The Valentine’s Freezeout

Tales Told by an Idiot
Tales Told by an Idiot

OK, this blog has the word poker in its address so no apologies for the start of a short story about it:

Two queens peeked back at Montague Pool. Two more women to pile more misery on a miserable day. The first woman being Wanda, who had flounced out of his world that morning. Wanda had wandered into his life and now Wanda had wandered out – his old affectionate joke turned sour.

Now these two females would furnish the punchline and finish him off.

Monty returned the playing cards to their prone position on the table. He wouldn’t need to look at them again. They were imprinted. The queen of spades, for digging his grave, and the queen of hearts (what else?) lay hidden on the green baize.

A clatter of chips to Monty’s right signified one player limping into the poker pot. He didn’t have to look to know that it was Calum McBain. McBain who had already twice sucked out on Monty to reduce his chips to the pathetic red and black survivors in front of him. McBain who moreover had designs on Wanda. Monty had seen it. Monty knew.

Monty also knew what one of Calum’s two cards would be. An ace. An ace that was sure to connect with the five cards yet to come. An ace with another ace, a pair of aces to beat a pair of queens. That had been the story of Monty’s Valentine’s Day tournament.

So what was the story now? Play it clever and limp as well? Or play it fast and shove his entire remaining stack? Push the lot over the white line into the playing area? Either way the gambling gods were against him. Either way didn’t matter.

Hell, maybe he needed the downtime to absorb Wanda’s departure, to get sloshed in the casino’s overpriced bar.

“Are you playing?” the dealer’s voice cut in.

Monty’s hands were clammy. He was sweating despite the card-room’s fierce air-conditioning. He couldn’t be careless; he needed this tournament; he needed the money; he needed the prestige.

He picked up the pile of chips – so easy to do with so few – and dropped them one by one over the line. “All-in,” he growled.

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