One-eyed Pete curls his lips inward and sighs deeply. Is Stan-the-Man holding a pair of aces? He doesn’t know for sure. Stan-the-Man is sitting there stone-cold as usual. Bluff? Stay in. Up the ante. Ride these two nines like a 1rabid pony. 2Cast. Take the bait, you sissies. 3I’m holdin’ gold in these here bones. Now, take the bait.

Maniac folds, surprising everyone at the table, but his 4chips don’t lie. He’s nearly 5tapped clean. Curly Johnson says he’s in with a grin, giving away the con. The others left–One-eyed Pete, Stan-the-Man, Suckin’-on Chilly Dawg, Brother Dan and Nose-nothin’–catch the goof. Everyone but Nose-nothin’ 6circle the wagons. He’s tired of this rat race. The pot’s a puddle, not even a pond. It’s not worth it. Nose-nothin’ twitches, drops his cards, grabs a 7Mountain Dew and gulps like a floppy trout. 

“Hold on to your skivvies boys, there goes the 8burn and here comes the 9flop,” hollers Chilly Dawg.

“Lovin’ it,” whispers Stan-the-Man, trying boldly his 10ruse.

The stakes jump. Everyone remaining concurs. 

Burn card. 11Turn card. Eyes sink and sway. Stan-the-Man taps the table, glances at Chilly Dawg, then Curly Johnson, who is 12beaming like a Cheshire, Brother Dan and then finally One-eyed Pete, the deadliest threat remaining in 13Fallujah. What’s he holding? What’s he eyeing? 14Pork chops? 15A Christmas tree? Or simply 16chop sticks?

Chilly Dawg burns one, and then floats down 17the river.

“18Catch the tiger, boys, catch the tiger,” says Stan-the-Man, while 19splashing the pot. 

Curly Johnson 20buckles, “You cats are 21Donald Trumping me.”   

Brother Dan fingers his ear, his chin, his collar. “I want to stay in but “”

“22Keep it to a text message Brother Dan!” hollers Nose-nothin’. “23You’ll feed that tiger, not catch it!”

“Thanks for the concern, but I’m in,” replies Brother Dan. “I’m too young to 24beg for pity.”

25The pot overflows, then crests.

“Hey, you guys hear they banned this here 26Texas Hold’em at New Trier High School?” asks Curly Johnson.

“That’s 27rank, man,” says Brother Dan. “It’s a sport. You can’t 28eighty-six a sport.”

“I gotta be honest with you, 29Monk, what we’re doin’ here ain’t no sport. I mean, I haven’t gotten out of this 30saddle in over an hour.”

“Sure it’s a sport. It’s on ESPN2 practically every night, isn’t it?” replies Brother Dan. “Why would the God of sports channels have it on if it wasn’t a sport? It’s also on Bravo, The Travel Channel, and Fox Sports Net.”      

“Quit stalling and 31expose yourselves!” shouts One-eyed Pete. “32King Arthur is going to be down here soon and he’s gonna be hungry for fresh meat.”

“I can’t wait for Mayor Daley to make Chicago a mini-Vegas,” says Nose-nothin’ “My 33I-Pass will come in handy.”

“I’ll take the 34King’s ransom!” Curly Johnson cries out.  

“By the way, happy birthday Chilly Dawg. And welcome to the 35Dirty-Dozen Club,” says Stan-the-Man.

“Thanks,” replies Chilly Dawg, shocking everyone with a 36full boat.

“Another round, gentleman?”

“Can’t, got to be at 37work early, 38peace out.” 

Key menu
1) A decent hand early. 2) Bet.  3) Two-of-a-kind.  4) Cash. 5) Out of money. 6) Stay in. 7) An actual Mountain Dew soda pop. 8). The discard. 9) Three cards dealt face up. 10) Bluff. 11) Single card dealt face up. 12) An obvious bluff. 13) Battleground. 14) Two pair. 15) A full house. 16) Nothing but two-of-kind. 17) Final card. 18) A heavy raise. 19) Tossing chips on the table. 20) Folds. 21) Raising too high. 22) Don’t speak outloud. 23) You’ll lose bad. 24) Panhandle. 25) The wages are plenty, then close. 26) Poker game. 27) Ridiculous. 28) Get rid of. 29) Another nickname for Brother Dan. 30) chair. 31) Show your cards. 32) Dad. 33) Fake I.D. 34)  Dad’s money. 35) Turning 12 years old. 36) Three-of-a-kind and a pair. 37) School. 38) See you later.                                  

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Brad Spencer

Brad Spencer has been covering sports in and around Oak Park for more than a decade, which means the young athletes he once covered in high school are now out of college and at home living with their parents...