Thursday, December 6, 2012

True Gambling Stories, Reno Style

When you grow up in a mining town, you learn to live like the miners do.

I am not proud of what I'm about to tell you, but it's true. I was drinking, chewing tobacco, cursing, and gambling at the ripe old age of 11. That's how it was in Butte. In fact, all of my friends did the same things and I never really thought twice about my lifestyle as a kid. It was exciting and I thought it was normal. 

That's probably why I loved Butte.

I quit tobacco and booze years ago. Profanity is proving hard. Anyone that knows me- knows that I have always been a serious gambler. Now days, I bet horses. For 25 years, I actually played Texas Hold Em well enough to win quite a few tournaments and supplement my income. I played many nights with the likes of Phil Hellmuth, Johnny Moss, Bulldog Bill Sykes, Bones Berland, Puggy Pearson, Bill Smith, Stu Unger,  and even David Brenner...just to name a few. I used to play low limit with Steve Wynn's mother at the Golden Nugget. So I've seen and heard some wild stuff over the years. Some of it quite insane. Most of it is tragic. Wild gambling stories often come when people are loaded or drunk. 

So I thought I'd tell you a couple of fascinating stories. Both of them happened right here in Reno. Both of them happened at the hotel I am staying in. One incident happened 30 years ago, one happened tonight. So...

Thirty years ago, I was playing in a low level 1-4-8 Hold Em poker game here at the Eldorado Casino which is now connected to the Silver Legacy. Seated across the table from me was a loud mouthed bald guy, I am thinking he was in his early 50's. I was in my early 20's at the time. I had raised a pot with AK suited. One ace came on the flop. The bald guy checked, I bet and he check raised me. I re-raised and he called. The turn card was another ace. The bald guy checked again, I bet, he check raised and I called. The last card was a blank. The bald guy checked, I bet and he check raised me for the third time in a row. Win or lose, I was pissed at the way the bald guy had played the hand. Three of a kind was not the best hand so I just called. I turned over my hand. The bald guy tried to muck his cards. That's when I made my fatal mistake. I asked the dealer to see his cards.

This is perfectly legal. It is however, considered very bad etiquette. On a personal note- I have never asked to see an opponents hand before that incident and as it turns out- I would never ask to see another hand again in my lifetime. 

As soon as I called to see his hand, the bald guy who I remember now was named Joe, jumped out of his seat and started yelling at me. The entire room stopped and listened. Joe the bald guy, called me every nasty thing you can possibly think of. He was literally yelling and eventually the card room staff asked him to shut up and sit down. For the next 15 minutes this guy continued to call me names...up to the point I finally asked or demanded as I recall, that it was time we stepped outside. The only smart thing Joe did that day, was refuse to go outside with me. Back then I lifted weights for two hours a day and I was a little beyond hot at this guy. About 30 minutes later, I got up and went to the bathroom. The poker room manager followed me right into the bathroom. He said and I am quoting, "We don't need your action kid. Go back, pick up your chips and get the hell out of here. For good." When I asked him what I had done he said, "Joe plays here everyday. You don't. Now hit the bricks."

That was the last time I ever set foot in the Eldorado until last year. 

Tonight I was in the casino at about 10 PM playing Pai Gow and just relaxing. This big tall guy about 40 and his friend sat down next to me. He asked the pit boss for a marker for 20 grand. The pit boss comes over, writes the marker, and the dealer signs it. This guy promptly bets 3 grand on 3 hands, which is the table limit. The guy is drunk and so of course, he begins to win. After an hour and a half, he was up somewhere between 55 and 60 grand. The man, named Don, had just won about as much money as I will make all year, tax free. I got up to leave the table but Don was convinced that somehow, I was his good luck charm and he asked me to stay. He even offered me a 500 dollar chip. I declined the chip and hung out a while longer.

The dumbest thing I did tonight- occurred when I didn't take that chip. About an hour and a half later, Don was broke and he staggered away from the table with his friend. He bumped into a slot machine as he left. I can't tell you how many stories like that I've seen over the years. I can think of at least ten stories like that just off the top of my head without thinking. (I watched a guy lose his entire retirement one night playing blackjack) Gambling stories always seem to have the same crappy ending. I couldn't help but think tonight- what was that guy trying to win? I guess fifty or sixty grand is not something he needs. There is a part of me that finds all of that kind of sick anymore.

Don't gamble, kids. It's for suckers.  

Perhaps, I will quit gambling too. Right after I try and hit the pick 6 at Gulfstream tomorrow. 



Anonymous said...

Tsk, tsk, Brian, you really are behind the times, aren't you? What you refer to as gambling is now known in polite society as "gaming", got it? And there is no such thing as a gambling problem (gaming problem)when you're winning. Good luck on the pick 6.

blurred said...

I love these types of blog entries. Good stuff.