On Monday nights in the East village, a killer comedy show is going on. And no audience to see it. Eddie hosts a weekly poker game, 6 years running.
It’s a roast without the dais, a sophisticated snap session with cash involved. The current regulars are Vic and Robin, JR., Adam, Louie, Jeff, Eddie and myself. Vic’s wife Robin and Adam are writers and the only non-comics of the regulars. I am the LCN or Low Card Negro because of my propensity for getting low cards. (Very few other brothers have played in this game. Greg Poole, the brother from Speed 2 and my cousin Lamarr. It seems the ratio of brothers is the same as brothers working comedy clubs in the city.) Sam, Joe and Carrie (nicknamed Pounders after calling an ace a pounder), average 1 or 2 games a month and considered the easiest touches of the group. The Fitzdog stops through with his donation when he’s in town.
Vic provides cat like injections of humor filled with obscure references and has the best road stories that take 5 hands to finish. He should be from Chicago as much as he comes in second. Robin was once accused of farting in the cab on the way to a game. She to this day denies it, but you always love the idea of a pretty woman farting. Jeff is fascinated by the old Catskills comics and plays in a regular Friars Club game. Joe is the most improved player over the years, but he was pretty bad to start. President of the 20/20 club, ($20-20 minutes and out) Joe can hang for an hour now. “I know I’m doing something wrong. Every time I get a good hand they all drop out.”
Louis brings the harsh side of him to every game he attends. Owner of the best exit award, Louis had bad cards all night and lost plenty. After his last hand, he rose from the table to exclaim, ” So long, suckers! Maybe I’ll let you guys come by and visit your money!”
Eddie, always the congenial host is the hardest to beat. He has a knack for putting the hammer down. That’s when you decide to raise the maximum every chance you get. Many players use this tactic to force other hands out. “You gotta be innit to winnit,” says JR. With the hammer in the down position, you’ve got good cards or fully expect to get them. Adam is most often caught with his hammer down. All of us have made truly bonehead decisions though.
The most common is misreading a low hand that’s actually a straight. Or not keeping the right number of cards in one of the pass games.
The least favorite part of the poker game for me is answering the age old questions, “Any raises left?” “How much is it to me?” “Has Puff Daddy ever written a real song?” We imposed a 3 raise limit, in keeping with the friendly nature of the game. Checking and raising are not done either, for the same reason. “Focus and Enjoy” is a popular prelude to many hands that are dealt. Eddie always stresses the enjoyment factor, while I try to keep players focused in the game.
We listen to everything from John Coltrane to Elvis Costello and much in between. Jeff complains the most about the music and I always hear stuff I wouldn’t listen to at home. We all love to play poker… and screw up all the lyrics to whatever tune is playing. JR will inject the word “lady” into each song, much to our delight. Jay gets honors for most bizarre entrance and exit.
He once ran in butt naked, did a lap around the coffee table and ran out. (Picture a real life Ken doll action figure). One time semi-regular Kenny would sit with a hip flask of Old Grand Dad, and attempt to pass it around like we were camped out in the woods. His girlfriend Vivka was universally despised for her extremely slow play. You had time to go around to the Cellar and do a set by the time she made a bet.
They were eventually banned from the game and she was deported. Ray went light on a pot, excused himself from the table when he lost to go to the bank. He never came back. Pounders once brought an overweight player to the game. He broke a chair. At that point, his name became “Thousand Pounder.” Pounders is famous for odd poker behavior. Last week she brought her dog, a little Yorkie to the game. At one point, she placed the dog on the poker table and sat back for us to marvel at his cuteness. Pounders lives in the fantasy world of afterlife poker.
“What did you have? If you had folded, I would’ve got my boat!” What the hell, she brings gyros or other foodstuff. Chips and bits fly at the comedians poker game. It’s the comics golf course. Intricate stories of missed flights, bad hotels, and weird club owners are woven between jokes. An hour into the game, someone will call for a food break.
Vic: (giving food order to Eddie who’s on the phone with the deli) Tell ’em to send me a cock sandwich.
Eddie: What if they don’t have cock?
Vic: I’ll take turkey.
Eddie answers and leaves the table to talk in the bedroom. He comes back 20 minutes later grinning:
“Who was it?” one of the regulars will ask.
“Wrong Number” The timing is always on the money.
One of my favorite games is pass two left and right anaconda. I call it Take Whitey Down. Louie brought Mr. C.K.’s Balls to the game, and we honor Louie by playing it when he’s not there. JR calls a lot of biddy badda boww. It’s a game where you have the option of buying one card for 50 cents, another for a dollar or a free one from the deck. Fifty evolved into biddy and dollar became badda. Boww (rhymes with cow) is used to represent going for the unknown, selecting the only unseen card of the choices. When dealt an ace for the boww, it’s known as the best boww in the business. JR loves dealing this game and beating me.
“I also feel at my most useful when I’m separating the chips. It’s sort of my turn to shine whether I’m Chippy McSweepum or not.” JR quickly divides the pot into neat stacks for the winners to collect. (Chippy McSweepum is any player that wins a big hand or a well full of chips. The variations on this theme are unlimited). “On the back bumpski” is a situation where one player is raised by a player who had previously called. He may have been holding great cards from the getgo, or setting himself up for a frankchank, one of our favorite phrases.
Frankchank can be used in a variety of situations. If a player raises has nothing and gets caught, he was frankchanked. Or when a player Franks his Chank, he has won a hand with very little. “Frankchank with the lady” is one of JR’s numerous contributions. I suppose if we were a singing group, we’d be
called…”Cooly Cool and the Frank Chanks.”
This is humor for comedians and we live for our weekly dose of tomfoolery.
About 3 hours into the game, a quitting time is established. Usually 30 minutes to an hour later we have 2 showdowns. The first is for $10 each and each player is given 7 cards face up, best hand wins. The second is $5 for 5 cards. This way a player can pick up nearly $100. Many nights the showdown makes the difference in a winning or losing night.
It’s a friendly game, which is crucial to its success. Disputes are not settled with guns or violence. If the bank comes up short, players toss a buck or two to whoever comes up light. Overage is taken care of by having a 3rd showdown.
There is nothing like a good poker game, and this is one of the great ones.