The older brother of one of the kids on my street and his toady were the organizers. These games set the stage for those jokers to advantage of us younger kids, for years. But in this case, they weren't squeezing us for much because the stakes were incredibly low...even for pre-adolescents.
We used red, white and blue poker chips in these games. Whoever finished with the smallest chip stack had to forfeit one Strat-O-Matic baseball card to the biggest winner.
My appreciation for poker wouldn't resurface again until my working vacation at Disney World with RBOY. At our apartment complex, I met three disgruntled Disney employees from rural South Carolina, (Bob, Ronnie and Brad). After quitting, they became waiters at Red Lobster. Later, they got me a job there too. Once our friendship bloomed, on many occasions, we had poker sessions on the floor of their place. We mainly played "DR. PEPPER," for chump change, (RBOY was invited but never played and neither did ZYMBOT when he came for his prolonged visit).
AUGUST 1974 IN KISSIMMEE FLORIDA. THAT'S ME WITH TWO-THIRDS OF THE SOUTH CAROLINA MAFIA. AT OUR POKER GAMES, THERE WASN'T A LOT OF MONEY CHANGING HANDS BUT I THINK I ALWAYS CAME OUT AHEAD.Oddly, I was intimidated from playing poker during my Las Vegas years, (1979-1984). What makes this even stranger was that the World Series of Poker was a budding giant. Several of my friends and acquaintances were players or dealers; like SK28 and John Imperiale. But their horror stories made competitive poker against strangers seem to be anything but fun.
THE "WSOP" EVOLVED FROM BENNY BINION (IN 1970), INVITING THE SEVEN BEST (MOST KNOWN), PLAYERS FOR A SINGLE TOURNAMENT. WHEN I LIVED IN VEGAS, THE WSOP HAD GROWN. BUT STILL SMALL ENOUGH THAT BINION'S HORSESHOE ONLY HAD TO TEMPORARILY REMOVE A FEW BLACKJACK TABLES FROM A REMOTE ALCOVE OF THE CASINO TO ACCOMMODATE IT. IN 2010, THE MAIN EVENT, WORLD CHAMPION'S PRIZE WAS NEARLY NINE MILLION DOLLARS. TODAY THIS INCREDIBLE, TEXAS HOLD 'EM TOURNAMENT IS HELD IN A CONVENTION HALL IN ORDER TO SUPPORT CLOSE TO 20,000 ENTRANTS.
The one time I was lured into a Vegas poker game was by LTJEFF. Two of his fellow Mint Casino craps dealers, ran a private Cajun poker game called, Boo-Ray. The gracious hosts, (Big Jim and Buffalo Joe), supplied an array of cold cuts, salads and other snacks, plus a fully stocked bar. Later I found out that for discrete guests, a wide range of narcotics were available too.
This friendly game had two major rules. First, each pot had a small rake to defray the cost of the "refreshments." Rule two was anyone who reneged had to match the pot.
While I was playing, when the antes were low, a department store manager reneged and everyone laughed off the four-dollar error. But as the night wore on and flow of liquor etc. took effect, the once cautious group became sloppy as the antes skyrocketed. So when the ante money created a fifty-dollar pot, the atmosphere became mercenary when the next sap, (one of Jim and Joe's casino supervisors) reneged. At that point, I thought it prudent to bow out.
I stuck around and watched for another hour. By that time only fifties and hundred-dollar bills were being used. That's when the hosts (who were both winning a lot), cashed a drunken airline pilot's $650.00 payroll check. I knew that sober Jim and Joe were grossing less than $300.00 a week, so this maneuver opened my bloodshot eyes. Soon, I became convinced that they were weasels by their shared procedural reaction, on how their victim should sign over his check.
The next day, I asked LTJEFF if Jim and Joe were in cahoots and if the whole game was a scam; he shrugged. Weeks later, LTJEFF confirmed my suspicions. He told me that Big Jim kicked Buffalo Joe out of the house when his girlfriend moved in...and how frustrated Joe broadcast their scheme to bilk the Boo-Ray players with cheating signals. He also spelled out how they made a separate chunk of cash by gouging everyone for the grocery money.
In 1984, I moved back to Canarsie while my New Jersey gaming license was being processed. During that year, RCC and JEFFDDS included me in their monthly poker game with other boyhood friends. These social events had venues in Brooklyn, and Staten Island as well as Edison and Princeton New Jersey.
This was the purest form of relaxing entertainment. Nobody got hurt and the games like, "BINGO FOR IDIOTS," were full of laughs.
In 1992, coworkers from my current job started a poker game. The last of the charter members have either moved away, changed days off or became unavailable for a million reasons. So with PCSHMEE set to move to California next month, I formally declare that our little social club, after a nineteen year run, has become defunct. Further, I decree that this blog serves as a eulogy and a Requiem for my dearly departed night out with the boys.
I fondly remember FRANKIERIO of fashionable Somers Point being the first host. He served chili and white rice. The second game boasting barbecued ribs was in Tuckerton, at KURUDAVE's. For the most part, we rotated the hosting duties among the generous core of originators.
To fill in the empty seats, tons of coworkers, relatives, neighbors and friends of every nationality, race, religion, gender and sexual persuasion were included. We even included our fair share of space-cases...from other planets, (most of them were never invited a second time).
In the early days, we put in an eight-hour shift, (9:PM-5:AM). The night was so much fun that the cards frequently interrupted the hilarity. Along with coffee and cake, we had half-time entertainment ranging from cartoons, to porn to music videos....we even had a girl, (Sapphire), from work volunteer to be a topless cocktail server.
THE ACTUAL POKER ASPECT OF THE GAME WAS STILL IMPORTANT BACK THEN. ERGO, OUR TOPLESS BEER WENCH WAS VOTED DOWN 4-3
We used a dealer's choice format. My favorite poker game was called, "DEUCES, JACKS, THE MAN WITH THE AX." It's a seven-card stud game featuring nine wild cards, (all the twos and jacks plus the king of diamonds). However, a pair of natural sevens beats anything. And if that wasn't enough, the five of spades was the "death card." That meant that no matter how good your hand was, if you turned that card over, you got kicked-out of that hand and had to add a dollar to the pot.REGARDLESS OF THE SITUATION, THE FIVE OF SPADES, A.K.A. THE "DEATH CARD," WAS GUARANTEED TO CAUSE SPONTANEOUS LAUGHTER AT THE EXPENSE OF ITS PREY.
I adopted the death card concept from the South Carolina bunch. After years of careful cultivation to make it the wonder that it now is...maybe I should copyright it and formally call it my own. Hell, there's nothing wrong with making a few extra bucks for something so pleasing. My point is proven by the fact that that element had been incorporated into many of our other poker games.
Some of the alumni players from the last nineteen years who read my, "MORE GLIB ThAN PROFOUND," blog include: CGS39, DOMT, MAL, MIKE123, BLAZELION, RJKL, RSKB102, WTW and TOMD. After a recent survey with many of them, it seems that the following was our most unusual and memorable night.
Ten years ago, on a hot summer night, CGS39 hosted his first game. I was driving PCSHMEE and KURUDAVE through the Jersey boondocks to Little Egg Harbor. On unlit Stage Road in Ocean County, we went quite some time without seeing anything relating to civilization. We were doing about sixty when suddenly the black pavement ended and gave way to what looked like a dirt road. I slammed on the brakes unnecessarily because the dark-colored roadway gave way to a whitish pavement.
That scare left the three of us on edge plus we had gone five miles through the wilderness without seeing a house, business or even a sign. KURUDAVE made a, "BLAIR WITCH PROJECT," reference which spurred PCSHMEE to call ahead for some reassurance. CGS39 laughed at us, called us names and said, "When you pass over the Garden State Parkway, I'm a half mile up on the right."
CGS didn't believe in screened windows. While he introduced us to his neighbor Corey, we were dodging huge flying insects. CGS was in the middle of telling us that he just dusted off his dirt bike from when he was a kid when MAL showed up.
MAL interrupted CGS's story. He was referring to the large amount of flying bugs when he said, "All we need is an all Japanese cast, our mouths to be unsynchronized to the dialog and a cameo appearance from Raymond Burr and we'd have the makings for another "MOTHRA," movie.MERCHANDISING FROM 1964's , "GODZILLA vs. MOTHRA."
CGS continued by saying that he hadn't taken the dirt bike a hundred feet behind his property when an armed forest ranger...who looked like Barney Fife in a Smokey the Bear hat, stepped out from behind a tree and blocked his path.
The ranger's gun hand shook violently as he asked CGS for a motorcycle operator's license. CGS had no ID. The license he once had, expired long ago. While staring down the barrel of the vibrating service revolver, he tried to explain the circumstances and pointed to his house. The shaky ranger only nodded. When he finally spoke, CGS was detained with a ten minute lecture highlighted by a segment on helmet safety. He politely listened and prepared to humbly accept the stiff warning. So it really pissed him off when Ranger Fife wrote two $75.00 tickets.
When MAL heard the word "detained," he encouraged PCSHMEE to repeat for everyone, the nightmare story he had been told. Apparently, when going through Canadian customs in Manitoba, the staff spot-checked PC's suitcase. An undeclared item, (a gift wrapped, $300.00 wristwatch for his Internet girlfriend) was discovered. After getting caught, PC compounded their ire by lying about its value. To minimize his tax exposure, he under-exaggerated the cost. Moments later, the actual receipt was unearthed from his wallet. PC then cemented his wise guy's fate by saying, "I thought you meant the wholesale price."
PC's punishment included being officially "detained." Which meant that in addition to being held in custody for hours that night, all future trips into the "great white north" would require him to "check-in" with Canadian authorities. Additionally, he was charged a higher tax rate on the item and was heavily fined.
When PC finished, CGS's neighbor Corey said, "That's nuthin'! When I was a teenager, I was crossing into Canada at Windsor Ontario and made a drug smuggling joke. Some Dudley Do-Right impersonator handcuffed me and led me to a small room. He and another Canuck stripped me, attached my cuffs to a metal hook bolted to the floor and did a full body-cavity search on me. Even though they found nothing, I was detained and forced to pay a fine."
So during our poker game, in addition to incessant, dive-bombing moths, nobody sat pretty after hearing Corey's story. Later while driving home at 4:AM, with MAL following behind us in his car, PCSHMEE, KURUDAVE and I joked about body-cavity searches.
When we crossed Stage Road's white pavement back onto the blacktop, an antlered deer appeared in the distance. I can still recall the exact angle of its head and how its feet straddled the yellow median line. I hit the breaks and high-beams at the same time...and the deer vanished. Not ran away...vanished!
PC said, "What was that?" KURU said, "Did you see where that guy went?" I said, "It was a deer but I don't know where it went." PC said, "No, it was a ghost and it de-materialised...UP!" KURU said, "You're both crazy, it was an old geezer limping into the woods." I pulled over and flagged down MAL. But he saw nothing. We were all too tired to argue. To this day, everyone remains adamant to what they saw...but we have no answers. However, the one thing we all agreed on was... that night was the most bizarre poker game and that the going home "deer" incident was even crazier.
Who knows? Maybe I'll find another poker game. But the truth is, this blog is a symbolic funeral. If you were here, you'd see I'm typing in a pair of black boxers and a black, fishnet, wife-beater tee-shirt. Because, the "Pee-Wee's Playhouse Theme," is long gone. During this mourning period, that silly music has been replaced by the interwoven tapestry of much louder bagpipe dirges and the tolling death knell of far away bells.
So while I cling to the positive notion that PCSHMEE is going to a better place... I along with all his poker buddies wish him every success and happiness. Nevertheless, with my head hung low, I officially proclaim the death of the death card and the end of a great night out with great friends.