Magnificent Seven Old West

by Dreda

Characters: Chris, Ezra

"My name is Larabee, Chris Larabee, from Four Corners. I'm one of the seven peacekeepers there and Standish is one of mine. We work for Judge Orin Travis. Gilpin, one of your crew chiefs and judge of this here miners' court, said I could speak for my man. Seems someone in this camp claims he's a cheat.

"Been playing poker quite some years. I'd say I'm a fair to middlin' player, winning a bit more than I lose. In that time, I've caught more than one cheat. Not saying I'm an expert like Standish here. I know enough to see when a man is dealing off the bottom of the deck or dealing seconds. Cards up the sleeve or in the boot are easy enough to spot when you've run across them a couple of times.

"The seven of us have been riding together for over a year now, and playing poker pretty much ever' night with each other. In all that time I've never caught Standish cheating, nor have the others. And we watched him, especially at the beginning.

"Standish is a professional gambler. Been one for a while. I could lie and say he never cheats. Of course he knows all the tricks of the trade. And he ain't a saint, far from it. So he has cheated.

"We had a disagreement a couple of months ago. Every hand he dealt me that night was aces and eights. Deadman's hand. About the third time, I accused him of dealing off the bottom. He grinned and said he'd never do that playing with me. He explained he was stacking the deck. Knowing what he was doing, I still couldn't spot it. He's that slick. It's hard playing 5 card stud when the rest of the players know what's in your hand before the first card is dealt. Next night he dealt me aces and eight one time. He also added a third ace that round. Won most of my money back.

"Some nights, this gambling man will take the six of us for almost every cent we've got. Hell, he'll even loan out money to keep playing. Funny thing is, he always has a run of 'bad luck' before the end of the night or maybe the next and we win back most everything we lost to him. Figure those are the times he's cheating, just to keep in practice. Well, and because we used to accuse him of cheating at least once a night.

"Oh, and I know he cheats if someone else in the game is cheating. That's happened a couple of times in Four Corners and again on our way here, when we stopped for the night in Snowflake. Spent the evening in the saloon, playing cards after supper. One of the players was a drummer out of St. Jo. He was losing pretty bad to begin with, then his luck changed and he couldn't lose. I started watching a mite closer and saw him dealing off the bottom. I looked over to Standish to see if he'd noticed. I could tell by his eyes he's seen what I had. He tipped me a nod and went back to his cards. Long story short, the drummer left the table with enough still in his pocket for a drink of the cheap stuff and the rest of the table had our money back and about equal shares of what the cheat started the game with.

"Another reason I know he doesn't cheat. He's one of the best poker players I've seen. Maybe seen 3 or 4 people are better than him but even they aren't that much better. But even the best players can have bad cards. I've seen him have a real run of bad luck at the tables. Couple of times, he's been flat busted. It wasn't always when he was playing against other professionals either. If he were cheating, he'd never let himself get that broke.

"I've watched him win at poker when he was drunk, sick, hurt, tired. He still wins. Playing poker against him is the same as drawing against me. You might get lucky but you'll most likely lose.

"Nobody but another professional is going to spot him if he is cheating. Someone says they did see him, I figure they're lying. He only cheats in two situations and he wasn't playing with his partners. So unless someone in that game was cheating, Standish wasn't.

"He says he wasn't cheating. I'd take his word on it. Hes not a cheat. Hes a cardsharp."


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