I love to play Texas hold’em. It is a game that is 1/3 part numbers and odds, 1/3 part empathic reading of non-verbal tics (or “the tell”), and 1/3 part luck. Just like the group of guys in Hughes’ story “Hunchster,” I believe that playing poker with five or more is best. Groups allow you fly under the radar, bluff a few, and pass more often without hindering the pace of the game. To that end, the guys have included the oddball who lives downstairs, renting the spare room.
The oddball living in Lee’s basement “…liked us to call him ‘the Hunchster’” (87). He had a fourth strategy for winning hands that rarely failed him. He played hunches. He would look at his cards, but the guys could never catch him even peaking at the flop or at them. He would keep his eyes to himself and speak only to answer direct questions, bet, pass, or fold. And he’d win. He’d win their nickels, dims, and quarters.
This group of guys played for pocket change because times were tough in town. Several of the local businesses had gone under when dotcom bubble burst. Only work in town was the penitentiary. It did not pay well and there were no benefits, but it was work and they all had families to support. Families that they would do anything to keep together, perhaps even murder to protect.
“Hunchster” does not seem extra ordinary. The story is about passing bad times by playing a little poker and getting together with friends. However, the oddball living in Lee’s basement was some kind of genius. He was working on something he called “temporal recapture.”
Temporal recapture gives the guys a reason to worry. These guys aren’t stupid. They can put two and two together, and temporal recapture would spell disaster for the town and their families. Something must be done.
Hughes’ story is a good read. It combines an obvious love for poker and science fiction. I could see this story being a prequel to Philip K. Dick’s “The Minority Report,” minus the need for precognitive humans. It is a story that you will not want to miss.