Not the Nuts, the Ovaries
Laurelee Roark – “All in,” said the young man with the New York accent, sitting next to the dealer at the poker table. Ten pairs of eyes turned towards him and then immediately down to the two cards in their own hands. One after the other, around and around the table, cards were thrown into the middle, mucked.
“Okay, me too. I’m all in, too.” These words came from a small unsteady voice across the table from the dealer. Eyes flew over to this new all in person and landed on…me.
The guy with the New York accent had five thousand dollars worth of plastic chips in front of him. I had about twice that. In just two hands, for no reason other than luck, I had just gotten to be the chip leader at the table. I pushed all my chips—representing thousands of dollars—into the betting ring.
The guy with the New York accent stood up. I stood up. We both turned our cards face up. He had a pair of kings. I held a king as well, but I also had an ace. My hand is called “Big Slick,” which I often get confused with President Clinton’s nickname, “Slick Willie.” Either way, if another card doesn’t come up to pair with my ace, slick or not, I have nothing, and the guy across from me wins.
We both hold our breath and wait. The dealer lays out the first three cards, the flop, as it is so casually called. A nine. A ten. A queen. He still has the best hand, but I’ve got the possibility of a straight. All I need is a jack or an ace, but at this moment, I still have nothing.
He could win this, I’m thinking. Maybe I shouldn’t have gone all in. But, how could I have not? I reasoned, I had to with that hand.
Thoughts ran through my mind faster than the dealer could lay down the next card. This was the fourth card, called the turn. It’s a nice little two.
Only one card left to go, I tell myself. I’ve got just one more chance.
I am sitting in the middle of the poker room at the MGM Grand casino. I am here in Las Vegas with my husband and our two poker playing good friends. We come here once a year and stay in a condo right off the Strip. We’d spent the night before playing cards until four in the morning. We promised each other we were going to get up early in the morning to be at the casino for the 9:30 signup where we’d buy into the 11:00 Texas Hold’em tournament. I was the only one who made it. I look around for my husband or my friends, wishing they could see how great I’m doing. But I am still alone in a crowd of professional gamblers.
“Last card,” the dealer announces.
This card is called the River. Many a hand is lost with this card. Many a hand is won.
An ace is turned over, and the young man from New York walks away muttering under his breath, “Freaking River!”
Everyone nods towards me, some saying “nice hand,” or “nice call,” but I don’t even know what they are talking about. It’s pure dumb luck that has gotten me this far. This morning, several hours ago, there where ten tables full, a hundred people, playing in the tournament. Now there are only two tables and neither one has ten people left. For some unknown reason I have been getting excellent cards and not only that, they have time and time again matched up nicely with what was on the board, thus delivering my wins. Also, I have not been my usual impulsive, impatient self, having folded plenty of hands even when I was bored and would have played just to be doing something.
However, so far, so good. I spot the poker room manager, and call out to him, “Excuse me, when is the break?”
“Ten minutes, Laurelee,” he says. “Hang on for ten minutes.”
He has called me by my name like he knows me personally since the night before. That’s when he told me he had a cousin from the south whose name is also Laurelee, although probably not spelled the same way. We joked about how it’s the law in the south to have two names. Billy Bob, Cindy Lou, Laura Lee. For that reason, and also because I told him this is my first poker tournament, he has now taken a interest in how well I am doing. He has checked up on me several times, and has been very supportive all morning.
“No problem, I can last ten minutes,” I say with fifteen thousand dollars in front of me now. “No problem at all.”
A couple of hands get dealt out and they’re all stinkers for me. I throw them out and look around at my table mates. Since the New York guy left my table we’re down to six players. The only other table has about eight. Probably after the break they’ll merge them together. The top prize is a little under four thousand dollars. Everyone paid sixty five dollars to get into the tournament. Some people who busted out early were able to buy back in before the first hour was over. Everyone at the last table of ten will get at least some money as it gets down to the final winner. I can’t imagine being there with that last table of winners. But, then, I couldn’t have ever imagined being here at all, so there you go!
I constantly ask myself, What the hell am I doing? I’m surrounded by mostly men, mostly real live gamblers, mostly people who have played a lot more poker than I have. I’m a little home game gal. I’m a “one/two or two/four” limit table player. I’m a baby gambler who is still way underqualified. I’m also a voyeur. So maybe that explains why I’m here.
In my real life, I’m a therapist and I think the game of poker is a great metaphor for the human condition…an excellent example of the complex and confusing world of people. Here we are, a bunch of strangers sitting around a table, and in turn giving money to each other, but we’re doing it in a very creative and inventive way. We use cards, and they have to go together in some sort of order, and often we lie or “bluff” about the cards we are holding. This sometimes can be so intimidating that other people just give up and let us have the whole pot. It’s fascinating, but now that I’m in the middle of it, and I vacillate between feeling like I’m going to throw up and jumping out of my chair in pure glee.
The next hand is dealt, and everyone must put in one thousand dollars to call if they want to play the hand. I see that I have a pair of tens. Pretty good, but definitely not the best hand. I wonder if it’s worth a thousand to see the flop. I decide it is and I push in a yellow chip.The guy next to me raises to five thousand. Two people call him and now all of a sudden there is almost twenty thousand dollars in the pot. I fold. The flop comes and it’s two tens, and a king. I should have stayed. Geez!
The guy next to me goes “all in” and pushes all his chips into the middle. Everyone folds and he gets the pot. He is now the chip leader and I am the big blind. That means I must post a thousand dollars. Everything speeds up for me—my blood pressure, my respiration rate, and the sweat glands under my arm pits start pumping. I get dealt a queen and a king. Gulp!
People go in, people fold. The flop comes and it’s a two, a three and a five. I have no doubt there’s going to be a straight on the board in about one minute. I cannot get out fast enough.
My husband suddenly appears behind me and whispers in my ear, “Hey, nice going, Babe. Good luck.” I smile up at him, but then frown as I look down at my chips. I had so many chips just a little while ago, and now I feel as if I have nothing. The plastic disks say right on them, “No Real Value,” but I feel as if they really are real, and I am now destitute. I sneak a peek at my neighbor. He has way over thirty thousand dollars in chips, and he is again going all in.
Someone calls him. They both turn up their cards. The guy has a pair of aces. My neighbor, Mr. Moneybags, shows an ace and four. He wins with a straight: ace, two, three, four, five. The challenger slinks off flat broke.
Now I’m the small blind and I put out my five blue chips, each worth a hundred dollars. King Midas puts in his thousand. He has so many chips I can’t stand it. I hate him. The cards go around the table. There are now only five of us playing so the deal doesn’t take long. I wish we could take the break right now. I have to pee and I need to regroup. My thoughts and emotions are all over the place and I want to reel them in. It’s getting hard for me to think.
I look at my hand. “Ohmygod,” I think, “A pair of aces! “The nuts!” Being a feminist, I’m thinking, “The ovaries! Yippee! I’m going to make it to the last table.”
I realize, that’s all I want at this moment, just to make it till the break, and then get to go to the last table.
My selfish greedy neighbor raises ten thousand dollars. Everyone folds. Everyone except me, of course. I call. The flop comes and its a bunch of junk, a six, an eight, a jack.
“Big deal,” I think, “I got the ovaries, nothing can stop me.”
I confidently put five thousand in and look over. I try my hardest to have no expression on my face but I’m afraid my hand is showing all over me.
“Raise,” he says and stares straight ahead, blankly.
“Raise?” I think, “Raise? What can he have?”
I decide he has nothing, and I know I have the top pair. I quickly push in another five thousand.
The turn is a four, and the betting comes back to me.
“All in,” I say, maybe a little too loud as people turn to look at me from the other table. I quickly push all of my hard won chips in front of me and let them go.
My nemesis calls, and we both stand up. The standing up part is one of the best parts of going all in. It’s so dramatic, and I feel as if I’m on TV. We both turn over our hands.
My wonderful pair of aces are so beautiful sitting there in the middle of the table. The dark green felt sets off the red and black of these two high cards. I am sure there is nothing that can beat them. The other hand is shown and it’s—Thank you, Jesus!—a five and a jack. They call that hand Motown, Jackson Five. Big Shot now only has a pair of jacks, way less valuable than my pocket rockets.
“I won, I won,” I’m thinking and then I immediately start to judge him by wondering why in the world did he call in the first place, raise and then go all in with such a crappy hand. I decide that I was right and he is just a greedy jerk, a liar and a cheat, and I am correct in hating his guts.
However, along with the judgement, I do feel a little sorry for him because he has gotten beaten so badly by such a newcomer like me. My pity is boundless for how pathetic he is. Yawn.
Then, a nano second later, I decide I’m not such a newcomer after all, and actually I should probably quit my job and become a professional poker player. I could easily go all the way to the “World Poker Tour,” and win millions of dollars because obviously my incredible playing skills and my unbelievably good luck is a hard combination to beat.
With that split second decision my hand moves towards the money. At the same time the dealer puts down the river. It’s another jack. A loud gasp whirls around the table. Trips! I watch dumbfounded as all my chips are pushed towards the winner.
I can’t believe it. I lost! I lost! I have no money left. I am numb and suddenly have to pee RIGHT NOW. All the air has been sucked out of the room, and I can hardly breathe.
This is what is known as a bad beat, and what a bad beat it truly is. With my face red with shame, my heart sinking into the pit of my stomach, I pick up my purse, my Starbucks tea cup, and without making any eye contact with the other players, I silently leave the table.
“Tough luck, Laurelee,” the poker room manager calls as I head towards the ladies’ room. “Hey listen,” he tells me, “don’t feel bad. You came in twelfth. That’s very good for your first time. Better than good! Really great, really great! Come back tomorrow and try again, okay?”
“Okay. Bye. Maybe so. See ya. Okay. Fine. Whatever,” I’m muttering as I quickly walk away, my dreams of being in the World Poker Tour dashed, along with my earlier desire to just make it to the final table. I am crushed. My ego, so inflated a few minutes ago, is now microscopic. I wonder if I will need treatment for the post traumatic stress syndrome that I shall surely suffer. I want to cry, scream or something like that, but I hold it together, barely.
Walking to the ladies’ room I decide that after that I’ll go into one of the shops and buy something. Something very expensive. I start to feel a little better and then immediately worse because out of the corner of my eye, I see that the next hand of cards is already being dealt. Poker chips get thrown into the round, and the game continues behind me as if I had never been there.~
Laurelee Roark, MA,CCHT,CMT is a certified hynotherapist, a certified yoga instructor, a certified massage therapist and has been a licensed cosmetologist for over 30 years. She is also the founder of Beyond Hunger, Inc., www.beyondhunger.org, and the co-author of two books, It’s Not About Food, and Over It. Her newest book, Your Name Is Edith, is due out sometime in 2006.
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