Sunday, May 23, 2010

Silverback Issue Two Gulf Coast Poker Magazine part three

My palms got sweaty and my shoulders got tighter with the anticipation of having to make a decision. It only took a half an hour for me to be on the spot. While they were dealing Texas Hold ‘Em Two Times bet the flop and then the turn as he always did, he shook the other two players out the hand, and only Silverback went with him to the river. This was the standard poker game for those two. Yet, it didn't feel standard at all to me.

Action on Two Times and he stared at Silverback’s cards and right through them, I knew he was waiting. Silverback had nothing, complete garbage, and was waiting to make a move if Two Times checked. I was frozen stiff I didn’t know who scared me more. Suddenly I was playing a game ofTexas Holdem in my mind.

Two Times eyes narrowed and then he scratched his nose and practically stared at me. Begrudingly, because I had to, I sent him a signal and as I did Silverback looked back at me, the look he gave me was chilling. It was a look I’d seen him do at the table. I felt like I was one of his opponents and he was staring into me reading my cards as though my eyes were a mirror.

Two Times checked and Silverback, holding his cards even more obviously, so everybody could see I could see what he held, bet. Two Times quickly folded.
Silverback slammed his cane into the table as though he was pissed he didn’t get a call, “I need a break. Kid, come with me.” I followed him to his office.

“Sit down!” he bellowed.

Did he know I had signaled, how could he?

“You think I’m stupid kid?” he put the bottom of his cane to my throat.

“No… No, sir,” I stammered.

“Good.” He pulled the cane away. “You did a good thing tonight. Him offering you money and bringing that thug in there to intimidate you, that took some balls to do what you did.”

Before I could question he lifted his cane above my head where a row of televisions lined the wall above the doorframe.

“I got cameras for two blocks, ain’t nobody rolling up on here to steal from our game that gets away with it. You made the right decision scratching your nose. I hate cheaters. Hate ‘em. You know had you told him I had a decent hand you wouldn’t be sitting in my office right now. You’d be headed to a swamp. Not fun to sleep in a swamp you know," he let that settle in.

Then he continued conspiratorially, “What you are going to do now, is start signaling the truth. See, there a few golden rules in poker, like you can give a man a haircut every couple of weeks or so but you can only scalp him once. Ole Texas Dolly likes to say shear a sheep or skin it, same thing. I prefer scalping, rolls off the tongue. Another rule is you can ride a donkey every day but one day you ride that donkey too hard that donkey’s going to kick back. Well, I guess I rode him too hard. I forgot that you got to give him a carrot every now and then. Donkey’s got to eat too.

“Well, tonight, the donkey gets his treat. In fact, he’ll get his carrot for three more weeks, and then he’ll play the biggest pot he's ever played, and then that cheater is going to get his. That donkey’s going to get put down. You follow?”

“You want me to tip him off to your cards?”

“That’s right, and then one night you are going lie just like you did tonight. You'll signal I’m bluffing with nothing when I have him.”

“What about…” again I was in a corner.

“What about nothing. I’ll show him the tape, tell him if he ever cheats again, I’ll show everybody another tape. Man’s a politician. A married politician who shouldn’t be running around with waitresses from bars like mine and he certainly shouldn’t be trying to push my employees around. Two timing son of bitch”

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Silverback Issue Two Gulf Coast Poker Magazine part two

He looked around the street then got out of his car pretty certain we were alone.
“Silverback shows you his cards doesn’t he?” He smiled the smile most men give to their mother-in-laws when the meal they’ve just eaten was barely edible. I remember thinking how does this guy keep getting elected? To me he was as transparent as they come. He was the type of guy if he saw your hole cards he wouldn't say and thing and just rob you blind. The type that would be a super-user on those online poker

“No…not really.”

“Not really, so he doesn’t show them… but you see them?” The smile some how got bigger, “Huh, kid?”

“Sometimes… look, I’m not…”

“Don’t worry kid, I’m your councilman after all, you can trust me.” He reached out what he meant to be a comforting hand on my shoulder. I had to stop myself from stepping back from it in revulsion. He whispered, “You know what he’s got on me?”

“Got on you…”

“How he always seems to win a hand off me. I can never beat the guy. Never! What’s he got on me kid.”

“I don’t know,” I lied. “ I just read the cards on the table to him, I don’t follow what he’s doing.”

“Don’t lie to me kid, I see you watching his hands! How much does Silverback pay you? Whatever it is quadruple it, and that’s what I’ll pay you. All you have to do is scratch your nose when he’s got a big hand and touch anywhere else on your face when he doesn’t.”

“I’m sorry sir, but I can’t.” I started to turn and the comforting hand on my shoulder turned into a death grip.

“I’m sorry but you can son.” As he said that two large men got out the backseat of his car, “This is officer Mallory and officer Simpson. They are my private security. They make sure that certain things go my way. Do I need them to make sure you scratch your nose when you are supposed to?”


When I went in for my next shift, the bartender asked me what was eating me. I shrugged and got prepped for the evening session in a daze. The bartender saw me dragging my shoulders and said “Something’s bothering you kid, you don’t have to talk about it… but remember you’ll make that right decision, trust yourself you are a smart kid."

He continued, "If it’s some girl don’t worry she won’t be the only one to make you feel that way you’ll get over her and the 100 that come after her, believe me, if it’s your parents better to listen to them now then wake up one day and wish they could talk to you when they are gone, and if it’s something about the game, don’t forget that last boy that worked it ended up on a… milk carton.”

How could I forget, I thought to myself.

That night Two Times showed up with a pep in his step. He smiled a little too broadly at Silverback and even acknowledged me with a nod and a lingering eye lock. Tracking behind him was his friend officer Mallory who was sitting in the game too.

Him introduced himself as though we hadn't met and said "I normally like to play a good Sit and go but I'll try your game tonight." Silverback patted the man on the back in his welcoming way and then Mallory stuck out his huge paw toward me.

He shook my hand more than sternly and I tried not to wince as it felt like every little bone was about to break.

The night started out strange, on some nights I could see most of Silverback’s hands and on other nights he’d guard them even from me, but on that evening I saw every single hand. Two Times was all smiles despite losing some hands to the other players at the table.

To be continued...

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Silverback Issue Two Gulf Coast Poker Magazine

In our last edition I found myself becoming an apprentice to the man they called Old Grey Bear or Silverback (a name favored by a couple of young criminals that played in the game). He was a crotchety 80 year old bar owner who wielded his cane more like a billy club than a crutch, and played poker in marathon sessions with the most upstanding men in the city as well as the most wanted. The Texas Hold'em Poker games were legendary in the city.

In his bar, it didn’t matter what your name was as long as you had the cash you could play. On that fateful day, I found myself being the old man’s eyes late at night when the smoke and the dim neon light from the beer signs made it hard for him to see because I had the guts to stand up to him and tell him what he thought he saw on the board wasn’t there. In some ways, that was my first mistake and in others that was my luckiest break.

I had a limited knowledge of the game and though it took me a while to learn the rules of stud, Pot Limit Omaha, and hold’em once I did, I saw that Silverback had this innate ability to bet when his opponents had nothing and get away from a hand when they had something. On his good nights, especially when he was running good, he’d dispense a piece of knowledge or a little kernel of truth about the game and I’d the application of it in the game.

One of the local politicians would bluff at a pot twice but never three times because he believed if a man could call him twice he’d have to have him beat. The others guys at the table didn’t catch on but Silverback did. He called the man Ol Two Times to his face and the man never realized the name was related to his poker leak. I’d watch Silverback call the first two bets with any two cards. If Two Times would bet the river he’d only play the strongest possible holdings, if Two Times checked Silverback would bet any hand he held regardless of how bad it was and win the pot.

Every once in a while Ol Two Times would fire a raise back at him, and sure enough Silverback would quickly move all his chips to the center of the table. It was fun to see him just own the man. No surprise that Two Times was the first player to approach me with an axe to grind with my devious boss. One early morning after my shift I walked out the bar and to the side street where my car was parked and his black Lexus crept up on me.

When I noticed it, I jumped as I thought I was going to get jumped. After a moment, he rolled down his tinted window smiling like a game show host, “It’s alright boy, just me. Your councilman.” I almost called him Ol Two Times, but I caught myself, only Silverback had that privilege.

“Tough break in there sir,” I nodded at him feeling sorry that the politician had lost a big pot when one of the more inexperienced players couldn’t get off a hand and caught a lucky river card to end his night.

“Yes, that seems to happen a lot these days, say kid, you want to grab a cup of coffee or beer somewhere,” he arched an eyebrow.

“I’m not… No, I’ve got to be headed home I’m expected… my mom…”

“Well, you got a second kid?”

“Okay..." This was starting to feel a bit menacing. I visualized the bad actors in a reactment of me marching off to my death. Still, running was a bit out of the question despite how much I the flight response was firing in my neurons.

To be continued...

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