Lacey’s infamous poker game

May 8th, 2017 by Ken

There weren’t many places to play poker in Lacey back in the 1970’s.  The only card room operating openly was on the floor atop Casey’s tavern.  They were low stakes and open to everyone.

But, the game we all wanted to play in took place every Thursday night in a meeting room above the Red Bull Restaurant.   There restaurant owner Ron McWain held a high stakes invitation only poker game.   On more than one occasion, I asked Ron to let me into the game.   “You can’t afford it,” he said.   And I never got a seat at the table.

The names of all those who did get a seat aren’t all known, but the name of some of them are.  Those names go to a story that made the rounds of local poker players for years.

It took place one Thursday night at the Red Bull.  Playing in that game were many local businessmen, but the two who took the spotlight that night were Lee Bensley and Tony Swatsky.  Lee owned Lee’s Restaurant on Martin Way, and a couple of apartment complexes.  Swatsky owned Tony’s Jewelry.

The story goes that Lee and Tony had been going at it all evening, with one taking a hand and then another.   Until that fateful moment.

The ante was $100.  Lee raised the pot.   Tony re-raised.   Lee raised back.   Tony responded in kind.   Lee put all of his money into the pot.   Some said it was close to $10,000.   Tony called  – and raised $10,000 of his own.

Lee had no more money, and no way to get access to it that evening.   So, as the story goes, he put up his restaurant.   Now Lee’s Restaurant wasn’t just any restaurant.   Lee’s had been the first restaurant in the state to have a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise and people came from all over  just to eat this new chicken treat.

Lee put up his restaurant and signed a note giving it to Tony.  With the bet covered,  Tony turned over his hand.  Those there that night said he had three jack’s.  Lee folded and mixed his losing hand with the discards.

The next morning, after the banks opened, Lee went to Tony’s store and gave him $10,000 in cash.

Now, I don’t know if that story’s true or not.  Both Lee Bensley and Tony Swatsky have passed away.   The house man Ron McWain, sold the Red Bull and moved to Nevada.

But, it makes a good story and Lacey is filled with good stories.

Posted in History, The Real News

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