Today is a little bit different. I usually post stuff here related to my mental illness, but I wrote this “narrative” poem about one of my experiences in playing poker in South Lake Tahoe many years back. It was my first experience at a real no-limit Texas Hold’em cash game. I loved the experience so much that I wrote about it.
I have found, through the poetry writing experience, that I do better when I am outside and writing about a subject. So in this narrative poem is written with some embellishments and about someone else experiencing poker for the first time in Las Vegas.
I hope you enjoy, as this is one of my regular original written pieces over the last year.
The Kid in a No-limit World
It was there, in the distance, its large oak towering doors, with shiny handles an entrance to a world. A special world. His pace quickens, with thoughts of his destination. Bright lights reflect through his green eyes as the sound of cling, cling, cling! Rings out as he passes the sea of slot machines, a young couple embraces exuberantly. A winner!
‘Winner, winner, chicken dinner.’
‘Lucky them,’ he says quietly— to no one.
The small plastic bag, just inside of his all-black hoodie weighs heavy, the weight almost too much to bear— two stacks of high society. His hood is on kept in place by a black baseball cap accented by a black t-shirt, black jeans, and black Chuck Taylors. His hand grips the door handle, what he seeks beyond the doors. Within his grasp his dreams, but a heavy hand grabs his shoulder.
‘This is the high roller section, Ten-K minimum kid,’ a guard says. He pulls out a plastic bag from his hoodie with two stacks of high society, ‘this enough?’ he shows the bag of neatly stacked cash. ‘Alright kid. Go do your thing. Good luck, you’re going to need it.’
The spectacle, is no-limit Texas Hold’em high stakes table— it overwhelms him, for a moment. The seat to the dealers left his seat, his stack of cash slams on the table. Two men, older, stare across the table through his soul, his heart skips a bear before he steadies his hands and then his heart.
‘Another young poker player trying to make his mark, you kids get younger,’ one says.
‘The minimum is ten thousand,’ the dealer says. The kid hands push two stacks. ‘Changing Twenty-thousand,’ the dealer reaches, the right amount of poker chips. Pushing then towards
the kid. He arranges by color in near stacks examining the three men quietly analyzing.
‘Blind are 200 and 400,’ the dealer says. With a nod, the dealer shoots one card face down to each player once—and then again. Two cards face down for each man. The kid reacts.
‘I raise it. Three thousand,’ the kid pushes a mile-high stack forward. A man folds, and the next follows suit. The last man, a heavy-set man looks him up, and then down.
‘I am all in,’ the kid replies— pushing his entire stack forward. The young man follows suit, turning over two Aces. The man turns over Kings. Silence. The dealer burns a card, then flips three cards—the flop on the table. A beat. A burn card. A beat. Then he puts the turn on the table. A beat. Another burn card. Then the river card reaches the table. All five cards in line.
These cards help no one but the kid. The dealer— he pushes the entire stack the young man’s way. Dominance established.
A beat. Time. Passes. Just two remain.
‘So, what’s your story kid.’
‘Same as anyone. Make it to the big game— become a rounder.’
‘Not always the easiest thing,’ is his reply.
‘Everyone wants to win the World Series of Poker, few do.’
‘You seem to want something more kid,’ he says with a grin, ‘his game will eat you up.’
The kid looks down, never making eye contact, in his pocket he caresses a ring—an engagement ring. The kid looks at his cards— Kings. A start. A beat. Then the kid gathers all his poker chips.
‘I’m all in.’ with force, he pushes his chip stacks forward.
‘You don’t want this life kid,’ the man looks at the kid. Studying. Watching. With a swift motion, the man pushes his chips forward showing his ace and jack, off suit. The kid flips his Kings up on the felted table.
A beat. The dealer burns a card. A beat—he deals the flop. A king, two, and a queen. A beat— the dealer burns a card before dealing the next card— a five.
‘That helps neither of us,’ the man says. The kid looks into his eyes, and he sees— a reflection,
is it himself in those eyes? A beat. The dealer deals the river card— a ten. No words escape his mouth as everything becomes blurry. The dealer counts the kid’s chips, and then the man’s. In bewilderment, the dealer slides the kid’s entire stack to the man.
‘That’s poker for you kid. You forgot the golden rule, you should never tilt when you’re ahead. I will see you down the road kid— someday,’ the man collects his prize. He walks pass putting his soft hand on the kid’s shoulder.
Outside of the kid slides down the wall smashing into the floor, lost… lost in what happened. The “what ifs” that is the poker life. ‘This is not the end, he says a fire in his eyes.
By James Edgar Skye