Texas Hold ’Em, almost
One woman’s brush with (sort of) with poker greatness
By Victoria Shouldis email@example.com
The time had come for me to sail upon the river. To turn toward greatness. To win the flop, but not to be one.
It was time, in short, to play Texas Hold ’Em. Live.
Or so I thought.
Like just about everybody else, I’ve gotten addicted to Celebrity Poker Showdown. Deadpan host Dave Foley balances mockery and smarts, and Phil Gordon, the expert guy, comes off as an affable poker nerd who could, if pushed, kill you in your sleep.
Then there’s the extra bonus each week of “Who is that guy?” Poker Showdown, like so many quasi-reality shows these days, defines celebrity very, very loosely: as far as I can figure, you can be less famous, say, than somebody who once guest-starred on MacGyver, but more famous than me. But not by much.
Mostly, though, watching Poker Showdown does allow you to pick up the basics of Texas Hold ’Em, and eventually, you even begin making comparisons: “Gee, I must be at least as bright as Joey Fatone – whoever he is – so I bet I wouldn’t be bad at this game at all!”
You can guess how things progress from there. Pretend play on the web. The purchase of a home Texas Hold ’Em Kit (I must be honest here – I bought the kit partly for the cards and chips but mostly for the very cool yet unmistakably cheesey stainless steel official Texas Hold ’Em case the cards and chips came in. I, sadly, am a sucker for such things.)
A single attempt at home play was not, honestly, quite as wildly successful as I expected. In my defense, my always tenuous grasp of what hand, exactly, beats what hand was clouded by having to also remember what monetary value we had assigned the different colored chips. Trust me, it isn’t so easy to remember that three eights with a queen kicker beats two pair when you can’t quite recall if the purple chip you are about to lose is worth $1 or $5 in make-believe cash.
I was undaunted, though. So when a local charitable organization sponsored a Las Vegas Night, I recruited my eternally good-natured compadres Liz and Jen to accompany me and off we three went to conquer live table gambling.
We each bought $20 in chips — happily, these chips were each labeled with “$1” in a lovely gold-colored font, so there went that worry! — and we studied the room. The first thing I noticed was that the folks seated at the various Hold ’Em tables were almost inevitably male. Most wore hats — some baseball caps, some cowboy — and they all seemed to give off a scary scent of high-octane testosterone and murderous concentration.
Okay. So I didn’t play Texas Hold ’Em. They did not have those highly necessary cheat sheets situated on the Hold ’Em tables. It seemed clear to me that my semi-clueless friendly play wouldn’t be amusing to these fellows. Also, I am at my very core a coward. A big yellow one.
The evening was not a failure, though. We searched for a less intense game, and found it in Let It Ride.
We played a few hands, and before we knew it, we had pretty well settled in for the evening — as had everybody else as our table. Unlike Hold ’Em, Let It Ride allows for more than one winner per hand, so there’s no need to sit there and secretly pray for your neighbor to lose and lose big. You can win and everybody else at the table can win too.
This lack of cut-throatedness — as well as, perhaps, the inexpensive items available at the bar — allowed a certain level of camaraderie to develop at the tables. We shared our table with a cordial couple who had a tale or two to tell us of visits to Vegas –– you could tell they were sophisticates by how they left the word “Las” out. Rounding out the table was Jim, also a newbie to the game. What Jim lacked in actual game skill he made up for with a boisterous, odd but honest, slightly beer-fueled sort of charm. Wearing a tee-shirt that read “the beatings will continue until morale improved” that did little to cover his multitude of tattoos, Jim took the opportunity to share and share a lot: by the end of the night we’d learned Jim’s profession, high school attended, marital and child status, type of vehicle he drove, and most vividly, how he’d spent a fair part of the ’80s running around to rock concerts and wearing spandex and how really, he was okay with that.
And you know what? We were OK with that too. We had a lot of fun. We learned everything we wanted to know about Jim but were afraid to ask. And I went home with just $8 less than when I started, while my compadres actually managed to come out $22 ahead between them.
And as for Hold ’Em? There’s always next time. Maybe I just need me a cowboy hat.
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