Fri | Oct 15, 2021

Gordon Robinson | Looking card?

Published:Tuesday | August 3, 2021 | 12:07 AM
Gordon Robinson
Gordon Robinson
Was PM Holness just ‘looking card’?
Was PM Holness just ‘looking card’?

Playing with Gene Autry against The Beast and Peter Poop (had the misfortune to ‘pass gas’ in class one day and was never allowed to forget), I drew the following:

Five-blank; five-trey; five-four; double-five; they-deuce; deuce-ace; four-blank.

To my right, Poop posed double-six; Autry contributed six-trey; and The Beast, six-deuce. Quick, before reading on, what’s my play?

Gene and I met the self-styled Dr S. Blank, senior lecturer in the faculty of domino, late one night around a domino table at Taylor Hall. He was a maintenance man passionate about dominoes. He wasn’t shy about sharing. His partner Jimmy Hunchback was the worst domino player we knew, but also the luckiest. No matter how hard (or often) he tried to throw a game away, it always returned to him. So why didn’t we call him Jimmy Boomerang? Well, there was the small matter of his posture.

Blank taught me that, unless “compulsory”, never lead a card holding four, including the double. He’d ask, “A try yu a try fi kill yu owna double?”

Dessie entered my life in my late teens. His family lived on the ‘other side’ of Mona Heights, an urban planning archetype of two halves ‘separated’ by Garden Boulevard. I lived on Gardenia Avenue; he, Camelia Way. So we didn’t meet until my mother moved to University Crescent (separated from Dessie’s half by an easily scaled concrete wall).

Dessie introduced me to betting on UK racing when he influenced a walk from Mona to a tiny betting shop ‘under’ the Barbican Road bridge. We were the only customers. We could only afford one fifty-cent bet. But the excitement of ‘live’ commentary over a two-way radio was entrancing in pre-internet times. I was hooked.

Dessie was a fascinating youth with impish charm and a mischievous twinkle no girl could resist. He was a genius at dominoes, with a canny, creative mind that also extricated him from whatever trouble his charisma created. He taught me the best reason to play ‘rounds a card’. Likely, left hand opponent (who first played the card) held the double, in which case both ends should be cut by the time it reached him again. If partner held the double, no problem. The first time I partnered Dessie and he cut the other end of my ‘rounds’, I was apoplectic. He said, “G, if you hold that double and it can dead, is your fault!”

In this hand I’d combine those two domino principles by using trey-deuce to go ‘two-deuce’, and add a third option if somebody cut with deuce-five. Then I’d be off to the races.

THAT principle, which I learned from Sandy Park’s late, great Bas, was called ‘looking card’. There was no downside, as nothing ‘coming off” deuce could hurt me, and Autry’s trey wasn’t guaranteed to be ‘his’ card. Victory is never assured, but combining percentage advantages can build best chance to defeat the enemy.


I remembered this game when PM reportedly ‘walked back’ COVID restrictions relaxation before it expired. It occurred to me that, as astute as I know him to be, maybe his late-June relaxations weren’t as insane as first appeared. Was he just ‘looking card’?

He came under pressure, after the Rick’s fiasco, to give ‘small’ entertainers a ‘bly’. So he faced two enemies: pandemic and public perception. A hard line risked public revolt. But if he went rounds-a-card, possible outcomes included:

(1) He couldn’t be accused of pushing his card by favouring tourism/big business (let somebody else may play deuce-five).

(2) Entertainment might prove us all wrong (Autry might hold double-deuce) and act responsibly.

(3) The most likely (spike) in which event swift, certain noose tightening (kill double-deuce) could be accompanied by “I gave you what you asked for but you couldn’t handle it.” From PM’s perspective, third wave coming anyway. This way, Jamaicans would accept restrictions were necessary.

Victory over COVID isn’t guaranteed. PM combined his options, increasing Jamaica’s percentage advantages, including ‘looking’ public support. But recent, frightening COVID numbers proves he was playing a Jimmy Hunchback game.

For our sake, I hope the return boomerang doesn’t knock him out.

Peace and Love!

PS: I received a welcome call from pre-eminent Senior Counsel with extensive political experience who pointed out I was in error on Sunday to refer to the ‘Governor General in Council’ as the constitutionally created local Privy Council. Under the Interpretation Act, that reference is essentially to Cabinet.

“‘Governor-General in Council’ means Governor-General acting in accordance with the advice of the Cabinet.”

The manoeuvre even more resembles a Ricardo ‘Wily Boo’ Fuller body shift.

- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to