Scene: Starbuck's outside the Golden Nugget, Las Vegas,
look. A lot of the dealers out here shuffle the same way."
Matt put a couple of red aces on the bottom of the deck face
up. As he began to shuffle, a middle-aged Japanese man and
woman stopped a few feet away to watch.
"They often flash the
bottom card, maybe two. I keep my eyes on these cards and
try to count. They will shuffle a few times leaving the
bottom card somewhere from the 48th to the 52nd card. Then
they start cutting little groups of cards about ten at a
time off the top. This is the key part. Your bottom card
ends up 8th to 10th. Then they cut one last time near the
middle of the deck. Now your card may end up out of play. If
he cuts anywhere past the middle, it could be on the board.
You know I am talking totally just between us as family
members. I wouldn’t show anyone else this. Not one
sun-burned, son-of-a bitch anywhere. Do you follow this?"
"I can do that a little. It
rarely ever comes up. It usually takes more energy than it
is worth. I look for two or three cards together and work in
thirds of the deck. The flashed cards are dealt to a player
or the board or out of play. Burn cards make this even less
effective. I work at it all the time and it rarely wins me a
pot. I'll know an ace is gone and represent having it
sometimes. That has just gotten me in trouble," Dylan said.
Matt was shuffling the
deck. The Japanese man began to video tape him from a few
feet away. Matt acted as if he didn't notice, but he whipped
'em and popped 'em and made the deck sound like the
Chattanooga Shoe Shine Boy making music with his rag.
"To see your hand or know
your hand, folks have to gaff the top of the deck through
marks, nicks, bends, crimps, paints, and daubs or see the
bottom with shiners or mirrors. You don't need to worry so
much on that but keep checking the tops of your cards. Never
take your eyes off the deck. What you really have to watch
out for is shiners. I hate those cell phones or CD players
with the tilted mirror edges," Matt said. "There is one
hustler out here who throws this giant set of keys and shiny
crap about half way across the table."
The Japanese had been
joined by three more Japanese. There were three video and
two digital cameras and one cell phone photographing Matt
and Dylan. Matt took off his green fedora and waved it at
the cameras. He held his pony tail by his shoulder and shook
it much to the orgasmic delight of the giggling Japanese. He
began to cut the cards over and over with one hand. He
fanned the deck out face down and then flipped it over with
one card back and forth a few times. The Japanese moved
"What do you do if you
think you are being cheated out here?" Dylan asked.
"I don't know. Usually just
leave the game. You can ask to change decks without saying
why, if there are bent corners or something. Moody would
always say, 'Don't knock another man's prop.' There's some
scary people hustling around here. I don't want to piss them
off. If you have a partner or friend, you go behind their
seat and run your thumb across the middle of their backs to
sign them something is wrong. You have to expect to be
playing against partners. I can show you who the gars are
around these downtown joints. We'll go case the game. These
Japanese get more of a kick out of a camera than Rush
Limbaugh gets from hillbilly heroin and Viagra," Matt said,
still mugging for the camera. He gave them the O.K. sign and
the peace sign. A tour group of some forty Japanese with a
hundred and twelve available cameras of different breeds
joined their co-religionists in photographing the O'Malley
boys having coffee with a dollar deck of cards. Fuji stock
rose five points. Matt started his fancy shuffling over.
"They shoot movies and
commercials on this corner all the time. Florida is in this
movie they shot at Binion’s Horseshoe with Robert Duvall. I
am willing to bet it will be a dynamite hit." Matt said.
Then Matt addressed the
Japanese crowded around the waste high iron rail of the
Starbucks. "Being a gambler, I'm betting y'all are from
Japan. You probably never heard of Texas. That's where me
and this boy are from, Texas." "Texas!" There were echoes
and all their heads bobbed like apples at Halloween. Matt
smiled graciously, making eye contact with as many Japanese
as possible. He nodded to each one.
The tour guide operator
interviewed Matt and a reluctant Dylan as his flock took
picture after picture. "You Texas cowboys?" he asked,
predictably. "No. We are poker players. Two of the best out
on the road. Binion's Horseshoe right there is a shrine for
poker, the birthplace of modern poker. Take them into the
poker room to shoot some pictures," Matt said. He knew that
photographing people in cash games was prohibited. Recent
advances in technology had castrated another rule.
Just then a diminutive
Elvis impersonator shuffled along across the street. The
Japanese deserted Matt hastily. Several wished them "good
luck" in Japanese. The obviously bipolar Japanese Prime
Minister's fascination with Elvis was contagious. The group
moved compactly and in sync like a herd of sheep. "Look at
that slack-jawed midget," Matt said. "I call him Downtown
Elvis. That guy doesn’t weigh a hundred pounds soaking wet.
There's nothing about him looks like Elvis except those
incredibly dirty white pants and that ol' big collar shirt.
He's purt near bald. He looks slow. See those Japs are all
giving him a dollar or two. He's twice as smart as us. Each
and every one of them will have an individual picture made
"Call them back over. I'll
dance an Irish jig and sing an Irish song if there is any
money in it," Dylan said. The semi-fresh outdoor air and the
heavy French roast coffee were promising revival.
"I should have asked them
to hand us a little something. There's this fellow sits up
his spread at night with about fifty bright colored parrots
and macaws and all. You can get photographed with them
sitting on your head or shoulders. There's these two big
tittied show girls that are ever bit as tall as that Chinese
basketball player. They have on six inch heels to boot. A
covey of eighty or ninety of those Japanese will be
photographing away. It's just like with Elvis. They will
dart out there and have their individual picture taken
standing between these gigantic show girls. Their bright
happy eyes are about belly-button high. We ought to dress up
like cowboys and put a sign around our neck that says TEXAS
POKER WISDOM. Hot as poker is, we could sell some photos out
here," Matt said. "Dress up like Amarillo Slim and copy his
act. We'd send him a royalty."
"I wish I had a camera last
night," Dylan said. If he had, Molly Golihugh would have
stolen it, too.
Then Matt pulled off three
cards and held them above his eyes toward the light above
filtering through the Fremont Experience canopy. He shifted
the angle back and forth until the diamond pattern
disappeared in the glare. "This in one of the ways you check
for marks or daub or paint. You can buy decks of paper or
pre-marked cards," Matt said. "A paper player wears a hat
where you can't see his eyes and him studying up on the
backs of your hole cards. He may be moving the deck around
funny to catch the glare on the marks. Let folks see you
checking the deck and that will slow them down. You ought to
have a hat from Binion's. Do you want me to buy you a hat?"
"My hair is way too pretty
to wear a hat," Dylan said. "I wear one sometimes." Matt
took the deck and ran his thumb from the bottom to the top
of the corner of the deck where all the cards would fly by
in a loud second. He was checking for marks.
"It's like those old timey
picture shows where each frame is slightly different. The
patterns are supposed to stay the same. A change or mark
will jump out at you. Each of these decks of diamond back
Bees are cut a little different or the edge is different.
You can buy five decks and make a deck of sorts with
different edge patterns for the high and low cards. Most
cheating is good for seven-five low ball and this is too,"
A heavily tattooed biker with a Harley shirt and a vest of
colorful patches was talking about poker at the next table
with a Sikk from India with a blue turban. Then Matt picked
up the deck and dealt as if in slow motion from the bottom.
Then he dealt seconds. Then he picked up the pace until the
cards were a bit of a blur. Dylan wasn't sure where a dealt
card came from.
"Never take your eyes off the deck and the dealer's hands.
Now I am dealing seconds. If you can't see 'em, listen. Hear
that little swoosh sound? You are pulling a card from
between two cards and it makes a noise. A second dealer or a
bottom dealer will start making chin music to cover. A paper
player or a locator will mum up because he is probably
thick-headed or he wouldn't be a cheater. He is having
trouble remembering. To deal seconds, you have to peek or
have marks. No reason for a dealer to roll over the deck
except to peek. A good blackjack dealer will pick up the
last hand and get a five on the bottom. Then he has a small
move to roll over the deck when he needs to hit a five. Put
your right arm across as a screen and roll the deck over."
"You move both your hands
in a kind of funny way," Dylan volunteered. "I can't see
what you are doing, but I would be very suspicious even if I
didn't know you."
"That's good. Something
smells funny, hop the game. There's poker in motels, car
lots, and Richie's houses all over Texas. There's games all
over Vegas. Find another game but don't cause a scene or
knock another man's proposition," Matt said. "If you have a
friend or partner, walk behind their chair and run your
thumb across the middle of their back. That's signing them
to cash out and catch the breeze. The big hat laws are
coming or there is some wolfing going on or there is a hot
score brewing, just thumb sign your partner and do the old
heel and toe. I can smell trouble coming better than any man
that ever walked in shoe leather. There is always another
game tomorrow. Keep a clean reputation but any trick you
don't know, somebody can play on you. Here's another sign."
Matt cleared his throat loudly and continued, "That means I
knocked off your move. Quit your wolfing. You can't cheat
me. If they know me, that will pull them up."
© Copyright 2007 by Johnny