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Delhi to Bangalore
by Peter Wakefield Kitcher

Our RAF Unit was in India and travelling from Delhi to Bangalore and, from all accounts, it was going to take our troop train several days. As usual, out came the cards and as usual, the choice was a gambling game such as poker, brag, pontoon, shoot, or something else. Money was always involved. Then, strangely, Bert asked me if I could play cribbage. This was odd since he was an obsessive gambler and cribbage wasn’t usually a choice especially as it couldn’t involve the whole group. He said he hadn’t played for a long time and wondered if the two of us could play. It happened that I’d learned crib at a very early age and loved it. We took a seat at the end of the coach and let the others do what they liked.
I’d known Bert for several years in the Unit and, although we weren’t particularly friends, we got on well together. Bert said he hadn’t played crib for some time but thought it would soon come back. However, during the morning it became fairly obvious that he needed to brush up on some things he should or shouldn’t do, and once or twice I showed him a better way to do something. At lunch time we took a break. I’d won most of the games except a couple when he’d had big combinations and I’d been wiped out. During lunch he said how much he’d enjoyed it and asked me if I’d like to continue during the afternoon. This suited me and we started again.
Down the coach the rest were going crazy. They were playing poker and it would seem that money was no object. I knew what was happening. We hadn’t been paid before getting on the train and all the money we had was what was remaining when we left Delhi. Since they were playing for real money which they didn’t have, the end result, of course, was that they were writing I.O.U.’s, and the papers with varying amounts written on them were being passed around as if they were really cash. In one case, a chap had to bet about fifty rupees or so which he didn’t have, and was deciding whether he could afford it, since if he lost, in addition to what he’d lost before, it was going to be a bit of a problem on his next payday.
I was happy to be out of it and we played a couple of games of crib. Then Bert said, “You know me, let’s have a bet on the games and it’ll give me some incentive.”
I pointed out, as we were keeping a check on it, that he’d won only a couple of games and anyway, I hadn’t much money on me.
He said, “Don’t worry about it; we’ll keep the stakes low. What do you think about an anna a game?” An anna was the currency in those days and was worth about the same as an English penny. All the time we’d been playing I’d won the equivalent of twenty pennies or so, and I laughed and we continued. As he said, as we were now playing for real money, if that’s what it was, he’d keep a real check on it.
There wasn’t a lot of change in the games. I was still usually winning and, in fact, in several hands I’d beaten him by thirty or forty points although, of course, it didn’t make any difference to the stake money.
The next morning we started again but after about half an hour or so, we took a break and he suddenly said, “Look, I’ve been keeping a check on it and do you realise, if we’d been playing for an anna a point instead of an anna a game, how much you would have won?” Then he told me. I couldn’t believe it but when I did another check, it was several days’ pay. He said, “Look, you know I’m a gambler and I’m willing to risk it. Why don’t we play for an anna a point instead of an anna a game?”
I argued for a little while and then agreed.
We played for an anna a point for the rest of the journey. He had a lot of luck in many of the games. At the end, my total of games won showed who was the better player but as I say, he had a lot of luck. Although my total of games won was greater, his points added up to a formidable amount. I actually owed him quite a lot of money which reduced my next pay when we arrived in Bangalore.
Some weeks later after we’d settled down, I happened to go into another hut for something. We’d been separated and split into different watches so didn’t see some people as often as others. I hadn’t seen much of Bert but as usual, in the forces, one went with other people and we did the same things and played cards and gambled but I had never played crib again.
I went into this hut and saw Bert playing cards with these other chaps. They were playing pontoon. That’s the game where you draw cards and have to score twenty-one or beat the score of the dealer. If you get a face card and an Ace, that’s twenty-one and you’ve got pontoon. The dealer changes after each hand. I watched the game for a little while and it was quite interesting. What was really interesting to me was that when Bert was dealing and his first card was a face card his second card was always an Ace. He was so lucky.