Three Red Kings
Captain Bilderback, the commanding officer of Kawishiwi during her 1972 WestPac cruise, was a very respected yet quiet and solitary figure who spent much of his time at sea working in his stateroom. But he always enjoyed the company of others, so every now and then he’d call up the Ward Room and see if he could get up a poker game – to be played in the unused “Unit Commander’s” cabin in the forward deck house, adjacent to his cabin. It had a beautiful round table with green felt top – a perfect card playing environment.
This particular night, we assembled six officers & as the A&E Division officer, I was probably the most junior of them. And - as luck would have it – it was my night. All the cards were falling my way, and except for losing a few bluff hands, I was clearly the big winner. I was having a ball!
Unfortunately I hadn’t really noticed, but Captain Bilderback was having a lousy night, so after a few hours play and he near his wit’s end, he disgustedly called out “Last Hand!”
The last hand was played as Five Card Draw. The cards came out & I checked to see what I had – hmmmmm, a pair of kings! Not bad for starters. Feeling my oats, I put out a bunch of chips & most guys called. I tossed three, got my new cards, and checked everybody else out. There was a moderate level of confidence out there, but no one was too proud yet.
I look to see what I got, and as I opened my cards, I see three kings! Betting goes around “Check to the Opener”, so I push a small pile of chips out. All but the Captain and another guy fold. The Captain looks me over & says “Mr. Bernard, you’ve been bull-shitting us all night over there, so now I’m gonna raise you!”. The other guy folds, but I saw his raise & raised back. He called.
Proudly, I laid out my cards – three kings! The Captain visibly winced. Then, the he pushed my cards apart and said “You’ve got three red kings!”.
I didn’t know what he meant at first, so I looked over my hand again. My God!! I did have three red kings! On this, the last hand of the night!
I was astounded and slack-jawed. In my glee to find a third king, I never noticed that I had two kings of hearts. Everyone was staring at me, so I offered to throw the hand in. But the skipper then counted the cards – yep, there were 52 cards in the deck (no 6 of spades, but two kings of hearts) – and yep, the cards were those of the Unit Commander’s cabin, so like the gentleman he always was he said “Mr. Bernard, the hand is yours!”. With that, he bid us good night, got up and left.
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