I realize every home game has a maniac, so I’m going to try not to exaggerate about this. We had a guy in our $20-$40 Omaha game who raised every bet for five years. Sure he lost, but no one ever had a bigger time doing it. He used to come with a grocery bag full of money and cashier’s checks talking about how he just knew nobody was going to gamble; that everybody was going to “play the nuts” except him. And he was right. “The last of the big-time gamblers” he called himself; but he didn’t say it braggadociously, at all. He said it in a pensive, reflective sort of way – like he was trying to understand himself, or something. He was the real thing, and no one ever gambled harder. “Richard the Lion Hearted” I called him.
After playing in that game, there is no such thing as a game that is too fast. You just had to put your seatbelt on, grab a hold of the overhead hand grips – and tokyoslot88 gamble. You know the type of game. You can’t check along and get the nuts and then charge somebody, you had to pay out the lungs to even make a pair. The pot odds got so out of whack no one could fold, and you would take the most vicious beats imaginable all night long. “Help your hand on every card or lose” was the name of the game. The show went on around the clock, and Richard was the show.
He was the coolest, most good-natured guy in the world, but he would come in and talk a blue streak for 48 straight hours while he played, and if anybody else said anything, he would say that there was too much “jibber-jabber” for him to concentrate. Above all, he would insist that no one would gamble except for him. He was “gambling” and everyone else was “playing the nuts” – that was his constant refrain from the beginning of the game until the end. It was fascinating. The thing that was fascinating about it is that it was absolutely natural, it was not an affectation at all. He was living out some internal drama that insisted on seeing himself as the only gambler, and his behavior at the table was simply an expression of that. In his heart of hearts, he was fighting some battle with the world that insisted that no one would gamble but him, that it was all just a bunch of nut players and him – that that was his lot in life.
Being fairly new to poker at the time, I had to wonder just how rare a bird he was. I got my answer when we took a trip to the Horseshoe, soon afterward. He got in a $50-$100 hold’em game with Sklansky and some of the boys, and when they got a look at his action, the place went berserk. This confirmed my suspicions. Richard was a natural born poker star, in any pond. I had sensed that about him, but I had lacked the experience to be sure. Here is the hand that convinced the Vegas crew that he was something special. Of course he had capped virtually every pot he was in for hours, gambling wide open just as hard as he could – the only way he knew how. Then he was dealt the 10S JS in the big blind, and went to war. The flop came Q-8-2 rainbow, a “monster” flop for Richard. Some sparring ensued, and a 3 offsuit came on the turn, leaving a board of Q-8-3-2, rainbow. Sklansky, holding Q-Q, was ready to take the best of it. With a five raise limit and seven way action, he and Richard capped it. Anyone who knew Richard, from the excited nature of his raising, would have known he was on the come – spotting somebody the nuts. That’s his favorite play. But they didn’t know him at Binion’s – yet.
When the 9¨ came on the river he and Sklansky went to war again, blowing everyone else out of the pot. Sklansky the theorist could not possibly put Richard on this hand because of the play on sixth street. When Sklansky finally “backed down” and quit raising, he was looking at stone cold Richard the Lion Hearted. The nuts. It was vintage get them in the middle and outdraw them, or as Richard called it, “play like you got something.” Poker’s foremost theorist looked a little fuzzy for a minute, but he recovered like a champion. “What nights did you say you play in Kentucky?” he asked King Richard. “Every night, right after the lottery drawing. Sorry I burned your money up. I’ve been clocking it, and a nine hadn’t hit the board in almost two hours.” “I see,” Sklansky said dryly as he scribbled something in his notebook, “I figured I must have overlooked something.”
A few hours later they upped it to no limit, and Richard had another little surprise for the boys. Cash played, and everyone had gone into their pocket to get stacked up a little. Richard’s stack looked modest compared to everyone else’s. It looked like he had about twenty hundreds on the table, along with his chips – a little over $2000 in play. And he had shifted gears. Now he was laying low, and still talking loose, but playing tight.
After a while he caught a group one hand on the button, and raised a couple of hundred. The whole table called, and one of the pros, eyeing Richard’s short stack of bills, reraised another thousand. You can be damn sure the floor man was called over when Richard went over the top for another twenty thousand. Don’t you know, hidden in his “short stack” of hundreds, were a couple of ten thousand dollar bills. No one saw that coming. Not Edgar Cayce, not Nostradamus, and surely not any of the grizzled poker veterans at the Horseshoe that night. King Richard was moving on the boys. When the floor man scolded him, he said “If you can put them in that display case, I can gamble with them. Now cut out all the jibber-jabber and let’s gamble.” Nobody wanted to argue with that, so the raise stood. Every one got out of his way, and he took the pot down. Before long he was over at the $100 a pull slot machine, and the poker game broke.
“They won’t gamble” he told me, “they’re all just playing the nuts.” “I know, baby, you’re the only gambler,” I consoled him. “How about the slot machine, is it giving you any action?” “A little bit,” he said sheepishly. “I’m winners.” He hit several big jackpots on that $100 machine, and now he was on to a new game, figuring up a system on which reel was “due” to hit. My buddy Richard – man about town in Vegas, oil baron, and natural born gamblero. He never did confide in me how much he won on that trip, but when we got back to Kentucky, he posted up cash for a new home over on easy street. I figured he came out.
Our home game was never quite the same after that trip. Whenever we didn’t gamble enough to suit Richard, he started in on how he “could get 6-to-1 on his money in Vegas,” and that’s where he “ought to be.” He never resolved his issue that he was the only one with any gamble to him. But he had a point. It was hard to match his action. Between Vegas, OTB’s, riverboats, and the lottery, our home game started to break up. But none of the regulars in our game ever forgot Richard. From Cowboy, Goose, Cat Doctor, Johny Pineapple, Cut Rate, Mo, Doug Douggans, Reese Cup, Wraparound Vic, Godfather Ray, Billy Battaglia, Web-site, Smitty, Grease, Doc Greenbacks, Hard Rock, Tommy O, Glen the Shark, Kanu, PeeWee, Bobby Telephone, General Mac, Speed, Roscoe Anthony Eugene, Fast Freddy, Misty, Oaklawn Jim, Daddy Les, and (yours truly) Cinch – you raised our #$&! and we raise our glass.
A toast to you, Richard the Lion Hearted – “Salute!”