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Denny Gives… And then Takes Back

by Max Shapiro |  Published: Jan 25, 2012


Max Shapiro“Hey, Maxey, ya knows any good revolutions?”

Well, here we go again. Once again I found myself in Big Denny’s Barstow Card Casino, and once again I found myself caught up in yet another stupid conversation with this dumb gorilla. “Well,” I replied, “there’s the American Revolution, the Russian Revolution, the…”

“Nah, nah, I ain’t talkin’ about dat kinda junk. I means New Year’s revolutions. Ya knows, nice t’ings I oughta promise myself ta do dis year.”

Oh, resolutions. Well, where could I begin? Tell him to run honest games, get rid of all his thug dealers, tell his guards not to steal customers’ car radios, maybe even vacuum his dump casino once in a while? I knew all those suggestions would be a waste of time, but then I had an idea.

“Have you ever thought of running a charity tournament, Denny?”

The big ape scratched his head. Charity tournament? What’s dat?”

I explained that charity poker tournaments were a huge and growing endeavor, that just about every casino now stages them, with various organizations, notably “Poker Gives,” offering to help arrange them.

Is dat a good way ta make some dough?”

“No, no,” I sighed. You’re not supposed to make money at such events. All the proceeds go to some good cause you pick out.”

“Ya expect me ta go troo all dat trouble, puttin’ on a tournament an’ getting’ nuttin’ outta it? What’s da point, Maxey?”

“Well, for one thing, you’d be doing something decent for a change. You’d be helping some worthwhile cause, bringing good will to the casino…” I could see Denny yawning. I knew I needed a better hook, and then I thought of one. “You’d also be bringing in a lot of potential customers for the first time.”

That did it. I had Denny’s attention, and we began discussing various possible causes.
“Maybe we could just give da money to da cops,” he suggested. “Den dey might stop raidin’ da joint so much.”

I pointed out that the police department was not a legitimate charity. After some go-around, I finally went along with Big Denny’s idea of donating the proceeds to the homeless residents of Barstow. That seemed quite appropriate, since the Barstow Card Casino was the main reason there were so many homeless people in the area in the first place.

After a lot of discussion, the details were finally worked out. The event would be called “Denny Donates,” It would be a $50 buy-in event, with rebuys the first four hours, and with half of the prize pool going to the players, 45 percent to the homeless and 5 percent to me for coming up with the idea. The dealers would be warned that since this was a charity event, they would not be allowed to steal chips out of the pot (or at least not too many).

A date was set, press releases were sent out, notices were posted all over town, and the big day arrived. A handful of local farmers showed up, along with a number of gullible out-of-towners who, being unfamiliar with Big Denny, assumed this would be a legitimate charity tournament. They learned otherwise when this story appeared the next day on the front page of the Barstow Bugle.

Riot Breaks Out at Barstow Card Casino Following Alleged ‘Charity’ Tournament

Barstow, CA — It was business as usual yesterday at Big Denny’s Barstow Card Casino, when bedlam broke out, this time over a supposed charity tournament called “Denny Donates.” A more appropriate title for the event would have been “Denny Defrauds.”

It was advertised as a $50 rebuy event with half the prize money to go to the Barstow Homeless Shelter. Mutters of surprise and discontent began breaking out when players discovered that they started with only $100 in chips, with blinds of $5-$10, five-minute rounds, and limits jumping skywards from there. Players immediately began going broke, but every time one of them attempted to get up and leave, Big Denny would come over and push him back in his chair.

“Don’t ya know dis is a charity tournament, ya cheap bum?” he would bark. “Ya better rebuy or else!”

Things began to get worse when players realized that every time someone went all in, invariably he would lose all his chips, even holding pocket aces against a deuce-seven, and then would be forced to rebuy. Players claiming they had no more cash were promptly marched by a guard to an ATM machine. The exception to this rule seemed to involve the several off-duty dealers playing the event, whose stacks kept steadily rising.

Then, when a busted-out player was finally allowed to leave, he first had to get past a stern-looking guard at the door holding a sign reading, “Donations accepted.”

Things came to a climax when the tournament ended, results were posted, and any first-grader could figure out that the number of entrants, rebuys and total prize pool all were obviously just a small fraction of what they should have been. Rebellion erupted, with the players demanding their money back. Just as they began descending on Big Denny, the fire alarm sounded and the guards threw the mob out of the casino.

The final sum to be donated to the Barstow Homeless Shelter has yet to be determined, and city authorities have promised that a full investigation of the tournament will be instigated.

Just what I should have expected. Even worse, I later checked around and discovered that there is no such place as the Barstow Homeless Shelter. Well, what else is new? Charity may begin at home, but with Big Denny, it also ends at his home. Oh, and in case you were one of those playing in that tournament, I wouldn’t recommend trying to claim your buy-ins as charitable deductions. ♠

Max Shapiro, a lifelong poker player and former newspaper reporter with several writing awards to his credit, has been writing a humor column for Card Player ever since it was launched more than 20 years ago. His early columns were collected in his book, Read ’em and Laugh.