The Poker Onion (Part Two)
Continuing from yesterday’s series of articles….
Writer’s Note: There’s bitter irony in this faux article, written in 2000 shortly after Chris “Jesus” Ferguson won the world championship that same year. I had some fun with the “Jesus” thing, combining that angle with the constant banter about online poker being “rigged.” Because of Ferguson’s troubles and the immeasurable damage that he and his cronies did to the poker community, this article has a much different feel now than when it was written and Ferguson was such a respected figure. But I’ll go ahead and include it today as part of the redux.
BELIEVE IT OR NOT:
Poker News From Around the World
Online Poker Bad Beats:
‘It’s All Just a Prank,’ God Finally Admits
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL — Faced with mounting pressure to explain why he allows floods, fires, hurricanes, wars, cancer, and the very worst of all human catastrophes — bad beats at the poker table, God finally came clean in his Press Conference of the Millennium held on Tuesday afternoon at Maracana Stadium, a 190,000-seat soccer arena in downtown Rio de Janeiro.
Not since April 15, 1003 A.D. has God fielded questions publicly from the universal press. Thousands of reporters attended the 1-hour, 15-minute question and answer session which was broadcast to every corner of the globe. The last time God made a physical manifestation on earth, the Holy Man was grilled by the news media about the Dark Ages, Crusades, the outset of the Bubonic Plague. That press conference had to be cut short when Mongols enlisted by the Teamsters Union burned down the city of Gazientep and stormed out in protest.
But on this occasion, the proceedings were much more orderly. Speaking to the large flock of reporters packing the stadium, God finally answered nagging questions relating to online poker games and his presumed control over the forces of nature. Putting aside questions that have puzzled the world’s leading scholars for centuries — including the true meaning of life and Man’s role in the universe — what everyone present wanted to find out was God’s opinion’s about online poker.
“Okay, I have a little confession to make,” God said as a quiet hush suddenly fell over the crowd. “About five years ago, we were all sitting up there in Rec. Room #4 watching the live satellite feed of what’s happening down here on earth. When we all watched some bombastic hot-head in Cary, NC named David Fruchter take the worst beat imaginable in an online poker game, the laughter in the room became uncontrollable. He got so mad he threw his mouse against the wall and it shattered. Fruchter was even using my name in vain. That’s when it hit me. We could have a little fun and turn online poker into our little hobby. It’s all just a prank — kind of like with voodoo dolls. Now, it’s completely gotten out of control. We just go completely bonkers.”
God continued to justify the mental cruelty cast upon his earthly subjects. “Try and understand my position,” he asked. “We get tired of smelling flowers, washing loincloths, and singing hymnals all the time. The truth is — it gets pretty boring after a while. So, what’s the harm in stirring things up a little for our brothers and sisters down here on earth so we can all get a good laugh?”
When pressed for specifics, God expounded upon his remarks. He told stories of horrible poker players catching miracle one-outers, hitting double-gut shot straight draws, and raking-in monster-sized pots with the most outlandish hands against more seasoned poker pros. “I mean the whole place just goes insane. Just the other day, we had to give Saint Peter 800 milligrams of chlordiazepoxide just to calm him down he was laughing so hard.”
Saint Peter agreed. “I couldn’t help it. I had to pop a few downers. When I saw Ed Hill of Las Vegas get this third set cracked in like 15 minutes at Big.casinopoker.com, I fell off the sofa laughing hysterically. When poor Mr. Hill lost that $870 pot and screamed the f-bomb about fifty tiimes, I nearly lost it. Mother Theresa was sitting in the row right behind me and she nearly had a seizure.”
Such scenes in Heaven appear to be typical according to many witnesses. Mother Theresa stepped forward and offered her own personal spin trying to justify the heavenly merriment. Speaking through a translator, she said: “Hey, I fed the poor and lived like a pauper on earth for 87 miserable years. It’s about damn time I got a few perks!”
Next, God took back the microphone and continued with the line of questioning. “I haven’t had this much fun since I did that neat parlor trick with the Red Sea and the Moses guy back thousands of years ago. When we later showed video of the salty waters came crashing down over the legions of Roman soldiers standing in those chariots, there was so much celebrating in the Pearly Gate Room that we had to call Security. I think Pope Clement XVI was 86’ed after that incident.”
God went on to point out that video rentals of the online poker “bad beats” re among the most popular products in the Heavenly Kingdom Library. “We used to get a kick out of watching the poker pros at the big tournaments go ballistic after taking a bad beat. But the things people do in the privacy of their own homes is stupefying. Don’t quote me on this, but Online Poker Bad Beats has replaced When Animals Attack as the most popular show in the heavenly kingdom.”
Not everyone agrees with God’s perspective. At least one noted psychologist thinks God’s mind games with online poker players are the result of misdirected angst. Dr. Arthur Reber, a Professor of Psychology at New York University, and the author of national bestseller, God Does Play Dice with the Universe, said although it was perfectly understandable why God screws with people’s minds sometimes, he is picking on the wrong set of people.
“He is playing out his fantasies,” Dr. Reber stated. “God is under lots of pressure right now with six billion people clamoring for his blessing. He desperately needs this diversion. Still, I don’t agree with his decision to wreck the lives of online poker players. Why he picked online poker players as his main target and not ruthless dictators or rap artists is totally beyond my comprehension.”
Following the press conference, God’s comments drew mixed reviews. Chipper Long sitting in his underwear in front of his home computer in Lubbock Texas, wasn’t impressed. “I don’t care what God says, I still think it’s rigged by the offshore operators,” Long insisted. When questioned further about why he still plays online given his suspicions, Long was quick to justify his activities.
“Hey, what else am I supposed to do here in poker hell — Texas? Online poker is the only game in town.”
Just before getting on a plane for Las Vegas, God closed the Press Conference by announcing that anyone on earth who dies between now and next Wednesday night can still get a reserved seat in one of the VIP viewing rooms tuned to watch the next series of online poker bloopers.
“If anyone’s going to kick the bucket between now and then, I strongly suggest doing it sooner rather than later,” God said. “Otherwise, the only seats left in the view rooms will be in general admission up in the nosebleed section.”
Writer’s Note: Many poker players care about two things — getting the money and keeping the cards in the air. The California poker scene is particularly notorious for being callous towards those with any inkling of humanity. During the late 1990’s, I actually witnessed a man pass away at the poker table. While that’s not usually a subject of amusement, I did find the players’ overall reaction to death to be pretty astonishing. This article, penned in 2001, captures the essence of some of the attitudes we often see in the game.
BELIEVE IT OR NOT:
Poker News From Around the World
Southern California Man Expires at the Poker Table: Rammin’-Jammin’ Game Continues Uninterrupted
LOS ANGELES, CA — The scene at the Poker Palace Casino in Gardena turned morbid on Friday afternoon, when 89-year-old Benjamin Mankowitz died of natural causes while sitting at a poker table. Mankowitz had been a regular at the club for many years and was well-liked by both players and staff. When pressed for additional details about the octogenarian’s life, no one at the casino knew much of anything about Mankowitz’s personal history, nor knew whether or not he left any survivors.
“Ben wasn’t much of a talker,” fellow player Roy Simmons remembered. “Old Benny just sat there most of the time like a rock and never said a word to anyone.”
According to several witnesses, Mankowitz entered the Poker Palace Casino located at 2347 S. Che Guevara Blvd. in mid-morning and proceeded to sit down in his usual $3-6 Omaha High-Low Split game. At approximately 1:20 pm, Dealer Josh Robbins sensed something was wrong with Mankowitz, who was sitting in the nine seat at Table 12.
“Five full minutes elapsed without a check or a bet by Mr. Mankowitz. I wasn’t sure if he was thinking about whether or not to call the $3 bet, or if something was really wrong,” Robbins said in an official statement later given to police. “It’s not unusual for those elderly Omaha players to take lots of time to make up their minds.”
Other players at the table became impatient and ripped the cards out of Mankowitz’s clasping hands as the game continued on. “After a similar incident occurred each and every time (Mankowitz) was dealt a hand, I finally decided I better call the floorperson over to the table. He was really slowing up the action and pissing everybody off.”
After the floorperson arrived and failed to get a response from Mankowitz, he issued the deceased player a severe reprimand. It was explained to Mankowitz that the “Third Man Walking Rule” was in effect for the table. Since two other players had departed the table previously in order to go get lunch, that left Mankowitz in a most unfavorable situation. The rule meant that Mankowitz would not be permitted to sit out of the game for any reason. Over the next three hours, the blinds raced around and gradually ate away Mankowtiz’s paltry stack of white one-dollar chips. After the next shift change, no one bothered to inform the new crew of the odd situation, and Mankowitz’s cold clammy body was permitted to slump onto the felt.
Finally, it became obvious to someone at the table that Mr. Mankowitz was either very tired or not feeling well. “Hey old man, wake up!” Rodney Jenkins joked as he prodded the man’s lifeless body. After another hour passed, a dealer finally called over another floorman who was reported to have once taken a course in CPR back in high school. “He doesn’t look too good. I think something is wrong with him,” Chad EuClaire said. “When I saw poor Benny’s left hand sitting in an ashtray and starting to catch on fire, I began to suspect the worst.”
Medics from the Los Angeles County Coroners Office arrived an hour and 55 minutes later. Removing the dead corpse from the poker room without causing a major disturbance posed the most serious challenge for the medical staff.
“They kept right on playing poker,” Emergency Service Technician Wanda Perkins complained. “We couldn’t even get the stretcher into the middle of the poker room because no one would move their chairs even an inch to let us pass by.”
Staff at the Poker Palace Casino were quick to get the games moving again, despite the distractions of a dead body laid out inside the poker room.
“Kill his hand and deal around him!” one unidentified floorman yelled out, as the stiff body was strapped to a stretcher and covered with a white sheet.
“Open seat! Table 12!” Seat 9!”
Writer’s Note: This is my personal favorite. It’s a fake interview with a character I created named “Ralph Grubb.” I’ve seen many Ralph Grubbs over the years. Somewhat an extension of the previous theme, the poker world is filled with broke railbirds who hang out in cardrooms and at poker tournaments. Actually, the scene is not quite as bad now as it used to be. I took many of the actual comments I heard from real people over the years and incorporated them into this satirical article/interview. That’s my buddy Frank from Chicago (photo below), who agreed to play the part of the idiot.
BELIEVE IT OR NOT:
Poker News From Around the World
Down and Out in Gardena:
Confessions of a Broke Railbird
Ladies and gentlemen, meet Ralph Grubb. He’s a 52-year-old railbird who’s fallen on hard times recently. Grubb lost his job about six months ago and has since been hanging out daily at the local cardroom, looking for a stake to get back into a game. He graciously agreed to share his outlook on poker and his philosophy on life with readers.
NOLAN DALLA: Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to be interviewed Ralph. What made you become a railbird?
RALPH GRUBB: I don’t know. I just like hanging out in cardrooms, I guess. Everybody in the joint knows me since I’m here at least 12 to 15 hours a day. Besides, it’s better than working for a living and holding down a real job. It’s easier to sponge money off other people than doing something constructive with my life.
DALLA: Doesn’t hitting other people up for money all the time get old?
GRUBB: Hey, I’m good for it. I’ve borrowed money from like 16 different people in the last month. I even managed to pay two of them back — that is, after they cornered me one night and threatened me with bodily harm. Those bastards. I couldn’t believe how rude they were to me. I’ll never borrow from those guys again. It was like they didn’t trust me, or something. Another guy that I borrowed from over two years ago settled with me for 50 cents on the dollar. You know how it goes, you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. He was thrilled to get his money. I like to make people happy.
DALLA: Why should anyone back you?
GRUBB: Are you freakin’ kidding me? Most people don’t realize it, but I’m a great poker player. They hold seats open for me and beg me to play in their games. If they see I’ve got a stake, someone will yell, “Hey Ralph, come on over, seat open!” I guess they want me to sit in the game since they might learn something from watching me play. But things have been kinda’ tough lately. I’ve been on a bad run the last couple of years.
DALLA: The last couple of years? What do you mean?
GRUBB: Take, for example, what happened to me two nights ago. I was in a $2-4 holdem game and missed inside-straight draws like six times in a row! I mean, how can you possibly win at poker if you don’t occasionally catch a miracle card? It was the damn dealer’s fault. I swear — some of those poker dealers really have it in for me. You want proof? Last night, I made a king-high flush. I kept raising the other player, who was a complete idiot. I raised him back and forth until all my money was in the pot. How in the hell was I supposed to know he had the ace-high flush? I swear, I’m so unlucky sometimes.
DALLA: It really does sound like you’ve taken some bad beats.
GRUBB: Bad beats! You don’t know the half of it. Last weekend, I flopped a set and lost to a straight! Some dumb woman was drawing to an inside straight and got there on the end. Cost me a $150 pot. I tried to explain to the dumb broad that she played her hand all wrong, but she wouldn’t listen to me. She just smiled at me as she stacked my chips. That really cheesed me off. That bitch.
DALLA: Ralph, I’m sure our readers would like to know — what’s an average day like for a railbird?
GRUBB: That all depends on when I decide to roll out of bed. On most days I sleep at least ’til noon. If I’m really tired, I might lay in bed ’til 3 or 4 o’clock in the afternoon –which is right when The Jerry Springer Show comes on. First thing I do is light up a smoke. Maybe two. I shave sometimes, but most days I don’t worry about it. Why bother? As for clothes — whatever t-shirt on the bathroom floor is the least wrinkled — that’s my wardrobe for the day. See, I had my electricity cut off last week. I’ve been a little low on cash lately, and when it came time to pay the bills this month, I had to get my priorities straight. A man’s gotta’ smoke and drink, ya’ know.
DALLA: So, there’s no electricity in your house right now?
GRUBB: My efficiency, you mean. Those dirty bastards at the electric company shut it off. It’s not like I wasn’t gonna pay the bill. Everybody falls behind a couple of months every now and then, right? They mail me these nasty letters from a collection agency, and I just ignore them. When bill collectors started calling my house, that was the last straw. I said “screw them.” I’m not payin.’
DALLA: When do you get to the cardroom each day?
GRUBB: It depends on whether my car starts or not. It’s an ’82 AMC Matador — you know, a classic. If the old Matador fires up and the fan belt isn’t making too much noise, then I’ll get to the cardroom in 15 minutes. If it doesn’t start or the engine smokes too bad, then I have to rely on public transportation. That takes me at least a half-hour. Man, it’s a drag riding the city bus with all those lowlifes.
DALLA: What’s the first thing you do when you get to the cardroom?
GRUBB: First thing is to do a walk-through and see who’s there. I want to see if there are players that I know. If I see someone that looks familiar with a big stack of chips, then I figure they’re running pretty good and may want to help out a friend. So, I start a conversation with them and I pretend like I’m really interested in what they say. Most of the guys I approach are shy, so they ignore me. But I know they really want to talk — more than play poker. I usually stand there until they give me a stake or the floorman is called over and asks me to leave.
DALLA: I understand you lost your job a while back. What happened?
GRUBB: They were jerking me around really bad. They asked me to start coming in on time and do some work. I got so fed up with the BS, that I had to call in sick for a whole week to get over it — which really pissed my boss off. I hated wasting my sick days like that. I’d rather use them when there’s some major poker tournament coming up. Then one morning, they called me and woke me up when I overslept, and that was the last straw. Damn jerks! Then and there, I decided to play poker for a living, you know just like the books say — “Play Poker, Quit Work, and Sleep ‘Til Noon.” Just like a high-roller. So, I stormed into the boss’ office about a week later and told him to stick it where the sun don’t shine. You should have seen the look on his face.
DALLA: But what if things don’t work out for you as a professional poker player?
GRUBB: I don’t know. Gee, I never thought about that. I don’t think they’ll take me back at the plant. See, when I quit, I said some really nasty things about the boss to his face. On the other hand, I was “Employee of the Month” back in April of 1988. I set the record for selling the most plumbing fixtures in our region that month. Good thing my ex-brother-in-law was the contractor on that big construction project.
DALLA: How about your personal life. Are you married?
GRUBB: I was. But I’m divorced now. My old lady had some major issues to deal with. I came home from the cardroom late one night and all my stuff was sitting out in the middle of the front yard. She threw me out of the house and told me never to come back. That finally did it. I left her after that.
DALLA: What about kids?
GRUBB: Yeah, I’ve got a couple of kids. At least two that I know about anyway — if you know what I mean (laughing). I got a 16-year-old boy who goes to high school, and the other is my 18-year-old daughter in community college. Or, is my daughter the 16-year-old in high school and my boy is 18? I don’t remember exactly. I’m not real good with details. And the college my son goes to isn’t really a college. It’s more of a reform school.
DALLA: So, you’re single again?
GRUBB: Yeah, but I like to keep a steady stable of girlfriends. I’m what you might call a “ladies man.” The girls all love me here in the cardroom — especially when I crack crude sexist jokes at the poker table. Man, I can really turn on the charm when I want to. I even bought a bottle of Old Spice after shave that seems to do the trick. When I walk in, the girls point, smile, and start whispering to each other. I can only imagine what they are saying about me.
DALLA: Let’s get back to railbirding. I notice that you seem to eat pretty well. Do you eat most of your meals at the cardroom?
GRUBB: If it’s free, yeah. I make it my mission in life to bug the hell out of the floorman for a comp ticket and sometimes they give me one just to get rid of me. I swear man, the staff here really sucks. The cocktail waitresses totally ignore me. I can’t even get a drink sometimes. I tipped one of them dumb broads 50 cents for a couple of drinks last week and she doesn’t even remember my name.
DALLA: Speaking of tipping, what is your policy on tipping dealers?
GRUBB: Tipping dealers! For what? Doing their jobs? They get paid to sit on their butts all day at a poker table and get to chatter away with the customers. How good a gig is that? Some of them make like $25,000 a year. Can you imagine what it’s like to make that kind of money?
DALLA: Do you play other casino games, besides poker?
GRUBB: Absolutely! When I run bad at poker, I try and win it back somewhere else. Right now, I’m using a craps system I ordered through the mail. So far, I’m down a lot, but the law of averages says things have to turn around eventually. I heard it once referred to as “meat regression” — something like that. Even if I lose, I can mail the system back to the post office box in Florida and get my money back. They said the craps system was 100 percent guaranteed. I’m not stupid. I also love to play the lottery and keno.
DALLA: What about sports betting?
GRUBB: I used to bet sports and the ponies. But I quit. All the games and races are fixed, you know.
DALLA: What about poker over the Internet?
GRUBB: What’s the Internet?
DALLA: Uh, never mind. I see you standing up on the rail here almost every night. What exactly do you and your fellow railbirds talk about?
GRUBB: We tell bad beat stories, complain about our finances, whistle at women — you know, the usual stuff. We also keep an eye on the games. Some of the players are so stupid. It’s a miracle they have any money to play with. I guess they must have jobs, or something.
DALLA: What do you mean, the players are stupid? Give me an example of what you’re talking about.
GRUBB: Like when I see players raising before the flop with aces and kings. I mean, how dumb is that? You’re always supposed to slowplay aces and kings. If you raise, what are you gonna’ do if everybody folds? I want to play my aces and kings against as many players as possible so I can win a big juicy pot.
DALLA: What else do you discuss along the rail?
GRUBB: Mostly, where to bum a stake. I try to find out who’s coming into some money soon. Maybe he’s got a rich relative who’s sick and dying, or a big insurance settlement is coming. I try to get real tight with the guy. I know he’ll let his good buddy hold a grand or two when he gets his stew. Share the wealth, you know.
DALLA: When’s the best time to be a railbird?
GRUBB: The big tournaments are a gold mine. When a guy gets lucky and wins a bunch of money, I know I can hit him up when he’s in a good mood. I try to act like I know them, you know, like we’re best friends. I see their names and pictures in the magazines, so they are easy to pick out. Sometimes, one of them puts me in a tournament. Of course, I’ve never won anything, but it’s just a matter of time before I make a big score.
DALLA: Well, I see that you are eager to get back to the rail, Ralph. Thank you for sharing your views with us.
GRUBB: Yeah sure. Hey wait, before you go……see table 32 over there in the corner? I’ve got every one of those suckers pegged. They can’t play worth a lick. Put me in and we’ll cut up the money later tonight in the parking lot.
DALLA: No thanks, Ralph. Sorry.
GRUBB: Wait! See this watch? It’s a genuine 100 percent Rolex! Let me hold a couple of hundred tonight and…….
Note: This is a fictional interview. Any resemblance to actual people or events is purely coincidental.
Final Thoughts: Thanks for the nice comments and e-mails. I received a few suggestions from readers with ideas on the Full Tilt Poker mess. That alone could fill volumes. I hope to post more of these in the future.