Friday, September 28, 2007

Chapter 28

When the alarm went off Tricia opened one eye, saw that it was only 7:00 she groaned and stretched liking the feel of clean cool sheets against her skin. The last thing she wanted to do was get out of bed yet. She was surprised to find that she’d slept through the night with not a single dream she could recall. Falling asleep has been nearly instantaneous as well.

Breakfast with Gary and Sandy as waiting and she had only half an hour to get ready so she reluctantly dragged herself out of bed and into the bathroom where she started the shower, letting it warm up while she took care of the rest of the morning necessities.

As she showered Tricia was a little surprised not to be feeling particularly horny considering the way she’d started off the trip. Was it because she was tired from the late nights and less sleep than she was used to or was it because of the time she’d had with Rick, brief and less than totally successful that it had been? She shrugged, not really caring. She was glad to be here and glad to be playing another tournament today. How would she fare against a field of all ladies? There was no reason that it should really be easier.

Tricia actually got to the cafĂ© for breakfast slightly ahead of Gary and Sandy. They came along shortly after Tricia got there with Sandy looking uncharacteristically nervous. As she watched them walk toward her Tricia reflected that, while she didn’t know Sandy too well, she had always seemed very poised and confident. Today she was radiating nervousness.

“I’m sorry we’re late. It’s my fault. I swear I was awake every couple of hours last night and then I turned the stupid alarm clock off when I woke up just before it would have gone off and wouldn’t you know it I fell back asleep? Sandy said apologetically.

“You’re not late,” Tricia said as they moved toward the hostess stand. “I had just gotten there. Why didn’t you sleep well?”

Sandy looked sheepishly at Gary as he rolled his eyes and smiled at her. Then she looked back at Tricia. “I’m just nervous about the tournament today.”

“Pretty silly isn’t it?” Gary asked. “She has nothing at stake in terms of money or anything.”

“She has her pride on the line and it’s obviously a new experience for her. I can understand why she would be nervous.” Tricia said, patting Sandy on the arm. “She is going to do just fine but I understand her being nervous.”

Sandy gave Tricia a grateful smile and stuck her tongue out at Gary.

“Very mature,” Gary said with a smile. “Figures you two would stick together. I bet Tricia didn’t lose sleep because she was nervous.”

“Well no,” Tricia said, giving Sandy an apologetic look. “Tricia lost sleep because Tricia played another tournament yesterday.”

“Oh my God!” Sandy said. “I completely forgot to ask how you did! Please tell me you have to figure out how to play the final table of that one if you’re still in the Ladies event.”

Tricia shook her head. “Nope. I felt like I played well. I finished just eight away from cashing though.”

“Wow,” Gary said. “You did great. It’s a bummer to get so close but at least you felt like you did your best. That is what really matters, right?”

Tricia laughed. “Why do I think that was more for your dear wife’s benefit than for mine? For the record I agree with you. Sandy just do the best you can today and let the rest happen as it does. Just have fun and enjoy yourself.”

The rest of the time at a leisurely breakfast was spent about the same, with Gary and Tricia primarily trying to make Sandy feel better about playing. She clearly wanted to play but was nervous and needed reassurance. By the time they were done and ready to go other to the tournament area Tricia thought she had Sandy settled down and ready to play. She smiled to herself as she remembered how nervous she had been just a few days ago in her first event here. She also marveled when she realized that she really was not nervous about this one.

She and Gary walked Sandy to her table. They were still almost half an hour early but Sandy said she wanted to have time to get used to her surroundings. A surprising number of people were wandering around the tables and many of the women were already in their seats. On the way to the tournament area Tricia had been surprised to see many women still in the sign up line, apparently in response to repeated announcements that it was not too late to sign up for the day’s event.

Sandy settled into her seat and nervously handed the dealer her seat card. He looked at it and wished her good luck, handing it back. A woman across the table, looking nearly as nervous as Sandy did, introduced herself. “Hi, I’m Shelly Locklear. This is my first time for a tournament this size.”

Sandy leaned over and shook her hand. “I’m Sandy Pearson. This is my husband Gary and my friend Tricia Bateman.”

“Are you on this table Tricia?” Shelly asked.

Tricia shook her head and Sandy giggled nervously and said, “Thank God for that! Nothing personal Tricia but you’re too good! She’s already cashed in one of the events here.”

“Really?” Shelly asked sounding impressed.

They talked about it a bit and Tricia excused herself to find her seat figuring she was leaving Sandy in reasonably good hands.

Her table was half full when she took her seat and looked around. The woman on the other end of the table looked familiar to Tricia and she was reminded why when the woman got up and came over.

“Hi, I’m Carolyn Snow. I don’t know if you remember me but you knocked me out of Event number one. How’d you end up in that?”

Tricia stood and shook her hand introducing herself and saying, “I’m sorry. What a way to be remembered!”

Carolyn smiled and said, “It happens. It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last. Now if you tell me you went on to finish well I’ll be happy.”

“Well you can be happy. I did make the money not very deep but I made the money.”

“Excellent!” Carolyn said. “I thought you probably would. You were playing well.”

A woman walked up to them, looking at Carolyn. Tricia thought she, too, looked familiar and then she was startled to remember why. She was sure it was Carmen Cruz who she’d seen on television at the final table of a couple of the large buy-in televised tournaments that she liked to watch.

Her hunch was confirmed when Carolyn hugged the woman and said, “Carmen! I didn’t know you were coming to this one! Don’t tell me you’re playing our little ‘ole ladies event!”

Carmen gave Carolyn a hug and a quick kiss on the cheek and then nodded. “I just got into town last night. I decided at the last minute to play the main event here and since my travel schedule worked out I thought I’d use this as a kind of warm up.”

“Let me guess you’re on this table?” Carolyn asked her. When Carmen nodded Carolyn went on. “Freaking wonderful. I’m surrounded by freaking pros.”

“Surrounded?” Carmen said looking around the table curiously. “And what are you if you’re not a pro?”

“Well you and Tricia here,” Carolyn said. “I’m just a lucky amateur. Tricia was good enough to take me out of the first event and go on to cash in it.”

“I’m not a pro,” Tricia said, somewhat stunned to be included in this conversation at all. “I’m just a housewife.”

“Oh boy, we’ve heard that before haven’t we Carmen?” Carolyn said and then introduced Tricia to Carmen.

“This is my first time ever to one of the circuit events or anything like it,” Tricia told her.

“Well my dear,” Carmen said, her dark brown eyes dancing with merriment. “If you took out Carolyn and went on to cash I’d say you belong here and I for one will be very careful of you.”

Tricia realized the other players at the table were watching the exchange with varying degrees of awe, the same awe Tricia was feeling to be talking to a player of Carmen Cruz’s caliber, the same awe she realized she had felt when Jaime had introduced her to Kevin James.

“Well thank you,” Tricia said, recovering enough to try to be funny. “I hope I cause you both some problems.”

Carmen threw her head back and laughed and then smiled at Tricia. “We shall see. I think no matter what I will enjoy playing with you. Good luck Tricia.”

Carmen took her seat across from Tricia who took the time to study her and Carolyn both. Carmen looked every bit as exotic as she’d appeared on TV. She was Hispanic with long shiny black hair and deep brown eyes. She was, Tricia seemed to remember, around thirty years old and she had a body that Tricia would kill for. She was not afraid to dress to display it either Tricia thought, looking at her. That might distract the men she played with but Tricia wondered if it might work against her with the women. Jealousy could be a powerful motivator.

Carolyn smiled at her when Tricia again made eye contact. She was tall and probably had been labeled big boned all her life. Tricia remembered her as seeming very serious from her encounter in the first event. She looked that way now as she sat chatting with the player next to her, waiting for the tournament to begin. While she had been talking to Carmen though she had been all smiles and her laughter had been very contagious. Tricia thought there was more than met the eye there.

Tricia’s thoughts turned to the fact that with one pro she knew was a very dangerous player and another player who was obviously also a pro she was at what might have been the toughest starting table of any so far. Tendrils of nervousness began to thread their way into her stomach giving her the first fluttering of butterflies.

Briefly Tricia looked around again, wondering if she would catch sight of Jaime, Rick or Kevin. She didn’t and told herself they’d all had a very late night and as near as she could tell Jaime and Kevin were still in the event from the day before that would conclude beginning that afternoon, the one Tricia had worried about because of this one. That thought made her chuckle to herself. With Carmen and Carolyn at her table maybe she would have had no trouble being done in plenty of time to resume the other event at four in the afternoon.

The tournament soon started and Tricia focused as much as possible just on the game. She watched all the players but Carmen and Carolyn in particular. She could see them doing the same thing and particularly Carmen seemed to be watching her very closely. It didn’t take her long to decide that they were the three best players on the table and that many of the others were pretty weak.

Tricia watched first Carolyn and then Carmen begin to punish the weaker players when the opportunity arose. Eventually an opportunity arose for Tricia to take advantage of. She found herself with a very strong hand that was probably good in a pot with two players who were fairly timid. One player dropped out on the flop leaving Tricia heads up. The fourth community card, the turn card, did not help Tricia but she didn’t believe it had helped her opponent either who she thought was on a draw, looking for a possible flush. She made a pot sized bet that committed her to call anyway if her opponent moved all-in on her. Outwardly calm Tricia internally held her breath while her opponent gave her response a lot of thought. Eventually the woman shook her head and tossed her cards, face up, into the much. Tricia had to hard not to let anything show when she saw them. The woman had top pair just as Tricia did but had a queen for a kicker. Tricia tossed her cards face down in the muck saying “Good laydown”, why breathing a mental sigh of relief. She had misread the woman and had been beaten by the woman’s slightly better kicker.

The woman had grimaced and said, “I’ve been second best all day. I know you had a king with your jack.”

Tricia had just smiled but when she glanced down the table at Carmen Tricia saw her wink and make a small motion with her finger as if warning Tricia not to try that with her. Carmen appeared to know very well that Tricia had gotten the woman to lay down a better hand.

Play went on, the levels increased faster than Tricia had become used to in the larger buy in events. She was used to that though from her online experience as well as her few tournaments at the casinos near home. Players got knocked out and were replaced. Tricia, Carmen and Carolyn increased their stacks and mostly stayed out of each other’s way, not getting involved in big pots against one another.

At one point Carmen made a move at a pot when Tricia was sure she had the best hand. She had thought long and hard and pushed all-in. Carmen had smiled, nodded and mucked her hand. Tricia felt relief and also a little pride that she’d stood up to the stronger player. She saw Carmen and Carolyn exchange glances after that and thought that Carolyn’s expression had seemed to say “I told you so.” Tricia told herself not to get cocky and to keep playing solid.

The announcement that they would be taking a twenty minute break for lunch took Tricia by surprise. She glanced at her watch and saw that it was indeed lunch time. She watched the last hand play out and then stood up nearly running into Kevin and Jaime who had come up behind her.

“Hey guys!” She said happy to see them as they craned to look around her at her chip stack. The she chuckled. “Did you come to see me or my chips?”

Kevin and Jaime looked at each other then back at Tricia and in unison said, “Your chips.”

That made Tricia bust out laughing. “You two are dangerous together.”

“Yeah, we’ve heard that before,” Kevin said giving her a light hug and a kiss on the cheek. Jaime, somewhat awkwardly, gave her a hug. Tricia had to smile, thinking that it was kind of cute watching Jaime try to figure out the boundaries on his own “lets be friends” mandate.

“We brought you lunch,” Jaime said. “I knew they would not give you a long lunch break.”

Kevin handed her a sandwich and a bottle of water. “I’ll have you know it was MY idea, not Mr. Friend’s here.”

Tricia laughed and opened the water, taking a sip and putting it on the table. She tried not to smile too much at Kevin obviously teasing Jaime about that somewhat sensitive subject. For his part Jaime seemed to take the teasing from Kevin in good stead.

“Well if I’d knows she was one of YOURS,” Kevin I’d have been much more careful playing with her,” Carmen said coming up to where they were standing.

“Hey Carmen!” Kevin said giving her a kiss on her cheek as she offered it to him. “You’d better be careful she is good. She is not one of mine though. Not yet anyway. She’s sort of one of Jaime’s but in a different way.”

Jaime blushed and kissed Carmen on the cheek she offered him. They obviously knew each other.

“Well Jaime. Is there something you’d like to tell Carmen?”

“The only thing I’m gonna tell you sweetheart is the same thing I’ll tell my supposed friend over there and that is that it’s none of your business.” Jaime said it gruffly which took Tricia by surprise at first but he was smiling so she figured he was mostly kidding.

Carmen laughed delightedly and gave Jaime a kiss on the cheek and a hug. “Come on you can tell Carmen. Carmen will reward you for it.”

Jaime laughed. “Go to Hell Carmen.”

She laughed and said to Tricia. “I will have to be VERY careful of you now that I know you know these two. They are dangerous you know.”

Tricia laughed and nodded. “I know.”

“Nobody brought me lunch,” Carmen said, pouting at Kevin.

Kevin was about to answer when something caught his eye. Tricia turned and saw Rick walking toward them fast.

“I think that is your lunch coming now.” Kevin said with a grin.

Carmen looked at Rick curiously, obviously not recognizing him. “Another one of your guys? You had him get me lunch?”

Rick stopped and saw that he was too late, that Tricia already had lunch. “Well crap. The line was long and service was slow. I see I’m too late.”

“You brought that for Carmen here didn’t you Rick?” Kevin asked with a twinkle in his eye.

Rick looked at Kevin and then at Carmen and did a double take. “Ms. Cruz! Wow. Well I actually…” he faded off as Kevin and Jaime started laughing.

“Another of your admirers Carmen,” Kevin said. “I hate to burst your bubble but he brought that for Tricia here.”

“I can see that,” Carmen said. Then she slid over to Rick and wrapped an arm around him. “Call me Carmen and let me see if I can talk you out of that sandwich since Mr. Popularity here has obviously been fed by somebody faster than you are. Sometimes slow is good in a man though. Don’t you agree Rick?”

Rick wasn’t sure what to make of the way Carmen, who Tricia could tell he recognized but had never met, was acting toward him. He kept looking at Carmen then at Tricia and then at Kevin and Jaime who were smiling broadly.

“Well…” Rick said, his voice squeaking a little. He cleared his throat and tried again. “Sure you can have it since Jaime already took care of Tricia’s lunch.”

Tricia laughed at Kevin’s mock glare. “You stepped in it now Rick. Kevin said it was his idea to get me lunch.”

Carmen was tugging at the sandwich which Rick was holding out while staring at her as if he could not believe what he was seeing. Tricia felt herself being less amused now and more jealous. She looked at Jaime and saw him watching her and grinning. She rolled her eyes and glared at him but it did no good, he went on grinning at her.

Carmen pulled Rick with her toward her seat at the end of the table, flirting with him outrageously the whole time.

Tricia watched them go feeling more and more jealous. Kevin finally laughed quietly and said, “She is harmless. She just likes to flirt. Trust me she is not competition for you in thisregard.”

Tricia turned her gaze to Kevin. “Are you nuts? Look at her? She’s totally knock dead gorgeous and she’s flirting like mad. Not that I have any say in what Rick does.”

Kevin laughed again, “I should let you go on being jealous but I just can’t. Trust me Tricia it’s harmless.”

“Doesn’t look harmless.”

“Well it is,” Jaime said quietly. “If she was flirting with you then I would be jealous and you should watch out if she starts. But if she’s flirting with Rick or any other guy she is just having fun.”

Slowly Tricia realized what Jaime was trying to tell her. “You mean she’s…” She looked over at Carmen and then back to Jaime who nodded. “Really? You’re not putting me on? Lately I can never tell when you’re kidding.”

“Really,” Kevin said quietly. “It’s not a secret but she doesn’t flaunt it. You better not spend much time thinking about it. One mistake and she will have all those chips of yours in her stack.”

“You’re doing great so far,” Jaime said. “Who’s the other big stack beside you and Carmen?”

“A woman named Carolyn something.” Tricia said. “I took her out in the first event.”

Kevin’s eyebrow went up. “Really? Carolyn Snow is going to be one of the best I think. She’s smart as a whip and utterly fearless. She was a lawyer but a couple years had some personal issues and chucked just about everything to start over playing poker. I’d tell you to watch out for her but you’re smart enough to know that by now.”

Tricia nodded and then realized that she’d spent the lunch break talking and had not had time to go see how Sandy was doing. “Oh shit! I forgot to go check on Sandy!”

“You’re about to start again,” Jaime said, a hand on her shoulder keeping her from going to look for Sandy. “I’ll check on her and let you know. Any idea what table she is on?”

“She started on 33.”

<P">Jaime went off looking for Sandy. Carmen finally let Rick go and he sheepishly came over to Tricia.

“I’m sorry I was late with your lunch.”

She was going to tease him but in the end let him off the hook saying, “It’s the thought that counts.”

“Did you get her phone number?” Kevin said, teasing Rick where Tricia wouldn’t.

“No,” Rick said. “Do you think she’d give it to me.” Then realizing what he’d said he looked down at Tricia in horror only to see her smiling and not looking upset like he thought she would.

The players were called back to their seats then.

Kevin looked at Rick, smiling, and said, “I’ll explain it to you later. For now lets let our star here continue to shine.”

Tricia blushed and shook her head at Kevin.

“Good luck,” Rick called out as they made their way away from the tables.

Carmen was talking to Carolyn and the way they both looked down at her let her know it had been her they had been discussing. Carolyn smiled and called “Good luck” as the dealer began to deal once again.

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