Sunday, October 25, 2009

Poker - Entertainment or Work?

Sometimes I think I go to work purely for the entertainment of it all.

Though it was quite slow for the first half of the day, there was something interesting happening during every hour.

10:00am-11:00am - Julio, my favorite bald, Cuban poker dealer and I sit around for a few minutes before the tournament starts (late) and he tells me that Mr. P. has been fired. Surveillance finally caught him sleeping at the poker tables during the day. Then the tournament starts. There are some new players and some old players. Tantrum Doug is there - and almost throws a fit because he starts out losing. Then he ends up winning second place in the tournament and leaves smiling and happy and not throwing anything.

11:00am-12:00noon - The tournament is over, and no one stayed to play a live-action (cash) game, so Julio and I, and Steve the floorman, sit around and chat some more. Steve looks remarkably like the main guy on "Revenge of the Nerds" and I like that. I text back and forth with my cousin, Aimee while Julio rambles on about the good ol' days. And Steve mostly just listens and laughs once in a while. We talk about Mr. P. for a few minutes, and Steve says it's "final", meaning no second chances. There's almost always a second chance here. They should call it Second Chance City instead of Sin City. But I guess Mr. P.'s sins outweighed his chances this time around.

12:00noon-1:00pm - I get bored so I go out to smoke, but stop in A.J.'s department first to say 'hi'. He looks like his dog died. I ask him what's the matter and he says he doesn't know. He says he thinks he's depressed. He asks me where I was Saturday night. That was over a week ago and I can't remember. I say I must've gone to the store or something. He says I wasn't home, my car wasn't there. And he asks in a very prying, jealous, disappointed way. And I'm supposed to think everything's alright with that. I smile and say I don't remember where I was, hmmm...Saturday... He lowers his head and says he should've just called me. I tell him that would've been a good idea. He comes in the poker room a bit later and creeps up behind me. Then sits two seats away from me and plays with his phone for a few minutes. I wonder if he's texting me while I'm sitting two feet from him because he likes to do strange shit like that, but he's not. Then he leaves.

1:00pm-2:00pm - I go outside to smoke again, and a lot of the regular smokers are there. The lovely banquet lady who's as sweet as pie. A couple of food server people, the Liberace-gay black guy with the camel boots and camel suit and loud, loud voice. And the Phillipino kid with one eye is there too. I say hello to everyone. No matter how many times I see that kid and his crazy face, I can't get over it. And it makes me feel bad. Something terrible must've happened to him, I'm sure. But it's not like he just doesn't have an eye. Whoever fixed him up after he lost that eye had to pull some face skin up over it and covered the whole area up completely. No eye, no eyebrow, no hint of an eye ever being there. It's freaky. And I'm shallow. I text A.J. that I wonder if he is busy tonight, and if not, is he going to come by my place and say 'hi'. I go back in to the poker game that just started and begin to actually work for the day.

Vinny and her large arms are there. Her husband is playing too - yikes - he stresses me out when he plays. Constant, and I mean constant - I don't even think he breathes - chatter, mumblings under his breath about how horrible the game is for him. Even when he wins, it wasn't a big enough pot, or he thought so much that he was gonna lose that the shock of winning is even a bad thing. There are also four other players, one of which is a large elderly man who reeks like parmesan cheese and hospital cleaner, and when he gets up, it's like a cloud of vomit-antiseptic explodes all around us.

2:00pm-3:00pm - The big-hair lady I had seen wandering outside the poker room earlier decides to play cards with us. I had thought it was a wig, but it wasn't. Big, thick, wavy, bobbed black hair on a slender woman in or around her early 70's. She drew the short stick and had to sit by the drunken pervert loudmouth in the middle of the table. Her name was Marilyn - and the drunken loudmouth let everyone know that, though I think she would have preferred to go unknown, incognito. A.J. comes back in the poker room for visit #2, but I'm dealing, so he paces back and forth in front of the table a few times, stares at me for a few minutes from every angle of the table, then walks out of the room staring behind him, at me, still.

3:00pm-4:00pm - I go on break one last time and check my phone for an answer to my text. There isn't one. There won't be one.

4:00pm-5:00pm - Jason, the swing-shift floorman comes on duty and begins watching everything like a hawk. He's good at that. And no one is ever going to accuse HIM of sleeping on the job. He catches me writing a note on my hand while I'm still dealing cards at the table, takes my pen away, and whispers in my ear what a horrible offense I have just committed. I laugh and laugh and say it was important. I had to remember to bake Julio's pumpkin bread tonight, I didn't want to forget.

5:00pm-6:00pm - I'm actually working this entire hour - it's a miracle. And it kind of is. Because I end the day making $110 in tokes (tips) and thought for sure I wouldn't even break $40 for the day. I stop on my way out to chat with Nadine and Syble, my two favorite old-lady-poker-sisters. I tell them about my pumpkin bread and they want to buy some. Yey for me! We exchange hugs and short stories and phone numbers. And then I'm free.

Whether it's for entertainment, or for cash in my pocket, I go to work. But somehow I think maybe there's more to the story. And I dream about some of these people weeks after I've met them. I'm a poker player, maybe that's why. On one of my breaks, a buffet server guys said to me: "poker people are a strange, quiet little group". And, except when they're drunk, I think he's right.

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