Five Aces Beats a Royal Flush — and a Pearl-handled .32

Five Aces Beats a Royal Flush — and a Pearl-handled .32

Monday, 29 June 2015

By Adam Slutsky

I have a number of acquaintances who are ridiculously wealthy.

Granted, they don’t have Bill Gates or Warren Buffet money, but they’ve still got enough coin to make it rain in strip clubs, have The White Stripes play their birthday parties (one did!), and light campfires with $100 bills.

$300,000 exotic cars, private jets, homes that would be the envy of MTV’s Cribs… If life were a shark, these guys were all great whites.

Two of my well-off pals come from old money (olde money!). The other three actually earned it themselves. And all five have no qualms about using their riches to enjoy life to the fullest. Trust me when I tell you, these guys really know how to live. I’m sure you’ve all heard the saying, “Excess is best.” Hang out with these guys and you’ll soon discover how excessive excess can be!

Three of these cats are pretty intense gamblers, willing to throw down on just about anything you can wager on, legally or otherwise. From raindrops cascading down 20-foot window-walls to the duration of animal intercourse at the zoo, they’ve embroiled themselves in bets that would make Amarillo Slim roll over in his grave. But the craziest bet I ever witnessed took place at the House of Blues on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip.

After cocktails, of which we had far too many, the guys removed 35mm film canisters from inside their sport-jackets. To my knowledge, none of them had ever messed with drugs before, so I immediately began wondering if they had picked up a new recreation (or habit) since our last get-together. And even if they had, brash as they were, the thought of them snorting Peruvian nose candy in public didn’t jive with their usual modus operandi.

Aware of my befuddlement, they enlightened me. Inside the film canisters were cockroaches. Big fuckers. Sure, maybe they weren’t as big as those hissing monstrosities from movies like Indiana Jones or The Mummy, but they were still large enough to make the Orkin Man trade his DDT defogger for a flame-thrower.

Adding to the lunacy of bringing cockroaches to a happening Tinseltown nightspot was the fact that each of their bugs had a highly visible prismatic sticker on its back.

What the fuck?

Which is exactly what I said to them.

Moe (in an effort to protect the not so innocent, my three amigos will be referred to in this story as Moe, Larry and Curly) readied the chronograph on his Breitling Bentley and told Curly to “release the hounds.”

Curly casually turned his prized Blattodea loose on the floor, as instructed. The cockroach took off like it was shot from a cannon, scampering in the direction of other tables. A few moments later there was a shrill, distinctly feminine shriek followed by a hearty stomp. We didn’t confirm the kill, but all assumed it had occurred.

Moe called the time of death at 37 seconds. Not too shabby, according to the expert roach-runners, but nowhere near the record: a tick over an hour, at a fancy Beverly Hills restaurant, no less.

Still, considering the locale, 37 seconds was nothing to sneeze at. In their eyes, the posted time definitely had a chance of taking down the pot.

The “pot” in this case amounted to $150,000, representing $50,000 per man. Like I said, these guys are sick puppies with a whole lotta dough. A barrel of laughs, for sure, but twisted like contortionist Bavarian pretzels.

Larry was next to go. He lowered his plastic canister to the floor and popped the cap. His roach made it less than three feet before a harried bar-back ferrying two cases of Corona unknowingly gave the big bug a true black flag experience with the sole of his sneaker. Time was called at nine seconds.

Larry smiled and shrugged. Amazingly he’d lost $50,000 quicker before. At least he could laugh about it.

Moe took off his watch, handed it to me. “My turn,” he said, and set his insect down. The thing just sat there. He nudged it with his foot. Nothing. The cockroach didn’t move.

“Cheater. What’d you do, pull its legs off?” Larry asked.

“He was running like crazy at home,” Moe replied.

Moe tried nudging him again, albeit a tad too aggressively. Over the music in the background, we all heard the crunch. Despite their gnarly appearances, cockroaches have a soft, relatively fragile body. Proof of that frailty was the nearly flat cockroach at our feet.

“Fuck,” Moe said somberly, staring dumbfounded at his mostly dead and totally immobile race-roach. “Does that count?” he asked.

“Fuck yeah, it counts,” a victorious Curly shot back.

“Fine,” Moe said casually and took a sip of his martini. “We’re going to
Spearmint Rhino tonight (one of the L.A.-area’s hottest strip clubs) and you’re buying.”

Anyway, enough about cockroaches. This is a poker magazine, so let me get on with the story. As I stated previously, three of the five bet on anything. The other two don’t really enjoy gambling all that much, but they do play poker on occasion. Not in real card rooms - in fact, none of the guys go down that route - instead they prefer a monthly home game.

Unlike the home games you and I routinely play in, when these guys have a card party, it’s a serious affair, catered full-tilt from any of the finest L.A. eateries. And the games they play aren’t the usual assortment you’ll find being spread at your favourite cardroom or poker club.

They play the games we all used to play. Deuces Wild, Follow The Queen, One-Eyed Jacks & Suicide Kings, Guts, Black Mariah…you name it, they play it. It’s dealer’s choice where anything goes.

Each guy buys in for $100,000 with limits of $1,000/$2,000 and $5,000 on the last card. The only difference being that nobody keeps their profits. All winnings are donated to charity. And while these guys are pretty benevolent in general, in the years they’ve been playing cards together there are a number of national and international charities that have greatly benefited from their monthly poker game.

Now I’ve been invited to mix it up with these guys before, and they’ve always been kind enough to front me the buy-in. Although the last time I went, I made the stupid mistake of showing up in my Viper. They said next time I wanted to play with them I had better bring my own funds! Man, I hope they were kidding. Way too rich for my poor blood.

So we’re an hour or so in and I’m down about $12K of OPM (Other People’s Money - absolutely the best kind!) when we begin a game of five-card stud, with black twos and red threes wild.

I get off to a slamming start - the ace of clubs up and a 2 of clubs in the hole. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that American Airlines is a pretty damn good way to kick off a five-card stud hand, even with wild cards.

First to act, I checked. Larry bet with a Jack of diamonds showing, and Beavis quickly raised, undoubtedly due to his 3 of diamonds staring us all in the face. Again, for the purpose of this story, I’m using aliases. The other two players have been dubbed Beavis and Butthead.

Now, since we play crazy games with wild cards and all sorts of odd rules - Phil Gordon and his Tilt Boy crew would approve wholeheartedly - there isn’t an awful lot of folding during the early streets. This hand, however, was a three-way affair from the jump.

Choosing to slow play, I simply called, as did Larry. The 3 of hearts was my next up-card, giving me trip bullets, two of ‘em showing. Larry got a 9 of spades to go with his Jack of diamonds - not much help there. Beavis, the raiser, caught a King of hearts, giving him a pair of cowboys showing.

Well, cat’s out of the bag, or so I thought, so I bet. Amazingly, Larry called. And here’s where it got interesting. Beavis raised.

Fine, let’s go to war, I thought, and re-raised. Wisely, Larry went bye-bye. Beavis, who isn’t really a poker player, wasn’t backing down. He bumped it again.

Naturally, I came back over the top. I mean, even though I’m about as close to being a rocket scientist as Mama June is to being Mother of the Year, I knew I had the best hand.

That totaled five bets, the most they allowed per round. We both lobbied for new rules, but our pleas were vetoed. Despite the zaniness of the game, they tried to maintain some semblance of sanity, hence the four raise rule, even when heads up.

Fourth street was a monster—a beer and money sandwich, hold the bread. I was dealt the ace of spades, giving me quads. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, why couldn’t I catch a hand like this against an opponent who would pay me off when I could actually keep the profits? But fourth street was seemingly just as kind to Beavis: he caught the queen of hearts.

Once again we repeated the betting manoeuvres from the previous round, building the pot with five $2,000 bets apiece.

Time for fifth street.

Unlike “normal” five-card stud games where the river card is dealt up, they preferred to deal them down, adding to the excitement. Cool by me. I already had quadzilla. I wasn’t concerned about needing to improve my hand. And yet, it did! I peeked at my face-down fifth card. Holy shit! Ace of diamonds. I had five freakin’ aces! The nutty nuts. Chestnuts, lychee nuts, hell, mother-fuckin’ COCONUTS!

So, what’s a guy with five aces do? He bets out, that’s what he does. Incredibly, before my chips hits the pot, Beavis raised.

What the frig?

“Somebody spike your vodka with jet fuel?” I asked.

He just smiled smugly. So I re-raised. Then he re-raised me. Naturally, I re-raised again.

“Screw the rules,” Beavis said, and pushed all his remaining chips into the pot.

Before any of the others could nix the move I mimicked his action and quickly flipped over my cards. “Five aces, chief,” I said. “Boo-freakin’-yow!”

“That sucks for you,” he spat back. “I’ve got a Royal Flush.” And sure enough, his fifth street was the cased ace, the ace of hearts.

“Five aces beats a Royal,” I said.

“No fuckin’ way,” he snapped. “You’ve got wild cards.”

I pointed to the table. “Yeah, and so do you.”

We looked at the others. Everyone was slack-jawed. Even in games with wild cards, five-of-a-kinds and royal flushes weren’t as common as celebrity DUI’s in Los Angeles. And in this case, there were only four “jokers” in the deck—two black twos, two red threes. Now, multiple that by the difficulty factor of hitting the two monster hands in a five-card stud game and we were in some rare territory.

We went back and forth for a few minutes before Beavis decided to get cute and pull a tiny pearl-handled pistol from inside his jacket—it looked like it belonged to his grandmother!—and set it on the table.

“A Smith & Wesson beats five aces,” he said in his best Clint Eastwood-esque drawl (which didn’t sound anything like Josey Wales).

I looked at the diminutive, pansy-assed little gun and laughed. “That’s not a Smith & Wesson. Hell, that’s not even a gun.”

He folded his arms and cocked his head. “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”

Oh, you wanna play that game, huh?

I reached inside my jacket and drew my Kimber Custom 10mm and set it down on the table. My full-sized man-stopper absolutely dwarfed his pesky peashooter, like a blue whale beside a sardine.

“I see just fine."

Beavis’s shoulders slumped and he sank in his chair.

The next day, the Humane Society received a very large donation courtesy of yours truly.

Tags: Dan Slutsky