Author Topic: Short Story - please review  (Read 1160 times)

Offline ABestSeller

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Short Story - please review
« on: January 18, 2007, 01:37:38 AM »
I haven't written any short stories for a while.  They're much easier to write than is a novel, but overall, not as rewarding.  Also, the market is not as good for short fiction as it once was. 

Almost all of my short stories were single-scene.  That is, if the story started in the kitchen of a farmhouse, it ended there.  This story,  "Old Poker Guy" is one of my favorites.  It tells a little about my background, also.  That is, write about what you know!   I thought I'd share it here for discussion purposes, and to get feedback.   Until recently, I wouldn't share a poker story on a general forum, but with the popularity of poker on TV these days, I think a lot more of you will be able to follow the action.

                                                             "Old Poker Guy"

Poker Guy was what they had called him when he was younger.  He'd won all the major tournaments and had played against the best--Johnny Ross, Texas Slim, and the math wizard from Las Vegas, Tommy Polansky.  You name the player;  Poker Man had matched  chips and wits with all of them.  At least that's what he'd tell anyone who would listen to his stories.

Now eighty-six years old, his memory was fading and his stories were becoming even more boisterous.  Poker Man, if he had ever really been known by that name, was now known as Old Poker Guy.

"Play it close to the vest," he always told the younger players. "Don't chase the cards and don't chase the ladies."  His cockeyed grin and wink let them know that he didn't believe the part about chasing the ladies."  The players listened to his stories and made fun of the old man.  No one knew if he was telling the truth when he talked of beating World Champion Johnny Ross in a heads-up game of Texas hold'em in the backroom of a Dallas nightclub or if it was just more of the old man's ramblings. "

"He didn't have a chance," Old Poker Guy would say.  He always smiled when he told this particular story.  "Pocket fives...five of hearts and five of clubs, and the five of spades on the river.  He should have known he couldn't beat me."  Each time he told the story, there were additional details, as though he was remembering new incidents that had occurred.  Most thought it was the old guy's imagination getting away from him.  Or, perhaps he was putting all of his poker experiences into one story.

"My money's on you, old man," one of the locals had shouted just before final action began at the Texas State Hold'em Championship.  The tournament director admonished the young bystander to be quiet;  there would be no more interruptions for the rest of the tournament.

It was heads up now.  Old Poker Guy had made the final tble of six at the end of the second day when his 7-2 offsuit in the big blind had flopped a full house, which he slow-played against A-A and K-K,  eliminating the final two players in contention for a seat in the finals.  Now he had whittled his way through the field, eliminating or watching four of the six worthy opponents fall by the wayside.  It was Old Poker Guy against Hank Docherty, who had just recently placed second in the prestigious World Series of Poker championship in Las Vegas.  They would play for the championship of Texas..  No limit hold'em, until one of them was eliminated.

The tournament had begun three days earlier.  The best players in the southwest, along with a large number of local players had scrambled into the Four Star Indian Casino near the Mexican border town of Eagle Pass.  Most were surprised when Old Poker Guy had stepped up to the tournament table and laid out five crumpled $100 bills and two twenties.  No one had ever seen him play before, and no one had expected him to get past the first day of the competition.  They'd chuckled at the old man as he signed in as Stanley Robinson, then erased his name and with a wry smile changed it to Old Poker Guy.

"I don't get lucky, I just get good," was another of the expressions that locals were apt to her coming from Old Poker Guy.  He always wore baggy pants and a tattered flannel shirt, regardless of the weather.  Most days he'd wear a plastic bow tie.  "Kids nowadays don't understand the game." he often mumbled to himself as he'd watch the action in the $10-$20 hold'em games at Four Star.  They liked to hide his tattered New York Yanked baseball cap that Old Poker Guy claimed was a gift from 'The Babe.'

Now with his head swirling, Old Poker guy worried about being able to maintain his concentration in the competition against such a formidable foe.  He cursed himself for having gotten lost on his way to the tournament earlier in the day, causing him to miss the first four hands.  "I can drive her blindfolded," he mumbled to himself as he took his seat at the final table.  The three days of constant play weighed heavily on Old Poker Guy's endurance.

"He's a book of tells," one of the bystanders whispered.  Every time Old Poker Guy caught a good card, his eyebrows raised and he lifted himself upright in his chair.  It was just a matter of time before Docherty eliminated the old man, whose mind now had departed from the game.

"Keep your mind on the game, old man!"  The voice came from the rail directly behind Docherty.  It was Johnny Ross, he was sure of it.  What was the former champion doing in Texas, he wondered.  Old Poker Guy raised his head and looked toward the rail.  A smiling Johnny Ross winked at him and gave him a thumbs up.  It had been forty years since he'd seen Johnny.  Never mind. The advice was right.  He'd have to get his mind back into the game if he was to compete with Hank Docherty.  Why hadn't the tournament director  admonished Johnny as he had the younger spectator who  spoke out earlier?

The chips favored Docherty 3-1 as the old man pulled himself up in his chair and gathered his remaining energy.  Back and forth the action went.  Old Poker Guy had a sudden run of good cards and had taken a small lead on Docherty about the time his mind started to wander again.

"Pocket fives," he mumbled to himself without looking at his cards.  It was the same hand that had put Johnny Ross out of his misery.  A smile came to his face, only to be disrupted when the dealer tapped the table signifying that it was Old Poker Guys turn to act.

The flop was already on the table.  Old Poker Guy squinted at the 8 and 10 of diamonds, and the 4 of hearts.  Docherty had eyed his opponent carefully before checking the flop.  Old Poker guy gently tapped the table, giving the dealer authority to continue the hand.  "Six of diamonds," the tournament director announced as the fourth card fell on the table. "The turn card is the six of diamonds," he repeated.

Docherty wasn't watching the card hit the table.  Hs eyes were on Old Poker Guy while he pretended to look at his cards, which he already knew were the ace and king of diamonds.  The six of diamonds on the turn and the two diamonds on the flop gave him the nut flush. He felt a tingling sensation in his face, which was as close to a tell as you were likely to get from Docherty.  He'd begun picking up tells on the old man again just a few hands earlier, but had not had a hand with which to put a move on him.

"Check," Docherty said.  The old man sat motionless.  Docherty was sure that the cards on the table weren't close to anything Old Poker Guy was holding.  If he bet now,  Old Poker Guy would surely fold his hand and his flush would have been wasted.  He' take the risk of looking at the final card, hoping it would help his opponent enough that he would call a bet.

"Fifth and final card," the director said as he nodded to the dealer, who burned a card and turned over the Queen of diamonds.  Again, Docherty's eyes were glued on the old man.  There were four diamonds on the table.  Maybe the old guy had made a second-best flush, he thought.  He had nothing to lose by trying.

"All in," Docherty said as he pushed his entire stack of chips toward the center of the table.  There was little reaction from the crowd.  They know that Docherty had made his hand and that surely the old man would either fold, or make a foolish call and lose the tournament. 

Without looking at his cards, Old Poker Guy was about to push them into the muck when his thoughts were once again disrupted by the voice from the rail.

"Look at your cards, you old fool!"  It was Johnny Ross again.  Old Poker Guy looked up and squinted at the admonishing former champion.  "Look at your cards."  he repeated.

Old Poker Guy knew that he had a pair of fives, but he listened to the voice.  Slowly pressinig down on the backside of his two cards with his forefinger, he gently lifted them with his thumb. 

Old Poker Guy stared at the cards for a full minute.  "It's your turn, sir," the dealer reminded him, thinking the old man once again had lost track of the game.

Old Poker Guy noddded toward the dealer.  His mind was perfectly clear for just a moment as he announced, "I'll call your bet, Mr. Docherty."  Without hesitation, he pushed his entire stack of chips into the pot and turned over the Jack and nine of diamonds."  "I think my cards match up with the queen of diamonds on the river.  If you combine them with the eight of diamonds and the ten of diamonds on the flop, I'll have a straight flush."  It was the only hand that could beat Docherty. 

The normally quiet crowd that almost always showed indifference to a good play, broke into a hearty round of applause and chatter as Hank Docherty sat stunned, wondering how he'd missed hte tell that almost surely would have let him know that Old Poker Guy was on a straight flush draw.

Old Poker Guy smiled and tipped his Yankee baseball cap to the crowd.  Suddenly he remembered that Johnny Ross had passed away over twenty years ago.  It didn't matter now.  It didn't matter if he'd ever met or played against the former champion.  Today, Old Poker Guy was the poker champion of Texas.  He'd tell this story often in years to come.

































































































































































Offline Alice, a Country Gal

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Re: Short Story - please review
« Reply #1 on: January 20, 2007, 11:45:02 AM »
Although I use to play a little 5 card draw, I've not kept up with poker over the years and don't really know the ins and outs of Texas Holdem even though I hear it referred to often.

Even without a knowledgeable background on the game, I found your story interesting and on the whole, a good read.

You developed Old Poker Guy's character well and I love the ending when he remembers Johnny Ross has been dead for 20 years.

But I do think the opening could benifit from a little 'tightening up.'  I would like to see you get to the game a little earlier.

Poker Guy was what they had called him when he was younger.  He'd won all the major tournaments and had played against the best--Johnny Ross, Texas Slim, and the math wizard from Las Vegas, Tommy Polansky.  You name the player;  Poker Man had matched  chips and wits with all of them.  At least that's what he'd tell anyone who would listen to his stories.

Now eighty-six years old, his memory was fading and his stories were becoming even more boisterous.  Poker Man, if he had ever really been known by that name, was now known as Old Poker Guy.

"Play it close to the vest," he always told the younger players. "Don't chase the cards and don't chase the ladies."  His cockeyed grin and wink let them know that he didn't believe the part about chasing the ladies."  The players listened to his stories and made fun of the old man.  No one knew if he was telling the truth when he talked of beating World Champion Johnny Ross in a heads-up game of Texas hold'em in the backroom of a Dallas nightclub or if it was just more of the old man's ramblings. "

"He didn't have a chance," Old Poker Guy would say.  He always smiled when he told this particular story.  "Pocket fives...five of hearts and five of clubs, and the five of spades on the river.  He should have known he couldn't beat me."  Each time he told the story, there were additional details, as though he was remembering new incidents that had occurred.  Most thought it was the old guy's imagination getting away from him.  Or, perhaps he was putting all of his poker experiences into one story.


Perhaps something like this:

Poker Guy was what they had called him when he was younger.  He claimed to have won all the major tournaments and to have played against the best; Johnny Ross, Texas Slim, and the math wizard from Las Vegas, Tommy Polansky.  You name the player;  Poker Man said he had matched  chips and wits with all of them. At least that's what he'd tell anyone who would listen to his stories.

"Play it close to the vest," he always told the younger players. "Don't chase the cards and don't chase the ladies."  His cockeyed grin and wink let them know that he didn't believe the part about chasing the ladies."  The players listened to his stories and made fun of the old man.  No one knew if he was telling the truth when he talked of beating World Champion Johnny Ross in a heads-up game of Texas hold'em in the backroom of a Dallas nightclub or if it was just more of the old man's ramblings. "

"He didn't have a chance," Old Poker Guy would say.  He always smiled when he told this particular story.  "Pocket fives...five of hearts and five of clubs, and the five of spades on the river.  He should have known he couldn't beat me."  Each time he told the story, there were additional details, as though he was remembering new incidents that had occurred.  Most thought it was the old guy's imagination getting away from him.  Or, perhaps he was putting all of his poker experiences into one story.

Now eighty-six years old, his memory was fading and his stories were becoming even more boisterous.  Poker Man, if he had ever really been known by that name, was now known as Old Poker Guy.

I believe you need a little segue between the opening part to lead the reader into the game.  Maybe something along the line of:

News of the Texas State Hold'em Championship reached his neck of the woods (or the name of the town/city.  Or even show someone giving him the news, asking if he was going to play.)
'This is my chance to prove the truth to all those who laugh behind my back.' he thought.  He wasn't sure he was up to it, but was determined to try.  Of course, if he failed he didn't plan to go home again. 

The above isn't great, just an idea to get you going if you choose to use a segue.

When you got into the game your words flowed allowing the reader to become one of the crowd watching the table or at moments to peek inside of Old Poker Guy's or Docherty head.  I enjoyed this part most of all.  Well done.
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Offline ABestSeller

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Re: Short Story - please review
« Reply #2 on: January 20, 2007, 08:06:47 PM »
Thanks for the feedback, CountryGal.  Regarding the beginning;  the story was more about Old Poker Guy than it was about the poker so I wanted the reader to really get to know him in a very short article.   The story appeared in Card Player magazine a few years ago.


Offline Alice, a Country Gal

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Re: Short Story - please review
« Reply #3 on: January 20, 2007, 08:30:31 PM »
the story was more about Old Poker Guy than it was about the poker so I wanted the reader to really get to know him in a very short article.

I think you established his character well, so you obviously succeeded in your quest.  Well done.
MWC Charity Publications.
http://www.lulu.com/spotlight>
The universe is made of stories, not of atoms. -Muriel Rukeyser, poet and activist (15 Dec 1913-1980)

R. L. Copple's: http://www.rlcopple.com/

I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.
-Mohandas K. Gandhi

Offline dragonsue

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Re: Short Story - please review
« Reply #4 on: January 20, 2007, 10:22:38 PM »
Even though I only play poker with my daughters, and never intentionally wath games on the telly, the story held my interest all the way through.
I agree with Country-Gal that the begining needs to be tightened up a little, the secon paragraph clearly points out that people take his stories with a pinch of salt.
I would be happy to read this short story in a magazine any day.
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