Domino effect consumes a Texas town
They tied at first, but Badum and Kuntschik finally prevailed, shaking hands and moving on to their next opponent, a legendary 42 player named Don St. Clair.
St. Clair, 76, has been playing for 68 years. He and partner Richard Mach, 50, a retired engineer, have been together for 20.
With his thick, yellow-lens glasses, leathery skin, and cigarette pack tucked neatly in the breast pocket of his Oxford shirt, St. Clair looks every inch the card shark.
He may spend his days painting lines on parking lots in the Dallas suburbs, but he has the mind of a mathematician.
"Nice hand, Richard," Badum said as they began.
Underneath the table, Mach twitched a leg rhythmically. He had the pained expression of a high-stakes poker player. St. Clair had a dynamite hand, but his eyes remained impassive.
Badum watched the hand unfold, disappointed.
"It's about time we get rocks like that, Aaron," he said to Kuntschik.
When they finally won a trick, Kuntschik pumped his fist.
His joy was short-lived.
St. Clair and Mach seized control of the game by betting aggressively. With luck, and the rocks, on their side, the older men won and went on to claim the state championship, their third, about 10 p.m.
As the two Austin players left, St. Clair was sympathetic.
His real advantage comes from knowing his partner so well he can read his eyes, his manner, even more than his bids. Perhaps, he said, the next generation of Austin 42 teams can stick together long enough to master that.