All In

Whether he likes it or not, a man's character is stripped at the poker table; if the other players read him better than he does, he has only himself to blame. Unless he is both able and prepared to see himself as others do, flaws and all, he will be a loser in cards, as in life. ~Anthony Holden


Cards are war, in disguise of a sport. ~Charles Lamb





TODAY AT THE INSTITUTE

August 28 – International Put a Face on your Food Day

Last Requests – Lady Jane Scarlett; Dragon


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[Today's chapter of Fagin Dupree takes place at the poker table. You walk a fine line when dealing with this much specificity. You do not want to use so much "jargon" that people not familiar with your setting will be lost, but you do not want to make it so generic that it loses authenticity. (If you need a primer, Wikipdia explains the game fairly concisely.) What I like most about this chapter is that for the first real time Fagin is in some peril and learns that life is not all beer and skittles just because he has the Parchment. Hope you all are enjoying. H.]


THE GREAT AND TERRIBLE ADVENTURES OF FAGIN DUPREE


Read Chapter 5


Chapter Six: All In


All In: A poker term meaning betting all of your chips (literally putting them "all in" the middle of the table) on one hand.


Neophytes to the grand sport of Poker or those simply wholly unfamiliar with the ebb and flow of the Horseshoe are likely to say that wins and losses come by way of luck. (Indeed: one might be forgiven for paraphrasing the entire group with the colloquial, "There ain't no skill in this game.") Those who have jumped down the Green Felted Rabbit-hole—whether hardened veterans, who long ago gave up such luxuries as regular sleep, gainful employment and familial bonds, or wannabes who have mastered the jargon and namedrop in a search of street cred—will quickly tell you that, no, poker is a game filled with skill. The cards have little to do with it, they steadfastly maintain; it is lightning quick thinking and reflexes, reading your opponent while keeping yourself inscrutable, and the art of an effective bluff.

The very best players, though, will freely admit that luck has a tremendous amount to do with it. All the odds in the world cannot change the fact that the cards will show up as they do; all the steely-eyed gazes in the world will not alter that. Poker is a game of tremendous skill, the best say (after all, as they are the best, it would be unseemly to denigrate that skill that placed them in this position), but more than just mathematical wizardry and deducing "tells," the real je ne sais quois of poker is guts. Guts to fold a monster hand when the creeping realization comes that the fellow across the table has one better. Guts to push all that money into the middle, when victory is not assured. When it is all said and done, intestinal fortitude separates the good player from the great, and the great from the best.

$$$

Fagin Dupree sat at the poker table, eyes impassively taking the others in. Texas Hold 'Em was a game of patience, trying to out-wait the other fellow. On the table in front of him lay a substantial pile of chips and his two hole cards, face down. They were both 9s, the heart and the spade. On the table, three community cards, the two compatriot 9s, the club and the diamond, and the diamond Ace. Two more Community Cards to come.

To Fagin's left sat Sanchez, his hand already folded before the flop. Sanchez looked like he had been sitting there better part of a fortnight, and from his smell, he might have been. Sanchez got his share of cards, but was always wary of someone with better, and that was his downfall.

To the left of Sanchez was some Kid—Fagin never did get his name—playing with his daddy's money. The Kid was cocky and brash, but not in a good way. The Kid had won a few hands, chasing cards on the river, but acted as if it was great skill instead of luck. Right now Fagin put the Kid on having King-Queen, both diamonds, which meant the Kid was hoping for that fifth diamond to turn and fill his flush. This was fine with Fagin, if it would keep the Kid and his daddy's money in the hand longer.

Next to the Kid was a sweet young thing, at least by first glance. Her shirt was too tight, cut way too low, but that was the point, was it not? Many men would spend less time looking at their pair of cards than they did looking at her pair. Sadly, she had not drawn anything this time and already folded. Too bad. Fagin liked her in. It helped him with the others. A fine filly, that one. Fagin might even consider after the game….except for Holly Gibb. Come to think of it, where was Holly? Hopefully not getting into too much trouble. Talk about dressing to make a scene…Holly would win every hand if Fagin would let her play.

To Fagin's right were two stiffs; they spent most of the night folding. Twins they were, from Wisconsin or some such. Never play at a table with your twin brother. They mirrored each other so much it was plain what one had by looking at the other. However, they did not interest Fagin. The man to their right did.

They called him Cowboy. He wore a ten-gallon hat, spit snuff at the table, and never took off a pair of wrap-around sunglasses. Needled everyone too, ridiculing poor play.

Unfortunately, he knew his stuff. An even bigger stack of chips sat in front of Cowboy. Fagin put him on bullets—a pair of Aces—which gave Cowboy a Full House when added to the flop. A fantastic hand, but not quite good enough to beat Fagin's four 9s.

Of course, that fourth Ace could show up, but Fagin was positive one of the twins already folded it. That meant Cowboy had a monster hand, and was drawing dead against Fagin's 9. That is what you live for in Poker: when your opponent has a great hand, but yours is better. The perfect storm.

The Kid bet heavy, trying to scare Fagin and Cowboy off the pot. Neither folded, and both called the bet. Fourth Street brought the 8 of diamonds, a perfect card for Fagin because it gave the Kid a flush and kept him in when he could not possibly win. The Kid pushed his entire stack of chips toward the middle: All In.

Cowboy ignored the Kid's challenging stare, looking only at Fagin. The wrap-arounds reflected black the table, hiding Cowboy's eyes, but a sardonic smile on his lips told the story.

After two minutes of tense silence, Cowboy pushed his chips in the middle: All In. To call would put Fagin All In, an almost four hundred thousand dollar bet to add to the one hundred sixty thousand Fagin had previously bet this hand. Altogether, there was over one point six million in the pot, a tough call. Except Fagin knew the Ace was already on the discard pile. Easy decision.

"All In." Fagin said.

The Kid flipped over his King-Queen of Diamonds; sure he had made the highest flush and happy for his impending victory. Fagin and Cowboy turned over their cards, simultaneously. It was just as Fagin thought; Cowboy had the Club and Ace of hearts.

It was just now dawning on the Kid he had lost either way. He burst into tears upon the realization. Fagin almost felt sorry for him. Almost.

Cowboy never took his gaze off Fagin as the last community Card—5th Street—turned over. Fagin heard the collective gasp and looked down.

It was the Ace of Spades. Yet it could not be. The Ace had been folded. One look at the dealer told the story. His head was down, not making eye contact with anyone. The fix was in.

"You had good cards, pardner." Cowboy drawled. "But sometimes good cards ain't enough. Sometimes you come up against a superior hand."

There were over 4,000 cameras in this casino. One of them had to have caught the cheating. Briefly, Fagin considered going to management. But he could not. That was the weak way. Men like Fagin had their own way of solving these things.

Cowboy lowered his glasses two inches, leaned down slightly, and winked at Fagin. "Be seein' you." He said, and walked away, three security personnel in tow carrying the chips.

Swallowing the bile rising in his throat Fagin watched Cowboy walk away and said quietly, "Count on it."

Fagin pushed up from the table and took a walk to clear his head. Better find Holly. She could take his mind off things. While he was walking, Fagin checked his messages. There was one from J.W. Lush, the detective Fagin had hired to look into Arbuckle Greene. Fagin heard Lush's drawl on his voice mail.

"Fagin, this is J. W. Lush. I been doin' as you asked, and I found somethin', somethin' big. I ain't keen on talking over the phone, though, with these new-fangled electronic ears and such they got out there. Can you meet me day after tomorrow night at my office? 10:30. You're gonna wanna see this personally."

End of message. Fagin decided they would spend one more night in Vegas, maybe take in a show, and head back in the morning, with plenty of time to drive op to Carolina. Fagin went to look for Holly.

$$$

Lieutenant Travis looked down at the body. The girl was pretty, though with that ridiculous outfit and make-up she was obviously trying too hard for something. Travis guessed a gunshot in the back was not what she was after.

A Techie handed Travis the wallet out of her purse. Supposedly, this was Holly Gibb, 22, of Smyrna, Georgia. The I.D. looked good, but something about it tickled the Lieutenant's mind. He bet it was a fake, though well done.

"What do you think, Lieutenant?" asked one of the other detectives. "This a working girl?"

"I doubt it." Travis said after a minute. "She's got an out of state ID, probably a forgery. A pro wouldn't need that, and she definitely wouldn't carry it on her, either. My guess: a girl in town for some fun got more than she bargained for."

A sergeant walked up. "Lieutenant, I got a Holly Gibb registered at the Luxor, with a Fagin Dupree in the same room, also from Georgia. They're pulling security footage right now, and will have it ready for us."

Travis nodded. "Then let us away."

$$$

Fagin sat in the uncomfortable chair under hot fluorescent lights, ignoring the fifth cup of coffee they had offered him. His insides were roiling, but he features were calm and collected. Fagin knew they were watching him, and it never hurt to let the other fellow know you had a steady nerve. He had been sitting here going on four hours now, and no telling how much longer.

Finally, a man walked in. By the look of him, he had to be in charge. He introduced himself with a proffered hand.

"Lieutenant Travis."

Fagin replied in kind. "Fagin Dupree. Pleasure to meet you." He smiled warmly, which Travis took note of, thought who knows what he made of it.

"Sorry it took me so long. Had another case to look into."

"Not a problem,." Fagin said, the picture of calm.

"We need to talk to you about Holly Gibb. You were told she died, correct?"

"I was told that." Fagin could tell the Lieutenant wanted him to ask how she died, but Fagin would not take the bait. It had to be bad, or Fagin would not be here. He sat silently, waiting the Lieutenant out. It was much like poker, how patience usually cracked the other guy. The Lieutenant shuffled through his papers as if looking for something he had forgotten.

"It seems…ah yes, here we are: she died from a gun-shot to the back. Do you own a gun, Mr. Dupree?"

Fagin smiled again. "I own a Winchester Rifle, made in 1883. It is an antique, under glass in my home. I'd be happy to show it to you."

"That won't be necessary. Miss Gibb was killed with an old weapon, but a handgun, a Colt .45, from 1881. Interesting coincidence. You like old antique guns, Mr. Dupree."

"Indeed I do."

"Have you seen or touched a Colt .45 since you've been in Vegas?"

Fagin's face remained smooth, but his mind was racing. Lieutenant Travis had to know about the gun show he and Holly went to yesterday.

"As a matter of fact," Fagin began, "Holly and I went to the Las Vegas Antique Gun Show yesterday afternoon. One of the many guns we looked at was a Colt .45. It was, I believe, from 1881."

"And the coincidences keep on coming." Lieutenant Travis said conversationally. He looked at Fagin for some reaction. Seeing none, Travis pressed on. "Of course, at the time our Coroner says Miss Gibb was killed, you were in the middle of a poker game.

So they knew he could not have done it. And still this ridiculous charade. That meant there must be more.

"We pulled the video footage of that poker game. It seems you were cheated, Mr. Dupree. Were you aware of that?"

"I had my suspicions."

"And yet you did not give voice to any of these suspicions."

"Without proof," Fagin said, "Suspicions are just sour grapes. I am not a sore loser."

"Interesting you'd say that." Lieutenant Travis said, a half-smile on his face. "Another way to look at it is that you really wanted to be at that table, to prove you couldn't be out there killing Miss Gibb."

"So, I set myself up to lose a pot that big?" A touch of derision crept into Fagin's voice. "If that were the case, wouldn't it make more sense to cause a scene, to guarantee the people would remember me?"

"Maybe," allowed Lieutenant Travis, shuffling through his papers once again. "But maybe you didn't count on losing that hand. You see," the Lieutenant continued, "We found the dealer about an hour or so ago. Also, shot in the back. Forensics will tell us for sure, but it looks like it could be that same Colt .45.

The Lieutenant let that sink in, as Fagin blinked for the first time. "Now," said the Lieutenant, smiling kindly, "Let us talk some more about being a sore loser."

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