Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Ghost of a Gambler

old playing cardsI was playing cards with some acquaintances at a hotel in Nuckollsville the other night when the lights began to flicker. “Oh that’s just Old Joe,” said one player. “He used to gamble here, but he died a few years back. His widow Miss Sally works as the hotel cook to make ends meet. Her little boy washes the dishes.”

“Why don’t you invite Old Joe to play?” I asked.

“’Cause he don’t have nothin’ to bet with,” said another fellow.

Well the lights continued to flicker, so I finally called out, “Joe! Come sit down! I’ll stake you!” Then I dealt another hand at an empty seat and added a few of my chips. My fellow players were not amused.

“How will he bet?” said one.

“How many chips do you want to bet, Joe?” I asked loudly. The lights flickered twice. “He’s in for two dollars,” I said, and moved a couple chips out of his pile. “And so am I,” I added.

Well we played like that for a while, Joe indicating how he wanted to bet with the help of the gas light fixtures. The other gentlemen were annoyed at first, then taken aback when he started winning.

“Just how,” one of them finally asked, “will he collect his winnings?”

“I think,” I replied, “that his wife can use the money.” I looked at my hand, and pushed my remaining chips to the center. “I’ll see your bet, Bryson,” I said, “and raise you ten.”

“Hmph,” said Mr. Nix to my left, pushing a stack of chips toward the center of the table. “You’ll have to do better than that.”

“I’ll see that, and raise you another ten,” added Emry Adams. And so it went, around the table.

When Old Joe’s turn came, everyone glanced at me.

“Well Joe, what do you want to do?” The lights became extremely bright.

“Put all his chips in the middle and don’t give him any more cards,” I said. “And I fold.”

There was silence all around.

“Too rich for my blood,” said Bryson.

“Me too,” said Nix, disgustedly.

“I think I’ll quit while I’m behind,” said Emry, folding.

“Looks like you win, Joe,” I said, pushing the chips toward the empty chair. “And since it’s getting late, I think I’ll call it a night.” I got up to leave.

“You’re not going to see what kind of hand he had?”


“Well I don’t think he’ll mind if I look,” said Nix, and he flipped over the cards.

“A two, a five, a seven, a nine and a king! Dang,” said Bryson, incredulous. “Now I KNOW that wasn’t Joe playing.”

“What makes you say that?”

“’Cause he was a TERRIBLE bluffer.”

They all looked at me.

“Gentlemen,” I said, “Perhaps his facial expressions would give him away. I advise you to be more careful when playing with him in the future. Somebody tell Miss Sally to come collect his chips.”

My wife complains that I play cards too much and don’t do enough charitable work. I tell her that you can be very charitable when playing cards, if the spirit moves you.

copyright ©2009 Laurie J. Anderson, all rights reserved.

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