I have been playing Poker for some time now, after falling in love with the game some years ago when long nights and unseen mornings was the bread and butter of any self-respecting teenager.
Bets were pennies (or beans, whichever was easier to get) and the thrill was to beat your peers, and if they were the best friends even better and impress the (pretty) ladies.
When you first play, the adrenalin of the betting gets to you, like a rush that makes you feel alive. You feel the blood coming up from your legs, your stomach, chest, neck, face, shoulders, arms, hands and fingers. Unlike sex (good sex at least), you cannot express externally all that vulcanicity going inside your body and mind. It is like trying to keep a lid on a pan of boiling water, without burning your hands (pun intended) in the process. Thinking about it, it sounds like S&M (well, more M than S) but the required discipline to be a Poker player is right up there, next to the Shaolin monks and Indian yogis, with the added difficulty of having to enjoy the whole experience at the same time. Yes, because if you donâ€™t enjoy it, youâ€™ll never be a real Poker player. Sounds mad? Read on…
I arrived at the Club at half past seven, with my friends from work who introduced me to the place. It is all very professional (members only and all) but very relaxed and casual at the same time (anyone can register to be a member). This is actually the kind of place I would go to for an afternoon coffee or meal and never thought there would be any gamming around (well, the 30 or so computer screens with people playing online poker kind of gives you a big tip).
After registered as a member (I look forward to the ‘private membership’ card) and a couple of calming-down drinks, I was seated in a table of funny looking people: two gambling-addicted looking Chinese guys, an extrovert open-handed Hawaiian shirt-dressed middle-aged English man, an eccentric French woman, an American-looking amateur, a beautiful and quiet Malaysian girl and an nice old poker-pro chap, who fortunately sat next to me and walked me through the etiquette of the game (*phew*) and gave me some good sound advice. I must say, I was a bit nervous. Not that it would show, but, just in case, I made sure everyone there knew I was a complete rookie. Perhaps that would fool them long enough to survive my way into the next table. And guess what? It did.
Sure thing, I lost my original 500 chips after 45 minutes but there’s the chance of a re-buy up to the first hour, so not all was lost. After the top-up (the last possible buy of a stack of 500 chips) I had around 1600, so only 400 down from my original 2000. I thought that was quite good until I started hearing people saying things like “I only have 2 or 3 thousand to go round, not the best night this week”. That made me more anxious than their silly Poker faces. After moving to my next table, and seeing some of my friends loose all their chips and heading home, the quality of the players was noticeably increasing. I knew I didn’t stand a chance of big bucks but I was only concentrating on surviving, which explains my 90% folding rate pre-flop and why I was able to bluff my way into a couple of hands to grab a few more chips. Time is now ten past eleven and the tube in London closes around 12 so I had two stark choices: either make my way into the last table and get enough money to get a cab back home (yeah, right) or leave soon and get a train while I could. They say lucky hands come in pairs and after winning a nice pot which doubled my chips from 500 to 1000, I got a pair of fives. Now, this is Holdem, which means two cards is what you get before 5 community cards are drawn on the table. That pair was probably the best starting hand I had the whole night, and I was seeing pots being won by high cards only, so I decided it was time to give it a go. I was all in.
The lady next to me, who came to our table looking like a scared puppy with a meagre stack of 500 chips, was now with 5000. She had won a nice couple of hands not long ago without even having to show her cards. Bluffing, everyone seemed to presume but wasn’t brave enough to put their money where their thoughts were. She raised me. “What the hell is she doing?” I thought to myself. Everyone else folds except this extra-pro looking guy, shades included, who called her 3000 raise and goes all in as well. So, there we are, two all ins and this puppy-looking lady. Since no more bets were gona be made, we all showed our cards before the flop. The pro had an Ace over Jacks (why do they always seem to rely on this card combination?). I proudly showed my pair of fives. The puppy had a pair of Aces. Damn, she’s good, but with the other guy having an Ace, probability of a five coming on community cards is a lot higher than another Ace. I can now hear some of my old friends screaming “probab- what? Stop rationalizing the game, its all about luck!”. And there it is, the second card of the flop, the freaking Ace. Not a five in sight. And that is probably what they mean with the lucky hands comming one after the other..Oh well, maybe next time…
And that was about the right time, because I got the last tube home! Gutshot, I shall see you in a couple of weeks time, I want my thirty quid back!!!