THE THOMPSON STREET POKER CLUB
SOME CURIOUS POINTS IN THE NOBLE GAME UNFOLDED
by Henry Guy Carleton
When Mr. Tooter Williams entered the gilded halls of the Thompson Street
Poker Club Saturday evening it was evident that fortune had smeared him
with prosperity. He wore a straw hat with a blue ribbon, an expression
of serene content, and a glass amethyst on his third finger whose
effulgence irradiated the whole room and made the envious eyes of Mr.
Cyanide Whiffles stand out like a crab's. Besides these extraordinary
furbishments, Mr. Williams had his mustache waxed to fine points and his
back hair was precious with the luster and richness which accompany the
use of the attar of Third Avenue roses combined with the bear's grease
dispensed by basement barbers on that fashionable thoroughfare.
In sharp contrast to this scintillating entrance was the coming of
the Reverend Mr. Thankful Smith, who had been disheveled by the heat,
discolored by a dusty evangelical trip to Coney Island, and oppressed
by an attack of malaria which made his eyes bloodshot and enriched his
respiration with occasional hiccoughs and that steady aroma which is
said to dwell in Weehawken breweries.
The game began at eight o'clock, and by nine and a series of two-pair
hands and bull luck Mr. Gus Johnson was seven dollars and a nickel ahead
of the game, and the Reverend Mr. Thankful Smith, who was banking, was
nine stacks of chips and a dollar bill on the wrong side of the ledger.
Mr. Cyanide Whiffles was cheerful as a cricket over four winnings
amounting to sixty-nine cents; Professor Brick was calm, and Mr. Tooter
Williams was gorgeous and hopeful, and laying low for the first jackpot,
which now came. It was Mr. Whiffles's deal, and feeling that the eyes of
the world were upon him, he passed around the cards with a precision and
rapidity which were more to his credit than the I.O.U. from Mr. Williams
which was left over from the previous meeting.
Professor Brick had nine high and declared his inability to make an
Mr. Williams noticed a dangerous light come into the Reverend Mr.
Smith's eye and hesitated a moment, but having two black jacks and
a pair of trays, opened with the limit.
"I liffs yo' jess tree dollahs, Toot," said the Reverend Mr. Smith,
getting out the wallet and shaking out a wad.
Mr. Gus Johnson, who had a four flush and very little prudence,
came in. Mr. Whiffles sighed and fled.
Mr. Williams polished the amethyst, thoroughly examining a scratch
on one of its facets, adjusted his collar, skinned his cards,
stealthily glanced again at the expression of the Reverend Mr.
Smith's eye, and said he would "Jess--jess call."
Mr. Whiffles supplied the wants of the gentleman from the pack with
the mechanical air of a man who had lost all hope in a hereafter. Mr.
Williams wanted one card, the Reverend Mr. Smith said he'd take
about three, and Mr. Gus Johnson expressed a desire for a club,
if it was not too much trouble.
Mr. Williams caught another tray, and, being secretly pleased, led
out by betting a chip. The Reverend Mr. Smith uproariously slammed
down a stack of blue chips and raised him seven dollars.
Mr. Gus Johnson had captured the nine of hearts and so retired.
Mr. Williams had four chips and a dollar left.
"I sees dat seven," he said impressively, "an' I humps it ten mo'."
"Whar's de c'lateral?" queried the Reverend Mr. Smith calmly, but
with aggressiveness in his eye.
Mr. Williams sniffed contemptuously, drew off the ring, and deposited
it in the pot with such an air as to impress Mr. Whiffles with the
idea that the jewel must have been worth at least four million dollars.
Then Mr. Williams leaned back in his chair and smiled.
"Whad yer goin' ter do?" asked the Reverend Mr. Smith, deliberately
ignoring Mr. Williams's action.
Mr. Williams pointed to the ring and smiled.
"Liff yo' ten dollahs."
"Yezzah." Mr. Williams was still cool.
"Huh!" The Reverend Mr. Smith picked the ring up, examined it
scientifically with one eye closed, dropped it several times as
if to test its soundness, and then walked across and rasped it
several times heavily on the window pane.
"Whad yo' doin' dat for?" excitedly asked Mr. Williams.
A double rasp with the ring was the Reverend Mr. Smith's only
"Gimme dat jule back!" demanded Mr. Williams.
The Reverend Mr. Smith was now vigorously rubbing the setting of
the stone on the floor.
"Leggo dat sparkler," said Mr. Williams again.
The Reverend Mr. Smith carefully polished off the scratches by
rubbing the ring a while on the sole of his foot. Then he resumed
his seat and put the precious thing back into the pot. Then he
looked calmly at Mr. Williams, and leaned back in his chair as
if waiting for something.
"Is yo' satisfied?" said Mr. Williams, in the tone used by men
who have sustained a deep injury.
"Dis is pokah," said the Reverend Mr. Thankful Smith.
"I rised yo' ten dollahs," said Mr. Williams, pointing to the
"Did yer ever saw three balls hangin' over my do'?" asked the
Reverend Mr. Smith. "Doesn't yo' know my name hain't Oppenheimer?"
"Whad yo' mean?" asked Mr. Williams excitedly.
"Pokah am pokah, and dar's no 'casion fer triflin' wif blue glass
'n junk in dis yar club," said the Reverend Mr. Smith.
"I liffs yo' ten dollahs," said Mr. Williams, ignoring the insult.
"Pud up de c'lateral," said the Reverend Mr. Smith. "Fo' chips is
fohty, 'n a dollah's a dollah fohty, 'n dat's a dollah fohty-fo'
"Whar's de fo' cents?" smiled Mr. Williams, desperately.
The Reverend Mr. Smith pointed to the ring. Mr. Williams rose
indignantly, shucked off his coat, hat, vest, suspenders and
scarfpin, heaped them on the table, and then sat down and glared
at the Reverend Mr. Smith.
Mr. Smith rolled up the coat, put on the hat, threw his own out of
the window, gave the ring to Mr. Whiffles, jammed the suspenders
into his pocket, and took in the vest, chips and money.
"Dis yar's buglry!" yelled Mr. Williams.
The Reverend Mr. Smith spread out four eights and rose impressively.
"Toot," he said, "doan trifle wif Prov'dence. Because a man wars
ten-cent grease 'n' gits his july on de Bowery, hit's no sign dat
he kin buck agin cash in a jacker 'n' git a boodle from fo' eights.
Yo's now in yo' shirt sleeves 'n' low sperrets, bud de speeyunce am
wallyble. I'se willin' ter stan' a beer an' sassenger, 'n' shake
'n' call it squar'. De club'll now 'journ."
~~~~~~~ THE END ~~~~~~~