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THE NAKED ESKIMO

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As I mentioned in another column, I’ve been writing about slots for 37 years, and have played just about all of them. Many of today’s great slot games are still my favorites, and I play them often. My most favorite slot machine of all time was called: “Luck of the Irish,” and it was among the very first video slots ever made. Sadly, it has gone the way of the Dinosaurs, and so it can no longer be found anywhere.

Next to this game, my other most favorite is Keno. Video Keno, to be precise. I play that game often, and have written about it many times as well.

But what many people may not know is that I am also a regular poker player. Live poker, not so much Video Poker these days. But I used to play a lot of video poker many years ago, when the games were still young, and could be played quite profitably. They still can, but these days I prefer live poker as my main “live” and “social” game of choice.

But I also play Online Poker almost every day, and have been playing it consistently and often, especially during the past few years, and particularly during the Pandemic. Online Poker – and Online Casinos, including offshore ones – have flourished during the Pandemic, and for obvious reasons. And I, for one, see no reason to stop my Online Poker just because things have eased up a bit by now. And for those of you who are able to play Online Casino Games as well, that’s a great way to keep in practice, and keep your eyes and skills sharp.

So, for this column, I am taking a departure from writing about slots, to tell you an amusing story from long ago, a poker game at a home game, a party in Hollywood, in 1983. Here’s the tale of The Naked Eskimo:

Soon after I was invited to join the game, it became apparent that in this particular game in order to win I would have to show down the winning hand.  This was definitely not a game for the faint of heart.  Just about every hand was raised pre-flop, and most were capped before we ever saw any cards.  It was a rare occasion indeed when any one of these players actually folded a hand before or after the flop.  Folding a hand was something that almost nobody did in this game before the flop, and almost never on the flop, and certainly among those players who saw the turn most of them saw the river as well.  I was therefore pretty convinced that this was one of those Wild West type poker game shootouts!

As the game progressed pretty quickly round after round, I was simply amazed at the speed with which all the players apparently made their decisions to raise, call, or re-raise (this was a Limit Poker game, before the No-Limit Poker Explosion in the early 2000’s).  Except for myself and one other player, there were almost no players who ever folded a hand.  What was even more amazing was that all the betting was pretty much capped every round, and that the hands that were actually winning in the end were pretty mediocre by any standards of poker.  And so this went on for about an hour, during which I played only a few hands – quite out of character for my game these days.  At about this time two of the players got up to do whatever it is that they needed to do, and this left us shorthanded with about six players at the table.  It was at this time that one of the most amazing hands that I have ever been involved in happened.

As it turned out, I was on the button.  I was dealt the Jack-10 of spades.  In addition to me, there was the small blind, the big blind, and three other players in this particular hand.  Before it ever got to me the bets were capped.  Based upon what happened previously, I fully expected that this will be raised and capped on the flop as well.  I was not disappointed.  At this point, the best I could do is put all of these players on some kind of drawing hands, with perhaps one or two of them with some kind of a pair.  Yes, of course, there was the possibility that at least one of these players actually held a premium hand, however I figured that my hand was probably at least close to equivalent to the kind of average random holdings that they would probably be playing.

Imagine my surprise, shock, and awe, when the flop came Ace-King-Queen, all in spades!  Yes, dear friends, I flopped the Royal Flush in Spades!  The ultimate hand in poker, the very best there is, the poker player’s Holy Grail.  Of course now I also knew that I would be driving this hand all the way, knowing full well that everybody will call my raises, or, if it so turned out, I would simply call and let all my other players trap themselves.  I didn’t have long to wait.  The small blind bet immediately, was raised immediately by the player to his left, raised again by the next player, and the betting was capped before it ever got to me.  I called.  Everybody else also called the capped raise.  The turn card was the Queen of diamonds, pairing the board.

Now the first player checked, the second player bet, the third player raised, and the fourth player went into a huddle.  I could see him agonizing over this decision.  For the kind of game that this was, he seemed to be taking an extraordinarily long time to decide.  It was during this time that the other absent players also returned and took their seats, immediately commenting on what they saw on the board.

The player now agonizing over his decision obviously flopped either a medium flush or an Ace high straight.  I wasn’t sure which, but I knew it was one or the other.  Now that the board paired the Queens, he was concerned that maybe one of the other players could have a full-house.  I was thinking that also, except I felt that all three players had hit a monster hand.  Finally, this player raised, but then immediately announced that he meant to call. The other players quickly made it plain that the bet must stand, and so it was again capped before it got to me. I called, as did every one else.

The river brought the deuce of diamonds, a brick, which didn’t seem to help anybody.  This time the small blind bet, was raised by the big blind, was re-raised by the under-the-gun player, and the agonizing player in fourth position now reluctantly called the bets. I was given the one and only opportunity to cap the betting at this point.  As soon as I did, a great look of surprise came from everyone at the table.  Of course, they all called, and continued to look at me strangely, waiting for me to show my hand.  Just before showing my hand, I said: “Gentlemen, I’m afraid I have The Naked Eskimo.”

At this point they all looked at me even more strangely, until the under the gun player finally asked: “What is The Naked Eskimo?”

As I turned over my cards, I said calmly: “The Stone Cold Nuts!”

There was a shocked moment of silence, followed by a roar of laughter that lasted for several minutes.  Even the players that were not involved in this hand, having left the table prior to this hand beginning, were now laughing equally as hard.  Needless to say we caused quite a commotion, and many other people came to see what was happening.  Some of them weren’t poker players, and so after a few explanations they finally realized what happened, what kind of a hand I had, and what all this meant.  It was at this time that I also realized that I was absolutely correct with my assessment of hands, and that all the players actually had what I thought they had.  Monsters. Quad queens, Aces Full, a flush, and a straight.

And so, you might ask, how much did I win?  A grand total of 500 … Dollars? No. Pennies. Yes, dear friends, this was a 5-cent and 10-cent game. Purely for fun. Played with plastic chips that looked like they came from a child’s toy.

You see, this happened at around Christmas time 1983, in Hollywood, at the home of a very famous Hollywood actor.  Sadly, this person is now deceased.  At that time however, at that Hollywood Christmas party in 1983, this was indeed a magic time.  There were more stars at that poker game than there are in heaven.  And even more at the party.  I was pretty much a greenhorn at the time, both as a Hollywood insider, as well as a poker player.  There were so many famous people there, and so many at this very game, that to this day I can’t remember all of them, and at the time I certainly didn’t know many of them.  They were a lot older than I remembered them from the movies, and from television, and that’s why I just couldn’t identify them immediately.  They seemed like nice people, and I fit perfectly well in this group, and so I was just as comfortable as they, and having just as good a time as they did.

It was not until quite later, actually at the New Year’s Eve party, where one of the hosts at that particular party came up to me and said how refreshing everybody found the fact that I wasn’t gushing over the stars when I met them, and played poker with them.  Apparently, they all thought that it was absolutely incredible that somebody like myself would be behaving so naturally, and have such a great time without ever asking for an autograph, a photo, or asking them about their careers, or anything else.  It seemed that because of that they found me to be non-threatening, and as a result I got invited to a whole lot of parties with a whole lot of really great and famous people.  And, they also liked my joke about the Naked Eskimo.

So – Who were they?

Well, it was not until much later than I really understood the magnitude of whom I met that day, and then several more times subsequently.

Frank, Sammy and Dean, were the Rat Pack with the great hands. The agonizing player was Jimmy Stewart. The man who left, briefly, was Rock Hudson, just two years before he died, a year before he publicly announced he was gay, and had AIDS. And the others? Later still I met many of them, and some of them I remembered, and others I still don’t quite remember who they were. Every now and then I catch an old movie on TCM, or an old TV show, and suddenly it dawns on me! So that’s the guy! Or gal!

Well, all I can say is that I was young, and did not know as much as I thought I did. I wish now that I had more knowledge at the time, and recognized more of these great people. But still, it was a magical time. Like the time I was at MGM Studios, and walked through the Wizard of Oz stage. Or at Western Costume, where I put on Laurel and Hardy’s hats, wore their tails, held Rudolph Valentino’s costume from The Sheik, and put on John Wayne’s cowboy hat. And more. Well, those are other stories, perhaps for another time.

And as far as that famous poker hand goes, next time you have a winning poker hand in your game, whatever that great poker hand may be, as long as it is the best hand for that particular round and game, and it is time for you to turn it over and show it, then just say that you have “The Naked Eskimo.” And when they ask you what The Naked Eskimo is, you just calmly say: “The Stone Sold Nuts”.  It should get you laugh, or at least a giggle.

And when you do, perhaps you will remember – along with me – that time now long ago when great stars of Hollywood motion pictures and television played a little nickel and dime game of Texas Hold’Em at a Hollywood Christmas party, in the twilight years of grand and glorious Hollywood.

Best of Luck!

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