Real Life Rounders

"No, I guess the ladies didn’t 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 o’clock 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 o’clock 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 doesn’t matter, I’m just paying you with your own money
anyway." Around four o’clock, 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