I was a bit of a dorky kid – the chubby eldest daughter of immigrant parents (they adhered to the carrot & wooden spoon approach to parenting way before Amy Chua was even born) – no boyfriends, no sleepovers, no team sports. True to stereotype, I played piano for YEARS (even though I hated it and my teacher) and for fun, I played flute in my high school band. I have never known the feeling of working for something superfluous (read, non-academic) and winning a trophy. No soccer trophies adorned the walls of my adolescent room, unless you count the Math Medal I got in Grade 9. These days, smart kids who excel in Math are called Mathletes and are proud in knowing that they’ll probably invent the next Facebook and become billionaires or something, but back in the early eighties, we were just called nerds.
That is, until last Friday. What a crazy day! My little sister gave birth to beautiful twins in the morning. I was lucky enough to cuddle them both when they were just hours old. The miracle of their being born moved me to tears, unexpectedly, throughout the day. Hours later, I left the hospital, emotionally spent and smelling of new baby and drove through the city at rush hour to pick up my older kids who were playing at a friend’s house. Upon my arrival, my lovely friend plunked a delicious glass of white wine into my tired hands and we talked briefly about my poker strategy (none). One glass in and my exhaustion tempered, I set out to meet my fate.
The “casino” was hopping with energy – the 10 Tournament of Champions finalists, their spouses, and what seemed like many, many children (3 of them mine). The wine was flowing and a 4 course gourmet dinner that would rival any downtown restaurant was served (roasted cauliflower soup with parmesan crisps, bacon bits and chives, followed by a parmesan-crusted asparagus topped green salad, followed by a portabello mushroom and goat cheese stuffed roast beef, and finished with Bananas Foster – I’m not kidding). The atmosphere was almost festival-like, with a photographer snapping candid shots and at least a dozen kids wreaking havoc, playing tag.
Despite being 3 glasses in, I could still feel my nerves flexing in my stomach, so I started in on the chip bowl in an effort to suffocate them. With my arm acting as a self-loading conveyor belt, I managed to put away a king size bag of Old Dutch Pepper flavoured chips before the tournament Commissioner finally motioned us to our randomly selected seats.
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So while my blog post title doesn’t leave much room for suspense, with a few days to digest my win, these I believe are my tips for winning at No-Limit Texas Hold ‘Em:
Seating (read: LUCK) – This is where luck first rears its head, before even the cards are first shuffled. I was seated to the left of my husband (good luck) and to the right of two of the smartest and most aggressive players in our group (very bad luck). I told James right then and there, that due to his position on the table, my money would be on him to win. He thanked me and agreed that his seating was superior to mine.
Card Markers (read: LUCK) – Being such a game of luck, many poker players bring a lucky charm with them to the table. Card markers are supposed to distinguish your cards from others and from the ones that have already been folded. My husband’s talisman is a black Playmobil dragon that stands over 10 inches tall and shines red light through its flared nostrils. Others use a gorilla, a special chip, what have you. Mine is a beaded bracelet my 5 year old made at a birthday party he went to last year. It’s adorable, beads and stars, in primary colours, threaded onto a shiny plastic string. He interspersed the letters of his name among the beads, but being 4 at the time, the bracelet reads F-I-Z-Z, instead of F-I-N-N and I love it. I wear it on my left wrist and stroke it fervently when I’m drowning in bad cards, hoping the luck of the bracelet will bring the good cards back to me. And I tell you, it works nearly every time. Plus I can’t think of a better good luck charm than being awash in the scent of newborn twins!
Being Present – I believe another key to my success, is my poor memory. I blame it on my children, but once I fold my cards, I cannot remember for the life of me, what I just held in my hands. I’ll look at the flop and try to remember what I had just tossed to no avail. But I think if you are able to remember that you just tossed J8 off-suit and the flop is 8 8 J, the next hand you are more likely to limp in with less than stellar cards hoping to catch some more of that luck. And if you limp in with crap, more often than not, you will just watch your chip stack dwindle away. Being present, and not lamenting over what you did or didn’t do two hands ago, is critical to playing well. Copious amounts of wine assist in
memory lossbeing present.
Knowing When to Fold Them – Clearly there is skill involved in this game. Knowing which hands to play, which to fold, and which ones to bluff, is Part one. Part two is knowing when to bet, how much and when to run screaming away from a hand that has you beat. Hold ‘Em tournaments are marathons (our 10 player tournament took nearly 5 hours) where you have to make sure you ride the flow of good cards and patiently outlast the bad cards. But if you don’t have good luck, no amount of skill will put you in the money.
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Since my memory is poor, I can’t remember any knockout hands, though I do remember precisely when my bad luck turned. I was on the brink of elimination when I rivered a 9 or something to catch two pair and tripled my chip count. I nearly got extinguished again by a formidable female player who always seems to have my number, but somehow I smartened up and tightened up my play with her. I also remember that I accidentally knocked out my husband, so that he finished in 4th place (like I said, I was to his lucky left), but in retrospect it was a good thing for me, as he knows my playing style the best and I’m sure, would have beat me in heads up.
I’m blathering a bit here, but to summarize, I won! I won over $1300 (Mr. Louboutin, I’m coming for you!) and a kickin’ trophy to boot (see below). Yay, me!
My only disappointment of the evening was to receive my winnings via personal cheque. I had kind of envisioned dollar bills and confetti falling from the roof…maybe next year?