Monday, April 20, 2009

I Hate Big Hands

I hate big hands. Not AA or KK because I love those starting hands. And sidenote, I hate those idiots that complain about big pairs and then never draw a profit from them. No, I'm being literal. I hate big HUMAN HANDS. You know those big giant hands with fat frankfurter fingers crowned by thick calloused fingernails that are as wide as postage stamps always yellow and blocking any light from reflecting off of possible cards underneath.

In live play, you look at those Ogre hands and you never know if it's your turn to act or if the guy has got a pair of cards buried under there and he is contemplating monosyllabically in his head. "DO... I... CALL? DO... I... BET?" You can hear the thought pushing the pea-sized brain about his matching Easter Island skull like an Astronaut farting his propolsion in a space-station. Anyway, sorry to get off on a tangent, but Astronauts have been known to eat an extra batch of freeze-dried Boston Beans just for the fun of bouncing around the station powered by toots. Come on, you know that sounds like fun.

Back to my anger inspired by big hands. When I see massive hands I make a mental footnote, which is a lot like a real footnote, noticed when first thought about but never returned to, that I need to follow the action a little more closely. And I need to see if the guy folds or not, but my ADD always sets in when he's involved. It's like an observational blind spot. My mind is off thinking about farting astronauts when it's his turn to act and the pot is always pulled in before I can see if his chips have entered it when I do remember about that little mental footnote.

The dealers rarely point out if there are cards under the penis-fingers. Sure enough, like the opposite of Schroedeger's Cat, whatever action you decide to do determines the exact opposite to be true. If you bet, he's deliberating: "DO... I... EAT... TO... NIGHT... WAIT... I... GOT... CARD... S." If you don't bet, there's nothing but air under those Troll palms.

So yes, I hate big hands. F'ing Giant hands possessed by Poker Donkeys, frickin' mules packing up the mountain in a Sysphian quest to win with the worst hand whenever possible and only getting bounced down the mountain and out of the tournament after they've suicide bomber eliminated the best player all but drawing dead but hitting their miracle. You know the guy. He sends you to the rail and he's got a mountain of chips but somehow he beats you to bathroom.

You chose not to pee next to him because if his hands are that big... Yeah, admit it, just like farting your way to an Earthrise on the portal window, this thought has creeped in your mind too.

Still, next time, you see the best player at your table (those rare times it isn't you) get bounced like a check written by Ed McMahon by Giant Hands get ready to reap the riches because Giant Hands luck has run out. If he could put together sophisticated thought, he might question why his luck runs out just after busting the local Phil Hellmuth, but his pea brain can only muster so many thoughts, and it must get tired bouncing around his inner cranium.

But fear not, he'll be there next week to do the same. Try and watch his hands and his cards OR just play some online poker and not see the guy mashing his mouse with brick hands.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

What's Cracklin'

"Name of the game is Texas Hold 'em..." Pete dealt the cards slowly to each of us. He gave the same introduction every week, every single week for a year, and we always played the same game, Texas Hold 'em. "You get two cards, there will be a flop which consists of three frags of hope, a turn, which only make some of you knuckleberrys even more hopeful, and then that river which will win me the pot."

Tony rolled his eyes at the Sargeant as he always did and Corporal Timmons shot him a glare... as he always did.

I hoped I'd win, as I usually did.

Marks sweating like a call girl in confession, told us for the 5,000th time he was "Burning up. Dang. This is fucking hot."

Iraq is hot. Steaming, burning insufferable heat. You could taste the sand in the wind and we were located in the most wayward, godforsaken corner of the desert any troop could hope to be. We called ourselves the Lost Guardsmen.

We were entrenched in a large camp, basically guarding a hatch in the ground. A couple of men from DC, CIA surely, had dropped in and taken a look, left and then six months later nothing. Still we guarded it.

Day after day of nothingness. Not that we'd complain. Plenty of guys we know elsewhere dealing with road side bombs and citizens who wave at them one minute shooting at them from a window the next. No in terms of Iraq, despite the boredome we had it pretty good. Most of us had already gotten enough of a taste of action in Afghanistan to know it was all it was cracked up to be.

If whatever we were guarding was valuable the Iraqis hadn't figured it out yet. We didn't feel like soldiers or guards we felt more like inmates. Every couple of weeks a copter would fly in with supplies and fresh decks or cards and we basically played poker and traded our salaries around like it was gold.

That's what Marks thought was in the hatch. Gold. Babylonian gold.

We tried to talk the officers into letting us peak in the hatch but no dice.

Somebody said that they were actually chemical weapons. A warehouse full of anthrax or something.

Others said if it were gold or munitions some warlord would have come looking for it. But nothing.

So we waited and "guarded."

Every night when it got cool and not too windy we played poker. Jackson, from Jackson, Mississippi, had somehow gotten some Makers Mark into camp and we were sipping it. I no longer bothered keeping track of where my rifle was and I thought of a TV show my dad got on DVD recently, Sgt. Bilko.

As we passed around the cards, Pete went through the texas hold'em rules again, and we kept sipping the Makers Mark and talk shifted to the hatch. Jackson spoke first in a quiet whisper, "I've been down there you know..."

"Down where?" The corporal asked.

"Don't get all narc on me, but I've been down the hatch... went last night," I couldn't take it no more.

"You went down the hatch?" The corporal swelled up.

"Yeah, and if you want to know what I saw, you'll agree to shut the fuck up, right?"

"Corporal you can keep it quiet right?" Tony got real close to Corporal Timmons.

The corporal wilted, "If the sarge is fine with it..."

"Of course, I'm fine with it. Now, Jackson, from Jackson, what's in that hatch of ours?"

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


"I can't go for that, no-o, no can do," she smiled with a glint in her eye.

We had spent half a day together, a long reckless day, driving 100 mph on the interstate in a beat up Honda that looked like it would struggle to go 70. Already that morning we took a dip in a fountain in a public park. We split a beer and then she came up with the destination.

We were cutting school. Anything went. Where we were supposed to be it was lunch time, b lunch, the second of three, yet we were far from the cafeteria. I could only imagine the stale baked ziti on a tray.

I watched her struggle to reach the volume knob on the radio. All she had to do was sit up, but for the last half hour she was leaned back as far as the seat would go, her legs perched up with her feet hanging gingerly out the window. She giggled when she finally adjusted it.

She slid a cigarette out of the box on her purse in between us, a Camel lite. As she reached for her lighter, I started to laugh and grabbed her hand.

"I can't go for that," despite doing 90 and weaving through the sparse traffic on I-10, I managed to make eye-contact with my most disapproving look.


"No can do."

She wrangled the lighter from me, and laughed some more.

"No!" I said.

"The window's open. Don't worry."


"Com'n it's not like your mom's going to know."

I shook my head.


I shook my head defeated. I didn't have to say it, she knew I relented. With her I always did. She always got her way. Where has that ever got me I thought to myself?

She smiled her little Meg Ryan, self-satisfied cute as hell smile, and I stopped caring. I just wanted that smile to never go away.

I had agreed to go to the casinos on the coast with her, on our cut day, but on one condition and that was not to smoke in my Mom's car. 30 miles to go and she was doing just that. But she was smiling.

She giggled as she breathed in the cigarette, she made an exaggerated effort to blow it out the window and I appreciated it. I watch the smoke disperse and stared at her long, tanned legs. They shined in the sunlight. I forced myself to look back at the road.

"We won't need I.D.?" I asked again.

"As long as you don't break the bank we'll be alright," she cooed, "just don't hit the jackpot on the slots or anything like that. Would suck not being able to keep it."

"And your sure, Tracey will mark us as not absent?"

"Don't want to ruin your perfect attendence? Jeez... you are already accepted in like five colleges."

"I can't be marked as absent..."

"Yes... It's okay. Stop worrying. You'll perfect attendence will be intact tomorrow. She's fudged plenty of cuts for me. She's the one that collects it and proofs it every day."

"... okay, and she's a space cadet."

"Chill. It's okay."

I sighed. I had never cut school before. In fact, I had never had a beer before, never hung out socially with HER before, but today as I was driving her to school she insisted we go right past it. I always thought she was just being nice to the neighbor boy who drove her to school, but now I didn't know so much. Maybe she liked me... like I liked her.

"And don't worry, we'll go play poker or something, they won't card us," she pulled her seat up and leaned over to me. As she got closer, my heart either stopped, jumped up into my throat, or sped out of my chest. "Don't worry," she lightly flicked my earlobe with her tongue and giggled, "besides, I think poker players are hot." Wow! What a day. "You going to wear these?" She took my sunglasses in her hand and twirled them before me.

"Am I going to be on TV?" I tried to find cool, I didn't really.

"No," she riffled the hair on the back of my neck with a gentle blow.

I re-adjusted my hands on the wheel trying not to lose myself. Our first moment. I took stock of it. Going about 87 on I-10 East with Florida in the rear-view mirror. One day I'll tell our kids about it, screw that tomorrow I'm going to tell everybody about it. "I don't think I'll need them."

"What if I want you to wear them," she was trying to distract me. The hairs all over my body stood up as she put soft lips to my neck.

I swallowed hard.

Her hand found it's way to my hair and she was almost in my seat.

"I want you to wear them," she said huskily.



"Well, I may need a little more convincing?"

"Really?" More laughing. "Let's see how the poker goes."

She pulled away, and then slid the sunglasses on my face, gently.

That was living.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Folding Pocket Twos

It hesistated as if stuck for a moment and then wandered in chaotic fashion downward. I could not help but idly stare at the first rain drop that thunked on my window. The noise had drawn me to it. I waited for others to follow it but they did not come at first. I had only the trail of the drop to divert my attention from the computer, and the darkening of the skyline behind it.

I waited, and waited for the next raindrop to hit. A gust rattled the drainpipe on the side of my house and shifted even the sturdy oak in my front yard but no more drops. Still, I waited for the second rain drop. I looked for darkening mositure on the street but it did not come.

My computer beeped, it was my turn to act. The screen for bwin's online poker site blinked before me. As I looked down, it was just then the rain pittered and pattered on the sill and the window. A wave of wind pregnant with water swept across the street.

"Pocket 2s under the gun," I said as I fired out a bet hoping not to get reraised. Sure enough the agressive player in seat 5 put in a raise. Against him I might be good. The clever player on the button raised over us both. Re-steal.

I thought about making a move myself. Lots of money in the pot. The rain attacked the window with each fit of wind. Should I just shove. The blinds folded. The drainpipe rattled against the gutter it was anchored to. Hmmm. I have but pocket deuces.

I dejectedly hit the fold button. I made it more of decision then I needed to. Even if I was right I didn't need to get involved in the hand. We were on the cusp of the bubble.

I went back to window watching, the rain blurring the dull surroundings out my front door. Bubbles of water coalesced then ran haphazardly down.

This morning my boyfriend walked out angry. I tried his cell, but he hadn't answered. He didn't like me grinding all night on the computer. He hadn't liked his girl, spending more time with a poker site than with him. "Well you should have never transferred money to my account," I snorted to myself, "You should have never got me started. You should have never asked if I wanted to play online poker."

The truth of the matter, James was jealous, I had turned his modest gesture of keep you busy money into a bankroll. I had conquered one level after another and was turning into a deadly force in multi-table tournaments, and poor James tilted away reload after reload. Unlike James I knew how to walk away from pocket deuces, I knew how to get away from something I should have given up long ago.

The screen blinked at me, and I looked at 72 of clubs in the big blind. I noticed the wild player had half the stack he had the last hand. The clever button now had more chips. Maybe he didn't resteal.

The loose player shoved on my blind. Oh well. He can have it. Then I smiled when the clever player called. In a second the rashness of tilt shove was confirmed. The autofold of me and the small blind zipped us into a showdown. Clever player held QQ and Mr. Wild held Q9. J107 came the flop. I snickered again as an 8 came on the turn. I wished for a K or a 9. It didn't come.

I autofolded my 36 from the small blind.

Across the street Mrs. Fischman stood on her doorstep using the paltry cover of her screen door to brave the rain. She called for her cat. I could see it squatting under her house glaring at the rain and ignoring her owner's beckoning.

James and I had steadily drifted apart. Yes, I had become a wife to a computer, poker had become my preoccupation, indeed, my very occupation. I was making far more online than I did waitressing. I had a knack for the game, I had to play poker online.

James was very jealous.

I raised with J8 on the button and collected the blinds and antes.

I raised again with 56 and got a caller from the clever player. Flop came 6104. I bet half the pot. He raised me. I fired back. He folded. One more player until the money.

The wind snarled and whistled and I worried about a power failure. My chip stack would guarantee me an in the money finish but I liked my chances today. Several bad players were sitting on big stacks.

Was James out in this? James packed up his iPod with a little bag of clothes. I assumed he was heading to the beach to gather his tilted thoughts. I didn't like this weather, but he was the type to obsolently sit in a lightning storm... if he was set on a day at the Beach. Far be it for weather to get in the way of what he wanted to do. Part of me thought I should let the worry go, I caught myself think the words... let him go.

"Really? Let him go?" I asked myself. There was a lot to be said for James. He was going places. He had a good head on his shoulders and his father's construction business was booming. Every girl did a double take at his rugged looks and for the most part he treated me great.

I folded a mediocre holding and watched the now thick rain pelt my window.

His failures in poker weighed on me. His frustrations at not being able to let a losing session go. His unwillingness to pitch a hand. I told myself not to judge a person based on poker and I knew I only had to look at some of the awful people that were successes at this game to know it indicated nothing, but still James' failures at the game weighed on me.

Maybe I shouldn't tell him to fold when watching him overplay a hand from behind. It only encouraged him to do opposite. Perhaps, I smothered him by outperforming him, and then sharing my triumphs with him... of course he resented me. Maybe I was the cause of his struggles... of our struggles.

The cat had had enough and with lightning speed slinked through the rain up onto the door step. It got onto it's hind legs and scratched at the door. It demanded to be let in.

Bwin blinked at me again. I folded. I had made the money.

The storm whipped around a lawn-chair from my neighbor's yard and pitched it down the street, the white plastic bouncing onto the road with vigor. The cat was gone. Must have made it in.

Where was Jim? I expected him to knock on the door. To whisper his apology and to work on things. He would come in out of the rain. I would let him back in. I realized, for the first time that day, I had thought it. I would let him back in. I said it, so I knew it was true. I didn't need to give up on us.

The rain slowed. I smiled thinking of Jim in a wet shirt. He wasn't all bad.

There was a beep. I looked at my bwin table and saw a hand still in action. It was my blackberrry. It's red light blinked, I had a message.

I looked at it... James... "I thought it over. We are a bad fit. We can't stay holding on to something we should have given up a long time ago. I'm sorry for the way I've treated you but we need to let it go. I'll get my things tomorrow."

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Okay, there's a card in there...

It is through the corridor of trees, rangy oaks swollen with Spanish Moss and made languid by the breeze, that I rush toward Oglethorpe’s home. My feet burned with wear and cold and now the shoe leather no longer protected instead the jagged edges of holes turned inward cut and scalded against the base of my toes. The furrows of departed wagon wheels, mud tracks hardened into permanence, and their intertwined serpentine ridges made agony of my ankles, but still I looked forward and not downward, as the once muddy but now frozen drive rose higher with just the wisp of sated smoke from his chimney visible in the distance.

Behind it, grey bounding clouds slowly bellowed a storm, darkening like nightfall even in the afternoon. Weary or not, close to my goal or far from it, I would have edge to my step as I could feel the weight of the front baring forward. I leaned into the thicker air and anticipated the whipping winds and slanted bullets of sleet. A rolling, rumbling grumble tumbled across the sky, and the branches splayed outward caught in the new pressure’s fury. The moss and leaves spiraled upward into a dark cluster of twilight confetti.

I quickened my step even more. The gaps between gusts shortened with each bluster and through the last of the pauses, as the branches unbowed and the leaves and moss settled, the house encompassed more with each step on the hardened mud. As I ascended the rise, it loomed, like the storm at its back, rising bigger and broader with darkness.

A wooden rickety mess was what I expected, surely this home, this frontier manor could barely have had time to grow and age as this house had, but the stripped paint, and weathered ballastrades grew visible. Harsh jagged angles, slits for windows, and destitute annexes accosted me as the wind indeed whipped anew.
The once languid breeze now a combustible gale under an explosion of frozen rain, a bitter jarring spittle so thick I could barely see one foot for the other. In it I had no more time to absorb the audacity of the structure, this somehow sturdy monument of disrepair and its contradictions, was all the more closer yet I could barely make it out.

Directly, I found myself on the threshold and though an overhang cast a long sillouethe of protection it was false one, as still fiery sleet found me even as I clung to the door for cover.

An iron knocker as pitch black as the door raked my temple as I tried to envelope my head in my jacket. At once, I grabbed the knocker and punched it’s barrel into the door time and time again. It was the frantic knock of a hurried child and I decided weather excused my failing in decorum.

The storm absorbed the house, the sleet and ice now hard falling thick snow. It was no feathery respite instead the temparture had dropped at least 10 degrees and the accumulation was absorbing my ankles. The cold was all I knew. My feet burned icily.

I had been at my goal only moments and already the singlemindedness of my journey was replaced with a new solitary thought, I needed warmth.

I couldn’t believe that mere moments before this jarring weather was an impossibility. And now I felt the the cold whispy breath of death chilling my marrow.

I took from an inner pocket the weathered playing card, the Jack of Cups that would be my introduction and I felt myself trembling. It was hard to tell the trembling from the shivering but the sudden fury of nature weakened me in fear. My teeth rattled in an uncontrolled spasm.
irst my fingers, then my palms and quickly even my wrists numbed.

I wiped snow off the card.

I submitted to the weather and leaned into the door ready to fold into a ball to contain my fleeting heat.

Then, the massive door opened with answered urgency and I fell twisting backward into the house.

From the floor I could see candles and gas-lights flickering up along a thick staircase behind me and worse I could taste the mildewed tufts of the worn dark carpet and somehow my frozen nostrils still could find a scent of rotted leaves and wet dead animal.

I looked up at two narrowed eyes on the outer halo of a candle parting the darkness peering down at me.

The candle moved upward bringing the lower face into view.

Yellow teeth parted and thin lips pursed a single word, “Move.”

“I’m… I’m Edgar Aames, I’ve tr…”


The candle lowered toward me, and a large heavy hand grabbed my coat and dragged me from the threshold. I slid on the worn carpet toward the stair cast like a fishing lure spinning farther into the dark house..

I heard the door close resolutely and the noise of the hammers of its lock falling in a jarring twist.

The air was barely warmer inside then outside. But it was warmer.

I start to push myself up.

Suddenly, a thick boot jammed into my chest, expelling my breath and winding me, and compressing me against the floor. I struggled for air and as I coughed the boot pressed harder. It felt like my lungs were imploding.

The mouth of my greeter slowly lowered into candle-illuminated view and I barely made out the reedy eyes glare at me as I might a stray dog whose intentions for trespass were unclear.

“Edgar Aames? Means nothing.”

I swallowed and reached for air trying to pull it in.

The boot pressed harder.

“Back to the blizzard?” the thin lips hissed.

I felt the wilted edge of the card in my hand and as I struggled to breathe I brought it into the candle-light.

The eyes peered into me.

I was light-headed and felt a thousand tiny blades surging to my bloodstream from my depleted lungs.

Fingernails scrathed into my palm as my captor grabbed at the card. He hurriedly turned it over.

“Jack of… Cupsss,” the final word slithered into pause.

The boot’s weight slowly, absentmindedly abated, and I watched one hand holding the candle move closer to the one holding the card. I caught half a breath and shook my head slowly to steady my consciousness.

After a moment of his study, his thumb rubbed across its face a yellowed claw digging into it.

I gathered my breath and at once I was pulled upward. The warm fetid breath washed over me as he intoned, “Who are you… Edgar Aames?”

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