Lucky Russo

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Lucky Russo knows the tendencies of each of his high-stakes poker opponents. He knows which hands they will play and almost exactly what they will bet on those hands. For him, poker is more about the mathematical calculation of pot odds than it is about having good cards. That’s why it’s so surprising to see him suddenly lose consistently.

Lucky Russo
By Angela Rasch

“I’m willing to gamble a bit with my hand,” Lucky said.

My brother had been on tilt for about a month and had lost nearly our entire fortune. His friends had tried to convince him to take some time off, away from the table, but he kept playing — and losing.

“You could have a full house,” he speculated, “but I don’t think so, because you would have raised my bet after the turn with two pair. . .so you didn’t catch a full house on the river.”

Aldo the Shark peered at him across the green felt from behind his Ferrari dark glasses. “We’re playing table stakes. You bought in for $100,000, which you’ve already got in the pot.” He stopped to snort. “And from what I’ve heard you’re tapped out.”

“Don’t believe everything you hear,” Lucky said, but his voice cracked enough to tell everyone Aldo had been right. “I’d like to bet another $100,000 that says my set beats your two pair.”

“You ain’t got a hundred G’s, little man,” the Shark snarled, shuffling his chips one-handed and twirling an unlit cigarette with the other. Aldo owned the second-tier club that hosted the game. He tried hard to get people to call him “Digits” to foster the rumor he collected people’s fingers who didn’t pay their gambling debts, but everyone called him “Shark.”

Some said his nickname indicated he was a big fish -- a big fish you had to watch. Supposedly the going rate for welching at Aldo’s club had been set at one finger per $10,000 of unpaid debt.

“I’m good for it,” Lucky said. “I’d like to keep all these.” He flexed all of the fingers on both hands and grinned.

That’s so like Lucky.

Lucky had a reputation as one of the nicest poker players in the world. He played in a lot of tournaments and treated everyone with equal respect, even those with grossly inferior skills, who had lucked their way in playing in a $25 satellite. He shared everyone’s joy in winning, even when it meant he had lost. When a player got knocked out of a tournament, Lucky always managed to be one of the first to offer a handshake, sign his T-shirt, and provide consoling words.

Never did he want to be the “big winner” in high-stakes games. He won consistently with good style.

Lucky Russo loved to tell people that our Italian surname meant “red-haired” as he ran a hand through his thick mane, that he wore shoulder-length. Because of his fine features, slight build, and short stature his hair made him look more like my sister than my brother.

“If you don’t pay, your fingers must stay.” Aldo chuckled at his own tired joke and was joined only by his staff. The professional players around the table remained silent. Most players won’t comment on anything unless they’re actively involved in the hand. This hand included only Aldo and Lucky. All the rest had folded.

Aldo usually lost, which was about the only reason those at the table put up with his crude behavior. Behind his back, people called him “William Tell” because what his face didn’t give away, his body language did.

His threat toward Lucky had not been well received.

“How about this?” Lucky asked, seemingly thinking quite hard. “How about if I pledge to work at any job in your casino for a year, to pay off the one hundred large -- if I lose, which I won’t.” Lucky’s teeth gleamed a friendly signal to everyone around the table that seemed to say, “I’ll be alright. Don’t be concerned.”

He had gotten his nickname because he won at anything that involved good fortune. When we played Monopoly as kids, the dice would always have him set his marker down on the spaces he owned and rarely land on my places with all my houses and hotels. He would flip his lucky dime and laugh. Then he would do his best to tell me that I had done everything right -- and he had just been “Lucky.”

How can I not be concerned? Lucky is my entire family. When our parents died eight years ago, Lucky convinced the welfare people he could support me, his little sister. He had just turned nineteen. And, he had also just dropped out of college.

Mom had wanted him to become a math professor. Lucky read mathematics books like I read romance novels. Dad thought he should go into sales because Lucky had a talent for reading people. I thought he should get married to some rich woman because everyone loved him.

Lucky had other plans. He wanted to play professional poker. Online poker gave him his start. After he had built up $30,000 in the bank, and paid off all his student loans, we started taking trips to Vegas. We bought a home in “Lost Wages” a few years ago, to be close to the action. The locals call it “Lost Wages” for obvious reasons, although the real translation is “The Meadows.”

Some say Lucky’s recent string of bad luck all started when he misplaced his celebrated dime. I couldn’t say, but as his business manager I had watched Lucky lose hand after hand, in game after game, so that our millions had dwindled down to less than $20,000, plus table stakes for this very important game. He constantly told me not to worry. He said he was doing something he had to do and could stop losing whenever he wanted.

How can losing be necessary to anyone? I want to tell Lucky to get out of the hand. I can’t. We have a firm agreement that I never communicate with him in any meaningful way during hands.

Aldo tapped his fingers together and studied my brother. If Aldo had been studying me like that I would have yanked down on my skirt to cover my legs.

“Look, twerp,” the Shark said, “I get it that you want to buy the pot with a pathetic bluff – but what makes you think I would pay you that much money for a year’s work in my place?”

Everyone’s eyes swung toward Lucky. The Shark had a point, in a way — looking around the room at the faded upholstery on the chairs I wondered if a high-priced greeter wouldn’t have been out of place in such a lackluster casino.

“Bellagio’s just offered me a million to be their greeter for a year,” Lucky said quietly. Lucky had won five World Series of Poker bracelets. He ranked fourth on the all-time winners’ list with just under eleven million in lifetime total winnings.

His poker playing on television had made him a celebrity. At $100,000 for one year, Aldo would be getting an enormous bargain.

Not since I had been a sixteen-year-old girl, whose parents’ estate money had run out, and who was dependent on a twenty-year-old poker player for her living, had I felt so vulnerable. Lucky tried many times to explain things to me, to calm my fears. He said luck really had nothing to do with winning at poker, over the long haul. According to Lucky, a person needed a good head for numbers and a long memory -- so you would know everyone’s tendencies.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Biggie asked. “Biggie” stood for “Big Mouth.” He was Lucky’s closest friend in the poker world. “I’ll front you the money.”

“It’s okay, Biggie.” Lucky nodded. “I have to do this. There’s really no other way, for me to get what I want.”

“Georgie,” Aldo said, snapping his fingers, “bring us some paper and a pen so we can get down the terms of the bet.”

“Paper!” Biggie snorted. “Kiddies’ game is down the hall.”

Everyone at the table had won or lost a million or two on verbal bets. Everyone trusted each other’s word. Once you lost your reputation in the poker world, that’s it. It’s all over. Jamie Gold found that out after he won the WSOP and had a dust-up over a verbal agreement to share his winnings. Writing down the wager signaled something sinister going on in Aldo’s mind.

Aldo frowned across the table at Lucky. “I don’t care who you are. If you don’t meet the terms of this bet to the letter, you’re going to be known as ‘Stumps.’ The Shark will chomp until there’s nothing left to bite. You’ll have to take lessons from that William Rockwell guy, about how to hold your cards with your toes.”

I closed my eyes to shut out Aldo’s horribly ill-mannered remarks. Lucky had played at a table next to Rockwell in the last World Series of Poker. The disabled man had lost the use of his arms in a motorcycle accident and used his feet to hold the cards. Everyone who played with him had been impressed by his dexterity and determination — as well as his poker skills.

Such grace would be lost on someone like Aldo. I can’t imagine Lucky working for him.

Lucky was never loud or obnoxious when he played. He quietly studied his opponents, so he would know what kinds of hands they played and how they played them. Privately to me, he claimed to know exactly what his opponents would do in most situations -- especially what they would bet.

Whether or not he had been dealt good cards really didn’t matter much, because he played against what his opponent had and what his opponent would do, more than he worried about what he had in his hand. Some people thought Lucky had a wonderful ability to pick up on tells -- but knowing his opponents’ folding and betting propensities proved to be more scientific and accurate than watching for facial tics.

He kept a database on each player, which I helped him with, by logging the betting on each hand and cards shown. As Doyle Brunson once said, “Ninety percent of all poker hands are never shown.” We had to watch a lot of poker to understand each player.

“I’m in,” Aldo said, holding the pen an inch above the blank sheet of paper, “if we can agree on terms.”

“I’ve already stated the duration,” Lucky said. “A year.”

Aldo nodded and sneered. “Now the important thing is. . .you’ve got to work at whatever job it is I say.”

“Right,” Lucky said, “but it has to be the same job day after day. I don’t want to be learning new jobs every day or so.”

I shuddered. Aldo would be out for revenge against Lucky. Even though Lucky had been gracious about it, he had knocked Aldo out of two big tournaments. He had also won a large amount of money from Aldo over the years. Money that had been all lost back to the poker community over the last few weeks. Since they had played each other so much, Lucky could read Aldo like the headlines of a newspaper.

“Well fuck all, y’all,” Biggie growled. “That prick is trying to find a way to show you up.”

Lucky waved off Biggie’s warning.

Aldo narrowed his eyes. “If you lose, you’ll have to wear the regular uniform for the position. You do understand?”

“I expected so,” Lucky smiled. “I do want to stipulate a few things. First, whatever I do has to be honest — I’m not going to do tricks.”

I closed my eyes and tried not to gag. Lucky would be very popular as a gigolo but that would not fit into his ethics.

Aldo laughed nastily. “I already got plenty of hookers.”

Lucky looked directly at the Shark. “I want three weeks to put things in order, before I start working.”

Aldo bit his lip. “Okay, but then you’ve got to promise me you will do whatever job it is I give you and act as if you think it’s the greatest job in the world. You’ll do whatever is needed to fit in with the others and try as hard as you can to be an asset to my business. I want to see that famous Russo smile of yours lighting up my place.”

Lucky nodded. “Of course. Like I said, I want all my fingers left when we’re done with our bet. I also want you to give me a $25,000 stake, so I can continue in this game. If I lose it all, you have to promise to write it off and not mess with me. . .no finger clipping.”

“Uh-huh,” Aldo grunted, “but if you win, I get my $25,000 back and the first $50,000 of your winnings when we stop the game at the scheduled time, in six hours.”

“Agreed. Also, I get to wear a bracelet of my choice when I’m working.”

Aldo’s face brightened. “I’d like you to wear one of your bracelets to remind people who you are. It will add dignity to my joint.”

“Write it up,” Lucky said. He then flashed a confusing smile that I hadn’t seen in weeks.

Like Biggie, I have a bad feeling. If Aldo wins, he will do his best to humiliate Lucky.

Aldo finished the document -- and then they both signed it.

Lucky turned over his trip eights.

Everyone then sighed when Aldo theatrically flipped over his full house.

Lucky . . . hadn’t been.

“You’re mine,” Aldo roared, as he laughed cruelly. “The next full year you’re going to be a cocktail waitress in my casino, humping drinks. You’ll wear the same short skirts and high heels as my gals do.”

The six other players around the table gasped.

Everyone in Las Vegas knows at least one drag queen. They’ve been starring in the shows for decades. There’s a stigma attached to their glamorous disguise lifestyles that has dissolved over the years with Ru Paul and Frank Marino pulling down $multi-million contracts.

It’s one thing to come to Vegas to be a diva drag queen. . .and quite another to be forced into it.

Aldo smirked. “And, Mr. Bigshot Lucky, the waitresses are all required to wear dresses and look good whenever they’re out in public, whether they’re on the clock or not. I got my image to uphold.”

Lucky had kept his poker face, but Biggie looked as if he was ready to rip open Aldo’s throat.

“Your sister can help you learn how to act,” Aldo continued, “so as to look the part. No damned man in a dress will be ‘an asset to my business’ so you better look right.” He clicked two fingers together as if to be snipping with them to emphasize his threat.

If I have to, to save Lucky’s fingers I'll make sure Lucky looks more feminine than me. Aldo isn’t going to be handed an excuse to do anything to Lucky’s hands. A few times when I had been about six or seven, Lucky had played dress up with me. He had looked okay in Mom’s dresses, as I recall.

“You’re a donkey,” Biggie stated to the Shark, speaking for the rest of us. He knew, as I’m sure everyone in the room knew, Lucky would do his best to pay off the debt.

“I can do it,” Lucky said, almost eagerly. “It will be a test of my will. . . a real life test.”

He smiled gently as he reached in his pocket and took out what appeared to be a charm bracelet. He fastened the clasp of the feminine piece of jewelry around his wrist. It had only one charm, a dime -- his lucky dime, if I wasn’t mistaken.

“Gentlemen,” Lucky said with a winning smile, “as soon as my boss Aldo passes me $25,000, we can shuffle up and deal. My luck seems to be with me.”

Two hours later, Lucky had already paid back the original $25,000, plus the $50,000 interest. He had chips and cash in front of him that easily totaled over $300,000.

I smiled and finally understood my dear, sweet brother. He isn’t going to be a drag queen. He’s using Aldo. The poker community is male-dominated. A minor player out of Reno was the first known transsexual player in the game but she wasn’t universally accepted. Lucky obviously didn’t want to lose face in the game.

He could read the players. He knew what the Shark would bet.

He knew what he had to do to ease into his new life -- as a her.

All the time he had been losing, he said he could win any time he wanted to.

Apparently, he could lose any time he wanted to, as well.

The End

Thanks to Gabi for the review and help.

I have donated a group of stories to BC to help generate revenue for this site. Erin has said that these stories have raised tens of thousands of dollars in revenue for BC. I don’t receive any of that revenue.

If you buy a book from this list, you’re supporting this site.

Stories available through Doppler Press on Amazon:
Shannon’s Course
The Novitiate
Ma Cherie Amour
Texas Two-Step
All Those Things You Always Pined For
Swifter, Higher, Stronger
Basketball Is Life
Baseball Annie
The Girl Who Saved Aunt T’s
She Like Me
How You Play the Game
Hair Soup
Imperfect Futures
The Handshake That Hides the Snake

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Lucky Russo

An ingenious way to get your RLT sanctioned and not have to worry about anyone thinking anything bad about it, I mean you are paying off a debt are you not? Just because it makes you happy and allows you to have a job and work and dress as the woman you feel you should be doesn't make it any less a debt, right? I hope you will continue with this story as I really think you could make it an interesting read. Put it up for a premium, I have already bought your other stories from Doppler Press and would be happy to buy another.

Nothing in Life is Free, if the cost is not monitary it will be physical, emotional, or spiritual.
Rachel Anne

Nothing in Life is Free; if the cost is not monetary it will be physical, emotional, or spiritual.
Rachel Anne

Thank You Rachel

You're sweet to say all those nice things.

I might continue this story as my favorite poker player is Daniel Negreanu, who has a very sweet nature. I have no knowledge of him being anything but straight. The thing is, you just never know.

Thank you for purchasing the other stories. BC can use the financial support.

I have a small dispute with you. Imagine someone with a huge smile on her face. That smile is for you and it is absolutely FREE.

Angela Rasch (Jill M I)

Angela Rasch (Jill M I)

Nice Laugh

Should have seen it coming, but it snuck up and bit me after all. I even did see a bit of foreboding here and there, and thought I knew what was going to happen, but not the all-important reason why.

Oh, it's sometimes fun to be surprised, and this was one of those times!


I did see that one coming, though perhaps not in terms of a RLT but certainly what was going to happen.

But it was still a great story.


The Legendary Lost Ninja


I'm not much into the current Poker and gambling craze going around right now, but I decided to read this one anyways based on the comments I'd read. I wasn't disappointed, but instead was surprized. I never knew a gambling tale could be sweet. Very nice indeed!
Great stuff Angela!


Cute story Angela, thanks for not calling it "Luck Be A Lady". :)


Gwen Lavyril

Gwen Lavyril

Very neat

Dear Angela

Whilst the nuances of poker are completely lost on me, I can certainly appreciate good writing. This is a neat story, one with an unusual twist to a regular conundrum. But then, you don't write many 'usual' stories, do you? Thank goodness!



What a great story!~!

I'm so glad I "found" it! I'm surprised there aren't more comments.

It would seem that Lucky is not only lucky but also ingenious. Sis didn't seem too surprised, but it also seems she didn't know what was going on either.

As usual, anytime I see "Angela Rasch" associated with a story, it turns out to be an excellent read. Thanks!

Carla Ann

What a lovely twist!

I knew where this would end, but you blazed a nice path to the forgone conclusion. Bravo!

The Perfect Job!

joannebarbarella's picture

Cocktail waitress in a Las Vegas casino! "Forced" to perform to perfection for one year! So, a beautiful uniform showing oneself as a delicious female, submission to all those high-rollin' customers, perfect make-up and hair. A life in high heels. What's not to love?

BUT...only one year? What's the next bet?

My Guess

Lucky will go back on the circuit as one of the great female players. Maybe she'll be the first lady to finish higher than fifth in the WSOP?


Angela Rasch (Jill M I)

My Guess



Angela Rasch (Jill M I)

Hi Angela...guess who!

hon, you know me, maybe better than most. you know I seldom comment and, when I do, it's meant to tell the author they've done something above and beyond what's expected.

I've always believed that less is more and a comment from someone who doesn't comment on everything might mean more to whoever gets that comment.

I've always enjoyed you works and have commented when I thought it would mean something special to you...hence, this comment.

I'm SO glad you changed your mind about staying and keeping your stories available! You are one of the best and losing your work would lessen the site a lot.

This is, to my mind, one of your better tales and it shows off your skill in a great light.

Thanks for all your tales and also, for all you do to support the site.

Always a fan and, I hope, a friend,
Catherine Linda Michel

As a T-woman, I do have a Y chromosome... it's just in cursive, pink script. Y_0.jpg

Fine Wine

I ALWAYS enjoy your comments. They mean a lot.


Angela Rasch (Jill M I)

Fine Wine

I ALWAYS enjoy your comments. They mean a lot.


Angela Rasch (Jill M I)

Excellent read. Almost makes

Rose's picture

Excellent read. Almost makes me wish I was a great poker player.




Thank you!

Rose's picture

While that pic is based on a pic of the real me, it's not quite what I look like IRL. Very close, but not quite.

I thank you just the same.




A super short

Podracer's picture

Thank you for this and your continuing BC support. You generated a very visual scene for me at the table.
The Angela Rasch shelf in my Kindle library is continuing to grow. I don't "have 'em all" but will inevitably add more as we go.

"Reach for the sun."