By Johnny Hughes © 2009
A sudden shower drenched Misty Morgan a.k.a. the Movie Star, as she was known in Las Vegas poker rooms, as she was walking to the Silver Arrow Casino in Rio Hombre, New Mexico. Her sheer white blouse, her revealed nipples, her beauty, her cascading, thick, curly,brunette locks were discussed for weeks. She seemed to put her long hair over her nipples, then move it, then put it back, in a hypnotic fashion.
When folks told Misty she was the most beautiful woman they had ever seen, it was about as common to her as good morning. There were three poker tables running. Misty bought chips in the two, five blind no-limit Texas Hold 'em game, and the rest is New Mexico history.
Cory "the Kid" Bradley, the poker room manager, fell in love with Misty, as men often did, before she peeked at her first hole cards. Cory was very good looking himself. He looked kind of like George Clooney. Misty noticed, as she usually did not. He brought her a towel, and offered her a free casino coat, food comps, and silently, just to himself, his life-time devotion. Three regulars grumbled, as they always do. After a mega-rich Texas rancher, drunk in the morning, started the "yore so purty" talk, she said she had been Miss Amarillo. She heard his remark about the "winner of the wet t-shirt contest is...." The rancher was raising every pot, and winning half. Misty laid a prop on him before her seat warmed up. "I'll give you a five dollar checker every time I win a pot, and you give me one when you win a pot."
"Make it ten," the rancher said, doubling her score. Misty hardly ever won a pot, but her stack was building. Cory knew to watch her like a paranoid hawk. Prettiest hustler off the road anyone had seen, but a hustler off the road none the less. The old Route 66, the Mother Road, America's highways had been delivering scam artists since Moby Dick was a sardine.
When Misty Morgan sat down at a poker table, she always unbuttoned two or three buttons, exposing delicious, eye candy. Poker is a social activity where staring at others is not only accepted, it is part of the game. She'd limped out of Las Vegas broke after a year of winning.
After about two hours, Misty was $900 winner. The Texan had left his hot air balloon tied in a red ant bed. Financial Sam, 91 years old, was the producer, dropping millions around Albuquerque, and not even denting his stack. When Sam headed for the buffet, Misty asked if she could go with him. Sam felt hearing was over rated, and rarely turned on his hearing aid. She had to shout three times, and now everyone in the casino questioned her motives.
Misty bought Sam's buffet. Sure enough, Misty laid her best story on Sam, her road story. She was temporarily broke, like most casino folks, but she was to inherit the historic Morgan Ranch, 473 oil wells, 47,000 acres, and a bunch of cows in the Texas panhandle. Financial Sam said basically, "Sure, you are."
Iggy "Little Drummer Boy" Thomas, computer wizard, Asberger's, ADD, mildly bi-polar, and universally hated, beat the twenty-dollar limit like it was a drum, and he'd sing out, "Ah rump pa pum pum." He searched everyone's name he could find in the Internet search engines, and gossip was his hobby. Iggy announced the next day that Misty, 30, had been Miss Amarillo, and had a warrant out for borrowing money, and defrauding a 93 year old man in a casino in Arizona. Margaret "Mother Hen" Eppler was a retired school counselor from Big Spring, Texas. She spent ten or more hours a day at any poker table that had Texas Hold 'em, and comforting words for the afflicted were her road games. She was tighter than Phil Hellmuth's hat band.
Margaret called Misty to the edge of the poker room, and told her of Iggy's announcement that filled the most gossipy poker room in America. That's because so many were regulars. Cory "the Kid" took Misty to the comp room, and gave her three Silver Arrow casino coats: two shiny, one heavy, winter coat, three embroidered shirts, six hats in varied colors, and a week's worth of buffet comp tickets. Misty took them out to her car, and didn't show back up until two weeks before Christmas. Margaret, Kat the dealer, and Betsy Underground, the six-foot-six stripper, were right outside the casino where Kat could smoke on her break. As many as six women would go out together. Misty, Betsy, and Margaret stood there talking an hour. They invited Misty to the all womens' support group meeting that very night at Margaret's apartment, near the casino. None of these folks appeared to have any real money, but Misty agreed to go anyway. When she sat down in the short-handed, no-limit Texas Hold'em game, the table filled up before she had finished unbuttoning the second button. That's what always happened when Misty Morgan played poker.
Margaret had a Ph.D, and a whole string of credentials, but what Misty heard when she got to the counseling session was the roar of a blender making margaritas, and what she smelled was the best, and strongest home-grown marijuana. Kat, Gracie, and Betsy were all three rolling joints, which was overkill. Gracie was also a poker dealer. There was a bright, decorated Christmas tree. Margaret's little Santa Claus bric-a-brac collection was everywhere. Elvis was singing, "Blue Christmas" on the stereo. April Perez was the last to arrive. She brought tamales.
Kat weighed 104 pounds and had on 40 pounds of Harley-Davidson apparel, and decoration. To say she was a biker, was like saying Sea Bisquit was a horse. After a couple of hours of life stories, the roar of the blender, and the reefer, the worst tragedies brought gales of laughter. Misty knew more short cons than Amarillo Slim, the other famous person from her home town. She had already checked the medicine cabinet. Then Misty discovered that nine quarts of rum had no tax stamps. Further furtive examination of the cabinets found them packed with rum, smuggled from Mexico, and for sale. And neatly packaged home grown marijuana worth a few thousand bucks. Margaret had a sideline or two. Margaret and Kat were whispering about the price of the home grown. Kat proposed a prop bet that Betsy at six-foot-six, and Misty at five-foot-nine, had the same proportionate measurements. Misty was a math wizard, and bet $200 with four of them that they were not. Finally, after measurements and arguments, the bet was called off in the name of feminine unity. They were proportionate. Trust me.
When there were only six drunken, stoned women left, Misty said, "I want to tell you how we can steal the bad-beat jackpot." They all promised that even if they did not go along with the con, they would keep it a secret. Swearing secrecy is as easy for a woman as blinking her eyes or writing a dear Square John letter. The Silver Arrow Casino was fourteen years old. Nobody had ever won the bad beat jackpot. It was $318,000. Cory "the Kid" Bradley's father and uncle owned "the Shop," the most legendary poker room in West Texas for thirty-five years. He grew up knowing everything about poker, and could run a tournament better than anyone in New Mexico. He was often loaned out to other Indian tribes. The one thing Cory did not know was that the house is expected to steal most of the bad beat money
Misty told them that when the casino poker room was closing on Chrismas Eve, we'd ask for a few hands of women only, and photograph it for the story she was doing for New Mexico magazine on women poker players and dealers. She handed a forged press credential on letterhead around for all to see. All the dealers want off to be with their families. Kat and Gracie will offer to be there until the last. Cory had said the poker room would close around 1 p.m., depending on interest.
When Misty had them sit down at the kitchen table where she could show them the cold-deck move, they all began to believe slowly that it would work. Misty had a big straw hat. She'd sit right behind the dealer, and bring in the cold deck, the prearranged deck. Margaret would start with a A,K and someone in on it would start with A,Q and both would make full houses. If aces full got beat, then the jackpot would go to those at the table. She showed them the move. The hat would come off with her right hand to block the overhead camera, and the rigged deck would go in under Kat's right arm with her left hand, as Kat put the other deck in her lap, right after the cut. Then, in the excitement of the bad beat jackpot, Misty would clean up, getting the old deck from Kat's lap, with the same move. They tried it with Gracie, also.
Almost as if she were mentioning the weather, Misty told them she would get a double share, and that she had Cory "fixed", which was a skillful lie. There was a long silence. Exchanged glances calculated their chances. Finally, Margaret spoke, "If she can do the move drunk, she can do the move sober. Getting all women at the table will be the hard part. The overhead camera could ruin everything."
Gracie pointed out that Misty and the dealer, either her or Kat are the only ones at any risk of being caught, and wondered aloud if the dealers share could not be a little higher. Misty was marvelous, putting it in gambling terms. You get a full share, but have a fifty per cent chance of no risk. April Perez said Misty would make a good double-talking politician. Misty explained they needed one more poker playing woman. Kat suggested Tattooed Nicky, one of the only lady loan shark collectors in Albuquerque, and there was a chorus of objections. Margaret said she had the perfect person, but would reveal her, or invite her to the next party. Then she swore them to secrecy, something they were getting used to. Kat raised her right hand each time. She had them draw names to exchange small, gag Christmas gifts, and not tell anyone who they got. Betsy asked, "Where is the nearest Harley Davidson store."
They were back at Margaret's apartment the next night with the blender roaring, and steaks and chicken on the grill. Nita Morales came. Talk about some sour faces. Margaret said she had full trust in Nita, and who would be better? Who was more well known around Silver Arrow Casino?
Kat and Gracie had both been dealing a little, three-table, $100 entry, Texas Hold 'em tourney when Mrs. Morales, as she was always called, attacked this Senior Engineer from Sandia on the very first hand, saying, wrongly, that he shorted the pot. He called her "a bitch", and eight of her relatives jumped to their feet to defend her honor. Hector Morales, 20, kept holding his hand sideways as if he had a gang gun, and saying, "I'll cap you. I'll cap you." Three old, tired, security guards were coming out of the side door, putting on their coats, as if in slow motion. They threw the engineer out, and refunded his entry. He fled. Mrs. Morales insisted they blind off, not pick up his stack, and they did. Even with a third of the field, all of her relatives ran in the mud.
After the ritualistic swearing of secrecy, Margaret told all the women one or two at a time that Mrs. Morales was 100 per cent trustworthy since she stole every single day from the gift shop with the assistance of her cousin. Her relatives in the Sheriff's office, and the highway patrol could help, if need be.
There were three more parties at Margaret's apartment. Mrs. Morales regaled them with stories of her large family, and their political careers. They were all beginning to really like her. When they were really drunk, Kat said, why wait until Chrismas, let's cold deck a table full of men tomorrow night. The cold deck move was getting seamless with practice. All the ladies watched the practice with growing confidence. The two women would move their arms in unison. Misty explained any early introduction of the hat or weird moves would queer the deal. It had to be Christmas Eve. April Perez said, "I will have enough money to keep my daughters in the Montessori School until they are thirty if I want to."
They were all rested and ready on Christmas eve. Misty was all over the casino, shooting pictures with this big Nikon camera with a zoom and a flash. She took several of Cory, whom she hugged several times in Christmas joy. She showed anyone who looked remotely like an Indian her letter from prestigious New Mexico magazine. She got pictures of several women wearing the big straw hat, with a stand of turquoise as a hat band. The casino was clearing out. Even the slot players go home Christmas eve. They have a lot to feel guilty about. When the eight dollar limit game broke, all the women moved to the two five no-limit Texas Hold'em game, where Kat had just started dealing. They asked Financial Sam to sit out where they could do some photos of a real all-women's game. He was glad to. Gracie took the camera, and kind of took charge, as Gracie will do.
But Iggy Thomas raised a big fuss citing civil rights, sex discrimination, and tribal laws, to get started. Misty whispered that she would sleep with him if he would hush, and head for the cage to cash in his chips. Kat said she would stomp a mud hole in him. He headed to cash the chips in track-star fashion. Just as soon as the poker game got down to all women, Misty put on the hat which was the signal. Cory would have seen the move if Gracie hadn't blinded him with the flash from the camera. He was the best bird dog in New Mexico, but Misty counted on his silence. She thought of offering him a share, but an all women's take down was her goal, and it worked. When Misty exchanged glances with Gracie, Gracie put the camera in Cory's face and hit the flash. The cold deck move, and the flash went together.
There was a lot of yelling, and hugging, and the magic hands sat there on the table. Financial Sam had been a hundred yards away, but he knew what had happened as soon as he returned. Iggy knew something was up. He'd rather have the useless promise of Misty sleeping with him than a share. He was also afraid of Kat. Cory told the tribal elders he had reviewed the video tape, and saw nothing wrong. "We have to pay it, and pay it fast," he told them. The casino paid it, with separate checks for each woman's share. They met at Margaret's apartment to settle up, and really enjoy Christmas, and celebrate in memorable fashion. Misty told them, in confidence, about the historic Morgan Ranch she was going to inherit, and promised them all a share some day when there is pie in the sky, and we find the Big Rock Candy Mountain.
Johnny Hughes is the author of the Texas Poker Wisdom.