I came aboard Hobby's yacht, Lazybuns. "Hi, Joe," Hobby said. "Say hello to Julie."
Julie's a regular at L.A. casinos; I gave her a cheek kiss.
"She's developing a new off-shore internet poker site."
"Really, that's a huge project."
Julie began, "We've got the structure in place. It'll be more user-friendly with many new features."
"OK," I said, "tell me about it."
"Joe, I've been invited to a high stakes game at Harrah's Rincon, down in San Diego County. Want to come along for the ride?"
"Well, I surely don't want to go for the game. If you say its high stakes it's way out of my league, but I'd like to see the casino. Count me in. When are you going?"
"Saturday morning, the game starts at seven that night."
We went south on I-405 and across the I-91 to connect with I-15 south; it's an easy drive on Saturday morning.
"Hi, Uncle Joe, it's Eddie." Eddie is the son of my brother who died suddenly a few years ago. I try to be a substitute dad when I can. "Hey, Buckaroo, how are you doin'?"
"That doesn't sound like a great OK. What's bugging you, partner?"
"Mom won't let me play poker."
I remember my sister-inlaw, Betty, once said to me, "You're not much of a role model for Eddie, playing poker all the time." I didn't try to argue that I'm really a writer. No good to belabor it since I do play a lot of poker."
"I can understand her feelings, Eddie. How old are you now?"
Joe had been kidnapped from outside a Palm Springs casino. While Hobby, the Palm Springs police, and the FBI were looking for him, he was held captive in a sleazy motel. Joe managed to cut open the duct tape that bound him, but just as he freed himself, one of his captors entered from the adjoining room. He took the chair he had been bound to and as the mug stepped into the room, Joe smashed it over his head.
"What that f... was that?" the man in the other room hollered.
I had been dreaming that I was in a dark smelly place. When I opened my eyes I discovered I was bound to a chair, lying on a dirty carpet. My mental computer went into turbo putting it all together. I remembered being outside the casino for some fresh air. Someone came up behind me and I got hit on the head. The motel room recollection also came back too, with a vision of the palooka who clobbered me. Had I seen Sonny, or did I dream that too?
Hobby bought a place in Palm Springs to enjoy more of the sun during the colder winter months. A two-hour drive from L.A. puts you into a whole different world. During the "season" downtown Palm Springs is bustling with visitors from colder climes.
They have money to spend and are looking for a good time. There's an infectious party excitement in the air that can uplift your spirits. I've always loved the place.
Tonight we'll be playing poker at the Agua Caliente Casino in nearby Rancho Mirage-after I treat Hobby to a steak dinner at Flinders.
"How's your steak, Hobby?"
I asked Benny Asher to check out my computer. He's an old drinking buddy who keeps up with computer technology. My email was all screwed up. I didn't know what to do, short of buying a new computer.
Benny explained in too much detail what I could do, but it was beyond my ken. I said, "Benny, I'll pay you to make a house call."
"No way, Joe, but I'll accept a dinner at Chico's."
"Sounds fair to me. How about tomorrow?"
I had just gotten back from a three-day business trip to San Francisco. I stopped to see Hobby at his yacht, Lazybuns. Since it was late in the afternoon, maybe we could do dinner.
"Hey Hobby, what have you been doing?" I said as I helloed him from shore.
"Come aboard. I've been doing some research, Joe. I met a Poker Astrologist."
"Really, Hobby? Are you going dippy on me?"
"No. This is straight stuff."
"Yeah, sure. Tell me about it."
Hobby was seated next to me at the Bike in a Texas Hold 'Em game.
"Look at that chunk of glass," he said as he gestured toward a player at the end of our table.
The object was cut like a diamond, but about the size of an egg. The player put it atop his hole cards as he contemplated his bet.
This is not unusual as many players, top pros among them, use such devices.
"I should have something like that," Hobby said.
"It's a bit garish, don't you think? Maybe you could have something more subtle, like a miniature of your yacht or Rolls?" I said, tongue-in-cheek.
Hobby and I had been playing poker at Hollywood Park. I couldn't get any traction. Lousy cards, and when I tried a time or two to make a play, they fizzled. I decided to cash in my remaining chips and see what Hobby wanted to do. He was at a nearby table.
"I've had it, Hobby. Are you going to play for a while?"
"Nope. I've had enough. You hungry?"
"Yeah. How about Chinese?"
"Sounds good. Let's do it."