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Friday night is poker night at the Salon. The Salon’s owner, Giorgio, runs the poker games for the money and deals the cards for guys most of who fancy themselves to be professional poker players. In reality, they are just guys that are gambling addicts in the making. If they ever showed up in Vegas, Atlantic City, or New Orleans, they would lose the kid’s tuition, bosses payroll, and probably an injury to a loan shark all in one night. The Salon offers the place to learn whether you have the skill and Giorgio’s has his ringer to insure that no one wins too big and keeps people coming back by not letting them lose too much to the other players. Of course, Giorgio gets a cut of the action in the form of a house fee to play. His Salon makes okay cash, but the Friday night game makes more than his hairdressers do in a week.

His ringer’s name is John. A nice piece of work, John is. Enough of a mathematician to count the cards and figure the odds, John has the ability to read a player’s hand after three or four rounds. Once he knows what you have, he keeps you going until your money is his. John seldom loses on these card nights with the locals. Once John wins enough money, he goes to Vegas to spend what he has won. Giorgio never asks how well John does. It is an unspoken rule between them that they never discuss the games outside of the Salon. The games themselves are as friendly as gambling can get. It’s not poker night with the guys at work, but it isn’t high roller action either.

Most of the gamblers are men with the exception of this college girl. She showed up one night with a guy. Beautiful and bitchy, she got hooked after playing a few hands. Giorgio noticed that John carried her that night. He purposely drove off other players and folded when he knew she held something winning. That night, she walked out with five hundred dollars. A few weeks later she came alone. The boyfriend disappeared. The more the girl played, the more annoying she became. John continued finessing her game. Giorgio couldn’t figure out why, other than John wanted to fuck her. She was pretty. Long legs, red hair, flat stomach, and low cut blouses or halters made her nice eye candy. Her presence added sexual tension to the game, which made the men bet too fast too soon. Once College, as John called her, started playing, his take grew. Guys made such fools of themselves when she played.

Unfortunately, her mouth and comments grew faster than her skill. College began thinking she was better than she was. John tolerated it because her barbs and cattiness made guys throw more money in the pot. Giorgio had misjudged John in think it was sexual. It wasn’t. It was all about money. The only problem was that College started to become a liability. Guys spent too much and couldn’t make the game every week. New players played once and never came back. Giorgio began to worry if College left there would be no game left. If she stayed, the money would dry up too quickly. Most importantly, he was become tired of the girl’s mouthing off and wondered how he was going to get rid of her. The problem was that she had won too much of the money for him to simply tell her not to come back. If she moved to a new venue, they would lose players who came there, or worse, set up a poker night herself. Too many numbers had been given to College by guys thinking that they could get into her pants and she was greedy enough to set up her own thing.

While think this, John tapped Giorgio on the shoulder. He too saw the need to get rid of College. She made the mistake of offending his card playing ability at the last game. He saw John eyes briefly flicker with anger when he heard her words. No one else noticed, but Giorgio did. John wanted to take her for everything, but more importantly, he wanted to humiliate her and make certain that she learned a lesson. He told Giorgio to invite the regular guys who had been losing to College. John wanted the night to be special and for Giorgio to have his best Salon hairdresser available.

College showed up wearing a beautiful short cocktail dress, fishnet stockings, expensive Italian high heels, and a confident grin. She had recently bought an Eclipse with her winnings and had several hundreds in her purse. The first hour John carried her as the other players dropped out one by one. By the end of the second hour, it was between her and John. Usually, John would call the game after College dropped a few hundred. College teasingly played with her hair and mouthing off to John to continue, but he would walk away saying he had to get up early. College would trash talk about how she could take him, but left with more money than she came in with. This night was different. John waited for her to beg him to continue playing and insult him. She obliged and John said, Why not. It’s only money. At that moment, Giorgio knew she was about to get slammed.

The players still around sensed something was going to happen and pulled up chairs to watch.

College thought this was her night to win big for once and all. She had made some nice cash that night and every night. Her new car was proof of that as was the money she had brought with her. For the first time in her life, she had more money in her pocketbook than she knew what to do with. No more scrambling for book money, tuition, or rent. She could afford this dress and all she had to do was beat a few guys by dazzling them with her skill and beauty. The more she won, the more she wanted to keep winning. All the guys around her lost big money to her and John, but John always walked away with the lion’s share of the winnings. Beating John had become her obsession. She knew that one big hand was all she needed to do it. College had to be lucky only once and this night was it. John never accepted her challenge.

Tonight he did and she thought that he, like most men, needed to prove themselves superior to women in competition. It was the first time she could see a real emotion from him. Up until then, she considered him to methodical and passionless to be a real man. Secretly, she thought he was gay. What was the deal between him and Giorgio anyway? Also, strange was the other woman there. She was one of Giorgio’s employees and played only a few hands before quitting. College treated the woman coldly. After all, she was a beginner and she was a professional card player. The woman did not like her much anyhow.

The first hand went badly. John folded early. She had a strong hand of cards and planned to raise the stakes. The second hand she had nothing and lost. By the fifth hand, College was down to her initial stake. A wiser course would be for her to go home, but she won big in the next round. The next few hours, she would lose, then win, lose, lose, lose, then win. She never won enough to leave. She had enough to win the big hand, but not enough to leave the night feeling that she had beat John. He on the other hand, had increased his winnings gradually that he amassed a good deal of cash. Then the hand she was waiting for finally came. College bet big.

John knew what she had in her hand, when she pushed all of her chips forward. Inside he smiled. This is the moment to take her down. He raised her. She threw her car keys on the table to cover the bet. John called her. The cards she placed down on the table made the men watching quietly whistle and awe. Her smile of triumph disappeared as John laid his down. Her car and money were gone. John started to stand and she demanded another hand. Giorgio started to protest, but was silenced by John raised hand. John agreed to another hand but only if she would bet her clothes.

College was quiet. She wanted to refuse, but couldn’t. Her confidence in herself was strong despite the losses. The last hand was a good one. All she needed was to win once and she could get her car back. Still, if she lost she would be naked in front of everyone, but that wouldn’t happen. Besides a few minutes being naked wouldn’t bother her if she won. College agreed, but demanded the stakes be her car agains
t her clothes. She took off her clothes slowly and blushed. It would be much easier if I were drunk, she thought. Everyone leered at her body like she was the last piece of chicken on the plate. They had been picturing her naked for months and now they finally got their chance. College noticed a couple of erections developing. She sat down quickly. Her breasts, beautiful and the envy of many a girl, were exposed still as she tried to cover them with her arm. Her nipples tighten as the temperature in the room dropped. It was embarrassing.

The cards were dealt. College realized she had nothing that would win. Her car and clothes were gone. She felt like crying as everyone laughed and razzed her. John was as stoic as ever. He now had a dress, panties, bra and fishnets. College expected him to do the gallant thing and give her clothes back. He didn’t. Instead, he offered her a chance to win her car and clothes back in the next hand. College couldn’t believe this and expected him to name the stakes. She was certain it would be a sexual favor. It is at this moment that she learned her biggest lesson of her life. Gambling is taking everything from someone without mercy. This includes ones vanity. John told her the stake would be her hair…all of it. The silence of the room told College that they were as shocked as she was.

Come on, College. You can get your clothes and car back. What do you say? taunted John.

College’s pride and fear were apparent. She agreed but only if she could leave with the money she came in with. Too bad she didn’t ask for the cards to be shuffled, Giorgio thought. John agreed.

Giorgio wondered if John would throw the hand for her as he saw the subtle reaction on College’s face. She had a good hand. Of that he was certain, but looking at John, he knew that John’s was better. The flash of triumphant revenge was in his eyes and noticeable in the way nodded to Giorgio for another card. College stopped trying to cover her breasts and stroked her hair. It was the moment of her life. The moment she would salvage her dignity and walk away even. She placed the cards on the table. Everyone murmured approval and relief. Then came the blow. John laid his cards on the table. He beat her.

She started to cry and tried to leave, but Giorgio pushed her back down. Time to pay up, he declared.

You either pay one way or the other and I promise that you won’t like the other.

For the first time, College felt fear. She misjudged Giorgio, John, and gambling. The others around were nervous. Giorgio was a sometime enforcer for the mob and had broken bones before. College agreed and the woman led her to the barber’s chair. The sound of the razor made her cry. She was such a fool. Hair fell softly to the ground. It didn’t take long before she was bald. The woman made her open her eyes and even held a hand mirror to show the back of her head. The bitch. Get up, she was ordered. The woman then led her to a room for waxing. College’s eyes widen as she realized that ALL of her hair was coming off. Giorgio, who nodded his approval once it was completed, viewed the painful removal of her pubic hair.

College returned to the room and posed for John. He nodded and collected her clothes, keys, and his winnings. He left a tip of twenty dollars for her. Then he left. Giorgio ordered everyone to leave. College protested. Giorgio told her to shut up and get out. She began stammering. Giorgio grabbed her, put her in a hammerlock, and pushed her out the door. For good measure, he smacked her ass leaving a red handprint. The shade was drawn and the door clicked shut. Not one of the guys would give her a coat or a ride home. She begged and pleaded. The woman who cut her hair gave her a ride, but no clothes. College walked into her apartment building. Luckily, the girl behind the desk let her into her apartment and asked if she needed to call the police.

The next day, John left the city for Vegas. Giorgio stopped the poker nights. College used the last of her money to buy a few knit caps and scarves to cover her head.

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