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Poker Fiction - Part 1

I have always thought there is a real lack of poker fiction and I think it would be fun to do a poker serial, a new story every week with a cast of characters. This story starts with our main character, Banks, at a poker table in Las Vegas. If you like the story please share the link and let your friends know about it. If it gets enough traffic PokerUpdate is likely to have me write a weekly installment for the foreseeable future.

Banks – Part 1

“What are you doing Banks?” Aaron’s voice came from behind him. “I’m not gonna sweat hands for you if you’re gonna fold after I bring em’ home.”

Banks just grinned. His real name is Thomas Banfield, but everyone in the poker world just called him Banks. He didn’t even remember when it started. Years ago somebody had heard his last name and started calling him Banksfield after he had a big hit in a cash game and eventually it shortened into Banks. And that was alright with Banks. It sounded good, it felt good, and it let people know that he was somebody. He hadn’t always been somebody, and it was nice to feel like somebody now.

He ignored Aaron and looked at the old man across the table. He had played with him before, more than once, but had forgotten his name. He was retired, had to be, and had enough money to play nice and tight a few times a week and still be comfortable in his retirement. Good for him. He filled a seat, lost a little money, and wasn’t as grumpy as some of the other old-timers.

“Two red jacks?” he guessed.

The old man grinned. “How did you know they were red?”

“Just felt like two red jacks,” he said, “you know how you just get a feeling sometimes.”

“Good read young man.”

He turned to Aaron and spoke quietly so the old man across the table wouldn’t hear. They had just been talking before the hand started, so it wouldn’t look like they were obviously discussing the hand. That might shame the old guy, or make him less friendly next time.

“You know he’s not lying,” he said.

“Sure, but you can’t fold a set on a jack-six-five rainbow board,” Aaron replied under his breath. He was a pretty good player, a regular in the $1/2 games, and he dealt poker on the tournament circuit when he needed money. But no matter how many hands he saw, as a player or a dealer, he never seemed to take that next step. He was good, but he would never be like Banks.

“So I should give away $300 just because you think I can’t fold a set on that board?” he said, keeping his voice low and even.

“You fold a set on a dry board like that and the table is gonna run over you all night,” Aaron replied. Banks looked disappointed, like he expected more from his friend.

“First of all, this table couldn’t run over me if I showed them every hand,” he said, looking back at the table full of semi-regular players and tourists. “There’s not a shark in the bunch except maybe the German kid in the four seat.

“Second, none of them knows I folded a set, and thanks to your commentary on my fold, they all think I just folded king-jack or something,” he added, “And most important, I can read these guys like a comic book. If they try to run me over I’m gonna make a mountain tonight. You’ll have to get me a wheelbarrow to get my chips over to the cage.”

Aaron looked amused. He knew his friend was right. There wasn’t a $2/5 game in the city that he couldn’t put a solid beating on. Banks wasn’t the best player in Vegas, not by a long shot, but he was damn good, maybe the best low-limit cash game grinder Aaron had ever seen.

“I gotta run man, meeting my girl at the double down, some dude she knows from work is playing a gig there tonight and she wants to show up for a few minutes to act like we care,” he said, patting Banks on the shoulder before he turned and walked off. “Give em hell.”

“You know it.”

Banks turned back to the table, pulled his cards toward him, and lifted up the corners. Just a peek. The nine of spades. Then the seven of spades. Good enough. The first three players limped in, and then two more folded. Banks grabbed seven red chips, set them down in front of him in a neat stack, and then knocked it over toward the center of the table. Easier to count that way. The button and the blinds folded. The first limper was a tourist, but Banks had a good feel for his game because they had been playing together for three hours. The guy was only down $400, which was lucky, it should have been worse.

The guy was pretty bad. Passive, readable, stubborn, and prideful. He was an easy mark, and it was hard not to beat a guy like that if you spent enough time with him. The more he thought, the more obvious his hand was. A guy like that would re-raise with ace-king or a big pair. He didn’t think about position much, and the re-raise would probably be too small, but he would re-raise. A limp re-raise was rare from a tourist anyway.

If he had a couple of small cards, even if they were suited, he would have made his decision quickly, probably a fold unless they were suited connectors. With a small pair he would call right away, no thought, just a call hoping to flop a set.

It had to be two decent big cards. Ace-jack or ace-queen maybe, or king-queen suited. He would never have limped a hand like two tens, which would be the only other kind of hand that would be a tough decision here. When he put his chips in the pot, Banks figured it was one of those three big card hands, probably ace-queen.

The other limpers folded. God this was a great table. He watched the area where the flop was about to fall as the dealer snapped three cards off the deck. The tourist did the same thing. Banks always looked at the place where the flop was going to be, because that’s what he wanted the fish to do. No reason to clue them in that they should be watching their opponents or let them know that they were being watched.

Before the dealer rolled over the flop, he looked up without moving his head. He looked right at the tourist’s eyes. Banks didn’t see the flop as it was revealed. He hadn’t seen a flop happen in years. He saw his opponents as they saw the flop. This time there was no reaction. Completely flat. The tourist had missed the flop. No doubt about it. After his opponent checked, Banks looked down at the flop himself. It was still there. There was no reason to watch it happen, because it wasn’t going to change in the three seconds that he watched the tourist and gauged his reaction.

The flop was a king in the middle with a deuce on either side of it. Neither deuce was suited with the king. He reached for his chips again, cut off two stacks of five, and dropped them in front of him. $50 was more than enough. It would get him a fold most of the time.

The tourist looked unhappy. He also looked like he might call. What the hell did he have? Banks started to doubt his read. Ace-queen was an easy fold here. Maybe it was king-queen or king-jack suited. The tourist let out a big breath and said “Take it,” showing the ace-jack of diamonds before he tossed his hand in the muck.

“Good flop for me,” Banks said. He knew the guy probably put him on ace-king when he raised pre-flop. That’s what fish do. They put you on ace-king or a medium pair like two nines. And then they called. And most of them folded when they missed the flop. Just like this one did. The guy just nodded his head.

“Figured you had ace-king, but I had to see a flop.”

Banks’ hand was already in the muck. He had thrown it in quietly before he said anything about the hand. Telling someone what you have before you muck your cards looks too much like a lie. If you were going to reveal your hand, then why not show it off? But if it was already in the muck when the discussion started, then they believed you because it was easier to believe than to wonder. As long as you said it casually, made it plausible, they would believe. And if you just gave them a clue that made your hand obvious, they would believe it for sure, because they felt like they had figured it out on their own.

Banks picked his phone up off the rail of the table where it sat all day long. He flipped it over and saw that he had an unread text message from Aaron. He pulled it up, glanced at it, and then stopped and stared. He turned to the table next to him and grabbed two racks for his chips. The text was just three words, but they ruined his night and probably saved the tourist in the two seat a thousand bucks. Just three words.

“Sammy’s in jail.”



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Chris Wallace

Chris "Fox" Wallace is a professional poker, author, and poker coach from St Paul, Minnesota. While he spent most of his career playing cash games,Fox recently started playing more tournaments and won a bracelet in the $10,000 HORSE World Championship in 2014. Follow him on twitter