Chapter 25

I don’t think it will surprise you to learn that I’ve spent a lot of time around gaming.  And not just Vegas, either.  Those Euros have casinos, too. And they also end up processing a lot of models and dancers and “reduced” young women. Something about the three things: money, liquor, sex.    All tied together by the little imp we call chance.

Lots of guys come to Vegas or Reno or Caymans or wherever and pay some woman just to hang out with them while they gamble.  That’s their real kick, and it’s kickier to have some busty, trusty cheering section hanging on to the arm they aren’t throwing dice or holding cards with. I’ve met working girls in Vegas who are just ordinary-looking middle-aged old gals who do a lot of that.  Sort of private shills.  These guys are paying for company that probably looks just like their wife, and maybe not even getting anything off them.  Anybody who thinks they know what the whole man/woman thing is all about should do a thesis on that.

I always liked playing poker.  To me, growing up, it was “cards”.  If you were dealing out from a deck of cards, you were playing poker.   We weren’t allowed to play around the house, of course, being the parsonage and all.  The same ménage I once heard a high school boy refer to as “First Babetit Church.”

But that never applied to most of our shirttail family, called “the whole fambubbly” by my Granddaddy, and later termed the nuque rouge by the lil girl who got to be pretentious with her college French and travels on The Continent.  They played cards all the way to hell and back.   I took it as part of the package. Along with big snorter cars. I think almost any cousin I had would slap you in the face and piss on you if said you owned a six cylinder engine.  I could take a starter motor or water pump apart and fix in when I was eleven.  And don’t get me started on shotguns.  Trust me on that one.

They drank bourbon or Jax beer, listened to Nashville music, wore boots, rolled their own, played poker.  I could roll a pretty good cigarette by the time I was in school.  Came in handy when I discovered dope, but that was much later, the times being what they were.

So I play a bit of poker with clients.  The idea being to impress them that I could play in their league, help them put the wow on whoever it was they hired some Dixie eye-candy to dazzle, maybe nab some pots from the guys they were playing with.

Tricky negotiation: if you’re playing with chips a guy gives you, and pull off a really cute monkeyshine to win a thousand bucks off one of his business competitors, how do you split the money?    You have to appreciate his position.  He staked it, so shouldn’t he get some?  Like most of it? But you played it, so shouldn’t you?  But the deeper game is, if he wants the lion’s share of the pots, remember that you’re hanging with him because he’s paying you.  Maybe only a thousand a night.  So you can just say, Up yours, and sashay off with the same amount you’d get, without having to go do something disgusting with him.  You get around Vegas-type scenarios and money and sex are always subtexts to each other, and it’s not always easy fixing the rate of exchange.

But what you don’t do is whip your client’s butt.


But I did, one time.  Of course you can’t clobber somebody in a poker hand by accident, but it truly was sort of inadvertent. The pot was getting raised up into the ionosphere by a bunch of hungry bozos in some goofy industry where they lease planes and ships, then rent them to other bozos, and I was staying in because I had a pretty good hand, but not so good I thought it would take the cake.  It’s different when you’re playing with a guy’s money.  You can win, but not really lose. If you lose their money they think it’s cute. I love it.  Definitely affects your game plan.

So I kept checking it up, staying in, not really excited even though there was enough money on the table to buy a really nice condo.  Then he started just aggressively pumping these clowns out.  Just buying the pot, hand over fist.  All of a sudden it’s just him and me and a pile of chips you could barely see over.  And all his asshole buddies are sitting there watching us, profoundly interested in how it would shake down.

He called me and I didn’t think it would play out very well for me to fold, even seeing that it was pretty obvious he had me beat.  I think he had three fours showing, or some such high number of lowball cards.  He’d been sandbagging at first, then grinning like the big bad wolf as he kept piling it on.  So I just laughed and laid it down.  He didn’t show his hand, just put his forearm on the table and shoved the stack over into my lap.  I realized he didn’t have  two aces back or a pair of deuces or a pair of jackshit.  It was just the most voracious bluff I’d ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of men bluffing, let me tell you.

There was one of those movie moments of silence.  I was pretty stunned, actually, looked him right in the eyes.  So I saw what happened there.  He was pissed.  But it was like a little switch got thrown and he saw how to play it.  Which was all hearty and being a fun uncle.  He was laughing fit to die, and “little ladying” me senseless.  And those guys he did business with were sitting there laughing with him and getting me a drink and toasting me and carrying on.  But what they were also doing was getting a lesson.  This guy just bluffed them out of their jocks, knocked their dicks in the dirt without breaking a sweat.  Then it turned out that he lost like eighty thousand, same as the rest of them, to a titsy little blonde, and he was laughing about it, writing it off to being a sport.   The way I saw it, if I’d just walked out and cashed in and called a limo, he’d have made a good investment.  He had their balls in a little glass jar.

What happened, though, that hand ended the game, but good.  And we sat around drinking and laughing about it until they all got tired of it and went home.  They were losers, after all.  He wasn’t.  Plus, he got to screw the blonde afterwards.  He begged them to stick around, slapped their backs out the door, then turned around to me, about as jolly and avuncular as an IRS agent, and just stood there.

I said, “You keep yours, we split theirs.”  He kept looking at me and I said, “Fifty, fifty.”  He gave me this kind of pseudo-admiring shake of the head and said, “Thirty to you.”  I did a little curtsy and started stacking the chips.  He laughed and came over to help.  Way it looked, he’d just made about a quarter of a million dollars in thirty minutes, based on me holding on to my ass and not letting him bluff me out.  I put just under a hundred grand in my pocketbook for thirty minutes work with no capital investment; just not having anything to lose and not being psychic enough to read the bluff.

But that wasn’t what really got me about the evening. We stacked and racked and set the chips aside to cash, then he looked at me and said, “Doesn’t look like you need to hang around here for a lousy twenty five hundred anymore.”

And I said, “Yeah, and thank you kindly.  But you kind of turned me on with that little shenanigans, so how about if I spend the night off the clock?”  Surprised both of us.  And was almost true.   I can’t remember any other time I’ve ever written off payment once the deal was “shook on”.

But see, it was an investment for me, too, just like him losing eighty thousand dollars to show his chums and enemies that he was a whole bigger class of winner than they were.  It’s hard to describe, but that second when he still had his cards in his hand and I had a hundred grand worth of Biagio chips in my lap had showed me something really important.  What I saw happen with him in that second, where he turned on a dime and made me part of his show, was a major lesson.  And the type of lesson girls don’t get at business academy.


Next time I’m going to talk about how it turns out that actually hot chicks get smarter than the national honor nerds with the glasses and bad skin.