ABSTRACTS AND POKER
A ONE-ACT PLAY
BY TRAVIS ARNOLD
Dimly lit conference room. Small conference table, with six chairs surrounding it. Stacks of poker chips in front of each chair. Bay windows upstage, through which we can see that it’s nighttime and snowing heavily. Four players at the table, one sitting on each of the four sides of the table IN THE FOLLOWING CLOCKWISE ORDER: DOCKER, then CJ, then TEX, then MISSY. This orientation around the table is important, as the dialogue often follows and reflects what is happening in the poker game.
DOCKER………Sternly moderates the game and tries to keep it moving, suavely dressed, wearing a fedora.
TEX……………Thick Texan accent, wearing a cowboy hat, and chewing/spitting tobacco throughout.
CJ………………Condescending, wearing horn-rimmed glasses.
MISSY………….Coy, wearing a bow in her hair.
(Lights up on four poker players)
DOCKER: Alright, team; let’s see those buy-ins. Fifty dollars this week.
MISSY: Fifty? I thought we were playing for ten this week.
TEX: You guys are babies. Let’s play fer two hundred.
DOCKER (sternly): The buy-in is fifty dollars.
TEX: Fine. Here y’are, sir. (takes out wallet, throws in fifty dollars) So where’s Matt tonight?
CJ (throwing in fifty dollars): He’s on a date with that waitress from Hooters.
TEX: Clutch! ’Atta boy!
DOCKER (deals out cards): We’ll be playing Limit Hold ‘Em, all night. Small blind starts at five chips, big blind starts at ten.
CJ (checks cards, bets chips): I bet twenty chips. So, are any of you guys familiar with Chekhov’s Gun?
TEX (checks cards): Like Chekov from Star Trek? The one that drives The Compromise? I call. (bets chips)
MISSY: The ship from Star Trek is called The Enterprise, Tex. Fold. (throws in cards)
DOCKER: I’ll fold too. (folds his cards, deals next card) …And we have an ace on the board!
MISSY: Yeah, I vaguely remember that term from high school drama class. So what is Chekhov’s Gun, CJ?
CJ: It’s a dramatic principle that comes up sometimes in playwriting. (checks hiscards again) I’ll check it to you, Tex. It states that, as a playwright, you shouldn’t add any unnecessary details to a play. Every detail in your narrative should be irreplaceable and crucial to the plot.
TEX: I don’t get it. (spits tobacco) I’ll bet forty more. (throws in chips)
CJ: I’ll call your forty. (throws in chips) Like, for example, don’t hang a gun on the wall in the first scene of a play if it’s not going to be used to shoot someone in the fourth scene.
MISSY: Oh yeah, Chekhov’s Gun. I remember that now.
DOCKER (deals a card): Six of Hearts. Your bet, CJ.
CJ: I bet another forty. (throws in chips)
TEX: I’ll call ya, with a pair of Ladies. (flips over cards) So what’s yer point, CJ? Are you saying that one of us is gonna get shot at some point?
CJ: Of course not, Tex! Do you see a gun on the wall? Also, I got you beat, ten-high straight. (flips over cards, and collects pile of chips from middle of table)
TEX: Dammit! Nice hand.
MISSY: So why did you bring up Chekhov’s Gun, CJ?
DOCKER (deals out a new set of cards to everyone): C’mon guys. Let’s get some chips out.
CJ: Well, Tex asked about Matt earlier and you answered that he was on a date.
MISSY: OK… And?
CJ: There are six chairs at this table. That implies Matt and his date could be joining us at some point.
TEX: Right, that makes sense.
DOCKER (getting annoyed): Guys, chips.
CJ: But Matt and his date WON’T be joining us at any point. He’s totally irrelevant to both the game and the plot of the story, so there was no need to mention him in the first place.
TEX: Well I didn’t know that when I asked about ’im! (hopefully) So what about Matt’s date? The Hooters girl?
CJ: Also totally irrelevant.
TEX: (disappointed) Bummer. (Docker clears throat loudly, and Tex hurries to look at his cards) Sorry, Dock, I’ll check.
MISSY (looks at cards): I’ll bet ten. (throws in chips) So why is it so terrible if there are a few irrelevant details?
DOCKER: C’mon guys, rate of play. I will call your ten, Missy, and raise twenty more. (throws in chips)
CJ: I’m in for thirty. (throws in chips) Like I was saying, aside from Chekhov’s Gun, there’s also these things called red herrings. See, when something misleads or distracts the audience from a relevant or important plot point, then that’s what is known as a red herring.
TEX: Wait, how did we get onto fish? I am so lost. Also, what’s the bet?
DOCKER: Pay attention, Tex. The bet is thirty.
TEX: Fold, fold, fold. (throws in cards)
MISSY: I’ll call you, gentlemen. (throws in chips) Let’s see some more cards, dealer.
DOCKER (deals a card): Four of diamonds, not much help there. The bet is to you, Missy.
MISSY: I’ll bet another thirty. (throws in chips) So if there were a gun on the wall, but nobody uses it, is that a red herring…or Chekhov’s Gun?
DOCKER (loudly): I’ll fold. (throws in his cards) CJ: There is no gun on the wall.
MISSY: I know that.
CJ: So it’s neither. A moot point.
MISSY: But I’m just asking, what if there were a gun on the wall?
CJ: Well, now you’re getting into hypotheticals…
TEX: Seriously guys, I am SO lost right now.
CJ: …and hypotheticals are a whole other animal.
DOCKER (annoyed): Guys! Rate. Of. Play.
CJ: I’ll call your bet, Missy. (throws in chips)
DOCKER: And the last card is… (flips a card) …the Jack of Spades!
MISSY: I’ll check.
CJ: I’ll go all-in. (Pushes all his chips forward) Think you’ve got me beat, Missy?
MISSY: You’ll have to ask Schrödinger’s cat. I fold. (folds her cards without showing them)
TEX (getting frustrated): OK, who the heck is Schrödinger? Why does he have a damn cat, and what does that have to do with poker?
MISSY: (does quote signs in the air with her fingers) “Schrödinger’s Cat” is a famous thought experiment where —
CJ (interrupting): To paraphrase what Missy was going to say, I can’t possibly know whether or not I had a better hand than Missy, since she refused to show me her cards. Without knowledge of what her cards were, I simultaneously do and do not have the better hand.
MISSY: A paradox!
TEX (animatedly): Guys, STOP! I don’t do paradoxes, or red herrings, or Chekhov’s Gun, or breaking the fourth wall!
CJ: You want to bring the fourth wall into this?
TEX: NO, I DO NOT! (gets up and addresses the audience directly) DO Y’ALL KNOW WHAT THE HELL THEY’RE ON ABOUT?
(Right as MATT walks in with a beautiful girl on his arm; she’s wearing a “HOOTERS” shirt)
MATT: ’Sup guys! Did you start without me?
TEX and DOCKER together: Oh, goddammit!
(Fade to black)
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