Junior year of high school is by far the hardest year for a student. There is so much that goes on — SAT’s, finals, college applications, entrance essays, recommendation letters, and relationships, among other things. All of your effort gets spent raising your GPA as high as you possibly can, so that you can get into the school of your choice. However, for me, working my way up in the underground poker world was just as important.
The summer of 2007 was in full swing now, and my junior year of high school had finally ended. By this point, I had accomplished many of the things I had set out to do — I had been accepted into St. John’s University on a scholarship for Computer Science, I was dating Jennifer, my first, true love, my ability as a poker player was finally paying off, and I had strategically maneuvered my way into a regular dealing job at Spades. I was starting to get good enough as a dealer to begin venturing out to other clubs for work.
However, not everything was sunshine and rainbows. My Father was still in jail, and he would remain there for quite some time. My Mother was broke and immensely struggling to pay the bills to support my siblings and me, and I still wasn’t truly happy with my skills as a dealer — I was decent and I could deal a solid game, but I was nowhere near the professional level that would yield the type of money Chris was making.
With my Father out of the picture, I took it upon myself to take on the responsibility of being the provider. My Mother was doing her best to rebuild the business that my Father had decimated, and while she was repairing the damage, I didn’t hesitate to pay the bills that she couldn’t afford. Even though I was only 17, between dealing poker and playing $1/$3 and $2/$5, I was earning about the same amount of money a typical mid 30’s nine-to-fiver was. I paid for summer camp for both my brother and sister, which gave my Mother the opportunity to focus on her business and personal life. This also left me free of babysitting duty.
I was playing poker everyday and dealing the tournaments at Spades three nights a week. When I’d finish work at Spades, I’d then jump into a cash game to try and earn even more. I had a huge advantage over most of the other players — I dealt to them regularly and really got to observe their tendencies which allowed me to figure out how they approached the game.
By mid summer, my live reads on the regulars were so often correct, that it rarely mattered what my holdings were. I knew when they were weak, I knew when they were strong, and I knew who liked to fold and who loved to call down. I was undoubtedly taking full-blown advantage of being a dealer.
I don’t want to overplay how much I was making from playing — I could never have depended solely on my winnings. The majority of my income came from dealing, but I also saw steady financial gain from playing live poker. I was starting to build up a solid bankroll.
By this point, I had almost fully given up the idea of playing online poker seriously, because my Full Tilt account was registered under my Father’s name, and I wasn’t even of legal age to be playing online anyway. I felt it was too great of a risk trying to withdrawal funds while the account owner was incarcerated. Before my Father was sent to jail, I would withdrawal via check and have my Father cash it for me. With him being in jail, this was no longer an option. I was too paranoid to get a bank transfer sent to an account that belonged to a minor.
I would still occasionally play online to keep my theoretical skills sharp and rail the nosebleed games, but would also play heads up with Andy, Chris, and many other poker buddies I met at the underground clubs.
For all of these reasons, I opted to mainly play live poker and focus more on becoming a professional level dealer.
I was starting to get really comfortable working at Spades. I would report to work in professional attire, maintained a diplomatic and professional attitude, and always showed interest in learning more about the business of poker. I was young, but not at all arrogant, and was considered a great employee because I was reliable, always arrived early, and volunteered to do all of the grunt work — take out the trash, restock the fridge, run chips, make ATM runs for players who would bust, drive to the convenience store for special item requests by big action players, you name it. I knew I wasn’t the best dealer, so I made up for it by being valuable in other areas.
By the mid summer, I had locked up my dealing spot at Spades and had become a regular tournament dealer. The guys who dealt cash were always the same, and they had their spots locked up, but when it came to tournaments, the turnover rate was often high. The cash guys didn’t want to deal the tournaments because it wasn’t as lucrative, so Spades would often employ either players or dealers who were in debt. Of course, sometimes the cash dealers were required to deal the tournaments, but they would only start them off — only to open a cash game as soon as the first table would break. For them, they would rather relax and take a break than deal the tournament for an hour and a half.
I was starting to get very comfortable in the box, and I was becoming confident in my skills as a dealer. I was beginning to feel that it was time that I start dealing cash. The problem, however, was that the cash spots were locked up and the management at Spades felt I wasn’t strong enough as a dealer to deal cash. How was I to get better, if I wasn’t allowed to in the first place?
One Saturday afternoon, my phone rings. It’s Vinny.
“Hey Mo. What are you doing? Are you busy?”
“What’s up Vinny? I’m at home relaxing, not busy at all. What’s up?”
“One of the dealers for the $1/$2 game just called out sick, I’m short staffed. I need you to come in and deal cash. You think you can do it?”
I shot up out of my chair. I was lit up with joy. Finally! This was my opportunity to finally get a chance to deal cash.
“Absolutely. I’ll leave my place now. I’ll be there in less than 20 minutes.”
“Great. I knew I could count on you, Mo. See you soon.”
I threw on some fresh clothes and raced over to the club. I sped into the back parking lot, jumped out of my car, and headed inside the club.
When I walked in, Vinny explained the situation, just as he did on the phone.
One of the dealers had called out sick, and he was stuck with only 3 dealers, while two cash tables were running. At Spades, they always had one dealer more than the amount of cash tables running, meaning that someone would always be on break or brush, while the others were in the box.
For two tables running, a standard rotation would be to push into table 1, deal for thirty minutes, get pushed out and push into table 2, then get pushed out and go on break or brush.
If you don’t know, “brush” means to essentially help out with any other duties that might come up. Run chips, let players in and out, take a break, or anything else that might arise.
I was ecstatic. I was finally going to get my shot. Vinny tells me to get ready to go to Table 1 on the push (on the half hour) and I start to mentally prepare. He briefs me with the details about how it’s going to work.
“Okay, Mo. You know the deal. The rake is 10% capped at $10. You can keep all of your tips. Put them in the left-most side of the well. No rabbit hunting, no running it twice, and make sure you count the stub at least twice during your down. Make sure any all-in player pushes all of their chips up into the middle. Call out for chips if a player needs to rebuy.”
“Okay, I got it. Thanks, Vinny.”
Ten minutes goes by and I walk up behind the dealer seated in the box at Table 1. I give him a light tap on his left shoulder, letting him know that I’m there to relieve him, and after the hand concludes, he thanks the players and I take my seat in the box.
I give a familiar nod to the players who I know, say a few hellos, and finally it’s time.
“Good afternoon, everyone. Blinds please.”
I give the deck a wash and deal my first cash hand. I was incredibly nervous for the first orbit or so. My hands were slightly shaking. I was focusing all of my attention on the game, and I didn’t make a single word of conversation other than calling the game and announcing the action. After a few minutes, I settled in to a rhythm and it felt just like I was dealing a tournament.
It was clear to me, and to all of the players seated at the table, that I was obviously new to this. I wasn’t of the same caliber that the other dealers were — but, I was sure as hell trying my best.
During one particular hand, I had dealt a cooler and felted a rather short-fused player. He threw his cards at me and complained to my face, shouting that I was an “awful dealer” and to “hurry the **** up” with the next hand. The winner of the hand, probably as a needle to the loser, tosses me a green-bird and tells me to enjoy the loser’s money. A few players laughed and the player throwing a temper-tantrum shut right up.
I made a valiant effort and continued, and before I knew it, I felt a light tap on my left shoulder. It was time to push into the next table. I grabbed my tips from the well, quickly eyed them for a count, and slipped them into my pocket. I had just made $43, I could surely get used to this.
About 3 and a half hours go by, and Vinny approaches me while I’m on my break.
“You did good today, Mo. You need some work to get better, but overall you got the job done. I got a hold of Matt and he just pulled into the parking lot. He’s going to be finishing up the shift for you. Thanks for helping out on such short notice. I’ll call you again if I need you for cash. I’ll see you tomorrow afternoon for the Sunday tournament.”
I was a little bummed that it ended so quickly, but still, I was happy that I had been given the opportunity. For 3 hours of dealing, including my breaks, I totaled around $300 in tips. However, I was aware that some of the players were over-tipping me because they knew that it was my first time dealing cash. At that moment, I absolutely knew that I had to start dealing cash.
I was in a great mood, and there was only one thing that could make it even better — sex.
I haven’t talked much about my girlfriend, Jen, up until this point, but as you’ll later on find out, will become an integral part of my story. She was the same age as me, although a few months older, and absolutely gorgeous. She was 5’4, 110lbs, blonde hair with mesmerizing, hypnotic blue eyes, exercised regularly, and had a magnificent ass, and perfect, C-cup breasts. She was the first girl I ever fell in love with. I truly believed that I was going to marry her, I would have done anything for her. I think that all guys fall under that spell with their first love.
She was also the most intelligent person I ever met in my entire life. While she possessed an innate ability for academic excellence, I was the more cunning and clever type. Where she had difficulty reading between the lines, I could always see the bigger picture. She would graduate as the salutatorian and later go on to work for the State Department as an Arabic translator.
Anyway, I decided to leave the club and drive over to Jen’s house. Her parents were away on vacation in The Hamptons, so we had the house to ourselves — perfect.
When I arrived at her house, I told her all about my first cash-dealing experience and how much I had made. She was impressed — kids our age would spend an entire week, working full-day shifts to make this kind of money. I did detect a hint of concern though, as she was aware that what I was doing was illegal.
I told her that I wanted to go out and celebrate, but that we should first work up an appetite.
She was wearing a sky blue blouse that day, so I unbuttoned her shirt, unhinged her bra, and to my surprise, she took the lead. She stood before me, in nothing but silk, pink panties, and pushed me onto her bed. For the next 10 minutes, I was her play toy.
After throwing her sheets into the washing machine, we headed out for a nice dinner at an upscale steak house. We both had fake ID’s, so we enjoyed our meal with a couple glasses of cheap wine. We spent the time during our meal talking about future and what the next year — our senior year — of school might hold for us.
During the drive back to Jen’s house, I began formulating a plan of where I could deal more cash games. I was pretty sure that it wasn’t going to be at Spades, but I did have a few ideas of where I could start. Regardless, I was definitely going to continue dealing the tournaments there, it was my bread and butter — steady and lucrative.
As I pulled up to a red light, my phone rang — it was Chris.
“Dude! What are you up to?! Let’s go to ****ing Turning Stone and crush some poker up there. Whattaya say?”
|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