27 October 2005

Aaron and Jack's "Business"

Here is how it is playing out with Jack and the poker game. Jack is fully retired, but runs a "research business" for his "friends." Enough quotation marks already. He basically takes contracts to find answers to tough questions that include anything from what is my political opponent planning next to how can I get rid of the insects that are killing my crops without spreading chemicals all over? But Jack doesn't deal in checks and doesn't do any business accounting. Everything is paid for in cash won at the poker table.

Aaron is Jack's chief researcher which is why he's been working as a genealogist for the past ten years. Jack has a network of people he can ask questions of and so when Aaron is faced with having to find an answer to the Harbor problem, he brings Jack and crew into the mix. It's also why Jack is trying to figure out where Aaron is the night of the accident.

Included in the poker games, but not necessarily playing every Friday and Saturday night, are the Mayor of Fort Wayne, two of the areas largest farmers, half a dozen businessmen of various sorts, and a smattering of teachers and professors who do the research and get paid at the poker table.

The poker table etiquite is that they play for fun at $5 or $10 a hand until someone calls for a hand of Black Bottom. That's a game of seven card stud where the high hand splits the pot with low spade in the hole. Everyone politely antes while the cards are dealt and the questioner gives the one sentence summary of his problem area. If Jack is interested in taking the contract, when the bet comes to him he announces that the price of poker just went up to black chips. Everyone but the questioner and Jack fold at that time. They play out the hand as the questioner states more fully the research that he wants to have done. Jack has the option of raising the stakes at any time during the round indicating that the job is more expensive. Otherwise, they bet until Jack either checks the hand indicating that he has enough money for the job, or the questioner folds indicating that he can only afford that much of a job. On the last card Jack checks and the questioner folds to indicate that he's accepted the contract, or the questioner checks indicating that he doesn't want Jack to go through with the research. In that case Jack declares high hand and the questioner declares low spade and they split the pot. There's no contract. It is obvious at the outset of the evening who has research for Jack because they buy black chips (at $1000 cash each). Everyone else is just there to play for fun. On the rare occasion that Jack can't complete a commission, he calls for a game of Black Bottom/High Card Split. He puts the unused portion of the money that he accepted for the commission in the pot and then folds. The questioner rakes in the full pot.

This whole set-up means that Aaron and Jack are both extremely well-connected and can get information on just about anything. So when Aaron wants background on Alex, for example, he puts the money on the table for Jack. This will also be where info on the harbor cartel comes to play and where, in general, the dirt is dug.

I think I'm liking this. It might even mean that I won't have to use a new technology to protect the harbor. We'll see.