There are people who suggest the former Soviet Republic of Armenia is where Adam and Eve first looked at each other's nodules. I don't know this to be true, but I have no reason to say otherwise. As far as I know, original sin popped up a few nights ago at some backwater McDonalds, so the last thing I am going to do is deny Armenians their place in biblical history. A Garden of Eden theme park could be in the offing if the former Communists really put their minds to it.
As long as I'm being generous, I also hesitate to call whe whole of the Republic a bunch of cheats. I haven't met many of them, and I guess it wouldn't be the most diplomatic thing to do. However, if the nation's leaders want to enjoy a long-lasting relationship in the United Nations and WTO, they might want to keep tabs on some of the poker players they are producing. Again, I've not met many of them, but the four I met last weeks were card cheats like none I've ever seen before.
What's worse, they were really bad at it.
At first, only two of them sat at the table. One was a brash drunk who pounded bloody marys with a speed that only depended on how fast the waitress could bring them. He bought drinks for his table and the one adjacent. His friend was the winner, Mr. Any Two, Mr. Laugh it Up. At first, they only soft-played each other. While distasteful, it was not a crying offense yet. While I would never soft-play a friend at a table--and was not with the one sitting immediately to my right--the Armenians weren't hurting me yet. What's more, they had most of the money on the table. There are ways to exploit this kind of thing.
Eventually it started to become more obvious the Armenians were there for more than a good time.
"You catch the hand signal?" my friend whispered.
Admittedly, I had not, but news of the gambit moving beyond Ye Olde Soft Play turned me into Mr. Radar. I would soon learn that radar wasn't necessary. One half-blind half-open eye could've spotted the tired old games. By and by, four Armenians sat at the table.
Even when faced with the wisdom of Canada Bill Jones and knowing I was sitting at the only game in town, I gradually grew more exhausted with how blatant the cheating was than actually combatting the techniques. After three of them ran a textbook whipsaw on the table, it finally became too much. Time to put an end to it and get back to playing poker.
It all would've worked out, had the floor cooperated and looked into the matter. Instead, we called for racks and headed for the door. It's one thing to play in a crooked game. It's another thing to give a bunch of Armenians the pleasure of thinking they are smart.
"Good work, boys," I said. "Keep it up." They pretended to be offended by my suggestion. I didn't pretend to care.
What I didn't say was, "Next time you won't be playing against me. You'll be playing against somebody who settles these things with a baseball bat."
Upon my arrival home, I discovered that my bounty for the December 8 WPBT tournament had arrived. I am more than excited. So excited, in fact, that I'm not going to keep it secret like I had planned.
You knock me out of this year's Holiday Classic, and I'll hand you this.
That's right, folks. It's get-back-to-your-roots time.
If you miss the connection, please refer to the first-ever WPBT gathering in December 2004 and this post: Bordering on the Adriatic.
There is very little that hasn't changed since that time. We all play much bigger now. We're all a bit older. Blogs have come and gone.
One thing doesn't change, though.
That's the reason my plane ticket is already booked.