Cards on the table

Sunday 11th September 2011

SNAP is where it all starts, for many of us. A game of skill, requiring subtle judgment on the part of the parent. Kids know instinctively when you’re letting them win. They don’t want to lose, but nor do they like being patronised.

Pelmanism. That memory game where you turn over two at a time and win by collecting more pairs than the other players. Better not try that with my granddaughters. Couldn’t remember what it’s called.

Strip Jack Naked, or Beggar My Neighbour, had a certain frisson when we were kids. Hint of mischief in the title. Still fun if you come back and win from having only, say, five cards left, one of which is an unlikely Ace.

As a teenager you discover gambling, often via Pontoon, or Vingt-et-un if you’re posh, but more often Blackjack, now America rules the world. From there to various versions of Brag, which might entice young studs into the addiction of Poker. Remember that scene on the train in The Sting?

The other night, my younger daughter, her boyfriend and I played several hands of 7-card Brag; for strawberries. Took me back to student vacations working in a factory in Hull.

Had to bolt lunch down to get a seat. Upturned crates in the loading bay, dock door up to admit sunlight. Men as gods. Tuppence a round. No wild cards. Eight or nine bob in the kitty. I discard the diamond, sweating.

“Aqua on the bounce.”

“Prail, fives.”

“Lad’s got it.”

“But what’s he got coming back?”

“Straight should do it.”

“Anybody got a stopper?”

“Come on, Shakespeare!”

“Queen flush.”

Charge-hand Cliff shakes his head, puts down a pair. A long pause. John Fork-Lift bides his time, shrugs defeat.

“Looks like it’s yours, young ’un.”

I reach for the pot of silver and bronze. Bloomin’ ’eck! Half a day’s wages in there. Fortune favours th––

“King flush.”

Taught humility too, those uncomplicated working men.

Later lunchtimes, as a teacher, I grasped the basics of Bridge, but lacked the mathematician’s finesse.

Guess it’ll be Patience soon. Before, you know, shuffling off.

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One Response to Cards on the table

  1. Andrew says:

    that’s really nice, Thanks Marcus. Its full of the gentle humour, I have come to admire, and wish I could put into my own work… if I can remove the stain of cynicism from my heart… and looking at life as a game of cards is clever. it brought back happy recollections of my nan teaching me clock patience…

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