Bettle’s Bluff

King, Queen, and Jack try to play each other off in an elaborate game where bluff, deceit and intrigue is found in equal measure.

Photo by Raka Miftah on

Cigar wisps waft across the table,
hanging over the game,
laughing at the suits each three held in their palms.
All three gripped secret qualms close to chests,
Keeping to their spaces with no spared graces,
side-glances and scowls like lethal maces
peering at who may win and who may lose: 
The King, mighty as his title was, 
did not compare to the average deal
held in greasy hand,
although his pokered face hid
the lack of revelry in his heart.
Could he win? Could he lose?
Fortunes Wheel continued to turn.
The Queen had a Royal Flush,
the rush of sweet victory 
reddening her face cheek-to-cheek,
feeling uncrushed by Fortunes Wheel.
The Jack lost his luck.
in his hands a dead man’s hand—
 a Black Spot condemning him to another loss,
a suit of sables which tossed away victory, 
but he spite his nose by cutting off his face,
brokering a deal with the thing below…
The Joker had his own plans.
A wildcard with gusto and élan,
revelling in the Jack’s misfortune
goading him with promises of fortuitous fortune
‘it favours the bold, Jack,’ the Joker mused,
‘and alter Fortunes Wheel so you can’t lose.’
With rubbing hands Jack made a deal with the Devil.
The King laid his,
followed by the Queen,
then the Jack laid his on the table,
smirking, he exclaimed ‘I won!’
But eyes soon widened as he saw:
A Dead Man’s hand. 
Foul trickery!

© Thomas Gallimore Barker, 2021



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