I saw the ad for Big Denny’s Barstow Card Casino, but I didn’t believe it. “Big Denny Invites You to a Super Hold’em Tournament,” the headline read. The buy-in was $300, there were no rebuys, the prize pool was a guaranteed $50,000, and the Sbobet88 tournament was limited to a maximum of 10 tables! (All of this was on top of a $100,000 jackpot.)
It didn’t take an Albert J. Einstein to figure out that there was an enormous overlay here. Also, since Big Denny was behind this promotion, it didn’t take an Einstein to figure out that there probably was something fishy going on as well. After all, this was the man who invented the 50/50 guarantee for his used car lot — 50 feet or 50 seconds, whichever came first.
So, I called Denny at the casino to check things out. “Is this on the level, big guy?” I asked point-blank. The voice on the other end sounded hurt. “Gosh, Maxey, don’t you trust me?”
Some choice I had. I could either lie or respond honestly and risk major structural damage to my head the next time we met. So, I evaded his question and instead pointed out that 10 tables wouldn’t cover much more than half of the $50,000 guarantee. “Won’t you lose an awful lot of money on this?”
“Aw, we don’t care, Maxey. Ain’t you never heard of public relations?”
It was not a very satisfactory answer. To Big Denny, public relations meant leaving a customer with enough gas money to get home (provided the customer lived within six miles and drove a motor scooter). However, the ad was in Card Player, which never would accept misleading advertising, so it had to be on the up and up, didn’t it?
Still not entirely convinced, I made the boring drive from Los Angeles to Barstow. There were a lot of cars in the casino parking lot. Gee, I thought, with only 10 tables, I hope I don’t get shut out.
Once inside, Big Denny assured me there was still room. He took my $300 plus entry fee and told me to draw for my seat. I pulled a slip of paper from a bowl. It read, “Table No. 9, seat jack of clubs.”
An alarm went off in my head. “What’s this ‘seat jack of clubs’ business?” I asked warily. “Why not a number? Where’s the tournament room? I want to check this out.”
Big Denny slapped me on the back with numbing force. “Just a gimmick,” he chuckled. “Tournament room ain’t open yet. Help yerself to our four-star buffet.”
The “four-star buffet” offered mushy vegetables that the harvesting tractor had run over, and lumps of unidentified brown meat floating in congealing puddles of grease. Players stared in stupefied horror at these offerings, but none had dared put any of it on their plate. I had expected as much from the Barstow Card Casino. What really worried me was the number of tournament players milling about. It seemed like a lot more than 10 tables worth. I began to take a head count, but was interrupted by the booming voice of Big Denny calling everyone to the tournament room.
As the players walked into the room, they stopped short and began shouting and cursing. Pushing my way inside, I discovered the source of the commotion. The hold’em tables measured at least 25 feet in diameter, and I counted 30 chairs crammed together around each one!
Yelling and shaking their fists, but being careful not to get too close, a ring of furious players surrounded Big Denny. He pretended to be baffled by the uproar.
“Hey, you guys, the ad said ‘Super Hold’em,'” he patiently explained. “And them tables is ‘Super Hold’em’ tables.”
“There aren’t enough cards in a deck for 30 players,” someone complained, stating the obvious.
“We’s usin’ two decks,” Big Denny replied logically. “Any more questions?”
There was a moment of silence among the players as they realized the enormity of what they had gotten into. “What’s it take to win that $100,000 jackpot?” someone finally asked.
“Easy,” Big Denny responded. “Seven kings beaten by seven aces.”
“We been cheated!” several players screamed. “We want our money back!”
Big Denny shook his head in disgust. “Ain’t none of you dumbbells read the fine print in the ad? Right here. It says, ‘Absolutely no refunds.'”
Nobody could read it until someone located a magnifying glass and discovered that the disclaimer was in 4-point type and written in Chinese.
At this, several players bolted for the exit, only to discover that the doors had been locked (for their “protection”). Big Denny’s patience, limited in the best of times, was exhausted. “I’ve heard enough outta you clowns!” he bellowed. “Shuffle up and deal.”
Muttering and grumbling, the players docilely found their seats. It wasn’t much of a tournament. Nobody could figure out the strategy for a two-deck game, much less read the board from such great distances. Mercifully, the blinds were raised every 10 minutes and Big Denny’s Super Hold’em tournament was over in less than two hours. The confused winners were then informed that a 20 percent “service charge” had been withheld as tips for the dealers and floorpersons. “Jest like in high-class restaurants,” Big Denny explained. The winners were too dazed to complain.
The ordeal was not yet over. Big Denny announced that the keys to the locked doors had been misplaced, and he invited players to participate in the side games until they were found. Five hours later, the keys were “located,” and the players, bladders bursting and lungs saturated with smoke from the unventilated room, prepared to dash out — but not before Big Denny made one final announcement.
“Don’t forget ter come back next week,” he beamed. “We’re gonna play four-deck Super Omaha.”