As soon as it turned up on my screen I knew it was trouble. It was the type of flop to make a 50 year monk break his oath of poverty. It was the same kind of flop that convinced Julius Caesar to ignore the sleek headed men around him. It was the fifth shot of tequila. The tipping point.
The time was last Friday, late, and the scene was a typical one. Poker Stars was not so much a room I hadn't given up on as it was a room that had yet to give up on me, and 180-seaters were just anonymous enough. My hand was pocket Jacks, otherwise known as My Two Sons. The action, juicy. My sentences, choppy, terse as a chaw of jerky recently discovered under the car seat.
My name's Goat. I carry a badge. And a hammer. I look into the hand histories that nobody else will look at. What I find isn't always pretty to look at, but looking at it keeps the lights on. Except this time I was the monkey dancing on the hook.
I'm not much of one to expect things in this life. The only thing I can count on is what's between my ears. That, and the fact that a couple Old Fashioned will get you where you need to go most of the time, that the joints which are the best online casinos rarely have time for me, and that a snub nose in the small of the back makes a better bribe than a C-note slid under the desk. Those are my expectations, and I don't expect to add to the list any time soon, certainly not with some kind of wet-eared nonsense like "the best hand holds."
But now this flop had come and dropped a golden monkey wrench on the felt.
"Mr. Goat," she simpered. "I've just offered you top set and it's uncoordinated."
I smiled and tried not to eye her Jack of hearts. It was begging me to fall in love.
"That's very pretty," I said, maybe a little too quickly. "What's your business with me?"
The flop slinked around my desk and pushed back my hat. The sort of thing that if a man did it I'd be glad enough to show him his throat, but now I was just glad enough to let her do it.
"Slow play, Mr. Goat." she whispered. "You're four-handed, and you know that one of these monkeys will shove on you."
I didn't want to believe her, but it made decent sense, as far as these sorts of things go. "And what's your interest in this? You want a cut?"
She laughed. "Hardly, Mr. Goat. I simply want to prove to you that I can be trusted. After that . . . well. After that, I may need to ask something of you that will make me need to trust you."
Never listen to a flop with looks that make you want to stop listening, I thought, but I checked all the same. One of my opponents, ImTheBoss, pushed forward 10,000 even, about a third of his stack and about a quarter of mine. It folded to me.
"Just call," the flop said. She offered her cigarette in a cheroot for me to light. I obliged both requests.
The turn was a Queen that put a second heart on the board. I didn't like the look of that. Neither did ImTheBoss, it seemed. He checked.
"Check again," she said, with a toothy smile. "Draw him in."
"The hell I will, sister." I snarled, and then I saw her mask crack, just for a moment. She was good. Very good.
"But . . . "
"You just wanted to lead me down the primrose path, didn't you? But when the bell tolls, there's just one sap here it'll be tolling for. I'm contacting Stars support."
She threw herself at me. "No, Mr. Goat! No, I can't go back to --"
"Yes. Never mind. That's good, 'never mind.' Never mind that he's sitting there with 21 outs. Just check and give him the goods, and never mind who's goods get ganked."
I shoved, and the flop smiled, letting me know I'd been guffed. ImTheBoss tabled his pocket ladies with a grin.
"Thank you, Mr. Goat. I don't think I'll have any further use of your services."
Never trust a flop.