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Monday, 06 April
I Hardly Know Her

A month or so ago, I attended a poker tournament at my friend Will's. I ended up winning the thing, beating out, among others, a professional poker dealer; this was mainly due to outlandishly freakish luck. By way of example, the last hand of the night--against the poker dealer--had him going all-in against my straight flush. (Early in the game, I managed to knock Will out first, who had sensibly put in all his money with pocket aces, which I promptly cracked with an improbable trip sevens.) It was thoroughly disgusting for everyone involved who wasn't me, and I received a well-deserved earful about it. It was like a diseased hamster showed up at a magic convention and made Australia disappear.

Last Friday, we had round two. It was, by and large, the same lineup as the last time with a few exceptions; a couple guys from the first one had been driven clinically insane by their absurd, existential loss to me before and were chewing on their arms locked up in Arkham. Joining us in their stead was Will's girlfriend Julea, a fairly driven woman who had been playing thousands of hands online, including her phone. Present as well was Jake, the affable dealer; Tony, who plays with a kind of stoner gentleness that almost makes you forgive his supernatural knack for sucking you out on wildly improbable river draws; Warren, a voluble and volatile ur-competitor who is given to howling epithets like "You're going to taste my shoe polish in the back of your throat when we're done!"; Kevin, another gentle soul who should probably take up some other game not involving cards (he went out holding absolutely nothing--I mean it; his final hand, when revealed, was like a terrible pointillist painting. It was utterly senseless close up, but even backing away from it, it still looked like a chaotic mess. He might have actually had a Rules for Contract Bridge card in there, I think).

The game began horribly enough, with the glitteringly predatory Julea staring us down like a hyena regarding several abandoned corpses. She took down an early huge pot with a miserable pair of sevens (I had nines, god dammit), and then later fixed me with a truly frightening smile as she called my fairly massive bet based on my made flush. She turned over her full house, and I thought, You are being killed by a tiny little girl, but fortunately, it's the sort of thing you're used to.

In the meantime, Warren spent a wild three hands in a row with Tony, and Tony ate his fucking lunch on every one of them. Now, you have to realize that Warren is an intense, competitive fellow even when money isn't on the line. So you can imagine how well it went over when Warren turned over a Q-5 to make trip queens and Tony then lazily flipped over hiis Q-6 . . . and the kickers played. Tony blinked owlishly, not sure what the outcome was. "Is it . . . is that a chop pot?" he asked innocently. "NO, YOU FUCKING MOTHERFUCKER!" screamed Warren, leaping up from his chair and, for reasons best not inquired about, embracing a nearby bookcase. He looked like a surrealist's Pieta. "QUEEN SIX, MOTHERFUCKER! ARE YOU BLIND?" Warren hopped around a bit and then paced, as if nervous motion would turn back time and allow him to pull back his chips and poison Tony before the previous deal.

Eventually Warren sat back down and adopted the red-eyed stare of a man preparing to climb a bell tower. "Awkward," whispered Will, and then Julea promptly sacked the room again with yet another hideous straight. I stared at my dwindling chips and sipped a whiskey; Will hollered encouragement to his girlfriend; Warren sat tightly, his entire body a series of mistuned piano strings. Tony, unconcerned as ever, murmured something about having to go see his girlfriend and said he'd be back in a few minutes: "Just go ahead and take my blinds." Kevin, long since having nonsensed his way out of the game, was content to occasionally cut the deck when needed.

Eventually, I got knocked out on some terrible hand that I felt obliged to go all-in on and was called by approximately every person at the table and some random telephoners from New Hampshire that had learned of my awful hand; I got slaughtered. Fortunately, we had decided that everyone was allowed one re-buy back in that would give you half the chips you started with. Everyone at the table ended up using the re-buy except for Julea, who continued her implacable mission to destroy us all; only laconic Tony and his preternatural life-draining draw luck could match her; I suspect he is an incubus.

For my part, I had to be cautious. Facing such strong chip stacks, I became, for a time, very conservative, playing only strong hands. Fortunately for me, right about this time, I started catching cards again. Ace-queen brought me some money, as did a blessed pair of kings. Grotesquely, around this time, I also managed to catch a grisly quad sevens, which provoked dark muttering; fortunately, Warren was not in that hand, because I think he might have bled out of all of his orifices and then destroyed Tokyo.

Then I knocked out Warren. Warren had been drinking nothing but Amstel Light all night, citing past poker failures as being caused by his profligate intake of whiskey. Warren, it must be said, took it as amiably as possible given the circumstances. "Is it time for whiskey now, Warren?" we cautiously asked. "Yes," he replied. "Yes, it fucking is." His mood immediately improved.

A funny thing was happening. I was building my stack quietly, still catching pretty decent cards. I folded when I wasn't in the blinds, for the most part, unless I had some monster, and Julea . . . her stack was slowly being reduced. A few hands later, Tony bit the dust, his stoner luck finally ground out when someone switched out one of his hole cards with the six of cups from a Tarot deck and he didn't notice. This left Julea and myself. And a few hands later, she was out.

Yeah, I won again. Two for two. And I again want to reassert this: I'm terrible. I generally have no idea what I'm doing, I am never reliably sure of what my opponent might be holding, and I'm pretty sure I'm about as difficult to read as a billboard. And yet I've lucked into two wins in a row. This won't last, if only because if it ever happens again, my fellow poker players will mount my head on a pike and hang a sign on it out in the yard which reads: "OH MY FUCKING GOD FUCK THIS TOOL."

So I am loathed. I am also $150 richer. It's so totally worth it.


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Comments

I liek it.

Comment number: 018103   Posted by: on April 8, 2009 08:11 PM from IP: 64.180.87.168

I believe the phrase you are looking for is "Liquor in the front, poker in the rear."

Comment number: 018105   Posted by: flamingbanjo on April 8, 2009 09:34 PM from IP: 216.231.38.72

The last sentence of the first paragraph had me choking on my morning hot chocolate, I was laughing so hard.

Comment number: 018381   Posted by: rothbeastie on April 16, 2009 07:38 AM from IP: 167.246.2.28

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