“The Usual Crowd Shuffles In” by Alan25main
Ron Pittenger pens another short story for our blog today, and this time he shares that comfortable feeling of playing with your regulars. Read on to get your poker fiction fix!
“Nine o’clock on a Saturday. I remembered Billy Joel’s song, Piano Man. It seemed appropriate since we were all regulars. There were three open seats as the seven of us exchanged greetings. Only the dealer was different, but not all that different as I’d seen him at the Station and at Sam’s. Now, here he was at The Church. “Rashy,” his name tag said. He was quiet, competent, and kept the game moving. He seldom smiled except when receiving a toke.
Bobby, a retired salesman, sat in the one seat. Dana, a retired waitress, sat in the two seat. The three was empty for the moment, but would likely be taken by Doc, so-called due to having been a Navy Hospital Corpsman many years go, and now a part-time radiologist. “Tackle” sat in the four. Like me, he had trouble seeing the board cards from, he said, his football playing days; he was big enough that it might’ve been true. The five was empty. I’m Harry, another retired guy; I was sixth. Smitty, whose rhyming nickname I’ll spare you, was in the seventh seat. I’d known Smitty in the Marines 50 years earlier. Tamara, like “I’ll see you tommora,” was sitting eighth. Tammy was the kid at our table since she was only in her late forties, and she wore those years very well. Pizza Mike sat ninth. The ten was empty next to Rashy’s right elbow.
Being regulars, we had all brought chips with us except Smitty, who paid cash for the minimum buy-in. Rashy checked each player’s stack to verify we all had at least the required minimum, $100.
“No Limit Hold’em, $1 and $2 blinds,” Rashy announced. “First jack is first button.” He dealt a nothing card to Bobby and a jack to Dana. “First button to the young lady,” Rashy said. As Dana smiled quietly, Rashy pointed to Tackle and me saying, “Blinds, please.” We posted. He dealt.
Most players immediately look at their cards. I watched their faces, instead. There were no give-aways. I looked at my own cards and inwardly shuddered to see three-deuce off suit. One by one, everyone folded around to Tackle, who now looked at his cards and called.
“Push?” I offered, meaning we could both take our bets back and fold with no house rake.
“Play,” he said, rejecting the offer. He thought enough of his hand to want to play, but not enough to raise. Or, he wanted to keep me in hoping I’d invest more. I checked my option.
Rashy burned the top card and dealt the flop. 3-2-3 was the board. Tackle examined the board; I examined Tackle. “Bet two,” he announced.
I’d played against him before. Generally, if he bet, he expected to win. I tried to put him on a hand. Not a big pair, or he’d have raised. Likewise, not A-K, for the same reason. So, A-x, two Broadway cards, or a small pair. The small pair, I decided, as that would justify a bet. I wanted to raise small enough that he’d call. I didn’t want to waste a full house on the flop.
“Make it six,” I said.
Tackle studied me for a few seconds. He had to figure me for trip threes. He smiled.
“All in for $151,” he said.
Oh, my. Tackle doesn’t care that he figures me for a three. Which means he has the cased three with a solid high card, perhaps an Ace, but whatever it is, it’s higher than my two. If he has that three, I can’t improve, but he can.
I’ve invested 8 chips in the pot. It’ll cost $143 more to call. Even if we tie, the rake will be about 9 chips each, otherwise, the 18 will come from the winner and the loser will have to rebuy. It seemed like a poor bargain. Maybe, I could buy time and gather information.
“How big is your barn?” I asked.
“Big enough,” he replied with a smile. Then he added, “If you fold, pay me $5, and I’ll show the cards.”
“Okay,” I said. I grabbed up five white chips and tossed them in his direction as I mucked. That really did seem a bargain.
“Like a ballerina’s dress, it’s a two-two,” he quipped as he dragged in the pot.
“Well played,” was the only thing I could think of to say. I had folded to the only strong hand I couldn’t possibly lose to.
Sometimes, even when you’re right, you’re still wrong. That’s poker.”