By Tenzin McGrupp © 2003
Crispy Lineta was a legendary paradox. Considered the luckiest and unluckiest man in many gambling circles, his reputation of a being shrewd card player enabled him to become the youngest World Champion in poker. In the same instance his inability to apply his precise and systematic winning methods of card playing towards his everyday life often guided him face first into the gutter and eventually led up to his untimely murder. While taking a shit, Crispy was shot four times in the head by the voluptuous strawberry blonde, Alberta Desjardins, a jealous ex-girlfriend high on Prozac, Lithium and Pabst Blue Ribbon. The six fingered, former weather girl from Sweetwater, Tennessee was the mother of his myopic twins: Acey and Deucey. For every exciting, nail biting, surreal story told and re-told about Crispy winning tournament after tournament in the early 1990s, there were twice as many sordid tales of his financial demise. Ex-wives, a half of dozen kids, junkie siblings, overly litigious neighbors, and a slew of cash burning girlfriends and pricey hookers vacuumed every cent out Crispy’s bank account, his wallet, and his left shoe, a size ten (he actually was an 8 ½), where he was always carried no less than $3,000 in cash. Card games often pop up in the most random locales, and if there was money to be won playing poker, Crispy wanted to buy in.
The first time I saw Crispy Lineta was in Spring of 1993. It was 2 AM and he was wearing a Hawaiian shirt and Bermuda shorts. Crispy was being dragged out of the Casino Magic in Biloxi, Mississippi by three oversized security guards with uneven buzz cuts that wore mirrored sunglasses. They tossed Crispy off into an empty handicapped parking spot after they each took turns and kicked him in the groin. He smelled like he’d been drinking for three or four days and a bloody nose and puffy lip rounded out the rest of his attire. I never met him before, but I glanced at his picture a couple of times in various poker and gambling magazines. I also watched Crispy win the World Series of Poker on ESPN the year before, walking away with $800,000 and the coveted winner’s gold bracelet. I stood over him and peered into his glazed eyes.
“Any good games tonight?”
He laughed, rolled over, and puked.
The day after he won $800,000 and became a four time World Champion, Crispy broke up with his girlfriend of two years as they sat at the $4.95 “All you can eat” breakfast buffet at the Circus Circus casino. Dolly was a plump curious girl with stringy blonde hair, lots of freckles, and wild purple eyes (not real, but contacts lenses that Crispy bought her for her 17th birthday a year earlier). As Crispy shoved strawberry pancakes into his mouth, drenched in dark maple syrup, Dolly flailed hysterically. She cried so hard that one of her lenses popped out and vanished into the vast lake of syrup on Crispy’s plate. The overflow and the thick viscosity of the syrup was no match for Dolly’s purple contact. It disappeared within seconds, only to be shoved into Crispy’s mouth during his voracious feeding frenzy. She struggled to exit the buffet, sobbing non stop and falling down a few times, bouncing off of tourists uncontrollably like a tilted pinball, hopeless waiting to fall to the bottom, tragically ending the game.
Within hours Crispy headed off to the Lady Lotus, a seedy strip bar near the airport. He blew a couple of thousands of dollars on lap dances and champagne before he invited two dancers to accompany him to London where he was scheduled to be interviewed on a talk show broadcast on the BBC. They agreed and without packing anything except their passports, Crispy and his new girlfriends flew to Europe. Ida was a slender black girl from East Texas with false teeth and 44DDD sized surgically enhanced breasts that loved karaoke and Omaha was a half-Cherokee, half-Polish teenager from Chicago. Her two biggest goals in life were to meet President Bill Clinton and to become a contestant on Wheel of Fortune.
When they arrived at Heathrow, three surly Scotland Yard investigators met them. Apparently Crispy and his girlfriends’ bathroom hijinks got them busted. Crispy and Omaha’s sexcapades in the bathroom in business class lasted for over two hours, as they both joined the international Mile High Club. That is not uncommon, but they managed to leave the door open the entire time. At first the flight crew and suits in business class were amused and thrilled with the show (the movie being shown was a bad eight hour Kevin Costner flick). An excited group of bankers from Tokyo took pictures and videotaped the tryst. But after twenty minutes Crispy and Omaha’s sex show got perverse and disgusting. As one passenger was quoted during Crispy’s indecency trial, “I didn’t know you could put your whole foot up there!”
Alas, that was not the only problem aboard British Airways flight # 604. Ida locked herself in the bathroom in First Class shortly after take off for the entire duration of the flight. She shot up a batch of poorly cooked black tar heroin and died before they arrived in Europe. The British tabloids and newspapers had a field day with Crispy’s uncanny entrance into London with two Vegas strippers, one dead on arrival and the other one was younger than five of Crispy’s six children.
His appearance on the BBC’s version of the Tonight Show was one of the highest rated of they year. Crsipy talked softly about his humble upbringing in Detroit, Michigan, and how his grandfather taught him to play cards and steal cars the summer he turned eight. Later that November on a brisk, snowy, Sunday morning, Grandpa Alfonse “Sticky” Lineta was busted by the FBI for fixing Central Michigan football games. Led away in handcuffs by stiff G-men in black overcoats, the old man shouted one last bit of advice to his aloof grandson, “Keep gambling, Crispy. It beats working like a chump!”
Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.