Am I a bad influence? Maybe. Probably. Jim hasn’t gambled in a long time. But this game is very low stakes, friendly even. Still there’s something to be said about the way his eyes lit up when I suggested a $100 heads up poker game. Jim’s a gambler. He may say he’s not, but he’s a gambler in the truest sense of the word. He doesn’t play the odds, he doesn’t care about the odds. He takes chances and lives with the result, whether it be negative or positive.
What if this game opens a door? Puts him back into a dark place? It won’t. Jim’s smarter than that. He won’t let such small stakes put him back on a destructive path. This is happening, my conscience has come to terms with it. It’s just a game. A very small gamble. And Jim Bennett is a gambler.
We’re playing my game. Texas Hold’em. The cards are dealt, there’s no going back now. Jack-Five, off suit. Not great cards, but I’ll play them. Before I can even make a move though, Jim throws in his cards. Guess he didn’t like what he had.
Nine of hearts, Ten of clubs. Off suit connectors. I call the blind, Jim checks. Seven, Jack, Eight. I hit a straight on the flop. I show absolutely no emotion on my face. My hand is steady. I make a small bet.
“You got the nuts?” Jim asks.
I say nothing.
“Well, either you got the nuts or you got a pocket pair ‘cause you woulda tried to push me out if you just hit a pair.”
He tosses in his cards. He’s more cautious than I thought. Thinks more like a player than a gambler.
Eight-Three, off suit. Jim raises, I toss them in. Playing with cards like that will only get me in trouble. Jim’s face doesn’t change.
Queen-Seven, Diamonds. I like it, but just call the blind. Jim looks. Takes his time. I can almost see the wheels turning. The room is quiet except for the noise coming from the TV in the next room. I can hear the commentary from whatever basketball game was left on.
“Allen pulls up, knocks it down! And Orlando is back on top with just under a minute to go.”
Jim’s hand runs over his chips, then behind them. He looks at me with a smirk, and pushes them in.
I look at my cards again. I know my decision right away, but I don’t want him to know that. I look back at him, and toss in my cards.
The tension has jumped. This suddenly became a real game. And just in time, I get the cards. King-King. Jim calls the blind. I raise, $20 out of our $100 in chips. Jim looks but doesn’t take long. He calls.
The flop comes out. Three of spades, Nine of hearts, King of spades. I hit trips. Three Kings. Jim checks. I make another $20 bet. Jim’s next move surprises me, and he makes it without hesitation.
The sheer quickness of his decision knocks me off balance for a second. I know what I’m going to do. Of corse I know what I’m going to do. I have to call, I have three Kings.
We flip our cards. Jim shows Jack-Queen, both spades. He’s chasing a flush, not a typical move for a poker player but like I said, Jim’s a gambler.
I look up and notice that he never even looked down. He doesn’t care what my cards are. He knows he needs to hit this flush or he lost.
The turn comes. Six of diamonds. No help for anyone.
One card left. Jim needs a spade. Jim needs a spade more than I need the card to not be a spade. If I lose, I lose. If Jim loses, we know the destructive path that a loss has led him down in the past. He won’t be able to go down that path with me. I won’t be lending out $10,000 any time soon. But who knows where a loss would take him? The pain of a loss makes a man hungry for a win. And Jim goes to dangerous lengths to feed that hunger. This next card is dangerous.
The card being flipped seems to take forever. I’m watching closely, somehow thinking that if I see the card first it will give me an advantage. Then I notice, Jim still isn’t looking. He hasn’t looked away from me since he flipped his cards. I start to doubt which outcome I really want. That’s when the card hits the table.
Ace of Spades.