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The Poker Game

Author : John Patrick

Submitted : 2009-10-09 03:27:40    Word Count : 2003    Popularity:   47

Tags:   fiction, trilogy, authors, books, publishing, corporate corruption, insurance industry

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The late night poker game at Felix Hurdsman’s suite was a very prestigious high stakes affair. The potential for substantial losses was great for poor players, and even greater for the better ones.

There are many stories about the consequences of beating the pants off of one’s boss in competitive games like gambling and golf. Few of the newer players survived to become old regulars at Felix’s table. Even though he would get enraged at the suggestion that anyone was letting him win, beating him at poker was like a death sentence.

Luckily for most of his VPs, Felix didn’t play golf. He not only couldn’t physically play due to his loss of lung capacity, but he hated the game with a passion. Chasing a little white ball around in the weeds was not his idea of a good time. If there was business to do on the golf course, Felix would be the one waiting back at the clubhouse when everyone was done swinging his bonny nibbler.

As the golfers staggered in, sweaty and thirsty, he would be at the bar with hors d’oeuvres and drinks. By the time Felix left the golf course, the double eagles he had scored were the kind seen on the backs of American gold coins.

Poker, on the other hand, was a different matter entirely.

Felix was known to express contempt for the reality poker game shows popular on television. He not only thought the players were lame, but sneered at how many wore sunglasses so no one would see them blink when they were trying to bluff.

Once, some of the senior vice presidents had conned an up and coming new regional vice president named Jason Fielder into sitting down to Felix’s poker table wearing sunglasses. The VPs told Jason that Felix liked to play a challenging game, and that obvious tells in the other players irritated him.

The senior VPs had decided that poor Jason was a bit too up and coming and needed to be shown where his place was in the larger scheme of things. As Felix dealt the first hand, no cards were given to Jason.

“Oh, Mr. Hurdsman, I think you forgot to deal me in,” suggested Jason meekly.

Felix looked up from his cards at Jason as if seeing him for the first time and remarked, “Oh, is that you, Mr. Fielder? There’s so much glare in here from the bright lights, I didn’t see you.”

Felix returned to his cards and ignored Jason. Finally seeing the prank played upon him, Jason excused himself and left the room. Further advancement never came for Jason Fielder.

Felix operated under the belief that his first course of action was winning, whatever the cost. If that didn’t work, then cheating was the second course. He made sure that there were plenty of distractions and temptations in his suite. Call girls, gigolos, alcohol and drugs were the mainstays. Cerbere was usually in attendance watching for over indulgers or troublemakers.

If someone fell over the cliff edge toward idiocy from too much booze, cocaine or both, one of the people of negotiable affections would see to it that the executive was tucked safely into bed in whatever room was closest to Felix’s suite. It was always considered poor taste to see a senior VP staggering down a hallway arm in arm with an apparent supermodel. That tended to create uncomfortable questions or comments at lunch the next day. Felix knew well how to cover his back and, when necessary, the backsides of those under him.

–––––––––

Fred Frangelico stared at the gold embossed formal invitation in his hands as he stood outside Felix Hurdsman’s suite.

Something isn’t right here, thought Fred as he ran his finger along the gold leaf edging on the card. Why would any of us from Milltown be invited to Hurdsman’s infamous poker game? Yes, we qualified for the Conference, but none of us are big enough producers to deserve something like this! Besides all of that, I’d be one of the last people Mr. Hurdsman would want in his poker game. What was Luís thinking? Stepping forward, he knocked, hoping no one would answer.

The door soon opened before him, revealing Cerbere Kuislane wearing a stunning, shimmering emerald green evening dress. Fred had read the instructions on the card warning that formal attire was required, so he had hurried to the resort’s tux shop and rented one for the evening. Feeling prepared, he timidly handed the card to Cerbere.

“You’re one of the Milltown people!” exclaimed Cerbere, sounding like an East Coast socialite. She gestured for Fred to come in. “We are SO glad you could attend our little gathering. The game will be starting shortly.”

“Thank you very much for inviting me,” replied Fred as he walked into the suite.

“Oh, think nothing of it,” laughed Cerbere. “We enjoy mingling with the little people from the field now and then. It keeps us in touch with our roots! Hmm, I think I hear someone else coming. Please feel free to get yourself something to drink.”

Cerbere turned back toward the door, checking her hair and smile in a mirror on the wall and giving herself a wink as she waited for the next guest to arrive.

Fred spotted the bartender in the next room and moved in that direction. The suite was full of people. Most of the faces he recognized were ones that he’d only seen in the occasional Home Office publication or the annual report. He identified them as senior VPs, investment fund analysts, department heads, and a few of the heavy hitters from the wealthiest districts across the US.

All those guys have to do is sit still for a moment and someone with more dollars than sense is knocking on their door wanting to buy something. That certainly is a far cry from my middleclass American factory town, thought Fred resentfully. There are very few people here who know what it’s like to beg for sales in order to meet Company quotas.

Many of these upper management people are the ones who never had to get their hands dirty generating any sales. A business degree magically qualified them to manage without any real hands on experience. All they care about are the Numbers and whether the returns make them look good or bad while they sit comfortably in meetings passing judgment on us agents. Little wonder I feel so dirty here.

“Yes, sir, what can I get for you?” asked the bartender.

“I don’t suppose you have any Milltown Black Lantern Ale?” asked Fred hopefully.

“Uh, regretfully, no, sir, but we do have a selection of light beers,” replied the man.

“I didn’t think you’d have any Black Lantern, but I thought I’d ask anyway,” remarked Fred in disappointment. “Well, how about two fingers of a single malt Scotch on the rocks?”

“Yes, of course,” answered the bartender. “Here you are, sir. I hope you enjoy the party.”

“Thank you. I’ll try,” smiled Fred as he turned to see if there was any place he could hide.

Suddenly Fred felt someone take his arm. Smiling up at him, Cerbere beamed, “Fred, there’s an empty chair at Mr. Hurdsman’s poker table. Would you like to join the game?”

“Oh, I’m sure that Mr. Hurdsman wouldn’t be interested in playing with me,” replied Fred nervously.

“You couldn’t be more wrong!” exclaimed Cerbere as she propelled Fred into the next room. “Mr. Hurdsman likes playing with agents.”

I’ll bet he does! thought Fred with great trepidation as he followed her lead. It’s a good thing that I followed the instructions on the card and brought a thousand dollars in cash with me. Rather a shame that I have to pay for my own execution, though.

As Fred approached the table, he could see Felix Hurdsman chatting among the other players. To his surprise, Les Mohr was seated directly across from Felix. Fred could hear Les entertaining the other men at the table with tales of staff C’s sales results for the past few months and making promises of even better ones in the future.

“So, Les, to what would you attribute your meteoric change of fortunes?” asked Godfrey Troubadoure III, chairman of the TICoK Board of Directors.

“Oh, my success is the culmination of years of hard work, and a talent for hiring and training highly effective agents,” bragged Les. “Once I trimmed out the deadwood in my sales staff, forced them to work as a team, and had them perform the tasks that each one was best at, the result was the creation of a lean, mean selling machine. They all have a role in getting each piece of business completed quickly and efficiently. Our district hasn’t seen sales results like mine for over a decade.”

“Good man!” exclaimed Godfrey. “Felix, I think we need a winner like Les, here, in a position where he can train others to be as accomplished as he is!”

“Indeed,” agreed Felix, removing the large cigar from his mouth and giving Les a toothy smile. “Perhaps we can discuss Mr. Mohr’s future at one of our Board meetings after we get the fourth quarter sales results. I’ve always been one for embracing new and effective sales ideas.”

“Capital idea, Felix!” exclaimed Godfrey. “That’s why the Board appreciates having you at the helm!”

“I do my best,” smiled Felix as he returned the cigar to his mouth and started shuffling the cards.

“Mr. Hurdsman, sir? I think I found someone to fill that empty chair at your table,” declared Cerbere as she arrived with Fred.

“Excellent,” replied Felix, gripping the cigar between his teeth. “Have a seat here on my right. If my memory doesn’t fail me, you’re Fred Frangelico from Milltown, correct?”

“I’m very impressed that you know my name, sir,” answered Fred as he sat where Felix had indicated.

“I always keep an eye on our best agents, Fred,” flattered Felix. “Now, am I wrong in assuming that you have a thousand in cash to pay for your share of chips?”

Fred knew this was not a question as Cerbere opened a small strongbox already containing a large number of bills. Fred quickly reached into his coat pocket, pulled out an envelope and dropped it in.

“Good, no need to count it, I’m sure,” smiled Felix. “Here are your chips, Fred. We play a straight game of ace high Five Card Draw Jackpot poker. There are no wild cards or other nonsense. At the end of each hand, the deal passes to the next player to the left in rotation.

“I probably don’t have to say this, but anyone caught cheating is out of the game and most likely a job, as well. Does anyone have any questions?”

Hearing none, Felix shuffled the deck again and handed it to Fred for the cut.

One of the first things that Fred noticed about Felix’s dealing was how he held the cards.

Hmm, he uses the Mechanics Grip! thought Fred. That by itself isn’t a problem, but that way of holding the deck makes card manipulation much easier. I’ll have to keep an eye on how he deals.

Fred divided the deck in half, placing the bottom half on the top as Felix watched carefully, then slid the deck back to Felix. Felix picked the cards up off the table, gave Fred a smile and started dealing the cards.

“Has everyone anteed up?”

(Excerpt from The Worst Kind of Lies and reprinted with permission from the author, John Patrick Lamont).

(Originally published at GoArticles and reprinted with permission from the author, John Patrick Lamont).

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John Patrick Lamont is author of The Worst Kind of Lies, the first novel in his Sum of Life Trilogy. His novels deal with corporate corruption in the insurance industry. To learn more about his writing, read reviews and download excerpts, please visit http://www.JPatrickLamont.com or http://www.SumOfLifeBooks.com.

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