‘If I hear you speak again, I will not be so polite. I know you want your man to win, but he is outmatched, and I will show him how little hope he really has.’ 

‘Because you can play poker better than him?’ asks Elena. ‘You think that is the measure of a man? What about kindness, security… love?’ 

‘Love? Don’t even speak about love. Love is twenty years of waking up next to each other. He ruined that when he slept with my wife. And I will ruin it for him.’ Elena could hear the hatred pouring out in his words, poisoning his every thought.

‘He wasn’t trying to hurt you, he was trying to get back at Georgi, who hurt him. If you want to blame someone, blame Georgi. 

‘Easy to blame someone when they are already in the ground.’

‘It’s not easy to say,’ Elena said, tears forming behind her eyes. ‘I loved him. With all my heart once. But he wasn’t interested in love. But Dimitar is. I can see it. Who are you to keep me from living my life, just because you don’t have one of your own?’ 

Serf didn’t respond. He simply ate some food, drank the last measure of his whisky, and poured another one into the same glass. He did the same for Elena, instructing her to sit opposite him so she would not be visible. 

Play resumed. At first, Dimitar won a few pots. He had changed to a more tight-aggressive style, surprising Serf, who folded to a couple of c-bets and quickly dropped $4,500 to a pre-flop four-bet from Dimitar, who had just the king-eight of hearts. 

The stacks were still uneven but closer than they were when heads-up play resumed. Serf was down to $48,500, and Dimitar had crawled back to $31,500. Serf three-bet it to $8,000 pre-flop. Dimitar looked down at ace-queen. He knew how strong that hand was when playing heads-up, but he also remembered the words of the late, great Doyle Brunson, that it is the hand that had cost him the most money in poker.  

‘Raise to $16,000.’ He said with authority, no longer afraid if Serf shoved. Dimitar was surprised when Peter only called. 

Maybe he also has an ace high. Ace-jack would play back at him just like that. The flop didn’t have an ace. But it did have a jack and a queen, along with what looked to be an innocuous five of hearts. Top pair, top kicker for Dimitar. He bet another $8,000, leaving him with just one-quarter of his stack, hoping to look weak and induce the shove. If Serf had hit the jack, it’s the right move – to force Dimitar to slip and be a massive underdog or play for all the chips. 

Serf only called. The turn was the deuce of hearts. Almost the perfect card for Dimitar. It’s in the same suit as the five, but the jack and queen were in different suits. He had already taken Serf off suited cards from how he played pre-flop. Constantly jibing Dimitar about catching a flush it revealed how scared he is of chasing them himself. 

Dimitar considers betting, but doing so would give away his strength. He looks at Serf and is certain that Serf has nothing. Dimitar is sure that he has the best hand. 

The river is the ace of spades. Two pair for Dimitar. He looks at the video call, and although he couldn’t see Elena in the background, he guessed that Serf repositioned her to remove any possible chance of an unintended tell. Another sign of weakness, that he needed to take advantage of. 

Dimitar hovers his mouse over the all-in button, looking down at the screen. Time seems to slow as he flicks his eyes up to the screen and releases the button, moving his last remaining chips to the middle. Halfway through the half-second sequence of events, Dimitar spotted a physical tell in Serf. His chin juts forward just a bit. It was a miniscule movement, but Dimitar recognised the expression as one of triumph. Serf snap-calls and shows his hand, king-ten – he hit Broadway on the river. 

‘Thank you for the game, Dimitar. Dead on the river. Now what does that remind me of?’ 

Serf is smiling as there is a knock at Dimitar’s window. He’s on the ground floor of Sam’s apartment, and the shock nearly has him jump out of his skin. He looks at the face of Jeremy Rundle, the runner-up to Sam in the golf tournament. Dimitar opens the window. 

‘As you can see, my friend is ready to collect my winnings.’ Serf says through the video call. 

‘Sorry. Rules of the game.’ Rundle states apologetically. 

‘Since when did you know Peter Serf?’ asks Dimitar. 

‘I’d just hand over the money, if I was you.’ says Rundle dryly, his face etched with something – fear, guilt, a lie of some kind? Dimitar knew he didn’t have a choice. He’s on camera, and Serf could see everything he was doing. Dimitar hands over the cash, more than half of the money he had won up to now. 

He was now down to just £30,000, and first week of the four he had to raise the million dollars is gone.

What is he going to tell Sam in the morning? 

Serf had just hit a miraculous river. Dimitar needed a real-life miracle now or he would never see Elena alive.  

Chapter 5.2                                  Chapter 6.1

About the Author: Paul Seaton has written about poker for over 10 years, interviewing some of the best players ever to play the game such as Daniel Negreanu, Johnny Chan and Phil Hellmuth. Over the years, Paul has reported live from tournaments such as the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas and the European Poker Tour. He has also written for other poker brands where he was Head of Media, as well as BLUFF magazine, where he was Editor.

This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events, is purely coincidental.