This is the poker scene from my new short entitled, “Red Rum”. The big challenge here was to write something that was both mechanically accurate, but had good character interaction as well. I worked to strike a balance between both. Let me know what you think!
Edit: Been getting some great feedback from poker players on Reddit, who’ve pointed out some errors in the card game. I have gone back through and fixed up some issues to make sure the game works appropriately.
“What we got here? Stud?” The other three men glanced between themselves before turning to Dade.
His grin widened, “Pull up a chair, McGuiness. We’re always glad to have another player.”
Red grabbed a chair and sat across from Dade; between his other poker mates. He put his cash on the table and Squirrelly slid the chips over with a nervous look across his sweaty face. Dade deftly shuffled the cards, then proceeded to pass them out — one face down, one face up to all. Red cursed himself as his Two of Hearts laughed up at him. Having to pay the bring-in right off wasn’t boding well; he threw in a nickel chip and play began. Lifting his down card, the Queen of Clubs helped ease his pain; Red scratched his left ear.
The first of the original players to Red’s left leered at his cards and rubbed at the scar across his check with his thumb. A few moments passed before he said, “Call,” sending a nickel into the pot.
“Call,” Dade threw in and leaned back in his chair, tapping his Ten of Hearts.
“Fold,” said Squirrelly as he flipped his Eight of Hearts over and pushed his cards in.
The second gentlemen — his large bristled mustache quaked — looked at his Five of Clubs, peaked at his down card once more, then said, “Fold.”
Dade burned the top card off the deck before passing out a face up card to Red, Scar, then himself. Red looked down at his third card — the Queen of Diamonds looked up and giggled at him. That itch behind his left ear started acting up again, and his flask called his name. Another slug of rum down the hatch.
Scar’s pair of fives gave him the bet. Red thought he saw a look pass between the man and Dade, but wasn’t sure. “I’ll raise a dollar,” the blue bone chip thudded on the table.
“I’ll call that,” Dade smirked and put his own dollar chip down.
“Wow, you boys sure are confident with such weak hands,” Red glanced down at his cards. His feet screamed out in protest. He needed a horse bad, and these were good cards. Go with it, “Raise. Two dollars.”
“What!?” Hawk stood up from this stool.
Chuckling Dade said, “It looks like your friend doesn’t approve Mr. McGuiness.”
Scar folded and sat back in his chair. Dade looked at his cards once more and with a smile, “Call.” Red watched as Dade dealt out the new cards. Wait, Red thought, did he burn the top card? Red blinked his eyes trying to remember. “Are you all right Mr. McGuiness?”, Dade asked.
“Yeah, just fine. Good rum this is,” Red remarked as he took another swig.
“Yes, well it is your bet.”
Red looked down to see the Queen dancing with the new Two of Clubs. “Huh, well isn’t that somethin’. Three dollars.” Three more blue chips joined the pile.
“You drunken fool!”, Hawk took another step closer to the table.
“I’d prefer you kept a reign on your savage Mr. McGuiness,” Dade sneered at Hawk.
Red surged to his feet as Hawk bristled next to him, “You call him a savage again and I’ll rip out your tongue and feed it to your sister there!”, Red pointed fiercely at Squirrelly. The disjointed plunking of the piano stopped abruptly and several hands twitched near their guns.
Dade remained seated. His eyes cooled to steel, and his mouth set into a thin line. “Very well. I believe we have a game to finish. I see your three, and raise you five,” the blue chips thundered as they hit the wooden table. Red looked at his dwindling pile of chips.
“Call,” Red sat down and placed his own chips into the pot — saddened that they didn’t seem to have the same weighty sound as Dade’s. The last round of cards hit the table. There was something funny about the way he was dealing, Red thought, but couldn’t seem to get his brain to tell him why. Mighty fine jacket he’s got though.
Red looked down at his last card; a Four of diamonds. No problem. Two pair is good. Queen high. Red looked across the table at Dade’s hand. Ten, Seven, Seven… Ten. Red scratched furiously at his left ear. I got him.
“You’ve got the hand, Dade. You sure you can beat me?” Red sneered as he took a long drink.
A wicked smile grew across Dade’s face, “I may manage. Ten dollars.”
Red nearly spat his Rum across the table onto Bristles, “What’re you trying to pull, Dade? I don’t have that on the table!” He looked down at the few chips in front of him. He looked down at the few chips in front of him. He furiously counted them.
Dade’s face set hard, “We don’t play table stakes in Beatty.”
“But, I only got a dollar fifty…” Red slammed his fist into the table, sending chips bouncing up into the air.
“Then I would imagine you need to find another eight dollars and fifty cents, Mr. McGuiness,” Dade stretched and placed his arm over the back of his chair.
“Hawk, gimme your gun,” looking back at Dade, “It’s nickel plated. That more than meets the bet!” Red reached for the revolver at Hawk’s hip. The Indian slapped his hands away in annoyance.
“I’ve no use for anymore guns, try again.”
“Sir, they have a real nice mare outside,” Squirrelly all but rubbed his hands together as he mentioned the horse.
Red’s face lit up, “Consider that my bet and raise!”
“No!” Hawk leaned into Red, “Wisk is not property to be traded and sold!”
“I’m sorry but the bet has been placed,” the ends of Dade’s mustache seemed to curl more as his devilish grin widened, “I can cover that right here myself.” Reaching into his left breast pocket, he withdrew a billfold and threw a stack of bills on the table. A metallic glint shone off inside his right sleeve, “Let’s show our cards shall we?”
“Hawk, I can’t lose!” Red reached to the face down Queen and flipped her over, “Two Pair, Dade. The Queen’s parade!” Red stood over the table and began laughing. Dade only smiled, placed his thumb and forefinger on his card and turned.
Red looked down and immediately stopped; a full house stared back at him. The table had grown silent, but Red could feel the heat of anger radiating from Hawk behind him. “You lose, Mr. McGuiness,” Dade’s voice sliced through the room. Standing up, Dade began to gather the money and chips with his right hand. That was when Red saw it, the bit to this puzzle that had him all night.
Like a snake Red snatched up Dade’s arm and pulled down the sleeve. A leather strap sat snug against his forearm, with a metal clasp holding a group of hidden playing cards. Red grinned as he held up Dade’s arm, “Shoulda been more careful, Dade. I got all these witnesses here. I bet your town sheriff will love to hear about a cheater.”
Dade cocked an eyebrow, “Really?”, as he pulled back his woolen coat to expose his belt. A gold star with the word Sheriff stamped into it glinted in the lantern light.