Thursday, August 8, 2013

Artis Gilmore & Pembrook Burrows

Most of the colorful characters I blog about are, of course, women.  It seems that is the females who say or do the outrageous things in and around poker that I deem blogworthy.  Women like my pal Prudence, Natalee, Didi, Ginger and other random ladies I run into at the poker table give me the “woman said” stories that are so frequently appear on this blog.

But this one centers around a gentleman, a very colorful older guy who entertained me and my fellow poker players one night in early May.  As it happens, this particular day was a bonanza for blogging material.  I’ve already posted three entries from this particular day.  This happened the same day that I met Tara Rice (picture directly below and earlier blog post here), that I found out Doogie Howser is a terrible tipper (see here), and that I had that three way pot where it was Aces vs. Kings. vs. Queens (see here).

For context, this tale takes place at the MGM soon after the nightclub that I made famous with my “Slut Parade” post (see here) had opened.  It was before they moved the poker back away from the night club, so the “sluts”* were literally—yes literally--parading right through the poker room. 
When I got seated, it was late afternoon and I took seat 9 right next to the dealer.  On my immediate right was an older gentleman who we are gonna call “Kent.”  Kent is definitely a “character.”   Kent is a Vegas local and works in another hotel on the Strip, but not in the casino, in the back office.  He doesn’t deal with the public.  When I got there, Kent was involved in a very detailed discussion with a younger player two seats to his right.  I was immediately annoyed by Kent.  The conversation he was having was all about his profession, which I won’t reveal here, and was of no interest to me.  I certainly enjoy the social aspect of poker, but when you have a conversation that is essentially non-stop—and this really was non-stop—about a topic I have no interest in, it gets to be off putting.  Or perhaps I should say, “maddening.”  I mean, if it’s some hot gal talking about her boobies or even more intimate body parts, that’s fine, that’s what I live for.  But two guys talking about their work?  Well, unless it’s a particularly fascinating line of work, no thanks.  I play poker to get away from work.  OK, in my case, that’s not quite true, since these days I work in poker.  But you get the idea.
The other thing that was a little annoying about Kent was he swore like a longshoreman.  I may owe an apology to longshoremen for that.  It was surprising to hear so many f-bombs and so many “shits” coming from a man his age.  Everything was “f’ning” this and “f’ning” that and he kept complaining about his phone being a piece of shit.  I’m not normally offended by that , but it was just so excessive, so pervasive, so non-stop that it was pretty offensive. Frankly, I came pretty close to asking for a table change.  But fortunately I didn’t.
He was actually trying to recruit the younger player to be his apprentice, they were in the same line of work. They exchanged business cards as the kid left to go about his evening.  That was a great relief.  Amazingly enough, once he stopped talking about work, his language cleaned up quite a bit.
When I arrived at the table Kent had about $500-$600 in front of him.  He played a lot of hands—most of them, really.  He didn’t raise a lot, at least not initially.  But he saw most flops. And he was drinking a lot.  Scotch and something or other.  I’m sure I saw Kent down at least a dozen Scotches while I was there, if not a lot more.  Not to mention the Kamikazes—which I’ll mention in a moment.
I soon learned Kent’s name (not really “Kent” of course) and that he was nearly 70. That seemed about right.  He mentioned a wife multiple times, but that didn’t stop him from flirting with and hitting on all the ladies.
Kent started out as a calling station who played a lot of hands, called a lot of raises, and hit a lot of his hands.  But a few hours into the game, when he was really drunk, he suddenly started raising a lot preflop, which he hadn’t done before.  Then after awhile, he started showing his hands when he didn’t get called, especially when he raised preflop.  Sometimes he’d show a big hand, but he also started showing junk hands like Jack-4 and Queen-6, stuff like that.  He also started talking about his cards a lot, like he’d say, “no one would call with this hand,” as he called.  Or he’d say as the dealer was about to put out the flop, “I need two cards just like these two.”  Oddly enough, he started reminding me of Natalee a bit.
I started out doing well, not too many big hands, but I was able to build up my stack by making preflop raises that either weren’t called or put me in a position to take the pot with a c-bet on the flop.
Not long after I sat down, I heard a guy make what turned out to be a really dumb comment about a hand I wasn’t in.  He faced an all in raise on the flop, which was Queen-4-3.  As he was thinking of making the call, he said, “There are only two hands that beat me.”  So he called.  And both players showed their hands.
Now the all-in was a couple of hundred dollars so I was expecting to see some big hands, right?  The other guy had raised preflop but a set of Queens was unlikely, ordinarily you wouldn’t shove on the flop with such a big hand that deep.  But maybe he knew the other player well enough to know he would call?  I had just gotten to the table.
The guy flipped over Ace-Queen?  Huh?  Only two hands beat you, sir?  Really?  I was expecting him to flip over pocket 3’s, which was apparently one of the hands that beat him that he didn’t consider.  Anyway, the other guy had the dreaded pocket Kings and they held up (only because I wasn’t the one with the Kings).  I didn’t think either player had been smart there, risking a couple of hundred bucks on overpair/top pair hands.
Soon after, I had pocket Aces in late position and the A-Q guy raised to $6 in front of me.  I made it $20 and he called.  The flop was 10-10-4.  The original raiser moves all in for $50.  Gulp.  Did he just have a big pocket pair or did that flop hit him?  Did he have a 10?  Well, it just wasn’t enough to get me to fold my rockets, so I called.  I had to consider the possibility that he thought Ace-4 there was the second best hand!  Turns out he had pocket 7’s and my Aces held.  Sadly, he left the table.
Not long after his young, future apprentice left, a woman walked by that got Kent’s attention.  She was middle aged (so, young, by Kent’s standards) and fairly ordinary looking.  She apparently was looking for a table change and wanted to join us.  I had played with this woman briefly the night before.  But Kent treated her like they were old friends and waived her over.  The more the evening wore on, the more I realized Kent didn’t know this lady from Adam (or Eve, I guess) but that this was his schtick, reacting to women as if they were long lost friends.
He started flirting with her before she even was moved to the table, and then when she did join us, he kept up at it even though they were on opposite sides of the table.  And then a man came to sit down next to the lady, who we’ll call Sarah, who she introduced to Kent as one of her three husbands.  It seems Sarah and her husband were from Utah and she was making a Mormon joke.
The fact that Sarah’s husband was there didn’t stop Kent from flirting with her.  The husband didn’t mind and it all seemed in good fun.
Kent was talking pretty much non-stop, but now that he was no longer intently focused on his job, it wasn’t nearly so tedious; in fact it was fun.  Kent was telling us all about his life, and it was frankly hard to tell what was real and what was total bullshit.  But he became more and more entertaining as the night wore on (and as he downed more and more Scotch).
As he started interacting with more and more women, I realized that his bit was to say to them, “Hello again, I remember you from _____” and then he’d come up with a city or a country.  So I guess that’s what he’d done with Sarah before I had caught on.  When Rita was dealing and she pushed him a nice pot, he tossed her a $5 chip and said, “That’s not for the pot, that’s for New Orleans.”
As the session wore on, the three of them were becoming fast friends, and one of them brought up Kamikazes.  Kent agreed to switch from Scotch one time if the Utah couple would join him in a round of Kamikazes.  The guy from Utah explained to the younger players that Kamikazes were the earlier generation’s equivalent of Jager Bombs.  In case you hadn’t figured it out, the Utah couple were not Mormons.
So they order rounds of Kamikazes several times and Kent had those between his frequent Scotches.  If nothing else, he exhibited an amazing constitution.
Kent talked to me about my AVP card protector and my note-taking.  I explained a bit about AVP but he got too distracted by a hand for me to finish the story.  About the notes he saw me taking, I was basically honest, without mentioning the blog.  I told him I like to make notes of hands to study later.  He thought that was interesting and then asked, “You got my name in there yet?”
That was pretty funny, I thought.  I said, “No, Kent, but I know it.” By this time, I was pretty sure that Kent was going to make it into the blog.  I introduced myself as Rob.  Hmm, I almost gave myself a pseudonym there, but that would be silly.
As Kent was telling us all about his past experiences, he mentioned he went to Jacksonville University when they had a great college basketball team and went all the way to the NCAA final game.  The team they lost to in the finals was UCLA, my future alma mater.  But even before I had even stepped onto the campus, I was a huge fan of John Wooden and the UCLA basketball teams of that era.  UCLA that year was led by Sidney Wicks, who had attended my high school and in fact was a classmate and friend of my sister’s.  That team was one of my favorite UCLA teams and I remembered the team they played in the finals that year pretty well.
So here was Kent, talking about the two 7-footers that led Jacksonville’s team.  One was Artis Gilmore, who went on to have a long and successful career in the NBA.  The other 7 footer is now totally forgotten, about as obscure as you can get.
“Jacksonville had these two 7 footers,” Kent was saying, “Artis Gilmore and…..”
“Pembrook Burrows,” I said.  Actually we said it simultaneously, as if it had been rehearsed.  For the first and only time that night, Kent was shocked.  He had never run into anyone before who remembered Pembrook Burrows, as many times as he had told that story.  He was almost speechless (something impossible for him) trying to figure out how I could know that.
I explained my UCLA connection and even why that year stood out for me.  As it happens, as soon as he started talking about Jacksonville, I thought of Gilmore and Burrows, and even though Burrows never made it in the NBA and was soon forgotten, I’ve never forgotten him or the way Wicks took both of them apart in the final game. As I recall, he blocked Gilmore’s first two shots and Gilmore meekly disappeared from the game.  Burrows was even less of a factor.  I think the fact that Burrows has such an usual name made it easy for me to remember it. 
Then Kent couldn’t help notice that Russ Hamilton came to our table.  Actually, it wasn’t really Russ Hamilton, the disgraced WSOP bracelet holder of the notorious Ultimate Bet scandal.  But there was an older gentleman who came to the table and Kent nudged me and said that guy looked just like Russ Hamilton.  I only had the faintest familiarity with Hamilton, never having been much of an online player even before Black Friday.  And I had no idea what he looked liked.  But Kent was pretty familiar with the scandal and so I looked him up on my celphone.  From the pictures I was able to find, I can say that the guy at our table sure did look an awful lot like Hamilton. 
Maybe it was Hamilton.  He built up a huge stack fairly quickly (he flopped set over set which turned into boat over boat) and then took off for the 2/5 game.  I heard them page a “Melody” for our table (I think it was a table change).  A rather average looking woman came by and found her seat.  She was younger than Sarah but not in the age category of the club-goers that had started to gather before us.
Kent immediately said hello to her as if they were long lost friends but by now I realized that this was his schtick.  He said, “Hi, how you doing?  Good to see you again.”  Well, it turns out Melody was more than willing to play along.  Even though I’m quite certain she had never seen Kent before in her life, she volleyed back with him. “Oh yes, you too.  It’s been a long time.”
Kent was only too happy to keep going.  “Let’s see, where did we meet?  Was it New Orleans?  Israel?  Dubai?”
Melody responded that she’d actually been to Dubai.  And Kent wasn’t kidding, he’d been there too.  Suddenly they started comparing notes on places in Dubai!  And Kent mentioned a place on the beach that sold pizza.  Maybe she was kidding, but from his description, she said she knew the place he meant.  There was this place on the beach in Dubai that sold pizza out of a hut.  But neither one of them could think of the name of it.
So I said, “Pizza Hut!”  It seemed obvious to me but the cute lady dealer really liked that line.
But Kent had a problem remembering Melody’s name.  He kept calling her “Melanie.”  I corrected him a few times but it was a futile effort.  I thought of giving him the old song lyric, “A pretty girl is like a melody,” a song I’m sure he would remember, but I didn’t get around to it.  Melody didn’t seem to mind being called Melanie.
Kent was of course flirting and hitting on Melody while still doing the same thing with Sarah.  Melody revealed that she had a boyfriend playing at another table and somehow mentioned that her boyfriend was tall.  That deterred him from flirting with her for a few minutes, but he went back to it not much later.
And then, out of the clear blue, he shouted across the table, “Melody, what’s your shoe size?”
....and that's where I'll leave it for now, folks.  Yes, this is a two parter.  Melody's response and a whole lot more can be found right here.

*-“slut” is Rob’s Vegas & Poker Blog’s euphemism for "Prim & Proper Lady"


  1. How do you ever concentrate on poker?

    1. I think you just figured out why I don't do better at that silly game.

  2. Rob..this may interest you. Florida HP but probably retired by now.

    1. Thanks Big-O, I do remember hearing years ago he was a cop. A 7 foot tall HP officer? Don't want to mess with him!

      In thinking about your handle, I am wondering the reference. Now that I'm so into poker, the first thing that came to mind was the poker game, Big O (variation of Omaha). But since you came up with the basketball reference, I'm thinking of the great basketball player nicknamed "The Big O", the great Oscar Robertson.

      Or is neither the right reference?

    2. "O" is the first letter of my first name.
      I'm a small sized man (shoe size 7.5 if Kent's reading), and in keeping with the norm of never telling the truth about oneself on the internet, I chose not to go with honesty, so I discarded Little-O.

    3. LOL. So it's like the big, strong man at the Circus being called "Tiny."

      I get it.

      Kent was only interested in women's shoe sizes. OTOH, the ladies he talked to seemed to be interested in men's shoe sizes!

  3. As if this post wasn't long have to make it a 2 parter! Can't wait!

    1. Thanks Mark, glad you managed to make it all the way through. I'm impressed!

      The 2nd part is much better, and a lot dirtier.