“No, games just to feel out the competition.
“No, I guess the ladies didnt help me.
I flopped the nut straight.” Yeahbaby I won! It just so happened that this was the final game of cards forthat particular evening always the highest paying jackpot. I sat in all myglory.
The two queens in my hand that everyone had been fearing had meantnothing. The pair of “ladies” served as bait in one of the most grueling andmentally exhausting night of card playing in my life. My straight, a sequence of5 cards in numerical order, will be remembered and duplicated for some timewithin the group of patrons that night. But it was not just mere lady luck by myside. I outsmarted or out-guessed my opposition. It was through a conditioningof memorizing facial and verbal expressions that I was able to earn quite ahealthy 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 seeeach other throughout the year get a chance to bond through a spirited night ofplaying poker. Among the eight players gathered around the table on thisparticular eve were my good friends Dave and Joe.
It was every man for himselfat the table, but on occasion, the three of us have been known to work togetherand then at the end of the night we would split out earnings. Minimum buy-in wasa hundred dollars since this was a once a year special occasion for us. It wasten oclock at night, and the game was under way. At first, we played somesmall money games just to feel out the competition.
You can tell many thingsfrom the eyes of your opponent. During this stage, you would be examining who isworking together, detecting others tendencies, and starting to counting cards.Usually the player(s) who win these games are the first ones out of money whenthe real games start. This is because this means that they are beginners, andlack of experience or inability to disguise a bluff later lead to the deflationof their over-confidence.
By about two oclock in the morning, the heavybidding poker games begin. Now all your hard work begins to pay off, and thenight really becomes fun. We had about five people left as the others had lostall their money at this time. As a tendency, we do not play just one style ofgame, but many different styles of poker. Cincinnati, Texas Hold em and Studname just a few. The only notable difference in each type in the number and/ororder 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 moreaggressive while others become quiet and uncomfortable for each type of handthey 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 investmore of their money into the game. A technique that would not be something youcould find in a reference novel but is considered unique to the opponent andsituation. Meanwhile, there are usually all sorts of worthless bantering goingon.
This trash talking means absolutely nothing, yet can mean absolutelyeverything as it served a dual purpose. The first was to confuse the opponenteither by making him or her lose count of the cards or by disguising yourreaction to your own cards. The idea was to make no expression at all, hence theterm “poker face”.
The second purpose was to intimidate the others by tryingto psyche out the opponent – forcing them to play your game. A good irritantthat works only if you are winning for the night but happen to lose one handwould be, “It doesnt matter, Im just paying you with your own moneyanyway.” Around four oclock, we came across a high stakes game. The pot wasup 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 outof money; obviously, he was not a legitimate contender.
Dave lit a cigarette, soI knew this meant he had a damn good hand. Joe, on the other hand, was staringthrough 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 ifhe indeed had a good hand – he would not have needed to. He was trying to psycheme out into believing he had something unbeatable.
I then realized that whetherJoe stared too intensely at me or too passively at nothing at all, he hadsomething far from unbeatable. There was such a fine line between catching abluff or being tricked by one. The normal eye would not notice these unspokenwords. Although there were piles of money in the pot, and I did have a decenthand, I folded before I lost my money.
I then sat back and watched. Dave thenproceeded to take Joes money just like I knew he would have taken mine.Guessing correctly at anothers hand was a very satisfying experience.
Now its8 AM and everyone is tired, but its time for the last game of the night whichis usually a very high staked, winner-takes-all game. The game was very long andtedious. However, after the smoke cleared, it boiled down to just Dave and Iwith any money left.
There was $600 in the pot for the winner. Since that amountof cash and bragging rights for the year were up for grabs, we were extremelycautious. Judging from Daves expressions, he had nothing neither too good nortoo 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 isplayed. You then use the best 5 out of the 7 cards for your hand. He was dealtnothing 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 thefourth card in the series – making for an unbeatable hand. Now, my game plan wasto 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. Thatmeans he thought he had a three of a kind that was higher in rank than thequeen. Bingo! I knew he had three kings or three aces.
The pot was up to $800dollars and winner takes all. Taking a gamble, I assumed that he could not havegotten four of a kind because I had in my hand his forth ace and his fourthking. We are both confident that we were going to win. He lights his would belast cigarette for the night which further makes me believe that is hand is goodbut not that good he is nervous.
Sure enough, he turns over his three acesand says, “Sorry the ladies didnt help you out.” I let out a big sighthat 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 theladies didnt help me. I flopped the nut straight.
” And then I proceeded toproudly lay my straight on the table for all to admire. If you did not know, astraight in poker just barely beats three of a kind. That night, actually thenext morning because I did not get home until 10:00 am, I walked out of therewith $800. Also, that night there were no friends or mercy. But after all thearguing, everyone was friends because you wouldnt have sat down at the gamein the first place unless you were willing to lose your original hundreddollars.
So all of the tricks and minuscule characteristics that one can pick upon can prove to be useful. Thanks to the jargon and unspoken language of thenight, I now have the money to pay for this quarters rent.