West 92nd Street

Long before I moved to the Boston area and long before I started playing in a local Thursday night poker game in Newton and Medford, I played in a game at Mel’s apartment in New York City. Mel was a bachelor who owned an investment company. Each week he hosted a game. He supplied sandwiches, snacks, and beverages.  He never took any money for the sustenance.  It was usually the same group of renegades.  We were seven at maximum.  Many times we played with less.  The group consisted of a few insurance guys; Harry, who owned a diner somewhere near the Bowery;  Lou, who I mentioned in a previous post (he hosted a similar game with some of the same guys); and, when he was in town, the actor James Broderick.

It was a nice size game for the 1960’s with stakes at $1, $2, and $5.  We played a few wild card games, one we called Manhattan. It was a Seven-Stud, hi-lo, declare game.  The low card in the hole  (and any others in your hand that matched it) was wild.  In addition, after the seventh card, there was a replace card that cost $1.  So, if by chance you were betting your hand contingent upon your low card in the hole being a four, let’s say, and your seventh card was a two, you had a chance to get rid of the two in hopes of getting a card higher than the four so that the four would be reestablished as your low card in the hole.  Anyway, there were many reasons to replace a card. By replacing an up-card, you could possibly match your low card in the hole. 

We played a five-card version of Manhattan, called Downtown. Each player received one card down, three cards up, and a final card down. There was betting each round. Of course, after you received your fifth card, which was down, it was very likely that your complete hand changed. You now had the option of replacing a card.  There was a lot of positioning and posturing.  This game made everyone think.

We played some Seven-Stud, hi-lo, declare with no wild cards, but still a replace.   In addition, we played some versions of Fiery Cross, described elsewhere in this blog under Criss-Cross Variants.

At that time, we played no 8-low qualifier games.  All hi-lo games were declare. Positioning was paramount, since all declaring was verbal. In the declaration round of betting, the last active better (the person making the initial bet or the person taking the last raise), was the first to declare. Sometimes, by posturing yourself correctly, you could back into winning by hearing, as an example, that the three declarers before you all went high.  You being last to act, might just declare low, feeling that your high hand faced too much competition.

Games would usually start at about 8:00 at night and run through 1:30 or 2:00 A.M. That’s when the real action started.  We played Poker for five or six hours, struggling to win $150 to $350; then, we would risk so much more.  Chairs got moved, a couch got moved. The carpet was moved back. We got on our knees and would start shooting Craps, many mornings until daylight.  The wins and losses at Craps were not relevant to those possibilities of the Poker game. Sometimes, someone who was a marginal winner at Poker, might win $600 to $1000 shooting Craps. Usually anywhere from three to five remained to shoot Craps.

House Craps (or Street Craps) varies from casino-style Craps. There is no felt listing all the betting options. All bets need to be covered by other players.  Many times, not all bets get covered. Usually, most action was against the dice roller. There was no behind-the-line action. The roller would put up let’s say $200. The other participants would shout out how much of the action he was taking and lay his money down. When the last of the $200 was covered, the shooter was “faded.”  If the $200 was not covered in full, the shooter would pull back the money that was not covered. Assuming there was no 2,3, 7, 11, or 12 on the initial role, the point would be established.  Then, there was usually more action: 2 to 1 on the 4 or 10, 3 to 2 on the 5 or 9, and 6 to 5 on the 6 or 8. That was the extent of the action.  No one was betting the hard-8 or placing a come-bet on the next roll. 

Most everyone at the game smoked cigarettes or cigars. If you were a non-smoker, you never objected since smoking was hardly verboten then.  By 5:30 or 6:00 A.M. we all stank from the smoke in the air and were all quite disheveled.  Many mornings, we never made it home to shower or change clothes.  Sleep! Sleeping was secondary.  There were many times that we just went from work to Poker/Craps and back to work–and that was without cocaine.

One day Mel, whose apartment was on West 92nd Street, not far from Central Park, parked his car.  He opened his car door to exit. At that moment, Mel’s life changed.  He was never the same. Some young man, speeding down the street on his bicycle, slammed head-first into Mel’s car door. The bicyclist was pronounced dead on the spot.

 Criss Cross Variants
 Actually, Criss-Cross is definitively defined as a bona fide Poker game. However, in all its listings, it is defined distinctly as a high-only game using wild cards–usually, the center card (E), being the determining factor. Sometimes, any card matching that card is also wild. In some games in which I used to play, the low card in the hole (and all like it) was (were) wild. However, since I have not played in any wild-card games for over fifteen years, I am not referencing them here.
In Criss-Cross games, each player may use his/her own cards plus A E C or his/her own cards plus B E D. In Hi-Lo games, one may use one direction for high and another for low. In addition, one may combine cards in the same direction for both high and low. Specifically, players may only use three cards that are directly related, using either the horizontal row or the vertical row. Players may opt to use some or none of the common cards. Vertical-only cards may not be combined with horizontal-only cards.
Back in New York in the 1960’s we used to play a Poker game we called Fiery Cross. It was a declare game with lots of action.

Each player receives two cards face-down, one card face-up.

Five common cards, in the shape of a cross, are placed face-down in the center of the table.


                                                         B           E             D


There is a round of betting before any common cards are revealed.

Then, A and B are revealed. There is a round of betting.

C and D are then revealed. There is another round of betting.

Then E is revealed. There is another round of betting.

Then each remaining player receives a card face-up.

There is a round of betting.

Finally, each remaining player receives a final card, face-down.

There is a final round of betting.

Then, there is a declare.

Though this game was popular then, it has since lost popularity. I have tried to get it going a few times, to no avail. There are just too many rounds of betting and too little to work with, up front. So, though in the 60’s this game was probably a SIX, now I would have to rate it a FOUR.

GAME: Fiery Cross


Though my introduction of Fiery Cross led to hardly any acceptance, my introduction of Criss Cross, in other various forms, has taken hold as a Hi-Lo, 8-or-better, lay-down game.

Criss-Cross Get


Each player is dealt three cards face-down and one card face-up.

Five common cards, in the shape of a cross, are placed in the center of the table.


                                                         B           E             D


In Criss-Cross Get, A B C and D are dealt face-down; E is face-up.

There is a round of betting.

Then, A B C and D are turned face-up, revealing all five common cards.

There is a second round of betting.

Then, each remaining player gets two more cards before there is the final round of betting.

The first card is dealt face-down; the second, face-up.

The final round of betting occurs. Hands are shown. Best high hand splits pot with best qualifying low hand.

Since there are only three betting rounds, this game works best with each player paying an ante.

GAME: Criss-Cross Get

This game and the two following are perfect for seven or eight players. With eight players, if all were in all the way to the end (which is not likely),  instead of each player receiving a second card face-up, utilize a sixth common card that plays like E. Believe it or not, we play these Criss-Cross games with nine players and do not often have to use a sixth common card.


Criss-Cross Standard


Each player is dealt three cards face-down and one card face-up.

Five common cards, in the shape of a cross, are placed in the center of the table.

                                                      B          E         D

Cards A and B are face-up, the others are placed face-down. There is a round of betting.

Cards C and D are revealed. There is a round of betting.

Card E is now revealed. There is a round of betting.

Each remaining player now receives a card, face-up.

There is round of betting. Each remaining player now receives a final card, face-down.

The final round of betting occurs. Hands are shown. Best high hand splits pot with best qualifying low hand.

GAME: Criss-Cross Standard

Alternate: Reveal card E first, then A and B, then C and D.


Criss-Cross Medium Way


Each player is dealt three cards face-down and one card face-up.

Five common cards, in the shape of a cross, are placed in the center of the table.


                                                        B       E       D


In this version of Criss-Cross, cards A B C and D are face-down; E is face-up.

There is a round of betting. Then, the remaining four common cards, A B C and D, are all revealed at once. There is a round of betting.

Each remaining player then receives a card, face-up. There is a round of betting.

Each remaining player then receives a final card, face-down. The final round of betting occurs. Hands are shown. Best high hand splits pot with best qualifying low hand.

GAME: Criss-Cross Medium Way

Lake Mohegan

I remember the place actually being called [Lake] Mohegan Country Club. It was located on Lake Mohegan, NY, about fifty  miles from New York City. Ironically, since the early 1970’s, “Lake Mohegan” ceased to exist and the nomenclature is no longer used. The area, the lake, community–one and the same–is now “Mohegan Lake.” During the late 19th century and early 20th century, the area developed into a famous resort community.  (One could hardly call  Mohegan Country Club “a famous resort community.” As a matter of fact, in all honesty, one could hardly call it a country club.)

Lured by convenient train travel (a few hours), New York City apartment dwellers came to Lake Mohegan to breathe country air and relax at a picturesque lake.  Nine or ten resorts operated for sixty-plus years. They offered lodging and top-name entertainment. (I never saw any of this so-called, top-name entertainment.)Most of these resorts had their personalized water-fronts and swimming-cribs.  They provided safe harbors for swimming and boating.  One of the more popular resorts was the Mohegan Country Club and Bungalow Colony, located on Route 6.  The Lakeside and Villas condominiums now occupy the space.

By the time I arrived in the summer of 1954,  the Mohegan Country Club and Bungalow Colony must have been a shell of itself.  It was like a cast-off of the Catskills. Nearby this area in Yorktown, NY,  not too far from Peekskill, was a much fancier community, Lake Mahopac. Mahopac had the reputaion of being “upscale.” In that respect, one would have to label Lake Mohegan Country Club as down-trodden. Yet, this summer of 1954 proved to be a remarkable summer for me–not because of the area, the work, or even the all-night poker games, but because I met someone who eventually changed my life.

In good consciousness, I cannot relate all the facts of how I came to the area that summer.  I can say, I started the summer as a counselor for waiters at a summer camp somewhere near Bear Mountain. Having been a camp waiter a few summers before at a summer camp, Brookside, in Great Barrington, MA, qualified me for the position. I was working at this camp in or near Bear Mountain and enjoying the challenges and responsibility of the job. Not so, however, for the young lady with whom l went there. She had taken the job as counselor for the youngest girls at the camp. As she put it, she was not going to change diapers for spoiled brats all summer.  I can’t vouch for the diapers or any of her complaints.  I can say that she convinced me to quit my job (shame on me), because she was not up to the task.

Off we went in my forest green, 1953, Pontiac Chieftain. She called a friend of hers who had rented a house for the summer in Yorktown Heights. She moved in with that family as their au pair for the summer. There I was–no job, no place to stay, my mother not knowing where I was. I knew nothing of the area around Yorktown. Knowing I needed both a place to stay and a job, I started to drive. I decided that my best bet was to find a job at a hotel–intending to both work and live there.  I traveled from hotel to hotel around Lake Mahopac and Lake Mohegan.  At each place I would ask for the kitchen manager, or restaurant manager, or hotel manager. I would plead my case for summer employment, fudging my waiter experience. After turn-down after turn-down, I lucked out. My persistence finally paid off.

With its lake, its pool, its tennis courts, its rec hall, and such, Mohegan Country Club and Bungalow Colony had all the amenities middle-class, vacationing New Yonkers craved. ( I do not believe there was a golf course affiliated with this country club.) Some of the families stayed the entire summer.  Some families visited for only a few weeks. Like at so many of these summer resorts, it was usually the wife and children who would spend Mondays through Fridays vacationing.  The husbands (dads) would usually join them for the weekend. (I’ll get back to weekends–when waiting tables was more than just a chore, but a challenge.)

As I recall, the diningroom was owned separately from the resort. The gentleman who ran the diningroom  and who hired me must have always been under a lot of pressure.  Being inexperienced with the inner workings of the restaurant business, I just saw him as cranky and bossy. From constantly having to walk in and out of the walk-in refrigerator and in and out of the hot kitchen and then into another temperature zone in the diningroom, per se, I remember seeming to have a cold most of the  summer.

Back to being hired: I was told I had to start that day.  They were short-handed.   Why?   I don’t remember. I was instructed to go to an army-navy store  (There were many around then, selling discontinued and copy-cat military gear and low-end clothing.) in Peekskill and purchase black pants (chinos) and at least one white shirt.  I needed black shoes, as well, but had them with me.  There was no training.  I served dinner that night.

I moved into a room in the adjoining lodge. I am not sure if  Doc (Not wanting to use his actual name, I’ll call him Doc.) was there before me, or whether he arrived after me.  I’m not even sure with whom I bunked.  There was a few other waiters.  I do not recall how many. There were a few busboys as well. Doc was one of the busboys.  He was no more a busboy than I was a waiter. Doc grew up in Brooklyn.  I believe he went to Erasmus High School.  His hard-working mother sent him off to college at Wake Forest, where he achieved as a pre-med major and from where he graduated. Doc wanted to attend medical school.  He applied to Bowman Gray School of Medicine at Wake Forest and was accepted. However, he was considered too young to attend and was told that he would have to wait a year.

He decided that this hiatus in his education was the perfect excuse to see the world.  He joined, of all things, the Norwegian Merchant Marines. I assume that any Norwegian he learned, he learned on the job. Because he had to get back to attend medical school in September of that year, he jumped ship (Perhaps,  in Argentina, but I am not sure.) and made his way back to New York. My good fortune, he took employment at the same place at which I was working.

Doc and I became best of friends. We had a running joke about the time I introduced him as my busboy. The work was both  time consuming and demanding–setting-up and serving  three meals a day. Once in a while, we were given time off for one lunch meal a week. Every so often, we managed to get an entire day off.  Mostly, we worked seven days a week, three meals a day. The worst days were always weekends.   That is when the husbands (dads) would arrive. Their wives and children were spending the summers, while they, just the weekends. Maybe they just resented that their time was so limited or maybe they just felt that  a whole week’s worth of food was due them on the two days they were there. These guys were ultra-demanding. The diningroom owner, who must have been losing his shirt in this summer venture, took the attitude of “give-him, give-him.”  Those words became his mantra. How Doc and I would laugh.  Sunday dinners were always special. Steak was on the menu. When any of the husbands would demand more steak, the owner would shout at us “give-him, give-him.” Of course, we would eventually run out of steak, so we couldn’t always “give-him, give-him.” On those days when we ran out of steak, we waiters took a lot of grief. Most of the guests tipped at the end of each week, usually on Sundays. We waiters were never happy when we had to tell these demanding husbands that we were out of steak.

I remember one incident in particular. One of the families at one of my tables arrived for Sunday dinner after we had depleted our steak supply. The father seemed upset but then, in a polite tone of voice, asked if we had chicken.  Happy to report that we did, I went into the kitchen and returned with a broiled, half-chicken with vegetables and potatoes. “I just want the drum stick,” he shouted, “just the drum stick.” I showed him that the drum stick was there.  He then asked if I knew why he wanted the drum stick. I did not venture a guess. I finished serving his family and went back into the kitchen. Into the kitchen he walked, drum stick in hand. He proceeded to tell me that he wanted the drum stick so that he could tell me to shove it up my ass and get him the steak that was due him. 

Being that all my prior waiting experience was as a camper-waiter, I had no experience with waiting on grownups and catering to their whims. Campers were easy to handle.  I was older than most of them. If need be, they could always be kept in line by a counselor. These weekend-dads were something else entirely.

Doc and I worked well as a team. More importantly, we became best of friends. We socialized then and continued to socialize  for years to come, through various marriages for both of us. Doc eventually became an internist and is now a prominent cardiologist in New York on Long Island.  If it were not for Doc, I would never have gotten out of the food industry. Many years after working at Lake Mohegan, I was working as a store manager for a small supermarket chain, Food Pagent, in New York City, when I received a call from Doc, who I had not seen for a while. He informed me about a job opportunity. His neighbor owned a successful appliance-TV-stereo business, called Brands Mart,  in Long Island City. In chatting with his neighbor, Doc learned that Brands Mart had just lost three key employees, who were setting-out on their own to compete with Brands Mart. Doc told his neighbor that he had a friend, who was not in the appliance-TV business, but he was sure he could run anything. I was soon interviewed. Voila! The start of my new career! Were it not for Doc, I’d probably still be slicing roast beef or bagging groceries on busy supermarket days.

There are countless stories that Doc and I could relate about Lake Mohegan. There was this one guy who slept with a tin can next to his bed so that he would not have to get up at night to pee. The story is really funnier than it reads because of the manner in which he accomplished his feat. How any of us fellow workers were ever able to put in a solid day of work amazes me still. Many nights we played Poker until dawn and then all went directly to work. These mornings we formed a motley crew of disheveled cooks, dishwashers, busboys, and waiters. Some nights Doc would go to sleep at a reasonable hour and cover for me at my waiting station while I grabbed a few minutes of shut-eye. On those nights, I would stay up all night and play Poker, and Doc and I would share any winnings or losses.  The only game I recall playing was Seven-Stud.  Each of us had our own table rules from home games in which we played. At first, there were many disputes.  Finally, we agreed upon our own set of guidelines. Winning or losing fifty bucks was a good or bad night.

The end of that summer sent Doc off to medical school and me back to Rutgers. Indeed, it is not so much the job at Lake Mohegan I recall.  I hardly remember whether I won or lost at Poker. What I think of most–and fondly so–is Doc.

Epilogue: I have not spoken to Doc in more than twenty-five years.  Through the internet, I have located him. Just today, February 12, 2010, I called the only number I could find for him. Bravo! We spoke and plan to meet.  

Hats and Bombs

The same player who brought the games Splits and Tits to our weekly games, came across this game (maybe patent-pending?) while trying to patent one of his games.  Though all of us have probably played games similar to this, this one is unique.  However, like other games of this ilk, it is almost impossible to have a made-hand until the final cards are revealed.  So, in many ways, it is a sucker’s game; then, again, aren’t we all suckers–at times.  One advantage of this game is that it can be played by up to ten players. There are always suggestions for other names for this game, but the official name, we were told, is Hats and Bombs.

Here is Hats and Bombs.


Each player receives four cards face-down.  As in Omaha, player must use only two cards of the four.
There is a round of betting.
Nine community cards are then placed in the center of the table. Cards are arranged in three sets of three cards and turned face-up.
                                                                 AAA    BBB    CCC    (The Hats)  
There is a round of betting.
Three community cards are then placed face-up, below the nine cards.
                                                                    D          E          F     (The Bombs)
There is a final round of betting. 
By using two cards in your hand, plus two  of the three cards from either A or B or C plus one card from D or E or F, you form your best five-card Poker hand. Note, you may not combine any cards from A with any cards from B or C, etc.  You must use only two A cards or two B cards or two C cards with any one of the three D, E, or F cards. As an example, your hand could consist of two of your original four cards, plus any two C cards plus the D card. You may use one such combination for high and another such combination for low, or, in some rare instances, the same combination for both.
That’s it.  Best high poker hand and best low (8 or better) hand split pot.
GAME: Hats and Bombs

Tillie Is Back

Fact or Fiction?

Matilda Jules married Jack Rose when she was still in her early twenties. He was at least thirty years her senior. He was “connected” and his bookie operation must have been sanctioned by some branch of the mob. Tillie did not talk too much about him. When I met Tillie, Jack had been deceased for thirty years or more. I always assumed that the mob just decided to ignore Tillie as some homage to Jack. The only contact she had with Jack’s family was with some brother of his who, I understood, worked at The Stardust in Las Vegas. I do know that she checked some betting lines with him and on occasion laid-off some bets through him.

Tillie Rose shopped all the major department stores. Most of what she purchased, she returned. As I found out, it wasn’t the merchandise Tillie wanted as much as it was the boxes in which the goods were packed. She used a new box almost everyday. You know the boxes I mean. They are about 18” to 24” wide, 12” to 18” high, and usually not more than 6” to 10” deep. Most stores placed some twine around the box and attached to the twine a metal handle that was usually covered in wood that was wrapped around the metal handle. Tillie coveted these boxes. It was on these boxes that Tillie transferred from her scratch pads, the actual dollars she needed to collect or payout on a given day. On the exterior of these boxes she would just scrawl the information she needed and prance around town like a shopper on parade. She converted all her customers’ names to some codes. The only ones I knew were mine, “D16,” and that of a friend of mine named Leo, who was just “9.” She had some lettering system that signified dollar amounts.

Tillie would walk the streets of New York City with some department-store box that probably contained a towel or some old sweater. When she was done with her monetary chores, she returned home, removed whatever was in the box, and tossed the box down the incinerator chute. I assume the handles and twine went down the chute as well. Each week, thousands of dollars went to or from Tillie as she went on her “route,” totting her Bonwit’s or Bergdorf’s box.

Starting in September and running through mid-May, Tillie hosted an action-packed, Seven-Stud, hi-lo, declare, Poker game every Saturday afternoon from 1:00 to around 6:00. Because there was also a replace card after the seventh card was dealt to each player, and then there was a betting round after the declare, the game was slow-paced–nonetheless, action-packed.

Her entry foyer and living room were furnished as though she had a garden in mind, decorated in sunny hues with rose and peach flowers, reminiscent of fields of wild flowers. Each piece of furniture appeared to have not only style, but purpose. In comparison, the room in which we played Poker was sparse. One of her two bedrooms was not a bedroom at all. It had a huge diningroom table against one wall. There were a few chairs at the table. On the table were three telephones and many, many note pads, newspapers, scattered pieces of paper, and a radio that looked to be from the 1940’s. Against another wall was a Victorian couch covered with so many cushions and pillows of all different sizes that there was really no room to sit. There were no mirrors, just a few elaborately framed garden scenes that seemed to be outcasts from the rest of her apartment. The center-piece of the bedroom was the octagonal poker table and eight chairs.

I changed my Saturday work schedule. I would open the store at 7:00 A. M. and work to a little past lunch crush (not so hectic on Saturdays). I would return to work my store from 7:00 at night until closing at 1:00 A. M. She had some simple, triangular tea-sandwiches for us and had non-alcoholic beverages available. There was usually six or seven us, plus Tillie. Occasionally, there was another woman, but usually there were just the same six or seven guys and Tillie.

We played with cash on the table. The stakes were $5-$10, which, in those days, was considered more than just a run-of-the-mill Poker game. The first player, other than the dealer, to be out of the hand was required to count the bills and stack them to simplify the splitting of the pot. We all started with about $400 on the table and added more if we started to take some big hits. Tillie was one of the sharper players at the game. She always bet her hand and occasionally pulled-off a very credible bluff. Tillie had Celia come in to work on Saturday afternoons. If the phone rang, Celia took the call in another room. I assume Celia was able to take any phone action that came in while we were playing.

While we were in the midst of a hand, one Saturday, sometime just after the first of the year, the doorbell rang. We were not expecting another player. The doorman, Dale, had not called-up to announce a visitor. Celia assumed it was a neighbor at the door and opened it.

In walked three men. Two were dressed in street clothes; the third, in a police uniform. In almost a polite tone, we were told to leave our money where it was. It was “suggested” that it would be best if we just left. There were no guns drawn, just badges shown. Celia and Tillie remained.

Celia told one of the other players that she was questioned as a material witness. She never told him what happened to the money we left behind. It appeared that either the mob or the authorities wanted Tillie out of the bookie business. Tillie was taking so much action that she was becoming not only a nuisance to the police, but real competition for the mob. Ironically, it was for running the Poker game for which Tillie was busted. I don’t believe Tillie served any jail time. Soon after the arrest incident, building management requested that she move out of the building. I never saw Tillie again.

What’s Phil To Do?

Quarterly, Phil has been hosting no-limit Hold ‘Em tournaments at his house for the last three years. He manages to squeeze  two, nine-player poker tables into his basement rec room . His tournaments are popular.  He has no trouble getting players to pony-up $300 each for participation, receiving $1,500 in tournament chips. In addition, each player pays $20 for refreshment and tourney management. Phil does not play. When tourney gets down to three or four players, Phil usually deals. As players are eliminated, they wait for others to join them, so they can start a cash game when one table frees-up. Phil has a yappy, five-year old Beagle he purposely named Ranch,  just so that every-so-often, when he is in a game at his house and has a great hand,  he can jokingly use the expression, “I bet the Ranch” and call his dog to the table.

The payouts are 1st place, $2,700 ; 2nd, $1,350;  3rd,  $900 ; 4th, $450. The tourney table is down to three players:   Tim, the small blind, in the 1 seat with $10,240;  Don, the big blind, in the 5 seat  with $10,880; and Ray in the 6 seat with $2,880.   Ranch is yapping as two parting players leave and slam the door. Phil is mediating a  ruckus going on at the cash game. Seth, who finished 4th, sits-in to deal the tourney for Phil. Seth makes an aside statement to Tim, that with the blinds still being so low and with two players having the bulk of chips almost evenly distributed between them combined with the constant bickering at the cash game, he could be stuck dealing for a long time. To Seth, Tim responds, “If I go all-in most of the time, it might speed things up.”  Hearing Tim say, “All-in,” Don says, “I call.” Ray folds, mucking his cards.

Tim says that he did not go all-in and that he was just chatting with Seth. Seth, who heard most of what Tim said to him, agreed.  Don insisted that since the action was to Tim, Tim was bound by his commitment. Furthermore, Ray also thought he heard Tim say that he was all-in.

For sure, at any casino cardroom, with the action on Tim, his statement–intentional or unintentional– would be construed as a commitment. Players at casinos are bound by actions. Players could say things like, “I think I’ll go all-in…” and a few seconds later “…but not now.” Players could test reactions of other players.  That being said, Phil needs to make a decision. This is a house game and house guidelines, whatever they are, need to be in effect.  For sure, if there were only two players left, Phil’s decision would be simpler. However, the decision also drastically effects Ray.

What Do You Think?

At a casino cardroom,  the game is No Limit Hold ‘Em. It is head-to-head action.  The river card, a four, has just been shown. The board shows king, five, jack, queen, four. The action is to Fred  in seat 2.  Will is in seat 9.  Fred says “I’m all-in.” Fred concentrates on pushing-in all his $340 in $5-chips.  Hearing Will say “me too,”  Fred exposes his king-queen hand, revealing the top two pair, kings and queens. Will (holding king-jack) sees Fred expose his king-queen and just sits there, making no action. Fred waits. Ginny, in seat 8, gets up from the table. Will is about to muck his cards. The dealer instructs Will, who has about $600 in chips in front of him, to match the $340. Will insists that he was about to get up and join Ginny for a cigarette. Will claims he was saying “me too” to Ginny, who, he claims, said to him, “I’m going out for a smoke.” WHAT DO YOU THINK?

more TILLY

 Fact or Fiction?

In her daily comings-and-goings, Tilly was a fastidious dresser. Socially, she was more flamboyant in her attire. Even when walking her yappy, Mini-Pin (Miniature Pinscher), whose name I believe was Minnie (maybe Mini)–maybe Millie, or something like that. Tilly would strut through John Jay Park as though she was about to leave for lunch with the “girls” at the Oak Room. Tilly wore “yellows” a lot of the time. I remember one outfit especially–a light-yellow suit with black and white piping bordering the collar and pockets. She wore this suit with a silk-like white blouse with huge white ruffles that flowed through the suit collar and lapels. In the winter she would parade around in her Persian lamb coat and matching Cossack-like hat. She never transacted “business” (taking wagers or paying-off winners or collecting payments from losers) on her dog walks. Literally, she did not like to shit where she eats, living about eight blocks away from John Jay Park. She lived at the corner of East End Avenue and 89th Street, opposite Gracie Mansion.

Coincidentally, I lived in the same building. Tilly’s 8th floor, corner-apartment had a view that over-looked Gracie Mansion, the East River, and Manhattan points north. Ironically, I don’t remember on what floor I lived. I know it was not on the same floor as Tilly. I must have lived on a few floors or more below her, because I first met her in the elevator, as she was going down and I was getting-on. Did my one-bedroom apartment over-look the East River too? I know I did not live in a corner apartment. I am just not sure of the view from my bedroom or living room.

I do remember furnishing my apartment with great care, especially the living room. Oriental-style, floor-to-ceiling sliding-panel screens served as curtains. The opaque screens allowed sunlight to reflect throughout the room. In one corner there was a free-standing bar. In another corner there was an over-sized mattress completely encased in fluffy, yet silky-smooth vicuna. On a wall behind the couch was a huge oil painting, painted by a friend of a friend. This huge oil was of heavy white blotches with swathes of pink and was often referred to as my pink vomit painting. The bedroom was huge enough to accommodate two double-beds. Oh yes, the bathroom! I almost forgot about that room. I wall-papered the entire bathroom with pages and pages of A. E. Housman’s poetry.

The building in which we both lived had many amenities–no gym, in those days–including an on-premises Chinese restaurant and bar. Tilly took full advantage of the restaurant. She would call there at least twice a week and have meals delivered upstairs. If her meals were not delivered from there, then they would arrive from a nearby deli. If she was entertaining, she had more elaborate dinners delivered by cab from restaurants like Pen and Pencil and Lindy’s. Tilly made no pretenses. She disliked cooking and hated after-preparation clean-ups. I enjoyed the Chinese restaurant as well. Not only was it convenient, but the food was more than adequate. Best, was having a bar right in the building. I could leave the car in the building’s garage, not worrying if I stumbled out of the bar.

Tilly did not frequent bars. Now and then, on special occasions, she would have a glass of Champagne. She needed to have her wits about her at all times. Skirting the law and being on top of her game were full-time jobs. There were no OTB’s back then. Off-track-betting came to New York in 1971. Up until that time, if you wanted to bet on a horse, you had to travel to Belmont, or Aqueduct, or Mammoth. If you really needed the action, you might be so desperate as to go at night to Yonkers or Roosevelt for harness racing. (We all thought the trotters were fixed. If we went to the trotters it was usually because someone suggested that he had some inside info on one of the races.) In new York City, if you said you were going to the races, certainly, nobody assumed you were going to watch “auto racing.”

Tilly did not take $2 action. To place a bet on the ponies through Tilly, you had to wager a minimum of $20 on either Win, Place, or Show or a minimum of $30 Across-the-Board. If you wanted Daily-Double, or Quinella, or Trifecta action, you would not call Tilly. She did not want to waste her phone time and tie-up her phones with small-time gamblers. She specialized in sports betting.

No ESPN then! If you wanted to watch a game, you usually went to the game or listened on the radio. TV games were getting viewer-ship, but most broadcasts were just of local games. Going back a little bit, I remember listening to New York Giants baseball games on the radio when away games were recreated via ticker-tape to the local announcers who would simulate the games. The game of baseball was so different then. Local stars were guys like Ernie Lombardi who was a catcher for the Giants. Indeed, he was a power hitter. It was seeing him run the bases, though, that was the show. He could smash a ball into far left field at the Polo Grounds and be thrown-out at first base. It was said that he was the slowest man to ever play baseball well.

Since my loveable Giants and detestable Dodgers deserted New York in 1957 and 1958, most of the baseball betting was on the Yankees. The true money-players waited to bet on any team with a streak of five or more wins. The Mets did not play their first season until 1962. I remember their first season, oh so well. I had two season tickets at third base just behind the railing. It was like being part of every infield play (better put, mis-play) at the Polo Grounds. This Mets team set the record for losses with a season record of 40 and 112, finishing over 60 games out of first place. The season was more than exciting though, especially watching the phumphering of the third baseman Felix Mantilla or his occasional back-ups, Don Zimmer or Charlie Neal.

Local football betting was strictly on the NFL’s Giants. The Dodgers did not arrive until 1960. As for basketball, the Nets did not play in the NBA until 1976. Sports betting on college basketball brought lots of action. The success of CCNY, Manhattan College, St. Johns, and LIU lured fans and bettors. The 32-college scandal of 1951 left many scars, but did not hinder college-hoops betting in later years. To get the whole scoop on these scandals, check-out http://espn.go.com/classic/s/basketball_scandals_explosion.html.


The Knicks, the Rangers, and the popularity of boxing combined with all the other teams and sports made for great betting fodder. Tilly was a very busy lady. Action was hard to come by. If you wanted an action Poker game, you had to seek out some clandestine card rooms, most a little sleazy. Poker games flourished after-hours in office buildings and in the backrooms of many stores. Home Poker games abounded. Atlantic City did not become a legalized gambling Mecca until 1976, but Tilly knew where all the action was.

To be continued……………

Super Spit

I created it on the fly about three weeks ago at one of the games at which I occasionally play.  The players at this game always played a game they called Spit. “Spit” is just another term for common card, also known as community card. The original game the players dealt and called Spit, per se, got plenty of action and would have received six or seven Å‘s had Super Spit not come along. In comparison, the pots that Super Spit develop are 20% or 30% larger than the Spit pots were. The game is played as a hi-lo, declare game. The game is simple to deal and fun to play.  We play the game with nine players and have not run into the need to use mucked cards, since not all players call to the final round. 

Basically, the game is a Five-Card Stud game with a common and most likely a second common card. In addition, there is a replacement card after all players have each received their own five cards.


Initially, each player receives one card face down and one card face up (as in Five-Card Stud). After each player has received the two initial cards, one common card is placed face-up in the center of the table.  There is a round of betting.

If and when the first pair appears in any player’s face cards or with any player’s face card and initial common card, another common card will is placed in the center of the table. [If a pair happens to appear on the original flop (if the common card matches any of the players’ up-cards), the additional spit card will be opened after the initial round of betting and after the next up card is dealt to each player.] If during the course of the game, the first pair to show appears after the initial round of betting, the second spit card is opened before the betting commences for that round .  (Seeing all this in print makes all this seem much more complex than it is.) Note: There are never more than two spit cards.  Sometimes, (rarely) no pairs appear on the table, and there is only the one original spit card.  Therefore, this game is actually Five-Card Stud with two spit cards; sometimes (again, rarely), Five-Card Stud with one spit card.

To recap, each player receives one card face down; one card face up. A common card is placed in the center of the table. There is a round of betting. Each remaining player receives a second  face card.  If the original common card “paired” at least one player’s original face card, a second and final spit card appears at this time. If  the initial common card did not pair any of the players’ initial  face cards and, in fact, none of the second up-cards paired any player’s original face card or matched the original common card, a second round of betting occurs. However, if any player’s face cards “paired” (by matching original face card or matching original common card), a second and final “spit” card is turned face-up in the center of the table, and, then, the second betting round starts. The final up-card is dealt to each player. If prior to this final up-card no pair appeared, an initial pair may yet appear on this round.  If so, a the final and second spit card will appear.  Otherwise, there is no chance for a second common card.  There is a round of betting.

Each remaining player then receives a final hole-card and now has five cards in all–two down, three up. There will either be one or two common cards.  Players may use both cards (or if only one common, just the one) as part of their hands. Then, each player, in turn, has an option to replace any of his or her five cards–an up-card for an up-card or a down-card for a down-card.

After replacements have been completed, there is a round of betting. Then, there is declaration–high or low. In some games, there is a round of betting again–after the declare. Pot is split between best high hand and best low hand. If all players declared in the same direction, there may possibly be just one winner. If any player opts to “swing,” that player may possibly take the entire pot, provided his or her high and low hands are both the best hands available. If  “swing” player loses in either direction, she or he gets no part of pot. 


GAME: Super Spit (AKA Double Spit)
As soon as I can figure-out how to describe this game in fewer words, I will revise this cumbersome explanation.


Fact or Fiction?

Tilly had clients throughout New York City. Tilly was not your typical bookie.Tilly did not report to the mob; did not appear to have a boss.

Back in the 1940’s and 50’s the numbers racket, also known as a policy-game, was a major source of income for crime syndicates. (The reference to policy was from a similarity to cheap insurance.) People from all walks of life (especially lower-income folks) would select their favorite three-digit numbers and place their bets with their bookie, also known as a numbers-runner. The winning numbers would be selected in some random manner; like the last three digits of the total wagered that day at a given track, and published in the daily newspaper along with the daily horse-race results. The following day, those who correctly selected the winning numbers would receive their winnings from the numbers runner. Of course, all this was quite illegal at the time; nonetheless, widespread. The policy racket or playing-the-numbers was really just an illegal version of today’s state lotteries currently played legally throughout the nation. Numbers players placed their bets with their local bookie, usually a tavern or candy store that served as a betting parlor. A runner would then ferry the money and betting slips between the betting parlor and the syndicate’s headquarters, also referred to then as numbers banks or policy banks.

For the record, the candy store of that era was not the boutique-like candy store we know today. These candy stores did not sell fancy Gummy Bears and Godiva Chocolates and over-priced fudge. These candy stores were neighborhood Meccas. The kids all hung-out around these stores, many kids occupying the few seats at the soda fountains. In addition to some candy and pretzels; cigars, cigarettes, and tobacco products dominated the inventory. Many of these candy stores rented books for pennies a day. They all sold comic books, magazines, and newspapers. It was the newspapers that drew many adults to the candy stores. Customers would come late in the day to purchase the “evening” edition to see how their stocks had performed that day, or they would show up first thing in the morning to see if they hit yesterday’s number. (Some numbers players couldn’t wait for the morning and would rush to buy the next-day’s early edition newspaper, on the newsstands sometime after eight or nine o’clock the night before.) Ah, the advantages, in those days, of living in a big city with many newspapers!

I digressed. As for bookmaking, remember Dutch Schultz (a real-life criminal figure featured in so many bad-guy movies). Back in the 1920’s, his policy operation was extremely profitable. With actual odds of winning at almost 1,000 to 1, his pay-off was based at 600 to 1. It was rumored that his daily take was in excess of $30,000. Usually no more than 25 percent was distributed to winners. Schultz needed the huge vig to cover protection payoffs to both law enforcement and politicians. With betting at pennies per wager, the betting action was pervasive. Betting was truly considered penny-ante during prohibition years, but with the demise of Prohibition in the early 1930’s, organized crime depended more and more on the lucrative income from playing-the-numbers.

Some of the heaviest numbers-action during the 1920’s came from Harlem. There, one of the major bookies was Stephanie St. Clair, a black woman known as the “Policy Queen of Harlem.” Stephanie St. Clair booked all her own action and answered to no one.

Tilly was not black, nor did she deal in petty, numbers betting. The major action Tilly booked in the 1950’s and 1960’s made Stephanie’s take miniscule in comparison. Like Stephanie, Tilly was way ahead of her time. A bookie not controlled by some crime syndicate was a rare commodity. A bookie who was a woman was even rarer. To be both was almost inconceivable.

Tilly’s bookmaking was transacted strictly on the telephone. She took most of the calls herself. Now and again she would trust her phone line to Celia, who was both her house-cleaner and confidante. On a shiny, long mahogany dining room table, Tilly had three separate telephones with three different phone numbers. There were no hold buttons on her phones. Sometimes, she would ask you to hold-on while she took another call. One caller could hear her chit-chatting with another caller on the other phone–sometimes with another bettor; sometimes with her hairdresser calling her back to confirm an appointment.

It was Tilly’s personal touch that made her so successful. Her clientele loved her. Her customer base expanded by word-of-mouth. She did not use heavy-handed collection tactics. If you were late in paying, she accepted your excuse and waited for you to have the funds. She was well aware that cutting-off one’s betting action would only cause her loyal customer to go elsewhere. If, after a reasonable period of time–“reasonable” was what Tilly deemed to be reasonable–the stiff made no attempt to decrease the debt, the client would be unduly harassed. Tilly would show up at the customer’s workplace and start loud conversations drawing unwanted attention and definite embarrassment. Sometimes Tilly showed up at a guy’s house, even before he arrived home from work. There she would be, sipping tea with the wife. Stories of Tilly’s unorthodox collection methods were legendary. Trust me. You did not want to stiff Tilly Rose.

……………To be continued.