Sunday, April 27, 2014

Playing Poker With Abraham Lincoln

This was about a strange night of poker where the general vibe at the table kept changing from very pleasant to very tense and back again.  It had an interesting cast of characters…a rude Egyptian, a pissed off (usually jovial) regular, three convention goers there to get drunk rather than play poker, and a lady dealer with a wicked punch (and the cast to prove it).

And then there was Abraham Lincoln.

When I got to the table, the first person I noticed was Sammy, the regular I first wrote about here.  I hadn’t seen him in a long time.  He had a big stack of chips in front of him, and for awhile anyway, he was his usual talkative, friendly self.  And the person he was mostly talking to, was the fellow sitting to my immediate right.

The 16th president of the United States. 

Ok, obviously it wasn’t really Abraham Lincoln.  Honest Abe’s been dead for well over 150 years.  It was in all the papers. 

But this guy was dressed and coiffed to look like Abraham Lincoln.  He had the Lincoln beard and he was wearing the famous Lincoln stovepipe hat.  This was in March, meaning Halloween was a long ways away.

He explained that he had stopped shaving awhile back and thus his beard had become quite wild.  He went to a hair stylist for a haircut and to trim the beard.  When the stylist was done, she had intentionally shaped his beard to resemble Lincoln’s.  So he picked up the stovepipe hat and just ran with it.

At one point, I did point out that there was one thing incorrect about his Lincoln look.  Lincoln had the beard, but no moustache.  This guy had a moustache too.  He agreed that this was historically inaccurate.  But he said that he liked the moustache too much to shave it off.

Everybody at the table was calling this guy “Honest Abe” or just “Abe.”  I’ll refer to him as Abe Lincoln so as not to confuse anyone with my pal Abe, who doesn’t appear in this story.

Sammy and a few other players at the table were quizzing Abe Lincoln to see how much he knew about Lincoln.  For example, he was asked what play Lincoln was watching the night he was shot.  Abe Lincoln correctly identified the play as “Our American Cousin.”

Someone asked him if he saw the recent Lincoln movie.  He replied, “You mean ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’?  Yeah, I did.  It was pretty good.  And historically accurate.”

Hmm….well, we had a laugh about that and then the person said he meant the Oscar nominated film with Daniel Day-Lewis. And Abe Lincoln said yeah, he had seen that one too.  I’m not sure, but I think he preferred the one with vampires.  But then, who wouldn’t?  Vampires are really big these days.

There was another guy with a beard at the table.  It was really full, kind of wild.  He was wearing a baseball cap (the right way) over his long hair.  He suggested that he could possible refine his look and pass himself off as Jesus Christ in much the same way as the other guy was pretending to be Lincoln.  Then you’d have Jesus Christ and Abe Lincoln at that same poker table.

Of course, some of us pointed out that he couldn’t really be “Honest Abe”—at least while playing poker.  After all, being totally honest at a poker table isn’t really such a good idea.

In addition to Sammy, JC and Abraham Lincoln, there was an Egyptian at the table.  Seriously, that’s what we were calling him (and what he called himself) after he said he was originally from Egypt (now living in Southern California).  The Egyptian was a chatty, friendly guy.  Perhaps a bit too friendly.

Apparently at one point, at the behest of The Egyptian, everyone had agreed to a round of straddles.  Everyone but me, that is.  I must have been too busy taking notes to have heard this conversation.  But suddenly everyone had been straddling and then I was under-the-gun and The Egyptian told me it was my turn to straddle.

You all know how I feel about straddling.  So of course I refused.  I never straddle.  Never.  I think it’s the stupidest bet in the entire casino (I’m specifically talking about the under-the-gun straddle here).  And as such, I hate it when some clown at the poker table suggests a round of straddles.  It’s like, “Let’s everybody make the same stupid bet so at least we can all prove we’re equally stupid.”  I’ve been known to change tables rather than sit with folks who suggest a round of straddles.

I of course said no, I hadn’t agreed to straddling and I wasn’t going to do it.  The Egyptian was a pretty big guy and was sitting in seat 7 while I was in seat 5.  So the Egyptian leaned over and reached out and tapped the table in front of me and said, “Come on, come on, put out $4.”

I said no again and he again tapped on the table in front of me and said, “What, that $4 is gonna keep you from going to college?”

I said nothing.  But I was pissed.  That’s just the kind of thing that really bothers me.  Don’t tell me how to spend my money, pal.  I was about to ask for a table change but then I changed my mind.  The cash drawing was about a half an hour away and I figured I would just stay there until the drawing, and then decide if I wanted to call it a night or move them.

I wasn’t the only one pissed off by the Egyptian.  Sammy had moved to the seat directly to the left of the Egyptian.  In addition to the big stack of chips, Sammy had at least one hundred dollar bill as part of his stack.  At one point Sammy was complaining about having been card dead for awhile.  The Egyptian said, “What are you complaining about?  You’ve got all this money.”  And with that, he grabbed Sammy’s $100 bill and waved it in front of him.  This set Sammy off.  Usually a very jovial, fun-loving guy, he started yelling at the Egyptian.  “Don’t touch my money.  Keep your hands off my money.” And with that, he left the table.  I assumed that he was going to ask for a table change, but that wasn’t the case.

I hadn’t really said anything to the guy about the straddle, just a muted “no.”  But Sammy’s tone sort of made everyone uncomfortable. Suddenly, the pleasant conversation was gone and even though Sammy was away, you could gut the tension with a knife.  Everyone stopped talking.

Things lightened up though when Nancy came to the table to deal.  The last time I mentioned Nancy was in the post here.  This night, she looked different.  She was wearing a cast on her right hand.

Despite the cast, Nancy, trooper that she is, was dealing about as fast as most dealers.  It was her wrist, her pinkie and her ring finger that were bandaged up. She could still use her thumb (mostly) and her other two fingers.  It was actually impressive,

Of course, I had to ask Nancy what happened.  She said she threw a punch and broke her hand.  “Threw a punch?  At someone or something?” I asked.

“I punched someone. I got into a fight.  It was a friend of mine. She had gotten out of line and I had to punch her.  To be fair, she had had way too much to drink.”

“You punched a girl?”  I wanted to be sure.

Yes, she punched a girl.  So I guess it was a cat-fight.

“Slugger” was replaced by a male dealer, an excellent, very professional dealer.  But I won’t reveal his blog name because of….well, you’ll see.

Sammy had returned and so did the tension.  But he already had the seat change button and was able to use it almost immediately to get on the other side of the table from the Egyptian.  The Egyptian didn’t get why Sammy was so upset.  He said something like, “We’ve been kidding around, having fun all night.  Why are you so upset?”  Sammy replied, in a harsh tone, “You kept touching my money, man.  I told you not to do that.  You touched my chips twice, you grabbed my bill, you touched my wallet.  I don’t like that.”

Sammy managed to annoy the dealer a bit when he moved.  He had too many chips to carry in his hands but he tried to anyway.  He spilled them and one of them went in the automatic shuffler.  This caused at least a five-minute delay in dealing the next hand (and thus, costing the dealer money).  But he hadn’t lost his sense of humor.

Abe Lincoln was talking about calling it a night. This was after he’d won a nice pot and tipped the dealer generously.  So the dealer said, “Don’t go.  I don’t want you to leave.”

Abe Lincoln asked, “Why, because I’m a good tipper?”

Dealer: “No, that’s not it.  It’s just that Vampires might show up, and we may need you.”

This broke the tension and had everyone laughing.  I want to be clear—this dealer was not around when Abe Lincoln mentioned the Vampire movie.  In fact, since he’d been at the table, nobody had referred to this guy as Lincoln either.  It would have been funny even if he had heard our discussion of the Vampire flick, but since he hadn’t, it was awesome.

Unfortunately, things didn’t stay jovial for too long.  Three convention goers joined our table.  They made it clear they were just there to have a good time and get drunk.  Ordinarily, these are precisely the kind of people you want at your table.  But they were sitting on opposite sides of the table and wouldn’t stop any conversation they were having long enough even look at their cards.  The dealer and/or the players next to them had to constantly remind them that the action was on them.  The game slowed to a crawl. 

The leader of this group of conventioneers did have one good line.  Noticing the girls walking by for the club, he said, “You know, I’m so old, in my day, in order to get laid you need to have four goats.”

In addition to telling them during the hand when it was his turn, the dealer dutifully reminded them between hands that they needed to follow the action and be prepared to act when it was on them.  They denied that they were slowing up the game (which was absurd).  Suddenly, the Egyptian spoke up, and started criticizing the dealer for warning the players to stop slowing up the game.  “We were all having a good time and you come here and start yelling at them.  Just do your job dealer and deal. Just deal.”  I am sure that the Egyptian never saw the convention goers before they arrived at the table.

Sammy took this opportunity to deny that we were all having a good time because the Egyptian had touched his money.  Things were spinning out of control. 

The dealer was back arguing with the “leader” of the convention goers and he asked him if he wanted him to call the Manager over. He said yes and thus the Manager came over.  As soon as the Manager came over, the Egyptian, who really wasn’t involved, started yelling at the dealer (in front of the Manager) that it was all his fault there was so much tension and that everything was fine until he had started criticizing the convention guys.  This was total bullshit, of course.

But it was the end of the dealer’s down anyway and so the Manager pulled him aside and got his side of the story.  With a new dealer in the box, the Manager very gently (too gently, if you ask me) reminded everyone to pay attention to the game and left.

I had had enough.  I suppose playing with those convention guys might have been +EV but they were only going to slow up the game even more as they continued to drink.  It would be too annoying to play with them, I thought.

Besides, I had definitely had my fill of the Egyptian.  I didn’t want to be at the same casino, let alone the same table, as this guy.

So I picked up and called it a night.  As you may have guessed, there were no poker hands worth talking about from this session.  I left a few backs behind.

After cashing out, I did make a point of going over to the Manager and giving him my unbiased view of what had happened.  I like this Manager but I was a bit disappointed in the way he handled it.  Specifically, I thought he should have defended his dealer better.

I knew that the Manager would respect my opinion—he’s known me for a long time. I wanted to be gentle in criticizing his actions, so I was careful with my words.  “I was a little surprised you didn’t warn that guy about the way he was talking to (the dealer).  I didn’t think it was right that he was yelling at him.”

He admitted that he raised his voice but didn’t think he was yelling.  He was just trying to defuse the situation.  So I gave him a brief recap of what had led up to the whole problem.

And as I was in the middle of my explanation, who should come over to interrupt but the Egyptian, who was on his way to the Men’s Room.

He said to me, “You’re telling him how out of line that dealer was, right?”  But he didn’t say “dealer.”  He referred to the dealer by his ethnicity.  No, he didn’t use an objectionable term, but his ethnicity was irrelevant and he could have just said “the dealer” or even “him” as we both surely would have known who he meant.

Funny that the Egyptian would think I would be on his side in this.  I guess I really do have a poker face.

I told the Egyptian that the dealer was just trying to keep the game moving in an orderly fashion.  So the Egyptian started arguing with me, in a bit of a heated fashion.  “You’re defending him?  Everything was fine until he showed up.”  That was a lie and I called him on it, and fortunately, he took off for the Men’s Room.

The Manager said to me, “OK, I think I’ve got this all pretty well figured out now.  I’ll be sure to tell (the dealer) that you stuck up for him.”

And that was the end of a real crazy, schizophrenic night of poker.


  1. So you're saying that I shouldn't give away my goats???

    1. Well, that's what a drunk guy says but I have no idea about his veracity.

      Next time a hooker approaches me in Vegas, maybe I'll ask her how many goats she wants as payment??

  2. > He referred to the dealer by his ethnicity.

    How is this different from you referring to him as the Egyptian?

    1. Because the entire night, EVERYONE referred to him as "The Egyptian". Even HE referred to HIMSELF that way.. He was actually (seemingly) enjoying referring to himself as the Egyptian.

      I suppose you could say that the fact that everyone was calling him that made it "easy" for him to refer to the dealer by his ethnicity, but believe me, the tone he used when referring to the dealer's ethnicity was not at all the same tone he and everyone else was using when calling him The Egyptian.

  3. I used to be like you and never straddle from UTG, thinking that it was -EV. However, I've come around to think that it is good for the game, especially when the rest of the table is doing it.

    Better players like to see the pots get bigger so the bad players make bigger mistakes. I take satisfaction in winning a couple different ways with the straddle. 1. If you get in for cheap (no raise or a small raise), you can flop gin with a junk hand, which you normally wouldn't have played from that position. or 2. You wake up with a monster and after several limpers of $4 or $5 (depending on the straddle amount), you can make a sizeable raise of $35 - $75 and a lot of players think you are just "making a move". In addition, making the pot bigger pre-flop, also helps your chances beating the rake, which is harder to do in 1/2 compared to 2/5 or 5/10.

    One of these days, you are going to try the straddle and win a few sizeable pots, and you can thank me later.


    1. Um, thanks, cowboy. I dunno, right now I believe there should be a special place in hell for people who straddle my big blind, and I can't see myself going to the dark side.

      I've also seen straddles kill the action cuz people who would normal limp in with mediocre hands just fold.

  4. The goats are for payment, right? We're not veering from the weird to the downright creepy, here, are we?

    1. I think so. I didn't ask the guy.

      It would seem to me the goats were a payment to the girl's father, as in the real, real, real olden days. But that would be more like to marry the girl, not just a quickie.

      But the guy was drunk, so who knows.

  5. Hi Rob,

    I really enjoy reading your blog - allows me to live vicariously through your stories until the next time I can get to Vegas ... which is coming up soon (10 days at the end of May).

    I don't like to straddle either, but I don't mind when other people do. And if it's a good/fun table, I also don't really mind joining in a round of straddles - I mean, it's only $4 so what the hell. I guess maybe I'll have a different view if/when I move up in limits.

    Anyway, greetings from London!

    1. Thanks, VegasDWP.

      I will be in Vegas end of May as well, so let me know when you're there and let's see if we can get together.

      Maybe I need to loosen up a bit on the straddles of the reasons I switched from Blackjack to Poker is that for most of the hands, you get to see your two cards before putting any money at risk. I like that.