Chapter 12: Texas Hold’em
“From this day on there will be no more cell phones, movies, internet, dirty magazines, newspapers, junk food, playing cards…or any other contraband. Welcome to hell, boys.”
During basic training, we had very few ways to entertain ourselves. But one day, someone managed to smuggle in a deck of cards through the mail. Private Johnson received a package from his mom of Axe deodorant. The drill sergeants let him keep the package – little did they know that a deck of playing cards was hidden inside the package as well.
One Sunday we found ourselves with a couple hours extra of personal time. Private Johnson and a couple of my buddies were deciding on a game to play. Hearts? No, none of these kids know how to play hearts. Solitaire? Who the fuck wants to play solitaire?
Then someone said, “What about Poker?”
But what are we going to use as chips to bet with? None of us have any change; we don’t have a need for cash or change, just a credit card.
All of a sudden, it struck me. Why don’t we use cough drops? We weren’t allowed to eat candy or have food in the barracks – the closest thing we were allowed to have was cough drops. We were only allowed to have two packs in the barracks at any given moment.
So we all got our cough drops out of lockers, and began playing. My parents had sent me strawberry flavored cough drops in the mail – they were virtually just like candy. I gave out a couple to my close friends, but the rest were for me. People were willing to buy two strawberry cough drops off me for the price of a dollar!
At the end of the game, I had nearly tripled my cough drop count through a series of lucky hands. It was getting close to lights out, so I decided to cash out early.
I took the cough drops I won and put them back in my locker. Next thing I know, I hear a loud commotion going on back where they were playing the game. Wissing, a forty-year old dutch man who joined the army to gain citizenship, was angry that we had a deck of cards in the barracks.
Cards were considered contraband – all contraband was strictly banned from basic training. If we were caught with the cards, we would get in serious trouble.
Wissing threatened to report Johnson for possession of the cards. Johnson starts telling him that he has no authority here – he is not an American, and therefore should keep his mouth shut. If Wissing reports Johnson, we would all get in serious trouble.
I was on friendly terms with Wissing, mostly because I understood where he came from and respected him greatly for joining the services at his age. I grabbed a handful of strawberry cough drops from my locker, and stuffed them in my pocket. I walked over to Wissing and pulled him aside.
“Look Wissing, if you report this, we will all get in serious trouble. There is no need for trouble we can prevent.”
I reached into my pocket and gave him a handful of strawberry cough drops.
“We’ll get rid of the cards tonight.”
Wissing thanked me for the cough drops, and then assured me that as long as Johnson got rid of the cards that night, he would not report it.
I then went over to Johnson and told him what had to be done. Johnson then looked at me with a look of disgust, and told us all to go fuck ourselves. There was no changing Wissing’s mind, he would certainly tell the drill sergeants about the cards. He was very focused on doing the right thing.
Johnson started cursing off Wissing, calling him a dirty rat. While this was happening, I grabbed the deck of cards off Johnson’s bed. I went into the bathroom, tore up the cards and flushed them.
Russell, my bunkmate, was the only one who saw me do it. But he told me I did the right thing and kept his mouth shut.
When Johnson discovered the cards were missing, he had a cursing fit and shouted out random accusations. To this day, Johnson has no idea what happened to his cards.