man playing poker

Every poker player knows that feeling—when you get the itch to play. I had just made $200 for dealing the bar poker league tournament. My girlfriend, Jennifer, was surely sleeping, and here I had Gary telling me to come down to play with $100 bonus. Surely, this had to be +EV. I was about to scratch that itch.

Being cognizant of the rake now, I text Gary back, asking him what the rake is and he replies, telling me it’s 10% up to $10. This sounded pretty reasonable to me, but I wanted some confirmation. Back in 2007, texting had not yet become the preferred medium of communication and although it was popular, a phone call was more often used. I decided to give Andy a call. No answer. I immediately received a text back, telling me that he’ll call me back in a minute.

I was driving on the Long Island Expressway and was a bit tired. I often stayed up late anyway, and was not much of a morning person. It was already late at night, so I decided to take an exit that had a gas station nearby. I pulled into a Valero, went inside, and purchased a sugar-free Monster energy drink. As I was walking back to my car, my phone rang — it was Andy.

“What’s up, buddy? I’m in the middle of a session, try and make it quick.”

“Hey man, I’m about to go play cards at this new spot. The rake is 10% up to $10, stakes are $1/$2 NL. Is this good?”

“That’s incredibly good. The lowest I’ve ever heard of, in fact. Where is this place?”

“It’s in Long Island, it’s a club called Spades.”

“I’ve heard about Spades. I didn’t know the rake was that low, though. Do you have to pay time, too?”

“I dunno. I just got an invite from another dealer I met while dealing a bar league tournament. He also offered me a $100 bonus for being a new player. That’s all I know.”

“New player bonus too, huh? Sounds very enticing. I might have to come by with you and play one of these days. Good luck, buddy. Let me know how it goes.”


I asked Andy how his session was going and we talked for a few more minutes.

“I’ve gotta go, I have to get back to the table. Word of advice — the first time I ever play in a new game, I’m never there to really play. I suggest that if you go, buy in for the average stack size and don’t rebuy if you get felted.”

“Why?” — Being the inquisitive type, I always asked questions.

“You need to make sure the game is clean. Watch the rake and keep track of the pot size. Play super tight. Cash out and leave if you don’t feel safe or if any of the players seem too problematic.”

“Thanks, man. Good luck in your sesh, I’ll see you soon.”

“You too buddy, gimme a call afterwards and let me know how it goes.”

With Andy’s input, I made the decision to text Gary back and give the place a shot. He texted me the address with some directions, and some instructions on how to get inside.

I was horrific with directions, though. I had purchased a Garmin GPS unit from Best Buy when I had bought my car, knowing that I would need it to get to Fox’s. I wasn’t familiar at all with Queens or Suffolk County. It was about the size of a small cantaloupe and stuck to the windshield using a suction cup. It was slow calculating directions, but it was accurate and always got me where I needed to go. I punched in the address that Gary had given me on the insensitive touch screen, and waited for it to start navigating.

20 minutes or so later, I had arrived. The GPS had brought me to large Chinese restaurant that had certainly closed for the night. It was located on a main road and was in a multi-story building with other retail stores in the same unit. I sent Gary a text, letting him know that I was there and he told me to pull into the back of the building to park.

I put my car into park and exited the vehicle. The instructions in the text Gary had provided me with directed me to ring the bell on the door that had a security camera with a red light on. I started walking up to the building and saw only one door with an active security camera. The lights were off, but the back parking lot had at least 15 cars sitting there, so I knew the game had to be going. I rang the bell and waited. Two minutes later, I see a guy who looked to be in his mid-twenties, approaching from the inside and the glass door opens.

“Can I help you?”

“Yeah, Gary sent me. We met at the bar poker league earlier tonight.”

“Come on in, follow me.”

I entered the building and walked up a flight of stairs to be met with, sure enough, a steel door with a security camera mounted to the top right corner. The guy gave it a knock and 15 seconds later it was opened.

As I walked inside, I took notice of the place. There was one main room, which was quite large, that housed two tables, the podium, and a tall Craftsman locking toolbox. On either side of the main room, there was a short hallway that led to another room which also had two tables inside. Both of the other rooms had a plexiglass sheet on the wall, which made it possible to see what was going on inside.

A rather tall, very muscular guy, waves me over to the podium.

“What’s up, mo? Who sent you, James?”

Not realizing it at the time, this was a simple test. He wanted to make sure I wasn’t lying about who had invited me.

“No, Gary sent me. I met him at the bar poker league tonight. He told me to come down to play and that there was a $100 new player bonus?”


“Gotcha. Sure. You get the $100 after two hours of play at the table. The game’s full right now, but you’re first up. Have a seat over there and make yourself comfortable. Drinks and snacks are in the back, the bathroom and smoking room are down the right hall. Let me get your name and number so I can put you on the text list.”

I give him my number and we exchanged names. Vinny was a tall and muscular gentleman who looked to be in his 40’s. He appeared to be very physically fit with slicked back, jet black hair. He clearly filled the role of both floorman and security. His personality was very direct and he looked you dead in the eyes when he spoke to you.

With my stomach growling and heart pumping from the Monster I had drank a little while earlier, I walk into the back to take a leak and grab a snack. I hadn’t eaten anything all night, the bar league didn’t provide any food. Only two options were available, individual bags of Wise chips or Famous Amos cookies. I opt for the cookies and head back into the main room, hovering over the full table to watch the action as I munch on my bag of processed carbs.

A couple of hands go by, and I could tell that my hovering over the table was making a few of the players uncomfortable. I was new, nobody knew me, and I didn’t want to be impolite so I took a seat at the empty table and waited for an open seat.

About a half-hour passes and Vinny calls me for the open seat. He asks me how much I want and I tell him $200. He unlocks a tall, Craftsman toolbox and opens one of the drawers to reveal racks of chips inside. He hands me a rack with $200 in chips, and I sit down at the table to be greeted by the dealer.

“Welcome to the game. Would you like to post or wait for the big blind?”

“Thanks. I’ll wait for the big blind.”



Half a rotation later and I’m in the game. I took Andy’s advice and played super tight. 45 minutes go by and I open my first hand — pocket tens. I get no action, which I was not expecting. I drag in the blinds and toss the dealer a buck, not wanting to appear cheap so that I’m welcomed back.

There’s some chatter going on at the table in between hands, but no conversations that interest me. I’m starting to get bored. Music was playing in the background, and a song comes on that catches my ear.

“Anyone know what song this is?”

The player seated to my right answers me, an older Italian man who was very short in stature with a high-pitched voice and thick Brooklyn accent.

“Trooper With an Attitude, by 38 Special.”

“Thanks. You know you kind of remind me of Joe Pesci? Anyone ever tell you that?”

The room went dead silent, all that could be heard was the song playing in the background. The action came to a halt.

For what seemed like an eternity, everybody at the table was staring at me. I could tell by the Italian guy’s reaction that I had made a fatal mistake. Foot — meet mouth.

The Italian guy puts his hand on my shoulder, and with a firm grip, turns his chair, almost using my shoulder as a pivot point. He gives me a death stare, and finally the silence is broken.


“Watch your mouth, kid.”

I realized that he had taken extreme offense to my comment. I didn’t understand why, I had meant it as a compliment. I had recently seen the movie “Casino” for the first time and loved Joe Pesci’s performance. Regardless, the table was perceiving me as being in the wrong.

“I apologize. Won’t happen again.”

The action resumes and the Italian guy takes his hand off of my shoulder. I later learned that this guy was extremely connected and to never make him feel as if he was being disrespected. Evidently, his short stature and high-pitched voice made him feel insecure — it was not something to ever be pointed out.

A few more orbits go by, and I look at my stack. I’m down about $60. I hadn’t played any meaningful hands and I was card-dead. I had seen multiple players show down hands like Ace high or bottom pair for the winner, and came to the realization that I was highly outmatched. Most of the players at the table were really solid. They were constantly putting each other to the test, and applying pressure in spots they knew would make for a tough decision. I wasn’t going to make any money in this game unless I got lucky.

I see Vinny start to walk over to the table, holding a rack with a couple of chips in it. He stops at my seat and puts 4 green chips onto my stack.

“Here’s your bonus, good luck.”

I look down at my stack again to give it a count. With the addition of the bonus, I’m up $50. I felt a little trapped, because I didn’t want to look bad trying to cash out as soon as I got the bonus. I toss the dealer two greenbirds and get up to grab a rack.

I definitely wanted to come back. The level of play was much higher than I had ever seen, and I noticed that they were much more strict on the rules here. This interested me, because poker is one of the few games without a universal set of rules. I wanted to learn more about the rules of poker, feeling as if I should be well educated in the subject, considering I wanted to improve my skills as a dealer.

I head over to Vinny at the podium to cash out. He quickly counts up my chips, totaling $200, and hands me two, crisp $100 bills. It was no more than a few hours until the Sunday’s sun would rise.

“Thanks for coming. We’re having a $75 tournament later on at 3PM if you feel like playing. We usually get about 50-60 players.”

“Yeah, that sounds good. I’ll be here.”

I pocket the cash and make my way over to the steel door. I leave the room, walk down the stairs, and head for the exit.

I get into my car and start driving home. I hop onto the expressway and take out my phone to give Andy a call.

“WOOP WOOP”, I hear the sound of the siren as I look into my rear-view mirror and see a cop flashing his lights, singling me to pull over.

Great, just what I need — I had never been pulled over before.


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