Springing the trap

LSJohn

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A good friend of my best friend and I became gambling adversaries. It was always friendly and small stakes, but we each were constantly looking for ways to trap each other just so we could have a good laugh at the other's expense.

The three couples would get together several times a year and usually both of us would have something up our sleeves for the other, but of course we soon became quite wary.

I got him good once after doing some serious gambling playing Ad Lib, a wordgame with dice having letters on each of the six sides. As in Scrabble each letter had an assigned point value, and the idea was to shake the dice in a cup, then dump them and score as many points as possible in 2 minutes, using the Scrabble scoring system and an hour-glass timer.

I had almost accidentally gotten into an Ad Lib game with a couple of drug dealers after our poker game broke up. They played each other for $1/point. I had never played it but I was decent at Scrabble and after watching a few hands I could see that neither of them was a strong player. I asked if I could get in and Eddie said, "Sure, but we were just getting ready to raise it to $2/point."

I said, "OK, I'll play a couple of hundred worth but I ain't signin' no contract." Within a couple of weeks we were playing fairly often at $5/point. On a good hand IIRC you could score 60+ points and on a bad one as little as 20 or so. Paying or collecting with two opponents each hand was very big money to me at the time -- mid-70s -- and you could win or lose two or three thousand in a session. I won what I thought was a LOT of money from those guys and one of their buddies, about what I could make working for a year.

Anyway, all of that is just to explain how I got to know the game so well and judge so well what someone else could do after watching him for a few hands.

One evening the three couples were at my house on a Saturday night. I think this was the night my friend brought one of Richard Pryor's first comedy albums (That N***** is Crazy) and we played it at least twice, I think 3 times. My friend and his wife left earlier than usual and I had told my wife to suggest that we all play Ad Lib if the time looked right. I would suggest Trivial Pursuit and she should say "How about Ad Lib?"

Worked like a charm and I threw off a little bit for an hour or so, still winning every game, but not by wide margins. Finally my wife said she needed to get some sleep, so the trap was set. I ended up getting Steve and his wife to play me for $5 a game; I got 10 bonus point per hand, and they each got a turn to my one. It was a cake-walk, and I wasn't on the lemon any more. I really wanted to bury them just so I could laugh at Steve. I did and I did, then I told the whole story, including my wife's role.

Darn, here I am and I just remembered I didn't start this to tell that story, but my real subject reminded me of that incident. I meant to tell about my coup de gras setting Steve up.

For several years my wife and I hosted a New Years Eve party each year. I probably started thinking about how I was going to trap Steve about the 4th of July. :D I was pretty good at throwing playing cards and I didn't think Steve knew it. I experimented with several targets and settled on a large crystal flower bowl placed in a corner about 15 feet from one end of a sofa. I must have thrown about a million cards at that bowl by the time New Years Eve rolled around.

The format of our parties was different from others I've been to. As soon as we all had greeting, introductions, drinks and snacks we'd gather in a circle in my living room and play a series of parlor games. That year, after a few hours or so of some games, I got a deck of cards out of a drawer by my seat on the end of the sofa and said, "Lemme show you a card trick." I have no sleight-of-hand skill so my card tricks were/are pretty lame, but the point was to get Steve to make fun of the lameness. (Giving each other crap at every opportunity went well with being friendly adversaries for a buck or two.)

All went perfectly; the trick was lame, I performed it lamely, and Steve laughed louder and longer than anyone else, pointing at me derisively. I took one of the cards and threw it at him, but threw it so it would flop in the air. I threw a second and a third one the same way, and Steve made fun of that too. Perfect!

"Wanna play some Ad Lib?" I asked, clearly meaning it as an insult, implying that I might tell the Ad Lib story to the whole room to make fun of him.

"No, he said, "but I'll throw cards with you."

OMG, this was too good. I emptied the flower bowl off the table in front of me and put it against a wall about 10 feet from where he was sitting, and asked, "How many do you think you can throw in that bowl in 52 tries? "

I think he said 5 and I said something like "Margaret could do 5 and she's ambidextrous... clumsy with both hands." Anyway I tried to bet him $5 he couldn't do 10, we settled on 8, and he made about 10.

I said, "Dammit, I left you too close," and moved the bowl about 15 feet from him. "Bet you 10 you can't do 8 from there." He bet and only made about 5.

I started making a big deal out of his five bucks. "Wanna try again?" I asked.

His wife said, "NO!" but she was joking.

Steve said "I'm thinkin' about bettin' you can't even throw one that far."

"How many tries do I get," I asked, and he said, "I was jokin'."

"So was I."

I got the bowl and moved it to "my" corner. I stood about 10 feet from it and said I'll bet I can do 5."

"That corner makes it too easy," he said.

I said, "OK. Bet you can't do 10 from that sofa."

"Too far," he said. "I didn't get half of them to the bowl from that distance over there."

"OK," I said, "One time, I'll bet I can do it."

"Oh, now I get it. This is the scam you set up for me. Nice try."

"OK, you got me. But I'll try 15."

"Heh, I'm bettin' nothing under 52 you rattlesnake. No, I'll bet on 26. If you can do half of 'em, I gotta pay off."

I said, "OK" and did 43, sailing them in on 2-rail banks about 90 mph. :D

He KNEW he was screwed as soon as I said "OK," but by then it was too late.

The scams weren't all one way. He got me once after setting up a wine deal at a restaurant where the three couples were having dinner. I don't remember details but I made the mistake of betting him he was wrong about what he was claiming regarding the wine.

A related story:

I had thought I was really good at throwing cards for distance, but one of the "rack boys" -- Bobby -- at Red Boxx's Spot Club in Shreveport showed me he could throw a plastic "Kem" card all the way across the pool room (about 40 feet) and hit the wall hard. On a perfect throw I could barely get it to the wall.

For you younger guys: In the "old days" most pool rooms charged by the game. I think in the 60s and early 70s we usually paid 10 cents for 9 ball and a quarter for one pocket. "Rack boys" -- always Black in my experience in the South -- would rack each game and collect the fee.
 
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