Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Poker in the real world

I ran across a poker reference in a short story that turns out to be about time travel (sort of), by Orson Scott Card, that gets the poker right. Strangely, the poker is immaterial to the story.

     One weekend he even took me to work with him. Doc made his living in Nevada. We left Salt Lake City on Friday afternoon and drove to Wendover, the first town over the border. I expected him to be an employee of the casino we stopped at. But he didn’t punch in, just left his name with a guy, and then he sat in a corner with me and waited.
     “Don’t you have to work?” I asked.
     “I’m working,” he said.
     “I used to work just the same way, but I got fired.”
     “I’ve got to wait my turn for a table. I told you I made my living with poker.”
     And it finally dawned on me that he was a freelance professional—a player—a cardshark.
     There were four guys named Doc there that night. Doc Murphy was the third one called to a table. He played quietly, and lost steadily but lightly for two hours. Then, suddenly, in four hands he made back everything he had lost and added nearly fifteen hundred dollars to it. Then he made his apologies after a decent number of losing hands and we drove back to Salt Lake.
     “Usually I have to play again on Saturday night,” he told me. Then he grinned. ”Tonight I was lucky. There was an idiot who thought he knew poker.”
     I remembered the old saw: Never eat at a place called Mom’s, never play poker with a man named Doc, and never sleep with a woman who’s got more troubles than you. Pure truth. Doc memorized the deck, knew all the odds by heart, and it was a rare poker face that Doc couldn’t eventually see through.

(from "Prior Restraint," ©1990 by Orson Scott Card, in Aboriginal SF, September 1986, collected in Maps in a Mirror: The Short Fiction of Orson Scott Card, New York: Orb, 2004.)

Week Twelve wrapup coming shortly.