Sunday, April 30, 2006

Quacker Cashman - Part 1

So I'm going to be posting bits and pieces of the life of the one and only Quacker Cashman on my blog. The characters are all figments of my wild imagination, and any similarities between any people alive or dead is total coincidence. I'm not sure how often Quacker will be showing up, but I figure it's high time to share his tale with some other people.

“Name?” asked the doorman.

“Dave Cashman. I’m here for the tournament,” Dave answered. The doorman’s bushy eyebrows pinched together as he looked at the kid standing at the front of the line.

“Yeah right, and I’m Doyle Brunson. NEXT!” The doorman shoved Dave aside.

“Hey man, there’s no need to be an ass. Look, I’ve got ID.” Dave grabbed his wallet and fished out his driver’s license. More than a little annoyed, the doorman yanked the license out of Dave’s hand.

“Look kid, I’m not in the mood for this shit. We don’t get poker champions in this shithole. Now get the hell—” The doorman did a double-take as he looked at the driver’s license. After a thorough examination of the license, the gruffy doorman handed the license back to the kid and flipped through the pages on his clipboard. “You’re not on the list, kid.”

Ignoring the lack of apology, Dave put his license away and slid off his backpack. Opening it slightly, he showed the stacks of $50 bills to the doorman. “I was hoping to enter late,” Dave said.

“Give me a minute. Just wait here.” The doorman handed the clipboard to a younger and balder bouncer standing behind him. A buzz went through the line of people waiting for entry into the card room of the bar, and more than a few faces gawked incredulously at Dave’s face as the buzz spread to the back of the line. Dave did his best to ignore it. Slowly the people waiting in line were allowed into the tournament, a few even stopping to ask Dave for his autograph as they passed. Dave always obliged the autograph-seekers, though he felt ridiculous doing so.

“You’re ‘Quacker’ Cashman?” asked a young lady, the only female Dave noticed in the line. Dave winced at the nickname.

“Call me Dave,” Dave responded. She’s not bad, thought Dave as he subtly looked her over. As the girl smiled at him, Dave silently forgave her for calling him the hated nickname.

“Mind if I get a picture?” she asked. Dave agreed, and he smiled as another person in line snapped a photo of the two of them. “What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be playing high stakes somewhere on the Strip?” the girl asked.

It was a question Dave got more and more often anymore, and he never knew how to respond. More often than not he claimed he was just honing his skills at reading players when the stakes weren’t as high as the big cash games on the Strip. A few times he’d just shrug and smile. One response nobody ever heard to the question was the truth. Before Dave could answer though, the bushy eye-browed doorman came back with an elderly man in a suit, presumably the bar owner.

“Mr. Cashman, allow me to apologize for the delay. We’d be delighted to have you play in our tournament,” said the elderly man in a flurry of handshaking and smiles.

Dave looked over at the girl and smiled, relieved he didn’t have to answer the question. “Good luck,” he said to her. She replied the same, and Dave entered into the building with the director.

The Black Hole was a seedy bar and card room on the wrong side of Las Vegas. Known as the scene of a double murder after a pair of card mechanics in a backroom cash game busted a poker player at wits end, the bar gained a poor reputation among the poker players on the Vegas scene. After the murder, the bar’s crowd became less and less savory, and the cash-game players at the Black Hole got a reputation as crooked. In an effort to save his investment, the owner banned the cash games and began hosting $1000 buy-in tournaments each month. The tournaments had grown in popularity quickly, attracting much of the ‘up-and-comer’ crowd.

Before his brush with poker greatness, Dave had played in four or five tournaments at the place. He didn’t expect any of the people running the tournament to remember him. The highest he’d ever placed in one of the tournaments was 11th, barely missing the cutoff for the prize cash at 8th place. Most of his finishes at the Black Hole Cash-capade had been less spectacular though.

As the bar owner led him through the business hallways of the building and into the main card-room, Dave noticed the tournament had dramatically grown in size since his last foray into the poker underworld. Whereas the $1000 buy-in meant playing for a first prize of $8000 when Dave first started, at least 600 people were gathered for today’s tournament.

Before taking his seat, Dave stopped and surveyed the room. Here was a room full of people who watched every WSOP and World Poker Tour event on television with dreams of becoming the next poker millionaires on ESPN. Dave remembered the feeling all too well, and felt a tinge of jealousy. Every one of the players in the room were chasing dreams with high hopes; Dave’s dreams had come and gone. Here he was, back where he started his professional career, at a bar that was a great place for lesser-known players to make a name for themselves; not a place where world champions played. A bar, ironically, named the Black Hole.

The bar owner took Dave’s $1000 and introduced him to a waitress named Lilly, a buxom young blonde whom the owner told to make sure Dave never wanted for food or drink during the course of the tournament. After ordering a Heineken, the bar owner paraded Dave through the tournament to Dave’s starting table. The buzz from the tournament players was incendiary as Dave Cashman, the youngest World Series of Poker champion ever at 21, made his way to his starting table. The bar owner enjoyed every second of the buzz.

“I hope you’ll consider coming to more tournaments Mr. Cashman. Should you wish to be a spokesperson for the Black Hole or the Cash-capade tournaments, please give me a call,” said the bar owner as he handed Dave his business card. Dave took the card and shoved it into his pocket.

“Yeah, I’ll have my agent call you,” Dave said. The statement seemed to please the bar owner, though Dave had no intention of having his ‘agent’ call anyone. Dave’s agent, if you could call him such, was his brother Eric, a lawyer back home in the Midwest. The two hadn’t spoken since the night of the WSOP final last year, and Dave had no intention of contacting Eric or anyone else from his family anytime soon.

The bar owner left Dave at his table with a final handshake, and Dave sat down with a smile. The Cash-capade tournaments were No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em tournaments with six person tables. Each player was given $1000 in chips, and they played until one person had them all. The blinds raised quickly, and the tournament played without breaks.

As could be expected from the reputation of the bar, the tournaments held at the Black Hole often drew players who were cutthroat in their approach to poker and life in general. Dave glanced at the five others sitting at the table after he’d stacked his chips. What he saw almost made him burst out laughing. Across the table from him sat three burly middle-aged men clad in leather jackets, bandanas, and sunglasses. Each of the men had “Hell’s Angels” emblazoned on their jackets. All three of them stared at Dave silently. To Dave’s right sat the young lady who had asked for his picture in the line. She gave Dave a sheepish grin, and Dave nodded in reply. The last man at the table was a barrel-chested and heavily muscled man who was clearly intoxicated already.

“So yer the Quack, huh? A genuine world champ,” said the drunk man. “Your championship was the biggest run of luck and bullshit I ever seen.”

Dave held back an immediate retort, and turned red after he watched one of the Hell’s Angels burst out laughing. Instead of saying anything he pulled eight of his chips off one of the stacks in front of him and began mindlessly playing them.

“You too good to talk to me Quack?” asked the drunk man again.

“Call me Dave. Let’s get started.”

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