The Poker Onion (Part One)
THE ONION is one of my favorite all-time websites.
For those who haven’t seen it, THE ONION mocks current events by posting completely fabricated news stories which tend to be wickedly funny. It’s essentially a news site where absolutely nothing is true. Sort of like watching FOX NEWS — except it’s far more humorous.
The real gems are articles that appear utterly ridiculous. But when reading a bit closer between the lines, they reveal some startling truths about an issue. Take a look at THE ONION and I’ll bet you won’t be able to leave the site before laughing your ass off while nodding your head in agreement at the witty satire.
Ten years or so ago I wrote several “Onion-esque” poker stories. None of these stories are/were true, of course. I’m posting them here for the first time. These articles originally appeared at POKERPAGES.COM between 2000-2002.
Prior to each article here, I’ve added a few notes from memory in order to place them into proper context. Again, keep in mind these “stories” were written more than ten years ago, long before the so-called “poker boom.” So, in some aspects, they’re dated.
Depending on if there’s much reaction, I might do several modern-day versions of a “Poker Onion.” There’s no shortage of material for ridicule in today’s poker world.
This is the first of a two-part series. Hope you enjoy!
Writer’s Note: I wrote this up in 2002, four years before UIEGA was passed and nine years before Black Friday. At the time, I was outraged by such a passive attitude on the part of the poker community. No one cared much about the politics of online poker. Back then, the prevailing attitude was that online poker would never be outlawed. How prophetic this article turned out to be. What’s truly sad is — it’s not nearly as funny anymore since parts of it actually came true, in part because of so many poker players remaining apathetic and apolitical. One humorous side note — when this appeared on the front page of POKERPAGES.COM, several readers thought it was real and went to various online poker forum in a panic (they obviously just saw the headline and didn’t bother reading the article).
BELIEVE IT OR NOT:
Poker News From Around the World By Nolan Dalla
Congress Votes to Ban Internet Poker:
President Bush Expected to Sign Bill into Law
WASHINGTON, DC — After months of intense political debate cutting across party lines, the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday finally passed the “Internet Gambling Prohibition Act” by a roll-call vote of 237-198. President George W. Bush is expected to sign the bill into law sometime early next week.
The bill makes it a federal crime to place any wager over the Internet. According to estimates, up to nine million Americans gamble from their personal computers every day. This includes a wide range of gambling activities — including poker playing, sports betting, and popular casino games such as blackjack and roulette. If approved by the President, anyone convicted of gambling online could face the death penalty.
“We are absolutely thrilled with this victory,” said Rep. Bob Stuckey (R-FL) one of the bill’s co-sponsors. “It’s a victory for America’s families. Prohibition worked so well the last time it was instituted in our great land. I don’t know why it took so long for us to finally ban this latest evil called Internet gambling.”
Other legislators agreed with Rep. Stuckey’s remarks.
“We (Republicans) used to be the party of less government,” said Sen. James Roach (R-KY). “But Ronald Reagan had it all wrong when he suggested that we get the government out of peoples’ lives. What we really need is more government, more laws, and more power in Washington for federal authorities and bureaucrats.”
Attorney General John Ashcroft was also pleased by the congressional initiative. “Making it more difficult to play poker online will help combat international terrorism,” Ashcroft said at his weekly press conference at the Department of Justice. “These gambling websites are being used to fund state-sponsored terrorism. Every time you make a semi-bluff on a flush draw, you’re helping to finance a nuclear device for Osama bin Laden.”
When a reporter in the crowd queried Ashcroft for one single-shred of evidence that online gambling has ever been linked to any act of terrorism, Ashcroft stared blankly back at the reporter, glanced towards several legal assistants who threw their hands up in confusion, and began awkwardly shuffling his notes back and forth. He then looked down to the floor from the podium. Unable to come up with an answer to the reporter’s question, Ashcroft mumbled something about being late for a fish-fry at a local church, and made a hurried exit out a side door.
As reporters joined the chorus calling for some clarification on the issue, Assistant Attorney General Randall D. Trist immediately tried to intervene, hopeful he could be the one to establish the seemingly hopeless link between on-line gambling and threats to national security. “We in law enforcement don’t have nearly enough to do at the moment,” Trist remarked. “We have 1.4 million people flowing into the country daily, 878,329 vehicles streaming across our borders, 57,230 ships and vessels docking into our ports, and eight million undocumented residents from 146 different countries, not to mention 116,043 acts of violence committed every single day in our nation. We really need this law so federal authorities can put a stop to domestic terrorism.”
Religious leaders were also ecstatic with the decision. Rev. Pat Robson, President of “Focus on the Family,” a Vienna, VA-based religious advocacy group that enjoys tax-free status and pays Robson well over six-figures a year to pulverize his narrow view of the world onto others, called the Internet gambling ban “an important first step.”
“We’re not stopping here, oh heavens, no!” Robson warned. “The government needs us to tell normal law-abiding citizens how to live their lives and how spend their discretionary income. People can’t be trusted to think for themselves. That’s why they pick someone like me to interpret everything for them.” During the five-minute telephone interview, sheep could be heard rustling in the background. “Baaaaaaah, baaaaaah,” at least one voice said. It was unclear whether the voice was that of an actual sheep, or one of Robson’s thousands of followers.
Opponents of the Internet gambling ban came up on the short end of the vote, despite a last-ditch lobbying effort by the leaders of Costa Rica, Cayman Islands, Barbados, Aruba, and the Dominican Republic. “Me think gambling vedy, vedy good.” said Aruba’s Premier, Gustave Anquizoa. “Mucho Dinero por favor,” they chanted in unison when asked why they made the trek to Washington. “Yobs,” Anquizoa piped when asked about the benefits of Internet gambling. But in the end, their efforts to sway the vote failed. When the heads of state went on a joint mission up and down the halls of Congress to tell their side of the story, they were often met with confused stares and shut doors. “Hell, I thought they were the cleaning crew,” said Cal Remnick, a Legislative Assistant to Rep. Ron Saul (R-TX).
The Internet gambling ban also enjoyed the strong support of business and community leaders in Brooklyn, NY, South Philadelphia, PA, and East Cicero, IL. “It’s about freakin’ time ‘dem stupid pigeons down in Washington wised up,” said Anthony “Fat Tony” Genovese speaking from the Ravenite Social Club in Astoria-Queens. “All da’ five major families, we was having a really rough time and all with the illegal bookmaking and the loansharking in our neighborhoods, with us having to compete with ‘dem offshore operators. Now, we can control tings again, like back in the good ole’ days when we used to.”
“See, I told you this bill would be good for America’s families,” Rep. Bob Stuckey said, when informed of “Fat Tony” Genovese’s remarks.
When told of the results of the congressional vote, President Bush cut short a top secret briefing by the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the subject of chemical and biological weapons proliferation, in order to attend the local Baptist Church on 18th Street, in order to thank God personally. His holiness was unavailable for comment. However, according to witnesses, the Heavenly Father was heard to mutter to himself, “Holy (expletive deleted), what have those earthy beings done in my name, this time?”
Writer’s Note: John Reed from the BARGE group was kind enough to be my foil in the photograph. He doesn’t at all resemble the imaginary character I created back in 2001 — named “Bobby Ray Jordon” — who won some small poker tournament and then decided he was expert enough to write a poker book. The intent here was to mock the flood of books that entered the market about that time. Many were written by authors who perhaps had one or two big wins and then suddenly considered themselves proficient enough to write about complex strategies. I begged to differ in this mocking piece.
BELIEVE IT OR NOT:
Poker News From Around the World By Nolan Dalla
WHEELING, WV — Bobby Ray Jordan won the weekly poker tournament yesterday, held at the Battle Mountain Casino in Elks Neck, West Virginia. The $15 buy-in tournament attracted a modest field of just 23 players. Jordan borrowed $6 from his sister so he could play in the tournament, then went on to win the event which lasted all of 90 minutes. Jordan collected $185 and was given a small plaque for first place.
“First off, I want to thank my momma’ and pappa for having me,” Jordan tearfully announced to the nearly-empty poker room, his voice barely audible over the ringing bells and sound effects of hundreds of nearby slot machines. “I want to thank my sister, Rachel Beth, too. If it would not have been for her helping me in my time of need, I wouldn’t be where I am right now.”
After his brief speech to the small mid-afternoon gathering assembled in the poker room– which included one floorman, two dealers, and five nearly-comatose retirees siting in a $1-3 stud game — Jordan approached the cashier’s cage to collect his tournament windfall.
“I’ll take it all in a lump sum — cash,” Jordan proudly announced to the cashier, who whisked out $185 greenbacks into the crusty hands of the unemployed tractor mechanic.
“Wow, have you ever seen so much money all at one time?” Jordan asked as he fanned out the bills to show anyone around him who would listen.
When pressed for details about his future plans, Jordan became more serious. “What I’m gonna’ do now… I’m gonna’ write me a poker book,” Jordan said. “That’s right. I’m going to share my winning poker secrets with the rest of the world. It’s time I gave something back to the game that has been so good to me.”
But the poker book Jordan has in mind already has its critics, including the player who finished second in the tournament. Martinsburg, WV poker pro Jim Boyd wasn’t impressed by his opponent’s poker skills, or lack thereof. “He got dealt pocket aces six freakin’ times when we were playing heads-up,” Boyd said. “Despite that, I still managed to nearly break him. But when Bobby Ray hit that runner-runner straight with 7-3 off-suit against my pocket queens, I was finally knocked out.” Boyd, who finished second, has won the Battle Mountain Casino’s small weekly tournament a record 84 times previously. But, it just wasn’t Boyd’s day.
“Tell Jimmy Boyd, there’s a new boss in town,” Jordan quipped. “He’s toast. I’m the boss man now.”
When Boyd was asked for his thoughts on Jordan writing a poker book, the popular professional was less than enthusiastic. “He’s going to do wha, wha, what?” Boyd stammered in disbelief, when told of Jordan’s ambition of becoming a noted poker author. “The man’s never even read a poker book, so how in the hell is going to write one?”
When asked what he plans to do with his $185 in prize money, Jordan seemed to have things all planned out. “I’ll probably retire,” Jordan said. “Looking for a job these last six months have really been exhausting for me. But first, I need a vacation. Then, I really need to spend some time thinking about planning my financial future.”
When asked when his new poker book might be released to the public, Jordan became annoyed with the questioning. “I don’t know, first I need to go out and buy me a typewriter.”
Later that evening, Jordan was seen at the local Ponderosa Steak House on Highway 42, celebrating with friends. The merry gathering consumed seven T-bone steaks with all the trimmings, and ran up a bar tab of $152.50 It remains unclear how much of Jordan’s “retirement fund” remained after the feast.
Writer’s Note: Dear friend Linda Johnson was kind enough to let me have some fun at her expense. She’s one of the owners of CARD PLAYER CRUISES, which has been doing poker-themed vacations for nearly two decades. I thought it would be fun to mock the idea of a Titanic-type disaster and explore the possibilities of what might happen on a cruise ship with poker players. This was the very first faux article I wrote. I think it stands up well over time.
BELIEVE IT OR NOT:
Poker News From Around the World By Nolan Dalla
Poker Cruise Ship Strikes Iceberg in North Atlantic:
Poker Games Continue on Lifeboats
REKJAVIK, ICELAND — Hundreds of poker players at sea took the worst beat of their lives when the luxury cruise liner, Queen Victoria II struck a massive iceberg in the icy, frigid waters of the North Atlantic. The maritime disaster took place an estimated 900 miles off the western tip of Greenland, exactly 91 years to the day after a similar incident befell the Titanic.
“I was losing my ass in a $1-5 stud game when all the sudden there was this loud bang,” recalled Louise Winston from Manchester, England. “The next thing I knew, people were scooping up their cards and chips and jumping into lifeboats.”
Apparently, the Queen Victoria II — which departed Liverpool, England on Monday morning and was scheduled to arrive in Miami, Florida on Saturday afternoon — charted hopelessly off course and into dangerous icy waters laced with hundreds of icebergs. Witnesses reported seeing the ship’s Captain, Sir Jonathan Wellington, Sr., obsessed with reading Middle Limit Holdem Poker in the control room during much of the cruise and completely ignored the dire warnings of his crewmates. “Captain Wellington kept on asking me if ace-jack was playable under-the-gun in a standard holdem game,” First Mate Danny Winters later told investigators. I snapped back, “I beg of you, Captain — don’t ask me a poker strategy question right now. All I know is there’s a huge white object coming toward us at 40 knots on the starboard side!”
The 967-foot cruise ship struck the immovable ice mass at approximately 3:15 am, GMT. Only minutes later, the entire structure was engulfed in smoke and flames. Remarkably, it took less than an hour for the giant hull to fill with sea water and entire mammoth structure to sink to the ocean floor below.
According to early reports, almost everyone on board appeared to survive the initial catastrophe. Only one death was confirmed. Most of the ship’s passengers were part of a package tour organized by Card Player Cruises, a tour operator based in Las Vegas, NV. The popular cruise company offers a wide variety of poker games, tournaments, and fun activities for everyone.
“Card Player Cruises is known for hosting unique vacations at sea,” tour organizer Jan Fisher told reporters afterward. “We’ve been to Central America, Alaska, Greece, Turkey — and even Long Beach. But this time our customers got a special bonus. They got to see what it’s like to slam headfirst into an iceberg and spend the next two nights stuck out in the middle of the cold, dark Atlantic wondering if they’ll ever be see their loved ones again. Where else can you get this kind of action, but Card Player Cruises?”
Just a few minutes after hitting the iceberg, sirens went off on each of the vessel’s six decks warning passengers to abandon ship. The warning sent thousands of tourists on holiday clamoring for lifeboats. However, their problems had only begun. Several arguments ensued when Card Player Cruise organizers had some difficulty coordinating games and limits according to lifeboat capacity.
“There was one lifeboat that held up to 60 people,” Fisher said. “I figured, we’ll try and run a super-satellite in that one.”
There was added confusion when some players immediately requested lifeboat changes. “I got sick of playing Texas holdem,” Bruce Kramer of Cherry Hill, NJ said. “I told the floorman to move me whenever the first seat opened up in one of the Omaha lifeboats.”
Another sticky issue arose when a decision had to be made about the lifeboats being smoking versus non-smoking. Smokers complained that since they were now outdoors, the non-smoking rule was no longer in effect. Non-smokers protested, citing the cruise was advertised as a non-smoking event. “I just spent the last 40 minutes swimming through a giant oil slick and my lungs are filled up with diesel fuel. The last thing I want right now is to be seated next to a smoker,” Kramer said as he finally got seated in his new Omaha High-Low lifeboat. Under the unusual circumstances, the floorman sided with Kramer and the Omaha boat was declared non-smoking. “If a cigarette ash would have landed on Mr. Kramer, he might have exploded with all the petrol built up in his system,” explained floorman, T.K. Krause. “I figure the last thing we needed is a lawsuit from one of his survivors.”
Other poker players were even more insistent on being placed in lifeboats that they deemed acceptable. When it became apparent there was only a single lifeboat left on deck with a few vacancies and the ship was sinking fast, one player refused a seat in the pot-limit boat. “I don’t want to play with Stan Crizzle,” an unidentified player said. “Hell, I’d rather go down with the ship.”
The lifeless half-eaten body of a middle-aged man reportedly washed up on the western shores of Ireland only a day later. According to the lone witness, the farmer who discovered the corpse, the man’s left hand was clutching a line pass for the ship’s midnight all-you-can-eat buffet. Those who made it into the lifeboats seemed to take the interruption in stride. After dragging a monster-size pot in the $30-60 lifeboat, Cruise Director Linda Johnson approached the front bow of the small watercraft. “Hey everybody, look at me……I feel like I’m flying!” Johnson shouted with her arms stretched out, much to the groans of her fellow cruise passengers hovered down low in the lifeboats in an attempt to stay warm.
“Look at her, she drags a pot and she thinks she’s a World Champion,” Stan Crizzle complained from the nearby pot-limit lifeboat. “This is the last time I take one of these damned poker cruises. Look at this, I was winning big — but where in the hell am I going to cash all these God-damned chips?”
Writer’s Note: Omaha High-Low players are such an inviting target. I had some fun at their expense in this 2000 article. Not one of the best articles, but it still holds up well over time. That’s Tom Sims for Las Vegas who agreed to pose for the photo as a local rock. Let’s just say Tom didn’t have t do much acting to play this part.
BELIEVE IT OR NOT:
Poker News From Around the World by Nolan Dalla
City of Omaha Sues Poker Industry for Damages
OMAHA, NEBRASKA — Community leaders and elected officials in Nebraska’ largest city filed a $350 million class-action lawsuit against several major casinos yesterday. The complaint cites “irrevocable harm” to the image and business of the city. Defendants named in the civil lawsuit are Circus-Circus, Bally’s Gaming., Trump. Inc., the Commerce Casino, Hollywoord Park, the Mirage, and a host of smaller casinos and cardrooms which spread Omaha High and Omaha High-Low Split poker games throughout the United States.
The lawsuit alleges that since the poker game “Omaha” became widespread in public cardrooms, people are reluctant to either visit or do business with the City of Omaha. The popular poker game is played using nine cards, in which the object of the game is to make the best five-card poker hand. The multiplicity of cards and card combinations means the game creates all kinds of “bad beats” and misery for regular players, resulting in what some Omaha residents say is a “tainted” perception of their city. The game has also been known to create divorces, bankruptcies, fits of rage, assaults, and suicides.
“Tourism here is down nearly 80 percent since Omaha poker became popular” according to an unnamed spokesman for the Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Last year, we thought we’d get the annual John Deere convention, but then they changed their minds and went to Chicago,” according to the spokesman who did not wish to be identified. “Last October, we thought we’d host the National Tractor-Pull Finals down at the Civic Center, but when they opted for Las Vegas instead, that was the last straw!”
Omaha City Comptroller, Billie Kramer was equally disturbed. “I was on a plane flying and I when mentioned I was from Omaha, the man sitting net to me started swearing and telling me all kinds of bad beat stories. It was like he blamed me personally for his misfortune at the poker table. It was such an ugly scene, he was arrested by the Air Marshall.”
Elected officials joined with community leaders from Central Nebraska Chamber of Commerce as Plaintiffs in the complicated legal matter. The lawsuit was filed in the Third District Court.
“These casinos have done a major wrong to Omaha,” Mayor Willie Funderberg said in a Tuesday press conference from City Hall, announcing the class-action lawsuit.. “Today in this country, when you say ‘Omaha,’ no one thinks about corn-fed beef anymore. No one thinks about Marlin Perkins from the ‘Mutual of Omaha’ Wild Kingdom television show. Now, they all think of horror stories at the poker table brought on by elderly evil men who never talk — unless they are grumbling to themselves or swearing at each other. It’s time the casinos compensated us for our loss and mental anguish in destroying the good name of our fair city.”
Felix Gold, CEO and President of Bally Gaming disagreed. The gaming industry has filed a $500 million counter-suit against the City of Omaha, citing loss of revenue inside the casinos because Omaha is dull and uninteresting. “Why couldn’t we have named the poker game ‘South Beach,’ or ‘Beverly Hills,’ or ‘Las Vegas’ or something else? Why in the hell was it named after a dullard city in the Midwest no one gives a shit about?” Gold said.
Oddly enough a recent visit to Omaha found no games whatsoever being played inside the city limits. “Of course you are not going to find any Omaha games going on in Omaha,” one local resident snapped when asked for an explanation. “If you go to Russia, do you think everyone there sits around and plays Russian Roulette? Well, it’s the same thing with Omaha! We know the damage this game can do to peoples’ lives!” After walking away in disgust, the local obese woman went back to devour her third slice of cheesecake.
The lawsuit has already began to generate repercussions across the country. According to preliminary reports, the State of Texas will soon file it’s own class-action lawsuit against the casino industry, which is expected later this month. “I can’t get into the matter at this time, but we are exploring all of our options,” said Gov. Rupert Simms. “If Omaha’s image was tarnished by that damn poker game because of the misery it has caused, the problems caused by Texas hold’em must be a hundred times worse.”
At press time, there was no word yet from Burt Reynolds or Richard Gere if they plan to file suit against poker rooms that offer “stud.”
NOTE: Coming tomorrow, I’ll post several more “Blasts from the Past.”