Steve Roberts was a “face”. He stood six feet five inches and his huge frame was solid muscle. He had a voice that sounded as though he’d smoked a hundred hard core cigarettes every day of his life. An accident with a boiling pan of water when he was only four had left him with a badly scarred face. He looked scary. Really fucking scary. You didn’t argue with Steve Roberts.
People either avoided him like the plague or wanted to be his friend. They knew that if you were a friend of Steve Roberts you were untouchable.
He didn’t work, yet always had a huge wad of notes in his back pocket. No one knew where he got his money from and no one ever asked him. He liked his booze, his woman and he loved playing cards. Five card stud poker was his game, none of this fancy “Texas Holdem” shit for Steve. Five card stud was a real man’s game.
Wednesday night was Poker night. A flat above a Greek restaurant in North London was the venue for the biggest game in town. Only serious players were allowed in. You couldn’t sit down unless you had at least five grand on you. Steve usually took ten and could always rely on the house to lend him another five if he needed it. The house rules were simple. You could borrow up to five grand on the night but the money had to be repaid within twenty four with fifteen percent interest.
He didn’t cheat at cards. He didn’t need to. He was good at it. Very good. He could card count; work out percentages on what cards would show up next. When it came to cards his brain was like a computer always analysing every hand, every shuffle, every cut.
The game started at ten and usually went on until dawn. It cost one hundred and fifty pounds to get in and the Greeks supplied all the booze. They also took five percent of the biggest hand of the night. It was a nice little earner for the Greeks.
When Steve arrived and took his place at the table there were already nine others there. All familiar faces, all regulars.
A tiny man who looked as though he ought to be a jockey. Five feet two, bald and with very bad teeth. They were crooked and black.
Steve called over to one of the Greeks and whispered in his ear.
“Who the fuck’s the little guy?”
“No idea. Said he’s from Northampton. I think he’s some kind of face up there. He’s carrying twenty grand on him so he must be doing okay.”
“Some kind of face? Fucking hell. He’d last five minutes down here.”
The game began. Cautiously. The first few hands were worth no more than a couple of grand each. Everyone playing it safe. It wasn’t until after midnight that the pots started to grow.
At two o’clock the room went silent. Some serious betting had begun. Only three were left in. Steve, the little man and Gary, one of the regulars. After two more cards were dealt, Gary conceded. It was getting too rich for him. Steve raised the little man by five grand. The little man smiled, put in his five then raised it another five. Gary needed to borrow some cash from the Greeks. He was convinced that the little man’s hidden card wasn’t anything to worry about. He’d done the calculations applied the percentages and was sure that it would either be a two or a three of hearts. This meant that the little man would only have two pairs. Steve’s hidden card was the eight of clubs. He already had a pair of eights showing. His three eights would beat the little man’s two pair.
He put in his five grand.
“Let’s see what you’ve got.”
The little man turned over his hidden card. It was exactly what Steve had predicted. It was the two of hearts!
“You were bluffing.”
Steve turned his card over to show the eight of clubs.
The little man said nothing. He face was expressionless. He stood up and finished his drink.
Steve scooped up the winnings. Sixty grand.
The little man turned and began to walk away. Steve called out.
“Hey titch. Come back anytime mate. You’re always welcome.”
The little man continued walking and left the flat. Steve played on until five in the morning. He walked away with almost seventy five grand.
The following day Steve was in his local pub with a few mates. The drinks were on him today, all top shelf. He was standing at the bar ordering another round. He didn’t see someone enter the bar from the side door.
The first thing he felt was a blow to his back. A crippling blow that made him fall to his knees. He felt another hard blow to the top of his head. He fell to the floor. He found himself looking up at someone. His vision was blurred but he recognized the face. It was the little man from the Poker game. He watched helplessly as he saw a baseball bat come down on his knee. He cried out in pain. People in the bar, his mates, did nothing. He saw the bat come down again on his other knee. He screamed.
“Please, please, no more. You can have your money. I’ll get it for you.”
He saw the bat come down again. Hard. This time he felt his left shoulder crack. The little man spoke.
“I don’t want your fucking money. You tall streak of piss. NO ONE CALLS ME TITCH.”