Forgetting my manners, I stare across the desk at the young lady studying her playing cards. At least I think she's studying them. All she does is glance back at me with an impish smile on her face, and that knowing look that hasn't changed since the game started.
It's her poker face, and she certainly knows how to play. I, on the other hand, an eighteen-year-old student whose only source of income is from collecting trolleys for a local supermarket, has no idea, except for the fact that getting four of something is very good indeed and that five is cheating and might get you shot in the head by an angry cowboy.
But this is no western saloon, this is the second-largest bedroom in a four-bedroom detached house somewhere in the English home counties, and I've got an actual model up here playing poker with me. Heaven knows how I got her in here, past the parental vanguard at the front door, the knowing leer of my younger brother, but she's up here with me and there's no denying the truth, the triumph. My triumph.
She's tactful, I'll grant her that. She hasn't commented on the flowery wallpaper covered with posters for eighties bands and RAF fighter jets. She's said nothing about the fact that our card table is little more than my sister's old desk, covered in scratches, one of the drawers not working since somebody jammed too much rubbish in there, sticking it fast. She sits there, demure in her leather jacket, looking at her cards, that impish smile not moving an inch.
I draw a card and raise the stakes. I'm not sure what I'm doing here, but I think I might be winning. Not a flicker from the other side of the table as the money begins to get serious.
Shuffling nervously in my chair – I've got the uncomfortable wooden one that's always brought downstairs when we have too many guests for dinner, and dad has to fix the extension on the table that turns it into a huge circle with a rotating lazy susan in the centre for that added Chinese banquet bit of class – I decide what to do next. My hand's good but not great, and I'm sure that smile is hiding something. If she wanted to, I'm sure she'd flick a strand of blonde hair from her face, and give me that come-on to throw everything all-in and see what she's got.
And by which I mean cards, and not the other. Or do I?
A decision is made. The die is cast. All in, whatever that means. All my money on the table. Hardly an impressive amount, but it's every last penny. I want to see those cards, win or lose.
I've got a pair of threes, a pair of sevens. Not bad. I raise an eyebrow in mocking triumph. Beat that, lady.
With a flourish she turns her cards over. Three Jacks.
"Arse," I say, the first words to pass between us since this doomed hand started.
She looks down. She is naked, that classy leather jacket gone, an air of surprise on her face. Nevertheless, she strikes the pose known to millions of easily-pleased tabloid newspaper readers.
"You bastard," Sam says at last, "You hacked the game didn't you?"
Of course I hacked the game. You're not going to buy Samantha Fox Strip Poker for your BBC Micro and NOT hack the game, are you?
Versions for other popular home computers are also available.
I get paid fifteen pounds for a day's shoving trollies for those ungrateful bastards at the supermarket and this game's eaten up ten of them, and I've only got five quid to last the rest of the week. Of course I'm going to hack Samantha Fox Strip Poker and hack it hard.
|Young people! This is what is known as a "cassette". A cassette.|
The grainy eight-bit image of Britain's number one topless model smiles back at me from the black-and-white monitor. It's less a monitor, more an ancient portable television set which one day, at the very depths of financial woe, I shall sell for two pounds. But at the moment, it has a topless, depressingly low resolution image of La Fox staring back at me.
It is a minor triumph of the teenage programmer's art. I hate to lose, so I fix the game so that I always win.
And I reset the game, and I win again.
And later, I learn that the penultimate picture in the sequence is the best one, so I fix the game once more.