I Don't Play Cheat
I’ve got nothing against Shenkuu. I visited there once, when the place was first discovered. I’m a Darigan Pteri, so I didn’t have to wait for once of those ungainly air vessels. Honestly, those things have the aerodynamics of a plushie buzzer. As I was saying, it was a nice place. Charge an awful lot for anything, and bad things happen to any thieves, but altogether nice. There’s one thing going against them, though, something that I can’t overlook. They couldn’t tell a card game from a cobrall if the latter bit them. Sure, they’ve got Godori, but face it. There was a reason it was lying on a back shelf. It’s a matching game with more rules than Kass.
I’m something of a connoisseur of cards. The Lost Desert games are nice if you’ve got nobody to play with, but the game’s practically determined when it’s dealt. Tyrannia... well, the less said the better. Most of the Tyrannians haven’t so much as seen a playing card in their life. The competition is more one sided than Scarab 21, and that’s against yourself.
Finally, Meridell got it right. Leave it to King Skarl to come up with Round Table Poker. You’d think they could afford a table that’s actually round, but that’s not important. Skarl really introduced the idea of bluffing to a good card game. But eventually, somebody one-upped perfection. They made Cheat.
I don’t play Cheat any more. I used to all the time. It’s, in my opinion, the best game ever to grace Neopia. But I stopped a long time ago. There’s actually a bit of a story to that...
The first few people sat down at the table. It was always the same. There were two kinds of people at the beginning of the night. Those who were too poor a player to merit a later position, and those too new for anybody to know. I would fall into the latter. I’d practiced a lot, but nobody had every heard of Oscen Telarius. So I sat down next to Capara, the infamously atrocious card player. She invariably dropped out after the first match, having lost all her money in the near constant string of cheats. You anted a thousand, and paid a hundred neopoints to whoever caught you cheating or to anybody you falsely accused. Over the course of the night, as more successful joined in, both numbers increased by tenfold.
I peered over my tinted shades at the other two players. I’d heard about them. It was rather sad, really. That somebody could get distracted while playing cards. That was something I never really understood. You play the game, and while you play, that’s all you do. I would be perfectly fine. Besides, I had a little secret in store for when things got rough.
Timmy seemed a little young to be in a place like this, and Branston acted a little young to be in a place with other people. They chatted a little amongst themselves before I dealt out a quarter of the cards to each of us. I remained quiet.
The first few rounds went by quickly, and a few new players joined in as old ones went broke. The ante and ‘cheat fee’ climbed slowly, weeding out those who hadn’t made enough in the previous rounds to go on. I myself had made a large enough amount to continue. As a general rule, one win paid for the next two rounds. Not particularly favorable odds, considering that there were three other players. But they were either predictable or irrational. It wasn’t until Brucey B. joined in that there was a player with any amount of mix between the two.
Brucey sat down, smiling and peering over his tinted shades at mine. “Nice specs,” he commented. I nodded appreciatively. Capara probably couldn’t even say ‘pupil dilation,’ much less do anything about it.
“Coin.” A cold voice emanated from the corner. I turned around to see the best know- and least spotted- Cheat player. Spectre. He held out a fin, and Brucey grudgingly pulled out a gold and red coin. I’d heard about it before. It was how he won all the matches. Luck. Spectre leaned back into the shadows. “Go on.” Positively verbose.
The other three kept nervously glancing at the corner, so I pointedly didn’t. I just stared at the cards. With the others distracted, I was able to win easily. Branston finally got up huffily, leaving the table when he had to write an IOU to Chuffer Bob upon getting caught cheating.
Kalora proved an interesting newcomer. The way her eyes flicked, about, you could tell she was trying to count all the cards, determining who had what. She didn’t accuse anybody of anything for a full game, and it wasn’t until Princess Fernypoo declared that she had laid down two aces that Kalora proudly shouted, “Cheat!” Her face fell suddenly as the cards were turned over, showing a pair of aces. She took the fairly small pile, sorting through to find out where she’d gone wrong, and slumped back. In the corner, Spectre just smiled.
When Brucey B finally gave up, grumbling that it’d be different if he hadn’t been caught with his lucky coin, we all looked up at Spectre expectantly. Was he going to join in now? Teach me, the newbie, a thing or two about Cheat? “I’ll be taking that chair, if you don’t mind,” somebody said from behind me. We turned as one to see Agent 00 Hog saunter up, and sit down. “A neophyte, hmm? I’m impressed you made it this far,” he said to me. “Hopefully you’ve won enough to start losing a bit.”
Indeed, that game I did lose. However, I was able to repeatedly catch Kalora, who was unnerved by her gross error last game, cheating. As the newest player and dealer, I had first option to accuse, and made nearly enough to pay for the loss entirely. The Moehog chuckled a little as Kalora stood up and left. “And I suppose now, the great Spectre would deign to join our ranks?” he asked.
Spectre stood up, walked over, and sat down without saying anything. I dealt out the cards, and looked at my own hand. “Three sevens,” I said, laying down a five, a jack, and a seven. I had three sevens, but nobody accused the first player. After all, they had their choice of any cards.
“Cheat.” Spectre’s voice proclaimed me guilty in a dead monotone. Surprised, I picked up the cards, and paid him. The game continued around a few more times until Fernypoo put down two fives. Or so she said. “Cheat.” Spectre had caught the cheater again. I glanced around, but there were no conveniently positioned mirrors.
“Cheat.” Again. “Cheat.” And again. “Cheat.” Time after time, Spectre caught the cheater, provided I didn’t say anything first. That was my advantage. The other two were essentially at his mercy. I watched carefully, picking up the slight glint in the princess’ eyes and Hog’s partial glance upon cheating So I started catching them first.
Eventually, Princess Fernypoo and Agent 00 Hog had almost all of the cards, leaving Spectre and myself with only a few. It was my turn. I had been working on looking guilty, but only to the degree that the Jetsam would notice. I clenched my beak almost imperceptibly, then laid down two cards. “Two aces,” I said.
“Cheater.” It had worked! I smiled at Spectre, and turned over two aces. “No. I didn’t say Cheat. I said Cheater.” He spread his cards out face down, nodding for us to do likewise. Then he turned to the Agent. “Count.”
A lot of people ask why I don’t play Cheat any more, since I love it so much. It can be attributed to a lot of things, among them being a deck of fifty-three cards and a red Jetsam.