Let the world know you as you are, not as you think you should be, because sooner or later, if you are posing, you will forget the pose, and then where are you?” Fanny Brice
No matter how hard I try I cannot think of anything. My mind is empty. As if someone has stolen my thoughts. My whole body feels limp, lifeless and my eyes are sore as if I have been crying all day. I haven’t been crying all day but I know I could, if I wanted to. Like a dry piece of tinder in the desert it will only take a spark. I don’t know what that spark will be but it is coming, I can feel it.
Twenty-four hours earlier and I am buzzing with anticipation. It is Tuesday night. Poker night. There are ten of us tonight and we decide to play our rebuy tournament on one table. It is a very tight squeeze and there is the normal unspoken awkwardness that comes with being so close to each other. The classic awkward moments when you cannot sit without your legs touching the blokes legs next to you and the worry that the smell of your breath is being inhaled so you ask around the table for chewing gum, just in case. Legs touching apart, all ten are comfortable. They have all looked forward to these few hours all day long. Conversation flows as freely and naturally as water flows down the side of my valley.
Everyone has a story to tell and each story is interesting to everyone around the table. Poker has united these people. Is it a coincidence everyone has so much in common?
As the tournament draws to a close it is a familiar story. The loose aggressive players are all sat around a different table, eating Chinese take away and waiting for a cash game to start. The final three consist of three people who have played a total of six hands between them since the freezeout period began. It annoys me but I have to accept that they have a winning formula and it is I who has to change my approach if I want to win more Tuesday night tournaments. Luckily for me it is in the cash games that I earn my second wage in.
We settle down for a game of DC and agree to let Big Mike play “Shoot the Pool”. This turns out to be an unwise decision by me because two other regulars take a likening to the game and before you know it I have found myself in a gambling luck fest and I am quickly at the sharp end after my KKK gets cracked by the lowly two of clubs for £60. Three more attempts to “Shoot the Pool” end up in misery for me and I am very quickly stuck around £300.
The conversation continues to flow and it is strange that the humour is more present in the cash games when the money is higher, than the tournament when it is much lower. The three gamblers who were playing “Shoot the Pool” now start playing 3-card brag with wild cards and I start to lose money quicker than a virgin loses his load. There is a pattern forming. The weakest poker players are playing the gambling games and the strongest are playing the games requiring the most skill. The stacks in front of the weaker players are growing. I take a handful of £50 notes from my pocket and slide them underneath my stack and change gears. I stop gambling in “Shoot the Pool” and Brag and start cranking up the pressure in PLO, NLHE and Irish. I finish up £300.
It is 02:00 and someone mentions that it may be best if we go home. After all we all have a career to go to. Nobody wants to move.
“Just one more rotation.” Says Neil Farm.
At that moment I feel alive. My head is full of different playing cards, ranges, percentages, anecdotes, stories, images and memories. My body feels strong and my eyes are sharp and focussed. I have been crying all night. Crying with laughter.
I drop Terry Welsh off and before he leaves he turns around and says to me,
“I love these nights Ching, even if I lose all my money. I look forward to this night all day. See you next Tuesday.”
I go home and count my cash on the floor. I walk into the kitchen and there is a shopping list on the table. I take a piece of kitchen roll off the holder, slip £75 in between the folds and write,
“To the best wife in the world all my love your gambling addict of a husband.”
I smile to myself, go upstairs, kiss my son on the forehead and climb into my warm bed and put my arm around my wife and go to sleep.
I arrive at my meeting at 10:30 sharp. Raindrops slalom through the spikes in my hair and slowly trickle down the side of my face. I look around the steelworks and everything is grey. There are great bales of grey metal, grey walls, grey cars and grey clouds.
The meeting room is small and dirty. The paintwork is grey. Safety notices depicting statistics from 2006 and 2007 adorn the walls. The wooden floors are covered in dry dirt, the windows are steamed up and you can see the rain flowing down the glass.
In the middle of the meeting room is a very small table. It is a very tight squeeze and there is the normal unspoken awkwardness that comes with being so close to each other. Only this time nobody is comfortable. Conversation flows as freely as a woman’s first child during labour. People introduce themselves to each other and then immediately forget their names. They are so busy trying to think of a method of talking to each other without having to use the names that they have forgotten that they are not listening to anything that anyone is saying. I pick up on these moments quite naturally and I always deliberately break the ice. I make moments like this more comfortable for people. Not today. My mind is empty. I am numb. Careers that no-one cares about has united these people. Is it any coincidence no one has anything in common?
The monotony of discussions on the weather is broken by the delivery of coffee. No one likes it but everyone has some. It’s as if there is a sudden release for people to do something. You can pour your coffee, stir your coffee, and drink your coffee. No need to talk when you have so many interesting things to do with your coffee. I use my Blue Square Poker pen to stir my coffee. I pass it around and everyone accepts it and stirs his coffee before nonchalantly passing it back.
I write the date on the top of a piece of paper, coffee drips down the side of my pen and stains it. It looks like shitty toilet paper. As soon as we start one of the ghosts gives his apologies but he has to leave in one hour. Two more ghosts say the same. We are there because we have to be there. No one wants to be there. There is no value in this. I am wasting my time. Wasting my life.
I get into the car and start driving easterly. I have two more junctions before my first major decision of the day. Do I go back to the office or do I continue east and go home? I don’t even have the radio on. I am sat in complete silence. I am not even thinking. Before you know it I am home. I can’t even remember how I got here.
I walk in and put my laptop on the floor. My son shouts for me from upstairs and I amble up there like a zombie.
“Its Wednesday Dad. Reading time. Can we do it now so I can go down my friends house?” my son asks.
I sit down and he sits on my lap and starts reading. But I am not listening. I am not here. I am somewhere else.
But where am I?
I don’t know.
I don’t know who I am. What I am supposed to be? What I am supposed to do?
I am an imposter in a world I don’t recognise nor understand.
Pretending to be something I am not.
“Mrs.” I hear myself saying.
I quickly snap out of my trance.
“Miss.” Says my son.
“Mrs.” I say.
The word brings me back to life.
“There are three terms to use when referring to a woman.” I tell my son.
“Do you know what they are?” I ask
“I know two. Mrs and Miss.” He says.
“Mrs, Miss and Ms.” I continue.
“Do you know what they mean?” I ask him.
“Sure.” He says confidently.
“Mrs is the term you use when a woman is married.” He says.
“Miss is the term you use when a woman is not married.” He continues.
“What about Ms?” I ask.
He thinks for a while. Turns towards me with a confused look on his face. The confusion turns to delight as he proudly declares.
“I know is a Ms a lesbian?” He proudly asks.
A smile breaks out on my face for the first time today.
First Published in Poker Pro Europe Magazine