“Believe me,” the middle-aged floor man said. “I appreciate that you want to come to the dealer’s defense. But we’ve got to have rules here, which you violated. We can’t have brawls breaking out between players at the tables.”

I pointed back to the tournament room. “It’s his fault. The guy is a total low life, man, and he threatened me first.”

The floor man glanced at the room, straightened his glasses, and then gave me a half-smile that communicated more than words ever could. He obviously knew the other player, and at least partially agreed with my analysis. Perhaps much more than partially. So, I pushed my luck.

“You’d rather have a guy like that as a customer, than me?” But I immediately regretted the question, as the answer might not be one I wanted to hear.

Sure enough, his smirk vanished. “You’re the one who was out of his seat,” the floor man replied, “and physically accosting another player.”

“I only touched the back of his chair. You’re the ones who physically accosted me.”

“We stopped you. In another two seconds, who knows what you might have done.”

I sighed. “I suppose that’s correct…”

The floor man motioned towards the exit. “You need to leave now. You’re lucky. The security guard wants to hold you until the police arrive, have you arrested, and permanently ban you from this poker club.”

I looked to the burly security guard standing ten feet away, who was still scowling at me. “All right,” I said. “Good night.” I didn’t bother looking back as I stormed out the Bicycle Club’s front entrance.

That was a first for me. Sure, as a regular player I was no stranger to encountering instances of dealer abuse from idiotic opponents. But never like this. Never with such deeply inherent passive-aggressive evil. My adversary’s heart was uglier than his appearance, which was really saying something. It triggered a reaction in me that I have never before witnessed, and have never experienced since. I felt I had run into a particular manifestation of wickedness on Earth that must be silenced.

I didn’t notice much about the man when I first saw him. I was used to sitting among all different types in the nightly $20 tournaments at the Bicycle Club. So a thin, scraggly, mop-headed poker player who looked like he just came from camping at a Grateful Dead concert for a week, while only occasionally bathing via a park drinking fountain, wasn’t terribly jarring. It was when he began speaking that his existence began stabbing at my soul.

At first his communications were nothing more than mumbles as he folded his first few hands, frowning at our young, blonde, surfer-looking dealer as if something unusual were happening to him when he mucked the cards. I didn’t pick up any playable hands early, either. Then the mop-head decided to bless me with a bad beat story of how he should have won $27,000 in some big poker tournament somewhere, if it weren’t for this horrible suck-out, assuring me in the process that “everyone knows about it.” Apparently, the knucklehead was a well-known player.

An epiphany struck me. I was a regular reader of Card Player Magazine, including Max Shapiro’s humor column. He regularly referenced an assortment of comical poker characters I always assumed were fictional – until now. Could it be that I had just met Shapiro’s “Dirty Wally”? It seemed incredibly likely. I mean, this guy nailed the profile so perfectly, in every conceivable respect, I couldn’t even accept the notion that Dirty Wally might be a character contrived from a certain extreme “type” of player personality. The scum sitting to my immediate right at the end of the table absolutely, uncompromisingly, had to be the genuine article.

I found myself momentarily entertained by the revelation, and only hated him a little at this point. That all changed several grumbling folds later when Dirty Wally finally got a playable hand. He missed the flop, and elected to fold to an early-position bet, but only after staring the dealer down something fierce. After mucking he nodded in a conceding manner before commenting, a little louder this time: “He’s a loser – that’s why he’s dealing.”

And that’s where I lost it. Now, I’m an easy going guy, and honestly didn’t even know I possessed this kind of rage. The dealer only politely smiled and began shuffling. I don’t know if he fully heard the slur. But the other close-by players must have. I found the fact that no one else opened their mouths to chide the asshole quite disconcerting. So I had to do it.

“The only loser here is you, you piece of trash.”

Dirty Wally shot me a look of betrayal and raised his voice to call the floor man over, before insulting me in reprisal. I don’t remember the exact words used. But the ensuing heated exchange included my inviting him outside to settle the matter, and when two floor men arrived at the scene I was apparently standing with my hand on his chair attempting to pull it away from the table. The security guard got involved as well. No one at the table came to my defense. The floor man didn’t care much that the issue was over dealer abuse, and the dealer only seemed amused at the entire incident.

Dirty Wally and I never crossed paths again. I took my action to the Commerce Club, and shortly thereafter got married and started my own poker bot business at http://bonusbots.com so didn’t have a lot of time for brick and mortar poker after that. I never did any good in those Bicycle Club nightly tournaments anyway. But Dirty Wally is probably still out there, probably still wearing the same clothes and still cursing dealers for all his perceived injustices in life.