Lee Davy spins a yarn from his time playing in the $1,500 Extended Levels No-Limit Hold’em Event. The cast includes Clifford, The Devil, and a man who likes to butt fuck catfish.
Clifford – not his real name, but the one my deceased grandfather bore – must be in his sixties. Very few people acknowledged him when he sat down. I did. I have done so ever since I wrote The Ghosts of the WSOP. I always greet them by their first name, I always thank them, and I even told one of them that her hair was lovely the other day. I think it makes them feel human.
There is a hierarchical system within poker. It’s subtle. I’m not sure everyone sees it. I see it, although I often question its existence when I start believing I created the order because I feel like I am being categorized in it.
The poker players are at the top of the food chain. Most of them make it blatantly obvious, some less so, and others don’t pay attention to such nonsense. The live reporters are shadows. They barely get an acknowledgment, although relationships do form, and banter flows, albeit infrequently.
The waiters are there to be shouted at.
The chip runners are way down the pecking order. These are the real slaves. The people who live in the outhouse, and sing together by the campfire at night, standing up to piss on it when they hear the master stumbling towards them.
Then there is Clifford and the clan – the dealers. It’s a strange job title, because they don’t actually deal with anything. They aren’t even a necessity. If they all died of a deadly dealer virus, the players would pick up the deck. There are even virgins in China who are spending their time building robots to one day take their place. They really are fucked.
But I like Clifford. I say hi, and he smiles. He has a round face, and wears a Bobby Charlton style balding quiff. The type that makes you want to stand up and cut it off with your toe clippers. I mean, what’s the point. Is he trying to retain his last bastion of manliness? Does he take Viagra and pretend to have a shower waiting for the blood to rise?
Clifford is the type of guy who hates his job, but doesn’t tell anyone. If you asked him, he would say that it’s a great job.
“It pays the bills.”
I picture him walking through the door, the scent of stew filling his nostrils, and he bends achingly lower to grab the little dog that is feverishly humping his leg. He walks into the kitchen, where Edna stirs the stew, and he gives her a kiss. She looks into his eyes, like she has done for the past 50-years, and brushes his quiff to one side. A smile breaks out over her craggy face.
“When are you going to cut that thing off?”
He brushes her aside and goes into the bedroom to remove his dealer’s clothes.
“Good day at work?” She shouts over the bobbing onions.
“Great.” He shouts back whilst pulling his socks off and giving them the sniff test.
He is, of course, lying. I spent several hours with him today, and he didn’t enjoy himself one little bit. Not long after I said hi, he accidentally flipped over the [Ad] during one of his first deals. Unfortunately, for Clifford, the card that was obviously going to make a pair of aces, landed in front of a man I had named ‘The Devil’.
He was another old timer, except this one was being readied for the big oven downstairs. His skin hung from his skeleton, and it was yellower than mine, he didn’t smile, he grunted at everyone, and everything, and the only time I heard him talk was when he shouted “SERVICE!”
He was a cross between a politician, a cunt, and a vampire. Not one of those vampires that likes to dress up all fashionably and fuck until the sun comes out, but one of those that can’t be assed to leave the coffin, and orders his blood via a new take away service that a vampires version of McDonald’s has created.
He stank of stale cigars, cancer, and wore a red jacket. It was fucking freezing as well. Most people thought it was the air conditioning. I knew it was the Devil. He was the only player not rubbing his hands, trying to create heat. But perhaps I have gotten this all wrong. Perhaps, he was worried his skin would come away from his hands.
He gave Clifford that stare, followed by the shake of the head. That demeaning shrug meant to tell you that you are a cunt; the lowest of the low. You don’t even deserve a word, just a shake of the head.
“Don’t sweat it Clifford. It’s always going to happen.” I said trying to be the hero.
Clifford didn’t smile, the Devil looked at me. The look said it all. He was going to bang my wife, and when the kid was born, he was going to eat it.
“What a twat.” I thought.
Then this kid joins the table. My ‘’Orrible Cunt’ radar went off immediately. He was four foot tall – classic little man syndrome sufferer. He started getting on everyone’s nerves immediately. He kept talking about raping his mate. He was proud to have once fucked a catfish. I wasn’t impressed. Now a catfish giving him a blowjob? That would have impressed me.
Anyway, Clifford fucks the ante’s up. He can’t remember who owes a 100 chip. The catfish butt fucker gives Clifford a look not too dissimilar to the shake that the Devil gave him. Catfish butt fucker takes over. He starts admonishing Clifford. Not in a forcible way, but in a very demeaning sort of way. In the end catfish butt fucker flicks the 100 to the dealer.
“You can’t do that.” Said another player.
“Well stand up and be a man. Do something about it. Call the floor, or shut the fuck up. I want to play cards.”
His friend comes over to the table, no doubt attracted by the noise. A conversation ensues as catfish butt fucker tells his friend what a cunt Clifford is, and how he tried to save the world. I couldn’t tell if his friend had also butt fucked a catfish, but my bet would have been that he had.
All the time this conversation is ensuing, the catfish butt fucker is talking about Clifford in the third person. But Clifford is right there, a few feet away. He has to take this shit? I watched him. The blood drained from his face, until he started looking like the man in the red jacket. His quiff drooped over his glasses and he didn’t even want to shift it. His heart was breaking. His manliness being stripped by a four foot four catfish butt fucking angry man, talking about him in the third person, inches from his face.
Clifford got up. His time at our table was done. The catfish butt fucker shook his head. I thanked him. He didn’t acknowledge me. A part of him had died. He moved onto the next table, no doubt telling himself to try really hard not to make a mistake. He put the quiff back into its spot, and tapped his colleague on the shoulder.
There is no respect for these people. It kills me. It’s even worse for the older dealers. Like old time war heroes they have earned respect. They don’t get it. Something needs to change so people like Clifford can go home to women like Edna, and the bluffing stays at the tables.
They need to have autonomy. They need to given the authority to run their own tables. When the catfish butt fucker was ripping Clifford apart, he couldn’t do anything about it. He was helpless. But give him authority and respect follows.
I mentioned this to someone seated next to me. He replied that to give the dealers more autonomy would be a disaster.
“They whip them out of dealer school, and straight into the series. It would be a nightmare if they had authority.”
This is exactly why they need it.
If they had responsibility then perhaps Caesars would be less inclined to drag them out of dealer school, and send them to the tables still nice and tight. Perhaps, the training would be improved, and more competent dealers would emerge.
If the dealer had autonomy then people like the catfish butt fucker can be admonished for his disrespect. There needs to be a level of respect in sport between players and officials. Sometimes that can only come through fear. In the case of the mouthy little one, the fear that he may receive a one round penalty if he doesn’t keep his fucking mouth shut should do the trick.
There is something inherently wrong with the way these people are being treated at present. I am not saying that this happens to all dealers. But in the five events that I have played in this year it has been rampant, and it’s not just confined to the young and brash. The Devil is a classic example of this. It’s as if they don’t exist. They are like wallflowers. I don’t know what dealer turnover is, but I imagine it’s high.
But then again, perhaps I am making all this up. Like Bobby Ewing, perhaps it’s all a dream created by my own urge to be seen within the walls of this community I call my home?
Perhaps, I could ask Clifford; pull out my Dictaphone and ask him what he thinks of all my views?
“Do you like your job.” I would ask.
“It pays the bills.” Clifford would say.