5803 Viewpoint Dr.
Austin, Texas 78744
The Gold Pot
A Short Story
by George Wier
“Need is no factor in luck,” Lattie said as she dealt the
final round. I sniffed. Any professional gambler will tell you
that statement isn’t entirely true. The fact is, the greater the
need, the less likely luck is to strike, which definitely makes it
a factor. A negative factor. It’s a reverse proposition, and any
player worth his salt knows this from hard experience. The
problem is, when you’re in it up to the short hairs, it’s that
much more difficult to fold. Which was why there were, as yet, no
vacant chairs at Frank Somer’s poker table.
The game began seventeen long hours before. The chips segued
back-and-forth and from side-to-side, like some damned slow kiddie
amusement park ride. Only it wasn’t amusing. Not one damned bit.
Around two in the morning, just three or four hours after the
first hand, I got a flush, and my stack of chips multiplied in
size, and then for another five hours dwindled down and up, down
and up. Me, I’m cursed with luck. Nothing goes right because of
it. But I had no idea how much things were going to change by the
end of that final hand.
It was a stupid trick Lattie pulled, and she did it because
she knew what we would all think of it. She dealt a hand of
Maverick: seven cards--two down, two up, two down, one up--with a
bet each round after each up card. It’s a blow-out type of hand,
sort of like Mexican Sweat, and the pot mushrooms in size. It’s
the ultimate final hand. Most pros hate it--or, at least in my
estimation, you’re not a pro unless you do hate it. I hate it
because I don’t like to win that big in one whuff. When I do, the
odds go up incredibly high that someone’s going to get pissed
enough to jump me afterwards, or possibly even during. And I
already knew what no one else at that table could: I was going to
win, and in a very bad way. It was right then that I could have
folded. Ah well. Live and learn.
My first up card was a seven of clubs. Innocuous. No danger
to anyone there. I dared not look at my hole cards. The ante was
a mere twenty-five bucks. Then Mercer, to Lattie’s immediate
left, chunked in a hundred based on his King of Diamonds. There
were six of us, and so the pot swelled to seven-fifty on that
first up-card. Thankfully, nobody raised the bet.
To my left Aubrey Pike threw in a small stack of chips.
Aubrey had a mean grin on his pock-marked face. He had lost his
job at the cell phone plant last month. Also, I knew his wife was
up for a liver transplant and he was twenty-five thousand short of
what he needed and there was no insurance left to him. A guy like
that can get pretty desperate.
Aubrey detected my stare, squinted his eyes and turned my way
a fraction. I looked down at the table and the growing pot.
Second card up for me was the eight of clubs.
I know what you’re thinking. Don’t. There was no chance of
two of those in the same game, fourteen hours apart or not.
Lattie’s bet, with a pair of threes showing, both red.
Lattie used to house-keep at the Governor’s mansion. Her husband
was one of the first African-American cops in Austin. The guy got
blown away during a routine traffic stop ten years ago, and
Lattie lays a wreath on his grave every September second.
Meanwhile, the remainder of the year, she plays cards. Lattie has
the heart of a great white shark, which makes me love her in no
small way. She’s probably the wealthiest black woman I know.
Lattie paused, looked at each of us in turn. A flare for the
dramatic, that woman. “Thousand,” she said, and moved over a
whole stack of chips.
Somewhere off the coast of Sri Lanka, there is a unlucky
sailor, drowning. I understood him.
Mercer Underwood whistled. “Lattie, my dear,” he said. “I
truly love you. Will you marry me?”
“You’re already married, you glass-eyed pervert. In or out?”
“In,” Mercer said. A drop of sweat rolled down his right
cheek. I supposed he was hoping no one noticed. It was like
sixty-two degrees on Franks Somer’s back porch. Outside the
cicadas stopped droning and got interested in the game.
Mercer closed his plumbing supply shop last Spring. I have a
real estate buddy who’s been trying to get me to invest in
foreclosures. Last week he showed me the list. Mercer’s house
and his shop were on it. I recall wondering at the time whether
or not Kitty knew. Both properties were going on the block in two
weeks. So far, that made two who might kill for that damned pot.
Frank Somer added another thousand to the pot.
Frank was the only bona fide felon sitting at the table. He
had been out on parole since ‘95 after twenty years in the clink.
Strange, the kind of people a guy like me hangs out with. Frank
had killed a man in cold-blood, or rather, cool blood. He’d
waited a week after finding out his wife was cheating on him
before he walked into the Lago Vista Country Club and shot the man
right between the eyes. A week. A lot can happen in a week.
Frank scalped football tickets for a living. No one hires a
felon, after all. The last time I saw him, I had to pay his bar
tab for him. That made three.
It was to me.
I pushed a thousand in chips to the center of the table and
noticed I wasn’t breathing. When was the last time I had
breathed? And because I couldn’t answer myself it sort of ticked
me off and I did something really, really stupid. Moronic, in
fact. I shoved over two more stacks and said: “that’s three to
Aubrey looked at me. Then he looked at his cards.
“I hate you,” he said. “You haven’t even looked at your hole
cards, you bastard.”
“I know,” I told him, and smiled. I thought of how cold the
Indian Ocean might get in the south latitudes.
Aubrey had maybe five thousand left, and there were far too
many rounds to go. I watched as he slowly counted out three
thousand in chips.
“There!” he said. The neat stacks in the center spilled. It
was all one pile now.
“It’s to you, Perry,” Lattie said.
Perry Tanner ran a title company office. He was middle-aged,
totally bald, and was being thoroughly and completely divorced by
a petite little college girl who had seen Perry for his true
value. I discounted Perry as a potential violence factor. But,
then again, who knows?
“Yeah, yeah,” Perry said, and pushed over about half of his
Everyone else stayed in. Lattie smiled. Mercer sweated.
Frank grimaced. I breathed. Aubrey shook from head to foot.
Two cards down and no bets.
“Would you please look at your goddamned hole cards?” Aubrey
raised his voice.
“Okay,” I said, and did.
A seven and an eight of spades. Huh. Two pair. Lousy. I
looked at the other two. An eight of hearts and an eight of
diamonds. Ha! Four of a kind!
At that moment Lattie dealt the last up-card.
“Not so pretty now, are they?” Aubrey asked.
“Man,” I said. “You have no idea how much it’s going to cost
you to find out.”
Mercer had the bet, with a pair of Kings showing. Mercer bet
a mere hundred. When it got around to Lattie, she immediately
raised him by nine hundred. You can say one thing for Lattie:
the bitch is consistent.
It came to me again. I shoved the rest of my chips forward.
“How much the hell is that?” Lattie asked.
“Doesn’t matter,” I said. “Nobody here can cover it.”
“I can!” Perry said, and the room became golden. That is to
say that Perry reached into his pocket where a jingle-jangle could
be heard, and a stack of one-ounce gold krugerrands, about fifty
of them, joined the stack of chips.
Cards slapped the table all around, Lattie included. But I
“Well?” Perry asked me, a smirk on his face.
“That makes it about a hundred and fifty thousand,” I said.
“Well?” Perry repeated, and opened his palms. I caught a
quick glimpse of his cards, but that no longer mattered.
“Hold on,” I said. I reached behind me, into my rear waist-
“Unless you’re gonna pull the Hope Diamond out of your
ass--” Perry began, but then he and everyone else saw my real hole
“I don’t believe it,” Lattie said.
“Believe it,” I said.
I shot Perry first, the silencer making for a pea-shooter
sound. Everyone sat frozen as Perry’s head thunked on the table.
Aubrey I shot second, mostly because I couldn’t stand the
sonuvabitch. The others, all except Lattie, tried to make a break
Which left me and Lattie.
I turned over my four eights.
“Well,” Lattie said. “You win.”
“I guess so. Damn, but I hate my luck,” I said.
I shot Lattie through the heart.
I looked down at the gold pot. Outside the cicadas started
up their drone again. I like hearing those damned things.
Me and that Sri Lankan fisherman. Both of us drowning. Both
of us trying to breathe.
Sometimes a guy will do anything. You just can’t trust
someone in a bind.