Archive for July, 2010


The Game #52 The Final Hand

Edward pushed a small stack of chips into the center of the table.

“Two thousand.”  Including the small blind, this brought Edward’s total to twenty-five hundred.  Not enough to scare Darius off, but enough to prevent him from thinking that Edward was hiding a strong hand.

Darius called the bet, carefully sliding the chips into the pot.  Kenny burned the top card and laid the flop on the table.  Queen of clubs, jack of hearts and the ace of spades.  Three aces!  It took all of Edward’s self-control to maintain his composure.  Darius could easily have a straight; his bet would be in keeping with playing a king-ten.  Edward pulled himself together although anyone watching him would never have seen a change in his demeanor. 

“Five thousand”, Edward bet. 

Darius studied him for a few moments, trying to get a read on him. 

Good luck with that, thought Edward.  If anyone had ever figured out a way to read Edward Teraneau, he would not be the top rated poker player in the world.  When an opponent did manage to pick up on a tell, it was because Edward had left it dangling for them to find.  Many a poker player had surrendered their chip stack to Edward because they thought they “knew” what he was playing.  Edward shuffled his chips a little faster than normal.  He wasn’t doing anything over the top, like trying to rush Darius, but showing a little case of nerves might give Darius the wrong idea.

“I call”, Darius said. 

Edward studied him.  Was there a tic?  Did he push his chips in too fast, or too slow?  So far, nothing Darius had done had given Edward any kind of information on what was in his opponent’s hand.

Kenny burned the top card yet again and placed the turn card on the table.  The king of diamonds, four cards to an ace high straight, possibly the worst card that could have hit for Edward.  All Darius needed now was any ten.  Edward let just a bit of his nerves show to keep up his charade that he was losing control of the hand.  The odds were still in Edward’s favor, it was slightly better than twelve to one that Darius had the ten.  If a ten hit on the river, they would tie.  If the board paired, unless Darius came up with quads, Edward would have aces full and with no straight flush possible, he would have Darius beat. 

Edward let his mind go empty.  There was a  place he went to when he needed to fully feel his instincts.  He remembered the first time it had happened.  He had been in a ten thousand dollar tournament and was heads up against a local legend, Billy Sands.  Billy had been beating up on Edward all night, calling his bluffs and leading him into one trap after another.  Edward had gotten lucky on a suck out and found himself face to face with the man.  Billy had gone all in with three hearts on the board.  Edward had the straight, but not the flush.  He looked at Billy and suddenly, for some reason, his mind had gone blank.  The next thing he knew, he was calling Billy and taking almost eighty percent of his chip stack on busted flush bluff.

In the stillness of his mind, Edward felt it again.  Now was the time, no looking back.

“All in.”  Edward had Darius more than covered, and a loss here would not really put Mary in grave danger, yet.  Yes, everything about this move felt right.

“I call,” Darius said immediately.  Edward felt the rise of panic.  A snap call was not what he expected.  Had he missed the mark?  Did Darius have the straight?  Edward would have to pull himself out of a deep hole if that was the case.

“Showdown, gentlemen”, Kenny said.

Darius flipped over his cards; the ace of hearts and the king of spades.  Two pair!  Edward happily showed his aces.  Darius was drawing nearly dead; another king would give him kings full, but Edward would have aces full.  All Darius could hope for was a ten to give him a tie with Edward.

This is almost over! thought Edward.  He and Mary could get the hell out of this place and turn Darius over to the authorities.

Once again, time slowed for Edward as Kenny burned the top card of the deck and peeled the river, the last card, from the deck.  It felt like hours as the card was slowly turned over and placed face up on the felt.  A number card, covered with diamonds.  For  moment, Edward thought he saw a ten, but finally the nine of diamonds registered itself in his mind.  It was over.

“Game to Mr. Teraneau”, Kenny said, sliding the chips in front of Edward.  The water drained from Mary’s cell and the glass panel began to slowly rise up into the ceiling.

“Well played, Mr. Teraneau”, Darius said, extending his hand.  Edward regarded it as if it were a live rattlesnake.

“I will see you with a needle in your arm”, Edward said as he brushed past Darius’ extended hand and headed for Mary.

“Eddie!” Mary squealed with joy and threw her arms around Edward’s neck.

“Come on, Mary.  Let’s go home.”  Turning to Darius, he said, “I assume we won’t have any problems leaving?”

“Oh, no, you are free to go.  My men will show you the way out.  Until next time, Mr. Teraneau.”

Edward ignored the comment and headed for the open panel.  It will be a cold day in hell before I sit at a table with that monster,  he thought to himself.  As he and Mary walked down the hallway, Edward noticed that the light that had been filling the room was beginning to fade.  He held tightly to Mary’s hand and placed his other against the wall.  He could barely see and now it was becoming difficult to walk.  He felt like he was spinning; he felt Mary’s hand slip from his grasp.

“Noooooo!” Edward screamed as everything went dark

“Mr. Teraneau, can you hear me?”

Someone was talking to him.  Edward could hear them, but it was still dark.  With a monumental effort, Edward forced his eyes partially open.  There was a blinding white light and he had to shut his eyes against the pain.  Finally, he was able to open them again and began to focus.  There was a face above him.  He recognized it, but his mind could not put a name to it.

“Welcome back, Mr. Teraneau.  You gave us quite a scare.  You and your sister were quite lucky.”

Mary?  Was Mary here?

“Mary….?”  Edward croaked out the word.

“Oh, she’s fine.  As a matter of fact, you are both doing remarkably well.”  The voice was coming from the face in front of him.  The face with the crystal blue eyes.  The name tag on the white lab coat…… Dr. Thomas Darius.

“Darius!  It was you, you killed them…. !” Edward tried to pull himself up out of the bed, but his body would not respond.

“He’s still confused.”  The man, Darius, was talking to someone else now.  “Mr. Teraneau, you and Mary were on the bus that went off the bridge into the river.  Do you remember any of that?  You were the only two that made it out alive.  I’m sorry to tell you, but many of the people who died were friends of yours.”

Bus?  Edward didn’t remember any bus.

“What bus?  I don’t know what you are talking about.”

“The Poker Pros tour bus?  You don’t remember going with the other players and all those fans?  It will come back to you, just rest now.”

The man with Darius on his name tag turned and began talking to the other person again.

“His mind has probably blocked out the event.  Let’s give him some time to rest.  I’ll give him something to help him sleep, just check on him in an hour or so.”

The man turned back to Edward.

“Now then, Mr. Teraneau, you need to get some rest.  You’ve been through quite an ordeal.”

“You…. you killed them…. the game, with the cells…. Kenny was dealing….”

“I’m sorry, Kenny died in the crash also.”

The man leaned over and placed his face very close to Edward’s.

“And now, Mr. Teraneau, I have something of a surprise for you.  You were almost correct, but it is I who will see you with a needle in your arm.”

Edward felt the syringe penetrate his skin and the room began to spin and go dark.  How long had he been laying here?

There were voices in the background and Edward wished they would shut up.  His head was pounding.  He sat up and found himself sitting on a couch.  As his eyes adjusted to the dim light, he saw several people in the room.  Their faces were familiar… and there was a table…. a poker table, in the center of the room.  A door opened and a man with the bluest eyes Edward had ever seen walked in.

“Welcome, ladies and gentlemen.  My name is Darius and I am your host.  My apologies for the cold temperature, but our heat seems to be out at the moment.  If you will please join me at the table?”


The Game #51

The cards were shuffled and dealt again.  The blinds were now at five-hundred and a thousand, Edward was back on the big blind and the button.  The cards hit the felt and Edward left them face down.  Darius was first to act.  He pushed a stack into the pot without comment and let Kenny announce the bet.

“Six thousand”.

Edward looked at his hole cards; queen of diamonds and the three of clubs.  In heads up play, aces and faces were always good.  Edward called the bet, stacking the chips firmly in the center of the table.

Kenny burned the top card and flopped the next three onto the felt.  The nine of clubs, four of hearts and the six of clubs.  Not much of a flop for Edward, but probably not much for Darius either.  Edward would have to ride it out and see where it went.  Darius checked his hand and Edward checked behind him.

The turn card was the three of spades, giving Edward a pair.  A pair of threes with a queen kicker; Edward would have folded except that Darius had checked the last hand so it was costing him nothing to stay in at this point.  Darius bet a thousand, the minimum.  Value bet, or the start of a trap?  Edward called without raising and waited for the river card.  Darius had shown himself to be capable of a hight level of deception and Edward had no desire to go down that road again.

The river card was the three of hearts.  Edward had three of a kind, but the pair on the board opened up a large number of possibilities for Darius.  If he had started the hand with a set, the pair gave him a full house.  He could have made a straight as well if he had played a five-seven, though that seemed unlikely.  Edward waited for Darius to act.

“Five thousand”, Darius announced the bet and set the chips down in the center of the table with more force than usual, Edward noticed.  A bluff or semi-bluff?  Darius had started with a strong bet before the flop, but had checked afterwards.  Now he was betting strong on the river.  Had the pair on the board improved his hand?  Edward ran all of the hands back through his mind.  When the idea hit him, it almost knocked him off the stool; Darius had a weak hand or was bluffing altogether.  Edward could not have explained how he knew this, but his gut told him he was right.  He could go over the top and force Darius out, but better to call timidly and continue his charade.

“I call” said Edward, flipping over his cards to show the three of a kind.  Darius showed a nine-four, two of a kind.

“Three threes is the winner”, Kenny announced and pushed the chips to Edward.  As he stacked the chips, he was starting to see a pattern.  Darius had made his hand on the flop, yet he had checked it.  That was exactly the way he had played the last hand.  He was trying to disguise his hands and draw Edward in, then back off and see if Edward came back strong.

I’ve got your number now, Darius.  Edward almost let a smile turn up the corners of his mouth, but years of discipline prevented him from doing so.

“Well played, Mr. Teraneau”, said Darius.  “The river seems to be bringing you good luck.”

Edward looked briefly at Darius and replied with a taciturn “Yep”.  He made sure to knock over one of his chip stacks as he added the pot.  He wanted Darius to think he was struggling and that this win was totally unexpected.

The cards were collected, shuffled and dealt.  Edward looked at his cards.  The first one was the ace of diamonds; excellent.  The second was the ace of clubs.  Edward’s heart starting pounding in his chest.  He had seen aces cracked in many hands, but rarely in heads up.  This was it, his chance to get the hell out of this nightmare.  He had to play this just right and make sure Darius came along for the ride.


The Game #50

“Two thousand”, Darius said as he pushed his chips into the pot. 

Again, he slid them across the felt rather than pick them up.  The amount puzzled Edward again.  If he was bluffing, surely he would have come on with a stronger bet.  What could he have that the six would have improved?  Edward kept running his thoughts over and over  in his mind.  If Darius had played a seven-nine, the six would have given him a back door straight, but a five thousand dollar bet on a seven-nine was either a very gutsy or a very foolish bet.  Edward could feel Darius getting to him.  The circumstances were certainly part of it, but there was something else.  Edward was starting to feel like Darius was just toying with him, that he had been one step ahead the whole time.  Edward took the least damaging course of action and simply called the bet.  If he won, he would have Darius against the ropes, and if he lost, the damage would be minimal.

The two men flipped over  their cards and Edward saw that Darius had been holding the ace-king of clubs, giving him an ace high straight.  What Edward realized was that Darius had made his hand on the turn, but had checked.  He could have easily made a small bet and Edward would most likely have come along for the ride.  Not only was Edward struggling to get a read on his opponent, he was having a hard time figuring out the man’s game.  Most players had a certain rhythm to their play, almost similar to a dancer’s moves.  So far, Darius had not been consistent in any way.  Edward had to give him credit, he was proving himself to be quite the poker player.

There was a short rumbling sound and Edward glanced nervously at Mary’s cell.  The water only rose a few inches before it stopped.  Darius was ahead of him in chips now, about forty-five hundred or so.  Now, any loss Edward suffered would put Mary more at risk, unless he could get his lead back. 

One hand at a time, Edward reminded himself.  That was something his mentor, Joe “Aces Up” Sheldon had drilled into his head when he was still learning the game.  It took Edward a long time to understand why Joe had chosen to take Edward under his wing.  Joe had been in his late sixties back then and Edward hadn’t been old enough to legally get into most of the card rooms in which he played.  Joe’s health had been deteriorating and he knew his days were numbered.  He had taught Edward everything he could for nearly three years.  Joe lived just long enough to see Edward win his first bracelet before his heart gave out and he had died in his sleep.

The thought of Joe picked up Edward’s spirits a bit and he refocused his attention on the game.  OK, their stacks were about even and Darius was surely thinking he had rattled Edward.  No reason to let him think otherwise, thought Edward.  If Darius wanted to read him, Edward would be happy to oblige.  Darius was no fool, he wouldn’t fall for anything over the top, but a few subtle hints might work to Edward’s advantage.

Kenny finished shuffling the cards and dealt them to the two men.  Edward was now on the small blind and would be first to act.  That suited him just fine.  He checked his hole cards; ten of clubs, seven of diamonds.  Perfect, actually.  Edward bet the blind and waited for Darius, who checked his option.  The flop hit the table; king of diamonds, two of clubs and the queen of hearts.  Edward checked, Darius bet two thousand.  Edward made a small show of re-checking his cards quickly, stared at the flop for nearly a minute before tossing his cards into the muck.  He made sure to flick his cards a bit harder than normal, sending them skittering across the table past Kenny.

“I take it the hand was not to your liking, Mr. Teraneau?” Darius said.

“Part of the game, can’t get winners every hand”, Edward replied, making sure there was just the slightest edge in his voice.  He glanced at Darius as though taking offense to the question.  There it was, the slightest hint of a smile. 

Off to a good start, thought Edward.  Let the games begin.


The Game #49

Edward sat down at the table and looked over at Mary.  Again, he was troubled by the fact that there seemed to be no source of illumination anywhere in the room.  The ceiling of Mary’s cell was smooth and showed no signs of a fixture or even reflected light.  There was no glare on the window, either.  The thought was beginning to become unsettling and Edward had to push it from his mind as Kenny was ready to deal the next hand.

Edward was on the button and the big blind.  He dropped six-hundred dollar chips into the pot and waited for his cards.  Now that he was across from Darius rather than next to him, he might get a better read.  Darius put in the small blind as Edward turned up the corners on his hole cards; pair of jacks, hearts and spades.  Almost a slam dunk in heads up, but after the last disasterous hand, Edward was not going to assume anything.

Darius was first to act.  “Five thousand”, he said, sliding the chips into the center of the table.

Edward had not expected Darius to lead off with a bet that size.  Did he have kings or aces?  Edward studied his face, then his hands, looking for some sign that would give him an idea of what Darius was holding.  The man had a very calm demeanor.  His hands were folded on the table in front of him and his eyes were looking back at Edward as if they had been friends forever.  He was not quite smiling, but there was something about his mouth that implied a smile was not far away.  He had at least one strong card, probably an ace or a king, but Edward did not feel it was a pair.  His gut told him that Darius would have slow played anything stronger than pocket nines.

Jacks were a strong starting hand, so Edward called the bet.  He waited for the flop, not wanting to see any over cards that might pair whatever Darius was holding.  The three cards hit the felt; ten of diamonds, eight of clubs and the queen of spades.

Damn!  That queen could be a problem. thought Edward.  Darius would be first, so Edward could do nothing but wait.  Edward had a gut shot straight draw, four nines out of forty-seven cards, an eight point five percent chance.  Not odds on which Edward would bet the farm to be sure.

“Check”, said Darius, tapping the table in front of him.  Edward breathed a mental sigh of relief.  Either Darius had missed his hole cards, or he was trying to set a trap.  Either way, Edward could get to the turn for free.  He tapped the table to check as well.

Kenny burned the top  card and laid the turn card out on the table.  The jack of diamonds stared up at Edward giving him a set.  It also made it far more likely that Darius had hit a straight.  Edward waited for Darius to bet.  To his utter amazement, Darius checked again.  Edward studied him.  Was there a hesitation there, a twitch?  If Darius had been bluffing or had missed hitting one of his hole cards, then Edward was in a perfect position to take down some of his chip stack.  And if Darius was slow playing…. if he had a set of queens or the straight, then it could cost Edward.  In the end, he opted for a value bet.

“One thousand”.  Edward pushed his chips into the center.  Darius would not fold a solid hand and might even bet a small amount on a bluff.  Darius paused and studied Edward as though trying to get a read on him.

Good luck with that, thought Edward.  Edward’s opponents over the years would have told Darius that getting a read on him was nearly impossible.  Edward either froze solid and unmoving, or he was as animated as a hyperactive kid in church.  There was no correlation between his hand and his actions, the best Darius could hope for was a lucky guess.

“Call”, said Darius after a minute or so.  He slid the chips across the felt instead of picking them up.  Hesitation?  Edward couldn’t be sure.  He had not raised, so it was likely that his still had not made his hand.

Kenny dealt the turn card, the six of spades.  Edward did not hit the straight, but his set of jacks were likely the best hand.  He waited for Darius to place his bet.


The Game #48

That gut wrenching feeling hit Edward like a truck.  He looked at George, normally composed under any circumstances, but his dark brown skin had become almost as pale as Edward’s.  George had a pair of tens in his hand giving him three of a kind.  Darius had the seven-eight and the ten high strait.  Not only that, he had hit it on the turn and checked his bet.  Edward and George had grossly underestimated the man’s ability and now Martinique would pay for their mistake.

“Ten high straight”, Kenny said as he pushed the pot towards Darius.

The vibration began and George ran to the window of Martinique’s cell.

“Niqui, I’m so sorry… and I love you.”  George choked the words out and put his hands and face against the glass.  She did the same as the water began to rise in the cell.  Edward turned away.  He did not want to see another innocent victim die in front of him.  It was bad enough that he could hear George sobbing.  Eight people, eight people had died because he had not been able to stop Darius from killing them.  Now Mary was the only one left.

Edward listened as Darius’ men carried George out of the room.  The only thing keeping Edward from killing Darius on the spot was the knowledge that it would put Mary at risk.  That was the situation at the moment, but Edward began to look beyond the game, something he should have done a long time ago.  It wasn’t just about playing poker, Edward knew that.  Darius was on an ego trip, out to prove he could beat the best players in the world.  Never mind that he had a huge psychological advantage, a mind like Darius’ could justify any actions to satisfy its needs.  Edward knew that excessive ego was a huge disadvantage in poker.  It often put a player ‘on tilt’ and caused them to play poorly.  So far that had not happened to Darius, but Edward was going to start pushing in that direction.

“Congratulations, Darius.  You have made it to second place”, Edward said.  “Would you mind if I changed seats?  Now that we are heads up?”

“Pick any seat you like, Mr. Teraneau”, Darius said.  “We are due for a break at any rate.  Play will resume in five minutes.”

Darius had not responded to Edward’s jab about second place, but his voice seemed a little icy.  Edward pushed his chips to the seat that George had recently vacated.  Despite Darius assurances, Edward listened for the rumbling of the water.  The room remained quiet, the only sound was that of Kenny shuffling the cards.  Edward walked over to Mary’s cell and stood in front of the window.  Mary was sitting against the wall with the water just below her neck.  She was splashing like some deranged drummer, making the water shoot into the air.  It reminded Edward of the Blue Man Group show he and Mary had seen last year.  At first Mary had been frightened by the lights and the loud music, but after the shock wore off, she had laughed and clapped during the entire show.  For weeks afterwards, she would pound on every surface of in the house, chanting “Boom, boom, boom” as she went.  Edward allowed himself a small smile at the memory.  His success had allowed him to provide a very safe and comfortable lifestyle for him and Mary, up until now, anyway.  For the first time since he became a pro, Edward’s occupation had become a threat to both of them.

Edward turned away from the window.  Mary had not even acknowledged his presence.  Probably better that way.  She was off on another adventure in ‘Mary Land’, and it was always safe and fun there.  As Edward turned around to head for the bathroom, he paid closer attention to the room.  The ceiling was painted black and Edward was not sure how high up it went.  The walls were all lined with the same panels that covered the cell windows. 

Don’t you mean execution chambers, old boy?

Edward shook the voice out of his head.  If there was a single detail that could give him an edge, he needed to find it.  He walked slowly into the bathroom and closed the door.  The level of detail from his suite at the Bellagio was disturbing, even the second time.  Edward looked around as though admiring the work.  What he was looking for was cameras.  Surely Darius would want to keep an eye on his ‘guests’ when they were away from him?  There was no reason to hide them, but Edward did not see anything that looked remotely like a camera.  He ran the water in the sink, washed his hands and face and headed back to the table.  He looked around for more cameras in the card room, but could not find any there either.  That’s when an odd thought struck him.

“Where are the lights?”

As Edward looked around the room, he noticed that there was not a light fixture to be seen anywhere.  No windows or skylights either.  So what kept the room illuminated?  Edward decided not to ask Darius that particular question, but would see if he could discover the answer for himself.

July 2010
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