Like most everyone, I had a period in my life when I played poker, Texas Hold ‘Em.
It wasn’t so much the game that interested me, but the chance to gather around a table with my closest friends and consume liquor.
The drink of choice was screwdrivers, which for us meant orange juice and Ketel One.
We were serious about our Ketel One.
When the Ketel One prematurely ran out, we immediately stopped after a hand, put on our winter coats, beanies, and gloves, and walked to the nearest liquor store post haste.
Ketel One was our oil, our ointment, our aloe, our ambrosia. As such, a walk was little to sacrifice, even in the stiff cold of Chicago’s winter, which happened to be the season when I picked up poker as well as left the game forever.
It wasn’t me who lost interest in the game, or all of us at the same time, but someone else in the group, one person, who got lured elsewhere into playing for money.
Let’s call this person Locust.
I could never understand why Locust suddenly started asking us, as if out of nowhere, “Are you sure none of you wanna play for money? Let’s just play for five dollars. Five dollar buy in, what do you say?”
His enticements were met with the same questions from us:
“Why do you want to play for money all of a sudden?”
“Yeah, are you telling us that we’ve been playing phony poker this whole time?”
“Yeah, are we wasting our time here?”
Then one snowy night the Ketel One ran out in the middle of a hand, and Locust said, “I’m all in,” before we left for the liquor store.
I looked at him and asked, “You’re all in?”
“That’s right, I’m all in.”
It seemed a little hasty to me, his bet, probably because I had a good set of cards in my hand to go with the cards showing on the table, so I called him.
Everyone else folded. It was just me and Locust, who flipped over his cards before the river. Two of clubs, four of spades. In other words, he had nothing in his hand. Even with the five community cards on the table he still had nothing.
“But why’d you go all in?” I asked.
“It doesn’t matter to me anymore, none of this,” answered Locust, getting up from his seat, “it’s just chips we’re playing for here.”
He didn’t harp more than that, but we knew that there was no turning back for Locust at that point. He had lost faith in the intrinsic value of a chip.
To him, a chip was worthless, null. A chip had no value. A chip was void, all because Locust couldn’t take a chip to some teller and get money in return, so Locust couldn’t believe in the chip.
The day Locust said, “I’m all in,” and didn’t care about the result, was the day Locust stopped believing in the world of children.
We still ended up putting on our coats, beanies, and gloves, and walking to the liquor store. And we still poured screwdrivers. Three of us tried to continue the game, but it wasn’t the same, so we stopped and watched Curb Your Enthusiasm.
That was the last time we played poker.