If you, like I, have been in a lot of poker rooms, you’ll know the guy I’m talking about. He’s under 30 (or barely over). It seems that whenever you walk in the room, he’s there. He’s got a backpack with him that has his protein bars, water bottle, and charging cord for his phone – he’s gonna be there a while. Sometimes he’s the earbuds and sunglasses type, sometimes not.
But what’s for sure is that this is his milieu. Maybe he’s a pro, or a semi-pro. Whatever, he has long ago left the “rec” category – he’s here to win.
Not only is he here to win, but he is immersed in the game. He knows the heroes and heroines. He watches the vlogs and the big cash games, and every summer, he dreams about binking a multi-hundred (or multi-thousand) player event at the WSOP, taking home the hardware and a high-six figure score. But until that day happens, he’s in the $2/3 or $2/5 streets, planning to leave with more than he brought.
Yeah, I’ve seen a lot of those guys – it’s almost always guys, though I’ve certainly encountered a handful of women who fit the bill. And I wonder if – and worry that – the poker room is their only outlet. That maybe their entire social circle is the other eight people sitting around the dealer.
Which brings me to what happened this past Friday. It wasn’t just a random Friday, but the day after Thanksgiving, which has inexcusably become known as “Black Friday,” because of the shopping nightmare I suppose. I was taking advantage of a quiet day and made it to a local card room. I was settled into a perfectly fine no-limit hold’em game, enjoying the low-key post-holiday buzz, and glad to be where I was.
That’s when Mike, one of those kids that I described above, settled in to the #6 seat – I was in #7. I don’t know if Mike knows me, but he’s is part of the furniture at this card house. Even Black Friday is a work day for Mike, and he got right down to business, dressed in regulation comfy-grinder.
As will happen, Mike and I had a sporadic conversation. I don’t talk during hands, and I definitely don’t talk about hands played at the table. Given that we know nothing of each other’s lives, there isn’t a great deal to discuss. But it was the day after Thanksgiving, and I felt it would be churlish not to speak of the holiday.
“So Mike, how was your Thanksgiving?”
Honestly, I was a little nervous about asking. I didn’t want to get an answer like, “Ordered a Domino’s pizza, played Old School RuneScape for eight hours, then binged on Live at the Bike.” I hoped that he’d gone to his mom’s house, or his next door neighbors had invited him to their dinner table. Thanksgiving can present its blessings in many ways, but I can’t imagine being by myself that day.
Mike was way ahead of me. “You know, it was just me, my wife, and the kids. We ate a mid-afternoon meal, and that worked out better for everybody. The kids weren’t cranky, and we all really enjoyed ourselves.”
We had a great conversation about the benefits of having the Thanksgiving meal earlier in the day, but that wasn’t the important part. No, my heart was grinning ear-to-ear because my fear narrative was completely unfounded. That little visit with Mike was the best part of my session, getting in piles with AA against KK and holding notwithstanding.
When I racked up, Mike wished me a good afternoon, and I wished him the same. I hit the door with a spring in my step, imagining Mike going home to his family for turkey and dressing leftovers.