Red Stick

LSJohn

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My road partner Pat and I -- neither one of us knew shit or had any money, so I should have said "the guy with me on vacation," but he played strong 9 ball and 14:1 -- had gotten a "maybe" lead from my friend "The Captain" in Shreveport. The suggestion sent us toward Baton Rouge, and it was on the way to New Orleans, where we were planning to go anyway.

The place was an upscale bar near the LSU campus, frequented mostly by college kids. Several of the better local players would dip in and out putting a light hustle on the beer-drinking college boys on the bar boxes. We wouldn't make much from the beer drinkers, but there was the possibility of out-hustling the hustlers and making a score.

When we got there after Pat's lifetime first crawfish dinner, there was a $2 challenge game in progress. We grabbed beers and sat down to watch. Nothing changed for 30-45 minutes and I said we might as well pick up some expense money before we left, but Pat said, "Better not. We don't know who might be watching," and he tilted his head toward a couple of guys who'd also been watching and didn't look a good fit for the environment.

After a few more minutes Pat said, "I want to hit some balls. Lets go find a pool hall."

We drove around a while and after no luck asking a couple of pedestrians we finally got directions. The directions weren't quite right, but we thought we were in the right neighborhood so we circled around a while and found it. I think the name was "Green-[something]."

Only a couple of tables were occupied; the table that looked the best was by the cashier's counter, and we asked for it to the guy who was sitting behind the counter reading a newspaper. When he stood up I saw that I knew him. It was Jess, a fellow I had played no-limit "Pistol" with a couple of times in Shreveport. I had never realized he was from Baton Rouge or that he had a pool room.

I said, "Well I'll be damned Jess. I didn't know you lived down here."

He said, "Oh, hey, how ya doin'?" The way he said it looked like he didn't remember my name, so I said "John, from Shreveport."

"Oh, yeah. I couldn't place you for a minute. What are you doin' down here?"

I didn't know what to say. Pat was one of those rare people who didn't lie, and he didn't think much of those who did. I, on the other hand...

"My girlfriend is at LSU and I just dragged Pat with me to come see her."

"You fellows wanna play some pool?"

"Yeah, can we have this table here?"

"I usually reserve it for the gamblers, but be my guest. Or," he said, "I'll play you some."

I said, "Fine with me if Pat wants to play you some, but I don't play worth a shit."

"Wanna try some, Pat," Jess asked, and Pat said, "How much?"

"How about some $10 9-ball."

Pat looked at me as though he was looking for my approval. I said, "Don't look at me, it's your money. But I will say this: Jess wantin' to play for $10/game doesn't necessarily mean he's a world-beater; he's got more gamble in his little finger than... you get the idea."

Pat said OK, and off they went.

Jess played a little better than I expected, but Pat had no trouble with him and following his loss of a few games after they raised the bet to 20, Jess said, "Damn, son. You can really play this game. I'm gonna have to give you a hoppin'.

"I need a drink," he said, "and I'm buyin," so we all sat down with beers.

Jess said, "I know how I can get even if you'll give me half of your action."

Pat said, "Sure, whatcha got?"

"My friend Billy -- well, he is a friend -- but we're gamblin' enemies, and we'd f**k each other in a heartbeat as long as serious money wasn't involved. Billy comes in almost every day around 6:00 and plays for a couple of hours when it's not a poker night. Oh, hey, John, you'd like my poker game. We play $5 Pistol on Thursday night and Wheel lowball on Saturday. The game is good."

I would have inquired further but Pat jumped in (if he and I were 50/50, he didn't want to hear anything about me playing poker. I probably played a little better than he thought at that time, but not well enough.) Pat said, "Tell me about Billy."

Jess said, "Do you play one pocket?"

Pat laughed and said, "Play Whaaaat?"

"OK," Jess said smiling. "Billy plays good one pocket, and he'll gamble with you at 9 ball, but he'll try to switch you over. Just so you know, if you get 9 ball action with him I want in, but if you play him any one-pocket you're on your own."

"OK, you got it. We'll see you tomorrow evening."

"Be here before 6:00. We don't want him to get in action without you."

As we headed toward the door, Jess said, "Oh, by the way, John, how's that LSU girlfriend?"

I said, "I'll have to let you know later. I know she goes to school here, I just haven't picked her out yet."

"That's about what I thought," Jess said. "I wish I'd thought of it a couple of hundred ago."

==========

Next evening we rolled in about 5:00 after we both slept very late and had a mid-afternoon breakfast that introduced Pat to grits. ("Not as bad as I expected" was the best recommendation Pat would give.)

Billy came in at his usual time and Pat and I both spotted him before Jess even gave us the high sign. Jess had described him the night before, and Billy was carrying a beautiful cue case that looked hand-tooled.

Pat said, "Now there's a pool player. I'll play you some 3-rail billiards for $10 a point."

Billy said, "OK, but we'll have to find out where there's a table."

Pat said, "Dammit. I was already countin' the money."

"Billy said, "I'll try you some one pocket."

Pat said, "Some whaaaat?"

Billy said, "Don't worry, I'll explain the rules as we go along."

I said, "Hey Pat, can I have half your action? That sounds like a pretty good deal," and we all laughed.

We introduced ourselves around and Billy said, "I'll play you some cheap 9 ball."

Pat said, "What's cheap?"

Billy said, "Ten or twenty a game should be OK."

Pat said, "I'll try you some for 10, but you have to promise not to tell my wife."

Billy says, "Dammit, wrong again. I would have guessed that you aren't married."

"I'm not," Pat said, and the game was on.

Pat fired right out, they raised the bet to 20 and later to 30 before Billy gave in, stuck about $300.

Jess immediately came over to get his half. He gave Billy a big smile as he was collecting his share, and Billy said, "You son-of-a-bitch."

"What did I do?" asked Jess. "I only invited them to come play about 6:00 and told them there was a tall, dark-headed sucker that would probably be in about then," and Billy laughed as he said, "You rotten bastard."
==========

The next night was Thursday, "Pistol" night. More about that later.
 
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LSJohn

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monett missouri
More Baton Rouge

More Baton Rouge

Pat didn't know crap about one pocket, but he could run balls. Once upon a time, Jean Balukas was coming to University of Missouri-KC to perform an exhibition. Pat's girlfriend, who was a student there, happened to be interning in the office of whoever was making the arrangements. He or she mentioned that s/he needed to find someone to play guinea pig for Balukas and Kathy said, "My boyfriend plays pool." When Kathy was asked, "Is he any good," she said "Yeah, pretty good," but even she had no idea. Bottom line, Pat beat Balukas badly -- Oops!

Pat also had a sharp calculating mind, so when Billy hustled him to play one pocket the next day I said, "Get some weight and go for it. Meanwhile, I'll play some Pistol and get us even."

Pat said, "I'll need a lot of weight if I have to beat Billy fast enough for you to keep us even."

I said, "OK, OK, we each put ourselves on a $200 limit and go for it," and we did.

Pat tried to hold out for 8-6, but he wound up getting 8-7 and two breaks out of three. I didn't know how much worse that was than 8-6 break-about but Billy held out and Pat went for it for 40 a game.

I told Pat, "Forty's good. I'll have time to watch all five games before the poker game cranks up."

Pat said, "No, you can't play poker until Billy and I finish. Somebody has to get me coffee. Besides, if I keep you here, the slower I play, the more money we save."

"#%&@ you," I said. "Now you've got me pulling for Billy."

They played even for two or three hours and finally Billy said, "This is too much weight."

Pat said, "We're dead even!"

"Yes," said Billy, "but I thought we both understood that the purpose of this game was for me to get even from last night."

"Oh," Pat said, "I guess I missed that. How 'bout if we raise it to 50 and we can break even faster."

"You got it," Billy said, "that's all I was anglin' for anyway. Now I'm gonna toast your nuts."

About this time I was overcome by the poker itch and left them to toast Pat's nuts without me.

========

"Pistol" is five card stud, but it isn't. There is no ante, and the hand starts with each player getting only a hole card. If he likes his hole card a player calls the empty pot with whatever amount is the standard for that game. The pot can't be raised at this point. "Five dollar Pistol" indicates that the amount is $5.

The game was full 10-handed when I went back so I pulled up a stool to watch. After a while "Homer" went broke, tried to borrow some money from several people but got no takers, and I had a seat. I sat in for $100.

I went through that hundred pretty fast, making a very loose call against the fastest player in the game, "Cheese." With my second hundred I made two Qs against 2 10s and doubled up, then drew out on the river in another hand where I was in trouble. This got me about $50 winner and I left my chair and my chips to see how Pat was doin'.

I asked him how it was goin', and he said, "OK."

Billy said "OK? The wrong nuts are gettin' toasted here." The bet was now $100 and Pat had won the last 3 in a row.

"Matter of fact, now that you mention it, I can't give you this game anymore. I don't know if I can beat you even."

Pat said, "The bad news is, you'll never know." Then he said to me, "I don't know whether I'd rather have you out here queerin' this game or in the back pissin' off our money there."

I said, "Aw, Pat, come on. Lets raise my limit to 4 or 5 hundred. I know I can beat these guys."

Pat said to Billy, "I guess we can't play anymore. I can't afford to leave numb-nuts here in that back room."

Billy said, "You mean I have to stake John in the poker game just to keep you playin' long enough to finish gettin my nuts off here?"

Pat laughed and said, "Sweeeeeet! Now I don't have to ask for more weight."

Billy said, "That'll be the f**kin' day," and started racking the balls.

I went back to the Pistol. Just as I walked in, Cheese said, "Man overboard! Give me 4 goddam hundred this time."

It was no suprise when Cheese entered the next hand. He caught a K on the turn and bet 15 at the 15 in the middle. Bob, an attorney who seemed to be a pretty loose player also, but had the biggest stack at the table, thought a long time and called him with an 8. Two cards and two Cheese-bets later he was showing K-Q-10, Bob was showing 8-9-5, and there was about 300 in the middle. On the river both caught blanks, and Cheese said, "All in."

Bob went in the tank for a looooong time. Finally "The Kid" who was running the game said, "Time, Bob. You gotta do somethin'."

Bob said, "I guess I'll call."

Cheese said, "Damn, Kid." Then to Bob, "You got it." Bob turned his Ace out of the hole and Cheese said, "That's good, that's good, that's good. I've said 'that's good' so many times tonight, if someone stuck a turd in my mouth I'd probably say 'That's good'! Gimme a thousand."

This could get really good, but the more I thought about it, I really didn't want to blow off $250 and have to listen to Pat giving me shit the whole rest of the trip. With Cheese speeding anything could happen. I sat for a few more deals and cashed out. "Nit" I thought to myself. Oh well. I really wanted to save my stake and little win for the lowball game Saturday. That was a game I played a lot better than I did Pistol.

I watched Billy win one game and Pat win two before Billy said, "I gotta give it up, Pat. If I ever had an edge I don't any more. You're playing good one pocket and I can't fade any more seven-and-outs. Besides, unlike professional pool players, I have to work in the morning."

Pat said, "Yeah, we definitely don't want you to miss that."

Billy said, "F**K you," and laughed. "If I get any sleep tonight -- I may not the way you hammered me -- I'll play you some even tomorrow night."

"I'll have to confer with my poker genius here, but I like your chances of gettin it on. He wants to keep me distracted so he can get his nuts off back there," tilting his head toward the poker room.

As Billy was saddling up to leave he said, "John, keep your ass out of that back room. If you dump my money off back there I'm gonna start writin' Pat bad checks."

Pat was on a roll and wanted to go check out that bar again, but I was hungry and tired and talked him out of it. There's always tomorrow.

Before we left I told Pat, "Hold on." I went back to tell Jess, "I've been meanin' to let you know that it really was coincidence we came in here. We were in town to gamble, and the girlfiend story was bullshit, but we weren't looking for you. We just came in for Pat to loosen up and I had no idea you were here."

"Good. I was wonderin' who had sicced you on me. Either way it woulda been OK though. I'm no virgin."

"We'll probably see you tomorrow," I said, and we headed to Toddle House for grub.
 
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