I know I’m not alone when I say my husband plays Poker with the Guys, and he has done so (sporadically) for as long as I’ve known him. He leaves the house with a wallet full of twenties and more often than not, returns quietly late in the night, slipping sheepishly into bed. If his adrenaline wakes me, he does not (usually) rain dollar bills down on my body, but rather talks about an inevitable bad beat, like when his Nut Flush got beaten by an unforeseeable Full House.
About 3 years ago, he was invited to join a regular monthly poker tournament. He would win sometimes, he would lose more often, but always seems to have a good time. And I didn’t really mind being left with our 3 little kids, as they do fall asleep eventually, leaving me to drool freely over McDreamy and McSteamy on Grey’s Anatomy.
Till one night, he came home early and empty handed, ranting about how he couldn’t possibly play as he was placed at a table full of women, who made it impossible for him to think, distracting him with their inane talk of deals on sheets at HomeSense.
“Women?” I asked, my radar blinking, “I thought this was a boys night?”
“Noooo,” he admitted sheepishly, but quickly added, “and you’re welcome to come with me next time.”
“No,” I demurred, “I don’t know how to play poker and I hate to lose money.”
“It’s only $40 bucks, cheaper than taking you out for dinner,” he reasoned, ever the romantic. “Come along with me next time.”
Hmmm, wrestle 3 kids into bed or put makeup on and be social? And I had to check out these women he was hanging out with, just to be sure.
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No Limit Texas Hold-Em, they say, takes 5 minutes to learn to play and a lifetime to master. And after 3 hands, I was hooked. It’s a strategic cat and mouse game, ridiculously easy to play, but knowing when to bet and when to fold, how much and how aggressively takes hours of subtle observation and focus.
There are more than 40 of us in this poker group, professionals in finance, law, and homemaking, who vie for the 20 tournament spots each month. It is run by a very organized Commissioner (The Commish) who sends out the invitations, organizes houses to host the tournament, runs spreadsheets tracking attendance and winnings, awards cash prizes and points for the top 6 finishers each tournament. The points are tallied up over the year and the top 9 finishers (and 1 wildcard) qualify for the Tournament of Champions (TOC), with a total prize pool of more than $2,000 (siphoned off the monthly tournaments). Like I said, very, very organized.
In my freshman year, I won a tournament once, I think primarily due to the fact that I was new to the group, and no one knew my playing style. I was ecstatic, and bought something (I’ve forgotten what) with my $200 of winnings. Not bad for 5 hours of work, I say, and much more fun! The 10 points awarded for a first place finish, also qualified me for the annual Tournament of Champions. At the TOC, I was such a pile of nerves, you would have thought it was the World Series of Poker. I was shown the door relatively early, finishing 7th, well out of the money, but quite relieved I wasn’t the first to do the Walk of Shame.
In my sophomore year, I didn’t make the cut (though my husband did) and I went out with the girls while my husband waged battle with the Poker gods of luck and lost.
This year, my husband and I are tied at the top of the points race, which means we get to start with the largest chip stacks, a huge advantage for those who know how to wield them. The 2010 Tournament of Champions is this Friday, with pride and money at stake. My husband is practicing online, analyzing playing styles (loose v. tight, bluffer or not), and developing strategies on how to play them.
As for me, I’m working on my poker face. I think poker is 90% luck of the cards and 10% skill (which includes betting and crafting a good poker face). Since I can’t calculate pot odds to save my life, I’m counting on two glasses of pinot grigio and my lucky bracelet my 5 year old made me to make me the last person standing.
Mama needs a new pair of shoes! And if I win, I promise they’ll be Louboutins!
Wish me luck!