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Bad Beats and All ins. Confessions of an Apprentice Poker Brat

There is no such thing as luck. How can there be? How can there be an intangible element that floats around us, lands upon one person and not another – stays there for a miraculous while, and then floats away to bequeath its gift to another? If there is luck, then there may as well be Father Christmas, there may as well be fairies at the bottom of the garden – to capture on a brownstone camera in sepia; fat Americans may as well have been lifted from their reinforced beds in the middle of the night by antigravity rays and whisked off to hovering spacecraft for sexually related scientific investigation. We have split the atom and defined the human genome. We have equations for all things. If there is luck, there may as well be a vengeful God; terrorists evaporating from the stomach out, are actually – would you believe it? – heading for soft clouds and multiple virgins, Allah be praised.
There is and can be no such thing as luck.
I have just returned to the table to shake the hand of the large tattooed man to my right. He raised in the small blind, I cunningly called with my ‘good poker’ and low connectors in the big blind, hit two pair on the flop, re-raised his top pair hit all-in and then flounced off in a huff when the board paired Jacks to give him an unlikely victory. All my chips, and a parting ‘Nothing like luck in poker,’ from the bitter loser. To which he replied…. well he is a big fella with tattoos, you can imagine what he replied.
Anyway I have just re-bought for another 50 quid and returned to his table to shake his hand. Not because – as he suggests – I think he is gonna beat me up, but because I am trying, really trying not to be the sort of whining loser I hate. Just because you should have won, doesn’t give you the right to be an ugly human being. He shakes my hand loosely first, then beckons me back for a second more meaningful shake and a comment of appreciation at my manners. Kharma fixed, I head for my new table with a spring in my step; Texas Holdem will ruin your life if you let it. I am working on this and other issues.
One hour later I am busted out again. All in, short stacked, with AJ against QJ and A9. The QJ guy had just finished telling me what I did wrong in the last hand and I had just finished telling him to keep his opinions to himself. He has been calling and winning everything – with any two cards. We turn our cards over with five to come: Flop and then turn and then river. He tells me that he is going to hit the queen – his only out. I tell him I have no doubt at all that he will. The flop comes. He hits the Queen. Even though I am ready for it, there is no stopping my ugly mouth; ‘Nothing I can do about luck like that,’ it whines, before flouncing away with the rest of my body.
I don’t return to shake hands and apologise to this chap for two reasons: A he is a smug prick, B what’s the point of apologising for something when you just do it again: “Can’t tell you how bad I feel about gassing your children Mrs Goldstein, now would you be so kind as to tell me where your cousin lives?”
I take my bad Kharma and a cup of tea upstairs to the computer area of the Big Slick Poker club, on this over-lit, chav-heavy Saturday night, and proceed quite rightly to lose a decent portion of my online bank roll to ‘bad beats’ – hands the odds say I should win – and then of course to wild eyed, spinning-brained bad play.
Thank god my friend Fireman Mark gets busted out too and comes and rescues me. We leave at a very respectable 12 30 (leaving at respectable hour is not such a good thing in a poker tournament), his tail, far less of a leg problem than mine.
We drive back through night-lit south London. Past emptying pubs and the postscript of people who have done other things. And he talks to me of his time serving in the army in Ireland and the Middle east, and of people he has cut out of cars in the fire service. And we talk about the beats we had tonight. And we talk about the government and the world and how we live our lives. And by the time I drop him home I am OK. I lost some money. That happens; other people lose far more. But for one brief moment I behaved like a gentleman, like Barry Greenstein or Daniel Negreanu. And that, for now, at one thirty in the rainy morning in October 2010, will have to do.