Real Life Rounders “No, I guess the ladies didnt help me. I flopped the nut straight.” Yeah baby I won! It just so happened that this was the final game of cards for that particular evening always the highest paying jackpot. I sat in all my glory. The two queens in my hand that everyone had been fearing had meant nothing. The pair of “ladies” served as bait in one of the most grueling and mentally exhausting night of card playing in my life. My straight, a sequence of 5 cards in numerical order, will be remembered and duplicated for some time within the group of patrons that night.
But it was not just mere lady luck by my side. I outsmarted or out-guessed my opposition. It was through a conditioning of memorizing facial and verbal expressions that I was able to earn quite a healthy sum that evening. On January 1, 2000, first day of the new millennium, and it was time once again for the annual “end of winter break” card game. This occurs when a small group of friends and neighbors that normally never see each other throughout the year get a chance to bond through a spirited night of playing poker. Among the eight players gathered around the table on this particular eve were my good friends Dave and Joe. It was every man for himself at the table, but on occasion, the three of us have been known to work together and then at the end of the night we would split out earnings.
Minimum buy-in was a hundred dollars since this was a once a year special occasion for us. It was ten oclock at night, and the game was under way. At first, we played some small money games just to feel out the competition. You can tell many things from the eyes of your opponent. During this stage, you would be examining who is working together, detecting others tendencies, and starting to counting cards.
Usually the player(s) who win these games are the first ones out of money when the real games start. This is because this means that they are beginners, and lack of experience or inability to disguise a bluff later lead to the deflation of their over-confidence. By about two oclock in the morning, the heavy bidding poker games begin. Now all your hard work begins to pay off, and the night really becomes fun. We had about five people left as the others had lost all their money at this time.
As a tendency, we do not play just one style of game, but many different styles of poker. Cincinnati, Texas Hold em and Stud name just a few. The only notable difference in each type in the number and/or order in which you receive your cards. Each type brings out a new personality – and thus a foretelling mannerism – in each of my friends. Some become more aggressive while others become quiet and uncomfortable for each type of hand they are holding.
For example, if Joe licks his upper lip or stares blankly off, he has a good hand and will bluff that he has a bad hand to get others to invest more of their money into the game. A technique that would not be something you could find in a reference novel but is considered unique to the opponent and situation. Meanwhile, there are usually all sorts of worthless bantering going on. This trash talking means absolutely nothing, yet can mean absolutely everything as it served a dual purpose. The first was to confuse the opponent either by making him or her lose count of the cards or by disguising your reaction to your own cards. The idea was to make no expression at all, hence the term “poker face”.
The second purpose was to intimidate the others by trying to psyche out the opponent – forcing them to play your game. A good irritant that works only if you are winning for the night but happen to lose one hand would be, “It doesnt matter, Im just paying you with your own money anyway.” Around four oclock, we came across a high stakes game. The pot was up at around $280, and there four of us still left in that were going for it – Joe, Dave, one other, and myself. The other guy was drunk by this time and out of money; obviously, he was not a legitimate contender. Dave lit a cigarette, so I knew this meant he had a damn good hand.
Joe, on the other hand, was staring through me with a cold intense demeanor, yet it was curious. What did this mean? Judging from earlier, Joe had won a few times with this confidant look. However, this time it was a bit too confident. He would not have acted that confident if he indeed had a good hand – he would not have needed to. He was trying to psyche me out into believing he had something unbeatable.
I then realized that whether Joe stared too intensely at me or too passively at nothing at all, he had something far from unbeatable. There was such a fine line between catching a bluff or being tricked by one. The normal eye would not notice these unspoken words. Although there were piles of money in the pot, and I did have a decent hand, I folded before I lost my money. I then sat back and watched.
Dave then proceeded to take Joes money just like I knew he would have taken mine. Guessing correctly at anothers hand was a very satisfying experience. Now its 8 AM and everyone is tired, but its time for the last game of the night which is usually a very high staked, winner-takes-all game. The game was very long and tedious. However, after the smoke cleared, it boiled down to just Dave and I with any money left. There was $600 in the pot for the winner. Since that amount of cash and bragging rights for the year were up for grabs, we were extremely cautious.
Judging from Daves expressions, he had nothing neither too good nor too bad. Neither did I. An ace, a ten, a jack, a three, and a king were my fate. We were each dealt an additional two cards face up. That is just how the game is played.
You then use the best 5 out of the 7 cards for your hand. He was dealt nothing that could really help him dramatically. I was dealt two queens face up. So it was an educated guess from his cards showing that he had three of a kind, but there was always the outside possibility that he could have picked up the fourth card in the series – making for an unbeatable hand. Now, my game plan was to convince him that I had another queen in my hand – thus giving me 3 queens.
From my expressions, he was convinced of this because he raised the pot. That means he thought he had a three of a kind that was higher in rank than the queen. Bingo! I knew he had three kings or three aces. The pot was up to $800 dollars and winner takes all. Taking a gamble, I assumed that he could not have gotten four of a kind because I had in my hand his forth ace and his fourth king.
We are both confident that we were going to win. He lights his would be last cigarette for the night which further makes me believe that is hand is good but not that good he is nervous. Sure enough, he turns over his three aces and says, “Sorry the ladies didnt help you out.” I let out a big sigh that was interpreted as defeat as he then started to reach for the money. However, it was merely a huge sigh of relief because I said, “No, I guess the ladies didnt help me. I flopped the nut straight.” And then I proceeded to proudly lay my straight on the table for all to admire.
If you did not know, a straight in poker just barely beats three of a kind. That night, actually the next morning because I did not get home until 10:00 am, I walked out of there with $800. Also, that night there were no friends or mercy. But after all the arguing, everyone was friends because you wouldnt have sat down at the game in the first place unless you were willing to lose your original hundred dollars. So all of the tricks and minuscule characteristics that one can pick up on can prove to be useful.
Thanks to the jargon and unspoken language of the night, I now have the money to pay for this quarters rent.