My Break

I have been working in Burney for weeks and I am headed home. My pockets are full of money and I want to go back to Crescent City. The drive is a long one and as often happens on such drives I am tired and need a break. I pull into Gold Hill. A tiny town right off Interstate 5 just north of the border. Located between Grants Pass and Medford, Gold Hill is an old mining town that is more than 100 years past its prime. The players at the Gold Hill Hotel are about as old as the town.

You don’t need directions to this game, I found it on my own the first time. Just take the Gold Hill exit and look for the town. The big building is the Gold Hill Hotel. You want to go into the saloon. The building looks long abandoned and very run down so make sure you stop. That is the right place. There may not be cars because people park over by the train tracks. The door will open, the knob doesn’t work. The bar is usually empty, the bar tender may not be there. Just walk in, about half way down the bar, look to your left and there are stairs. The game is up those stairs. There is only one table. At the top of the stairs, look across the room and the table is straight ahead. There may only be one dealer, so ask if they have a seat, the other dealer could be playing and he will give you his seat. If not, they will tell you to put your name up. There is a 12” x 12” chalkboard on the wall. They heard the bell jingle when the door opened downstairs. They know you are there. Just relax and hang out if you have time. You may not get a seat, even if a seat opens up. Be nice. If you are going to have a drink while you wait, ask if anyone else wants something and buy a round. Don’t be surprised if the bartender makes you wait until it is his blind.

This is what the State of Oregon calls ‘Social Gaming” and it has a limit of five dollars. The house is not allowed to take a rake, this rule is often overlooked and many places take a dollar. A bet and four raises of five dollars are allowed on every street. There are games like this all over Oregon and they are hard to find. Word of mouth seems to be the only way to find the games. They do not have to let you play.

They have a seat for me and I sit down. I recognize the two dealers, Hippy Mitch and Mary Ann, from playing at other places.

This is the one night I remember being lucky. I was lucky and the cards could not fail me. I probably make quads five or six times that night. I have told the story enough times that I now have the unofficial world record of making quads nine times in a single night. I won over a thousand dollars. I had just been paid $9500 in Burney. So when I got to Crescent City, I had over ten thousand in cash on me to back up my story. I probably stretched the truth to the breaking point, and maybe just a little more.

I was making every hand and I was probably playing almost all of them. I can safely say I won half the pots that night. I know I didn’t miss any bets. I was hyper aggressive and foolish. I bluffed five players on a board of AKJ6T when they checked it to me. The pot is $150 and I pick it up with a $5 bluff. You have to be there to bluff. I had a hand, 45, and I had no reason to be there.

I made a gut shot straight and told them, “You’re not going to like it”. I was right.

I run over the game all the way to closing time. I am the last one to cash out. Hippy Mitch tells me the guys will never let me leave with all the money. The players are waiting outside for me. I do the right thing and split the winnings three ways. I tell the two dealers they have to get us out of there alive. Mary Ann says she can get me to my car and onto the freeway, but after that I am on my own. We hatch our plan. I give Mary Ann keys to my car and Mitch goes and pulls his pickup around the back by going the long way. Mitch left in his truck and went to the freeway and headed north like he does every night. He went to the next exit and got off the freeway and came back on the old road. He cut over a block off Main Street and came to the back of the hotel. I jump in with Mitch and we have to drive the long way back to the freeway. Mary Ann meets us up the road in Grants Pass and nobody has followed her. I get my car from her and Mitch drives her back to the hotel to pick her car up. I am free of my troubles and it only cost me $800 and two hours of my life to undo all the fun I had in the previous five hours.

I remember the line up well from that night and only a couple of them are still bitter about the evening’s shenanigans. They have accused the dealers of being my partners in an elaborate cheating scam. I split the money with them and they snuck me out of town. Looking back I can see where it may not look totally legitimate.

Many years later, I think that I was an unwilling accomplice in an elaborate cheating scheme. How do you tell the world that you didn’t realize the dealers were cheating and giving you all the winning hands? Oh dear God. I only took a third of the money and there is no way to know who lost how much. Why don’t I ever think of these things while they are going on?

If I had known what was going on, would I have played the role in such a believable manner? As it was, I nearly got myself shot.

I need a break.


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