Last hand, and not a good one. The dealer had graced Ben with an eight of diamonds, two threes, ace of clubs and a two of spades.
He gazed at all his money piled in front of his opponent. Ben had to win it back or he would need the spade to dig his grave. Too much whiskey had expanded his ego into the belief he was good at poker.
His opponent had noticed Ben’s distress or at least the sweat that rolled from his brow. The older man took a long drag off his cigar. It was one of the expensive kinds, which have a spice smell, softening the stout tobacco odors. He tapped his cards on the table, closed them, and then fanned them back open again.
With a curt nod he pulled two cards from his hand and slid them face down over the green felt toward the dealer. The dealer lifted the cards and made note of them, as if they held the key to Ben’s fate.
With a practiced flick of thumb the card sharp tossed out two cards. He inclined his head toward Ben. “Mr. Mason, your bait.”
Ben glanced down at the cards in his hand. The edges were warn and yellowed from the many hands that had held them. They gave no help in the crucial decision he must now make. One card could make a difference in his pockets filled richly or remaining empty.
He settled his hat more forward on his brow to keep the nervous sweat under it and out of view of his competition. Ben felt in his gut that the man had a sure hand.
Ben knocked back his last shot of whiskey and pulled three cards from his hand. He placed them face down next to the dealer. Too late did he realize he had given away one of his threes. The only pair he held, though it be a weak one, the same as his knees in that moment.
The dealer thumbed out his three replacements, but before Ben could pick them up and survey the damage, his opponent had an ego ruling moment of his own.
With a smirk at the corner of his handle bar mustache the man pushed all of the money he had taken from the young cattleman into the center of the table. “Winner takes all, rancher.”
Ben pushed in the last of his wealth to join the pile of paper and coin. There was no reason to keep his concern hidden now. The gambler knew he had Ben in a tight spot.
His hand on the three cards, Ben exhaled and set them into his hand. He couldn’t bear to look as the dealer called the hand and bid them to show their cards.
A few of the saloon patrons had taken a leisurely interest in the game as players began to drop away from the high stakes table. Now the bystanders moved in closer for the reveal. Ben felt the heat of the room as his pulse beat in his ears.
The gambler laid out first, his cards fanned out as they left his fingers. The dealer examined them. “Pair of
Ben sighed sure his hand would have nothing of value after he fumbled and gave away half of his only pair. His eyes gazed at the gambler leaning back with a sated expression as he puffed on his spiced cigar. Ben had a moment of deep hate for the man as he placed his cards to the felt with much less flair.
The gambler’s expression changed as he looked over. Ben turned his eyes down to the cards as the dealer spoke the verdict. “Two pair, Mr. Mason wins the pot.”
Relief filled every cell in his body. Ben made a silent pact between him and God not to let ‘o be joyful’ get to his head like this again. Luck had been on his side after all. The elation was short lived as his eyes focused on the cards, a dandy king, two aces and two eights.
A dead man’s hand. Ben paused in his reach for his earnings. In his gut he knew this was an omen. His luck would change again, soon.
I hope you enjoyed the first post for the Blogging from A to Z challenge 2012. Come back for more alphabetic fun through out the month of April.