April 19, 2004

Texas Hold 'Em

Nick deals us each a pair of cards face down
and I pull mine to the table’s edge and lift
the corner just enough too see each card’s
number and suit. Queen of hearts and five
of clubs. I look around the plastic table
set up next to the car in the garage,
studying each player’s face
to see if they’ll give away their cards
with a hint of a smile or a touch of their face.

We each toss a button in the middle as ante
and Mike starts off the betting with a knock.
Everyone answers with their own knock in turn.

Nick takes the top card off the deck
and places it on the table face down.
He pulls the next three off and flips them over,
spreading them in the center of the table.
The Flop: five of diamonds, ten of spades, three of clubs.
“Well, that’s a pile of shit,” he says. At most
he’s got a pair. Probably nothing.

Mike knocks again and Kordik takes
another glance at his cards. He grabs a bottle cap
from his pile and tosses it in the middle.
Matt slides his cards across the table,
I call the bet and so does Nick. It’s back to Mike,
and he turns in his cards.

Picking up the deck, Nick burns the top card
and the flips the ten of hearts face up
for the Turn.

Kordik rolls his eyes to the ceiling and then
hesitantly grabs a matchbook and pauses
before setting it gently in the middle of the table.
He has three tens at best, but three threes
or three fives still beats my two pair. Maybe
he has a pocket pair, something high
like jacks or queens. That still beats me.
I shift my eyes between him and the pot.
A five or a ten on the river
and I’ve got a full house. I toss in
my matchbook and raise him a bottle cap.
“So, who’s got the full house?”
asks Nick, lifting the deck and placing
his cards at the bottom.

Another card is discarded and Nick
flips the fifth card, the River, face up
at the end of the row of four cards in the middle
of the table. The queen of diamonds.

“I’m going all in,” Kordik says, pushing his pile
of buttons, bottle caps, and matchbooks
to the middle of the table. What does he have?
Is it those pocket queens? Maybe he doesn’t
have anything at all. Would he go all in
on a bluff? “I can’t let you buy the pot,”
I say. “I’ll count it up if you win.
Show us what you’ve got.”
He tosses his cards face up, revealing
the three of hearts and the three of diamonds.
I hit slam my fist on the table, causing my pile
to jump. I count it up and I’m left with on button,
just enough to ante the next hand. I’ll be
the first person out, just like always.

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