This past weekend I found myself sitting down to a good old poker game at a friend’s house. The Canadian One and I (and The Canadian One’s British friend) gathered up our coins and hit the road for the 70 minute journey south to my first Korean home town of Cheonan. Cheonan, famous for its Walnut Cake, was my happy home for two non-consecutive years. Anyone who reads the BBC news website may be familiar with Cheonan (the town) as it’s also home to the world’s first and only foreigner’s prison. Not to be confused with Cheonan, the South Korean ship, which sunk in March 2010 thanks to a North Korean torpedo hitting it…supposedly. I’m not one to speculate. Although for further speculation you can read here, here, here, here and, of course, CNN’s vast ranging coverage of the event, here.
Having arrived safely in Cheonan (the town) and with little hassle, we acquired our beer, bought our nachos, counted out money and settled in. The Canadian One bonded with our hosts over the Nova Scotian majority at the table while I stared at the cheat sheet, reminding myself of how to win. Which hand beats what, does a Royal Flush beat Four-Of-A-Kind (it does), if they’re all hearts does it matter what the card numbers are (yes, it does), etc.
Now, I have a long history with poker. You could almost say we’re like two old enemies that come together for mutual beneficial purposes but in fact one of us always gets screwed in the deal and it’s always me. When I was younger, my parents would frequent my aunt’s house at weekends for poker games. All the kids would huddle in the living room, watching TV while the adults gambled and drank in the kitchen/dining room area. Occasionally, one of us would wander in, sit on a parent’s lap and watch the game unfold.
I learned 4 of a kind is good, aces are better, matching symbols are a plus, there were hearts, shamrocks, diamonds and that other one, having all the same color meant nothing and that unless you’re playing, it makes for a pretty boring watch. Like golf. Or Mario Kart when it’s not your turn.
Growing up, I became a little better at it. I learned the proper names for the suits, learned the rules but of course, the rules of poker are like the rules in pool, it really depends on where you are. House rules are house rules and everyone’s are different. For this game, we were playing 5 card stud but with changing rules per dealer.
So for example, when it’s my deal, I can call ‘two changes, threes are wild’ and that’s fine. Threes can be anything and we can change cards twice. Easy peasy. Of course, having a set up like that leads to exchanges like this:
American Dude: ‘Two changes, one-eyed Jacks are wild.’
Me: ‘What? What? What’s a one-eyed Jack? What?’
Someone: ‘A Jack with one eye.’
Someone: ‘He’s only got one eye. You can only SEE one eye. He’s not facing you.’
Me: ‘WHAT?! WHAT?!!’
The 16-year-old, not allowed to play and having spent his entire time sitting in the background watching the game, jumps up to show me a picture of a one-eyed Jack.
Me: ‘Ohhhhh I get it, ok, yes, let’s continue.’
Moments later, after the first change:
Someone Else: ‘Wait, I don’t get this one-eyed Jack thing.’
The most popular question of the game is frequently:
‘Wait, what’s wild? Seven or eight?….Oh Kings….OK.’
Quickly followed in second place by:
‘How many changes did he say?’
And coming in in third would be:
‘Wait, how much did he put in?…OK, so what do I put in?’
I once lost my flatmate’s money in a game and one time, at home, lost 10 Euros borrowed from my mother within two hands but having never lost too much of my own money, I approach each game with positivity.
In Saturday’s game, I knew the majority of the players. Known for cheating, (I still maintain he SHOWED me his cards), I remained focussed and alert as the game got underway.
So here’s my problem with poker: I get too happy when I think I might possibly win and my face doesn’t know how to keep it a secret. As a result of my brain ‘look stoic, show no emotion, don’t talk’ mentality and my face’s ‘OMG I’m gonna win!!!’ display, most people fold before I get the chance to do any real damage to anyone’s pocket. Hand in hand with that is my second problem with poker playing: the drinking aspect of the night. I’m one of those people who gets very happy when I get drunk. The more I drink, the happier I get so more often than not, I end up sitting there, cards in hand, smiling like a delirious Cheshire Cat while others bow out of the game around me.
Our ante is only about 100won (9 cents) so it’s not like we’re out there betting our paychecks, more like the bus fare home is at stake, but still, I’d like to at least be able to buy a breakfast coffee for my hangover the next morning.
Another confusion for me was when earlier in the game, this happened:
Yep, two matching one-eyed Jacks
Adding to the challenge of the night was the fact that we were playing with two decks, due to the large number of players. We took a vote on ‘Does Five-Of-A-Kind beat a Royal Flush?’ The answer was no and I later won a hand with five 8s.
Shockingly, despite the all the incessant smiling, the confusion (mainly mine), the saying ‘YAY’ aloud when I saw I had a wild-card and, of course, the random betting I employed whereby I called most bets as just watching was boring, I still manged to make a small profit during the night.
Note: Not the money I won, just the money I didn’t lose
Fortunately for me, The Canadian One is a chivalrous kind of guy and carried all our joint winnings back to our faraway abode where I shall now bring them to the confused bank teller who speaks no English and have them changed into bill form. I shall then spend it frivolously on coffee and gummy worms, the necessities of life. Ah, caffeine and sugar purchased with the profits made from gambling. Just another typical weekend in the land of the Morning Calm.
For more posts, check out:
- ‘Dear Students…’ – March 29th 2012
- ‘But then how do you pay your strippers?!’ – Conversations with TCO Part 1 – March 21st 2012
- ‘Number 16 never fails to make me laugh…’ – Analogies – March 19th 2012
- ‘Oh, you’re Irish! Me too.’ – March 17th 2012
- ‘How do you feel about Pi?’ – March 11th 2012
- ‘I did NOT break the coffee machine!’ – March 10th 2012
- ‘I’ve taken up origami…’ – March 7th 2012
- ‘You know, girls can ask guys to marry them on February 29th.’ – February 29th 2012
- ‘Watch out for the hedgehog!’ – February 26th 2012
- ‘But I don’t like God!’ – February 18th 2012
- And, of course, in the Index.