Saturday, February 19, 2005

Hold 'Em or Fold 'Em

Telling tales of my days at Bugs is an interesting experience for me. I tell the stories in passing, but sitting down to type them out makes me miss the old joint and the good times. Yes, some of the times were not great and many of the characters were shady, but I still had a place to go, a place where I felt a part of the crowd. It's not that I don't feel like I fit in though. In my life, I see a trend. I always have a place where I feel at home. At this point in my life, I feel just as comfortable at Fridleykin's or The Chalet as I did at Bugs. I have a strong sense of loyalty to both of those places.

While thinking about what story to spin about Bugs next, I realized that most of the stories exist outside the walls of Bugs. Our crew got together to do things after the place closed, or we went out on days when the primary regulars didn't work. There are quite a few parties that I will get around to sharing, but today I wanted to find a story from inside the walls.

Searching through the database that is my mind, I remembered playing 7-card stud with the crew. If the owner had ever figured out that we played poker for money right in front of the entrance, we probably would have all been banned from the place. Maybe he knew and never said anything, but I think he just never knew.

Gaming is not legal in Minnesota. Money games (poker or pool) are not something that should be happening, yet it did. We played poker pool all the time (a fun game if you want to equalize the playing field) and I left Bugs with pockets full of quarters many a night.

On one cool autumn evening, someone grabbed a deck of cards we'd been using to play poker pool and suggested we get a game of 7-card stud going. The joint was slower that night, I remember it was a Saturday night and many high school football games were still playing. The kids kept away and it was mostly regulars in the place. Seven of us pulled up barstools next to the bar box right in front of the counter. Dennis didn't have the funds to play so he was our honorary dealer. Big D was working behind the counter, that's probably how we got away with this. If Michelle had been in the place that night, we would have never been allowed to gamble in such a public view. But we did.

Our poker table was the pool table we played so many games of eight-, nine-, and ten-ball. There were six players in the games of stud and I was the only woman. Inexperience was a quality I possessed when playing poker. Sure, I knew the games from days of sitting around playing for pennies with my parents, but we were not playing for pennies that night. Most of the pots were laced with five and ten dollar bills.

We laughed as we played the hands out. Sometimes I folded, sometimes I held my cards. I won a few early pots and maintained my position at the table. The other players that night were Mr. Clean (the inbred), Uncle Ga-ga (the perpetual pregnant with two-year twins man), Mouse (the stoner), Aron (upcoming class clown), and AJ (future bouncer in a strip club who was deathly afraid of women).

Each of us had started out with about sixty dollars. To me, it was enough to have fun and I didn't mind losing. Most of the pots would end up at about thirty dollars, but there was the one hand where it was all or nothing.

As the cards were dealt out, I checked my hold cards. Not bad, not great. Just a pair, but it kept me in the game. Dennis kept dealing the cards out and I watched as Uncle Ga-ga folded. Mouse bowed out. AJ folded quickly. The pot still only held about fifteen dollars after the first face up card was dealt.

Mr. Clean had a grin from ear-to-ear. The second card was dealt out and he was now showing a pair of queens. My lowly six showing didn't seem impressive, yet I stayed in. Aron bowed out. The bidding wars started. The third card was dealt. I now had a pair of sixes to Mr. Clean's queens showing. He started trying to push, trying to get me to bow out. He thought I was so inexperienced in the game that I wouldn't realize that queens beat sixes. So I stayed in.

The fourth card flopped up and he bid high. He was trying to build up his stock of cash. I matched his twenty dollar bet and he still figured I was bluffing or an idiot. As the final down card (down and dirty, I remember that's what we all said, cheesy) was dealt, he tried once again to break me or take me for all the money. He came close too. His bet depleted his funds and I had to borrow one dollar from Uncle Ga-ga to stay in the game. The pot now held $170. He looked at me and said, "If you can't beat what is showing, fold."

I looked at him and rolled my eyes. No shit Sherlock. But I matched his bet. It was time for him to show his cards.

He flopped up a pair of sevens to go with his queens. "Three of a kind isn't going to beat this," he told me and reached for the pot.

"Okay, I understand that. But I don't have three of a kind. I have two pair, kings over sixes." I said it with the innocence of an inexperienced blonde, trying hard to fit in with the bad boys in a pool hall. I was out of place, but holding my own.

He kept reaching for the pot and froze. All of the guys at the table broke into roaring laughter. The arrogant prick was out of the game and pissed. The shock on his face was priceless and I still look back and laugh. Mr. Clean is the primary reason I do not go to the pool hall anymore and this is just a fun memory for me.

I walked away from the table that night about fifty dollars up. I had a good time and put Mr. Clean in his place. I paid Uncle Ga-ga back his buck, with a tip, and Dennis ended up making a little dough in tips. We had fun and we never did repeat our poker night.