Story of the Month: Walking in Memphis

StoryoftheMonth

What follows is the story of five guys who witnessed the intrusion of supernatural forces into the late-night, alcohol-infused descent into madness that so often accompanies underground poker games. Every detail is completely accurate, and no embellishments have been added. I may have been intoxicated at the time and, to be honest, I might be lying outright about any or all of it, so you probably should not assume any of this actually happened . . . although it did.

 Walking in Memphis

by a guest RevPub writer

Among the group were Brody, Jesse, Moe, Paxton, and Ray. Brody was the ring leader of the night’s circus, and he was a true player in more ways than one. His job prepping venues for conventions and trade shows introduced him people at every echelon of society, and he found it easy to connect to all of them. His passion for fast cars and easy women belied his playing style, which was calculated, methodical, and dangerous.

Brody’s cousin, Jesse, was the host for the evening. His well-paying position at an international manufacturer afforded him the ability to purchase his home outright before turning 30. Jesse’s mountain of a truck couldn’t fit in the garage, so he did the only logical thing and turned the garage into a poker palace. Jesse’s play style was laid back. He didn’t waste time bluffing; instead he enjoyed lively conversation and alcohol.

Brody’s other cousin, Moe, had also inherited Brody’s genetic ability to attract the opposite sex. Bored with his ability to pick up a different girl every night, he now thrived on the challenge of picking up big pots off those foolish enough to call his bluffs at the wrong time. His play style was unmistakably aggressive, and he never met a player he couldn’t outplay.

Paxton was Brody’s friend who was enjoying his summer break from college. His appreciation for fast cars mirrored that of Brody’s, so their friendship was inevitable. Paxton’s play style was cautious and precise. He waited for the right set of cards to set check/raise traps that could steal half your chips before you realized you never had a chance. Then there was Brody’s other friend, Ray. Ray and Brody were friends from a previous sales job. Ray was the prototypical salesman, and some of his swagger rubbed off on Brody. Ray was the kind of salesman a company would use to sell sales techniques to sales teams. He didn’t sell things professionally for the money; he enjoyed it for the thrill of bending people to his will to close a deal. It was this thrill that brought him to games where he could bend people into abandoning their cards by convincing them he had better ones. At best, his play style could be described as unorthodox and, at worst, it was pure lunacy. He didn’t let a little thing like a lousy hand stand in his way, and he would often play hands blind. Naturally, this approach frequently caused Ray to go home broke.

It was a warm summer’s night, and the players arrived around 8:00 pm. After an initial round of drinks, playing commenced. Up to this point, the night was unremarkable. The conversation and entertainment proceeded as it had dozens of times before. With the first deal of the cards, however, Ray changed. Outwardly, he was the same confident, charismatic guy who could befriend you before speaking a word.

Looking into his eyes, however, revealed something else present. The game initially progressed with everyone making small talk and playing in his typical manner, except Ray. He wasn’t playing at all. He anted up when it was his turn, but he folded every hand after briefly glancing at his cards. Then, after 30 minutes, it happened. With two others committed preflop, Ray started mumbling. His mumbling slowly grew louder until his words became clear. Ray was singing part of Cher’s version of Walking in Memphis. His words were not as harmonic as Cher’s, but rather rhythmic and soft like a monk’s chant. Ray repeated the same verse, “When I was walking in Memphis . . . walking with my feet 10 feet off the Beale . . . walking in Memphis . . . but do I really feel the way I feel.”

With each of us looking at each other laughing at the musical improvisation, Ray bet one third of his chips. One of the remaining two players folded, and one called with a pocket pair of queens. The following two rounds of betting were minimal. Then, when Ray and Brody showed their hands, it became clear Ray had bet almost 40% of his chips on a terrible hand consisting of 9 and 2 that were not even in the same suit. This was a horrible hand to bet, and especially one with which to bet so heavily. Somehow, he won. The fourth and fifth community cards were a two and a nine, so Ray picked up two pair while Brody’s initially superior pair of pocket queens became useless. It was an interesting way to win a good amount of chips, but this is certainly not the first time a weak hand won despite the odds. After all, the wild swings of Texas Hold’em are what make the game so much fun to play and watch. I’ve had similar wins myself, and it was most likely just a lucky bluff that he beat when called . . . or so I thought.

Two hands later, almost the exact same thing happened. Ray chanted the song’s lyrics with a 7 and 4 off suit and a smaller pot and won with community cards that were not revealed when he initially bet. Then it happened again four hands later. And again. And again. And again. For roughly 45 minutes, Ray won hand after hand with lousy cards after chanting the song. He became the overwhelming chip leader and eliminated two players. Eventually, the remaining two players refused to play against him when he led off singing the song. They folded those hands instead.

Ordinarily, this kind of control over your opponents would be an advantage for Ray. He could have won the tournament by simply singing the song every hand to collect the other players’ antes, which would make him the victor when they ran out of chips. However, Ray played the game for the thrill of the bet. Grinding out a boring win wasn’t really a victory to him, and for some reason, he could not win without singing the song, regardless how strong his cards. It seemed that whatever demonic force Ray channeled to win the unwinnable also damned him to lose that which should have easily been his.

I am not a statistician, but based on my years of experience playing Texas Hold’em, I can say I have never seen a player defy such insurmountable odds so consistently. Ultimately, with his powers lost, Ray was eliminated. Moe then beat Brody to win the tournament and the glory. I’ve only seen Ray a couple times since that night, neither of which playing poker. He apparently stopped playing after that night. He doesn’t talk about his reason for quitting, but we all know it’s because he didn’t like being “touched by an ‘angel.’”

As for me, I still don’t have much better things to do than play poker on Saturday nights. I am smarter about it now. No more suburban houses. I only play where it’s safe, in the back rooms and alleys filled with hustlers and card sharks . . . where people get stabbed for beating someone with a 9, 2 off suit preflop bet and unimaginably terrifying things would happen for singing a Cher song . . . where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.

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