Mr. Sandbag


Photo credit: Tiago Daniel via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Sandbagging: when a player in a game chooses not to play their best in order to hustle you. They hide their talent or skill until they’re ready to win the game or seal the deal usually scooping up your money at the same time. In our family, a sandbagger was also someone who “hid” their true winnings or kept some extra cash in their pockets.

Take my brothers for example. Carmen was a great sandbagger. He always had money. And Tony was always broke. So when Tony needed a “loan” he naturally went to Carmen.
Carmen who had a soft heart was also a soft touch. So Tony always knew he could count on him. Their conversation would usually go something like this:

“Hey Carmen, you got any dough?”

“No.” Carmen would answer. Actually Carmen being the sensible one not only had money in his pocket but he also had savings.

“Ah, c’mon, you gotta have something. Today is payday. I got a hot tip on a horse.”

Carmen just shook his head. I already knew where this conversation was heading as I had seen my brothers in action before. Tony would always promise to double Carmen’s money and Carmen would always give in in the hopes of bettering his investment. Carmen would have done better at the bank.

In time Carmen learned to hold back (sandbag) and tell Tony that he only had limited funds in his pocket. He’d say he had five dollars but really had ten. Of course I knew that but Tony didn’t.

Round about this time there was a popular song called Mr. Sandman. It was a very catchy tune and with a slight change, I used to walk around the house and serenade my brother Carmen. But instead of singing Mr. Sandman, I’d sing Mr. Sandbag. Boy did he ever get mad.

It wasn’t’ because he felt I was insulting him, no, he was afraid I would blow his cover.
The opportunities to make money according to Tony were everywhere. First there was the race track. Then there was Johnny “Spots” Moretti’s house. Johnny “Spots” had a pool table in his living room that was quickly and easily converted into a craps table on Friday nights.

As luck would have it, and it’s always luck, Tony was able to convert those spots into cash. He made enough cash to fund a trip to Las Vegas for himself, Carmen and their favorite cousin Dickie Vee.

Back in those days a day trip to Vegas was quick and cheap and you could always count on hotels to comp the high rollers. Of course if you looked closely, my high rolling brother Tony would have a fifty dollar bill wrapped around fifty singles – Mr. Big Spender.

And spend he did. As expected he burned through his cash, Dickie Vee’s cash and Carmen’s cash in less than six hours. They had another ten hours to kill and they were flat broke. Tony was dejected, Dickie Vee was disappointed, and Carmen was relieved because Tony believed that Carmen was also broke.

But no, unbeknownst to Tony, Mr. Sandbag still had fifty dollars in his pocket. That money was intended to buy them a nice dinner and drinks prior to taking off for home.

In the hotel room, Tony lay across the bed flipping cards into an empty bowl. Dickie Vee did a crossword puzzle and Carmen watched the television to kill time. The minutes crawled by. Boredom hung like a wet blanket over the little group. Just an hour ago they were caught up in the sights and sounds of a casino now they were cooling their heels in a hotel room.

Carmen glanced at his younger brother. He had never seen him look so forlorn. Before he knew it, his soft heart got the better of his hard head.

He turned to Tony and said, “Mind if I play?”

Tony just shrugged and handed him the deck of playing cards.

“No need,” Carmen said. “I have my own.”

And with those words he pitched five crisp ten dollar bills in the bowl.

Tony and Dickie Vee jumped to their feet.

Tony hugged Carmen, “I knew you’d come through. I knew you’d take care of me. You always do. I love you bro!”

Carmen protested, “This is it. This is absolutely the last time. No more.”

But everyone knew that Carmen would always be there for Tony no matter what, no matter where. Because in a life filled with love there’s always room for more.

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