PITTSBURGH -- I have played poker 3 times. The first time was at the Flamingo in Las Vegas. Larry told me to give it a try, even though I didn't have a clue what was going on. I "bought in" for $100, and the table was a $1/$2 table. What the heck did all of that mean? Small blind, big blind, the button. I probably stayed there for half an hour. I even won one or two hands, mostly out of dumb luck. I cashed out with $105.
The second time I played was on Mother's Day of 2011. There was a tournament at Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh, and both Larry and Hannah said I should play. Women only. I really didn't want to. I thought I would rather scrub floors on my hands and knees than make a complete fool of myself. But the night before, just in case, I said I need a lesson.
I pulled out some of Hannah's old stuffed animals and sat them around the dining room table. (On the table, not on chairs -- they couldn't have seen their cards.) I learned about the big blind and small blind and who goes first and a flush beats a straight. But I was nervous. I was sweating. Even the stuffed animals probably noticed. I still wasn't convinced to play. I really didn't want to. It would literally be a game-time decision.
The next morning, with just enough time to get to the casino, I decided that I would play. Really, how bad could it be?
There were maybe 36 women in the tournament. Making chit chat before play started. It was cold in the poker room, but I was sweating. Play started, and everyone, well, I don't know what everyone was doing. I was just trying to follow the action. After maybe 30 minutes, I calmed down. I won a hand or two. Women were busting out and leaving.
One woman had a really big mouth, and it never stopped flapping. I'd seen her before. She played in tournaments with Larry, and as far as I could remember, she always busted out early. And then I got it, that "I have got to bust this person out before she drives me crazy" syndrome. I know, a good poker player should be able to block out all of the annoying habits that players bring with them. I couldn't beat her with skill, so I just hoped she'd find us ladies too boring and leave. Then I got a pair of Queens. It had to be a sign. She called me. I went all in because, well, I just wanted to say that. And boom, she was gone.
After maybe 90 minutes, I thought omg, if I keep winning hands, I have to stay here. I'm trapped. So I kept trying that all-in thing, hoping that I'd get to go home, but I kept winning. It must have made me seem like an aggressive player, but my brain was really screaming "uncle!" Until there were 3 of us left. We decided to chop the pot. I probably said "split" at the time. It just means that we collected our money, pooled it and divided it evenly so we could all get the heck out of there. $200+. Woo hoo!
The third (and probably final) time I played was on Larry's birthday in March. We sat at different tables, and I got absolutely no decent cards. And I really didn't think I could bluff guys who play sometimes 3 or 4 times a week. But I hung in there, even playing for a good hour after Larry busted out...