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."

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