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...