Two games of poker

Two games of poker, 13 years between them, two different results, and they both finished in the same week.

It’s been more than 13 years since I last sat down to play poker with other people. Which, it seems to me, is a pretty good way of describing how much I enjoy gambling.

Curiously, however, despite all those years between them, those two games have come together in a completely unexpected way, giving me the chance to experience something of both of them in just seven days.

The first one was an all-nighter in a city in northern Spain and started, like all good poker games, spontaneously. I was with a group of friends, coming back from a night out on the town, and one of those friends, the one I was least friends with, suggested we play.

The second started something like the first, although it was the other side of the world. I was in Los Angeles, a few weeks ago, and, it was after dinner with a group of friends, among whom was the famous US television poker commentator, Oliver Ali Nejad, better known as Ali. He’s a really good guy, who, having spent some time getting to know him while playing poker with him for hours, I have no doubt that he had no problem at all in becoming a TV commentator. Like I said, he’s a really good guy. At the same table, there were some other really good, and really well-known, guys who are film critics and restaurant owners. We spent a few fun and fascinating hours together.

I was also lucky enough to come out winning in both games. In the second, more recent, one, after more than five hours at the table, I won $17! And, let me tell you, that was a lot of fun! In the first, however, the pot was much larger, and it grew exponentially in the last few minutes of the game, when the sun started to shine directly into the eyes of the other guy, who was already worked up because he was losing, and he went double or nothing to finish on two consecutive hands.

I know I’ve already mentioned this, but let me just say again that the second double or nothing from that first game was really quite something. The Bay of Biscay was staring at us and the sun was just showing itself, shining off the sand on the beach of that incredible city. My eyes were burning. I’d just won the first double or nothing. The pot had doubled. Then, the other guy doubled again. I took it. But I knew it was going to be the last time, whatever happened. I was sure my wife, who I guessed was still sleeping in the hotel room, would wake up at any moment and I didn’t want to be any later than I already was. I really didn’t know the other guy all that well, and I really didn’t want to win all that money from someone I really didn’t know all that well. Even if the game had been his idea and he had been the one raising the pot, time and time again, even though he was losing.

So, liked I said, I took the second, and last, double or nothing. We shuffled the deck, cut it, and, just like always, he drew a card. A king. You can’t even imagine how he jumped around in the dining room of that 19th century luxury hotel, while the waiters looked on with incredulous, but perfectly understandable, expressions. I told him to calm down. I still had to draw my card. Although, to be honest, I didn’t have a lot of hope that I would win.

And I drew an ace.

It’s been more than 13 years since that happened, but, curiously, both games have come together in less than a week.

Curiouser and curiouser, don’t you think?

I can’t tell the whole story here, nor provide all the details. The only thing I will say is to confirm an old rule about card games: never play with people you don’t know and, if you do, make sure the money is on the table. All $17 I won in the more recent game, and a few more besides, as a tip to the people who looked after us so well that night, stayed on the table.

Two very different games, more than 13 years’ distance between them, but, like I said, they’ve come together in time in just one week. Curious, indeed.


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