Gambling Man

Damon Runyon

Nowadays my old man is much opposed to gambling in any manner, shape or form, but there is a time back in my old home town out West when he is quite a hand for taking part in games of chance.

In fact, nothing much can come up in my old home town in the way of craps, poker, horse racing or spitting at a crack, that my old man does not have a finger in somehow or other.

Furthermore, I hear he has an idea that he is a natural-born gambling man, too, and the chances are he will still be thinking so, and will be following gambling as a steady racket to this day for all anybody knows but for a little matter which comes up.

While he considers himself most excellent at any gambling proposition whatever, they tell me my old man thinks he is especially good at draw poker, which is a very popular game back in my old home town and is played by one and all, including old and young.

It is his opinion that he can outsmart most anybody in a game of draw, if he gets the right cards, so every night and sometimes every day my old man and the rest of the boys get together around the gambling joints and play as long as possible.

In those days gambling is a public matter back in my old home town, and the Greenlight and the Turf Exchange and other places are running wide open, which makes everything very convenient for the citizens at all times.

However, it seems that some people, especially the dames, are very much against gambling, what with it keeping their ever-loving husbands out late at night and taking their bank rolls so there is nothing left to buy ham and cabbage with when they come home, and the first thing anybody knows a guy by the name of Bob O’Donnell is elected district attorney.

Well, this Bob O’Donnell is nothing but a Republican and in a way of saying he shuts them up, and although there is much indignation among our citizens, including my old man, nobody can do much about it.

So my old man and the rest of the boys take to hiding out in back rooms and one place and another and playing their poker games, because they say this is a free country and no district attorney is going to make them stop gambling, and be dam’ to him.

Well, then this Bob O’Donnell goes to snooping around trying to find out where they are playing, but he does not have much luck, because when he drops in on them anywhere my old man and the boys are generally just sitting around looking at each other, and there is no sign of gambling whatsoever.

But, of course, Bob O’Donnell is no sucker, for all he is nothing but a Republican, and he knows that my old man and these other people are not going into no back room just to look at each other, so what does he do one day but stick one of these dictaphones in the back room of Mike Fagan’s cigar joint, which is a great hangout for my old man and his crowd.

A dictaphone is a gag which takes down everything a guy says, and of course my old man and the rest do not know the dictaphone is in the room or they will not be chumps enough to go there, because what O’Donnell is after is evidence to show they are playing poker.

Well, one fine morning a cop goes around town serving warrants on my old man and other prominent citizens, charging them with gambling on a certain night in Mike Fagan’s cigar joint, and they have to go to court for a trial.

Naturally this causes some excitement, because nearly everybody in town is related to somebody or other who is pinched, and there is great indignation against this O’Donnell, and one and all are saying it is nothing but a dirty political frame-up to put a lot of well-known Democrats in bad.

My old man says nothing can come of it, because they are not playing poker on the night O’Donnell claims, and even if they are playing poker nobody sees them at it. Furthermore, he says he has a good mind to sue this O’Donnell for libel.

Well, anyway, on the day of the trial the courtroom is jammed, and my old man is the first witness called by O’Donnell. I will say my old man is quite a witness, at that, giving O’Donnell as good as he sends, and telling the world very fair what a dirty trick it is to arrest honest citizens an such a charge.

My old man says he is not only not playing poker on the night O’Donnell claims, but he is not sure he is even in the State, much less in Mike Fagan’s. Then all the rest of my old man’s crowd goes on the stand and deny everything, and it looks as if O’Donnell certainly pulls a boner.

Finally, when everybody is through denying everything, what does this O’Donnell do but spring his dictaphone in court and turn it on, and it commences grinding out conversation, much to the surprise of one and all.

It does not go for more than a minute before my old man quietly picks up his hat and slides out of a side door, and by and by all the rest of his crowd are sliding out of other doors, and nobody hears any more of them for several weeks, because they are off on a hunting trip down the State.

Anyway, all that happens is poor Mike Fagan gets fined for allowing gambling in his joint, and my old man swears off playing poker the rest of his life, because it seems that all the conversation which comes out of the dictaphone is my old man’s voice, and all he is saying is “Your deal,” “I pass,” and “That’s good.”

My old man says the dictaphone proves to him that he is not such-a-much at poker, and ever since he is against gambling in any manner, shape or form.