Hobby and I had taken our girlfriends to Ensenada, Mexico where we entered a two-man backcountry dune buggy race and poker run. We had driven off the beaten path in an attempt to out maneuver the competition, but instead we wound up wrecking our buggy in a remote area. Hiking out we thought our luck had improved when a beat-up pickup truck appeared, but the two Mexicans turned out to be banditos. When Hobby told them they couldn't have his gold Rolex wristwatch one brandished a machete.
At least once a week Hobby and I spend time together with our lady friends. This night it was Mexican food to be followed by dancing at a new West side club, but something was out of whack. Hobby and Sue were very quiet. Kim whispered to me, "Think they had a fight?"
"Beats me," I said quietly.
Then loudly I asked. "You gonna share the bad news?"
"Hey," Sue said. "It's not me. Hobby's been in brain cramp ever since he picked me up."
"Look, I'm sorry. I've been working on something, but I'm afraid you guys might not like it."
Railbirds who do not play Texas Hold'em may wonder why players, who call the first round of betting, place an object on their hole cards. The answer is - it indicates that their hand is in action. These objects range from playing chips, gold and silver coins, to an infinite variety of personal good luck charms. For Jimmy Chu, his good luck charm on this evening was half of an ancient Chinese coin with the tail of a dragon on one side.
Hobby and I had just left Hank Serosian's estate when, totally by accident, I overheard one side of a cross talk conversation on my cell phone. The snippets, apparently spoken by someone who had been at the dinner party, indicated skullduggery was afoot. We had pledged to keep the plan to create a spectacular international poker tournament confidential, but someone was talking.
On the ride to Beverly Hills I asked Hobby about Harry Serosian, our host for the evening. I knew him as one of Hollywood's premier producers; Hobby had a family connection. My modest buddy never ceases to amaze me. His father, now deceased, was a wealthy financier, but Hobby says little about him. I asked about Harry.
"Harry? Yeah, we're related- cousins. My father was his uncle."
"That's strange. Serosian's a lot older than you, isn't he?"
"Sure, but my father was old when they had me- almost sixty."
"Quite a stud, huh?"
Hobby and I had been enjoying Margaritas on the fantail of Lazybuns, his ocean-going abode at Marina del Rey. If for no other reasons, I'd befriend Hobby for his ability to make the M-drink. There are none better-nowhere!
Were it not for their calories, I'd make them a steady diet. I try to limit myself to two, but Ms are like peanuts, the more you have the more you want. I was still salivating when Hobby came from below decks waving a paper.
"Remember Sugi Yamamoto?"
I had just returned from a trip to Chicago where I worked with an ad agency that liked a campaign I created a couple years ago. It was a windfall dividend. One week of work netted what I previously earned in a year. My cell phone rang and ID-ed my buddy.
"What's up, Hobby?"
"Hey, Joe. How was Chicago?"
"Frigid, but the business went well. What have you been up to?"
"Just lunkin' along, but I've got a question for you. Do you know a player named Benny Heise?"
"The name's familiar. I think he plays cash games around L.A. Why?"
My cell phone buzzed. It was Hank Roberts, an Army buddy from Nam. "What's up, Hank? You still hustling real estate in the Valley?"
"Hi, Joe. Matter of fact I am-and doing well. How are you?"
"I'm fine and dandy. So what's up? You didn't call just to inquire about my health."
"Ah, you're so perceptive, Joe. You're right; I'm calling on you as a poker expert."
"Not confusing me with Mike Caro, are you?"
"Hell, I don't even know him, but you have more poker savvy than anyone I do know."
"My dubious credentials aside, what's this all about?"
"Joe, remember I told you Kenny Williams was starting an airline for poker players?"
"Yeah, Hobby. Has he gotten it off the ground yet?"
"Very funny, Joe. Yes, he has. I've got a seat on the maiden flight. Interested?"
"I don't know. Tell me more."
"The first trip is to Monte Carlo for a week. Ten thou for everything including a seat in a $100,000 tournament on the way over."
"How many people going?"
"I don't know, but it's 100 players max."
Since I have never been to Monte Carlo, it was very tempting.
"Okay, Hobby, count me in."
I'm a Card Thief. Tonight, in an underground card room called The All Inn, I cheated a flock of dead money ducks by slight-of-handing out a check-and fold [7d][2h], and switching in a flop-fitting [6d][4c], hitting the nut straight and leaving my opponents badly beaten. I had stood up to leave when Daffy Duck yelled, "Wait! I folded a pair of black fours! How could you show down the [4c]?"
"You know," says Donald, "I'm sure I folded an [Ad][6d]."
I take one step back. Huey, Dewey, and Louie eye me suspiciously. Daffy says, "Let's check the muck."
"Good idea!" says Donald.