Gordon considered the odds: There were three women, one of him, and therefore only a 25 per cent probability that at any given time he’d have the worst hand. This meant that if there was 1 deal every 5 minutes, then in the agreed one hour’s play, he was likely to have to remove only his shoes and one sock, or maybe both socks and his shirt if the cards were really unkind. “Ok” he said, “I’ll play.”
Carol Carter smiled and dealt two cards to each of them as they sat on the floor in a small circle around the half-drunk wine bottles, the half-empty glasses and the full one she’d just poured for Gordon. “Two cards each, highest score under 22 wins, you can have as many extra cards as you like, but go over 21 and you have to pay a forfeit to the winner.” “Forfeit?” asked Gordon, “What kind of forfeit?”
“Oh nothing really, but we can’t be taking something off every time one of us busts” replied Mrs Bradley, “otherwise we’d all be naked in no time and who knows where that might lead…”
He gulped and looked down at his two cards. Both were tens. “Stick”.
All three women did the same and put their cards down face up on the carpet. Mrs Carter had 14, Sandra Bradley 18, and Emma Jennings an ace and a king.“Take something off then Gordon” said Mrs Jennings smiling at him. “Eh? But I haven’t got the lowest hand. I’ve got 20” said Gordon gesturing towards Carol Carter’s pair of 7s.
“But it doesn’t matter who’s got the lowest hand. In this game the winner is whoever has the highest score without going over 21, and the winner gets to decide who takes something off. And as I’m the winner, I choose you.” Mrs Jennings smiled again, while the other two just nodded. “Nobody said anything about what the lowest hand meant” added Mrs Bradley “And you wanted to play. So take something off.” He laughed, removed his left shoe and put it behind him.
On the next hand he took an extra card to go with pair of 5s and stuck on 19, Sandra got 20 and the other two women both took extra cards and went over 21. Sandra also chose Gordon to remove something, and as he took off his right shoe and put it with the other one, he quickly calculated that if they were all intending to use the same tactic, then he needed to win 3 of the remaining hands or he was going to end up naked and embarrassed in front of three women twice his age. This still wasn’t something for him to be concerned about as his original estimate of 4 from 12 now had a little bit of leeway with two hands played. He was surely going to win at least 3 of the next 10, probably 4 by the laws of averages, but even so, he still felt compelled to ask “You’re not all going to pick me to take something off every time are you? It isn’t much of a game if you do that.”
“Well, there’s nothing in the rules to say we can’t, but it’s an idea. I don’t think any of us had thought of that” said Carol as the other two looked to Gordon as though they were trying to suppress laughter. “But anyway, you and me have to pay a forfeit for busting” she said, turning towards Emma Jennings. “You won Sandra. You get to decide.”