Six players, actually four players and two con artists, sat at the number eight poker table. From the dealer’s left they included the middle-aged blond guy with inflated muscles and a mechanic’s fingernail woes, the Air Force lieutenant who surely chose to wear that uniform out of some misguided hope it might distract the other players, the cowboy who cleaned up real nice, the elegant blonde who had picked him up in the restaurant earlier, the grandfather wearing a blue silk shirt, and the warrior princess who stacked and re-stacked her chips to hide her fascination with the blonde.
Inwardly noting that this appeared to be a harmless bunch, the dealer settled on private names for them all. The men were a simple matter. They’d be Michelin Man, Fly Guy, Cowboy and Gramps. But the women. The blonde was all smooth coolness and light, and the sight of her made you hope for a creamy center. Yes, she would be Cream. That left the tall and intense goddess who sat just to the dealer’s right. Aphrodite might work.
The dealer shuffled the deck while going over the house rules and ended with, “So, this table features a variation of seven-card stud with no raise limit. You’ll get your first card down, then four facing up, and finish the deal with two additional hole cards. Everybody gets to see four of your cards, but the privilege of looking at those other three is yours alone. Are we ready to begin, ladies and gentlemen? Okay then.”
Cowboy took the first pot, and as he pulled in his winning chips, Fly Guy said, “Starting off right, I’d say.”
Grinning at Cream, Cowboy said, “Already started off nice, before the game even got going.” He’d told everybody how they’d just met that night and had dinner together.
It was against hotel policy to roll your eyes at the guests’ comments, but the dealer really wanted to. Aphrodite did it for both of them. She sighed too, with an impatient grunt at the end.
The next hand got interesting as a battle of raises developed between Michelin Man and Gramps. By the fifth card they were the only two left in, which made way for Aphrodite to develop some brazen eye contact with Cream. To her credit, Cream weathered the barefaced come-on with an aplomb that Cowboy openly approved of.
Aphrodite got quite a nice hand and won the next pot, but she didn’t capitalize enough on two tens in the hole to go with the one she had showing. Sitting on something like that, she should have done some moderate raising. The dealer diagnosed that lapse as Cream fever.
Half an hour later, Cream still hadn’t won a pot. She didn’t have much showing, but started raising on the fourth card. Everybody got wary since it was the first hand she’d put anything behind. When she pushed three hundred dollars to the center after getting a look at her fifth card, all but Aphrodite folded.
Aphrodite smiled as she slid her chips forward, and without another glance at her hole cards she winked at Cream and said, “Call you, and let’s make it worth our while with three hundred more.”
Cream peeked at her down card and stayed.
When she saw her sixth card, which was dealt face down, Cream seemed to be suppressing a smile. “Five hundred.”
Aphrodite was wearing a matte black jumpsuit zipped to a level that showed little cleavage unless she leaned over. She laid her hole cards in front of her and placed an elbow on either side of them. Then she shifted forward until she was certain Cream had a good view and said from somewhere deep down in that jumpsuit, “I’m in.”
The dealer marked this moment as a turning point in the dynamic. Cream was beginning to unravel.
The seventh card didn’t seem to interest either woman. They’d apparently built their hands on the first six.
Cream continued to exhibit great faith in what she was holding. And her composure was back in place. She looked directly at Aphrodite. “One thousand.”
As Aphrodite counted chips, she cordially said, “A bargain at any price – to get to see yours.” Then she forwarded a second stack. “And how badly do you want to see mine? One thousand more.”
Cream steadied herself by gripping Cowboy’s forearm with one hand as she put in her thousand with the other, which was shaking, the dealer couldn’t help but notice.
Aphrodite somehow transformed the act of turning up her cards into a sensual experience. Cream tried to dispel that effect by carelessly flinging hers to the middle of the table. Neither hand was much good. They had boosted the pot to over five thousand dollars on three nines and two pairs. Cream won it with the three nines.
Cream wasn’t much of a force during the hand after that, and when it was over she excused herself for a few minutes.
Aphrodite stayed long enough to ante and look at three cards in the following hand before folding and getting up. She addressed herself to Cowboy. “Think I need to powder my nose, too.”
At a discreet distance, Jacky followed Margaret to her room and, after checking that no one had tailed them, she slipped in the door.
Wide-eyed, Margaret said in the most controlled voice she could muster, “This is going to work, you know.”
Jacky twirled her way to the bed and bounced on it hard. “Jesus Christ! It is.”
“And not only that, my darling, it’s turning out to be fun. I mean, I wasn’t all that nervous once we got started, were you? And the patsies are just normal people.” Margaret looked down at Jacky all kicked back on the bed, and then at her own dress and heels. “Next time I get to be the butch and you get to wear the dress.”
Jacky hopped to her feet. “Be happy to, sweetheart. But let’s not call them patsies. Isn’t the term ’marks’? Aren’t they our marks?”
“We’ll have to look that up on the Net. Even if it is marks, though, I don’t think we should call them that because of my brother Mark.”
“Oh, right. Same thing with patsies for me, because of Patsy Cline.”
“Didn’t think about that. We’ll look it up.” Margaret checked her new fancy watch. “So, if we stick to our plan to be gone for twenty minutes, we’ve got fourteen left. Now, let’s go over everything real quick.”
Jacky laced her hands behind Margaret’s back and swayed gently. “When we return to the table, you’ll look flustered and uncertain. I’ll look like the pussy that swallowed the canary.”
“Yep. Then as soon as we both get a couple of barely worthwhile hands, we get into another unrealistic raising duel. That first one worked so perfectly. Did you see the looks on their faces when we showed our pitiful cards?”
“I was afraid to look at their faces. Okay, so we repeat that little operation. And I think everybody will be afraid to stay with us again, especially if we raise big enough and none of them has an extremely great hand. One more of those and we go in for the kill. The third time, when one of us is holding an actual first-class hand, they’ll be so convinced we’re playing with some organ other than our brains, a couple of them should stay right with us, no matter how high we raise.” Jacky checked the time before slipping her hand under Margaret’s dress and running it between her thighs. “Eleven minutes to worship the panty hose goddess.”