On Labor Day, back from an all-nighter playing losing no-limit riverboat poker, I crawled into bed at 10:30 a.m., when a friend called asking if I wanted to check out the 28th Annual Taste of Polonia.
Food? Polish women? Casino night? Poker Videos? How could I resist?
I still had the rental car, and we splurged on VIP parking for $15, though no one ever asked us to pay going in or out.
There were some gorgeous Polish females, but they all seemed underage and hanging out at the Led Zeppelin tribute band. By what they were wearing, the festival should’ve also had a jailbait exhibit.
Sampled some beer, mushroom eggrolls, beer, pieorgies, and beer.
One of the vendors was MoneyGram. If only I’d thought ahead to initiate a Poker Stars deposit.
Another vendor was a modeling agency, and I stopped by.
“Hi,” I said to the pretty girl behind the counter. “My friend and I would like to sign up to become models.”
The pretty girl looked at us and somehow stifled a harumph. She gestured to my friend and said, “Ohhh… he’s too old.”
I’m older than he is, but I took it as a polite way to say that we were both fugly and there was no way in Polish hell she’d let us sign up.
“How old do you have to be?” I said.
As soon as she said 25, I said, “I’m 24, is that okay?”
The pretty girl reluctantly handed me a clipboard to fill out.
“But my friend, how old do you think he is?”
“Oh,” the pretty girl said, “I have no way of knowing.”
I tried to get her to say an age, but she was too polite to.
The festival had all the carnival games — squirt the gun into the target to raise Tweety Bird, throw the basketballs into the hoop, throw the rings around bottles, fire a corkgun at the empty cans, etc.
Highly competitive, we played them all, including a few heads-up.
My favorite was Roller Race, called out by a carnival barker with all silver teeth and who referred to himself as “Soul Man.” In a dark alley, it would be a different situation.
At $2 a pop, we played the game (“the game is called roll the ball, not throw the ball”) at least a dozen times.
Not once did I win, and I’m convinced the thing’s rigged.
Set up like skeetball, you roll balls up an alley into a number of different-colored holes to increase the speed of your dog — red (run), blue (walk), yellow (crawl).
On one game, I rolled my ball into two red holes and still didn’t win. After 12 tries at this, you can develop at least some skill in rolling and aiming.
Yet a kid who couldn’t have been more than 3 years old ended up winning.
The punk was sitting on the lap of his mother, who also helped him roll the ball, which I’m sure is against the rules because it’s one player to a ball.
She selected a stuffed alligator as his prize, and I almost caught a sly wink from the mother to the barker. It was then I knew they were in cahoots.
The barker would call over couples, saying to the guy that he’s guaranteed to win a stuffed animal to impress his girl. And he did.
Pretty girls would play one time, and they would win.
But always, whenever a kid sat down, that kid would end up winning.
In a way, it makes sense because you don’t want adults continually hogging up the prizes and it’s fun when a little kid throws an upset and takes down all the adults.
But instead of rigging it, they could at least randomize it so it isn’t so obvious what’s going on.
Though I guess only the sick individuals playing the game 12 straight times would start to see the pattern maps going on.
Knowing Casino Night was there, we left it for the end as a sort of final treat after drinking enough. Blackjack, the Big Wheel, and 2/4 limit hold’em poker were being dealt. A max bet of $10 was in place, and chips were purchased with cash and redeemed with cash.
The chip box had only white chips which were $1 each. There couldn’t have been more than $100 in the box.
By the time we headed to Casino Night, we’d blown all our money on carnival games and food and beverages, and the convenient ATM in the hall was inconveniently out of service.
Across the street was a CVS, and the degenerate that I am, I tried taking $300 out of the ATM expecting to fleece some Polish poker donks but was denied because I’d maxed my withdrawal from the riverboat casino earlier that morning to play slots.
My friend withdrew $200, I borrowed $100, and we were good to go.
The festival closed at 10 p.m., which gave us a good hour. I envisioned raising and reraising every hand, taking down pots, and doing victory dances to Polish polkas.
But when we returned to Casino Night, they had just shut the chip box, saying they were shutting down at 9 p.m.
“But thank you guys for coming, and do come back next year.”
I considered slipping the guy a $20 just so we could sit down and play a few hands.
Damn Illinois and its charitable gaming laws. If I had his number, I would’ve called Mayor Daley to see if he could put in a stay of execution to extend to 10 p.m.
With my computer down, I couldn’t play online or even get online, so instead, we left the festival and headed to a neighborhood bar to drink some more while I scratched at all the bites I got from the Polish mosquitoes.