Drawing Dead: A Poker ligaz11 Cop Mystery




By now you’ve seen the headline: Vegas Poker Room Massacre! Looked at the pictures of the dead lying around the poker table. Read the story about the losing player who went berserk and killed two other players before being killed himself. The problem is the pictures weren’t worth a thousand words and no one got the story right. So I’m going to tell you the true story of the Drawing Dead Murders. It’s about a poker player we called The Little Guppy and why he was shot to death at the Midnight Game, the Majestic Casino’s Saturday Night $500-$1000 Limit Hold’em Game. Every detail of his death, and the investigation that followed, is exact. I should know. I’m the one who killed him.


In old-time wise-guy Vegas, whether you played your poker in a Glitter Gulch sawdust joint or a Strip carpet joint, there was always a Poker Goon watching. The Goons were oversized enforcers with saps in their pockets and guns in their waistbands whose job it was to deal out street justice. Cheat another player – the Goon would take you into the back alley. Steal from the poker room – the Goon would take you down to the basement. Pull out a gun in the poker room – the Goon would shoot you dead on the spot.


That Vegas is long gone. Street justice has been replaced by due process. The old-time poker joints have been replaced by modern up-scale poker rooms: The Bellagio. The Mirage. The Majestic. The Poker Goons have been replaced by Poker Cops. My name is Talbot. I’m Chief of Poker Room Security, the Poker Cop, at the Las Vegas Majestic Hotel & Casino. My job is to make sure that the Small Fish ($2-$4 Minnows, $3-$6 Guppies), who swim in, cash in hand, and the Big Fish ($30-$60 Sharks, $50-$100 Piranha) who swim out with most of that cash – minus the Room’s Rake – cause no trouble.


I don’t have to go looking for trouble. Trouble knows where I live. The night I killed the Little Guppy, Joey Rosenberg, the Majestic’s Poker Room Manager, comes up to me looking real worried. Joey never looks worried. I ask, “What’s wrong?”


“Tally,” he tells me, “there’s a Little Guppy, strictly Cheap Seats, trespassing in the Holy Land and spooking the Midnight Game. He’s sitting there glaring, crazy-like, at the other players. He bought in for six racks of purple but he’s not looking at his cards or even playing the game, just paying the blinds and staring. It’s spooky. I want you there if he freaks out.”


Unlike the Cheap Seats, where the checks are blue and red, and the hold’em is friendly no-fold ’em, the Holy Land, the Majestic’s High Stakes ligaz11 Poker Platform, is where the checks are black and purple and the poker is deadly serious. The Midnight Game, named for its start time, is where the Majestic Poker Room holds its Saturday Night $500-$1000 Limit Hold’em Game. I follow Joey up into the Holy Land. He points out the Little Guppy. White male, 50ish, in the #8 seat, looking right and left, back and forth, giving red-eyed angry looks to everyone in the Midnight Game. In front of him sit six racks of purple checks. Joey whispers to me, “The Little Guppy bought in for $250 Grand.” His very practiced ex-dealer eye runs over the racks and stacks, “$245 Thou in front of him.”


I walk over to far left rail and stand just behind the #3 and #4 seats, directly opposite the Little Guppy. For the next couple of hands I watch the him not-play poker. The Little Guppy gets his cards, checks his watch, folds. The other players pretend, not very well, to ignore him. No one wants to stay. The Guppy could be a psycho. No one wants to leave. The Guppy’s giving away money.


The game is ten-handed. These are the players you’ll need to know. In seat #7 is The Judge, retired Clark County Criminal Court Judge Leo Goldenberg, 70-something, he’s a regular in this game, has been for years. In the #8 seat is The Guppy, strictly low-limit, a trespasser at these stakes. In the #9 seat is The I-15 Guy, Cliff Patrick, late 40’s, a winter player in Vegas, summer player in Southern California, plays in the $100-$200 games but I’m not surprised to find him at these stakes. Everybody else in this hand – The Button, The Blinds, The Gun, The Milk Carton, The Lady in Red, Rocket Man – are bit players.


The Small Blind posts $500. The Big Blind $1000. Donny the Dealer delivers two down cards. The Gun calls and the next three players limp in. The Judge raises. The Guppy checks his watch, and without ever looking at his cards, to everyone’s surprise, re-raises. The I-15 Guy makes it three raises. The Button and the Blinds fold. Six players call. The pre-flop pot is over $40,000. Donny the Dealer calls out “Seven players.” Burns a card. Deals out the flop.


Jack Ten K


Check. Check. Check. Check. The Judge calls. The Guppy, without looking, raises. The I-15 Guy re-raises. The Gun folds, as does the Milk Carton. The Lady In Red and Rocket Man call. The Milk Carton folds. The Lady in Red and the I-15 Guy call. The pot is over $60,000. Donny the Dealer calls out “Five players.” The Turn is a




The Lady in Red bets. The Rocket Man calls. The Judge raises. The Guppy, no idea of what cards he holds, re-raises. The I-15 Guy re-re-raises. Everybody calls. The pot is now over $100,000. “Five players,” says Donny, and deals The River.




The Lady in Red checks. The Rocket Man checks. The Judge bets. The Guppy raises. The I-15 Guy hesitates, “Time.” Looks at the Judge. Looks at the Guppy. Thinks it over. Throws his hand into the muck. The Lady in Red shakes her head, folds. The Rocket Man surrenders his cards. Only the Guppy and the Judge are left. They raise and re-raise until the Guppy, who has never once looked at his cards, is out of checks, all-in. I’ve lost count. My best guess is that the pot is up over $600,000.


“Let’s see ’em” says Donny.”


The Judge shows down




Donny the Dealer calls, “Full House. Kings full of Tens,” looks at the Guppy.


The Guppy says nothing. Does nothing.


“Sir, are you folding your hand?” asks Donny. “Sir?”


Nothing. The Guppy just sits there. Donny looks at Joey Rosenberg, who walks over to the Guppy. “Sir. I’ll have to declare your hand dead if you don’t act.”


The Guppy picks up his cards. Looks. Puts them back down in front of him. Says nothing. After a slight hesitation, Joey nods toward the Judge. Donny uses two hands to push the pot toward the Judge, who has leaned forward, arms outstretched to gather in the checks. The Guppy suddenly leans forward, asks the Judge, “Is that enough?”


The Judge turns to the Guppy and says, “It’ll never be enough.”


The Guppy begins to shake. The Judge begins to laugh. The Guppy stands up. Pulls out a revolver. The Judge stops laughing. I go for my Glock. The player in seat #3 jumps up and crashes into me. I am thrown backwards. The Guppy, gun outstretched, says to the Judge, “Never enough? Never enough! Give me back my. . . .”


He never gets to say “Money.” I, having regained my footing, yell, “SECURITY! DROP YOUR GUN! THE GUN. DROP YOUR GUN!” My Glock’s trigger is half-way down.


The Guppy ignores me. His hand, like the rest of him, is now shaking violently. The revolver quivers within an inch of the Judge’s face. Again the Guppy says, “Give me back my. . . .”


“DROP THE GUN!” I yell. “DROP IT, DROP IT NOW!” DROP IT.” My Glock’s trigger is three-quarters down.


The Guppy ignores me. Says to the Judge, “Give me back my. . .”


Suddenly Patrick, the I-15 Guy, leaps up and grabs for the Guppy’s revolver. They struggle. I have no clear shot. The Judge throws himself into the fight. I stand there, gun in hand, helpless. The three of them stand struggling in a writhing mass.


The first gunshot.


The Judge, shot in the chest, falls flat on his back. Landing at my feet.


The second gunshot.


Patrick, shot in the belly, falls to his knees.


The Guppy, now free, turns back towards the Judge, “Give me back. . . .”


I see the revolver muzzle of his revolver’s muzzle. I fire.