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I Am Become Psycho Poker Bitch

Susan Arendt | 12 Jun 2008 21:00
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Gambling with fake money leaves players free to be risky and daring, to make bold moves they might never try if their rent money was actually on the line, and the players at the table took full advantage of that fact. My pokermates were having a ball raising and reraising, daring each other to go all in, calling bluffs and going for inside straights. Well-played hands and big wins were met with raucous cheers and applause, even by those who'd just lost a bundle. Then the PPB sat down, glowering at us over her colorful stack of chips.

She didn't join in the playful trash talk the rest of the table was enjoying. She didn't question her opponents' bravery or parentage, hoping to goad them into making a foolish bet. She didn't so much as crack a smile. She simply sat there, every molecule in her body focused with laser-beam accuracy on a single goal: winning.

As the night wound down, we were informed that we only had time for one or two more rounds. While the dealer was preparing to set up the next hand, I threw out the rather absurd suggestion that we all play this hand without once looking at our cards. Stupid? Yeah, maybe, but with nothing at stake except for perhaps some vague bragging rights, what did it matter? The other players joined in, betting randomly and wildly, laughing at the goofiness of it all. The cards were eventually revealed, and as the winner was handed his chips, I heard a clearly distraught PPB mutter, "That's not how you play. I don't want to do that again. You don't play like that."

I felt bad. Not because it had been my suggestion to play in such a silly manner, but because she was apparently unable to put aside her desire to win, her conception of how things "should" be for just a single hand of cards. It didn't cost her anything but a moment of her time, and yet it clearly offended her on some deep, personal level. Because we weren't doing it "right."

I'd thought less of PPB for having such a rigid view of fun, but here I was, sitting on my mother's couch, experiencing a similar kind of feeling. I may not have actually told her that she was doing it wrong, but that was clearly how I felt. I, in my arrogance, forgot that my way to play was not the only way, and that as long as my mom was having fun, she was getting it exactly right.

We're often so eager to see everything a game has to offer that we forget to actually see everything a game has to offer. There's absolutely nothing wrong with being competitive or goal oriented - just don't forget to stop and pet the fishes sometimes, too.

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