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Playing poker with legends

Nov 18, 2003 2:10 AM

Carol, we have lived in Las Vegas, for a long time now and we have seen the town change over and over again. I am thinking of the old Thunder Bird when it was the Silver Bird and then it was the El Rancho.

Then they blew it down to make room for the Turnberry Place where they are building multi-million dollar condos for the super rich from around the world who want a home on the strip.

But when it was the Thunder Bird I remember going there to gamble a little and we would go to see the hit Broadway show Flower Drum Song.

This was during my salad days and I would love to go to the lounge show and see the one and only Jimmy Durante. You know Carol I can still hear him sing a Do-Be-Do-Be and Jimmy would always say at the end of his act, Good night to you Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are!

Carol, now after all these years I can tell you a little secret or two because I know that you will not mind if I tell the folks a little bit about how old Las Vegas was and you know that I did kiss the Blarney Stone when we were in Blarney, Ireland a couple of years ago.

Because I kissed the Blarney Stone it gave me a license to embellish a story now and then. But you know that 93 percent of everything I tell you and the folks is the truth and nothing but the truth; and truth is sometime better than fiction anyway.

I have stories to tell about the old Thunder Bird and stories to tell about The Silver Bird and yes, I know a few about The El Rancho also. But I will have to admit that I have no stories about the new Turnberry Place but I am sure that some of the lives of the jet set and the very rich who live there would read a little like Peyton Place.

Now for today I will tell you and the folks a couple of stories about the old Thunder Bird and maybe I will have time to slip one in about the Silver Bird.

The Thunder Bird is the symbol of the fighting Oklahoma 45th army division. Sometimes called the Thunder Bird Division, this honored division of the United States Army has a history that all of us in Oklahoma and the rest of the nation can be very proud of.

During my salad days when I would gamble at the old Thunder Bird and go to the lounge show I would sometimes buy a drink or two for a lady or two and one of the ladies was the wife of Bugsy Siegel.

Did you know that Siegel spell backward is almost Legals? Well, there is a corporation named Legals that owned a large part of the stock of the Thunder Bird and Bugsy’s wife after his death had control of a lot of that stock. Who knows, the owners of that old stock may still own a part of Turnberry Place!

Now, I am not afraid of Bugsy or any of the other old boys. But Carol, I am a little concerned about what you may think at this late date if I tell you and the folks any more. I will just say that I was offered the position of president and CEO of that corporation and the Thunder Bird.

Honey, you know that this is a poker column so let me tell now a little poker story about the Thunder Bird after it became the Silver Bird.

Major Riddle, of the old Dunes and other properties, became the Major Domo in charge of the Silver Bird and the Major loved to play poker, so there was always a high stakes poker game to be found at the poker room of the Silver Bird Casino.

Yes, Carol I played in that poker game. Most of the time I stayed out of the rain but I got a few drops on me part of the time and I would find myself short of cash to play poker with.

One of my rules is I never borrow or loan money in a poker game.

So I arranged a line of credit at the cage of the Silver Bird so that I could write markers at the poker table for whatever poker chips I might need for the games.

Well, Carol I took out a few markers for $5,000 and some $10,000 and it rained on me and I got very wet. No I did not drown but I did get a little wet.

So I had to turn over a rock or two to find enough money to pay off all my markers at the Silver Bird cage.


Honey, they could find no record of my markers. Yes, they did tell me I could pay the money. But they could not find any markers or records of the event .

I told them that I would be happy to pay but I required them to give me back my markers. The Silver Bird never found the markers!

Where did the large markers go? I don’t know but it was strange and I just guess that they got mixed up with some other large markers and other trash and were thrown out with the dish water.

Oklahoma Johnny poker tip of the week

Carol, money management is of the utmost importance in a poker game. Never play in a poker game that exceeds your comfort level.

You cannot think correctly or play your hand correctly if you are playing over your head.

If the money that you are playing with will buy you anything that you do not already own, you may be playing in a game that is too big for you.

Quit playing poker where the stakes are too high for you.

Go play in a lower stakes game until such time that you can make the statement.

I already have everything that the money that I am playing with will buy for me.

Until next time remember to stay lucky!