So we are sitting at the deli situated in the building behind our workplace at Atari when Rob Fulop makes the suggestion: Tahoe Road Trip! Rob, who had done this before in earlier days, stipulates the rules.
1. No one is allowed to go home to get a change of clothes.
2. Stopping at a convenience store on the way, we are allowed to get:
a) a toothbrush
c) dental floss
d) breath mints
Agreeing to these rules, Bob Polaro, Dave Johnson, Rob Fulop and I embark on the trip that in later days would be known as Scumbag-athon I. (Scumbag was the semi-affectionate nickname Carla Meninsky gave to all the gamblers at Atari, more of whom you will meet in later chapters.)
Let me introduce the cast of characters. (You already kind of know Matty Boy, so I'll skip him.)
Bob Polaro and Dave Johnson were roommates. For a while, I lived in the same apartment complex as they did. Bob had been in the video game business for several years before I started, and working first at Commodore, where he was personally fired by legendary bastard person Jack Tramiel before starting a long and happy career at Atari, managing to naviagate the many ups and downs the company endured over the years, until nearly on its last legs, Atari was bought by legendary bastard person Jack Tramiel, who fired Bob personally for the second time in his career. Bob was an excellent athlete, loved to hang out at the beach in Santa Cruz and kept himself in great shape, which is somewhat against the nerd stereotype.
Dave Johnson had a great sardonic sense of humor and a pointed sense of justice. He is one of the few people I have ever met whose sense of humor is drier than mine. After leaving the video game business, Dave landed on his feet as a progressive blogger at Seeing the Forest. He is also published on The Huffington Post and is associated with George Lakoff's Commonweal Institute. His pointed sense of justice back then made him a very aggressive driver when he saw people driving badly, which gave his car the nickname The Intercontinental Ballistic Mustang. (He was never in any accidents, to the best of my knowledge.)
Which brings us to our ringleader, Rob Fulop. Rob got his degree at Cal, and during summer and Christmas breaks would go to Nevada and play poker. He was a very good gambler, much better at poker than I ever was or will be and also more experienced at backgammon, a game I was playing a lot back then. Back in the day, there was even a hand named after him in Texas Hold 'Em. 10-9 suited was called a Young Rob.
So we were piled into the Intercontinental Ballistic Mustang, heading towards Tahoe, Dave at the wheel, me riding shotgun. Rob was giving us poker lessons. Lesson number one: Look at your hand. Fold your hand. Rob had us practice this for several minutes without a deck of cards. Look, fold. Look, fold. What's a good hand, Rob? Not important right now. Learn how to fold.
Set yourself a goal, Rob told us. His goal would be to win money in the $10/$20 limit hold 'em game.
"I want to win at seven card stud." Dave decided.
"I'm going to make money at blackjack." Bob declared.
I paused for a moment. "I'm going to meet a long legged Keno girl, and we're gonna get married."
Only one of the Scumbags would not meet his stated goals that weekend.
Christmas Day, Part 3: There and back.
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