Poker Faces

Looking for a painless way to lose your shirt? Head down to the Canterbury Card Club, where bad luck comes in spades, some lucky schmo is always raking in all the chips, and even if you win the house takes its cut.

Soon you are down to just a few chips. So, like a dozen players that have come before this night, you throw them all in. Three times. And, miraculously, you win. But on the fourth dance with disaster your luck fails. Your chips are gone.

You instinctively reach for your wallet, but there's no money in it; just an ATM card. You think about taking out another $20. Why not? Your luck has to change.

Then the guy next to you shifts his weight. You catch a glimpse of his watch. It reads 4:30 a.m. You blink your eyes, look again. It was 6:00 p.m. when you sat down. You calculate the hours.

You wearily push your chair back from the table, bid your newfound companions adieu, and head for the door. The white lights suddenly give you a headache. Your mouth is parched. Near the exit there's a heavy kid in a dirty white polo shirt looking like you feel. "I haven't been home for three days," he moans.

As you walk out to your car in the early morning hours, daylight just on the horizon, you fumble for your keys and smile wearily. You sat at that table for ten-and-a-half hours. And no one got up to leave. Not one person. Not until they had gambled away their last chip.

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