Big night at the card table

Last week’s poker game was truly memorable. Sal, Kurt, Jaime, Dave, my cousin Steve and I were playing the evening’s final hand. The game was Seven Card Stud, and its rules are simple. Each player antes up and gets dealt two cards face down, then one face up. Bidding starts with the player possessing the highest face-up card. The other participants in turn either match the opening bid, raise it, or, if they’ve got bad cards, drop out. Once bidding is complete, those who’ve paid up get their next face-up card, and more bidding commences. That sequence of events is repeated prior to the dealing of the fifth and sixth cards, both of which are delivered face up. There are no wild cards, and those electing to stay in the game until the bitter end get their final card delivered down and dirty.

After six cards had been distributed, the four lying face-up in front of me were a two, a three, a four, and a five. My two hole cards were useless (a seven and a jack), but my opponents didn’t know that, so I thought it was worth paying for a final face-down card, since a six or an ace would complete my straight.

The pot had gotten pretty significant by this time, and when Sal, who was sitting directly to my right and had a pair of kings showing, opened the bidding with a sizable bet, I matched it. Dave, who was sitting to my left, examined what he had, shook his head sadly, and turned his cards over. Steve, sitting to his left, did likewise while uttering a single word: “Fold!” Across the table, Jaime, with a pair of queens sitting in front of him, matched Sal’s bet. When Kurt, who had been dealing, declared he was out, it left three of us contending for what was by far the largest pot of the night.

Kurt distributed final cards, face down, to Sal, Jaime, and me. Peeking at mine, it was clear there was only one sensible course of action. After Sal opened with a dollar bet, I raised my eyebrows, tried unconvincingly to conceal a grin, and pushed all my chips into the center of the table. That was too rich for Jaime, who folded. As for Sal, he too declined to cover my bold, “all-in” wager, so I happily raked in a healthy pile of coins, bills, and poker chips.

Boy, were those guys upset when I revealed my final card: a nine! Sal had folded with a pair of eights in the hole to go with his kings, and it turned out Jaime had a third queen. I tried not to gloat over my audaciously successful bluff, but I’m not sure I succeeded in doing so.

Now for some interesting facts. I last saw Dave three summers ago, but it’s been more than three decades since I’ve seen our mutual friend Sal. Neither of them ever met Steve, who died last year, or Kurt, who has been deceased for nearly four decades. Jaime, another good guy who I haven’t seen in a very long time, has never met Dave or Sal, although he was friendly with Kurt, and attended our town’s elementary school at the same time Steve and I did long, long ago.

It’s hard to say if there’s any significance to the event described above. All I know for sure is it emerged from deep in my subconscious one night last week. But it’s not my job to analyze and/or fact check these sorts of scenarios; I just dream them.

Andy Young
May 24, 2024

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