man playing poker

With my car nowhere in sight, I rapidly fell into a state of confusion. I took a look around, completing a full 360 — nothing. My keys were already in my hand, so I held down the panic button while raising the key fob towards the sky — still, nothing.

Had my car been stolen? I highly doubt that an old Mazda 6 would catch the attention of a car thief. Not to mention, students were always coming and going, and this would be a risky spot to steal a car.

My feelings of confusion quickly dissipated when I finally double checked the parking sign — it was prohibited to leave your vehicle there between the hours of 12 to 6. There are signs like that all over Queens, but I had grown up in Long Island where there are next to none. I didn’t even think to read it.

I was now certain that my car had been towed and impounded. I was pissed at myself. I felt like an idiot, but I didn’t have time to stress about it — I had to be at the Bell Blvd game in the next 25 minutes.

I immediately thought about calling Sal, surely it wouldn’t be a big deal if l explained the situation and told him that I would be 15 minutes late, right? I mean, I would be getting there at 6:15, and the game didn’t even start until 7.

I took out my phone and began to search through my contacts list for Sal’s number. I had recently upgraded my phone to a Blackberry Pearl, and I vividly remember how fast you could scroll using the tiny, smooth ball that rested in the center of the device. I had never owned a phone with a QWERTY keyboard, either. Back in 2008, Blackberry Messenger, or BBM for short, was wildly popular. It was buggy and it sometimes malfunctioned, but it was incredibly useful when it was working properly.

I suddenly remembered that Joey also had a Blackberry. He had given me his BBM pin at the frat house game after seeing me take my phone out to answer a text. He was also the only other person I knew who had a car. I quickly decided to call him.

“Hey Julius, what’s up bro?”

“Dude, what are you doing right now? Are you still at the University Center? I’m in a bit of a jam and I need your help.”

“Yeah, I’m still at the UC. What’s going on? You alright?”

“I’m a dumb ass and parked my car in a restricted spot last night. Apparently you can only park here during the day.”

“Oh man, you must be near the main entrance with the black gate. Yeah dude, that’s a bad spot. Everyone who parks there gets towed.”

“I have to be at a poker game on Bell Blvd in 20 minutes. I’m dealing there tonight, I can’t be late. Can you give me a ride real quick? I know you wanted to check the place out anyway.”

“Sure, bro. I got you. Start heading over to the parking lot outside of the UC. I’ll see you in a few.”

“Fucking thanks dude.”

I end the call and begin to swiftly walk back to campus. While passing the main entrance gate, I say to myself, “Fuck it”. I decide that I have no time to waste and launch into a full-speed run. The UC was all the way on the other side of campus — easily a ten minute walk.

Sweating and out of breath, I make it to the parking lot and spot Joey. He’s waiting for me inside of his car. I open the passenger door and plop myself right inside.

“Bell Blvd! Go, now!” — Joey puts the car into drive and pulls out of the lot.

“Did you run all the way here?”

“Yes.” — I’m trying to catch my breath.

“But, why?” — Joey laughs while looking at the road.

“I really don’t want to be late. This is basically my first scheduled shift at this game.”

“So what? You can’t be a few minutes late? What are you gonna get fired?”

“Probably not, but this game is the fucking nuts, bro. I made almost $500 last time. I didn’t even start dealing until a little after 9PM.”

“No shit? You make that much from dealing?”

“Yeah, dude. I’m a solid dealer, but I’m not a professional. Lots of guys can do a better job than me.”

“So then why did you get the spot in the first place?”

“Well, one of the partners vouched for me. They know that I’m trustworthy and won’t steal or cheat.”

“That’s all?”

“The fuck do you mean ‘that’s all’? That’s everything! It’s ridiculously easy for a dealer to steal. All you have to do is put the rake into your tips or take an extra chip right out of the pot. You could even do both if you were bold and stupid enough. I also do all the bitch work without being asked.”

“Hmm… We’ll be on Bell Blvd in about 10 minutes. So could you teach me how to deal? I would kill to make that kind of money in one night.”

“Of course, but it takes a fair amount of time and practice until you’ll be able to get a spot anywhere. It might look easy, but you have to continuously pay close attention and stay focused for long periods of time. And no one is gonna let you deal cash until after you’ve dealt tournaments for a while.”

“Bro, I want to make $500 a night. I’ll do whatever it takes if you’ll teach me.”

“Well, okay then. Good. I will.” — Joey turns the car onto Bell Blvd.

“How far down is the place?”

“Just keep going straight, I’ll tell you where to snag a parking spot. It’s in the basement of Sal’s deli. I’ll bring you in and introduce you.”

We continue driving down Bell Blvd for about a quarter mile. Nearly approaching the outside of the deli, I alert Joey to find a parking spot. He finds a spot and puts the car into park. We exit the vehicle, and I insert two quarters into the parking meter — I immediately remember that my car had been towed. I didn’t have time to worry about it right now, I had to work and decided that I would deal with it later.

As we begin approaching the deli, I check my watch. It’s 5:58 PM. Right on time. The deli was still open for business, it didn’t close until 8PM. Sal was at the counter, along with a few other employees.

“Julius! Good to see you, thanks for being on time. Who’s your friend?”

“Of course, Sal. This is my buddy, Joey. I’ve known him since high school. He also goes to school at St. John’s and he plays poker, too. My car got towed, so he gave me a ride here. I wanted to introduce you to him, he’s interested in playing here.” — Sal comes out from behind the counter and shakes Joey’s hand.

“Follow me, boys.”

Sal takes us downstairs into the poker room. He instructs me to start setting up my table for the game while he chats with Joey. I can’t say that I was surprised, but I had arrived before the other dealers. Being the first one there was important to me — I could tell that Sal took notice.

While sitting in the box at my table, I double check that both decks are suited and complete. I grab $300 worth of chips from the podium and put them into the well as a starting bank. I properly lammer the chips off, then grab a brush to clean the felt. I finish setting up the table by vacuuming with a dust buster and wiping down the leather rail with some Windex.

Joey finishes his conversation with Sal, and I thank him again for giving me a lift. He heads upstairs to leave, and I ask Sal if there’s anything else I can do to help.

“Table 2 is good to go, Sal. Is the fridge stocked up with drinks?”

“The fridge is already stocked. It looks like Joey is gonna come by later tonight to play. Is he good action?”

“He’s a solid player, definitely not easy money. He isn’t an action junkie, but I know that he could probably bring a few more players if he likes the way we operate.”

“I see. Okay, then. Do me a favor and tell him I’ll give him a $50 new player bonus if he comes tonight. I forgot to get his number.” — I take out my Blackberry and text Joey about the promo money.

“Done. What else can I do to help set up?”

“Come with me upstairs, I’ve got a half dozen trays of sandwiches you can help carry down.”

“Okay, cool. Let’s do it.”

Sal and I walk upstairs to fetch the sandwiches. It takes two trips, but eventually the food table is filled with a nice spread of various options. I pick out my favorite sandwich, rare roast beef with cheddar, and take a seat in the box at Table 2. Sal tells me that he has to finish up a few things upstairs and that the players will start showing up any minute. I’m eating the rest of my sandwich when I hear someone walking down the stairs — it’s Andy.

“Hey buddy, you ready for tonight?”

“Absolutely. I just finished setting up Table 2. Where are the other two dealers?”

“They’ll be here soon. Can you do me a favor and set up Table 1, as well?”

“Sure.” — I throw away my crumb filled plate and start to open up Table 1.

“By the way, where did you park? I didn’t see your car outside.”

“Yeah, about that — my car got towed last night. I parked in a restricted spot just outside of campus. Come to think of it, I don’t have any idea about how to get it back.”

“You have to contact the city and find out where they impounded it. It’ll cost a few hundred to get it back. Don’t worry about it, I’ll help you find it after the game.”

“Thanks, Andy. I had one of my friends give me a lift here. I think he’s coming back later tonight to play.”

“Awesome, that’s what I like to hear. I’ll tell you what — you can deal solo at Table 1 for the first hour, since the other guys are late. I’ll let Sal know right now.”

Andy runs upstairs and I finish opening up Table 1. About ten minutes later, both Sal and Andy sit down with $1k each in front of them. They ask me for a deck and start to play gin for $1 per point while we wait for the players to arrive.

One by one, the players start to show up. At this point, Sal was up a few bucks in gin, but it was time to get the game going. It was just after 8PM and we had 7 seats filled. Both of the other dealers had shown up by this point, and I could see that they weren’t happy about losing an hour of box time. Andy hands me the deck that was being used for gin, and I quickly suit it. I spread the now suited deck across the felt and double check that there aren’t any cards missing. It was time to get the cards in the air.

“Alright, guys. It’s time to play some cards. I’m going to deal for the button.” — I give the deck a wash, shuffle it, and deal out only one card.

“Ace of spades, that was easy. Seat 1 is the button. Blinds up guys, good luck.”

I deal until the top of the hour, totaling about 45 minutes. The next dealer taps me out, and I thank the players. The game was full by now, and there were 2 players waiting. Both Sal and Andy had given up their seats, which meant that they could help start the second table.

Sal instructs me to take a seat in the box at Table 2. He grabs chips for himself, Andy, and the other 2 players. He announces that it’s a must move game and starts a list, then asks the table if they want to start 4 handed or wait for one more player. They opt to start right away.

Several hours pass and my table is now 8 handed. Joey eventually makes an appearance and sits down with $700. Within his first orbit, he manages to flop a baby set and check-raise the river, only to get paid off by Kings. He scoops a pot of about $500, and I was happy to see him win. He starts stacking his chips and I begin dealing the next hand — no tip. I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t expecting a red bird. After all, we were friends and Joey wasn’t a cheap guy by any means. Andy chimes in with a gentle reminder.

“Nice pot, man. You know the dealers accept tips, right?”

“Oh, shit. I completely forgot. Thanks for reminding me. I mostly play online.” — Joey tosses me a red bird. I tap the table with it, thank him, and put it into the well where my other tips were.

“No worries, it happens. I didn’t mean to sound like an asshole, it’s just that you’re young and some people don’t know to tip.”

“I appreciate it. I was so excited about winning that pot that it completely slipped my mind.”

The guy who lost that hand with his pocket Kings interjects.

“Yeah, hitting a 2 outer also gets me excited. It must be nice. You should give the dealer a bigger tip.”

Looking a bit puzzled, Joey throws me another red bird. Sal chimes in on the conversation.

“Joey can tip however much he wants. In fact, if you’re gonna whine about it, you should tip the dealer yourself. It’s $1 per minute for therapy sessions.”

The table laughs and the guy tosses me a buck, probably feeling obligated to do so. To this day, it still makes me feel uncomfortable when the loser of the hand tips me. It’s a slight, yet passive aggressive needle at the dealer.

A few more hours pass and both tables are full. I needed to take a leak at this point, I hadn’t taken a break since the game started. I tell Sal that I have to use the restroom, and he has the up dealer tap me out for a few minutes. I quickly return and get back in the box.

At about 2AM, Joey racks up and leaves for the night, profiting a cool $600 and change. He exchanges numbers with Sal before heading to his car. I overhear him telling Sal that he’ll definitely be back — I was glad that he had a good time, because it meant that he could potentially bring in more players. Word of mouth is the best way to recruit.

The main game was full at this point, but my table was now 5 handed. I could sense that we were probably going to break any minute — the game was on life support. As if he could hear my thoughts, Sal cuts the rake down to $5. This kept the table going for another hour or so, until one of the players eventually got stacked.

Both Sal and Andy were in the black, while the only remaining player was short stacked with about $200 in front of him. Before anyone can rack up, he makes a proposal.

“I’m ready to go home. You guys wanna do a $200 PLO flip?”

Sal and Andy look at each other.

“Why not? I’m in.” — Sal puts up two stacks of red.

“Winner tips the dealer $25.” — Andy tosses 2 black chips into the pot.”

I deal the three of them 4 cards each, then put out a complete board. They all decide to make it a sweat, turning over one card at a time. The board was paired with two Jacks, and the short stacked player is the first to turn over a card — he flips over a jack.

Sal goes next, turning over one card at a time until he can beat trips. He flips over his last card, but he can’t win. Andy gets to his 3rd card, revealing the only Jack left in the deck. He has a weak kicker at this point, but still has one card left, while the short stack has 3. Andy offers him a deal.

“Let’s chop it up. What do you say?”

“No deal.”

“Are you sure? I run good when it comes to flips.”

“I’m sure. No deal.”

The shortstack rejects the deal, waiting for Andy to flip over his last card. However, Andy points out that it’s actually the shortstacks turn, as he is playing trip Jacks with a Ten kicker. The shortstack flips over his other three cards — his final hand being trip Jacks with a King kicker.

Andy offers to chop one last time, but gets declined. He apologizes in advance anyway, only to reveal one of the outs he needed, a Deuce. He wins the flip with a full house — Jacks full of Deuces.


“I told you, I run good in these spots.” — says Andy, as he drags in the pot and throws me $25.

“Fuck it, one more. $500 this time. At least give me a chance to win my money back.”

Andy looks at Sal, then shrugs his shoulders.

“Okay, but it’s just you and me. Sal’s not in.”

The player takes his wallet out of his pocket and puts five, crisp $100 bills onto the felt. Andy matches it in chips, and tells me that he’ll pay for the fine to get my car back, if he wins. You can probably guess who I was rooting for.

I deal them each 4 cards and put out the board. Andy wastes no time at all and tables his entire hand — he’s got the nuts, a nine high straight. The other player quickly looks at his hand, then throws his cards at me. I had to bite my lip so that I wouldn’t laugh, although I still half-smiled. Andy pockets the cash and scoops the pot, while the player storms out in frustration.

I had never really seen Andy gamble like that before — he had always warned me not to dust off money without having an edge. When I asked him about it later on, he said that the only reason he agreed to the flip was because the other guy was running so badly. It wasn’t the most scientific answer, but I understood his point.

The game continued on for a couple more hours, eventually breaking at around 5AM. I had already restocked the fridge, taken out the trash, and cleaned up Table 2. By this point, all of the players had left.

Sal calls me over to the podium and pays me out for the night — $650. He praises me for doing a good job and picking up the slack. I thank him, letting him know that I’ll be there for Wednesday night’s game. As usual, he confirms with me — “6PM sharp.”

I needed to return to campus and get some sleep, I had a class that would start in about 5 hours. I could always blow it off though, after all it was only an “Intro to C++” course. If you don’t know, C++ is a programming language — I was already quite fluent in PHP, another language, which is pretty similar in syntax. I had also been coding in Visual Basic and Delphi for about 5 years. Besides, the professor really didn’t do much, other than parrot the textbook, and I had already read ahead of where we left off in class.

I was about to call a cab when Andy grabbed my attention.

“You ready to go get your car back?”


Chapter 1 – Fox’s Club Chapter 9 – Spades — 1.8
Chapter 2 – Spades — 1.1 Chapter 10 – Spades — 1.9
Chapter 3 – Spades — 1.2 Chapter 11 – Spades — 1.10
Chapter 4 – Spades — 1.3 Chapter 12 – Spades — 1.11
Chapter 5 – Spades — 1.4 Chapter 13 – Bell Boulevard — 1.1
Chapter 6 – Spades — 1.5 Chapter 14 – Bell Boulevard — 1.2
Chapter 7 – Spades — 1.6 Chapter 15 – Bell Boulevard — 1.3
Chapter 8 – Spades — 1.7 Chapter 16 – Bell Boulevard — 1.4