tagRomanceI Raise; Will She Call

I Raise; Will She Call


The check-in lines were long that late afternoon as I walked through the lobby on the way to the casino floor. “Good,” I thought, “A full house weekend should help the poker room keep its tables busy.”

I entered the casino floor. Jackpot bells were going off on the slot machines, an aspiring female singer had the afternoon shift and was singing ‘Just An Old Fashioned Love Song,’ on the stage of the Lagoon Bar, and the biggest sucker game in the house—the spinning wheel—had all six seats taken.

I walked by two crap tables that had a good crowd playing at each one. Plenty of one hundred dollar black chips were in play. The people playing craps seemed happy to be losing their money. There were two age groups—the late twenty’s crowd of macho males, and the older fifty and sixty year old men; some with their twenty something year old wives. I corrected my thought, “Wives for the day.”

It was all clutter to me; background noise as I made my way to the poker room. I had gone to the casino a few hours earlier than normal and hoped that the 20-40 Hold’em game would be started. I had broken up with my girlfriend a few months ago and my apartment seemed smaller and more boring these days, so I had come in early.

I thought, “Three years and three girlfriends; do I see a pattern here? I’m five feet eleven inches tall, brown hair, brown eyes, in shape, and I can tell a joke without blowing the punch line. No female ever complained about my bedroom skills, although no female had made it past twelve months in my bed either. Life can be a pain in the ass sometimes.”

I reached the poker room and walked up to John who was the brush for this shift. I thought, “Brush is a funny name for the person who takes down the names of the players who want to play poker, and then seats them when a place opens. The term probably came from brushing off the table before each game started back in the old days.”

“How’s 20-40 or 40-80 look John?” I asked.

John checked the sheet and answered, “Not good Roy. Three of the 20-40 locals are out of town and I only have six names on that list. Three of the six went out to dinner. It’s going to be a few hours before I can start a game unless we get surprised by the hotel guests. And I only have one name down for 40-80.”

I nodded. It was the answer I expected. I told John to put me on the list for either 20-40 or 40-80 and stood there scanning the room to see if there were any locals around who weren’t playing, and who might be interesting to bullshit with for a while.

My scan was interrupted. There at a lowly 6-12 table my eyes locked on to a female card player who was absolutely beautiful—not pretty or good looking, but beautiful. I guessed she was five feet six inches or so with blond hair cut short. My goddess had deep blue eyes with a happy, laughing face. Her breasts pushed against the light sweater she was wearing. She was obviously not a local—I had never seen her before, locals don’t dress that pretty, and she was laughing—all signs of a tourist.

I went back to John and said, “I’m bored. Put me down for the 6-12 game at table 18.”

John nodded and entered my name for a third time. Ten minutes later I sat down at table 18. I gave John four hundred and five dollars. He would bring back four hundred dollars in chips—the five was for him. John told the dealer, “Four hundred coming at seat six.”

The dealer nodded that he heard and, if I started playing before John came back, he would still let me in the game.

The dealer looked at me and I said, “I’ll post behind the button.” I was telling the dealer that as the dealer button rotated around the table, I would start playing right after the button had passed me. I could have started playing the next hand if I was willing to anti right away, but that was a sucker play; and I wasn’t in that much of a hurry anyway. I was playing 6-12 for only one reason—to get closer to the blond girl.

As I waited to play my eyes constantly shifted from her face to her breasts—it was a tough choice. Her breasts against the thin material of her sweater came to two very nice points; her face, always grinning or laughing, was also something my eyes didn’t want to miss.

The button passed me and I started to play. Hold’em is a very simple game to play. The problem, however, is that it is a very difficult game to play well. The ‘simple’ means a lot of people play it, the ‘difficult’ means that good players take the money from the bad players—most players are bad. There are only four bets: You get two personal cards down so that only you can see them, and then there is bet one. The dealer puts three cards face up in the middle of the table, and then there is bet two. The dealer puts a fourth card face up in the middle of the table, and there is bet three. The dealer puts the fifth and final card face up in the middle of the table, and there is bet four. Each player uses their two personal cards and the five up cards in the center of the table to make a poker hand. The best hand wins.

The first two bets in this game had to be six dollars, and the last two bets had to be twelve dollars, which is why the game was called 6-12. Obviously, my 20-40 and 40-80 games were much higher stakes, but the rules were the same.

I didn’t care if I won or lost; my objective was to watch the tourist. She had personality and looks; a rare event in most poker rooms in Las Vegas. I watched her play and listened to her talk. She had been playing poker for five years now she told the table. She had gone to Memphis State and, with the Tunica casinos just down the road, had spent much of her last two years at college in the poker rooms. For a while she needed the fake ID’s, but now she was a few years to the legal side. She was moving to Las Vegas to see if she could play good enough to beat the locals. She was staying at an inexpensive motel now, but would be looking for an apartment in the next day or so.

I played automatically; won a few pots legit; bought a few pots by bluffing a couple of the tight locals that played 6-12. Mostly, I watched her play; she was good, not great. Her starting game was very good. She knew which two cards to play and which two cards to throw away. She knew the importance of position so that if she was the dealer she would raise with a hand, but if she had to bet first, she would throw the same two cards away and not play.

In this town, if you played the first two cards correctly and you played in relatively low stakes games such as 6-12 or 8-16 you should probably break even over the long term. “The girl, at worst, will break even here,” I thought.

The first hand that we played against each other came up about twenty minutes after I sat down. I had a pair of aces which is usually good enough to win, but the girl kept calling my bets; the rest of the table had folded. It was my turn to bet on the fourth betting round. I said, “Check.”

She bet twelve dollars putting two red chips and two blue chips in front of her.

I reviewed the betting as I looked at her. She was looking away from me; staring at the center of the table. I said, “Well I have a pretty good hand and aces generally win, but in this case I don’t think so.”

She looked at me. I showed her the two aces and then threw the hand to the dealer. I had folded. The dealer shoved the chips in the pot to her.

A little while later I had three fives, which is normally an excellent hand. The girl bet into me again, but this time it was an even easier read. I said to the dealer although I was really talking to her, “Here I am with a set of fives, and I have to throw them away because the little lady has me beat again.” I showed the table the three fives and tossed them to the dealer. He shoved the chips to the girl.

Another twenty minutes went by and it was the girl and me once again fighting for the pot. It was her turn to make the fourth bet. Without hesitation she pushed in her twelve dollars and stared at me to see what I would do.

I thought about it for a moment and then said to her, “I just have a lousy little pair of twos and I’m almost embarrassed to admit it. But you can’t have a great hand every single time, so I’m going to give you my twelve dollars as a gift; I call.” I threw in the twelve dollars and turned over my cards to show that all I had was a pair of twos.

She stared at my hand for a few seconds and then picked up her cards and threw them to the dealer. She had folded; she couldn’t beat my twos. I could feel her looking at me as the dealer shoved the chips in my direction. She said, “Good call. A little bird must have told you that I busted my flush draw.”

I grinned and shrugged my shoulders.

A couple of hours later she quit. She had won about one hundred dollars. I was up about two hundred. When she left to cash in her chips, I was right behind her. I thought, “What line should I use? I don’t want to scare her off.”

We were standing side by side at the cashier’s counter when John came up to me and said, “Roy the 40-80 game is going to start in a few minutes—we have twelve names on the list.”

I could feel her turn and look at John and then at me. She said, “40-80? Something tells me I was playing against a professional. Could that be true?”

“Oops,” I thought. “I better handle this one right.” I turned to John and said, “Put me at the bottom of the list if the game starts; I’ll sit out for a while.”

I turned to her and said with a grin, “Guilty as charged that I usually play 20-40 through 40-80, but I have a good excuse for playing in your 6-12 game.”

“Which is?” she asked.

I answered, “Well my game hadn’t started yet, and I saw this beautiful woman playing at the 6-12 table. I couldn’t help myself. Plus I didn’t know any other way to offer my services as a poker instructor for a new player that just came into town.”

My words hung in the air for a second or two until she grinned and said, “Are you always so full of bullshit?”

I answered, “Only when around a beautiful woman…and maybe I can buy that same woman a Coke or a drink while I point out a few parts of her game that need work?”

I stared at her beautiful blue eyes that stared right back at me. She grinned again and said, “Poker playing is over for the day; maybe a whiskey sour would be good as I listen to the coach tell me what I’m doing wrong.”

We cashed in and I took her to my favorite quiet little bar in a corner of the casino. We sat at a table and the waitress took our drink orders. The waitress walked away and my poker friend said, “Maybe we better start at the beginning. My name is Traci Evans from Memphis.”

I responded, “Well I’m Roy Winslow from Las Vegas. I have no steady job, I drink but don’t smoke, and my average girl friend lasts eleven months three days and four hours because they can’t stand my poker playing addiction. I tell them it’s my job, but they say it’s only a game.”

I guess the words came out the right way. Traci laughed and said, “Playing all night and sleeping all day might be part of your romantic problem too.”

I responded, “Well, I have also heard that message told to me a few times from my departed female companions. They just didn’t understand the baggage that poker professionals carry with them as part of the job.

“However, you didn’t tell me if I got the job of being your poker coach?”

Traci answered, “Why don’t you give me a free first lesson and then I’ll tell you. First, what is the worst part of my game, and how did you always know what I had.”

The drinks arrived and we toasted each other. I sipped my first beer of the day and said, “A big problem you have is that I spotted a couple of tells that are going to cost you a lot of money if you don’t correct them.”

I saw the confusion on her face and continued, “A ‘tell’ is some type of physical signal that a player makes inadvertently that reveals something about their hand. As an extreme example let’s say that every time you had a very strong hand and it was time to make the fourth bet, you stood up and put your chips in the middle, but when you didn’t think that you had the best hand or you were bluffing, you didn’t stand up. What would happen?”

Traci answered, “They would take me to the cleaners. I could never win. When I stood up, they would fold, and when I remained seated they would call or even raise me. It would be terrible.”

“It sure would,” I answered. “A classic tell that a famous poker writer described some years ago had a saying that ‘strength is weakness and weakness is strength.’ By that he meant if you portray strength with your hand, it really is a weak hand; and if you portray weakness, it is a strong hand.

“So when you bet and looked away from me, you were acting weak. When you pushed your chips in front of you quickly and stared at me, you were acting strong. When I had my two aces, you bet and wouldn’t look at me. You did the same thing when I had three fives, but then you stared at me when I had the two twos.

“I had already figured out that you could have me beat by your betting and position, but your classic tell was the deciding factor.

“What did you have for those hands?”

Traci stared at me and said, “I’ve been playing for five years and I never realized I was doing that. It’s amazing. When you had two aces, I had three tens; when you had three fives, I had a straight; and when you had your two twos, I was trying to draw to a flush and missed.

“You got the job coach if I can afford you. What is this going to cost me?”

I bit my tongue since the obvious answer was “Your body.” But I ignored the obvious and said, “For the first few lessons, let’s say they are free—a kind of welcome to Las Vegas gift. Later we can try to decide how serious and how good you can be playing against the big guys.

“Let’s meet tomorrow at this bar and I will answer your second question. What time is good for you?”

Traci answered, “Maybe four o’clock, and then I can play some more poker after we are through.”

We talked some more and then Traci said she had to get going and check out a few apartments and buy some stuff for herself. I tried for a dinner date, but she pointed out that the 40-80 game had a seat waiting for me, and she already knew that previous females did not understand what that meant.

“Smart ass,” I thought to myself. “I would have given up that game in a second to take her to dinner.”

The next day I walked into the little bar looking for Traci. I almost missed her for a second because she was sitting at a table with another person—a man.

“Shit,” I thought. “I might have lost this one eleven months and three days quicker than my average.”

I walked towards the table. As I approached Traci jumped up with a look of embarrassment on her face. Before I could say anything she said, “Roy, I haven’t been completely honest with you. I am from Memphis and I did play poker for five years, but I didn’t come to Las Vegas to be a professional poker player, even if I could. I work for this casino in their security department, and this is my boss Bill Ryan.”

“Security?” I thought.

Ryan stood up and shook my hand as he said, “Roy, sit down and I’ll explain everything.

“We did a lot of checking about you in the last twenty-four hours and I’m impressed with your reputation. Not only are you an excellent poker player, but everyone I asked said you are a stand up guy; no hint that you would ever cut a corner playing poker.

“We think we have a problem in the poker room. Several weeks ago one of our bathroom attendants overheard an argument in the men’s bathroom. He heard someone say that they could have made much more money at the 6-12 table, if the person had seen the signal before he threw his hand away. The attendant never saw either of the two men.

“We had already hired Traci for a security internship. She has a college degree and after six months as an intern, we will start moving her up to more demanding jobs. When I heard about the poker problem, I thought putting Traci into the game might help us identify the players.

“After yesterday, Traci came to me and said that our original idea wasn’t going to work as well as we thought. She tells me that she is only a good poker player. For her to be playing good poker and also try to spot collusion in the poker room would be a long shot.”

Bill paused and I thought, “They have a major problem. If word gets out that there is cheating going on in the poker room that they can’t discover, their customers will leave them in a second. And it’s worse than a mechanical device or marked cards; those are easy to catch. But intelligent poker collusion is very difficult to spot. If the people are careful and not too greedy, it could go on for a long time.”

My thoughts were interrupted by Bill as he continued, “So Traci suggested Plan B—that you would become not only her poker coach, but her boyfriend. That way you could sit behind her while she is playing and try to spot our crooks.

“The bitch of it is that I can’t offer you any money. If it came out that our casino was hiring a professional poker player to clean up our mess, it would be embarrassing. So I’m asking you to help for nothing.”

“Bill,” I replied, “This casino has provided me a living for a long time. You run a good poker room and it promotes poker, so guys like me can make money. I have no problem working with Traci and try to spot if any cheating is going on in the card room.”

“And,” I thought, “I would pay you money for making Traci my girlfriend. I just won the lotto!”

I continued, “But Bill, remember the rule is that only one player can play a hand. I can sit behind Traci and she can show me her cards, but I can’t give her any advice during the hand. In fact, it is probably better that I give her no advice in between hands. It would irritate the players to have a professional coaching a rookie between hands. Traci will have to learn how to go from a good to a really good poker player to make this thing look right—she can’t always be losing.”

Bill said, “I didn’t think of the ‘one player to a hand rule.’ You are right—you have to get Traci up to speed in Hold’em to make this work.

Bill shook my hand and left the table. I looked at Traci who hadn’t said a word through this whole conversation. She looked at me in anguish and said, “I’m sorry that I lied to you Roy. I really feel like a shit. The first day on the job and I felt terrible—I hardly slept last night. Will you forgive me?”

She looked beautiful. She was wearing a white blouse with three buttons open and a skirt. I could see skin down to where the mounds of her breasts started. Every male has their perfect physical female—their ten—and this female was my ten. She could do anything to me, and she would still be my ten. I said, “Traci, you were doing your job. And even better, you made the decision that the first idea wasn’t going to work as well as you thought…so you improvised. How could I ever get mad at you for doing the right thing? And beside, you’re my girlfriend.”

She grinned at me and said, “Is that the worst thing in the world Roy—to be my boyfriend?”

I smiled back and answered, “Some jobs are tougher than others, but just remember no loud noises in the morning; I like my eggs poached; and I get the right side of the bed.”

She stared at me—she was blushing—as she tried to determine whether I was serious or not. Roy, the professional poker player, couldn’t keep a poker face. I started to grin.

Traci said, “You really are a nut; aren’t you?”

I ignored her comment and asked, “Are you ready for lesson two?”

Traci answered, “My second question yesterday was what was my biggest mistake other than my tells?”

I replied, “Traci you make too many ‘I can’t win bets.’

She looked confused and said, “I don’t understand what you’re saying.”

I said, “OK, I will give you an example and then we will bring it back into poker. Let’s pretend that we have a three card deck and the three cards are a two, a ten, and an ace. We shuffle and you get one card, I get one card and one card is left. We take turns who makes the first bet; the one with the highest card wins.

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