Nicholas Halden was a study in sophistication: The cut of his clothing impeccable, yet subtly casual; The whimsical, soft lilt to his voice; The radiant blue eyes; Each word precise; Each movement fluid. The moment he walked in a room Nicholas Halden commanded everyone's attention.

Today was no exception.

Nicholas Halden walked from his limo into the foyer of the Monte Carlo Grand Casino. It was 2002. He was 23. His presence - clothing, luggage and palmed cash to the concierge - suggested a maturity well beyond that. Nicholas smiled and took in the entire room, which seemed to swirl around his very existence.

Monte Carlo was one of Neal Caffrey's favourite place in the world. It was vibrant, energetic, charismatic, vivacious, alluring, it was everything that Neal loved and everything that Neal was as a man.

Nicholas Halden sat at the poker tables. He hadn't come to Monte Carlo to gamble.

Neal didn't like gambling, not with cards, not with money and certainly not with his life.

With cards you could have the best hand, play the cards perfectly but luck, luck was always there, and luck always seemed to have the best odds.

With money you could make the most honest man lust for more of the very thing you held out to him, money. The odds where more in your favour when money alone was involved, human nature provided for much better odds.

With life, Neal just didn't like any odds that played against his life, or anyone else's life for that matter. Neal liked when his odds were well in his favour.

Nicholas Halden didn't like to gamble but he sat at the poker tables. He wasn't fond of Black Jack, Roulette or Craps. They didn't provide for enough rubbing of elbows. Enough time to size up your opponent. Enough time to linger over their tells. Every hand played became a brush stroke for a portrait of each player at the table: How they bet, how cautious, how reckless; How they trusted themselves; How others could intimidate or manipulate; How they handled winning and loosing. Each hand was a lesson in humanity.

Nicholas Halden actually played across from several famous gamblers. Nicholas had once been very happy to have lost his hand to a now infamous 7 – 2 off suit. He watched men with money and men without walk away elated, frustrated, but more often than not, without their cash in hand, dejected.

Nicholas Halden was in every sense the consummate gambler. As far as anyone was concerned Nicholas had money. He could afford to loose. He could stake another hundred thousand without thought. He gambled for entertainment not profit. Although, he played each hand intently, he passed his losses off with a nonchalant ease, his winnings with reservation and poise.

Nicholas Halden captivated those he played, his skills at poker evident but his demeanour far more appreciated.

So, it was at the Poker tables that Nicholas Halden rubbed elbows.

So, it was at the Poker tables that Nicholas Halden tagged his marks.

More to come – not sure exactly where I'm headed for now. Time to get into a story.