EDitorial ± 4-May-2010

Play Your Cards Night

It's all Kev's fault. He was the one that got me in to it. Of a lunchtime, we played with stacks of spare sugar sachets, which made winning extra sweet. Only later, when I had a taste for it, did the brown cane give way to 5p pieces. And having won a pound or two -- like a scene from Hustle -- there followed the invitation to step up and try my luck with the big boys. As Melle Mel put it, that's the way it goes.

Friday, 7:15pm, and I'm crossing the threshold of the Felixstowe Con Club, Cameron's BattleBus nowhere to be seen. Sign here, they said, and hand over your tenner -- you're player number 28. We'll give it another three-quarters of an hour. Go and buy yourself a drink.

Sipping my Lucozade and making nervy pre-match smalltalk with some of the other competitors, it's clear that certain participants know the ropes. There's one or two, like myself, who've never "played live" before tonight. Clock ticks round to 8pm: gentlemen and lady, let's play poker.

Upstairs we tread: pick a card to determine which table you'll be on and in which chair. Four tables, seven seats per table. Each person has before them a big pile of chips: typical Felixstowe. Cards are nattily dealt, two each, and everyone sneaks a peak under cupped hands. Opening "blinds" -- bets, to you and me -- are 25 and 50, displayed on the big screen. Meaning that you'll need to throw in at least a 50 chip to see the flop, i.e. the initial three cards. Welcome to Texas Hold 'Em.

First few rounds are a blur. A lot of people are folding before the flop, including me. Guy on my immediate right is accumulating chips as quickly as mine are disappearing. Time to make a move with my picture card ... oops, there goes half of my pile. Poor decision. Wasn't like this watching Matt Damon and John Malkovich in Rounders last night.

Time goes by, the deal goes round, and I can see myself as the first person to be knocked out. Don't worry, says the nice lady (the only female here tonight) next to me, this'll be a good hand. Spookily, she's right: two aces! Be still, my beating heart. This is more like it. In I go, not too much, and another ace comes up. Couple of other players stay with me and regret it: woo-hoo, I've won a hand!

Not long before one of us (phew, not me) is out of the game. Then, head to head against the nice lady, she doesn't make her flush and that's her gone too, another pot to me. I am top of the world. With the break imminent and the blinds doubled, I attempt to bluff my way past the guy on my right. He's not having it. I go all in, he matches me, chips to spare, and that's the end of me. Oh well, I'll be back to watch the remaining players battle it out while sipping slowly on my J2O.