Sometimes life, as well as death, is about second chances. Luckless Telly Martin doesn’t have a clue. An awful gambler trying to scrape by as a professional poker player, he becomes the protégé of world famous poker champion Clutch Henderson. The only catch…Clutch is a ghost. Telly and Clutch must navigate the seedy gambling underbelly of Las Vegas learning to trust each other in order to win the elusive International Series of Poker, repair their shattered personal relationships and find redemption in this life and the hereafter.
Like taking candy from a baby, Clutch Henderson thought. He took a deep pull on his whiskey, allowing the burn to numb him from gullet to stomach. The room reeked of smoke, even though it was not allowed in the main ballroom during the tournament. Overhead, giant television screens focused on two players. Clutch looked up, winked, and watched the camera close in on his craggy face. I still got it. He smirked at his image. He was tall, lanky, and deeply tanned, which accentuated his silver hair and light eyes. Even though he was pushing seventy, he knew the ladies still found him attractive. They didn’t call him the Silver Fox for nothing. Clutch patted the blister pack of Viagra in the pocket of the polyester bowling shirt that he wore in homage to the Big Lebowski, the fictional kingpin legend. Gineva would be picking up a celebratory bottle of champagne right now, as soon as she clocked out at the Nugget. They wouldn’t give her the day off today—the bastards. There was a good chance he was going to make an honest woman out of her tonight…a rich, honest woman.
Clutch shifted in his seat, his hemorrhoids making their presence known. They burned his ass more than the cocky kid sitting opposite him. He looked over to his opponent who was sunk low in his seat, his face swallowed by the gray hoodie he wore. Adam “the Ant” Antonowski, boy wonder, who rose from the ranks of online card games, had beaten out a seemingly impossible one hundred sixty-five thousand players to earn a coveted seat at the International Series of Poker. His pimply face peeked out from under oversized sunglasses. Clutch sneered contemptuously at him. They let everybody play today. The kid did look bug-eyed with those enormous glasses. Adam curled his hands protectively over his cards, his bitten-down fingernails repulsive.
“Rookie,” Clutch muttered under his breath, his lips barely moving.
“Looks like Clutch Henderson is praying, folks,” Kevin Franklyn said into his mike from where he sat in a small room watching the game. He was a former champion turned seasoned sportscaster on the poker circuit, well respected, and the senior of the two anchormen. He was completely bald, his fleshy nose slightly off center on his craggy face, a victim of his youthful and unsuccessful boxing career. He’d made a mint once he turned to poker and had never looked back.
Stu James shook his head. “Clutch could be at his last prayers; this kid is the terminator.” Stu was a tall cowboy with wavy blond hair and mustache left over from his 1970s poker-playing heyday. He looked like a country singer.
“Let’s see if Clutch can exterminate the Ant,” Kevin replied.
They shared a laugh. The sportscasters wore matching light blue jackets with the Poker Channel logo on the chest.
Kevin nodded, placing his hand on his earbud, and said, “Yes, this is it, folks, in case you’ve just tuned in. A record fourteen thousand entrants, and it all comes down to this—the final moments. The rookie versus the pro: it could have been scripted by a screenwriter. David versus Goliath. Adam ‘the Ant’ Antonowski going up against the legendary Clutch Henderson.”
Michael Phillip Cash is an award-winning screenwriter and novelist. He’s written ten books including the best-selling Brood X, Stillwell, The Flip, The After House, The Hanging Tree, Witches Protection Program, Pokergeist and Battle for Darracia series.
Michael resides on the North Shore of Long Island. He writes full-time with his screaming kids in the background.