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Here's an essay I wrote for my creative non fiction class. It contains some naughty language and some violence and so, you know it's going to be good. I also urge you to proceed with caution. If you don't like bad words, exercise your right not to read this. That's a much nicer reaction then flagging it.
Also, since this is in the nonfiction section, that would indicate the story is true. I feel like I shouldn't have to explain this...
This story has undergone some minor revisions. I may post those here, or I may make you buy my forthcoming nonfiction collection. I haven't decided yet :-)
This is dedicated to ThoughtSandwiches
PS: I'm currently working on a fictionalized version of this story tentatively titled "Running straight"/ Stay tuned...
Don't play poker like the characters in this story! Learn from These Guys!
Learn about poker by watching Matt Damon, Ed Norton and John Torturro
“Why the fuck you play your cards like that?” he said, looking directly at her. He slammed his cards down, passed his chips across the felt topped table gruffly and sat down next to his skinny companion. “Bitch”
My ex-wife and I had been working the table for several hours and we were down to just the two of us and one the one gentleman, and I use that term lightly, whom we had never seen before and who had just peppered the room with obscenities directed at us. We were regulars at this casino and as regulars, we made friends with other regulars and had unspoken rules about taking money from each other. Certainly we’d do it—and quite often did—but, we’d never work the table against each other and if there was a newbie or a tourist at the table, they became the targets of our poker prowess.
We were at the Fiesta rancho, an off strip casino in North Las Vegas. Surrounded by dings, bells, music that was almost too loud, no clocks, cigarette smoke and the dull clinking of casino chips, my ex-wife leaned back in her vinyl seat and began to stack his chips with hers in an exaggerated motion.
Since poker, unlike other casino games, is a game where players play against other players and not against the house (the house makes money off the percentage of money played on each hand in what’s called a “rake”), it was not uncommon for regulars to team up with each other and take money from unsuspecting tourists, using nonverbal cues to increase the size of the pots and tip our hands. It wasn’t exactly fair, but it was certainly within the realm of legality. Plus, the dealers and pit bosses all knew us, and didn’t seem overly concerned with stopping it, so long as we were discreet.
Plus, we were better tippers.
My ex-wife and I were experts at these nonverbal cues. It was when we communicated the best, and the only time when we truly acted as a team towards a unified goal.
It was about two am—still relatively early for us, but quite late for a sleepy off strip casino—and this gentleman, again, lightly used, was a terrible player who obviously had no concept or appreciation of the value of money. He was sitting next to a skinny, sickly looking woman whom I assumed was his girlfriend or wife, although, in Las Vegas, it’s quite possible he’d paid for her companionship that evening. Players like him, while an absolute disgrace to the game of poker, were also dangerous and prone to taking gobs of money off of more polished players. He wouldn’t fold a hand even if you showed him that you had him beat. It was a dick measuring contest that he would refuse lose even at the expense of losing hundreds upon hundreds of dollars. To this point, my ex and I had managed to keep our relationship secret to him and our bankroll relatively even.
But he was still annoying the hell out of us with his horrific play and we wanted to take his money badly.
The cards were dealt and my ex tipped me off that she didn’t have much but was going to bluff her way to victory. This was always a risky move in limit poker and was certainly even more risky against a player as loose as he, but I conceded to her wisdom. Taking her cue and acting ahead of her, I raised the pot. Our opponent re-raised me and she, in turn re-raised him. I folded and he capped her raise.
I don’t remember what he had, or what the board showed but, I do remember, after both players had gone all in, my wife hit a running straight on the river and beat his hand, taking the majority of his chips. It was a terrible play and he had every right to be angry, hence the dialogue uttered to begin this account. And, even though his reference to her being a “bitch” was largely accurate, it still hackled me. I was still married to her and I still had some sense of duty to defend the ladies’ honor. I was the one who gave her the ring she would pawn later that year. I had was the only one who had the right to call her by that name. I generally chose not to execute that right.
As she stacked the last of his chips and he pulled out another one hundred dollar bill that he would turn into chips that we would soon possess, I looked at him. “What did you say?”
He looked at me with a sneer and growled. “I didn’t say nothin’. “ Then, changing his story on the spot, he said “I mean, I was talkin’ to her,” he nodded towards the sickly skinny girl, who nodded and shrugged resignedly.
Sensing the rising conflict, the dealer, Jim, looked at the man sternly. “No, sir. You were looking right at her when you said that!” He said, pointing to my ex.
“The fuck I did!”
“You watch your mouth. That’s my wife!”
“Your wife’s a fuckin’ bitch, then.”
At this, I did my best Bruce Banner impression and leaped to my feet. With apparent super human strength, I’m not the biggest guy, and he was quite scrawny, though lanky and long-limbed, I reached across the table, grabbed him by the collar and dragged him onto the table. I proceeded to punch him in the face repeatedly until security came and broke us up. After Jim relayed what happened to security and the pit boss, the man I assaulted was banned from the casino for life and we were asked to go home for the evening.
We came back the next night and for the rest of our married life did not encounter another incident even remotely similar to this. When my wife and I split, roughly a year after this incident, beating the crap out of that man was one of the few regrets I didn’t have.
She never thanked me for defending her honor.
all rights reserved. copyright Justin W. Price Feb 15, 2012