"Did you bring your rattlesnakes?" KC asks with a giggle as she deals the first hand of the night. She's been dealing for the Denver Poker Tour since she left Amateur Poker Tour after the company failed to pay her, and she relishes the gossip. Having met Herb Beck, she says a tiny part of her wanted to cheer him on when she heard about the plot to murder APT partner Matt Sowash with rattlesnakes.
On Wednesdays, KC and Leif deal the 7 p.m. game at the Breakers — a gated community near Mississippi and Leetsdale with its own bar that opens onto a poolside patio. Tonight the bar holds two poker tables, each with eleven players; twelve more would-be players, all in their twenties or thirties, are on the waiting list.
On TV, serious poker players stick to water. Lucky for Breakers and other bars that host these games, free poker players tend not to take themselves too seriously. With a few stone-faced exceptions, most players come to have a good time, which means the bars make money. Tonight, the beer is flowing and players don't wait for a break to get a refill or step outside for a smoke. The clicking of players fingering their chips is almost drowned out by laughter and conversation.
In Texas Hold 'em, each player is dealt two cards face down, and then they bet. Then three communal cards, the flop, are dealt, with another round of betting. A fourth communal card, called Fourth Street, or the turn, is dealt, with another round. And finally one last card — Fifth Street, or the river – is dealt, with a last round of betting.
When KC reveals the flop, flipping the cards in one fluid motion — a six, a four, a king — regular player OT jumps out of his chair and starts cheering.
"Yes!" he yells. "Finally, a six! I had two pocket pairs in a row."
His opponents shake their heads. This is classic OT: Sometimes he's bluffing, but he often likes telling the table what he really has.
OT goes all in with $412.
KC deals Fourth Street, a three.
Everyone folds except for a skinny girl in glasses who calls OT's bet.
KC deals Fifth Street, a six. The table erupts.
The girl flips her cards. Pocket nines.
OT does the same. No six. It was a bluff, kinda. But he had pocket fours, so he wins the hand with three of a kind.
"Why'd you call?" he asks the girl as KC slides the pile of chips toward him.
"Because half the time you're bullshit!"
KC says that OT's initials stand for Only Trouble.
"Only Talk," he corrects her.
OT's show makes everyone more animated, with the winners of every hand doing little dances or shouting "Yahoo!"
Sarah is already on a winning streak when she's dealt "the devil" — pocket sixes. With no cards showing, Mack bets $300 and another player goes all in with $1,875. Sarah wants all in, too. She pushes her pile of chips in the middle for KC to count: $2,425. When Mack calls her bet, half the players jump to their feet.
KC flips a six on the flop, and Sarah screams. She's just won $6,725 in one hand. Too bad it's fake money. But if she can keep this up for another couple of hours, she may have a shot at a $25 bar tab — the night's grand prize.
Over the next several hands, everybody folds but OT and Sarah as they keep showing each other their cards pre-Fourth Street, sometimes even pre-flop.
"Are you guys playing like pussies over here, turning over cards and shit?" a spectator asks.
"It's fucking retarded," says Jeff, who prefers underground money games when he has the time and can find one.
KC calls for a break. Outside, Jeff starts complaining about OT. KC tells him that she thinks OT could be a good player if he had a little patience. Jeff shakes his head and says he wants to lose so that he can leave.
Back inside, he stays in every hand and bets big against OT, rolling his eyes through most of the table talk. "Darn, I'm out," he says when he loses his last chips. He's out the door in a matter of seconds and doesn't get to see OT's change in luck.
"This is not poker, OT," Sarah says. But once OT starts playing straight, he loses every hand.