In 2006, the first year that poker events would play at the Rio instead of Binion's, Quincy, wearing enough makeup to resemble a sun-ravaged, retired farmhand, entered 32 of the 45 World Series of Poker matches. He missed some of them because he didn't qualify--like Event #1, the NL event for casino employees that annually kicked off the tournament series, or the events for ladies and seniors--but also because he was too lazy to multitable two events at once. Tournament rules disallowed Piotr from taking one of Quincy's seats and following instructions by text, which in Quincy's words "sucked bigtime."
"If you can't multitable, then only old people will play," Quincy complained.
At the same time and in the same casino, Natalia Pertman, the teenage Russian starlet famed for her petite figure, aquiline face, long black hair, and wildly eccentric movie performances, an actress who has no resemblance to any actual person living or dead, was starring in an indie flick filming late at night on the gaming floor. At 3 a.m. nightly, when the number of gamblers had whittled down to the homeless, insomniac tourists, drunk college kids, and Red-Bull-pumped grandmothers, the casino closed off the lesser-used blackjack tables and roulette wheel.
In the $1,500 NL Event #2, Quincy had made it through three orbits before busting out with nine-deuce of hearts on a flop containing the ace of hearts, the jack of hearts, and the deuce of diamonds. An ace on the turn gave his opponent, an Internet kid wearing gigantic black headphones, a full house. No other events were running, so he spent the rest of the day playing Grand Theft Auto 3 on his PS2 while Piotr watched a six-hour pay-per-view documentary called "The Russian Elite: The World's Greatest Chess Matches."
"That's like porn for you," Quincy said.
Piotr sat up in bed and feigned indifference. "No."
"Really. It is."
"One, because there's porn on pay per view, but instead you're watching 'The World's Greatest Chess Matches.' Two, because you have a hardon underneath those sheets."
Ignoring him, Piotr was already absorbed in the game underway on the screen. "Watch this," Piotr said, mesmerized. Boris Spassky moved his knight to king's rook six. "Boom!" Piotr exclaimed. Spassky's opponent, Mikhail Tal, stood and wavered, as if he had just been clocked by a devastating uppercut. A few moments of deliberation later, seeing that his position had just been rendered indefensible, Tal extended his hand, and Spassky shook it. "TKO," Piotr noted. "He'll be pissing blood for weeks."
Before they knew it, a dozen hours had passed. It was the middle of the night, and they were starving. Instead of ordering room service, they headed downstairs.
"What's going on over there?" Quincy asked.
"Movie, I think," Piotr replied.
They approached the barrier, above which a sign read "SILENCE PLEASE," and saw a camera set up near the craps table. It was pointed at a blackjack table where a young woman was seated with her back to them both.
"Who is she?"
"Dunno," Piotr lied.
They circled around. When the actress turned, Quincy froze, unable to look away from her face. Seeming not to notice, or else immune from such attention, she turned her attention to the casino chips in front of her. She tried to shuffle the chips, but she obviously needed practice.
"Quince, you okay?"
Piotr nodded. He knew. He had arranged the meeting. Kidnapping her hadn't been much of an option. He had checked with his most reliable illegal sources and been told that her security was too tight. So Piotr had spent the next half year stumped--until he awoke in the middle of the night with the perfect solution. Plan B! He got in touch with a Hollywood friend of his father and promptly bought a half-dozen scripts that he thought that she might like based on her past films, in which she tended to play a hooker, an addict, or a young girl slowly losing her sanity, and sent them all to her agent from "Gleeman Productions Unlimited."
The script she chose was about a gambling addict who goes broke, turns to prostitution to fuel her blackjack needs, get smacked around by an abusive pimp, and slowly loses her mind. Its working title was "Hit Me."
The agent also informed Piotr that Pertman might also be interested in another of the scripts about a Russian chick who mistakenly buys a lottery ticket, wins a million dollars, loses every penny playing video poker, joins a religious cult, becomes the cult leader's thirteenth wife, and abruptly gets swallowed alive by a sinkhole. Its working title was "A Lunch for Earth."
Quincy stepped through an opening in the barrier and approached her, a move that Piotr had anticipated, giving all of the film workers (except Natalia) a picture of Quincy and telling them that he had carte blanche.
When Natalia turned to him, Quincy said, "You have been the last dream of my soul."
She stared at him, marveling, then said, "That's the most morose and hopeless thing I've ever heard."
He beamed. "Thanks. I got it from 'A Tale of Two Cities.'"
"He's bankrolling the movie, by the way," Piotr said, appearing at Quincy's side.
She seemed genuinely surprised. "Him?"
"Me?" asked Quincy.
She laughed. "Well then, I guess you're the one I should complain to about the casino."
"What's wrong with it?" Quincy asked.
"Everything. The room service is especially bad."
Quincy fished around in his backpack, then placed a brick of hundreds on the felt table. She blinked twice and said, "Is that supposed to impress me?"
Quincy looked confused. "It's for dinner." He took a step back and added, "You shuffle the chips real bad."
Unruffled, she said, "I noticed that."
"That's because your hands are too small." She gave him a half-smile, so he added, "How tall are you?"
"Five three. Why?"
"Just want to make sure your cage is tall enough."
"What cage, funny boy?"
He felt himself getting an erection, so he said, "Bye!" and headed for the elevator.
Once he was gone, Natalia said simply, "What a manchild."
Piotr nodded. His assessment: Complete success.