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Another player was a timid man, who hovered on the verge of constant apology. His eyes were round, like nickels. I discovered he owned some part of a bank, probably 90%.
The third owned rich parents. He wanted to be 25, but was closer to 45. He either wore a toupee or his face was crooked. He gave me some skin, presenting his palm face-up. He wore a leather shirt, open to the belt, exposing bones. He was about as far out as you can get without a return ticket. He was a Junior.
The fourth owned cattle. He had short hair and long boots, and a diamond ring that could hypnotize a cow while the brand was being applied. They called him Pard.
Oils, Banks, Junior, Pard and me.
A servant took drink orders. Junior asked for something with an insect's name. I ordered two vodka tonics and accepted a big cigar. The only cigars I have ever smoked came marked "This end up" with a plastic tip on one end. I saved this one.
All of them were partially bronzed. They had taken vacations nearer the sun. I was sickly white and the pulse on my left wrist was trying to jump out.
The butler told Oils that the card table was ready. It was impressive, all freshly brushed felt, with compartments, one the size of a safety deposit box.
I threw down a fifty and got two chips. I broke another fifty into tens, the lowest denominator. We cut for deal. I sliced the three of clubs. Banks, to my left, got it with the king of hearts. The game was Five-Card stud, $10 ante. That was all they played. I said it sounded like a good game. That had once been a great line for somebody else, but it didn't work for me. They stared and I did something with my face.
It was $50 limit, three raises. I had $50 in chips, $400 in bills in front of me, $50 weaving in and out of my toes. I ordered another vodka tonic, which made three of a kind. I interpreted this as a sign of imminent greatness. As Banks slinked out cards, you could have heard GM drop a point.
I enjoy trying to break even. People who don't like to gamble have never gambled. Gambling is probably popular because you're too numb to think about anything else, too mesmerized to have any worries. Gambling makes boring events tolerable. It's like radio. Without radio, there would be few highways across the Texas Panhandle. Without the Giants-plus 3 for a buck, why would anybody turn on a TV set?