Archive Page 2

05
Jul
10

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.

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04
Jul
10

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.

04
Jul
10

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.

28
Jun
10

The Game #47

Edward debated just mucking his cards right off the bat, but he was already in for the small blind.  Darius limped in with six hundred dollars and Edward put in the extra three.  Kenny laid the flop out onto the table.  Four of clubs, ten of hearts, six of diamonds.  Edward had flopped an up and down straight draw.  He tried to catch George’s eye, but he was looking at the table, zoning out.  Edward played it safe and checked.  George bet six hundred, telling Edward that he had caught at least part of the flop.  Darius called without commenting and the action came back around to Edward.  He called the bet as well and waited for the turn card.  The nine of diamonds, no help to Edward, hopefully not to Darius either.  Edward checked again, as did George.  Either he missed something on the turn, or he was slow playing a winner.  If he had a seven-eight, then the nine made his straight.  No way to tell, George would not look at Edward.  He was really trying to beat Darius and did not want to give away any kind of tell.  Darius checked the hand and Kenny prepared to deal the river. 

Edward went over everything in his mind, this hand, the previous hands, every bet Darius had made.  He seemed to copy what the other players did much of the time.  Bet when they bet, check when they check.  It was a good strategy, it made it hard to decide if he had the hand or he was bluffing.  Edward was doing his best to read Darius this time, but sitting next to him was making it difficult.  Edward did not believe that their seating arrangement was an accident, either.  Darius had been able to see most of the other players throughout the game, but Edward had not been able to see him very well.   Well played, Darius, well-played, Edward thought to himself.

Kenny flipped over the final card; two of hearts.  That gave Edward a six high straight.  Now was the time, it had to be.

“All in”, Edward said, his voice catching just a bit as he did so.  All George had to do now was fold and Edward would either make Darius back down or end this once and for all.

“I’m all in”, George said.  Edward racked his brain, what the hell did George have that he was so willing to bet Martinique’s life?  Maybe the seven-eight?  Then why the check on the turn if he had made his hand?  The just left the door open for a better hand to suck him out on the river.  Edward’s mind was going full tilt, but he just wasn’t coming up with any answers.

The players flipped their cards and Edward saw the seven-eight; ten high straight.

26
Jun
10

The Game #46

New hand, cards on the felt.  Edward checked; pocket pair of eights, hearts and clubs.  Good starters for a short-handed game.  George was on the button and first up.  He tossed his cards into the muck.  Edward felt a sense of relief wash over him.  Just Darius and him, perfect.  Odds were very much against Darius having a pocket pair also, so there was a good chance that Edward already had him beat.  The flop would tell.  Darius was next to act.

“One thousand”, he said, sliding a sizable chip stack into the center of the table.  Including his big blind, that would cost Edward another seven hundred.  Darius obviously had something strong, but Edward doubted it was a pair.  More likely it was an ace with some paint behind it, maybe suited.  Edward would still have the edge, but not by much.

“Call”, said Edward.  Seven hundred chips into the pot.

Kenny turned the flop cards onto the table.  Three hearts, nine, five and seven.  One card away from a straight flush.  Edward checked and waited to see what Darius was going to do.  Darius limped in for six hundred.  Edward called after a moment and watched Darius out of the corner of his eye.  He seemed steady enough and there was no tell-tale twitch, but that didn’t guarantee anything.  Turn card was the ten of clubs.  Edward now had an open straight with the straight flush draw.  The odds were stacking up in his favor. 

“All in”.  Edward had Darius more than covered and certainly had more than enough outs to put him in the lead.  George was not at risk and even if Edward lost, Darius would not gain much.

“Mr. Teraneau, I was curious whether or not you were serious about this game.” Darius said.  “I seem to have my answer.  I call.”

Darius flipped over his cards; the king of spades and the ace of hearts.  Damn!  Darius would win on any flush but the straight flush.  A king or an ace would also give him the win.  Edward had not seen that coming.  Edward had eight outs, Darius had thirteen.  The odds were in Darius’ favor and it was too late to do anything about it.  Edward was just thankful that Darius’ chip stack was as small as it was.

Next card was burned and Kenny flipped over the river.  Edward’s heart sank as his mind registered the jack of hearts.  The hand belonged to Darius.

“Ace high flush”, said Kenny as he scooped the chips toward Darius.

The water rumbled for a few seconds, but only rose an inch or two in both cells.  The gamble had been worth it.  Darius could have lost and his win had done relatively little harm to either of the two captives.  The only downside was that Darius was now ahead of George in chips and that put a great deal of pressure on George.  Edward hoped that George could hold tight to the chips he had and allow Edward to take on Darius.

Kenny finished shuffling the cards and dealt the hand.  Edward looked and saw the five of diamonds and the three of clubs.  Rags, and being on the small blind, he would be under the gun after the flop.  Bad cards in a bad position; Darius’ takedown would have to wait until the next hand.

21
Jun
10

The Game #45

The ten of spades and the jack of hearts; Edward’s hole cards for this hand.  He truly hoped that George had a pocket pair of some kind.  It should be easy enough to lay down this hand. He looked at George; two fingers on the table.  Good, a pair.  Darius was the only other problem, but Edward could only concentrate on one variable at a time.   Darius was first and called the big blind.  Edward did the same.

“Raise to one thousand”, said George, dropping his chips on the table.  At least a pair of queens, he would never risk Martinique’s life on less.

Darius called the bet without comment and that bothered Edward.  He was not getting any kind of tell from the man.  Nothing about his actions indicated a strong hand, and Darius had a very different game plan than did Edward and George. 

The flop was dealt; ten of clubs, four of spades and the six of hearts.  Junk.  Edward had hit a pair of tens, but that didn’t matter.  He could fold to George regardless.  He was first up and tapped the table, checking his hand.  Action to George.

“All in”. 

The words, which had been disastrous for every player who had uttered them so far sent a chill through Edward.  He waited to see what Darius would do.  Edward had to remind himself to breathe.

“I feel you have me at a disadvantage,” said Darius as he tossed his cards to Kenny.  “Well played, Mr. Varney.”

Edward looked at George, trying to get a signal.  If George had him beat, they could play out the hand, make it look good and Edward could get George some more chips.  If Edward hit the third ten, well, he preferred not to think of the consequences.  He was trying not to look at Martinique.  Her state of undress and struggle to survive did not help his concentration.

Better safe than sorry.  “I agree with Darius, George.  Well played.”  Edward tossed his cards into the muck as well and watched as Kenny pushed the small pot of forty-five hundred chips to George.  He stacked the chips on his pile quickly and the water in Martinique’s cell began to drop.  It got down to about waist level before it stopped.  Edward breathed a sigh of relief.  That would buy them some time.  As if reading his thoughts, the timer on the wall buzzed, announcing that the blinds had gone to three hundred-six hundred.  Darius was now on the big blind and Edward on the button.  Edward hoped that would give him the edge he needed to beat Darius, or at least keep George and Martinique safe.

20
Jun
10

The Game #44

The rhythm was the same one Edward had seen a million times.  The players sat in anticipation of the final card, the river.  For some, it made no difference.  They either had the nuts or they were drawing dead and one more card would not change their hand.  But for many, the final card was everything.  The last card in the straight, make the flush, hit the boat or quads.  The river took away as much as it gave.  It could be uplifting or devastating, a winner or a loser.  The card was random, of course.  Depending on the number of players, it was one of thirty-eight to forty-four cards left in the deck.  From two point six percent to two point three percent.  Those were the odds of hitting any one particular card.  Of course, if a player had more than one out, the odds got better.  But somehow, it didn’t feel like that.  The river had a personality; it was the evil dream crusher to the player losing his all-in bet in the tournament.  It was salvation to the player on his last small stack when it handed his opponent a bad beat against all odds.  Yes, the river was a harsh mistress, and she was not to be courted by the faint of heart.  The minute you thought  that she was yours forever, she would turn on you and give her affections to another.

The card was turned; the five of clubs.  The board was a rainbow, so the flush draw was out.  It was possible that Darius had made  a straight, but Edward didn’t think so.  Edward had George beat, so he needed to him to fold. 

Darius said, “One thousand” and pushed his chips into the pot.

Edward looked at George and gently raised three fingers off the table.  He hoped George had seen the signal.  “Call”.  Edward pushed his chips across the table.  He didn’t want to try to break Darius on this hand as he wasn’t sure what he had, but even if George lost, Martinique would still be alive.  He hoped so.

“Call”.  Edward watched in astonishment as George pushed another thousand dollars worth of chips into the center of the table.  What the hell was he doing?  Hadn’t he gotten the sign?  It was too late for Edward to fold now and he had George beat for sure.

Darius flipped over his cards; a pair of eights.  He was playing us, thought Edward.  Keeping us in the game and trying to get George to go all in.  Thank God he didn’t.  George turned over the jack of spades and the king of hearts.  Damn, he had Darius beat.  Edward turned over his fives and George looked like someone had kicked him in the stomach.  Someone like Edward.  Edward was starting to wonder if Darius had somehow drugged them.  Things weren’t making any sense.  I’ve been playing with most of these people for five years or more and they are the best there is.  So why were things going so terribly wrong?

“Mr. Teraneau, your luck seems endless.” Darius commented as Kenny pushed the chips to Edward.  He reluctantly added them to his chip stack.  The water level in Martinique’s cell began to rise again.  George stared at her, then at Edward.  There was no mistaking the intent of that look.  No matter what happened to Martinique from here on out, George would be holding Edward responsible.

The water had only come up to Martinique’s knees, but it was at her chest and still rising.  She began to tread water, but her flowing gown with its beadwork and her jewelry were making it difficult.  Edward watched as she ducked under the water and began to shed bracelets, rings, her necklace and at last her dress and shoes.  She was now dressed only in a black lace bra and panties.  Her ebony skin was smooth and firm and Edward became embarrassed at how much he enjoyed looking at her.  She pushed off the bottom of the cell and inhaled deeply as her face broke the surface of the water.  The level had stopped rising, but there was less than a foot of air space left in the cell.  George had to win the next hand, no matter what.

The shuffle and the deal; the next hand was under way.