Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Captain and Me.

Poker is a masculine game. This is not to say merely that it is a game played mostly by men although undoubtedly it is. Nor is it necessarily to say that women aren’t good at it. But I’ve over the course of my abortive poker career that the players who intimidate me at the table have exclusively been male. Again, some clarification might well be in order. I’m not saying that these intimidating characters aren’t necessarily the best players. In fact, I’ll have to ask you to suspend, for the purposes of this post, the typical conceptions of what playing poker is about -- namely, to get up from the table with more money than what you sat down with.

Instead, I am interested for the time being in talking about poker as a social transaction, where the money in the middle is mostly incidental. There can be something inherently threatening about a raise. Particularly in No Limit Texas Hold’em. Not just what the raises represents (“I am stronger than you and I know it”, “I want to take all your money”, “You may think you are special, but you are not special here”) but also the act itself. It’s a physical manifestation of aggression that you don’t get to see when you play online. Sometimes the raiser will sneer at you, or (and this is even scarier) look disinterested and lean back in his chair. Very often this post-raise move will expose that he has a bit of a beer gut. And a big, moderately expensive watch dangling on his wrist. His forearm is pretty well-toned, and a little hairy. He has a bit of a tan. It’s not hard to imagine him on a business trip, having sex in hotel rooms with waitresses from nearby diners. With his wedding ring still on. He smells like Old Spice cologne, maybe. He is, in all respects, a man. You are but a boy. Worse, he is a man at this moment who is utterly devoid of idealism, romance, or empathy. He is stronger than you.

If your mother were watching this scene unfold, you know that she would quietly pull for you. She’d be scared for you. She’d cast your opponent as a villain. How dare he sneer at her baby like that? This guy is not your mother. He is -- at best -- indifferent to your best interests. He’d probably be banging your mother at the Courtyard by Marriott if she were a little younger and more attractive.

This is about the moment where you decide that your pair isn’t any good anymore and fold. Maybe lean back from the table and discreetly check your cell phone for messages. Preferably messages from women who didn’t just see what happened. From women who still think you’re worth something. And that is when the money you’re losing begins to matter again. Romance without finance is a nuisance, and all that jazz.

You have no messages. There isn’t any unconditional love to be found around here. So you post your small blind and silently wonder if you’ll ever be a man.


Post a Comment

<< Home