Dean peeked over the top of his cards, eyeing the men sitting around the table with him. Bobby sat to Dean’s left, cards sitting in a neat pile on the table. Pastor Jim was in front of him, elbows on the table, cards fanned neatly in his hands. Rufus was sprawled to Dean’s right, the chair back on two feet, his hand tucked into the breast pocket of his button down.
“Alright kid, what are you going to do?” Rufus asked, looking at Dean. Dean looked down at his cards- he had a run of spades (eight through Jack) and another Jack to make that a pair. He decided to risk it- laying down the second jack he request one card from the dealer. Bobby passed him a card and Dean held his face still- he’d gotten a four, though he had been hoping for a seven or Queen. (Which he would have said was impossible. Sammy, little smartass that he was, would have corrected it to improbable, Dean.)
Going back around the circle they placed their bets, shoving M&Ms into the center of Bobby’s kitchen table- he said he wasn’t going to let no kid in his care lose what little money he had, so candy was the currency of the evening. Pastor Jim folded, Rufus called, and Dean tried to bluff his way around.
They revealed their cards, Bobby winning with three deuces.
“Alright kid, I knew you had nothin’,” the grizzled hunter said, passing the deck of cards to Pastor Jim, who started shuffling competently- if he hadn’t gone to seminary, the man would have made a hell of a Vegas man. He could do card tricks with one hand while shooting the stem off an apple with another.
“How?” Dean complained, sure that this time he had kept his face still.
“Called a tell,” Rufus butted in, munching on a pretzel twist. “See Bobby here, he usually won’t play poker with me any more because we know each other’s tells. He touches his beard when he’s bluffing and will take a drink when he knows he’s winning.
“You,” the hunter gestured to the twelve-year old with another piece of trail mix- “you go blank-faced when you’re bluffing. Try to act natural, pick at yourself or something. Hell, only times people are that still normally are when they’re at a funeral or sleepin’.”
Dean stored all the information away- ways to shuffle the deck in his favor, how to bluff and take advantages of other people’s tells, the importance of props, like snacks or a drink, when playing with strangers. Though they didn’t say it, Dean knew that one day he would need money, and that his would be one of his only semi-legal options for it.
By the time Dean was fifteen he wasn’t allowed to play with the group anymore, as they claimed he had an unfair advantage and that old men shouldn’t have to see the day that the kid beats them at their own game.
At seventeen Dean discovered that strip poker was a thing and he never looked back.
Three word prompts!