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Gamble 106: Down By The Train Tracks

by Nathan Gamble |  Published: Dec 30, 2020

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(Editor’s Note: This is part four of a series of articles that can be found on CardPlayer.com under Nathan Gamble’s author page.)

With the constant reminder of how lucky I was sitting in my passenger seat holding a gun, I drove deeper into his world and well outside my comfort zone. With every passing wave, every nod of the head, and every rambling word I was reminded of the danger that lay ahead of me and the precipice which I straddled with every passing moment. On either side of the chasm was a quick and perilous death, only by walking the fine line did I have hope of staying safe.

After what seemed like hours of driving, in reality no more than 30 minutes, the monotony was broken up by a harsh, “Stop. Now!” Things were changing. I looked around and it was no different than the neighborhood we had been in for the last 10 minutes, just another house in a ramshackle part of town. But this was it, this was our destination. He made me pass over my wallet, my keys, and my phone while telling me to stay put while he went inside. He looked me up and down and reminded me that they knew where I lived before jumping out of the car.

You would think it’s a relief to be free after all this time being held against your will, but the reality is it was even more nerve wracking. Every ounce of me wanted to toss the door open and flee, to run as fast as I could in any direction and just bang on any door and scream for help.

The adrenaline was kicking in and I had to calm my nerves and try to think rationally. I was alone, 10 minutes by car into a neighborhood that I clearly didn’t belong in, and from what I had seen on the drive in, I wasn’t going to find much help from the locals. If I ran then I’d have a less-than-optimal chance at finding help. Even if I did find help and manage to escape, then he was right. They had my address and knew where I lived… where my parents lived! I didn’t want to risk drawing anyone else into my debacle.

As I made up my mind to stay put, he came running back to the car and jerked the door open, and we were off again.

This pattern repeated itself four more times, each time causing an internal battle as I had to temper my desire for freedom with the knowledge of what it could cost. At the time I didn’t know why we were stopping but later it became clear that he had been in search of drugs and was going from dealer to dealer. Only when we reached house number six did things kick into full gear as it instantly became clear that this could be where everything ended.

We turned left down a street which led into an unfinished cul-de-sac with train tracks peeking out behind a wood line. They were slightly elevated on an overgrown hill and unprotected by the dead and drooping trees that surrounded them. It was the perfect place to dump a body, I thought to myself. Throw it on the other side of the train tracks and I doubt anybody would have noticed until the stench drew questions. As we drove closer and closer to them, he had me pull a U-turn and stop at one of the houses towards the front of the street, no more than three doors down from the edge of the foreboding forest.

He pulled the normal line, they knew my name, where I went to school, where my family lived, and said he’d be right back. I had fallen into a false sense of security with every stop before but now with the woods in my rearview mirror, I felt the uncertainty of the moment looming. My adrenaline level doubled when my kidnapper came out of the house with two linebacker-sized men following behind him.

I instantly drew a mental line on the concrete about 20 feet from the car, mid-point between me and them. If they crossed it, I was going to run, flee as fast as possible to the tree line that was most likely intended as my coffin and try to use it as my escape. Beads of sweat dripped from my forehead as they drew closer to the crack on the sidewalk until one of the men stepped directly on it. Then they stopped. It’s almost like they knew what I had in my mind as they just stood there and chatted. I waited, hand on the door handle, ready to run. But then they went their separate ways, my good luck charm getting in the passenger seat, his football team getting in a separate car.

He chuckled when he saw my nervousness and told me they wanted to beat me and leave my body but he had reformed and didn’t want that life anymore. This was relayed to me as we started driving off and he took drags off a crack pipe he had pulled from his hoodie pocket. He was a gentleman about it at least, and rolled down the window with every exhale so as not to get me high as I drove. I asked him where next and he looked at me and said that since I had cooperated, he was going to let me go, and he’d take me out of the neighborhood himself.

We drove in silence punctuated by puffs of the pipe, the radio softly playing in the background. I tried to pay attention to the street names as they passed but they replayed in mind as a blur later, nothing stuck that was useful. Eventually we got to a major street in downtown Dallas and he had me pull over into a metered stall. He casually withdrew my wallet and phone and threw them to me, while reminding me that if I went to the cops it’d be the last decision I ever made. He slowly got out of the car and wandered away into the sunlight, leaving me behind to wonder what had just happened. I felt lucky to be alive as the adrenaline slowly left my body, leaving me tired and shaken to my core.

Over the duration of a poker tournament you will find yourself feeling a roller coaster ride of emotions, sometimes at the pinnacle of the tournament with a chip-leading stack to end any challengers. Other times, you are at the bottom and trying to just slowly limp along and stay the course. No matter where you find yourself, it is imperative that you keep your wits about you as your situation can change in the blink of an eye.

This series of articles has been about adapting to the ever-changing landscape which we can find ourselves in and the importance of always staying aware of new information as it filters into your life.

Stay aware even when it feels like all hope has left you on the felt. You may have only a single chip in front of you and you feel like you’re about to find yourself in the wood line, but you can still have a plan and avoid the inevitable long enough to put yourself back in the hunt. A little luck is extremely useful in those spots, but first you have to give yourself the chance to get lucky. ♠

Nathan Gamble is a native of Texas where he learned to play the game of hold’em from his father. He is a two-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner, the first coming in the 2017 WSOP $1,500 PLO8/b Event, the second in the 2020 Online WSOP $600 PLO8/b event. A fixture of the mid-stakes mixed game community since moving to Las Vegas in 2019, he can often be found playing $80-$160 games at the Wynn. He is active on Twitter under the username Surfbum4life and streams mixed game content weekly on Twitch under the same moniker.