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Poker News | PokerWorks Op-Ed

The Back Room - Acting Stupid

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The only mouse you’ll find in the back room of the Farm Barn is one that scurries away from the light and the sound of a poker game that runs late night once a week – no computers, no internet poker, no electronic gadgets allowed.

I was sitting in the shop eating peanuts when Charlie came in. I’d gotten the peanuts in a special deal from down the Farm Barns Railroad siding, by trading the manager a chess set for the 20 gallon barrel of peanuts.

It was a straight up trade; I just didn’t let the manager know that old chess set was a swiped item from twenty-five years ago. No! No, I didn’t swipe it. I traded for it about ten, eleven years ago for a pocket knife. I got a paid pass to a High School Fund raiser concert in Beau Mount, as part of poker pot. I didn’t want to go to the concert, so I traded the pass for the knife and then the knife for the chess set.

The guy that traded the chess set was getting long in the tooth and needed a knife to scrape his trail bars so he could eat them. He said he’d swiped the chess set from a homeless guy that’d passed out from too much wine in the parking lot down by an ALCO store in a small town in Western Kansas. I’d been carrying that thing around a long time.

“Charlie,” I say.


“ ‘Sup? As the kids might say,” I inquire.

“Lum, you been running the weekly for awhile now.”


“I want to raise the stakes.” He declares.

Now, I’ve been running the weekly poker game down the Farm Barn back room for God-alone-knows how long. The stakes have been quarter/half for years. Limit Hold’em. Never changes.

Well, that’s not necessarily true. About once a month or so the guys get a wild hair stuck crosswise and we’ll play dealers choice – real poker games. We don’t allow those game killers like deuces wild, one-eyed jacks and that foolishness. About the best we do for deviation are the 8 hi/lo split games. Sometimes we’ll do Pinochle if we don’t have enough for a decent Hold’em game. We play 50 cents a point for the Pinochle, per man.

“Business is good in this economy, Charlie?” I asked.

“No. No, Lum. It isn’t.”

“Then why do you want to raise the stakes, Charlie?”

“I’m short, Lum. I’m stuck for a lot of money and I want a chance to get it back.”

“You stuck in poker, Charlie; or business wise?”

He hesitates for bit and says, “Both, Lum.”

“Charlie! Why are you acting so stupid?” I asked.

Well, Sir, his face turned red and the veins of his neck started bulging and his eyes turned red. I was thinking I’d have to smack him with one of the chisel handles or the mallet before long. Then he got control of himself.

“Lum, why are you calling me stupid?”

“Not, Charlie. Just asking why you’ve decided to ACT stupid asking for a stake change when you’re stuck.”

“Why stupid?”

“Look, Charlie,” I say, now some of the danger was past, “how many rich poker players do you know? Hell, how many rich poker players have you ever heard about? And how many of those have you ever heard about that have hung on to their poke after making it – strictly playing poker, that is?”

Charlie starts naming names, players past, present and sideways and then looks at me.

“Charlie. A lot of those names, foreign and domestic, are broke. Rumored broke; I loaned him money broke; by a backer broke. Bankrupt, Charlie. Some of them are employed by the on-line sites as reps; some are tournament players that haven’t won a tournament in years – of any sort. Some of them are grinders that are self employed, that don’t play tournaments, just cash games. Their addresses are the hotel they’re staying in and their phone numbers are in their pockets on cell phones. Although, those cash game guys just might represent winning players.

“What I want to hear from you, Charlie, are the names of strict poker players only that have banked substantial money. Rather like you bank in your business.”


“Aww, Charlie. Have you been tapping the business till for poker money?”

Charlie just nods.

“And now you want us to raise the stakes?”

Charlie nods.

“Charlie. I know that you’ve been losing at the weekly. Hell, we all do. But isn’t raising the stakes the wrong thing?”

“I’ll never get un-stuck at those stakes.” He says.

“Charlie, do you play on-line?”

“Yeah,” he said, and started naming who and how many sites.

“Charlie. I have to tell you. I don’t want to, but I feel like I have to. You’re a lousy poker player, and...Oh, by the way, you aren’t just don’t play poker well.  Let me ask you something. Suppose we change the limits of the weekly to No-Limit?”

“Hold on,” I said, as he looked to get all excited. “Suppose we changed the game to No-Limit, .02/.05, with no ante? Would you play?”

Well, his face fell and he said: “Yeah. Yes, I would.”


“Why?” he asks, “That’s my group. Everyone that plays the weekly is a friend.”

“Charlie. How many friends have you at any poker table in the world, including the weekly?”

“Just the weekly,” he answers.

“Jesus, Charlie. Those are not friends at the weekly. They’re your enemies. They put money on the table to take money off the table. It’s an investment.”

“They’re my friends, Lum.”

“Quit acting stupid, Charlie. Charlie, you brag about your business at the table don’t you? They brag about business at the table. But mostly they talk about poker and hands and the occasional family matter. But what, Charlie, is the talk in poker about?”

“Well, the hands.” He says.

“What about the hands?” I asked him.

“Well,” he says, after thinking about it, “Mostly about what they thought or what they’d hoped would happen, or what a dip shit move someone would make.”

“You ever pay attention to all that talk, Charlie?”

“No, not really,” he says.

“You ever been called a dip shit at the table of the weekly?”

“Not for a long time.”

“How long has it been, Charlie?”

“Years, I guess. I honestly don’t remember the last time.”

“I’m not changing the limits, Charlie.

*Find the ongoing Back Room Tales in our Poker Wall Section - or type The Back Room in 'search.'  And for the sake of discussion, you'll find The Back Room tales in this thread in the forum.

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