All In

         King/six. Not too bad of a start to this hand, but I was hoping for something a little better. Pocket aces would have been nice, but king/six is what I’ve got. Against any other player this would have been fine, but I’m sitting across the last player in the tournament, Angel de Noche, owner of countless World Series of Poker bracelets. I’d seen this guy take out other players while he was holding seven/two in his hand. Players look at his face and can’t read a thing. Nothing. The seven/two hand Angel had knocked out a guy who held a queen/ten, another guy who had a king/ten, and my best friend who folded holding pocket jacks. I had no choice, however. If anyone wanted to win in this racket they had to go through de Noche because he was always sitting at the final table of any tournament. He was that good.
         But this was it. All I had was stacked in a pile in front of me. My wife and two daughters were seated with the rest of the gallery off to the right, and the dealer was staring at me waiting for my decision. Angel had already raised the bet to twenty thousand and now it was up to me. Was he trying to slow-play me while holding the aces I imagined he had? Was he trying to make me think he had something spectacular while staring at another seven/two?
         The lighting of the table was made for everyone else to see us. Glaring stage lights on us, the gallery and everything else shrouded in mystery. I knew my family was there, but their presence faded in and out. I had to concentrate.
         I could afford the twenty K right now, barely, but king/six was the best hand I’d had in a while and if I were to make my move, this would be it. I’ll hold off for now and maybe I’ll be the one who will be slow-playing here. I look over at Angel. Nothing. Black, steal eyes. Fixed, calm expression. There even seems to be a slight grin on his face. What are you holding? Whatever it is I can’t fold. I have no choice. I had put everything on the line for this game and people were counting on me now. What if I lost? Had I set up a plan so that my family would be fine? I suspect they are not thinking of that right now. I look over to see if I can make eye contact with my wife. Nothing. Too dark where they sit again.
         “Sir? Your call?” the dealer’s voice broke into my arguments.
         “I’ll see the twenty and raise fifty.” I said, pushing a stack of chips into the middle.
         “Call.” I heard de Noche say with absolutely no hesitation, and he shoved his fifty into the pot.
         I felt sweat dripping down my back. My breathing became irregular. Why did he call so fast? If this was a bluff, it was the best I’d ever seen.
         The dealer moved all the chips together and readied the space in front of him for the flop. Here it comes: jack, nine, six.
         I now have a pair of sixes, with a king high. Not good, but workable. I look over at Angel and see nothing on him as to how this flop served or hurt his purposes. The dealer looks over to him as well, waiting a decision.
         “Raise twenty.” he says, pushing in that allotment. His decision was so instantaneous, so purposeful, as if he knew the outcome that no one in this room could know except for him. Could he actually see the cards that I held reflecting off of my eyes? He couldn’t know! What had I done to give away my hand?
         I looked at my stack. I had eighty-two thousand left. I was in no place for a slow-playing strategy and I could not afford to lose the pot that was already in front of me, I had already bet far too much. The chance of me getting a king or another six on the turn or the river was nominal at best, but I knew that there was a chance. I would have to count on the notion that Angel was bluffing. I had won with less in my hand and my wife was there to see it then, too. I studied my cards. King/six, a six on the flop. I would bank on hope at this point because that is all there is. I relaxed and felt a sense of relief wash over me. I had made a decision in my head and the fear was gone. No one knew this decision, yet I still needed to bring my voice to say it. My wife wouldn’t feel this relief, nor would my daughters. Too bad. It was so peaceful to know that my outcome wasn’t in my hands now and to just trust what was to come.
         “All in.”
         I pushed everything I had into the center. I could hear my wife gasp and my daughters move in to comfort her.
         “Call.” I heard Angel say, but I didn’t care at this point.
         “Very well.” said the dealer.
         We both turned our cards over and I saw his queen/six resting there on the table. If the dealer flipped over another six on the turn or the river, we’d both show three sixes, but my king would win. But if a queen was flipped, I was done. I still like my chances.
         The lights changed. I again heard the beeping of the I.V. machine, the blood pressure monitor, the sounds of surgical instruments being moved about. I had just told the surgeon to remove the dangerous tumor lodged next to my eye, and I looked at my wife and daughters standing beside my bed. There were tears, but there was understanding. This was the best we could hope for. I felt badly again that they didn’t have the relaxing resignation that I possessed. Tough for them. I would be in a dreamless bliss, and if I woke up I knew I had won the match. If not, oh well. But they would be stuck in some cold room for hours and hours waiting my fate.
            That’s the game. I shove in my chips, tip my hat to my opponent, and await the outcome. As I start to drift into an anesthesia-induced bliss I can almost see a dealer flipping over the turn.


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