As part of the GGA, however, I wanted to learn how to play poker. I have a coworker who plays pretty regularly, but I was leery about going to his normal haunts with him because he's a *serious* gambler and I don't really like the idea of being in the environment of *serious* gamblers. He got transfered away anyway.
So I was super excited to accept when my friend, Wee Irish Nessa, invited me to join in the weekly poker night she attends at the home of former coworkers Mitch and Michelle.
Today's New Activity: Learning When to Hold 'Em, Fold 'Em
Not only did this poker night sound fun because a number of people I rarely see or haven't seen in a while also participate, I knew they would be a friendly group who would help me learn without stealing all my money. With a $5 buy-in I didn't stand to lose much, but still I'd rather take it slowly and actually learn in the process.
I decided to sit next to my friend Thomas, since he is generally nice (at least a good part of the time) and I know he's a good trainer; he helped train me when I was rehired at Barnes & Noble a few years back. We played Texas Hold 'Em, and I'm not really sure how this stacks up in terms of difficultly level when compared to other styles, but I found it to be relatively easy to follow.
The most difficult thing to do was to follow the warp-speed progress of the fold/check/raise decision-making from all the players. We started with 10 people, so nobody was wasting any time in the beginning. Play slowed every time it came to me and Thomas had to help me decide what to do, explaining why in the process. Thankfully, nobody seemed to mind (it gave them plenty of time to catch up on nerd trivia "Hey Mitch, question for you: In Star Wars III...") We played that way for about 6 hands or so before Thomas set me free to make my own decisions.
I think I had a bit of beginner's luck on my side. That coupled with extreme caution allowed me to hang in there for a while. The nice thing was that each chip was worth only 10 cents, so it was pretty easy to get A LOT of play time out of 5 bucks, provided I wasn't looking to feign high-roller status (and clearly I wasn't). Lookit these spoils!
That's like a good $7 right there. HELL to the yes!
What was interesting to me about the night (beyond learning to play the game and trying my hand at bluffing (super suck at that, no surprise)) was how mentally alert I had to remain just to follow half the conversations going on. First of all, there were 3 or 4 people there in addition to those who were playing, so it was a lot to keep track of. But some people, like Nessa, seemed to be able to follow all of it, all at once! It was happening so fast--numerous conversations there in the room along with simultaneous Twitter feed commentaries and responses, Words with Friends moves played on iPhones, and constant take-no-mercy harassing going on. Nessa was sweet enough to let me in on the inside jokes, though she didn't need to go to the trouble. It was enough fun for me to just be in the presence of people who liked each other and had a lot of history between them from which to draw. I joked that hanging out with this group would keep my mind young. Being able to play the game well and keep track of all the whatnot will be a REAL test of mental agility, and I welcome the challenge for when next time rolls around.
Big thanks to all those present for the instructions and the good time!
If there were a downside to having spent the evening with such a rousing fun group, it was that it made the return home to my Monkey-less bedroom that much more difficult to reconcile. He spent the night with his dad, as he has every Wednesday since the first overnight visit about a month ago, and the contrast between the happy din of Mitch and Michelle's and the quiet, absent-baby-energy solitude of my room was a rude awakening. I actually had to grab Monkey's giant stuffed elephant (Elly) to sleep with, just to keep myself company and to feel like some part of him was nearby. I imagine that at some point being without my baby at night might become a little easier to bear, but for now it's something of a shock every time I get home from whatever I've chosen to do that night to distract me.
Spending the time with friends has been more than a distraction. I've enjoyed fully all the moments I've spent in the company of others while the baby is away, but I can't help but notice that--at the end of the evening--when all is still in my room and quiet in my mind, there is an absence whose strength is impossible to measure. Nothing feels right until he is back under the same roof with me. And I don't want to detract from the importance of the time he spends with his father...I'm just sharing honestly the feeling I have without him nearby.
It's always good to get grounded...to be reminded of what I hold closest to my heart and to appreciate it fully. But it's also good to reconnect with the people who bring me so much laughter during all the moments until the baby who stole my heart can return with it :)
In tribute to tonight's new activity and for fitting mood music, I offer the Glee version of this appropriate Lady Gaga number: