"Look at him," he groused. "Fucking Fish."
I followed Tony's finger and there he was striding out the other the exit, Morty the accountant. His wallet fatter at least for the moment. He lit up a thick cigar self-satisfied in the crisp autum air then leaned on the railing.
"At least, he's not leaving..." I said. Happy to that fact.
Tony mumbled, "Fucking fish, fucking fish! That fucking guy." He pushed out a thick cloud of cigarette smoke into a crowd of mostly women walking into the casino. He got what he wanted: angry glares and a collective admonishment.
He half lurched at them then defiantly mouthed "What? What? What?"
The ladies drew in closer as they neared the door.
"Asshole," one said to another.
"I heard that. I heard that!" he screamed.
"Tony..." I whispered and patted his shoulder. He spun quickly cocking a fist.
I raised my eyebrows and he lowered it, shaking his head. He said "Don't man," and removed my steadying hand. "Man. Man. Just don't."
"Can't let them get to you," I said trying to steer the conversation back.
"The fucking Junior League that just walked in?"
"No," I said, " The fish. That fish."
The thick aroma of Morty's cigar wafted over. I didn't have the nose for it then, but had I, I would have known it smelled as cheap as his suits looked. Didn't matter Morty the accountant, Morty the Fish, relished it like it was a hand rolled Cuban cigar.
"I don't know how he does it man," Tony shaked his head again. I could see sweat beading up between the thinning hair of Tony's pate. "He just fucking calls and gets there."
"You want that ca.."
"Don't!" He stopped me with an angry wave of his hand. "Don't fucking give me 'I want that call' speech. Not when it's fucking 3,000 and rent is due. I don't want that fucking call. Don't give me the results oriented spiel. The result is the only thing that matters today."
"Fine..." I went through the catalog of encouragements and they all rang hollow. I stood there and nodded. Time to just listen. I knew what Tony was up against and to get the much farther into the hole when he should have been well on his way digging out it made me literally hurt on the inside for him. I thought I about suspending my rule about loaning players money and then I quickly remembered all the times that went south even for guys like Tony. Even for guys that couldn't be beat one week. A year straight the most feared player in the casino. The guy always walking racks back to the cage.
He sucked at his cigarette. At least he was taking a break. Many guys can't leave the table after absorbing a hit like that but Tony could. It was like the hits bounced off of him like bullets to Superman. Well, normally they did.
The last two weeks everything had been going normal. Then a Sunday night, he sat in the only game running a PLO game and ran really bad. I didn't see it for myself, but I heard he couldn't get a hand to hold. He kept rebuying. Then he jumped back into his regular No Limit Hold'Em game a day later but it was like a fuse was tied to his bankroll. It barreled forward burning up buy-ins left and right.
Some of the time I saw him first hand not be able to win a hand. Usually ahead but never ever holding. The dealers winced as they put down the beats and Tony grew ever more irritable.
I had head 17k down by Wednesday. Thursday he was seen in the pits. Not Tony, I said. Yeah, Tony they told me. Rumors were he blasted off 50k in the week. I couldn't tell if the number was an exaggeration or an underestimation. Everybody had seen him losing.
That morningas I rolled in for my shift as I referred to it, I saw him at the loan table. Bleery eyed and a vacant stare I could read his face. The 50k was probably well under the actual amount. "How deep?" I asked. He got up from the game and we took a walk
"We--I'm at the bottom of my roll," he said as he steered me to Starbucks on the other side of the casino.
"Take a break," I said.
"This game, they are giving it away," he shook his head. A break wasn't happening.
"Yeah... how much they give to you?" I asked.
He leveled a glare at me and didn't refuse the cup of coffee I ordered him.
"No, these fucking fish can't fold," he told me. "Jump in. The action is great."
We finished our coffee and he shared some of the bad beats he had slogged through with a little bit of gallows humor. When we got back a seat was open.
Sure enough, Tony wasn't lying. Morty the fish and five other randoms that didn't have a fold button formed a wall down one side of the table. A veritable buffet that would reward patience and discipline. The kind of game you dream about.
An hour into it, while watching Tony making moves he didn't need to make and treading water, I got three streets of value against a Shriner in for a convention who flopped a flush draw made a pair on the turn, and didn't believe I had been betting my overpair (Kings) since my three bet to start the hand. Tony nodded and to his credit even mired in what had to be the worst run bad of his career seemed happy for me to win. Even though he knew he wasn't getting those chips from me, and the Shriner was about to call it a morning, he still smiled at my success.
Then Morty the fish with a pile of ill-gotten chips vomited a stack of black $100 chips when his bottom two pair got counterfeited on the river and he couldn't let it go. The nit who had Queens might as well have put that 2k in a vault.
I raised an eyebrow at Tony's direction. He was buried in his phone. Thumbing through twitter as though somehow an answer was forthcoming.
"Tony," I whispered as Morty loudy explained his (lack of) thought process. "It turns around today."
Tony turned to eye Morty's black and green chips, "Yeah, you right."
Tony then dug into his pockets and tossed three $500 chips onto the table. I could tell that's all his pockets held. He had 3k in front of him.
Even with the loss Morty had $3500 left.
The next hand, Tony opened to $40 from under the gun. I spied two red 9s. I quickly ruled out three betting and opted to just call. I wasn't trying to isolate Tony. I wanted one, two or three of the fish behind me to call. Why not set mine with 9s.
The waterfall started with my call and chips tumbled into the felt behind me. Morty in the big blind shrugged and called, too.
6 players meant about $240 in the pot.
The dealer burned and flipped the flop with a Jack of clubs leading the way in, followed by an Ace of hearts, and a four of diamonds. Morty sighed and checked.
Tony seemed engaged and checked behind. I knew I was checking 9s but wondered why Tony wasn't betting. He should be leading here with his AceX combos. No real draws on this board. Yet, I knew Tony he definitely had something.
Wow, he must be really strong. Pocket Aces or pocket Jacks. He's flopped top or second set. Anything else he'd be trying to trim the field and not let a Broadway draw get there. He probably should have bet anyway. These passive fish might not...
The lady from Baltimore, who laughed nervously whenever talking, led out for $120.
What do I know, I thought. Tony inched ever so slightly closer to the table.
She has an Ace. Tony must have second set a set of Jacks and is hoping an Ace would bet. Okay. Let's go.
After two folds, the burly plumber from Houston called and shifted in his seated. Then Morty sighed again. Strong or weak? I asked myself. Weak. That's authentic not any of the bad acting Morty employed when flopping the nuts. He's calling with a very weak holding but he likes the ever building pot.
The pot was $600 and now back to Tony.
"Plus $400," he said quietly to the dealer as he threw out 5 black chips and four red $5 chips in an assertive confident fashion. Definitely... pocket Jacks.
I almost forgot I was still in the hand and after a pause remembered to muck my meaningless 9s.
The lady bit at her lip and played with her bigger chips. Then laughingly said, "I call." There was the slightest bit of a question in there. She's strong but worried she's not strong enough. Ace Jack? I thought.
The plumber looked at his remaining stack of 1000 and then mucked his hand, "Too much for that hand." He immediately had to confide to the man next to him what he let go.
Morty shook his head and threw bad money into the pot.
Well, Tony was on his way. He had gotten $1400 into the pot with a set of Jacks, at least that's how I saw it.
The dealer fired a turn card. 5 of spades. Total brick.
Morty quickly checked and Tony quietly said "All in" and I could tell he was praying one or both of the call stations would get it in with him. It was an overbet but both players were the type to pay him off.
All eyes went to the lady who pursed her lips and stroked her neck. Definitely thinking about folding, I thought. Then she looked at her cards. "Maybe, I should fold this," she said, "but hey," another laugh, "My daddy always told me you can't win a giant pot by folding." Her remaining stack of $1200 went into the pot. Tony closed his eyes for a second
Morty pushed at the thick glasses that had slid down his thin nose and sneered at the board. The glasses slid down again. "I know I'm not good here."
"You are not," Tony snapped to my surprise. Was he trying to goad a call? No, it looked like he wanted Morty to get out of the way. He was running bad. Chasing away a customer.
"I'm not," Morty nodded. "But this pot is what..."
"It's just under 4k right now,"
"4K?" Morty nodded. "I've never won a 4k pot. Ah, fuck it I call."
The lady said, "I got Aces and Jacks two pair," and laid her cards down for all to see.
She looked at Tony, he didn't show his hand but told her, "You are behind. You need an Ace."
Morty pushed at his glasses and watched the dealer burn and turn the river. 2 diamonds hit the felt.
Tony flipped over his pocket Jacks and all eyes turned to Morty, as the lady said, "Oh Jeezh," and started to collect her stuff to leave.
Morty nodded, rocking back and forth. "Tony, you remember when you called me terrible," he said with a sneer.
"What's with the speech?" Tony responded. "Just muck your hand or turn it over if you can beat me."
Morty kept rocking and glared at Tony, "I think you called me what a call station? Right? A terrible call station"
"Show you hand, sir," the pretty Asian dealer demanded.
Morty ignored her, "You said I'd be broke in a month playing the way I do. You remember that? Just calling."
"Yeah, I guess," Tony said maybe starting to fear the worse.
"I'm not broke yet," Morty said tilting his head. He rolled his tongue against his Chicklet like front teeth.
"It hasn't been a month yet, Morty, give it time you'll get there," Tony dejectedly looked up to the heavens. He knew it was coming. I knew it was coming.
"No, it hasn't but see if one of us is going to go broke this month..."
Tony got up from his seat, and eyeballed the dealer, "Hold my spot," She looked confused and glanced down at his set of Jacks.
"...it's more likely going to be you," Morty flipped over Ace Three off suit. "Straight Ace to the Five," he said smugly. "That's why you call!"
The dealer pushed up the cards and looked sadly at Tony who was already walking off.
"Yeah, get some more money," Morty giggled.
Tony stopped and spun around. "You think that's a good play? You think calling with Ace rag was a good play? When you were behind a set and top two? You needed runner runner. Perfect, perfect."
"Hey, it worked," Morty smiled and dragged the pot in.
Tony stopped pacing, "This is it bud. That $600 I just put on the table that's it. I'm dry after that."
"You told me you had a hundred, a hundred and twenty k in your bankroll," I suspected it but I still struggled to believe it. "Tony broke?"
"PLO... Black Jack.. Hold'Em.. it's been insane, it's like trying to hold water, I'm just bleeding out," he just kept shaking his head: disconsolate.
I ached. I steeled myself for the inevitable but it never came. No, I realized, today he won't be able to ask for it, but tomorrow or next week he would. He'll ask for that loan he's advised me 100 times over to not give out to others with that same desperation in their eyes. No, today he'll try to make something out of $600. He asked if I was ready to go back. I said no, I need some more air but the truth was I couldn't bare to watch the finale. If it happened today or not.
I watched him walk back into the casino and I asked myself if I could ever spin out of control like that. The consummate professional down to $600. Then Morty walked up on me, reeking of his cigar.
"Look at him," he sneered in Tony's direction. "Fucking fish."