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Long Strokin' [b]NOT![/b]

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  • Long Strokin' [b]NOT![/b]

    I played my first pool for money during my freshman year in college. It was a ring game on a snooker table. 5-ball they called it, and it was the 2,3,4,5 played with the same rules as 9 ball. I don't remember the price, but it was probably .10, maybe .25.

    Naturally I got my ass kicked, but I was hooked. Whatever my budget was for food and incidentals, I didn't eat much those first few months. Fortunately, these guys didn't play very well either, and it wasn't long before I was able to start breaking even... but that's as good as it ever got.

    I play lots of games in the top 1-2% of the population, but that's just good enough to keep you busted if you want to play worse than you want to win. "Present and accounted for, Sir!"

    I've never had a lot of money, but most of my life I've had enough, and I don't give a shit about money as long as I have it.

    I went through a brief period in my early 20's during which I was really busted, with no immediate prospects other than a j-o-b. Been there, done that... don't like it.

    Anyway, that experience took the ring out of my nose, and after I got back on my feet (with that dreaded you-know-what) my go-off days were over.

    By the way, that you-know-what saved my bacon another way. I had joined the Marine Corps Reserve right before Vietnam heated up (I feared the draft, not Vietnam because it wasn't an issue quite yet.) I had the standard 13-week vacation at Parris Island and an equal time a Camp LeJeune for Advanced Infantry Training. It's odd, but every single memory I have of that six months is a good one. I know it was terrible, but the good moments are what stick with me.

    About that bacon... it was a series of events, each really lucky for me, that did the trick. Near the end of basic training there was a Field Day competition between the four platoons in our battalion and 4 from another battalion that were all at the same stage of training. Our Drill instructors REALLY wanted our platoon to do well.

    I had not been a ****-up... I did everything reasonably well during training except one thing: The DI's loved to try out their comedy routines on us, then kick our asses if we laughed. I was constantly in hot water for laughing because I thought they were a riot. Not always because they were funny, sometimes because they were so lame trying to be.

    Back to Field Day. It turned out that among the 8 platoons I placed second in chin-ups (which I had done every day in high school and my year of college as part of conditioning for pole vault) and third in push-ups. The DI's were thrilled, and I knew I had moved up in the pecking order among our 80.

    Sit-ups, Cage Ball and Tug-of-War followed, then the final event, a "Sprint Medley" relay, but for some reason they did it backward from what I had participated in in high school. The standard (I think) is 110, 110, 220, 440. I can't even tell you what order they used, but I was to run the 220, which was to be last, and the guy ahead of me was running 440. They must have done 110, 110, 440, 220.

    As it turned out, the 440 dude had a good lead, but he blew it and I got the baton a few yards behind the first-place guy, who was a little Puerto Rican guy who looked fast. Third place was 10 yards or so back.

    Our "track" was grass and dirt and we were wearing low-cut tennis shoes. When I got the baton my feet went out from under me and I hit the ground. Naturally I jumped up hoping to do as well as possible and got going just as third place reached me. Turned out that I beat the third place guy easily, and the "fast" little Puerto Rican wasn't. I caught him at the wire and my whole platoon went nuts.

    The outcome was that I was one of 8 guys promoted to PFC at graduation, with the second-highest "marks" in my platoon. (I didn't deserve it... that day made it for me.)

    Fast forward a couple of years and I had to get a j-o-b. There was an Army Ammunition Plant about 20 miles from Shreveport which was where I was living. Somehow I was led to apply there. I did well on their written tests and when my interview was scheduled, my interviewer immediately said, "I see you're in the Marine Reserve."

    "Yes, sir."

    Then he said, "I also see that you were promoted to PFC out of Parris Island." Er, "Yes sir."

    "You are a little young for what I have in mind, but with your qualifications, I think you can handle it. I want you to be Foreman over building 7 where we prep .57s and RPGs. Do you think you can handle it?"

    Er, "Yes Sir."

    Fast forward three or four months. I was well on my way to killing my go-off, but I hadn't slowed my carousing. I overslept on a Saturday morning's Drill Weekend. I showed up about 2 1/2 hours late and my CO -- a hard case if there ever was one -- was livid. He immediately certified me for transfer to Vietnam.

    Whooooa Nellieeee!

    As luck would have it, my dad was some kind of low-level muckey-muck in the fledgling Republican Party in Louisiana that -- I think -- had recently elected the first Republican member to the US House in almost a Century. Whatever the reality about that, he called someone who called someone who called me in for an interview.

    When the interviewer found out that I'd recently been granted a SECRET security clearance (required for the Foreman's job) and was foreman in an AAP, he said, "I think we can work with that."

    I know no details, but my transfer was cancelled. All those pull-ups I did and hurdles I ran might have saved my ass!
    Last edited by LSJohn; 01-03-2017, 10:39 PM.

  • #2
    A Rotten Trick

    When I was about 24 there was a guy I had played poker and 9 ball with that seemed more-or-less OK. I knew he was some kind of scam, a booster and low-grade fence, but as far as I could tell he was an "honor among thieves" guy. I liked him OK for what he was, and I figured he liked me.

    He had an all-night joint just barely onto the Kansas side in Kansas City, and I spent a lot of nights there. It was only 6 blocks from my apartment. All the equipment he had was a cigarette machine, a pay phone, and a soft drink cooler, + two bar boxes. He got quite a bit of action, but most of it of the $5 variety. He liked to play, but couldn't beat me.

    He pulled a move on me that was so dirty that it seemed like it made him dislike me!

    He had always seemed to trust me because he'd have me serve soft drinks, make change, get change for myself and otherwise handle the register while he was playing (for all the ice water I could drink.) So, I wasn't the least bit suspicious when he got a phone call and said he had to go out for about 30 minutes.. would I watch the place?

    No more than 5 minutes after he was out the door two KCK cops raided the joint. "Who's in charge here?"

    Everybody looked at me.

    I said, "Actually, no one. The owner had an emergency call, took off, and said he'd be back in 30 minutes."

    "Who's John?"

    Gulp.

    A friend of mine spoke up, "Why do you want to know?"

    Cop says, "A customer that just left said someone named John was in charge." (Not a friggin' soul had left since my good pal, the owner.)

    Everybody looks at me again, the cop snapped immediately, and asked for my ID. Oh, shit!

    That cost me $100 fine and a misdemeanor conviction. They closed the joint before they took me in, but he was back open the next night same as always. (I honestly don't remember whether he paid me the $100, but I think he must have or I'd remember that.)

    It wasn't long before I started hearing some detrimental things he was saying about me.

    Oh, well. Live and learn.

    I just wish I had drunk more ice water while I had the chance.

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    • #3
      Beware of an Advantage

      I wish I could remember whether I'd told this story on the forum, but it's a giggler so here goes, maybe again.

      I played some pool a few times with an 18-year-old kid in Kansas City. He could play, and it wasn't close. Soon after I moved to Wichita, I talked his parents into letting him visit me there for a week. I'd become familiar with several spots where I was sure we could make some cash ($5-10 actiion.) The best spot at his speed and our price was an after-hours joint -- the Chez Joie -- that had two bar tables with almost constant $5 challenge action on both.

      We made several small scores there and elsewhere around town for 4 or 5 days. Somewhere we bumped into a couple of guys I had played golf with, Gus Poulos ("The Greek") who was a decent one pocket player, and his partner Max who was a bookie and couldn't beat me on a pool table or golf course. Somehow we arranged a partners' one-pocket game for (probably) $10/man.

      My kid, Jimmy, didn't know crap about one pocket, but he could run balls. I didn't know crap either, and they slowly edged ahead of us. We played all night, and by noon the next day we were stuck about $3-400 and were playing $50/game.

      Rules of engagement included "no consulting," but Jimmy seemed to be figuring some things out and we started more-or-less holding our own. Max was getting really tired and missing hangers. Jimmy was getting tired too, and would occasionally fall asleep on his stool between shots. I had a pharmaceutical advantage over both of them.

      Finally I decided Jimmy needed the advantage I had. It was new to him but he was ready to try anything to stay awake. A few games later we reached a "we need one and they need two" end game -- 3- and 5-balls on the table -- and Max left Jimmy straight in on the 5 ball.

      Jimmy started surveying the table. He walked around checking angles, etc. Finally he came to the bar where I was sitting, and while pretending to take a drink of water whispered out of the side of his mouth, "Which one is ours, the red one or the orange one?"

      Uh, oh.

      It didn't last much longer and it didn't end well.

      Comment


      • #4
        The most recent 21 years of my life have been defined by the first five years of that period, and a series of events ten years prior to that. I'm not sure I'll even post this, but I've been thinking about writing it, and I don't have to decide until I finish. I don't know whether it will be more about introspection, confession, reporting, or argument, so I'll decide when I'm finished whether I think any likely readers might give a shit.

        I'm a convicted felon. I committed the awful federal crime in 1974 of betting on football games. I was offered immunity, but declined. I was indicted by a Federal Grand Jury, because, I'm convinced, an FBI agent lied about me under oath, claiming I had said exactly the opposite of what I said to him. (There's a reason some people say, "Don't talk to the police, period.")

        More about that later.

        In 1985 I became exposed to a matter that most people think is political -- I guess that makes it political -- but shouldn't be. Funny, but I'll bet most people would agree that it shouldn't be political, but...

        I'm not going to get into what it was all about, because like any complex issue, no precis can do it justice, and I consider it too late to do anything about it now.

        What changed my life was the opportunity -- it felt more like I was being forced than that I was being given something -- to have many "up close and personal" discussions with influential members of our political class, both major parties, liberal, conservative, moderate, hawks, doves, socialists, red-baiters... you name it; Pentagon, State Department, White House, both houses of Congress, FBI, Secret Service, DIA, ONI, and one dude who claimed he was CIA, and I had reason to believe him.

        My takeaway from all that was: Yikes!

        Here's what I now believe:

        Any government will do more harm than good to its average citizens.

        With very rare exceptions, people who work their ways into positions of political authority or influence are of a special set of personality types who variously crave one or more of: fame; authority over others; short-term gain over ethics; wealth.

        The people who crave these things are the very people to whom we should most assiduously avoid giving it.

        A high percentage of those who seek office in D.C. for the right reasons, if successful, either get corrupted by their surroundings or eventually get disgusted, give up, and go home.

        People who believe "If we only had the right people" are right. Problem is the nature of the beast won't allow it.

        Most people prefer security -- and will accept even the illusion of it -- over responsible exercise of liberty.

        That preference is what fuels authorities' constant barrage of information and disinformation to keep constituencies in a continuous state of fear. Crime, terrorism, Bashar-al Assad and Vladimir Putin are the coin of today.

        False flags and anonymous "leaks" are essential tools to that end.

        Actual whistle-blowers are consistently punished beyond the extent of the law to discourage others from revealing truths disadvantageous to the Establishment power structure. (Daniel Ellsberg is the last one to get away with it, and then only because by the time it fully played out the public at large had turned firmly against the Vietnam War, with major media editors leading the vanguard with deceits equivalent to those the Pentagon Papers revealed.) Leakers of information favorable to the power structure are rewarded, whether or not their "leaks" are approved in advance.

        John W. Whitehead (there are two John Whiteheads in the political realm; this is the "good" one) is a careful and thoughtful man whom I admire. He's written a lot of good stuff; his following paragraph is one of the most instructive on the matter of keeping the public fearful:

        "False flags and terrorist attacks: Despite the government’s endless propaganda about the threat of terrorism, statistics show that you are 17,600 times more likely to die from heart disease than from a terrorist attack. You are 11,000 times more likely to die from an airplane accident than from a terrorist plot involving an airplane. You are 1,048 times more likely to die from a car accident than a terrorist attack. You are 404 times more likely to die in a fall than from a terrorist attack. And you are 8 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist."

        I think most people are pretty darned good most of the time. I think they have morals and ethics very similar to yours and mine. That applies just about the same in every country on Earth. It's the exceptions that drive media, and governments know well how to take advantage of that.

        Outside of the worst crime-ridden major cities most of us are VERY unlikely to be harmed in any substantial way by crime, and even in most of those cities crime rates have been dropping for 25 years. But you'd never know that from consuming the output of mainstream media or political rhetoric, and police departments and other forms of law enforcement are growing in cost, capacity, and militarization. A good-sized chunk of us think that's a good thing.

        I don't.

        Back to my proven felonious nature.

        Here's why I believe the Federal Grand Jury indicted me: An FBI agent came to my home. I invited him in. The first thing he said after confirming my identity was, "I had a little trouble finding you." Why he would say that escapes me, maybe he thought it would put me on the defensive like I was hiding from him. Anyway the interesting thing is, I'd been living in that house for five years and was listed in the phone book. Turns out he found me by getting a credit report and going to my most recent employer (who called me and said, "John, the FBI is looking for you.") Enough about competence.

        His purpose there was to let me know that they knew I had been placing bets with a particular individual who lived in the next state, so I might as well admit it and make things easier for me and everyone else.

        I said something like: "I do know the individual you're talking about, and what I know of him is that he has a beautiful family of four [maybe it was five] school-age daughters and is the district manager for a national food company. You know what you know, but if it would be detrimental to him or his family, I won't confirm it for you. I am not aware of anything that he has done that is either unethical or immoral so I'm not willing to do anything that might harm him."

        Prior to my trial, the federal "Strike Force" attorney offered to drop the charge if I'd testify. I hadn't changed my mind.

        Fast-forward to after my conviction for "Interstate Transportation in Aid of Racketeering." An acquaintance of mine was living with a lady (might have been married, I never knew) who coincidentally worked for a company hired to transcribe court and Grand Jury transcripts. Through an odd series of events I was able to see the part of the GJ transcript that showed the testimony of the FBI agent who interviewed me. He told the Grand Jury that I wouldn't cooperate because I said I "had to look out for number one."

        I had another acquaintance who was on! that Grand Jury. I never knew that (although he must have been in the room when I testified...my failure to make eye contact might have hurt me too) until he told me a few years later in a poker game. He claimed that he tried to talk them out of indicting me (I believe him) but people kept mentioning that "number one" statement I had allegedly made. My acquaintance couldn't say he knew me and that I wasn't the kind of person to say that because he was supposed to have recused himself during my testimony but didn't because he thought that would prevent him from doing anything on my behalf. (Poor guy was killed in a drilling rig accident on a rig owned by his son, who was a friend of mine.)

        Bottom line, I was fined $500 and given one year of unsupervised probation ($5000 in attorney's fees.) No big deal in that sense, but a federal felony conviction does not rest lightly on you for the rest of your life. (The only way to get it expunged is by order of POTUS. I tried, but no luck despite reasons I thought I had to be optimistic.)

        The Federal "Strike Force" was looking for convictions. The FBI agent knew his job was to get convictions. He probably resented that I made a moral argument for refusing to help him do that job. He was willing to lie to achieve his objective, however one may want to define it. His behavior casts a shadow over my assumptions -- at least my fears -- about what law enforcement personnel might be willing to do to achieve a goal that has nothing to do with righting wrong, punishing the guilty, or providing recompense for harm.

        (Back in the day, FBI and other anti-gambling characters would say that the gambling was harmful because criminals used it to finance their drug business. If anybody bought the idea that the drug business needed outside subsidy to keep it going, I've got that proverbial bridge to sell.)


        But that experience alone was not enough to convert me from true believer to cynic regarding all things political. That five-year road I traveled later brought it into a new light, and allowed me to take later reports I saw or read about law-enforcement misfeasance and malfeasance (google Frederick Whitehurst) more seriously than I would have otherwise.

        I have to insert here that I've had a dozen "run-ins" with law enforcement at several levels since that time, including Secret Service and FBI, and I have to say that every experience but two went the way I would have hoped our law enforcement personnel would handle things. Virtually perfect. One of the two exceptions was funny. An FBI agent looked me up to see if he thought I knew anything about a rash of bank robberies in the area. I was a felon, after all. He did behave himself very professionally despite the silly question, and nothing more came of it.

        To be fair, I also should mention that my son, in his late teen-age, had two run-ins that did not go well. In one case I intervened and got the prosecutor to drop charges because of demonstrably unethical, unlawful behavior of cops. In the other he took a misdemeanor rap for which I'm convinced he was not guilty, and he took it because he pissed off a cop by being mouthy. There are some of every stripe.

        If you disagree with me about any of this -- you probably do -- you may be right. I think what I think because of where I've been and some assumptions I've made about what it all means. If you're wrong, I wish you well. You've only made the best guesses you could based upon where you've been.

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        • #5
          "Tennessee"

          Earl "Tennessee" Stinett was a hillbilly...for real.

          He was born and raised deep in the Tennessee hills, and never learned to read or write. When he was in his late 20's or early 30's his older brother Carl somehow made his way to Kansas City, Kansas and got a job at the GM plant. Earl soon followed. Earl "got on" at GM, but after about 10 years he got injured (or "injured") on the job and got some kind of disability pension. I once asked him how he got hurt and he said he tried to drop a V-6 into a Skylark by hand and hurt his back. I knew he was bullshittin'-- and he knew I knew -- but he told it with a straight face for the truth.

          Earl was about 6'4" or 6'5" and around 230 at his fighting weight in his late 40's and was known -- or at least thought of and respected -- as a serious tush hog. Harry Campbell, the most infamous tush hog in the Kansas City Metro once came to Earl (so the story goes) and said something like. "Tennessee, I've been hearing stories about you, and I know somebody is going to try to match us up. Now I can whip your ass, but it'll be better for both of us if we sign a truce right now before one of us ends up dead, most likely you."

          Tennessee says, "I'll go for half of that, 'cause I know somethin' you don't know: You really can't whup my ass, but I hear I can't whup yours neither, and neither one of us knows how to quit. You got yourself a deal."

          Earl had been playing in a poker game with a bunch of floor guys at GM and had been winning pretty consistently. What he didn't realize was that he was winning because they were mostly very weak players. So when he left GM with a regular income and few expenses he figured he could make a living in some of the many poker games he'd heard about around town. This was in the early '70s.

          Well, that didn't work so well because he soon realized that these people he was playin' with were either better or a helluva lot luckier than the GM boys. But he did learn something very important: Whoever was running these games was taking money out of every pot! "Rake? What the hell does that mean?"

          For a guy who never learned to read or write Tennessee was surprisingly bright, and even shrewder than whatever his IQ would have indicated. Funny story on that point: Somehow in a poker game with 8 or 9 guys present someone made a comment related to a discussion that was going on. "If you just leave that fan running it will use less electricity than if you turn it on and off, on and off." Nobody said anything for a few seconds, and Tennessee pipes up, "All I know is when the fan's on that little arrow on your 'lectrit meter is movin' an' when the fan's off it ain't."

          Earl started organizing his own poker games and found that really could be a living. In time he was somehow able to become acquainted with and friendly to almost every cop in KC Kansas, and a number of political figures as well. He bought and sold a few cars and found some other scuffles he could cash on and finally managed to put together enough to rent a spot in a strip shopping center with a suitable back room for his poker game and space up front for 6 bar boxes.

          This went well (very little pool) until one of the shopping center neighbors complained about all the traffic coming in and out of the back door and cars parked in the alley that was supposed to be left clear. It happened that I was there when a non-code knock came on the back door. A voice says, "Earl, I need to talk to you."

          It was a vice cop who said he had to take us in because the neighbor claimed Earl was running illegal gambling, selling beer without a license, and they had to do something. Earl told us, "They gotta take us in. They're gonna fine us $25 each -- which I'll pay -- and we can all give phony names. They'll bring us back and we can play tonight, but we have to be out by daylight."

          Earl eventually had to close that place, but soon after the guy who owned the only pool hall in KCK died, and as I understand it, he had no family that wanted it -- or that he wanted to give it to -- and left it to Earl, who had befriended and helped him, just as Earl did with almost everyone else.

          Over a few years Earl turned it into a honky tonk with 4 bar boxes, 3 video poker machines and a nice back room. That became Poker Central in KCK. ("Poker Central" across the river in Kansas City, Mo was a solely owned subsidiary of a group of guys whose names ended in vowels.) Along with two other guys, I was eventually cut in to run the game, which averaged 12-15 hours a day, 7 days most weeks for about three years. It started as dealer's choice but soon became two-card hold'em. For the last year or so it ran, it became 5-10 pot limit Omaha, and that is -- on my scale of things -- a monster game. I didn't like it because whichever one of us was running the game played his own money, and Omaha is as close to flippin' coins as poker gets.

          The younger brother of an enforcer-turned-boss of the KCMO organization became a regular player. I thought I knew what was coming, and it did, but surprisingly Earl declined what must have been something less than an offer he couldn't refuse, and they let it go. No juice, no nothing. They just let it go. I knew a bunch of those "vowel" guys, and all I can say is, the ones I knew obviously had one code for their personal lives and a different one for their "business" lives.

          Which reminds me: The guy who was former-enforcer-turned -boss played in the poker games once in a while, but didn't play real well, and didn't play hard. He was very casual about it -- strictly social -- and didn't seem to care, win or lose. Anyway, he got hung up in the "Argent" case and got 10 to 20 or something like that. There was a painter who played in all our games any time he could accumulate enough cash to sit in, and he was a horrible player. He had borrowed money from Carl ("Tuffy") several times but never managed to get much of it payed back. His balance kept rising. It was up to almost $5000 right before Tuffy was going to go "in" and this painter went to him and said "I got together about $600 I can give you now, but I need to know who I should give the rest to while you're gone." Tuffy says, "Don't worry about it Sy, I don't need it where I'm goin', but what you need to do is put it in a college fund for your son," and he didn't even take the $600.

          A few years before -- early-mid 80's -- Earl got divorced and soon married a girl in her early 20's who had considered Earl her hero since the first day she met him 5 or 6 years earlier. The wedding was conventional, except for a country boy who couldn't read or write and a girl with NO connections it was massively attended. The reception was raucous, but first class in what you might consider a red-neck way. Barbecue, fried catfish, a half-dozen hams and turkeys, champagne, wine, a full-service bar and a local band. The mayor got drunk as a skunk and Earl's congressman made an appearance, but cleared out fast.

          The game finally met its demise, but that's another story.
          Last edited by LSJohn; 01-18-2017, 03:56 PM.

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