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[Tidbits] Poker

August 1876. The Dakota Territory. A saloon in Deadwood. The door
opens. The gunfighter walks in. His name… Wild Bill Hickok. There’s
a poker game going on at a table over there. Hickok is the last to be
seated. He has never before sat at a table without having his back
against a wall. He asks his fellow gamblers if any of them want to
switch seats. They refuse. It’s bad luck. The game begins… and
shortly thereafter, Wild Bill Hickok is shot in the back and killed.
He was–at the time–holding two black aces… two black eights …
and a queen of hearts. That hand… to this day… because of
Hickok’s death… is called a “Dead Man’s Hand”.

  1. Four men… playing poker on a steamboat on the Mississippi.
    Three sharks… one sucker. It’s doesn’t take long before Sucker
    loses all he’s ever owned. He’s distraught. He goes top board and
    prepares to jump. But a samaritan stops him and brings him back to
    his cabin. He tells him to wait… and then the samaritan goes to the
    game. Three sharks now… one samaritan. The play begins. But the
    samaritan ain’t no dummy. He catches one of the sharks cheating. They
    wrastle. The samaritan pulls a knife. He demands to see the sharks
    hand. If there are more than five cards there… the shark will die.
    A quick twist of the wrist… and six cards fall to the ground. The
    samaritan takes the whole pot… $70,000. He returns $50,00 to the
    sucker… he keeps $20,000 as his fee. The samaritan’s name: James

Poker… as you may all well surmise… had its pitfalls.
Today–parenthetically speaking–I still make sure I keep my back to
the wall when playing a friendly game with my buddies. Hey. Let me
tell you… there ain’t no friends in poker. I don’t have a Bowie
knife. Just my cards… and my wits. And like Cyrano… I know a lot
of poems. And a little Judo. That should suffice. No? They try to
cheat… I decimate them with Haiku. Aieeee! Chop!

But there’s a kicker here folks. You’re sitting in the den with your
pals. You’re still all friends. A game has not yet begun. The women
are in the other room… yammering about things that don’t interest
you. Somebody stands… grins… hoists up his pants. There’s a
sudden stillness in the air. Unspoken… someone unfolds a table.
Someone else gets four chairs. You… you scurry for a seat in front
of a wall. Someone fans out a deck of cards. He begins to shuffle.
Chips. Hey. Who’s got the chips? Death peeks through the window.
There are no chips. Lips dry. Eyes narrow. An unlit cigarette dangles
out of dangerously down turned lips. You grin a lazy grin. You yell
out… honey. Are you wearing your necklace?

They all know. They relax. They smile. Beer is brought to the table.
Your wife enters. She slips her necklace off. Her look is grim. You
lose these… you go from basso profundo to mezzo-soprano. I want
them back when you’re finished. She means business. Yes dear. The
table is silent. It’s a charm necklace made of poker chips.

Yes indeedy folks. Jewelers are always prepared. The year was circa
1910-20. Some enterprising jeweler foresaw this event and worked
feverishly to prevent catastrophe. And so he made a poker-chip charm
necklace. You wanna see?

For those of you who are new to this thing called Tidbits…may I
direct you to my home page at where you will
scroll down the left side menu till you get to the area that says
Current Tidbits… and then click on it in order to view this poker
chip beauty with 12 clay poker-chip charms in various motifs set in
gold bezels. Length… 19 inches. Value… usually around $5500. But
in the middle of a game… priceless.

And there ya have it.
That’s it for this week folks.
Catch you all next week.
Benjamin Mark