Poker Face

“I want to give this back to you,” said Nick. In a dark room, and sitting at a card table lit only from above, Nick plunked down a red sack with a round-ish object inside.

“Here you go,” said Nick as he pulled out a skull and carefully placed it in front of the other seated across from him.

“What’s it for? Well, I want to help you out, Buddy.”

“How long have we been playing poker now – about nine months? A year? Every week we meet here for a guys’ night out. We gamble, drink, and have a great, relaxing time. And you always win. I would say nearly every game, you’ve won. And you’ve taken most of my paychecks. But I still like playing poker with you. I’m a good sport, aren’t I?”

“The last time we played was different, though. You brought your money as usual, but your game was off. You started losing every hand, dude. Don’t get me wrong. I like winning for a change, but your game – it was almost desperate. You had crappy hands all evening. I mean – really – trying to win on Three of a Kind? It ain’t ever gonna happen. You bet everything on those cards.”

“I’ve never seen you that desperate before. I knew something must be wrong once you bet everything you had. Card after card, loss after loss – you kept going, betting, losing.”

“But the last bet – you had an amazing hand, four aces! You raised your bet but had nothing left to throw onto the pot except this skull right here.”

“And you’re face – what a poker face. I couldn’t tell if you were bluffing or not. I almost folded.”

“Fortunately for me, I had a Royal Flush, so I knew I had the upper hand and that I had to stay in the game. Against that steely face of yours, I won and took all your money, plus the skull.”

“But I felt bad, Buddy. It didn’t feel right taking the skull – your prize possession. I felt the same the next day, too. I needed to talk to someone about it so I met up with my Tarot Reader.”

“I explained that I had your skull, won it in a poker game, but felt wrong about keeping the damn thing. So I asked the Reader if I should return it to you.”

“I drew the Four of Pentacles, upside-down. The image on the card has a wealthy, crowned man sitting in front of merchant buildings and a castle. With him are four gold coin pentacles. The Reader says that someone I know is wealthy and probably a miser. She said that since it’s reversed, my friend may even be on the verge of bankruptcy.”

“So that’s why I’m returning this. I understand now. I didn’t know you were having money problems. I want to help you by giving the skull back. I figure you’ll need it to turn things around for yourself. But I’ll keep the money. I won that fair and square. It will make up for all of my paychecks you took.”

“So, you gonna be okay, Buddy? This will help you get back on track, right?”

From the shadows just beyond the light, two skeleton hands reached for the skull, and with a firm grip, placed it on top of its headless spine. With the skull returned to its rightful place, the skeleton stood up. He was tall, well dressed, and once again, complete. Buddy, as he was endearingly named, tested his re-connected skull and said without any breath: “Yes, I’ll be fine now. Thank you, Nick.”


This is Dante P Ramon, your host and author of The Dark Reading, scary stories inspired by Tarot cards. I invite you to listen to our podcast regularly, and visit us on the web at And please feel free to share The Dark Reading with your friends.

I just picked the Death card, so good night for now.


Season 1 Episode 14.

©2020 The Dark Reading. All Rights Reserved.

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