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Junior

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  • Junior

    In the early 70s my friend Pat Duggan, a very good player, and I took a road trip from Kansas City southward toward Shreveport, where I had lived previously. It was springtime and the trip happened to coincide with the opening of Oaklawn Park racetrack in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Our intended path was close enough to Hot Springs for us to take the detour.

    We almost went busted before we got out of there, but we made a miracle on-the-nose cash on a horse we picked based only on its name after we got our noses open.

    We couldn't run fast enough to get out of there after we cashed our ticket.

    When we got to Shreveport we headed to The Spot Club, Red Boxx's pool room, restaurant, and gambling hangout. Hearts, bridge, bouray, gin, pinocle and dominoes were gambled on there in additon to pay-off pinball machines, pool and a no-limit poker game in the back. Action Central.

    I was looking for "Captain," a good friend and running mate of Billy Schick. Captain was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force stationed at Barksdale AFB across the river from Shreveport in Bossier City. When he was first transferred there he was still a Captain, and the name stuck, no matter what later ranks he achieved. This was a little before Buddy Hall and Eddie Taylor's time there, and Captain was thought of as one of the best players in town.

    Captain was there, and as soon as appropriate I said hello, introduced Pat, and asked Cap to join us for a cup of coffee in the restaurant. I had done Cap a big favor when I was in Shreveport earlier, and I was hoping he'd feel he owed me.

    When we sat I told him that Pat was a pretty good player and we were looking for action. I asked whether he knew of any good spots we should check out either in Shreveport or the surrounding area. He said, "Not really," but gave us one local bar. Then he said, "I can't really judge where to send you since I don't know how Pat plays."

    One of the three of us suggested that Cap and Pat play some cheap so Cap could get a read. They played for $2/game until Pat got enough ahead that Cap got the ring in his nose and they raised it to $5, then $10.

    Meanwhile "Wally" -- an inadvertently hilarious older guy who loved to gamble but seemed to manage to barely lose most of the time at whatever he tried -- came in, saw that his hero Cap was in action, and asked if he could get a rail bet. I eyeballed Pat who gave me a tiny nod, and I asked Wally "How much you want.?"

    "Whatever they're playing for," said Wally. I told him it was 10 bucks, and he said "Bet."

    I forget exactly how much we beat Wally out of, but I think it was 6 or 7 games. Finally Cap said, "Pat, you've got me doggin' it so bad now I have to quit... besides, I can see that any place that's good for me will be even better for you."

    Wally's eyes rolled, he bit down hard on his cigar, and said, "Wait a minute Cap. You can beat this kid. I'll stake you for 20 a game."

    Cap said, "Thanks for the vote of confidence, Wally, but I'm not playing well, and if I don't want to play him on my money, I don't want to play on yours."

    Wally acted like he'd been betrayed. He wasn't used to people quitting him while he was stuck. I wondered whether he might swallow that cigar, but he calmed down and said, "How about tomorrow?"

    Cap said, "We'll see," and that ended the discussion. Wally walked away mumbling to himself.

    Cap said, "I could use something a lot stronger, but lets have another cup of coffee; I want to tell you about a guy," and we went back to the restaurant.

    Once in the restaurant we tried several times to give Cap his money back, but he wouldn't take it. Finally he said, "Look. I can't remember doggin' it like that in a long time. I'm hopin' I've learned something from that session that will be worth a helluva lot more than whatever I lost... and don't tell me, I don't even want to know," and laughed.

    Cap said, "I played a guy in Dallas once and made a nice score. I heard that last October he dumped off $22,000 to a road player. He's definitely good action.

    "His name is Junior and he's got a bar with a couple of 4 X 8s. If you guys just go in and play, if he's not busy he'll probably challenge one of you. He will try to high-roll you, so be patient and let him do all the raising."

    Then Cap mentioned a player and a pool room in Baton Rouge, but that's another story that involves 9-ball, one-pocket and poker. He told us the name and location of Junior's place, we thanked him, and headed out to the bar he'd mentioned earlier. There's a story about what happened there too, but maybe later.

    We headed south the next day, hoping to pump up before we tied into Junior. If he blew $22,000 in a play, we were pretty short to play for the kind of money that probably represented. Fortunately, we picked up about a thousand in around 10 days in Baton Rouge and New Orleans and turned toward Dallas.

    We arrived a Junior's place right after noontime and the place wasn't busy. As Cap had suggested, Pat and I started playing $5 9 ball, being obvious about paying off after each game. In less than 10 minutes Junior came over and asked if one of us wanted to play. "I said, we're playin' for 5 a game, and you're welcome to jump in."

    "Nah, said Junior, I like to play head-up. I'll try one of you for 10."

    "I said to Pat, "You can try him some for 10 if you want. I'm playin' like shit."

    Pat says, "I like 5 better," and Junior said, "OK."

    Pat started winning just about every game, and every two or three games Junior would want to double the bet. Pat would decline once or twice, then accept. Within an hour they were playing for 50 a game and we were up a couple of hundred.

    Pat pushed another 5 games ahead and I expected Junior to raise it again. Instead, he paid off that 50 with 5s and 10s. Uh oh.

    Pat won the next game and Junior went to his safe and paid off with 5 rolls of quarters, saying, "Come around after the first of the month. I gotta keep enough money now to run the joint," and that was that.
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