Paul Mohr was one of the good guys. So was Roger Young. And according to them, so was I. Mohr was the special agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Bureau in Phoenix, AZ. when the Phoenix Gazette hired me as the newspaper's federal beat reporter in 1976. The FBI office was just one of several federal agencies on my beat. I was also responsible for covering the U.S. Senatorial and Congressional offices, federal bankruptcy court, the U.S. District Courts and the Department of the Interior.
I have known a lot of journalists in my life. Most of them were good objective reporters, although there were a few bad apples in the barrel. Jack Karie was one of the best. He lived in Phoenix, AZ. with his wife and four daughters when I met him. I was an aspiring reporter without a job and Jack was assistant editor of the Evening American, a daily newspaper published by a Mormon Bishop named Evan Mecham who would later be elected governor of Arizona.
Abe is a small quiet man with a mustache. He is in his 60s and he speaks with a with a foreign accent that reveals his Mideastern roots. He was born in Iraq and he has only one hobby. Poker. Abe is a tough player who doesn't yield anything to anybody at the poker table. I think he would gladly check-raise his own grandmother if he had the chance.
Ah, the good old days! Remember when poker on the Internet opened up? You could download any of those international gambling websites and find yourself playing for cash in the privacy of your own home. It didn't matter what time of day or night it was. You could set your own schedule, have a winning session, and then have the website send you your money. You were the master of your fate, the captain of your ship. Everything seemed perfect. You didn't realize certain government bureaucrats didn't like what was going on.
You just have to watch out for those small town girls from Colorado. They can be dangerous. That was Molly Bloom. She grew up with two younger brothers who were aspiring Olympics gold medalists and aspiring professional athletes. She skied. She had dreams of competing in the Olympics herself. It never happened. Instead, she ended up running one of the biggest poker games in the world. It operated in Los Angeles and New York. It drew top poker-playing celebrities like Ben Affleck and Tobey Mcguire and they attracted millionaires and even billionaires who were attracted to the million dollar pots, the cocaine, and the sizzle of fame.
I have a poker playing friend who has run into problems at the poker table. Let's call him Tommy. That isn't his real name and I would not want to embarrass him by revealing his name. Tommy has played a lot of poker in his lifetime, but recently he has run into a brick wall. He just can't seem to win and moans about his bad luck to anyone who will listen to him and never asks for advice. Instead, just complains about his bad luck. I have news for Tommy. If he ever asked me for advice, I would tell him straight to his face to stay away from the players who have been beating him like a drum.
When Doyle Brunson wrote his best-selling book, 'Super System,' some years ago, he put together a strategy designed to help people win at Texas Hold'em. Brunson listed the top Hold'em hands a person should play and pocket aces headed the list. That was yesterday. Today a growing number of Hold'em players are trying to figure out how to get their pocket aces cracked and they're doing it because poker rooms will pay them to have the aces beaten. While some casinos offer this cash bonus only during certain hours, other casinos like Wild Horse Pass near Chandler, AZ. runs the promotion seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
'Dear Geno,' a reader writes. 'You have written articles about being lucky and being unlucky at the gambling tables. What is the luckiest day you have ever experienced? Janell D., Ft. Lauderdale, FL.' Janell lives in one of my favorite cities. It's home to the Hard Rock Casino which is just down the road in Hollywood, FL. and it provides some of the world's best deep sea fishing. Luck is a factor in gambling that cannot be explained or understood. It just happens. My luckiest day was a Saturday in Las Vegas, NV. I was working as a staff writer for Gambling Times owned by publisher Chuck DeRocco.
My friend Lennie and I have three things in common: we are both divorced, we like younger women, and we are on losing streaks. I ran into him at one of my favorite casinos the other night. He looked glum and I slapped him on the shoulder. 'Howdy Pardner,' I said. 'What are you up to?' 'Thinking of robbing a bank' he muttered. I don't think he was kidding. 'The cards hate me,' he said. 'I can't seem to do anything right. I've been on a losing streak so long that I think I've lost my ability to play poker.' Now that sounded serious.
Prescott, AZ. is home to the oldest rodeo in America. It is also home to Whiskey Row, a street of bars, saloons and restaurants where cowboys went to let off steam after riding Brahma Bulls and bucking broncos. And it was where film director made one of the best rodeo movies ever to hit the silver screen. 'Junior Bonner' starred Steve McQueen, Robert Preston, Ida Lupino and Joe Don Baker. It was directed by Sam Peckinpah, who was known for making many violent films, including 'The Wild Bunch.' I was living in Phoenix when 'Junior Bonner' was filmed in 1972. McQueen and I had met in Lake Elsinore, CA. where he was a regular poker player along with Desi Arnaz at the Sahara Dunes card room owned by my friend Nick Notos.
During my childhood days, we played a lot of games in our neighborhood. One of my favorites was 'Liar, Liar, Who's On Fire?' I don't remember exactly how the game went but it had something to do with lying and telling tall stories. Children are famous for doing that and some never grow out of the habit of exaggerating the truth. Poker players do the very same thing. If you have played any amount of poker in a casino setting, you will notice that some of the players will talk up a storm before and even during hands. This is done to fool the other players into believing they are really not that interested in the outcome of the hand.
I have a good friend who ran a poker game in San Juan, Puerto Rico for years. It was a home game that attracted some of the wealthy residents of San Juan and it was very popular. Joe cut the pot which gave him a nice profit over a year's time. He also noted that there were some nights -- make that many nights -- when there were no winners except the House. 'Amazing,' he told me. 'I had all the money and all the players had was the excitement of the game and the action.' Excuse me for saying this, but that is what seems to be happening in poker games around America and across the world.
One of the things that irks me and many other players in poker rooms is an arbitrary rule that prevents dealers from either washing the deck or bringing in a new setup of cards. Now I realize some players take advantage of liberal policies and call for an over-abundance of deck washes and card changes. They do it for many different reasons. They are losing, they are superstitious, they want to influence their luck for the better --- the list can go on and on. But my point is simply this: without the players, a poker room would not exist.
Are you stressed out? Do you feel uptight and want to bite off the heads of people who dare to wish you a cheerful 'Good morning'? Has life somehow become an ordeal rather than an adventurous journey with interesting turns along the way? If you answered yes to any of these questions, I have a remedy for you. It's one that is being used by an increasing number of people. Best of all, it works. Try marijuana and a glass of wine. The mellowing effects of this combination must be experienced to be truly appreciated. When I visited Las Vegas recently, I stopped by one of the retail outlets where legal ganja is sold for recreational use by adults over the age of 21.
The American Southwest is amazing country. You will find yourself in a lounge at, say, the Westward Ho Hotel in downtown Phoenix. There will be cowboys in red satin shirts who have never sat on the back of a horse. In a corner of the bar will be a sleepy-eyed Hopi Indian sipping his tequila or mescal brandy and licking the salt. And sitting at a table with his friends, strumming a guitar, will be a hophead high on life and the aromatic scene of the whacky tobaccy he has just smoked. I have spent the better part of my professional life as a journalist working on newspapers or radio stations in the Southwest. Once when I was enjoying a weekend in Santa Fe, N.M., I rented a horse and rode into a cemetery to find Kit Carson's grave.
When I was eight years old, my parents took my younger brothers and me to a public swimming pool in Ligonier, PA. I didn't know how to swim and stayed close to shore for the first couple of hours. Then, for some stupid reason, I ventured into deeper water and nearly drowned. I went under the water once, twice and then three times. Each time I bobbed above the surface of the water I yelled 'Help,' but the lifeguard was too busy talking to girls to see my distress. My father spotted me, jumped into the water, and saved my life. Poker players can drown, too, if they play against competition that is too tough for their skills.
Now and then during a poker game, I will ask another poker player how he or she became interested in the game. It always makes me smile when many of the players tell me their mother played cards. Yep, Mama has a decided influence on many of the professional poker players you find in Las Vegas, Reno, Atlantic City or even the Caribbean.
Have you ever been guilty of road rage? Be honest. You are driving on a freeway, someone gets in front of you and won't move, or a vehicle cuts you off in traffic. How do you handle it? I must confess that I have been guilty of committing road rage in the past. Once I chased another car for miles down Highway One toward Miami, FL. after the driver had recklessly cut me off. I shouldn't have done it, but I did. The devil made me do it. Road rage is something I did in the past. I am sure it was because of immaturity. When I did it, it made me feel good. I wanted to punish the other motorist because of his indiscretions.
When I turned 13, I became a caddie at the Youghiogheny Country Club near McKeesport, PA. I began earning money for toting golf bags around the 18-hole golf course and I even learned to play golf. Each Monday was Caddies Day at the course. We were permitted to play 18 holes of golf free as long as we had a set of clubs. Some of the caddies had their own golf clubs, but most of us borrowed them from the members who generously gave that favor as long as we cleaned the clubs after use.
His name was Joe. I don't remember his last name and can't recall if he ever gave it me. He was a poker player. We played against each other at Binion's Horseshoe, the Union Plaza and The Orleans. Joe was a good limit player who generally won more than he lost. Sometimes when we cashed in, we would go to the bar and share a few drinks and stories.
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