SI Vault
Jay Cronley
December 11, 1978
(Writer's note: The names in this story have been changed to protect the innocent—namely, me. Besides, there is a certain amount of honor among poker players, even those who call home to say they are working late. And, for three excellent reasons, a writer can't take a notebook, camera or tape recorder into a big-money poker game. One: he might bet them. Two: the items would restrict concentration. Three: the man who let me play would have snapped me in half like a cardboard $50 chip.)
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December 11, 1978

A Sad Tale Of Three Sixes, Four Vodka Tonics And One Empty Sock

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You go into a game hoping to learn a little something about yourself and perhaps life in general. And also, of course, to make a killing.

Five-Card stud is a good game. At times its simplicity is annoying (especially through the haze of three vodka tonics, when it begins to look like War, a children's game in which each player turns over a card, high card wins). Other times, you're awed when you conjure up a straight. The odds against a straight are about 250 to one.

Banks had long, thin fingers, probably from being careful with rolls of dimes. He gave me the six of spades, down. I didn't know what he gave the others. I also hoped Banks didn't. My up card was another six. Other up cards were 10, jack, trey, king. I was no longer coordinated enough to match them to faces.

The king bet $25. The trey called and raised $25. I nodded, tossing in $50. Fifties take more time to toss than nickels. Fifties float. Everybody else called for reasons that would have been obvious only in a seance.

I asked for another drink. Junior, his hair now cocked so the part was over his nose, said, "Right on."

Oils said, "Deal, deal, deal."

Banks said, "Sorry." It looked real good on him.

I got the six of hearts. I reached out and took the six of hearts from Banks. I didn't tell them I had three sixes because my tongue had passed out.

I bet $10. The chip stood on its edge in the middle of the table, then fell into the pile, as if it had been shot. Banks called his king-10. Oils called with his four-jack, and raised $25. Did anybody say fours and jacks were wild? Pard, now with a pair of treys, called the $35 and raised $50. Junior, deuce-10, called the $85 and raised $50. I called a mere $135. My sixes were now appraised at $65 per.

If they were trying to upset me with deuce-10, four-jack raises, it was working. The pot was $975.

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