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Dirty Al

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  • Dirty Al

    I've told the bare outlines of this story previously, but there are some other aspects of it that might be interesting.

    It revolves primarily around Pat Duggan, who later became my best friend.

    Pat served a tour in the Navy, and at the age of 22, the train he was riding to his mustering-out station derailed, or crashed or something else that involved fire in two of the cars. The Navy decorated Pat for heroism for his efforts helping survivors escape the flames.

    Pat had been a pool phenom by the age of 16, but played little while in the Navy. When he got out he had mustering-out pay and no expenses, living at home with his mother and step father. He immediately started rebuilding his game, and he and I became friendly adversaries in a group of close to a dozen guys around our age, usually meeting and playing at King Louie East, a large bowling alley in KCMO that had a dozen or so Gold Crowns.



    One day he and I got into a contest, probably 9 ball -- I had no idea of the actual disparity between our games -- and after he got a few games up I said, "Be right back," went to the bar, sat down and ordered a Scotch on the Rocks. In a few minutes Pat came and sat down with me and we bullshitted while I finished the drink.

    When the game resumed, I uncharacteristically caught a gear and won a few games back. Pat won a couple and I said, "Be right back," and went to the restroom. When I came out I headed to the bar for more ammunition. When I got there Pat was sitting there sipping a Scotch on the Rocks with another sitting beside him for me. We both laughed, but he laughed last. The rest of our game went the way it was supposed to.


    A few days or weeks later Pat and I were playing again, probably with me getting the 8 (not near enough.) When we quit it was early evening. Pat said, "Wanna take a ride?"

    He was going to check out "Dirty Al" a notorious character who made his annual living with several fireworks stands around the Fourth of July. He also had a rat-hole of a place in Argentine, a mostly lower-income, mostly White and Mexican suburb of Kansas City, Kansas on the south bank of the Kaw River. Al ran it as an all-night hangout pretending to be something of a short-order restaurant, but I later learned that when you were there he may or may not have any food to serve, or feel like cooking it.

    He had one very loose bar table and loved to play and loved to gamble, but he couldn't play a lick. The reason the table was loose was that Al wouldn't play anyone unless he got all the breaks. Despite this, he was a target of numerous scufflers who managed to keep him broke. It was good to catch him in late summer while he was still pumped up from his Fourth of July business. All of this is stuff I learned later, because when Pat suggested I make the run with him I'd never heard of Dirty Al.

    On that first night we went there it was too early, and despite having the lights on and doors open we never saw anyone. After about ten minutes of waiting around, Pat said we should go check out some bars. He said, "Whatever we get, you can have half my action and I'll get you even."

    Pat played in a $2 challenge game in one of the spots, but we gave up on anyone playing for more and went down the road. At the third or fourth place Pat got some $5 action and won about 40 or 50 bucks taking our net to around 60 and getting me somewhere around even for the day.

    About midnight we went back to Al's. He was playing a guy we didn't know and the guy was giving him the 8 and the break, but that guy didn't look like he could play much either. We soon saw they were playing for $3 a game, and I lost interest and said so. Pat said, "Hold on, this may develop into something."

    It wasn't long before they quit and Pat said to Al, "I'll give you a better game than that if you want to play some for five. Al said, "I don't play strangers with less than the 6 and the break."

    Pat said, "I was gonna say the 7, but I'll try you a few that way," and the game was on.

    Pat barbecued him for about an hour at that game and Al wanted more weight. Pat said, "Next time I come over I might try the 5, but 7 AM comes pretty early." I was pretty sure he didn't have a job, but maybe he had a dental appointment or something. Al said, "The five?" What good is that gonna do me? I ain't made a two in 20 minutes," and he wasn't exaggerating much.

    When we got to the car Pat explained that he didn't want to beat Al badly on the first trip. He wanted to groom Al into thinking of him as a regular customer (pool "customer" not restaurant customer.)

    A few days later Pat called and ask if I was up to getting my clothes dirty. I thought he was gonna ask me to help him move furniture or something. When I said, "What's up?" he said he was ready to go see Al again.

    As before we set out in early evening but instead of going straight to Al's we made our bar tour first. At the second stop we ran into a player whose name was known in the local pool world as a good player: "Louie."

    I told Pat, "This guy plays pretty good."

    "So do I," came back, then he followed with, "If I can't handle it, I'll know it real quick and I'll pull up if I need to."

    Pat and Louie played for $5 and when Pat got a few games ahead they pumped it to $10. Pat told Louie, "OK, but I only have about another hour to play."

    At around 11:00 Pat said "I've only got time for two more games. We can play 'em for a little more if you want."

    Louie said, "I'll make it 20 but we have to flip for the break." That was OK with Pat, and Louie too -- for about five minutes -- Louie won the flip but didn't get out, and Pat did. Then Pat made the 9 on a combination his first shot after the break.

    Louie said, "Two more, man." Pat said OK, they split those two games, and we headed for Al's.

    Al looked like he was just waking up. He said he just got out of the shower, but when I later told a friend that Al had just gotten out of the shower when we got there, he didn't believe me. There was a reason they called him Dirty Al.

    Pat tried half-heartedly to get Al to go for the 6 and the break again, but quickly dropped to the 5 when Al wanted the 4. Al said, "Gimme the 4 and the break, I'll try you for ten."

    "I think you're tryin' to get in my britches, Al, but we can try some of that. I'm not signing any contracts. You butcher me at that we have to go back to the 5." Al says OK and it was on.

    Al was really getting the rolls this night and after about 90 minutes Pat was only up three or four games. "I knew this was gonna be tough," he told Al. "I've only got time for two or three more games. What do you want to play 'em for?"

    Al said, "Ten's good," and they played two or three games around even when Pat announced, "One more," and just looked at Al to see whether he wanted to raise the bet. No luck. Al won the last game and we hit the road.

    I asked Pat whether he'd lost that last game on purpose. "No, not really."

    "Whaddaya mean, 'Not really'?"

    "Well," he said, "I don't lemon, but I was kinda hopin' I would lose it. When I'm thinkin' like that it has a strange way of workin'. The good news is, he'll play me one more time like this before I have to give him more weight, and on the next trip I'm gonna try to win the joint. If I do, I'll give it to you," and laughed.

    I said, "Oh, good. I'll hire you as my cook, and I'll tip you reeeeal good to clean up every morning."

    As luck would have it, for some reason I don't remember, I couldn't go with Pat on his next trip. He beat Al pretty hard and wound up giving him the 3 and the break.

    The climax came on our next trip. Al tried to hold out for the 2! and the break, but Pat wouldn't relent. Finally Pat offered 7-8-9 and the break, but Al had to call the 7 and 8.

    Al says, "I ain't callin' shit. The only out I have is shittin' sumthin' in."

    Pat finally talked him into calling the 7, with the 8 wild, and off they went. After about 10 or 12 hours and making the 7 without calling it several times, Al demanded making it wild too, and Pat relented, already up about $250 as I recall. (Hey, I never said this was big time gamblin'.)

    Over the next three days I only left briefly and came back, acting as food runner. Once I had to get a can of coffee and a bag of sugar because Al was out of those too. I did my sleeping upstairs on a couch that was only semi-ratty by going to a variety store nearby and buying a sheet to put over it.

    Pat and Al played straight through, Al with pharmaceutical assistance, Pat with only coffee. In about the last 3 or four hours Al started paying off with rolls of quarters (same thing happened to us in Dallas a few years later) and in the end they had to take a break so Al could get the quarters out of the table to pay off.

    I told Pat we might as well go, but he said "It's easier to take him to his arm game than to piss him off by quitting."

    After a few more games Al ran out of quarters again and said, "I aint' openin' that table up again. I'll have to owe you the 10."

    Pat says, "Nah, keep it for that steak I was gonna have if I got hungry."

    Seventy-two hours straight, coffee only, giving the 7-8-9 and the break on a loose bar table. Anybody want some of that?
    Last edited by LSJohn; 01-18-2017, 06:29 PM.
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