The Final Hand

21 Mar

He had never been there before, but he had been to a thousand places just like it. Trash in the street. Dingy building. Some guy standing in the shadows by the door.

They nodded to each other as he walked through the door and made his way into a dimly lit room. However, it was the only light that the men in the room had probably seen in a while. They were creatures of the darkness. All they needed was a light shining down on the felt table covered with cards and chips.

He was a poker player, and these were his people.

He took the empty seat and looked around the table. A couple of them he had played against many times. The others were new. That did not matter. He would learn about them.

Through the night, he studied the players. He studied their playing style. He studied their mannerisms. He studied who they really were.

To his left sat someone who he knew well. A great athlete whose life peaked as a high school hero. His body was broken, and his competitive need could only be filled on the felt. The rest of the time he maintained the same field where he once dominated.

The next player was the typical guy who learned how to play by watching television. He had the hoodie. He had the cap low over his eyes. He should have been playing a fifty cent game at some backwoods casino.

Then, there was the man who looked like he had been sitting in the same chair for a hundred years. His eyes looked tired, and his face looked like it would crack if he smiled. At some point, he mentioned that he had won a tournament several years ago. It was said in passing but was meant as a declaration of the greatest moment of his life.

Across the table sat a man who was hard to read. He had dabbled in different jobs with varied levels of success. He liked to talk, which meant that his time as a car salesman and a real estate agent may have been the high points. Funny, his rate of conversation paralleled the size of his chip stack.

A hulking guy sat next to him. He was the type who lorded over the table and hoped to win with intimidation rather than skill. He did not talk much, the stereotypical strong silent type, but it did not take much time to discover that he was a short-haul truck driver who was thousands of dollars in debt.

The strangest one sat to the left of the Hulk. Not strange in the sense that he could be a serial killer. Strange in the sense that he did not belong in the room. He wore a sweater vest and glasses. He was educated. Why was he in the room? Did he worked in a skyscraper and get his thrills by playing in the gutters? It was difficult to figure out.

The last player was the one he knew best. The one who put this game together. He played wild and lived wilder. He played this game, but the game possessed him. He had won money at the game, but, in return, he had lost his family to the game.

As the hands flew by, he studied the other eight men at the table. He lost track of the cards and of his chip stack. The game became a blur.

As he studied his opponents, he began to realize that he did not want to play anymore. There was a time when he, like the others in the room, lived for poker. However, he did not care about winning or losing. He wanted to be out of that game. He wanted to be away from that table. He wanted to be out of that room.

He wanted to be where life meant more than a handful of cards. He wanted to care about more than the flop, the turn and the river.

A line from a long forgotten movie came to him.

This game had lost its allure.

On the next hand, he went all in without looking at his cards.All In

It was time to go home and leave this game behind.

His chips went into the stack to his right.

He got up from the table and walked out into the night. He had lost the hand, but he knew that, in the final hand, he had won.

 

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6 Responses to “The Final Hand”

  1. Bantering Ram March 21, 2015 at 04:31 #

    Lovely, Rick!

    • Rick March 21, 2015 at 04:37 #

      Thank you

  2. Andrew Petcher March 21, 2015 at 08:39 #

    Good story and some sound advice!

    • Rick March 21, 2015 at 14:10 #

      Thank you. I used to play all the time, but the fascination has passed.

  3. shutterbugshea March 21, 2015 at 15:50 #

    Great story! You must have played a hand or two in your day!!
    Really enjoyed the post!!

    • Rick March 22, 2015 at 01:06 #

      Thank you. I have played occasionally.

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