It was the Revel Casino's poker room on a Friday night, I had just bought chips and was heading to my seat when I passed Evgeniya, a gorgeous Russian poker dealer sitting at an empty table. When I say 'gorgeous' I am not engaging in hyperbole, my personal taste is that I prefer black hair to blonde, brown eyes to blue and medium caramel or dark chocolate skin tones to lighter ones, but Eve is ridiculously fine by pretty much any standard. My table was next to her's, so I passed close enough to say Hi and mention that last weekend when I was at the University of Missouri teaching a class, I encountered a young black poet who had taken three years of Russian language classes so that she could read Pushkin in the original Russian. Eve, like most Russians loves her Pushkin, even if she didn't know until I told her that he was in fact, black. I get dealt in and start scoping out the players at my table, it's a mix of regulars with a few new faces, none of whom seem to play particularly well. I get no hands to play and so I settle back for a long night of folding, I need to play for thirteen more hours to qualify for a promotional drawing on Sunday and I'd like to accrue at least seven of them tonight. I sat down at about 7:20PM and figure I'll be here until about 2AM. At 7:30 the dealers change, since the practice in poker rooms is to rotate the dealers every thirty minutes. This is done to lessen the impact of any player and dealer teaming up to cheat the other players. Our new Dealer immediately begins to distribute the cards and I look up to see who has tapped out Eve and to my surprise she's still sitting there. The whole string of Dealers has now rotated, but she's still there at the table next to the podium, twirling her hair through her fingers, which she is wont to do when she's bored. Dealers work for tips and obviously a Dealer with no players is making no money, something which causes the house to try to keep dealers from sitting on too many dead tables. I fold for twenty more minutes, then pick up AK suited in Spades. I raise to $12 and everyone folds. I collect my tiny pot and the dealers begin their rotations again. And once again, once they are finished, Eve is still sitting there by her lonesome. Now, I'm perplexed, she doesn't look nearly as unhappy as I'd expect her to after sitting on a dead table for almost an hour. Something isn't right, but it isn't my problem. A few minutes pass and I see a player sit at her table, the isn't unusual because fine as she is, guys will sit and try to talk to her all the time. This guy though, usually comes with his girlfriend. I look around and she's nowhere to be seen. Then Frank, the Room Manager comes and joins them, this too is fairly normal, as the staff will often send someone to rescue Eve if they feel they guy is bothering her. The three of them though seem to be having an amiable conversation which lasts maybe fifteen minutes. Frank and the guy both get up and leave and Eve is once again alone. I pick up pocket Queens, raise and get two callers. The Flop comes Ten high,I bet $25 and they both fold. I start watching the Knicks and the Rockets on the big screen TV. The new Dealer taps in, a woman named Susan who is one of my favorite dealers. Not only is she an excellent dealer (which means I don't have to double-check all her actions for accuracy) but she is extremely literate and capable of holding an intellectual conversation while running the game. I look up and poor Eve is still stuck there. I've been playing poker in AC for fifteen years and never seen a dealer stuck on a dead spread for one and a half hours. It just doesn't happen. And my OCD doesn't like it at all, because things are supposed to work according to the rules, to the routine. Now this guy John comes and sits next to her and begins chatting her up. One of the guys in my game notices and remarks that everytime he sees John, John seems to spend more time talking to Eve than he does actually playing poker. I ask him if he's jealous and he pipes down for a second, then continues. John is a Dominican from NYC who is a regular weekend player in AC, both at the Borgata and here at Revel. he likes to make big bets and bluff a lot. I was actually hoping to see him tonight because I have a picture to show him. John is a dead ringer for the poet Willie Perdomo or rather for how Willie looked twenty years ago. I had mentioned to John that he was Willie's doppelgänger, but he didn't know who Willie was. So I found a picture on the internet of a young Willie and bookmarked it. There's an empty seat in our game which I assume is John's, but he's currently preoccupied. After ten minutes he brings his chips over and takes the seat and plays a hand, but then goes right back to Eve's otherwise empty table. By now it is bugging me to no end that she's been sitting there for almost two hours with no relief, Something isn't right, I can feel it. A half an hour passes, we get another dealer and John is still putting in his bid with the Princess of Moscow when the Floorman calls a new game. In fact, he calls it for Eve's table which means that John gets up and returns to our table. After the next hand I bring up our previous conversation and show him the picture, He's stunned, not only does he look exactly like Willie, but they both wear their beards trimmed exactly the same way. I show him a current picture of Willie and he says "I guess now I know what I'll look like in twenty years." I look up and the players are being seated at the new game, I see the guy from earlier, only now his girl is with him. He takes the two seat and she takes the four seat. I scan the room and notice that at the five tables running there are six open seats, and yet the Floor man is starting this new game with only six players. That's unusual as they would normally fill the empty seats before starting a new game. The players are all seated and Eve puts the deck in the shuffler, but then quickly takes it back out. The same deck. I cock my head in surprise, but she starts pitching the cards. I look down at my own hand I've just been dealt and it's pocket sixes, a hand I'll have to play for this $7 raise that's just been made by the player ahead of me. The Flop comes King high, he bets and I fold and suddenly there's a shriek from the table across from us. Eve's table. I look up and the woman in the four seat is holding her face in her hands and staring at the community cards on the table as if they're dismembered body parts, she's now speechless, gasping and trembling. I stand up to get a better view, thinking maybe they hit the Bad Beat Jackpot and can now see that there are words written on the cards. One word on each card to be exact. The cards themselves are the Ace through the Five of Hearts, a Straight flush on board!! But it's the words on the cards that are causing all the commotion; they read "Eden will you marry me?" The guy has now risen from the two seat and has a ring in his hand, she looks up and goes "Are you serious, are you serious?" He gets down on one knee and nods yes. She breaks out shaking and is now in tears, "Yes! Yes! Yes!" I look up and the waitress is standing behind them with six Champagne flutes on her tray. Everyone applauds, Eve wipes a tear from the corner of her eye and Frank comes over and announces that she has in fact said yes. I sit back down, I've seen a lot of crazy things in poker rooms, but never this. The dealer calls me, "Hey Pittsburgh, you got cards, the action's on you Buddy."
And until next we meet, may all your potatoes be sweet ( and dusted with cinnamon).