As the gambler knows: "You gotta know when to hold 'em; know when to fold 'em." A lot of gold investors may have folded Thursday as prices careened below near-term support, but those more comfortable with the cards in their deck may be more inclined to ante up.

Meanwhile, one player at the table is sitting pretty with a royal flush. Royal Gold (NASDAQ:RGLD) delivered the kind of cash flow Thursday morning that gold investors have been patiently waiting for gold-related equities to deliver. In what I believe will be a key earnings season for producers -- as the first period where average realized gold prices stand above the watershed $1,000 mark -- Royal Gold offers a hint of the gilded profits we may soon see.

Illustrating the sheer efficiency of the royalty model, Royal Gold's $28.6 million in free cash flow for its fiscal second quarter of 2010 represents a phenomenal 82% of total revenues. Royal flips the age-old adage around -- now, a penny earned is a penny saved. Royalty revenue grew by 138% to $34.7 million, reflecting both a 38% increase in the realized gold price to $1,100 per ounce, and increased production at mines associated with four of the company's 21 producing royalties.

Like Silver Wheaton (NYSE:SLW) with the poor man's gold, Royal Gold enjoys the rather unique ability to secure future revenues that equate to low, fixed up-front production costs. The secure nature of future cash flows led this Fool to select Silver Wheaton as his top pick for 2010, but Royal Gold is holding one heck of a hand as well.

Like scoring the ten, jack, and queen of hearts on the flop, Goldcorp (NYSE:GG)'s massive Penasquito mine is ramping up on schedule to achieve commercial production later in the year. Royal Gold's 2% net smelter royalty on gold production will deliver reliable cash flow in droves.

Shareholders were dealt the king last month when Royal Gold closed on a 75% share of the first 910,000 ounces of gold production from the sulfide portion of Teck Resources' (NYSE:TCK) Andacollo copper mine in Chile, after which Royal Gold receives 50% in perpetuity. As I reported when the deal was announced, Royal Gold secured attributable production of more than 1 million ounces of gold at what amounts to a pre-paid purchase price beneath $300 per ounce.

The ace sits atop the dealer's deck, awaiting Royal Gold's proposed acquisition of International Royalty (AMEX:ROY). Employing a parallel business model for royalties in multiple commodity groups including gold, International Royalty brings producing royalties from mines like Arch Coal's (NYSE:ACI) Skyline complex and Vale's (NYSE:VALE) Voisey's Bay base-metal trove. More than just a feather in Royal Gold's cap, I believe this acquisition deals shareholders the top hand in poker: the royal flush.

Please vote in our Motley Poll below to let us know whether you're holding or folding, and share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Gold is a hot topic on the blogs at Motley Fool CAPS. Join the free service today and see just how many Fools are taking the long view when it comes to investing in gold. The "Gold" tag at CAPS lists 47 potential investments, and you'll find Christopher's comments on most of them.

Fool contributor Christopher Barker can be found blogging actively and acting Foolishly in the CAPS community under the username TMFSinchiruna. He tweets. He owns shares of Arch Coal, International Royalty Corporation, Royal Gold, Silver Wheaton, and Vale. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy never bluffs.