At the Carlton, Paladin is dining in the restaurant and a woman sends a letter over to him. Upon opening it, Paladin finds his card inside as well as a Latin family motto and a note. He goes over to the woman, Mrs. Neal, and confirms that she wants him to bring her husband John Paul back from a poker weekend in Cavinaw City. Mrs. Neal says that she'll pay $10,000 total to Paladin, and explains that John Paul has been playing poker for five and a half months and she wants him back. She tells Paladin that John Paul has spent $700,000 on poker and wants to make sure he stays wealthy. Paladin warns that they'll keep John Paul there until they take him for everything, and Mrs. Neal makes $50,000 available to Paladin to "bargain" with the casino owners. The gunfighter, intrigued, says that he'll accept the job.
Later, Paladin takes a stage to Cavinaw and checks into the hotel. A woman, Sarah, comes to the room and asks if Paladin is there for John Paul. Paladin admits that he's looking for a game with him, and Sarah gives Paladin a piece of paper with the rules to poker that John Paul uses. She admits that she wants John Paul and doesn't have a chance against his wife as long as he has his money. Sarah tells Paladin that she loves him and wants Paladin to take all of his remaining money. Paladin figures that he won't need basic rules for poker if John Paul does, and Sarah directs him to the room where John Paul is playing.
Paladin and Sarah go to the room and John Paul is furious that she's blabbing his poker "skills" to every gambler in town. John Paul says that he's sick of both of them, and Paladin asks why he doesn't go home to his wife. He tells John Paul that Mrs. Neal misses him for $700,000, and offers John Paul the chance to leave. Sarah tells John Paul that Mrs. Neal doesn't love him and paid Paladin to bring him back, and John Paul admits that he isn't worth anything to anyone and invites Paladin to shoot him dead. When Sarah tells him to leave the man alone, Paladin says that John Paul is no man. John Paul insists that what he does with his money is no one else's business, and says that Waller, the casino owner, will never let him leave alive. Paladin tells him that he will help him but it will take John Paul and his gun. John Paul agrees to do whatever Paladin says, and Sarah insists that she can't leave him.
A man calls John Paul to Waller's room, and Paladin goes to the diner. Waller comes in, well aware of who Paladin is, and says that John Paul went back to San Francisco to get more money. Paladin offers him the $50,000 for Waller to let John Paul go. Waller admits that he's taking it out of the rich man's hides because they stripped the town of whatever value it had, and Paladin figures that it's a cruel game to Waller. He suggests that the two of them play for John Paul's soul. Intrigued, Waller agrees and promises Paladin that he won't underestimate him
Later, the two men play five-car stud with John Paul and three other men. Sarah hovers nearby and watches, and John Paul keeps betting more money. Paladin and John Paul lose to Waller, and Waller tells John Neal that he's stupid. John Paul calls for a new deck, and Waller tells him that it won't do any good, but Sarah brings a new deck anyway.
The game continues throughout the night, and John Paul finally bets $15,000 and dares Waller to call. Waller raises $15,000 on an open straight, Neal figures that Waller has the straight and folds, but Paladin says that he's still in and confirms that there's $102,000 in the pot. He tells John Neal that if he'd won he could have stayed or left, but now Waller wins John Neal if he wins the pot. Paladin calls and Waller admits that he has a busted straight with an ace-king high. Revealing his hand, Paladin shows that he had a pair of jacks and takes the pot.
John Neal says that he had a pair of kings, but Paladin tells him that he's going home to his wife. Waller tells John Neal that he was just beginning to get lucky, and John Neal flips the table over on Waller. Paladin grabs him and tells Waller's men to put up their guns. Waller tells his men that there's no need for violence, and the game is always open to John Paul. John Paul says that he's never coming back, but Waller says that they'll be expecting him and Sarah sarcastically agrees. Waller tells Paladin that he lost the battle but expect to win the war. Paladin collects the pot and leaves.
Written by Gadfly on Jan 6, 2019