Picture this: You have to knock at the door to get in. There’s a password– bullfrog, maybe. Once in, the room is dim, and all you can really make out are hushed voices and cigar smoke plumes. Your eyes focus, and you see thirty or so men strewn about. The room smells like thirty year old scotch. The sound you hear: poker chips being tossed onto the table. Poker night.
It’s cliché, the old-time poker game. In the new millennium poker is everywhere. Video games, neighborhood parties, ESPN, even church’s are cashing in with Texas Hold-Em fundraisers. It has become a very accessible, accepted game.
Tom introduced me to Texas Hold’em about seven years ago, and I was immediately seduced by the game. He bought me Phil Hellmuth’s book. I learned when to hold’em. I learned when to fold’em. But you can’t learn feeling, and what I feel when playing is intoxicating. The rush of holding Pocket Aces hoping for a good flop. The pounding in my chest when I have the best hand but I am playing like I don’t.
After I learned, I really only played on-line. Back then, the government had not yet figured out how to shut down poker sites, so Tom and I would load up $25.00 a month and play in dollar tournaments. In any given tournament, I could be playing against a thousand or more other players from all around the world. Usually, I would win my money back, sometimes I would win a couple bucks. For me, the best on-line poker experience was an evening tournament. I had put the girls to bed and started a nine o’clock $5.00 game with a thousand person limit. (Oh yes, a five dollar game. I was getting better.) I took on the persona of the lion that night, and for whatever reason, it didn’t feel like I could lose. I played for over five hours and came in fourth– winning a hefty pot of $600.00!
About two years ago, however. the government derailed our on-line playing. The majority of sites are shut down to Americans. The government doesn’t want any of us to have any fun if they can’t have a cut of the pot, too! I was forced to stop playing poker. I will admit, I was a little jittery at first. I had to find new ways of entertaining myself in the evening. I turned to Facebook. I turned to Tetris. As much as these activities do offer me hours of entertainment, I still had the itch to play poker.
Then one cold evening last winter, I got the call. Scott, my friend of almost twenty years, is in a poker league and someone dropped out of his table and they needed someone to take the spot. It is a seasonal league: about twice a month from December until April. As I listened to his spiel about rules and fees, my fingers started to tingle. I could see Big Slick and the Ladies waving at me, I could feel the chips in my hands. “Yes! Yes! Yes! I will play poker!” I think I screamed out a little like Meg Ryan in the restaurant scene of “When Harry Met Sally.”
And like the lady at the next table, everyone should order what I am having– A blast! Tonight is poker night, and I plan on playing to win.