How Poker Saved My Life

This true story took place years ago in a European metropolitan city….I am probably the only one to remember it even took place.

There are many advantages in every day life learned from playing poker. One quickly learns the value of sound play. One quickly learns the value of money. One quickly learns the value giving away information, and collecting information.

Having a poker face goes a long way in not giving away information. In my case I believe having a poker face once saved my life.

I was visiting a city where English was not the preferred language. I tried to learn a little of the language before arriving, but there was not enough time, and I am a slow learner of languages. I learned just enough to have a semi-intelligent conversation with a three year old, if they do not try to impress me with their command of the language.

As tourists we tend to wander around and go places where the locals fear to tread. I was one of those wandering tourists, wandering around where no one who has any concern for life and limb would be wandering. Poker does take some amount of risk acceptance, but I unknowingly crossed the risk line as a tourist.

I had wandered into a seedy area of town, to a bar where some really bad people hung out. Not only did they hang out there, but they openly discussed business I unfortunately discovered. Business that was not healthy for anyone else to hear.

In my own ignorance, I did not know the place was seedy, nor did I know it was a haunt of some very serious people of criminal intent. All I wanted was a cold beer, and a break from the heat. It was a rather small bar with only five or six tables. I bought a beer at the bar and sat down at a table. Close by were four men who were in guarded, halted conversation. Two of the men had their backs to me.

Sometimes we make poor decisions

Sometimes we make poor decisions

One of the men with his back to me was angry and impatient, I thought by the tone of his speech. I also understood enough to know this was a conversation I should not be hearing. I was becoming nervous. A lone tourist off the beaten path sitting next to serious men talking about a criminal situation.

After a few minutes of back and forth conversation, one of the men with his back to me realized someone was sitting behind him – in hearing range. From hearing the tone of the talk I knew he was in charge. I also knew this could be the last cold beer of my life.

To say I was nervous was to put it mildly. These were hard men. These were serious men. I realized they could take me outside and I would never be heard from again. Some unfortunate tourist disappeared, and no one saw anything.

I did the only thing I could do. I put on my poker face and acted like it was a hot day outside and I was in the bar having a cold beer, ignorant to the conversation I was hearing and partially understanding.

The Leader inspected me for a good twenty or thirty seconds, which in the moment seemed like a good ten minutes. I did my best to act like I did not have a care in the world and only spoke and understood English, oblivious to the men’s presence.

Suddenly he stood up, and asked the men if they thought I understood their talk, while looking at me intently. I calmly took another drink. Two of the men replied to him saying, “no”. The leader walked behind me, stood quietly for a few seconds, turned and walked to the door. The other men got up and followed. I sat still trying to act as if it was a Sunday morning and I was quietly having milk and cookies.

I felt like Jello inside. I calmly took another drink and breathed a silent sigh of relief. A few minutes later I finished my beer, and walked outside, not sure what to expect.

Mine was the only car present in the parking lot. I got in and drove off, thinking to myself, “What a lucky man I am”. I thanked my lucky stars for poker. Without the skills poker taught me, who knows what the outcome of my misadventure may have been.

Thanks to the skills poker taught me, I am able to relate this story, such as it is. Perhaps without poker, I would have let on through facial expression or body posture that I understood enough of the conversation putting myself in danger. I was a serious threat to the men at the table because of what I heard and understood them discussing.

Without my playing time at the poker table, you would not now be reading this story. No matter what you feel about poker in general, poker, once you get past the basics, poker is all about interacting with people and understanding their actions.

If you are in the workforce you interact with people. If you need to make a high dollar purchase you interact with people. Getting groceries you interact with people. You can not get through your day easily without interacting with people.

You may never be in a situation where how you act effects your very survival, but knowing how to act, and how other people are acting around you, is a very important people skill for success in life. Poker is a only game played using money to keep score. The more you practice and learn, the better you may become. Some day you may need the very skills found in a poker game.

Cowboy Charlie, Low Limit Poker Pro’s, and Prostitutes

I just came back from a few days in Las Vegas. It was an exceptional time. Met with friends, took in a floor show, had some great meals and did some gambling. The National Final Rodeo is in progress and Vegas was full of Cowboys, Cowgirls and a few tourists thrown in.

In the gambling department there are two things I really enjoy. Craps and Hold’em Poker. They both are challenging, need some amount of knowledge, and are a lot of fun to play. At the poker tables is where Cowboy Charlie made his personal debut.

Craps is fast, challenging and also a lot of fun. Between the Poker Room, the Craps Tables and my room was where the Prostitute entered the story. There are also a few assorted small stakes Poker Pro’s who are out there every day trying to grind out a living.

Playing Poker is unique to a Poker Room. It’s not really a social event except for small talk and banter between players, half of whom happened to be drinking at the Las Vegas tables. Because drinks only cost a tip to the server, drinking while playing poker solves two reasons people go to Las Vegas.

Prostitutes are not found in Poker Rooms. Prostitutes are found between the Poker Room, the Craps Table, and the room you are staying in. Cowboy Charlie is a rare event generally unique to a few poker rooms, but generally quite rare.

Cowboy Charlie is pretending to be Cowboy Charlie because of the Rodeo finals going on in Las Vegas. Other times Cowboy Charlie, might be Tourist Bob, Gambler Joe, or Bubba from the Gulf. As Cowboy Charlie he played a tired out, overly drunk, and generally burnt out guy who was killing time at the poker table. Cowboy Charlie was all those things, but most of all he was a good poker actor, and a better poker player.

The local low limit pro’s are fun to play, because they are always serious, sober, and overly consumed with the state of their chips in front of them at the table. Some of these local card sharps are very players, and others are really struggling. I was lucky in most games this feel, as mostly struggling Pro’s were the only Pro’s present. They are fun to play, because they weigh their options carefully before acting.

What makes local low limit Pro’s fun is they weigh their actions towards protection of their chips. They go into pause mode, make some spread sheet comparing their hand to the hand the opponent may be holding and error on the side of caution. It is fun to watch them act out their scene before they fold and tell the table what [they think] your holdings are. Of course they have only lost a small percentage of their chips in the process.

When it comes to Prostitutes, I am fairly open minded. With few exceptions, I think in Las Vegas the women who circle the casino’s gaming areas, looking for men rich enough and willing enough to pay them for sex of some sort, can not make a living any other way. While I wish they would find other work, I treat them with the same respect I treat all people with.

I also wear a wedding ring, and do not look like some famous actor, or for that matter, look as if I have much much money as I walk between room, craps table, and poker room. Not deterred, I hear such pleasing conversation as, “Hey, want to take me to bed?”, “Can I go to your room?”, “Want to have some fun with me?”, and so on. None of the lines are better than worn out pick up lines, women must hear in the clubs on a Friday night.

I am polite, and mumble out something. When they press on, I explain I am happily married, old enough to be their Father with a few years extra, and finish with the idea they are pretty young women.

When some of the Prostitutes press further it restarts to bother me. I gave a 15 second presentation on my morals, ethics, and state of life, and they go right over the top of it. I mean come on, trying to make a living is one thing, but playing with someone’s ethics, morals, and life state is a little too much.

I try to be polite, and respectful instead of being mean and derogatory, but too often it falls on deaf ears. Respect is a two way street, pressing someone to break their moral, ethical, or religious code is a serious life infraction.

So back to Cowboy Charlie the very sober, actor playing a drunk, tired cowboy. At the poker table, lying and acting is expected by most of the players. When it comes to the low limit ‘Poker Pro’s’ they put themselves out to be lied to and and cheated within the boundaries of good poker play.

This is part of the game of poker. When you run into Cowboy Charlie at the poker table, give him a lot of respect, he will take your chips because you aren’t paying attention. When it comes to the real life, each of us should respect the wishes of another, Prostitutes included. Respect for each other helps make the world a better place for all of us.