The Hustler

He played the fat man pool
And lost, but said: Thatís cool.
Another game? All right, just for a pound.
The fat man won again,
They played another frame,
He won a third time and the hustler frowned.

Iíll play you for a fiver.
The fat man said: A live wire!
Why not a tenner? Then the hustler paused.
All right, he said, you break,
And with the first mistake
The fat man made, his game was a lost cause.

He pocketed the money
And said: That was a honey,
Iíve never played as well as that before.
Hey where díyou think youíre goiní?
Donít be my tenner blowiní,
Give me a chance to level up the score.

They played for quits or double,
The fat man was in trouble,
The hustler had him well and truly hooked;
He played him for a score,
And then for fifty more,
And always won far easier than it looked.

The fat man left the bar
And drove off in his car;
The hustler smiled in gleeful satisfaction;
He bought another drink
From the barmaid, gave a wink,
She smiled and gave a favourable reaction.

Later, he drove her home,
And I walked off alone,
I thought Iíd surely seen the last of him,
But in the local caff,
(A rough and ready gaff),
Next day, I saw the hustler playing nim.

He never lost a game,
Then challenged me (a shame),
Because I understand the strategy,
I played him for a pound.
He drew first, and I found
That I would draw the last match, naturally.

I won three in a row,
Then said: Hey, do you know
I think Iíve got this little darling sussed!
You want to raise the stake?
But I was wide awake;
Iíll play you for a hundred, shit or bust.

He pondered for a minute,
Then said: Thereís nothing in it,
And put a hundred smackers on the table;
I took my money out,
The crowd milled all about
To see which one of us would be most able.

He went to draw a match,
But I said: Hereís the catch,
You drew first last game, mister, itís my turn.
Oh no, you challenged me!
With that I disagree,
We raised the stake, thatís all, youíd better learn.

Learn what? the hustler said;
Your number has been read!
I drew five matches from the six match pile;
His face turned crimson-bright
As he realised I was right,
Then drew a match; I felt his rising bile.

He said: Letís play again.
Not me, think Iíll refrain,
Iím not a gambling man by rights, you see;
Iím not whatís called a prude,
Iím just a little shrewd,
Youíll never take a penny off of me.

His eyes grew narrow, angry,
But I told him: Stay hungry!
Youíll find a sucker, like the other night;
I saw you take the fat man.
He smiled: Youíre a cool cat, man.
Then said: Well, cíest la vie, I sípose youíre right.

Donít you think itís unfair?
I asked him with a stare,
To swindle people? Take them for a ride?
Gambling, thatís not the same thing,
Hustlingís as bad as cheating,
When you lose, youíre not being bona fide.

He gave me some preamble,
Then said: I used to gamble,
I used to gamble once an awful lot;
The sharks took all my money,
They really think itís funny
To break a man, take everything heís got.

All right, that isnít cheating,
But thereís no point in bleating
About this hustling business being wrong,
Cos gambling is no better,
No better to the letter,
For both these pastimes to the Pit belong.

Itís never been a sin
To gamble and to win,
Itís only when you lose you give a damn,
And as my father said
(Bless his departed head),
No one can ever cheat an honest man.

We talked a little more,
Then he departed for
Another town where nim was little known,
And where heíd find a fool
To play him cards or pool,
A richer, wiser man, I went on home.

I still remember him
(Though twenty years itís been),
And what he said, and Iíve come to agree,
You canít cheat an honest man,
And that is what I am:
He never took a penny off of me.

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