King Nine

When you spend over a week playing poker at the same casino, you’ll hear stories about recurring characters other players have run into. I spent three weeks at the Rio in Vegas and kept hearing stories about a crazy player named King Nine. The first few conversations I overheard at adjacent tables or while walking through the casino, so I didn’t catch what it was about him that everyone kept talking about. All I heard was, “King Nine came over the top with this hand…” or, “King Nine called my all in with…” I didn’t hear why they named him King Nine or why anyone would care about some random poker player making typical plays. But when I finally sat at a table with King Nine, he was anything but typical and royalty he was not.

I somehow didn’t notice the cardboard Burger King crown on his disheveled head when I sat two seats to his left at a $5-$10 no limit hold ‘em cash table. Or that he was wearing a studded collar around his neck attached to a leash draped across his lap. But when he let out three quick, chirpy barks like a yard-sh*tting Chihuahua, my attention snapped from stacking my chips and I stared at him. He bared his teeth at me like a pit bull protecting his food. Then he smiled. “I have a disorder; it’s similar to Tourette’s,” he said calmly.
“Bullshit,” I heard from across the table, “King Nine is bat-sh*t crazy, simple as that.”

King Nine growled. I was taken aback at first, but the rest of the table erupted in laughter. King Nine held up his middle finger, waved it at everyone and let out a menacing bark-growl-howl, more or less like a wolf.

I chuckled and relaxed in my chair as the dealer tossed out the cards. I was on the button and looked down at Ace-5 offsuit. I raised to $35. The little blind folded to King Nine in the big blind who looked down at his cards, then slowly back at me. “Grrrr,” he growled, “I re-grrrr-raise.” He carefully counted out the $35 in chips and placed a stack of $150 next to it, and slid them both out to the center of the table. Then he barked, high-pitched and snippy this time.

I laughed, looked back at my cards and folded. King Nine lifted his chin to the air and howled like a wolf, loud enough for everyone within ten tables to take notice.

King Nine continued his antics, though he was quiet when not in a hand, making me think it must be an act. A few rounds later, I was on the button and looked down at pocket Queens. I raised to $35 total. King Nine went into a loud, prolonged, raccoon-like growl-screech that made me cringe. He pushed out a raise to $150 total.

My first instinct was to go all-in, but I had position on him and if an Ace or King came on the flop, I could reassess where I was in the hand. I decided to smooth call. The flop came down—9, Jack, 9. King Nine squeaked like a stepped-on poodle and checked. I thought for a moment and bet $175, a little more than half the pot. King Nine barked at me. “Sorry,” he said, “I, grrrr, re-raise. All in.”

I went in the tank for a few minutes. King Nine suppressed his growls but I could hear them trying to escape from deep in his belly. “Ok,” I said, “I call.”

I turned over my Queens and he turned over King-9 for three of a kind. The turn was a blank and the river was a King, giving him a full house. King Nine howled like a wolf, loud enough for the entire poker room to hear him.