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I learned how to play poker from MoC, of course. And my dad. And my mom’s aunt and uncle. They played every Friday night for years. Stud, Hold ’em, Omaha, 5 card draw and then the games they made up, like Pass the Trash and Mabel. Every time someone announced the game Mabel, my Uncle Bud would say, “Get off the table, Mabel. The two dollars is for the beer.”

When I got old enough, I played with them. I even had a little cheat sheet because I could never remember if a flush beat a full house (it doesn’t).

The players changed when people started dying. I replaced my dad, my brother replaced my uncle, my ex-husband replaced my aunt. We played for nickels and dimes, but we played for real. Everyone wanted to win. That’s the table where I learned that check raising is severely frowned upon and that no matter what the player says, the cards always speak for themselves.

Cards don’t lie.

For a while, my dream was to win a satellite tournament and get a seat at the World Series of Poker that happens every July. This year there were 6,865 entrants and a $64,531,000 prize pool. I’d never make it to the final table – I would be shark bait long before I got there. But the idea of it … I like it.

I used to play on Pokerstars before the goddamn government decided to save me from myself and made online gambling illegal. I never made a lot of money, but I won more than I lost and I’m irritated that I can’t play for money anymore. That is another blog rant, though.

This one is just about playing and losing yourself in the game.

Playing for chips is a lot different than playing for money. When it’s just chips, you have nothing to lose except a little pride. When it’s money, even if it’s only $5, it means a lot more. You pay more attention to how others are playing, what they bet, when they bet, when they fold. Playing for cash is more interesting, and more fun, than playing for chips. But hey, I take what I can get. The other thing about playing for chips is that you can reload when you lose your stack. Theoretically, it doesn’t matter if I have 2-7 against a pair of aces because I could hit a set and dodge an ace. Theoretically. In real poker, that doesn’t happen often.

Pokerstars didn’t change anything but the real money incentive. Tournaments still call for a certain buy-in and most of them are above the 2,000 chips you get if/when you reload. I wanted to play in a tournament with a 2,100 buy-in. I had 431 chips.

So I played for an hour and won enough for the buy-in. I played for another 90 minutes and took 3rd place, good for 9,700. I was in 2nd for a while, but I took a beating on a hand and dropped to 5th. That was at the final table, though, and I didn’t have enough chips to push anyone around so I just had to fight two players between me and the 2nd place guy. By the time I got them out, 2nd place had me covered 3 to 1 and I couldn’t get past him. Still, not bad for a couple hours work.

What does all of that have to do with anything?

Nothing. It has nothing to do with anything. I just like poker. I’m good at it. I’m not good at people, but I’m good at poker players. And I’m thinking that life is a lot like poker, but I don’t want it to be like poker – I want people to be nice and to be honest and to be fair. When people aren’t nice or honest or fair, it confuses me. I’m always behind and chasing the turn to catch up.

It might not seem like it, but I’ve actually told you a lot about myself in this post, more than I usually do.

I have set up another blog. There’s nothing on it yet. That doesn’t mean I’ll be giving up this one, but there was always a barrier here, a point I could not get past.

It’s time to cash out and find a new game.