My neighbor across the street recently invited me to play poker with his crowd. We’ve talked for awhile about this but I had pretty much given up hope of it ever happening. I had been driving back-and-forth to Winston-Salem to play cards because it was a good group of guys, but it was tough to make the two-hour round trip, especially with the back half coming around 3:30 AM and knowing the pitter-patter of little feet was just a couple of hours away.
Generally, with a group of people who play regularly, they don’t invite a new person to come unless he can provide a nice place to play or can hook the crowd up with some nice amenities or they think he’s someone who they can win money from easily. My guess is they were looking at me to fill the last spot among those three choices.
I’m not a “press the flesh” type of guy and I get tense, nervous, uptight and extremely uncomfortable around new people. So, my first night playing with this new group, there are 13 guys, of which I know one. Now I am trying my best not to sweat like Albert Brooks in Broadcast News, especially since I’m convinced that I’m here only because these guys are going to rob me blind. And just to complete the scene, right before I walk in the room, I bang my head on a low-flying beam.
Everyone is super nice and 11 people introduce themselves to me at once. I do the only thing I can to calm myself – I start drinking heavily. Now, drinking heavily has a much different definition for me now than it did when I was a borderline alcoholic. It is actually very inexpensive for me to get drunk these days.
Anyway, these guys play Hold ’em tournaments and they are very precise. They time when the bids go up, exchange money in and out like a Vegas casino and generally run a tight ship. I draw high card and deal first. I make a great first impression by failing to burn a card before the flop. I can see the dollar signs flashing in their eyes and wish I had a hole to crawl in and die.
Usually I am a somewhat loose player but tonight I decide to do my best Dan Harrington imitation and play tight. The gods smile on me and give me some good cards early so I collect a few pots right off the bat.
My life as a poker rock has a short lifespan, however; and buoyed by a large chip stack, I play more aggressively and start winning without the best cards. One guy is convinced he has me figured out and calls a big bet, but this time I have pocket jacks and the turn and the river offer him no help.
I ended up being the big winner that night. It’s a great feeling walking into a room where everyone expects you to be a tool and proving them otherwise. But anyone who has ever played cards knows that the game will humble you quickly.
The next two tournaments I played in, I got knocked out by guys chasing cards and catching flushes on the river. It happens.
The last one I played in I cashed by finishing third. Should have finished second but one guy just had the charmed life. I’d rather lose to a guy like that, because good cards don’t last forever. I’ll be looking for him next week.
I’ve paid my dues with the new crowd and now I’m even on their text list for games on nights besides the regular Monday gig. The only thing left is to learn everyone’s real name.