by Peter Holliday
The Longboat Key Times – June 17, 1992
It was a young, lean Johnny Leverock who sat at the high stakes poker game in the back room of his Pinellas Park gas station. The room was filled with smoke as the players slurped their warm beers and watered whiskey.
The game included some celebrities from the local political community who must remain unnamed. Most notable of these was the mayor of a nearby small town – he was a regular in the game, and usually won a small amount or broke even. The mayor was a cautious better who played the odds; he would never pay to see your hole card unless he had a statistical advantage of beating you. Tonight he was losing heavily to a new man in the game.
This new player was an oyster fisherman from Apalachicola who had been enjoying a run of good luck. The three other players in the game had also been hit hard by the new guy. It was late, and most were ready to cut their losses and call it a night. Only the mayor, Johnny and the oysterman waited to play out the last hand.
It was five card stud, and the mayor was holding a possible heart flush with one card to go. He had counted only one other heart played, and guessed that between six and eight hearts were left among the 30 cards remaining in the deck. Those were fair odds, but Johnny and the oysterman were showing disturbingly good poker hands.
Johnny’s pair of tens was obvious. His other up card was an ace. What the mayor and the oysterman couldn’t see was the third ten that Johnny held in the hole – that gave him three tens and an ace. Even though he suspected that the mayor had the fourth heart of his flush, Johnny’s ten in the hole was the ten of hearts. That meant the chance of the mayor’s flush hitting on the final card was less than even the mayor knew. Further reducing that likelihood was Johnny’s observation of a flash of red from the bottom of the deck, seen while the mayor dealt the last round of cards. It wasn’t cheating to know a heart was on the bottom of the deck; it was just good poker.
The oysterman was showing two sevens and a king, but he was betting like a maniac. He’d raise anyone’s bet. Quite a big pot was building up in the middle of this blanket-covered table. The oysterman’s down card was another seven, making his hand a powerful three of a kind. He wrongly suspected that Johnny didn’t have the third ten in his hand; he assumed Johnny might have another ace and was, at most, looking at two pair.
The last cards were dealt. Johnny hit the ace of diamonds to give him a full house, tens over aces. The mayor received the three of hearts, giving him a solid king high flush that is a winner in most five card stud games. So much for his poker face. The oysterman hit a king of clubs and began reaching for his pile of chips as soon as the card hit. He, too, had a full house, but his three-of-a-kind was sevens and Johnny Leverock’s was tens.
The betting began. The Oysterman wagered everything he had. The mayor, smelling a full house, dropped out. Johnny covered the oysterman’s bet and raised him a thousand. The mayor became very glad he had dropped.
The oysterman had nothing with which to call Johnny’s raise, so he put up his oyster beds in Tampa Bay. And that was fine, because Johnny Leverock had always wanted to convert that old gas station into an oyster bar.
The rest is history.