Sunday, July 09, 2006

Welcome To The Boomtown...

Posted by Al Pastor

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Why doesn't this sonofabitch let me italic. Anyway, the events you are about to read took place several weeks ago. I have been trying to get them down since, but shit just keeps happening, that I feel like I should include, but the task is that much huger, and the already inadequate time becomes further inadequate. Coulda been Senator Corleone, coulda been Governor Coreleone. Just wasn't enough time, Michael. Mixed with the chronic writer's block (its own kind of Dantean Snowball/self-fulfilling prophecy), the apocryphal Amotivational Syndrome associated with the reefer (from which I do not suffer because it does not exist), my need to spend several hours a week reading poker theory/pulp science fiction/essays on INFINITE JEST, an addiction to DAWSON'S CREEK reruns, my cat's insistent muelling for my attention, plus the demands of internet pornography, and I barely have enough hours in the week to get over to the Oaks Club to lose my allowance. But, I have been wanting to write about this event, in this here venue, since it happened, so here it is.

Unfortunately, I have now pissed away all-the time I had allotted trying to make that run-on sentence above, if not forgivable, at least readable. But, immediately below, should you choose to continue reading, and should I come back at some point in the near future and continue writing, you will find the story of the most money I have ever had in my pocket that actually belong to me...


I should have known it was going to be a good day. Right out of the house, on my way to get coffee, I found an immaculate copy of a 1971 mass-market edition of THE BIG SLEEP. It was 06/06/06, and all the kids in the coffee house were dressed all in black and wearing devil horns and zombie make-up. I withdrew $80 from my bank account, putting me in a position to overdraw or even bounce my rent chaeck if it were to come through before I could replace the money, but I was pretty sure it wouldn't.

I went over early, I was on the bridge by about 11:30. There is always a game at the Oaks Club, but before lunchtime it isn't very lively, plus, sometimes whenit is less crowded one waits longer for a seat because there are fewer games running. But around noon there is a little rush as guys come in and play for as much of their lunch hour as they can while they shovel fried rice or corned beef into their faces. My reason for leaving early was sort of extra-Oaks though. My favorite discovery of the last 6 months is BAKESALE BETTY at 51st & Telegraph, and my favorite thing that they make is a fried chicken sandwich that is so perfect a construction as to make me want to evoke Plato. Vinegary jalapeno cole-slaw and a crunchy chicken breast on a crusty sour roll. Goddam. The only bad thing about the whole situation is that I am not the only one who knows about it, and the place gets crowded between 12 and 1, and by 1:30 or so the chicken runs out. So, I went over early to beat the rush, and I did. I ate my sandwich in the car listening to Philosophy Talk. The topic was Zen Buddhism, which I appreciated even more than I usually appreciate Philosophy Talk, because "Zen" is one of these words, like "literally", which has been mis- and overused to the point where it almost needs to be stricken from the language, except that it really does mean something that you really do have to express sometimes.

I got to the club and into a game by about one o'clock. Table 12, seat 3, where I bought in my $80, needing to cash out at least $60 to redeposit at the end of the day to cover my rent check. As the day progressed, it looked less and less likely that that would happen. At some point in the previous month, I acquired a $2 chip, I held onto it because I liked its dove-gray color. I found, and still find, its color uncharacteristiclly subtle for a gaming token, and I just like it, so I had been using it as a card protector. On this particular afternoon, I could not win a pot unless all my money was in, and this $2 chip was the last chip I would bet in these all in situations. When this chip went into the pot, I would win, but I would have to lose all the rest of my money to get o this position. It happened once while I was in seat 3. I lost and lost, and then I put in the last of my money including the $2 chip, and won a $60 pot. Then I had money to play with, which I would proceed to lose. At some point in the afternoon I moved to seat 7, where the pattern continued.

It is called a bad-beat jackpot. It is really an excuse for thw house to increase the rake, but the players love it, because it sometimes results in a windfall. It works like this: after the flop of every hand, the dealer collects the rake, the house's cut of the pot, $3 in a full $3-6 game, and she also picks out $1 to which goes to fund the jackpot. The jackpot hits when a player with a really good hand, aces full of 10s or better, gets beaten by an even better hand, 4 of a kind or better. Both players must use both of their hole cards in their hands, and the "loser" is actually the winner of the jackpot. The "loser" gets half the pool, which in theory is progressive, but in practice, at the Oaks Club, is $15,000. So the loser gets the "big end", which is half of the pool, $7500, and the "winner" gets the "little end" $3750, and the other players in the hand split the remaining $3750, which works out to between $400 and $700, depending on how many of them there were.

So, I make my move to seat 7 and continue losing, thinking about how I am going to cover my rent, and whether I can borow money from work or from my parents to go to Los Angeles the next weekend to attend the wedding of one Box Daddy. The button had just passed me and I had $9 in front of me, including my$2 chip, when I looked at my cards to find an ace and a jack. Ace of hearts, jack of spade, if I am remembering correctly, but I could not swear to this in a court of law. Figuring that this is the best hand I am likely to see before I am required to post my blind bets, I raise, which is called by ,ost of the table. The flop falls ace-deuce-ace, which makes me pretty happy, except that I don't have much money to bet it with. I get my $2 chip in, along with my last $1 chip, and the action continues. The turn is another ace, making me 4 of a kindand no money to bet. The older Thai fellow next to me admonishes the plyers not to bet because he has a pocket pair, and he doesnt want to chase out jackpot draws. Unbeknownst to him, of course, my jackpot hand is made but is in danger of being counterfeited if a queen or king comes on the river and makes my jack kicker not play. The river is a 9 and my jack holds. We have won the jackpot and some confusing euphoria ensues in which I am awarde the pot and the cards are counted to make sure there is no funny business.

I am suddenly more worried than ever about my rent, because I am convinced that there is going to be some reason to void the win, which the club tries every way that they can to do. My worried expands when the floorman comes to collect our IDs and my co-winner, who the jackpot really belongs to and on whose getting paid out the rest of our gettting paid out depends produces from his wallet a xerox of his green card and social security card, and then tries to use a California Driver's License his friend has passed him.

It all worked out, though. After about 15 minutes of reviewing videotape, the shift manager came out and awarded the table shares and then asked me and the other palyer, who showed pocket 10s, for aces full of tens, by the way, and whose name, I think, is Liao ( I call him Pops, as cardroom etiquette dictates I call any man more than 10 years older than me whoise name I don't know), to join him in his office, where he awarded us our winnings in chips, which we both made him take back to the cage for cash. Liao tipped him $100, I gave him $4o, which I still think is a little much considering he is management and didn't do anything but fetch the koney. Liao suggested that he give the dealer $200 and I give her $100. I had been thinking of being more generous with her. When I was considering hopw much to give her, I thought 10% would be very generous, and was thinking something more on the order of $300, somewhat less than 10%,but still good, but when I cashe out the chips I found I had $235, and it seemed really easy to leave that with her on my way out of the club, so that is what I did.

In the next few days I replaced my iPod, which had crapped out in the wintertime, and bought myself the sweet new computer on which I now type. I paid all my bills and paid off one of my credit card, the result being that now, barely one m,onth later I am broke again, but such is the life of a gambler.

There is my jackpot story. I hope it reads ok, because I am posting it straightaway without reading it over. In the next installment, I will report on my Chandlerian LA weekend. Now, I need to get over tho the club.


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