Two cards glide over a green sea of felt and into my hand. Bending the corners, a jack and seven of diamonds present themselves—a unique hand. Nothing about this combination of cards is truly unique; it’s all just meaningless possibility, yet the possibility is endless. I’ve been dealt better hands, yet I prefer those two cards over any others. No one strategy controls me. I have options, and I like to work with them. As an actor, this is my chance to throw my script overboard. I can stray from the plotted course and delve into chaos.
My gaze shifts to the worn eyes of the bald man across from me. Baldy leans against the arm of his chair as if he just came home from a long day of work only to be confronted by his teenage daughter about buying a two hundred-dollar dress for the inevitable prom. And what does he know about dresses? He wears a slightly oversized quarter zip sweater that was most likely previously owned by some middle-aged, butch lesbian and bought from a local thrift store for roughly—well, a quarter. Juggling chips in hand, he lets them clack together as they hit the table.
The dealer coughs, waiting for Baldy to place his bet and start the table. Maybe he is weighing his options, or maybe he is an actor too using a façade. He could be embarking with me, enjoying every moment in the turbulent waves. Together we can escape from our scripts. We will laugh defiantly at our director, Fate, and revel every chance to ruin her law-binding plan. Fate was not welcome at this table. Then again, he could just be avoiding his sub-par wife and confrontational daughter.
“75,” he says, casting three blue chips into the unpredictable green sea, a small fortune for this table.
With raised eyebrows, the dealer looks to me as I shuffle the facedown jack and seven between my fingers. It’s expensive, but the excitement of exploring the next options is priceless. I lay my three chips next to Baldy’s to set sail.
The rest of the table shudders with a loathing disappointment, and one by one, the rising tide swallows their cards. With quick precision, the dealer flips three cards down—a ten and eight of diamonds and an ace of hearts. Options. Baldy shifts in his chair and throws in another three blue chips.
The dealer looks over at me again. Baldy is sailing like a seasoned captain, and it is my turn to brave the waves. I imagine my cards fitting snugly upon either side of the ten. Looking at my jack and eight of diamonds again, I hold a reasonable chance for a flush or even a possible straight flush, but roughly a fourth of Baldy’s chips loom in the pot. The confidence is gnawing. Maybe Baldy is a calculating professional, trapping me into a bluff. Leaning back, the top of the chair cuts into my spine. A light touch of anxiety brushes my fingertips.
“I’ll call,” I say, throwing out three more chips from my waning pile. At the flip of a card, I feel a strong wind push me forward. There it is—the nine of diamonds. I’m now the owner of an unbeatable hand, a straight flush. As Baldy throws in five blue chips, the euphoria fades away. The storm settles, and the tides recede.
A spotlight blinds me. “Action,” screams Fate from behind a wall of cameras. I am promptly handed a script. It reads that I will bait Baldy into betting all his money. Then it shows Baldy going home to his unhappy marriage and explaining to his teenage daughter that a two-hundred-dollar dress is an absurdity. I gather my jack and eight and let the green sea wash over them. “Fold.”