The Poker Report (guest columnist)
September 30, 2003

The night started out auspiciously enough. I met Eric Martin for a quick drink at the Uptown, a pre-poker night joint if ever there was one, and then we hoofed it the three blocks to Steve's. I was wearing my "Lucky" shirt. I just got it recently, so I don't know if it actually brings any luck, but the name Lucky is embroidered onto the breast pocket, and that fellow Lucky on the cable TV plays good poker, so I thought what the heck. When we got there, a further omen of my coming fortune was that Steve lives in apartment #9, which has always been my number. So things were looking rosy for the rookie.

The two of us, along with the host and the legendary Ben and Donahue, made five, and we got right down to it. The radio was playing the A's going into extra innings trying to clinch the division. We all took turns imitating A's announcer Bill King, who was rapidly losing what was left of his voice. The game at the table was hold 'em, the cards were the George Bush deck, and I was getting way too many Jebs and Elliot Abramses and not enough royalty, Rumsfelds and Cheneys and the like. Kind of odd to want Don and Dick on your side, but that was the name of the game.

Ben was playing lots of hands to the end and winning a few. Eric was taking a few, and I snuck one in there when my Ashcroft (ace) met a Rumsfeld (ace) on the turn.

Another Steve showed up with beer and toilet paper, and the talk turned briefly to Friendster and a woman I'd managed to meet thereon by pointing out that I have a similar cat to the one she's holding in her online photo. I'm not sure what I was thinking bringing that one up, and the spate of unquotable feline wordplay and abuse that followed threw me way off my game for a while and left Steve E. in hysterics.

Host Steve was bleeding dollars to Eric, at one point saying "Another bullshit Eric Martin move" when the man sometimes known as Redcoat tried to push him around with a massive fifty cent bet on fourth street. Steve folded, Eric won the hand, and suddenly it was like Groundhog's Day with Eric winning just about every hand he played. He took back all of Ben's winnings in a hand of roll 'em, then played two-five suited, flopped a flush and never looked back. In the high hands, he got all Condy Rice (queen, of course) and up. In the low hands, he was always in the sweet little undersecretary numbers.

From then, maybe 8:15, until around 11 when we called it quits, Eric "forget Redcoat, call me 'Moneymaker'" Martin remained aflame. Donahue offered the brilliant, and maybe a tad bitter: "It's really easy to make a lot of money when you have the right cards." Eric sheepishly shrugged and kept right on winning. To his credit, his cards were insane, but he played them properly every time.

And then came the hand. It was hold 'em. The board paired fours and threes with a nine on the river. A couple of fools stayed in as Eric bet the max to the end, somehow still imagining that he wasn't holding a four or a three, or maybe hoping he'd have a three for a smaller boat to their four or even pocket nines and they'd take him for a big one. In the end, of course, no one else had much of anything and Eric turned over a four… and another four. Homeboy had hit quads!

We kept rebuying, Eric kept winning. The A's clinched in the eleventh. At around 10:30, and bearing Bud and Fritos, the big money arrived in the persons of MacAdam/Cage publisher David Poindexter and Jeff "I just wanna make the poker report" Edwards. Ben and Donahue hit the bricks and we upped the stakes. Doe-eyed, how-do-you-play-this-game-again? Jeff took us for a couple hands, one high, one low, then quickly started contributing to the Feed Redcoat fund. I managed to take half a hand with a low when I realized at the last second that everyone else was going to go high. I won it with my zany king low, a kind of booby/consolation prize that semi-salvaged my night. Soon enough, though, Eric was back in the driver's seat and the fatcats were reaching for their wallets.

There was a cig break out on the back stairs and talk of books and writers and writing and the many ways to spell success therein, then back inside for one more round o' whoopin' from Mr. Martin. When it all was over, Eric counted out $67 in profits. I asked if that was a record, and Steve quickly said no, he'd had some slightly bigger nights, but that was pretty damn good. Then Eric noticed a fat pile of black ($1) chips he'd neglected to tally.

After the recount, Eric's $95 take was indeed a record-breaker for Steve's House o' Poker, and out of graciousness and guilt he even bought himself and me a copy of the current Believer with Steve's Howard Dean piece in it.

It was hard to begrudge Moneymaker his big day — Eric's a Red Sox fan, after all, so he was probably just getting an early payback from the powers that be for the Sox imminent, hapless demise in the playoffs to come. I think my twelve buck loss was good for third place, and that's actually some solace.


© 2006 Jamie Berger