Queer Luck Poker Stories from the New York Sun
Poker Stories from the New York Sun
David A. Curtis
Copyright, 1896, 1897, 1898, by
THE SUN PRINTING AND PUBLISHING ASSOCIATION
Copyright, 1899, by
|Why He Quit the Game||1|
|Freeze-out for a Life||19|
|A Gambler’s Pistol Play||35|
|Queer Runs of Luck||57|
|Storms’s Straight Flush||75|
|For a Senate Seat||93|
|The Bill Went Through||109|
|Poker for High Stakes||127|
|His Last Sunday Game||169|
|Foss Stopped the Game||181|
|He Played for His Wife||203|
|The Club’s Last Game||221|
Why he Quit the Game
THE EXCITEMENT OF A PHENOMENAL STRUGGLETOOK HIM TO THE VERGE OF DISHONOR
Five men of better nerve never dealtcards than the five who sat playing pokerthe other night in one of those up-townclub-rooms that are so quietly kept as to beentirely unknown to the police and the generalpublic. The game proved to be phenomenal.
The play was high. The party had playedtogether once a week, for a long time, andthe limit had always been one dollar at thebeginning of the evening, though occasionallyit had gone as high as ten before morning.This particular night, however, thecards ran remarkably well, and by midnightthe limit was ignored if not forgotten. Two4of the players had laid their pocketbooksalongside their chips. They had not playedso before, but the gambling fever had comeupon them with the excitement of goodhands, one against another, until the friendlycontest had become a struggle for blood.Fours had been shown several times sincemidnight, and beaten once, while straightflushes had twice won important money.Deck after deck had been called for, andtossed aside in turn after a few deals, tillthe carpet was strewn thickly with the discardedpasteboards, but there was no changein the remarkable run of the cards. Patfulls and flushes showed in deal after deal,and the luck in the draw was so extraordinaryand so evenly distributed that they allgrew cautious of betting on any ordinaryhand, and a bluff had not been tried for anhour. Yet no one had offered a remark,though the play grew higher and harder.It was as if each man feared to break the5run by mentioning it. At length the Colonelspoke.
“The devil himself is playing with hispicture books to-night, I think,” he said,with a short laugh, as he lost two stacks ofblues on a seven full.
It had been the Doctor’s deal, and helooked up quickly. Gazing at the Colonel,he said:
“The hands are certainly remarkable. Inever saw so many big ones at one sitting.”The words were simple, but there was acurious tone, half of question, in his voice.There had not been such nervous tension inthe party before, but they were all men ofexperience, and had seen trouble betweenfriends resulting from careless words onmany different occasions.
The Colonel detected the tone and answeredquickly and gracefully:
“That’s so, Doc. I’ve beaten somestrong hands myself to-night.”
6“A new pack, Sam,” said the Editor,who was the next to deal. The imperturbabledarky by the sideboard produced oneinstantly, and the Editor shuffled it carefully.Then he offered it to the other playersin turn. They all refused to touch it,and, shuffling the deck himself once more,he laid it down for the cut and began todeal. It was a little thing, but so far outof the ordinary as to mark the fact that theywere fencing now with bare blades, andfrom that on, there was a strict observanceof the punctilio of the game.
One by one the cards fell in five symmetricallittle piles, as perfect as Herrmanncould have made them, for the Editor wasdeft with his fingers, but one after anotherof the players passed out and a jack pot wasmade. The big hands had failed to appear.
It was the Congressman’s deal, and hedoubled his ante and took the cards. TheColonel sat next and pushed out four blue7chips—twenty dollars. The others all camein, the Congressman making good and dealingwithout a word. There was a hundreddollars in the pot, and there came that curiouscertainty to all of them which sometimescomes to experienced players, that amighty struggle was at hand.
The Colonel made a pretense of lookingat his hand, but in reality looked only atthe first two cards. They were both aces.He passed.
The Lawyer sat next. He found a fourflush and a pair of tens; so he passed.
The Doctor was next player. He held apat straight, king high. He opened thepot for twenty dollars.
The Editor came in on three deuces, andthe Congressman with a pair of queensput up his money. The others came uppromptly.
The Colonel, having first call, lookedover his hand carefully. The last card was8an ace also, and he called for one, holdingup a seven. The four hearts in the Lawyer’shand were the queen, ten, nine, andeight. He promptly discarded the otherten, and drew one card. The Doctor, ofcourse, stood pat, and the Editor drew two.The Congressman also drew to the strengthof his hand.
With all the players in, the Doctor feltthat a straight was a doubtful hand, but heput up twenty and waited. The Editorlooked anxiously for the fourth deuce, but,finding neither that nor a pair, laid downhis cards.
Three sixes had fallen to the Congressman’squeens, and he raised it twenty.Thereupon they all looked keenly at theColonel. Not a muscle moved in his stern,handsome face, as he saw the raise, andwent fifty better.
It was ninety dollars for the Lawyer tocome in. He simply made good, and9looked anxiously to see if there would beanother raise. They criticised his playafterward, claiming that he should haveraised back, but he defended it by sayingthat there were two players yet to hear from.The first of these resigned. A king straightwas no hand for that struggle. The Congressmanwas still confident of his full hand,however, for he had drawn three sixes, and hecame back at the Colonel with fifty more.
The Colonel raised him a hundred. Itlooked as if it would be a duel between himand the Congressman, but the Lawyer wasstill to hear from. He raised it a hundred.The Congressman made good, and the Colonelraised again.
The Lawyer counted his chips carefully,and finding exactly the right amount, coveredthe last raise. Then, opening hispocketbook, he drew out a hundred-dollarbill and pushed that to the middle of thetable.
10Once more the Congressman made good,and the Colonel raised it a hundred. TheLawyer came back, and the Congressmandropped out.
The Colonel raised it a hundred. TheLawyer made it another, and there was overtwenty-five hundred dollars on the table.
The struggle of the evening had come,and the three who had dropped out were notless excited than the two players. To allappearance they were far more so, for theColonel looked as calm as if on parade, andthe Lawyer’s only sign of agitation was hisheightened color. None of them thoughtmuch of that, for he was of plethoric habitand flushed easily.
The Colonel raised it a hundred. TheLawyer fumbled in his pocketbook for amoment, and, drawing out a fresh roll ofbills, raised it two hundred. The Colonelraised it five hundred. The Lawyer cameback at him with five hundred more. The11Colonel raised it a thousand. The Lawyerflipped up the ends of the bills he was holdingin his hand, and, counting them rapidly,found a little over two thousand dollars.Separating the odd money, he extended hishand with the twenty centuries in it, andwas in the act of speaking, when he checkedhimself as suddenly as if he had been shot.
“I raise—” he began, and then wasstricken dumb. The bills were still in hisgrasp, and, instead of laying them down, hesat for a moment as rigid as a statue, whilehis face grew white.
The silence was intense. The Colonelwas the only one in the party who showedno excitement, but the Lawyer, who hadwatched him up to that moment with themost acute scrutiny, no longer looked athim at all. Instead, he slowly withdrewhis hand, picked up his cards, which he hadlaid, face down, before him, and lookedthem over again.
12“What is that for?” thought the Editor.“He is not looking to see what heholds. He knows perfectly well. And hehasn’t been bluffing. What stopped him, Iwonder?”
No one spoke, however, as the Lawyerlaid his cards down again and looked oncemore into his pocketbook.
“Aha!” thought the Editor. “It’s theamount that staggers him. That’s queer,too. I’ve seen him play higher than this atthe tables.”
It seemed to be the amount, however; forthe Lawyer, finding no more money in hispocketbook, counted out a thousand dollarsfrom the roll in his hand and, laying thaton the pile in the middle of the table, said:
“I call you.”
His hand shook perceptibly, and for thefirst time the Colonel’s face relaxed. Hesmiled grimly as he laid down four aces.
The Lawyer’s face had been pale, but it13grew almost ghastly as he showed his hand.He had caught the jack of hearts in thedraw and had won the pot.
The Doctor watched him curiously, evenmore so than the others, though the entireparty was surprised. To his professionaleye it looked as if the excitement wouldculminate in a fainting fit. That for a momentwas indeed imminent; then the magnificentnerve which had made the Lawyerfamous stood him in good stead, and he ralliedby a supreme effort. Once more hishand was as steady as clockwork as hereached out and drew the great pile of chipsand gold and bank bills toward him.
It was not, however, until after he haddone a strange thing that he could commandhimself sufficiently to speak. Andwhile he was doing it the others looked onin silence. They had seen four aces beatenby a straight flush, but even the excitementof that was in abeyance. Some strange climax14was coming, and none could even guesswhat it would be.
First he counted out from the pile twentyone-hundred-dollar bills, and, folding themtogether with the money he had held backon the last bet, he placed the roll in hispocketbook, and, closing that carefully, putit into his inside pocket and drew a longbreath—almost a gasp—as if of relief.Next he counted out two thousand more andpushed it over toward the Colonel, wholooked at it and at him in wonder. The remainderof the pot—a goodly sum—lay in aconfused heap in front of him, and beforespeaking he looked at it steadily for a spacewherein one might count fifty. At lengthhe said, raising his hand, as if registeringan oath:
“I am done with poker. I have nothingto say against the game. You all know howwell I love to play. To my mind there isno other sport that equals it. None, I believe,15so shows the skill and the mettle ofa man as this does. Yet, loving the gameas well and admiring it as much as I do,I give it up from this moment, forever. Ihave stepped across the border line of dishonorto-night. The money I have just putback in my pocket was given to me lastevening by a client to be paid out thismorning, and if I had lost I could notimmediately have replaced it. I had it inmy possession simply