a piece of clothing at risk in the pot. If you fold you lose it."

As the cards were dealt out, I noticed we were all suddenly assessing what we were wearing. Fortunately, it was winter, so we all threw our coats on in succession to give us more chips. Alison tried to put on her scarf but Robby stopped that.

On the first hand, I looked down at 3 of hearts and an 8 of clubs. I thought I should fold and I did. Robbie raised. Everybody folded including Marcy who was "in the blind" and she lost her her Steelers starter jacket.

There really wasn't much action. Robby's team or Alison would raised and we'd fold, the tone had gotten a little more serious, but we were still nervously having fun. I raised with a pair of 8s and everybody folded. We were kind of treading water.

I looked down at a pair of aces and fidgeted closer to the pot. I said, "I raise." Everybody started laughing harder.

"It's not your turn you idiot," Alison said, wounding me. Suddenly her hair wasn't so shiny.

"Well, I'm raising when it is," I said defensively.

"Okay, but it's my turn and I'll raise first," Marcy said and threw her sweater into the middle of the table. We sat in silence a little bit. We had all lost a hat, a purse, and a couple of jackets, but we had held on to them until the hand was over. Marcy had changed it up a bit.

Not only that, Robby and I were staring at her bra. It was a silky gray and it was full. Suddenly Marcy looked kind of hot. Alison and Charis were staring too. Then the silence was broken when Charis just started laughing again.

"Okay, I call and I raise," Charis took off her top too and then threw her shoes into the middle.

Whoa. Her bra wasn't as full but it was something to look at.

Robby, her partner, took the hole cards from her and whispered in her ear--he was pissed.

Marcy tapped him, "Um, you have to lose the clothes too.

"She already put our clothes in."

"Eh-Eh, soccer player, you have to put your shirt in too," Alison giggled.

"Bullshit," Robbie threw in his shirt and shoes. Now the girls had something to stare at too. I knew I wouldn't be able to match his toned chest.

Action was finally on me, "I still raise."

"One raise per round, we only got so many clothes," Marcy ordered.

I nodded and tossed my shirt and shoes into the middle. I had a t-shirt on too. They said that had to go as well. I said it was like a bra. Robby made a joke about me needing one. No dice they said and it went in too. I drew my legs up to chest and sat. I tried not to stare too hard at Charis and Marcy but everybody's head was on a swivel. The laughter had stopped a little bit.

It was Alison's turn. I expected her to fold, and to stop participating at any moment, but I was glad to see two bras on the evening, and considered the night a success. She smiled at me, yes she had beautiful hair again, and surprised me by quickly pulling her sweater over her head and throwing it into the middle. Then she took off her high heels. Great feet.

The flop was k of spades, 6 of hearts, 7 of clubs. I felt my aces were still good. I said, "I raise," out of turn again.

"So do I," said Marcy and worked off her tight jeans throwing them at me.

"This is great," Robby said.

"What I can't ever raise?" I asked.

Charis, pulled at her jeans, "We call." Robby again was irate and after pulling Charis back to whisper in her ear again threw his 501s into the fray. He had tattered boxers on.

"Yeah, you guys got a hand," Marcy said sarcastically.

"Umm, I'm going to call, but what about the socks?" I said. I liked how Charis' bottoms matched her bra and I tried not to look too long I was definitely physically effected by her. Marcy's panties were polka dot and a little ratty too.

Alison jumped up and shimmied out of her jeans, this time smiling even more, "I call too." I loved her again. Her underwear was like it was out of the Victoria's Secret catalog my mom got. It was hot.

Robby high fived me.

The turn brought a Queen, I said "I raise" out of turn, again, and the same betting ensued as the socks were quickly potted.

The river was a J.

Marcy looked around, "On the river you can go all in, but you don't have to put your clothes into the pot unless you lose, since we are all in our underwear, sound fair?"

We all agreed. She said, "All-in."

Charis was stumped, "We uh..."

Robby grabbed the cards from her, "We fold."

I had pocket aces, so I said, "I call."

Alison said it even quicker, "Uh oh."

"Whatcha got," asked Marcy.

"I got Aces."

"Nice hand," Alison shrugged, "but I got trip Kings" and she laid down two kings to go with the one from the flop.

"Does that beat Aces?" I asked knowing the answer.

"Yeah, give me ya'lls clothes," she cackled and got a high five of her own from Charis.

"Oh, not so fast," Marcy said. "I got what's known as a broadway, A, with the King, with the Queen, with the Jack, and with my 10. It's a straight. You two owe me your clothes."

Alison seethed, "I'm not taking off my panties OR my bra."

"What it was okay for me, but not for you?" said Marcy.

"No, it's not fair," Alison sulked, "I had three kings. You cheated nobody gets a straight. I wouldn't have called if I knew you had a straight."

"Yeah, that's poker, take them off," Marcy blew a smug burst of smoke Alison's way.

"No. I won't." Alison grabbed for her jeans.

"Umm... You are supposed to be taking clothes off not putting them on," Robby laughed.

"Fuck you, Robby," Alison snapped.

"Fuck me? Fuck you you quitter," Robby gave it back.

I sat there watching, neither undressing completely or reaching for my clothes in the middle. Alison kept getting dressed, "This was stupid anyway," she said, "playing this white trash game."

Marcy looked wounded. I didn't like Alison's pretty, shiny hair anymore.

"Alison, calm down," I said.

She glared at me, "What you like that trashy bitch now?"

"Fine quit..." Marcy screamed. "You snobby bitch, and get the fuck out of my house."

Alison stalked off to the bathroom. Marcy, Charis, and Robby were now looking at me.

"Um... do I have to?" I asked.

"No need dude," Robby said.

"I guess not," Charis shrugged.

"Absolutely, I won the hand, I get to see you naked," Marcy smiled and crossed her arms.


"Dude, I don't need to see that," Robby tried to help.

"Why not?" Charis smiled.

"No need dude, she didn't you don't."

"No, he does, it's my pot. But I tell you what, you can show me... in there," Marcy smiled and motioned toward her dad's room with her head.

I knew I liked Marcy's character.

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