Emotional Intelligence · Stories

The Strip.

Las Vegas. 1983

P 309i Vegas Strip

Frauds and their Behaviour, Part 4

I know of a man – can I call him a friend? Certainly a partner in crime… he did play poker. It’s late in the evening. Tom might only be eighteen, but he’s tough. Slim as a pin and lightning fast. You don’t need strength when they’re already on the floor.

Even so, Tom’s no fool: he found himself a mentor. We’ll call him Steve, okay? Only Steve knows what Tom needs to know, Steve needs Tom to know who not to play poker with. Because if you play poker against the wrong guys, you are going to have your ass busted. Better to back out first than get your wallet emptied by a pro.

Steve pushes open the doors, it’s dark and smoky inside. The club is noisy, people dancing, drinking. The two friends stand there, watching the dancers snake up the poles in the semi-darkness.

Steve, the older man finds a quiet table that’s out of the way, sits down and tells Tom to sit down too. The noise level is well over 100dB.

Steve puts his hand inside the folds of his coat. Steve draws out a sawnoff, holding it under the table. Tom’s heart pounds. Hard. Jesus, ‘I know this guy,’ Tom thinks to himself, ‘I know what he’s left behind him.’

When you play poker, you don’t mess around. It means you don’t mess around with other toys either.

Steve opens the gun, only he doesn’t put any shells in, he just racks it sharply. To Tom’s ears it’s 200dB. It’s a noise distinct to anyone who knows what shotguns do for a living. Tom’s not on the edge, he’s standing six feet next to it.

Tom sees four heads become bright in the dim light as they turn.

“See them?” says Steve, “they are not marks. Never, ever play against them. They’re professionals and they’ll eat you. Make your money from the rest, they’re just wanting to be fleeced.”

A moment later the owner of the bar’s at their side: “guys, is there anything wrong?”

“No,” says Steve, “just teachin’ the kid a lesson, that’s all.”

Leaving as quietly as they came, they’d been seen by the guys who count. The others didn’t matter anyway.

Racking a shotgun is the fastest way to separate the pros from the amateurs. The sharks from the herring. Just make sure you have a shark for a friend, one that won’t bite you. Well, one that won’t bite you too hard, okay?

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