Banger—Benjamin’s nickname among his pals—watched Gelato for his tell, an imperceptible purse of his lips declaring his bluff. After an aggressive first round of betting, Gelato had gone all in on a flop with the three, four, and five of spades. Banger had two fives in the hole. Gelato’s stack was a hair taller, so a call would take everything Banger had.
“You got the six and seven of spades?”
Gelato didn’t bite.
“Nah. You wouldn’t want to scare us off if that were the case.” Of course, he wouldn’t. He’d bet big with a straight flush, but manageable, soaking up however much he could draw from his opponents. He could have just a straight, but then all-in seemed overconfident. The tell didn’t come, but it only made sense that he was bluffing. “Call.”
Everyone else folded.
Banger turned over his fives, and Gelato showed a six of diamonds and a seven of spades. A straight with a flush draw. Banger needed a full house.
The dealer discarded once and dealt the turn card. Four of clubs! The spectators murmured. Banger got his full house. The dealer discarded another and lay down the river card. Six of spades. Straight flush and the win for Gelato.
Banger dropped his head. “My first big hand of the night.” He pulled out his wallet. “I’ll buy back in.” He handed the dealer a tenspot, the minimum for the Firehouse Charity Casino Night poker table, and he loaded Banger up with chips. Three hands later, Banger lost it all in a showdown with Floyo, unable to read her for trip jacks against his two pair.
Banger tipped the dealer and gave up his seat.
His girlfriend, Mary Ellen, took him by the arm. “The things you do for charity, Benjy.”
“I didn’t lose on purpose.”
“You didn’t win on purpose, either.”
“Pah!” Banger dragged her toward the Roulette table and put five bucks on red nine. The ball bounced on the spinning wheel and fell into the black twenty-two pocket.
“Easy come, easy go,” said Mary Ellen.
“It’s pretty much easy go, easy go today,” said Banger. “I think I’ve had enough of this place. Want to jet?”
Mary Ellen feigned letting her knees go. “Oh, thank you. I thought I’d be stuck all night filling out Keno cards and watching craps.”
“It does sound appealing,” said Banger. “Maybe I should try some blackjack.”
“No!” Mary Ellen pulled him out the ballroom door into the cool night.
They strolled down Main Street, almost all the stores closed for the night.
“Bad run tonight,” said Banger. “I may have to get more practice.”
“I won’t mind owning you when you’re destitute and poor.”
“Hardly likely with the stakes I play.”
“You take care of the pennies…”
Banger finished her sentence. “…and the dollars will take care of themselves.” Mary Ellen’s mother’s favorite saying. “Yeah. I hardly think it works that way.”
The business district was bookended by a bar on one side and a Seven-Eleven on the other.
“One more game,” said Banger.
“Before you die?” said Mary Ellen.
Banger strode into the Seven-Eleven and slapped two dollars on the counter. “Powerball, please.”
“Sure,” mumbled the cashier. “He rang it up, then tinkered with a touchscreen until it emitted a click and printed out the ticket. He handed it to Banger.
“Good luck, sir.”
“Good luck?” said Banger. “What the hell do I need luck for? If I can afford to throw away two dollars on this ticket, then I’m obviously already lucky. But thanks, anyway.”
Mary Ellen grabbed the ticket and put it in her purse. “Careful, boyfriend. You’re luck can still run out.”