Meet Cliff
Dec 14, 2005  
2005 Jason Kirk  

After a rough day of classes at UNLV there was very little for Cliff to look forward to outside of the joyous thought of check-raising stupid tourists down on the Strip. School had always been something Cliff did because other people expected it from him - his mother, his teachers, but especially his father. If he weren't so afraid of the old man he would've jumped off the deep end a long time ago and gone pro like some of the guys he knew from the 2+2 forums, but as things stood he was keeping up the charade of being a diligent student so as not to rock the boat. Things wouldn't be this way forever, of course. Someday he'd have the courage to stand up to his father and let him know the way things were going to be in the future. Someday.

For now, though, there was poker. Cliff hadn't played any "real" poker before enrolling in classes at UNLV, though he had participated in plenty of stupid dealer's choice games with the guys after football games in high school. He didn't even play poker in a casino until his sophomore year. That was after he saw the World Poker Tour on TV and realized that there were much better ways to make a dollar than studying business and finance to make someone else happy. His first session was at the Excalibur, where he played against what might well have been the stupidest players on the face of the planet. Those donkey morons paid him off every time he hit his river flushes, as if it wasn't completely obvious they were beaten! And they always chased their draws - always. It was so easy to make money off the idiot tourists that Cliff started to play poker more and more often. His grades began to decline, but it wasn't too hard to hide such results from his parents. All he had to do was keep the secret until his bankroll was big enough to go pro.

Cliff threw on his UNLV hoodie, grabbed a couple of hundred-dollar bills from the cigar box where he stashed most (but not all) of his bankroll, and made the quick drive to the Imperial Palace, home of some of the dumbest tourists around. They were on par with the monkeys who played at the Excalibur, but the $2-4 and $4-8 games at the IP were much more profitable than small spread-limit games. Cliff didn't play no-limit like a lot of younger players he knew of - he knew that the secret to building his roll was to grind out winning session after winning session. The downside was that he had to surround himself with morons, but it wouldn't be long before he could escape to the higher limits where the players were much smarter - but not smart enough to keep him from being a winner.

As he walked into the room Cliff saw he was just in time to get the open 10-seat at the only $4-8 game running at the moment. The game was full of tourists calling down with any two cards. Cliff sat down with a rack of grey $1 chips and pulled the hood of his sweatshirt up over his head. He always got hot when he wore the hood up, but he knew that he looked a lot more intimidating to the donkeys that way. He unloaded his chips and started doing tricks. He shuffled them, he flipped them, he spread them out four at a time between his fingers the way he'd seen Antonio Esfandiari and Dutch Boyd do on television - but none of the tourists seemed to be paying attention. Especially the guy across from Cliff who was raising every single hand. What a donkey! He called his pair of aces all the way to the river when he was obviously beaten by the straight draw on the board. Cliff decided this was the guy he was going to relieve of chips tonight.

It didn't take long for a confrontation to begin. The guy raised - again - and when the action reached Cliff he looked down at two red aces. He made it three bets, picked up a caller behind him, and the action was on the donkey.

"Wow," he said. "The Unabomber's gonna raise me, huh?" A couple of players at the end of the table laughed. "All right, let's see what he's got."

Cliff didn't say anything. He was going to break this donkey, and he wanted to savor it when it happened. The donkey led out at the T-7-3 rainbow board, Cliff raised, the other caller dropped, and the donkey raiser called him. The turn 8 didn't make things any scarier, and this time the donkey check-called him. The river was a 2, and the donkey check-called again. Cliff slammed his aces down on the table.

"Nice hand," the donkey said as he mucked. "I picked up an open-ender on the turn or I would've folded."

Pair of nines - just as Cliff thought. What an idiot this guy was! It was going to be a very good night for Cliff - he could tell already. "Stupid donkeys," he said under his breath as he stacked all the grey chips he'd just taken down. "Calling me down with two outs, morons."

"Excuse me?" asked the donkey. "What did you just say?"

Cliff was a little startled, but he kept his cool, stacked his chips and ignored the donkey. These guys never talked back - what was the donkey's problem? Didn't he know his place? Anyway, Cliff didn't have to say anything to these morons if he didn't want to. He just had to stack their chips and leave a winner. It was a sure thing.

Then the donkey did something else unusual - he started racking up his chips. He stood up without saying another word and walked up to the brush to cash out. "Oh well," Cliff thought, "there's plenty of money for me to win at this table." As play continued Cliff noticed the 4-seat walk over and start talking to the donkey as he cashed out. Then the 4-seat came back and started whispering to the players in the seats around him. And then, almost in unison, they began racking their chips up too - five of them in all. This was not the way things were supposed to go.

"Where you kids going?" asked the old man on Cliff's right.

"To find another game," the 4-seat replied, looking directly at Cliff. Then he and his friends walked up to the desk to join the other donkey in cashing out.

Cliff didn't say anything, he just posted his small blind and prepared himself to check-raise the old man when he position raised. He waited, head bowed beneath his protective hood, but he didn't get any cards. Finally he got irritated at the inaction and snapped at the dealer.

"Let's get some cards going here," Cliff said. "I've got money to win."

"I'm sorry, sir," the dealer said. "We only have four players so the floor is breaking the table."

"Then let's play shorthanded," Cliff said. He glanced at the old man, hoping he'd say yes. The old man just shook his head, irritating Cliff further.

"I'm sorry, sir," said the dealer. "The table's breaking. I think the $2-4 list is pretty short if you'd like to wait."

Cliff sat motionless as the other three players stacked their chips, steaming, until he finally said, "How am I supposed to win if there's nobody for me to play?"

The old man looked directly at Cliff as he picked up his rack of chips, chuckling. "That's a pretty good question, ain't it, Slim?"

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