Work Header

Shuffle the Odds

Work Text:

Most think of Spencer’s game as chess. It’s a mathematical thinking game associated with intellect that he is known to play, so it isn’t a strange assumption to make. But chess has always been Gideon’s game, Reid just plays it with him.

You see, Spencer’s game is poker.

Poker for Spencer is good and bad memories tied up in a strange combination of behavioral studies, Math and high stakes.

He remembers the first time he played the game. He was seven at the time and his father’s poker table was one man short of the usual, so his father had jokingly said: “Spencer can play in Jack’s place.”

It got some laughs, but Spencer hadn’t realized it was a joke and simply replied: “It doesn’t look that hard.”

That got even more laughs, except for his father, who got a glint in his eyes as he said: “Sit down, Spencer. Here, I’ll bet he can kick all our asses. A hundred bucks, who’s in?”

One of the guys had asked Spencer if he had ever played before and Spencer had dutifully told him he had not. So, bet’s were placed and they told Spencer the rules. His father was a couple hundred bucks richer and his parents fought that night.

Still, he often played poker with his dad. One of the few god things they did together before he left, after which Spencer forgot about the game until he was sixteen.

At sixteen, his mother was doing even worse than she was seven years ago and the savings she had from her job were running low as Spencer tried to put himself through college for the so manieth time.

He had done tutoring jobs, but those weren’t enough to live on and now he was old enough to pass with a fake ID and maybe some make-up. So, he remembered the game he played with his father and the money that exchanged hands.

Spencer will always be a Vegas boy at heart.

Thus began his stints with semi-illegal poker strategy and a confirmed illegal ID as he slowly worked his way through the casino’s in his hometown. He knew it was bad, but it was also profitable and he was finally able to save up for the medical center for his mom. And as long as no one found out, he still had a future.

Still, all of that isn’t something you tell your employer, especially if your employer is the FBI and you’re just starting out on a new team, trying to get the respect your age doesn’t grant you.

So, he doesn’t start out his new job by saying: Hi, I’m Dr. Spencer Reid and I’m banned from most casino’s in Las Vegas, Laughlin and Pahrump. And instead just awkwardly stumbles over a statistic about germs as he avoids shaking hands.

Gideon knows, of course. He actually ran into the man after a lecture in his psychology courses at a casino-hotel Gideon was staying in at the time. But Spencer played it off as just it being a first time, one-off thing and Gideon pretended to believe him.

They never really spoke of it and the two always played Gideon’s game. Chess. It is the game the others in the BAU know him to play and Spencer is more than fine with that.

However, hiding things while working with a team trained to figure things out off the faintest clues isn’t easy and being a prolific poker player slips through the cracks.

It’s on his third case with the BAU that it happens. They’ve just caught a serial killer in Montana and are flying back. Before Spencer can hide himself in a book like he’s always done, Derek calls out: “Hey, Reid, you’re a Vegas boy, right?”

Spencer has to guess whether Derek found out about his past and it’s a trap or if the other agent is trying to befriend him. In case it is the latter, he doesn’t want to lie, because if he’s going to work with these people, he at least wants to be on good terms with them. Cautiously, he replies: “Yes, I suppose so.”

So, you play cards?” Derek asks and it’s phrased like a genuine question, but Spencer distrusts the whole thing even more.

He looks to Gideon for answers, but the man is flipping through a case file and isn’t paying attention. Seems Spencer has to figure this one out by himself. “I know how to play,” he settles on, knowing the game isn’t an admission to anything, right?

Hell yeah, kid. Finally,” Derek grins and it doesn’t seem like a trap, but just excitement. So, Spencer relaxes slightly as Derek says: “No one ever wants to play. Here sit down and I’ll deal. You know poker, right?”

Spencer nods as he sits down. He still looks around, just in case. He doesn’t know what he’s expecting, maybe for Hotch the suddenly jump up and accuse him of being a criminal, however unlikely.

JJ dissipates that fear when she snorts: “The only reason none of us want to play with you is because you’re insufferable when you play poker.”

I am not,” Derek complains. “Reid here doesn’t think so, right, kid?”

Uhm, no?” Spencer answers quietly, not wanting to ignore Derek, but also not wanting to pick a side between the two agents, who have been on this team longer than him.

See,” Derek says to JJ as he deals, she just shakes her head and goes back to her report. Once he’s done dealing, Derek throws him a packet of pretzels and informs him that those are the chips they’ll be playing with.

They play four games and Spencer lets Derek win three of them. It’s at that moment that Gideon looks up from his book and decides for fuck Spencer over by saying: “You don’t have to let him win, Reid. He’s cocky enough as is.”

Hold up,” Derek exclaims indignantly. “He is not letting me win, okay. I’m just good at poker, which is why you’re too scared to play with me. You don’t need to coddle him, he can handle loosing a few rounds of poker against me.”

Now everyone is looking at Spencer, who is decidedly not saying anything, already regretting his decision to agree to a few rounds of poker. He should have just played the nerdy doctor card and pretended he didn’t know, before hiding away again.

I’m not afraid to play poker with you,” Gideon says. “I just don’t think it’s worth my time.”

Oh really?” Derek shoots back and it’s 100% a challenge.

Yes, really,” and Gideon sadly isn’t someone, who lets things go. “I’ll play with you and Reid right now and I want to bet that the kid will wipe the floor with both of us.”

Spencer is suddenly transported to his old living room, with his father and his friends surrounding a poker table. He blinks and Derek and Gideon both look at him to see if he agrees. Awkwardly he says: “I don’t know. I could probably beat you, but counting cards is looked down upon and I can’t turn my brain off enough for me not to do it, so I’ll have an unfair advantage.”

No, man, poker is about body language and reading clues,” Derek tells him. “Profiling beats Math when it comes to poker. Play your best, I’ll beat you both.”

And with that it’s decided and the cards are dealt again.

The whole game Spencer is not only calculating the cards, but also what his best move is. He doesn’t want to disappoint Gideon, but he also doesn’t want any scrutiny on his poker playing skills, so he has to find away do avoid both.

In the end, he decides he can spout something about Math that will bore Derek and make it seem like it’s just theory that made him good. Besides being good at poker, doesn’t mean having been banned throughout casino’s in three towns before you were the legal age to gamble. That isn’t a connection one would make.

So, he wins and watches nervously as Gideon gives Derek a smirk, who frowns: “Could just be lucky. It happens, sometimes cards are against you.”

Then deal again,” Gideon tells him, which the other does with a huff.

Spencer wins again and then again, feeling a bit like the party trick he used to be at office parties his dad had as Hotch and JJ come to watch while Spencer wipes the floor with the others at poker over and over again, much to Derek’s frustration.

I give up,” he finally says, throwing his hands up. “You win. Happy?”

Very much so,” Gideon grins, before going back to his report like nothing has happened.

Spencer doesn’t really know what to do. Gideon thinks it’s over, so do Hotch and JJ, but Derek is still looking out the window, slightly put out. The whole goal was to befriend the other agent, but instead he just made him upset. Softly, he says: “I’m sorry.”

Derek looks up at him in surprise, eyes softening when he sees the young agent. He smiles gently and says: “I’m not mad, promise. No need for sorry.”

But I-”

I can handle loosing a bit of poker,” Derek quirks a brow and Spencer feels stupid about what he was insinuating. “And I get going along with Gideon, he loves his tricks, wouldn't want him to turn on me.” Derek winks at that and Spencer, for the first time in his life, is included in a mutual joke and brightens.

It dims slightly again as he says: “I didn’t let you win, because I thought you’d be a sore looser.”

Then why did you?” Derek asks, no judgment in his voice.

Spencer shrugs, before confessing: “People generally don’t like it when someone beats them at something they’re good at. I- I have- A lot of people are less nice when you disprove something they believe, especially if you’re younger.”

He doesn’t like being vulnerable, but he does really like this job and this team, who have only taken him seriously and appreciated him ever since he got there. If it gets to stay that way, he’s prepared to make a sacrifice.

And it pays off too, because Derek face turns into something understanding an Spencer is grateful when he doesn’t ask further, just starts shuffling the cards as he says: “You gonna show me how you did that? One day. One day and I’ll use your tricks against you.”

We’ll see,” Spencer smiles, picking up his cards. Yeah, this team is worth it.

Slowly, he gets integrated into the BAU until he knows them all as well as family. Elle joins them and he likes her. She isn’t a huge poker player, but she seems to get amusement out of watching Spencer beat Derek on the plane.

At one point, she says: “We should take you to Vegas, earn some money.”

It’s meant as a joke, Derek laughs, but Spencer freezes slightly. When Derek notices, he immediately asks: “You okay, Reid?”

Spencer knows he can’t very well tell Derek: ‘ No, I was suddenly gripped by the fear that you would uncover my illegal gambling and I froze,’ so he smiles and answers: “I’m fine. Just hadn’t realized Elle didn’t know I’m from Vegas. It’s quite a strange thing to hear someone joke about taking you to your hometown.”

That gets the two of them off his back as Elle makes another joke about him having poker genes, but Derek’s gaze stays on him.

Still, the incident is forgotten and life goes on.

When they’re attacked by Randall Garner, Spencer fears for a moment that he’ll use it as leverage against him. It never happens and he later realizes that his mom doesn’t even know what he did for them and that it just slipped his mind in the stress of the case and fear.

Yet the attack sets in motion the reasoning and actions that lead to Elle leaving and Spencer knows he’s going to miss her so much. She’s the first to leave since he’s gotten to the team and he is suddenly reminded of how much is sucks when someone you care about goes.

He still calls her and she still asks if he has beaten Derek at poker recently, but it isn’t the same.

Her replacement is one Emily Prentiss. Spencer is usually a nice, welcoming person, but he has been kidnapped recently and the drugs are still messing with his system and Elle’s departure is still raw.

So, he’s hostile towards her. He doesn’t like her. She tries to befriend him, replace someone he’s missing and he wants to escape both her and the loss.

It’s only when he finds himself at a casino in Quantico, trying to win the extra off the book cash needed to buy the drugs, that he knows he has to stop. He has worked hard to get where he is in the FBI at his age and he finally has a family. Sure, one member has gone, but the others were still there. He isn’t going to ruin that.

He leaves the casino that night and gets sober. It’s a struggle and he isn’t any nicer to Prentiss throughout his withdrawal period.

Derek tries to get him to play, but he doesn’t react. He knows it worries him, but he can’t help but see that casino again and all the casino’s before that and he can’t bring himself. So, he watches, almost from afar as Prentiss says: “I play.”

Okay,” Derek nods as he starts to shuffle, but his eyes trail over Spencer and he isn’t as enthusiastic.

Prentiss proves to be a good match and Spencer knows that in another time, he’ll have enjoyed playing with her and bullying Derek together, but he can’t bring himself now.

Still, it gets better, for a while. He stays sober and redeems himself as a normal, okay and nice person for Emily, who is also much nicer than he first treated her. She fits in with them all, despite her sometimes distant position. Not that he blames her for that, he knows a defense for abandonment when he sees it. Just because he clings, doesn’t mean, he isn’t aware of the other coping mechanisms.

Then Gideon leaves.

If Elle’s departure has hit him, this punches him in the face and kicks him when he’s down. Gideon is the closest thing he has to a father and the man walking out is too familiar.

It hurts.

He plays chess intensely until he can’t look at a chess board without wanting to throw in across the room. So, when Derek and Emily are playing on the plane again, he says: “Hey, deal me a hand too.”

When Derek smiles a proper smile at him, he feels the weight of Gideon’s departure lighten. Poker is Spencer’s game, he has tied it to good memories with family, no matter how it ends, for years and he isn’t going to stop now.

Emily, at this point, has never seen him play and cockily jokes: “I would worry, Reid. No offense, but I’ve been wiping the floor with Morgan here and my Sin to Win weekends have prepared me for this showdown.”

Spencer wants to counter it, but he sees a mischievous glint in Derek’s eyes as he subtly shakes his head. With Derek he doesn’t feel like a circus trick, but just someone in on the joke after Emily’s cocky statement, which is very reminiscent of Derek’s.

We’ll see,” is all he says as he sits down. JJ looks up and shakes her head fondly and Hotch looks up then away with the hint of a smile. The only one who looks up curiously is Rossi, who is even newer than Emily and the only other one, who has never seen Spencer play.

He has to admit that Emily is one lucky lady in her draws, but even her luck is mathematically predictable. Especially because she pushes her tongue against the inside of her teeth, which you can see in her jaw, whenever she’s lucky.

Ah, the beauty of behavior and Math.

Spencer beats her and Derek laughs, prompting her to demand a rematch. After five more games, in which, admittedly, she has beat him once and almost twice, she is suitably impressed. Still, she turns to Derek and accuses: “You knew, you fucking dick.”

Derek just laughs and says: “Everyone has to learn the hard way about Reid and poker, okay. If he weren’t already a Vegas boy, I would bring him to start my pension for me.”

That makes Emily laugh and Spencer can also manage a chuckle . Derek thinks him too much of a doctor for him to realize. It’s all good and he can also laugh at the absurdity that it happened to him, even if the others only laugh at the possibility.

After that it becomes sort of a thing. He, Derek and Emily play poker on the way home from cases and slowly the pain of Gideon leaving disappears as he grows closer to both Emily and Rossi.

At some point, Hotch comments that he remembers Rossi being a poker player, but Rossi holds up his hands and replies: “I’ve seen the blood in the water with them, I’m not swimming with the sharks.”

You scared, old man?” Derek jokes.

Of you? No. Of them? Absolutely.” Rossi tells him, making the whole team laugh as well as make Spencer feel a strange sort of pride. As if his poker is an admirable skill, instead of something he’s ashamed about.

He never talks of poker outside the plane rides and no one pushes him. Emily will mention her Sin to Win weekends from time to time, insinuating that Spencer is invited, should he want to come, but he never takes her up on it.

Poker is reserved for the plan e . A winding down from stressful cases that is carefully separated from the ground, both in his personal life and professional life. Despite the inaccuracy in the metaphor, he doesn’t see the need to wave a red cape in front of a bull’s eyes. No need to invite conversation where it might lead to an uncomfortable one.

Still, he is Dr. Spencer Reid and life never truly goes his way.

They have been in Las Vegas before on a case, even stayed in a Casino. It was back when Spencer tried to arrest his father, but Spencer wasn’t recognized by anyone, probably since he hadn’t been back in years and it wasn’t one he was hard banned.

He isn’t as lucky this time.

Spencer doesn’t even realize until they pull up. He usually checks with JJ where they go, he does it to every city to check up on the motels to know how much he’ll have to prepare for the grossness, but having been called out of bed in the middle of the night for a series of brutal murders with another one imminent, it had slipped his mind.

So, when they come back from a day investigating to try and get a little bit of sleep before returning to the station, he is faced with The Mirage, a big name in Vegas, which had banned him with quite a scene that has made him terrified to ever return.

The others first don’t realize he pauses outside as he hesitates. If he walks in with Hotch, he isn’t likely to be stopped, but the way he was thrown out, doesn’t bode well for him. A nd if he just pauses long enough , he can go somewhere else without calling the team’s attention to the fact that he’s avoiding the casino and for what reasons that would be.

But before he can make up his mind, Derek notices. He looks back and frowns. “Hey, Reid, you okay, pretty boy?”

I mean, yeah,” Spencer replies, already cringing at how out of character and suspicious it sounds.

Immediately the others stop and look back, all slightly concerned. Spencer’s eyes flick between them and the casino, still deliberating. With how closely they’re looking, it doesn’t go unnoticed and Hotch asks: “Is there a problem with the casino?”

Spencer scratches his nose and shrugs: “No, no, of course not.” He just has to hope that Hotch’s Hotch-ness will get him to his room and that him avoiding the gambling area will be enough to not get kicked out in front of everyone.

He practically hides behind Hotch, much to everyone’s amusement, even if it’s colored by confusion and concern about the behavior of their youngest member. Derek in particular is sending him glances with meaningful eyebrows that Spencer avoids in favor of looking if he is spotted by security yet. So far, so good.

They almost make it to the elevator too.

Spencer can almost touch the – probably incredibly germ-y elevator button, when a Pit Boss, middle management on the floor, spots him. The woman yells: “Hey, you there. At the elevator, turn around.”

The whole team pauses, first unsure if she’s talking to them. Then they see how Spencer is froze n , before he turns slowly as they follow suit, confusion written all over their faces.

Of course Spencer recognizes the lady. Her name is Fiona Quinn and she was the one that threw him out, now already eleven years ago. He was seventeen at the time and had managed to piss off a visiting executive, who was assessing the staff.

She goes livid when she recognizes him. “Get out!” she screams. “Get out of this casino! You know very well you’re not supposed to be here.”

Miss Quinn,” he starts trying to explain, “I’m not here to bet, I promise. I- I’m here for work and I didn’t book-”

I don’t care for your excuses,” Fiona fumes. He remembers she was a Pit Boss back then too, probably on the cusp of a promotion that he had ruined for her.

Spencer cowers slightly under her rage and looks helplessly at Hotch, who steps in. He shows her his badge and says: “I’m SSA Hotchner, I’m with the FBI. Can you please tell me why you’re harassing one of my colleagues, who is trying to get to his room.”

That, if anything, makes her even more livid. “That little brat?” she shrieks. “Is he even old enough to be FBI or did you give you a fake ID too?”

Multiple eyebrows are raised as they look at Spencer, who makes a gesture that hopefully conveys: I know, I also don’t want to talk about it. It is what it is.

Ma’am, I see you’re upset, but SSA Dr. Reid is only sleeping here. He did not even know we would be staying here until moments ago,” Hotch tries to calm her down.

I don’t care,” Fiona says. “You may be FBI, but you’re not all powerful. He,” she points harshly at Spencer, “is banned here. For forever. He’s not allowed to set a foot in this establishment and should be glad the police let him off with a warning. The ban has not worn off, it was lifelong, not over after a decade.”

We understand that, ma’am,” Hotch says gently. “But at this moment we just want to go to our rooms. We’re not here to gamble, just rest. We have to go back to a murder investigation in a few hours and we would like some rest. He won’t set foot in here after that, I promise, but can we please stay for the night we booked.”

Fiona regards them for a moment, suspicion in her eyes. However, she also seems to realize she has gained quite an audience and her movements are being watched. “Can I see your badge again, agent?” she asks.

Dutifully Hotch shows her his badge, but not without sending Spencer a look that tells him this will be discussed in length later.

She then looks at Spencer and disgust colors her features as she says: “And your badge, let me see it.” Spencer shows her, feeling very uncomfortable as she studies it. She hums: “So your name is Spencer Reid. I’ll update our ban with the proper name.”

He blushes and nods, apologizing for the inconvenience and mentally beating himself up for not just taking a nap at the police station or leaving the moment he saw where they were staying. But Fiona Quinn is satisfied with their badges and lets them go upstairs.

The elevator ride is quiet for a moment, then, just as Spencer thinks he might get away with staying silent, Hotch prompt: “So, Reid, care to explain what that was about?”

Uhm, well,” Spencer starts, not really wanting to but knowing he can’t avoid it and praying they reach their floor before it can go somewhere. “You know. Stuff. Happened.”

Hotch slowly raises one brow and Spencer desperately tries not to meet his eyes. Derek elbows him and looks up in surprise. The man smirks, like he doesn’t believe Spencer could have done anything that bad, as he asks: “What did little Spencer do to get himself banned from a casino? Wild 21 st birthday or something?”

Not- Not exactly,” Spencer answered. “More- well, uhm, can you all- I wouldn't want- It’s just-”

Dr. Spencer Reid without words, that’s a first,” Emily noted. “Someone call the news.”

Reid, at this point I think it’s better for you to tell us than for us to make our own assumptions,” Hotch tells him and that’s what pushes him over the edge, he knows what an active imagination can do.

Promise not to tell the director?” he still checks.

Derek frowns and comments: “Damn, what did you do?”

It was eleven years ago, alright,” Spencer defends himself before he realizes they can do the mental Math themselves.

You would have been seventeen and definitely not allowed to be in here,” Hotch says pointedly.

Kind of exactly that,” Spencer winces as the other’s explode. Still, he stupidly defends himself by saying: “But they didn’t throw me out because of that, they just tried to charge me, but they didn’t. I was fine. They let me off with a warning, sort of.”

Reid,” Hotch is not looking happy.

Before Spencer can answer the elevator dings, they all get out, but no one moves to go to their rooms. In a last ditch effort to avoid answering for his past, Spencer says: “We should try to get some rest. We still have a case, remember?”

Yeah, no, pretty boy,” Derek shakes his head. “Just tell us what happened that has gotten you a lifetime ban here.”

I have more bans,” it slips out and he face palms, before explaining: “I count cards. I can’t help it, my brain does it automatically. I wouldn't have gotten caught if I had been more careful, I always make sure to loose enough rounds to not raise suspicion, but our electricity had gone out and me and my mom don’t do well without light. I just needed enough money for the bills, I didn’t know an executive would be there.”

He hates how he has a front row seat to the revelations on his team mates’ faces as they realize he illegally played poker throughout his youth, just to make sure he and his mom would survive. If it was just the illegal part, he would be a stupid teen, but now he’s just a sob story.

But that’s over now,” he says, before anyone can pity him. “I don’t play for money anymore and I’ve never been caught. I know that doesn’t make up for it, but my record is clean, I swear, this was the only thing I did. Casino’s make 6 million dollars a year off gambling, they wouldn't miss one kid earning a bit off that.”

I won’t tell,” Derek speaks up, he thinks it only fair having not mentioned his own past to the team until it got relevant.

Others nod their agreement and a knot loosens in Spencer’s chest. However, Hotch still has to decide and Spencer might still loose it all.

Everyone holds their breath.

Seeing how far in the past it is and the circumstances, I do not see the need to notify the board,” the unit chief finally decides and Spencer lets out a big sigh of relief. “Now, Reid was right, we do still have a case. Everyone, get some rest.”

They don’t mention it again after that. The next night Spencer sleeps on the precinct couch, promising the others that it’s fine. They solve the case the day after that and are on the plane home in no time.

On the plane, Derek hesitates for a moment, then pulls out their deck of cards, before yelling: “Hey, pretty boy, just ‘cause you can’t play for money, doesn’t mean you’re getting out of this.”

Spencer is glad the other isn’t being weird about it and gladly goes to sit with him and Emily as they start the game.

They’re a few rounds in when Derek says: “Hey, Reid. All those times we joked about taking you to Vegas, huh?” Spencer nods to signal he knows what Derek is talking about. “How much were you laughing at us?”

The question honestly takes him by surprise and he honestly answers: “I didn’t. I was more scared you would connect the dots.”

Are you banned just in Vegas?” Emily asks then.

In the area, yeah,” Spencer answers, not seeing the need to list the three towns he’s not allowed to gamble in.

So, I could still bring you to an Atlanta Sin to Win weekend?” Emily says.

Spencer laughs, he can’t believe she’s still trying that. He grins: “I think we’ll both get banned if I go and I don’t think you want that.”

Damn, here I thought I got my future fortune,” Emily grins back.

And life goes on. It really isn’t a conversation topic and it gets mostly forgotten as more important things come at them that they need to focus on.

He hadn’t realized how forgotten until they’re in New Jersey, trying to track down a serial killer trying to get good luck. The whole case surrounded casino’s, but no one has turned to him to give him a look or make a dumb joke about it. They haven’t even asked if he knows anything that could help with the case, given his past.

Not that he has.

He’s seen people with rituals trying to get good luck, but he has personally never believed in it and hasn’t encountered something this extreme before. The only insight he could offer is to how a casino works, but that’s about it.

Still, he knew it would come up the moment he saw what the case is about and he’s more surprised it took this long.

They figured out what the unsub wants to win. A poker game. The buy in, 50,000 dollars. Spencer has seen more extreme, but never participated in those games, too risky when you’re technically not even allowed to be here, no matter how profitable.

However, he doesn’t offer himself as candidate. It seems unnecessary when they don’t even have the funds to be allowed to go in. As Rossi sarcastically points out: “I can’t imagine why not. We’re only asking for 50,000 bucks of taxpayer money so that FBI agents can play Texas Hold ‘Em.”

Spencer is about to agree they need another plan, when Emily says: “Hey, what about you?”

What about me?” Rossi counters immediately.

You could take us the buy-in,” Emily says.

And honestly, Spencer doesn’t see another option without people getting hurt, so he agrees: “Yeah, you’re a best-selling author.”

No!” And Spencer can’t really blame Rossi, even if it would be better if the agent agrees with them.

Why not?” Seems Emily agrees with Spencer on that.

One, it’s against regulations,” Rossi points out, like they haven’t made rasher decisions in the past to catch a killer. “And I’d like to hold onto this job for a little while longer.”

It’s a minor administrative violation,” JJ says, saying what Spencer is thinking.

And two, I prefer to spend my money on actual things, like single-malt Scotch, a fine cigar, beautiful artwork,” Rossi counters further and it is his money.

Poker chips are things.” Not that that is deterring Emily in any way and Spencer is really coming up empty on alternative and backs her up: “Maybe just think of it as, like, a new experience. I mean, at your age, how often does that happen?”

At my what.” Okay, so maybe not the best move.

Rossi, this may be our only chance to get this guy.” Thank god for JJ and her people skills and quick thinking.

All right, fine,” Rossi finally gives in. “I’m a decent poker player, but I can’t promise that I can stay in the game long enough to…”

Spencer is mostly fine with letting Rossi go in. He’s the more experienced people reader and they need to find the unsub, not just play poker. Plus it is his money, not Spencer’s, so he’s not presenting himself as player, even if he could stay in the game longer, because 50,000 dollars is a lot of money.

You know what? I bet you’re a great poker player, but what if we send in Reid?” Seems Emily is more pragmatic and sees no problem in presenting Spencer as option.

I am banned from casinos in Las Vegas, Laughling and Pahrump, because of my card-counting ability,” Spencer offers. Is it a slightly weird resume? Yes. But he can stay in the game longer and with someone else being the one to present it, he is going to jump aboard.

No one reacts to the other two towns they hadn’t known about, all too busy with the case.

Look, I know I’m not a genius like the boy wonder here, but poker is not blackjack. It’s about bluffing, reading human nature, head games. It’s not Math,” Rossi says.

And normally Spencer would let things like this go, because it is Rossi’s money and not his call in the end, but he also loves facts and poker is his favorite game. He can’t let Ross i slander the beauty of Math that comes along with behavior al analysis that makes poker such an amazing game.

That’s not entirely accurate,” he’s out of his seat before he even knows what he’s doing and writing on the whiteboard. “There actually is a Mathematical equation for knowing when to raise and when to fold. If P represents the size of the pot at the time of play, then P times N minus 1, with N representing the estimated numbers of players at the final round of betting-”

Okay, fine,” he gets cut off by Rossi before he can finish his explanation. “I surrender. Just try not to loose all my money?”

Spencer grins and takes that as a challenge.

Taking the unsub down is of course a priority, but after they’ve explained to the organizers what happened and who they are, Spencer is allowed to gather his winnings, even return to the competition if he wants.

One look from Hotch discourages that idea, so he just collects the chips and goes to get them exchanged, the others on his heels. They all want to see how much he’s won. Rossi even jokingly comments: “You better not have lost too much.”

He doesn’t reply more beyond a cheeky grin, before depositing his wins. He already knows how much he won, but it’s less fun to tell them. As the man at the register counts, Spencer asks: “Hey, Rossi, do I get to keep what I won? I technically earned it and you’ll still get your money back.”

Rossi is a smart man, who merely replies: “We’ll see.”

The registry man can’t help, but nod slightly impressed once he’s done counting and says: “You’ve won 107,580 dollars, congratulations.”

There is a moment of stunned silence, before Derek whistles and Emily hoots, patting him hard on the back. Rossi blinks a few times before grinning and even Hotch shares a small smile with JJ, who looks impressed.

Damn, pretty boy really does have game,” Derek says as the money is being counted.

Well,” Spencer blushes. “I had a higher buy-in than I’m used to and we we’re making 8,000 dollar bets throughout. I just played smart and it took me a while before I was at the right table.”

That’s still impressive, Reid,” JJ says.

Yeah, you can keep the money you won on that just from extraordinary points alone,” Rossi agrees.

Spencer is in the process of taking the money and quickly goes: “No, no, here, I was just joking, Rossi. That’s your money.

I’ll take it,” Emily holds out her hand, grinning mischievously as Derek pushes her, before pausing and saying: “I want in too.”

You know, we’ll split the money,” Rossi says.

Including Garcia and giving Rossi his orginal 50,000 back that’s still 8,255.71 dollar,” Spencer quickly calculated.

I will take that,” Emily shakes Rossi’s hand quickly and firmly, before Rossi can back out.

Aren’t your parents rich, Em?” JJ asks, always having thought those comments were jokes.

Emily shrugs: “They also taught me to never say no to money.”

I can get behind that,” Derek grins, slinging an arm around Spencer. “Thanks for the money, pretty boy.”

He rolls his eyes, but it’s nice to share his winnings openly with friends, more family, without having to hide or be ashamed. It feels like coming full circle and reclaiming the game he’s always loved for his own and good memories.

Spencer’s game is poker and he can say that with a smile.