There are clowns to the left of me,
Jokers to the right.
Here I am,
Stuck in the middle with you.
— Stealers Wheel (1972)
The 2015 World Series of Poker hasn’t even begun yet, and already I’ve been hit up for money in the hallway.
Seriously — what the fuck?
The world’s biggest poker event doesn’t begin until Wednesday at 11 am, but the panhandlers and parasites are apparently already patrolling the corridors of the Rio like it’s the gold rush, targeting the saps and suckers.
Earlier today, I was coming out of a meeting when I heard my name yelled from about 30 feet away. That happens to me frequently and usually, it’s either a loyal reader or someone I know in poker. Occasionally, it’s my annoying bookie who wants his money, in which case I pretend not to hear him and hastily scuffle off in the other direction. This particular face looked vaguely familiar to me, but I couldn’t place it exactly.
I don’t usually care much for engaging in small talk, but since I was walking in the same general direction, we engaged in pleasant conversation for a wee bit until I came to a big glass exit door heading out towards the parking lot.
“Well, it was sure nice seeing you again (whoever you are). Take care, and have a great series!”
The vaguely familiar face followed, and then he asked me a question that should have been a huge red flag.
“Which way are you headed, Nolan…I’m heading to the parking lot, too,” he said. “Here, I’ll walk you out to your car.”
What a guy. What a pal.
So, we walk for about another 100 feet or so and just as I approach the car, things begin to heat up. I sense the story of personal tragedy, followed by a pitch coming.
“I really need to take care of some things before the series starts, do you think you can help me out a little?
Help you out? Like what? Move some furniture? Jumpstart your car? What is this guy talking about?
“I could really use 60 bucks right now. You know — I’m good for it. How long have we known each other?
To that question, I wish I could have answered either of two things — not at all, or not long enough. But then, he went all nostalgia on me and started reminiscing about the Binion’s Horseshoe days.
“Uhhh, sorry, but I’m really not in a very good cash spot right now.”
So, how much you got? Can you spare $40? Or $20.”
Oh, fuck me silly.
Here’s where I unexpectedly learned a helpful lesson that I wish had been perfected 20 years ago. This could have saved me a small fortune over the years working at poker tournaments. Then and there, I realized that I didn’t have a single cent on me. Seriously, I was flat broke. Sure, I had credit cards. But I didn’t have a dollar or even a dime. I was busted — and glad. Saying you’re broke is the best defensive line since the 1985 Chicago Bears.
“Sorry, but you sure as hell hit me up at the wrong time. I’m not carrying any money right now.”
Unfortunately, that lame excuse was the best thing I could think of to say at the moment. What I really wished for was a can of Raid bug spray, so I could blast the deadbeat in the face.
“That’s okay, I’ve sure we can find an ATM.”
Really. He said that. I swear.
“Man, that’s really not cool. I like to help people, and all — but you can’t really expect someone to do that kind of thing. That’s a bit of an imposition.”
“Hey, I just need a little help right now. That’s all. If you can’t do anything, then I’ll move on.”
“Yeah, I think it’s best you move on.”
Conversation over. Now, get fucking lost.
As I was getting into my car, I heard the sound deadbeat’s voice again. One thing was certain. He was persistent.
“What time do you come in tomorrow?” he asked. “Do you think you could help me out then?”
NOTE TO SELF: Do not bring or carry any money to work on Wednesday.
ADDENDUM: Do not bring or carry any money to work between May 27 — July 15.