Potter and Poker

I listen to Pete (my husband) talk about poker the same way he listens to me talk about Harry Potter. I have no clue why it’s so important to him, I just know it is. Very, very important. Therefore, just like he sits there and nods his head, making sure he keeps eye contact with me, so I don’t catch on to how bored he is when I say things like, “Dementors,” “Dumbledore” and “Diggory,” I return the courtesy when he repeats certain phrases endlessly, such as “down the river,” “on the button,” “the flop,” “bad beats” and my personal favorite, “Because in poker, sometimes stupid wins.”

So far, only that last one makes any sense to me. The others, after several years of hearing them, are juuust about starting to sink in. I don’t get it, but it doesn’t matter, because Pete loves poker and I love Pete. So much so, that when he told me that his dream was to go to Vegas and play in the World Series of Poker main event, I told him, “You should go, then.” I even booked him a room.

This is bigger than you might think, if you know even less about poker than I do. The main event of The World Series of Poker costs ten thousand dollars to enter and that’s without the expenses of room, food, transportation, etc. Even though I booked the least expensive room I could find (at Circus Circus, which these days has degenerated to pretty much the equivalent of sleeping out on the main strip) and even though Pete can quite happily live on one meal a day, you’ve got at least another two thousand in expenses. So ‘twelve g’s’ at least and of course, there’s no guarantee that when you’re in, you’ll get, to use more card player lingo I’ve picked up, “in the money.”

Still, I booked the room and told him, “Listen, you’re fifty-two and not getting any younger. It’s time to do this now, if it’s what you want. You’ve worked hard all your life, you deserve this. You’re a good poker player. So, you’re going. No arguments.”

Pete said, “Wow. Wait till I get there and tell everyone that my wife forced me to play in The World Series of Poker.”
Yeah. Right.

But you don’t know Pete. About two months later, on Father’s Day, no less, during the time all the boys are ringing up to say, “Hey, Dad,” and chat with him a while, I hear him shout. I jump up and start barrelling towards his office, but he’s already on his way out to me. We stop dead, staring at each other. He’s got a beaming smile on his face and the last time he gave me such a bone-crushing, jubilant hug was the day I said I would marry him.

He’d won a seat. He’d been playing in an online poker tournament sponsored by Poker Stars with almost 7,000 other people. He’d needed to knock out all but 219 of them. Only 220 out of 7,000 got an all-expenses paid ticket to play in the main event of the World Series of Poker and Pete was one of them. He was over the moon.

That week last year was an exciting week for my husband. He flew to Vegas, called me every day and regaled me with tales of where he was, what he was doing, what else was happening around him and who he saw. (Jamie Gold and Toby McGuire, just to name two. I had to ‘google’ that first guy, but I’d seen the Spider-Man movies. Spider-Man‘ plays championship poker, in case you didn’t know it.) Another thing that thrilled him was that Poker Stars gave all their tournament winners free t-shirts. Getting a free t-shirt is, in my husband’s opinion, right up there with playing poker, watching baseball and eating graham crackers and peanut butter for lunch every day.

Then the tournament started. A lot of people love poker, apparently. Over 12,000 people had entered, from which the organizers had collected over 100 million dollars in cash. Pete needed to get through three days of 14-hours-a day of poker at least. The heat in Vegas at this time of the year is excruciating and the interiors of the casinos are at any given time, 30-50 degrees colder than what it is outside. You get three bathroom breaks, a lunch and a dinner break. Like I say, I don’t know why over 12,000 people think this is worth ten thousand dollars, but…okay. It must have something to do with the millions of dollars you win if you make it to the final table.

Pete wasn’t one of those nine people. He was out by the end of the first day. All that day, I’d willed the phone not to ring. I knew if it did it would be him, saying he was out and I just couldn’t take it if that happened to him. At six o’clock in the evening, I went out and came back around ten. Sometime between six and ten, Pete had left me this message: “I’m out of the tournament. I played like crap and I just want you to know that, because I don’t even want to mention poker when I call you tomorrow.”

The part you need to pay attention to is the, “I played like crap,” part. After marrying Pete and getting four extra sons as a bonus, as well as having one of my own, I’ve learned a thing or two about the ‘testosterone set.’ They don’t sit around drinking apple martinis with their friends, commiserating and sympathizing when something goes wrong. Sympathy is anathema to them. Especially if they’ve screwed up. I’m not joking. It’s bad enough losing, but if they’ve lost because they think they didn’t do their best, it’s absolutely worse than being maimed. And the last thing they want to hear is what I and all the females I know want to hear when we screw up, “Aw, honey, come on – you’re usually so good. You’re the best to me, you know. You’ll get another chance.”

F*** that. Do that and they’ll spit tacks at you. No, the best thing you can do to show them your support, respect and love when this kind of stuff happens; in the case of my husband and boys, when they’re playing baseball, poker or music, is to do nothing at all. If you feel you must say something, you just get to say three little words and they’re not the three words you might be thinking. You can say, if it’s your husband, “that sucks, hon.” Or if it’s one of your sons, you say, “that sucks, kid.” Then walk away and leave them alone, to lick their wounds by themselves. I know its hard to imagine, yet that’s just what they want you to do, just what they need. But there’s something that I need. I need to say that I think Pete is great. He is a star and he should have won. Failing that, he should have at least made it through the first day, not just because he really is a great poker player, but because I love him and I wanted him to.

“I love you,” are the three words I couldn’t say to Pete the day he was knocked out, because that day, they just wouldn’t have hit his ear as well as “that sucks, hon.” But I needed to say them, just because he lost and wanted so much to win. So, I hope you won’t mind that instead of saying them to Pete directly, I say them to him here:

I love you, hon, and
…there’s always this year….

Last 5 posts by Patricia Volonakis Davis