By Stan Silliman
POUCH POKER GOING TO THE...
A comedian friend, Joel Panther, claims he’s a top-notch poker player. Not in the Chris Moneymaker or Sam Farha class, but enough to supplement his income. When he tells me this, about pulling in a weekly supplement, because I know Joel, I’m skeptical. I’m thinking… wealthy half-blind widows? Old guys with Harry Caray glasses reflecting their complete hands? Prep school kids with huge allowances?
If you knew Joel, you’d be thinking the same thing. He’s a nice enough guy but the wheels are always spinning. If he were in the army he’d be Private Bilko. He’d always be getting busted back but pulling in more money than the captains. Not to steal too much from Ogden Nash but most people know if you get a call from Joel Panther, don’t anther.
And here is where he throws me. I ask him if I might join in one his poker nights. He doesn’t anther (answer) because that’s what he does… not answer with a straight ahead poker face. Finally he says, “Sorry, I can’t let you. I promised the others… no more guys.”
So it is widows, I’m thinking. Then Joel says “Listen, I might take you with me but you don’t play. You don’t cut my action. You help with the cold cuts… or something.”
That’s fine. I’m game, I tell him and then he adds “Don’t bring any cats with you.”
Do I do that? I don’t have any cats. Then he adds “We’re playing with dogs.”
Joel’s a young guy. I should advise him not to disparage homely women because they’ve got good qualities and… then he says “You might want to bring a few steaks.”
Oh, now I’m worrying… ugly women who also happen to be vampires and we need some stakes ready. I’m freaking a little because I can imagine Joel going to a “Dusk to Dawn” place with naked ugly vampires.
Turns out I was going completely in the wrong direction. It’s more Cassius Marcellus Coolidge than Countess Dracudog – his marks had barks. They were playing poker doggie style because… they were dogs. How they let Joel in their game, I’ll never know. Maybe it’s his sheep-doggish grin… or because he always brings the kibbles.
“Don’t say anything and no high-pitched whistles,” Joel warns me. I walk in and can’t figure out if this is Joel’s place or the dogs. There are pictures on the wall of Rin-Tin-Tin in provocative poses but that’s not really a good clue. There were two Jack Russell Terriers and somehow you have to have a better hand than they do to open. Odd rule. There was a Collie named Caldwell, a St. Bernard named Bernie, a Bulldog named Biff and a Boxer named Beaumont. Apparently Bernie grew up in Vegas with the Curator of the UNLV Museum of Gambling Art where several C.M. Coolidge original Brown and Bigelow pieces are hung.
“They’re not above slipping someone a card under the table… with their feet,” Joel whispers. “We plays paws on the table… but I can see their tails… wagging.”
It’s like a regular poker game, except with dogs - raucous dogs. They’d catch Joel in a good bluff and there are high fours around the table. During an especially intense hand Bernie let’s out a “woof,” then Caldwell does a “woof” and Biff “woofs” and Joel, being fluent in all dog dialects, interprets for me. “They’re saying ‘Hah… hah… hah’.” It’s amazing how Joel can be so precise.
I won’t say I’m not a little worried. Every time Biff the Bulldog has a bad hand, he growls in my direction. I should have brought steaks. Joel is raking in the chips and later I say to him “You ought to work this into your act – poker game with the pouches” and he replies “And have every nut in town hogging my trough? I’ll just keep quiet. Thank you very much.”
That was a pretty good Elvis.
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