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I’m all in ... trouble, that is

I’m confident.

In fact, I’m beyond confident.

I’ve got pocket aces and I’m trying to contain my enthusiasm, be cool, prevent my joy from radiating to the others at the table. I decide to slow play the hand at the outset, see if I can draw someone into my net. The big blind is $200, so I call. Oh, I am a sly one.

Four of my opponents fold right off the bat, but Rico, a crafty fellow to be sure, raises 200. Carmella calls. Everyone else mucks their hands, including that insidious rake, Rafiq.

The flop couldn’t be better: 10, six, ACE!!!

Hoo boy, I’m tighter than a head on a snare drum. I decide to steal the pot; I raise $500. Rico performs as desired: He folds, shoving his cards to the center of the table. Carmella waits. Then, to my surprise, she calls.

Fourth street: a 10.

I figure I’m still on Cruisomatic with three big boys. I raise $500.

Carmella barely hesitates. She comes over the top with another $500.

I call.

The river? A six.

I remember Carmella has bluffed a decent percentage of the time during this game, but I don’t figure her to go this deep with nothing. For sure she has two pair; they’re sitting out there for everyone to see.

Nothing is suited for a flush, no prob there.

The only thing that could take me down is a totally unlikely four of a kind or the more likely full house.

I decide she doesn’t have it. It’s a gut feeling.

I raise $500.

She reraises $500.

I start to sweat, but I’m not blinking. I respond, and I’ve got a cool $2,900 on the table. I’m twitching internally, like a monkey with a severe digestive problem. Externally, I’m carved in stone.

I’m also $2,900 lighter once Carmella turns over her cards.

Full house.

Hoo boy, that stings.

Shoshana takes a seat at the table, She has the same name as Jerry Seinfeld’s ex-girlfriend. I fall for her instantly. I have to remind myself: No distractions. Not even a gorgeous Jewish woman with her own line of hair products.

Wren also moves to the table, bringing with him a $15,000 stack. What kind of name for a guy is “Wren?” I figure we are going to whack Wren in no time at all.

But, to assume I’m safe would be a fatal error.

After all, I’m playing in the World Series of Poker. I’ve got $11,900 worth of chips in front of me and I’m in the company of a gaggle of avaricious thugs. There’s the aforementioned Rico, Rafiq and Carmella. Rico is just to my left; between him and Carmella sits Germaine. There’s Roman, the chip leader, and Reynaldo, currently the only player at the table with fewer chips than me. Round the table out with Sharyl, Keanu and — be still my beating heart — the inimitable Shoshana.

I wonder what kind of snacks would be appropriate and I remember the Earl of Sandwich came up with the idea of putting meat between two slices of bread to fit a situation just like this — food made for munching while playing cards. If I were of a mind, I would whip up something on foccacia, with prosciutto, some kind of cheese, tomato, oil and basil.

But I’m not of the mind — not even for Shoshana.

Truth is, I can’t stand the other players; they’re remorseless calculating machines.


I’m playing Texas No-limit Hold ’Em on my computer.

And, if this session of the World Series of Poker goes like the last seven I’ve tried, I’m doomed. I’m having real trouble beating this program. In fact, I’m having real trouble surviving for a respectable period of time.

My key problem is my severely limited attention span. Texas No Limit Hold ’em is not the ideal game for someone with ADD. Second, my math talent is minimal; I have trouble making change, so how am I going to figure pot odds or the odds of a particular hand hitting relative to how many cards are out and which cards are showing? I’m an idiot and the software is brutalizing me. If I don’t improve, I’m in big trouble when I hit the real thing, in Vegas.

Not the real World Series of Poker, mind you, but at least an actual poker game.

I’ve been watching Texas Hold ’Em on TV for years, and I am determined to learn how to play in order to lose real money to real people.

Texas No Limit Hold ’em is still a big thing, with tournaments televised regularly on several channels. People are winning millions of dollars, acting like rock stars. There are goofs out there trying to convince us poker is a “sport.” It’s nothing of the sort, but with all that cash floating around, it is an activity worthy of note.

So, I plan to play thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of hands of poker on my computer before I take my next trip to Sin City.

When I get to Vegas, flush with virtual experience, I’ll go downtown to some dive on Fremont Street, find a cheap buy-in, and compete against flesh-and-blood opponents.

I admit I need a lot of help. Most of all, I need to boost my brain power between now and the trip to Vegas. I need to jack up my endurance and memory, open as many clogged neural pathways as possible.


You bet! Physical and mental. I’m boosting my workout at the gym and I am doing crossword puzzles like there’s no tomorrow. I review my multiplication tables every night before I go to bed, concentrating on percentages. It took me years to deal with tipping percentages — 15 and 20 percent — so it’s slow going with the math.

Diet? Got it covered! I’m going to hit the brain foods at every opportunity.

I Googled brain foods and visited a bunch of websites that provide lists of foods needed for max brain function.

To renovate the brain barn, they say you need foods loaded with B vitamins as well as a number of minerals required for lightning-fast cognition and super-sharp memory.

All the lists include a tedious pitch for whole grains, all manner of quasi-vegan crud. I ignore those items, but I discover you get B1 from pasta and pork. You get B5 from meat, poultry and fish. There’s B6 to be had in chicken fish and pork. Flesh is vindicated; I’m a happy man. These foods are right up my alley.

You can pile on the B12 with eggs and dairy products. Folic acid oozes out of dried beans.

Salmon has a bunch of mind-boosting attributes, including a wad of long-chain omega 3 fatty acids. I love salmon, therefore, I must love long-chain omega 3 fatty acids. Bring ’em on!

Most of the sites recommend cutting out caffeine and alcohol. Obviously there are rogue scientists at work at elitist universities; they should be denied tenure and grants.

I made a list of brain enhancing foods (the ones I appreciate) and I took the liberty of adding chiles of all sorts and grapes to the list. Food without chiles is mere fuel. Grape skins contain all sorts of antioxidants and whatnot and, as we all know, you can’t make red wine without grape skins. I added red wine to my list.

I decided to whip up a meal that contains an abundance of brain goodies: pork and fish, beans and dairy products. It should amp up my brain function tenfold. I’ll do up a mess of carne adovada, using pork shoulder, chunked and marinated overnight in my oregano and garlic riddled red chile mix, then slow-cooked for hours in the oven. Soak some pintos, cook them, mash them with plenty of lard (pork at its finest). Grill some marinated salmon (how about a chipotle marinade?) then cut it in chunks. Serve adovada and salmon soft tacos — one of each — with refries. I hear avocados are full of good fats; I’ll find a few, make some guacamole. A bit of chopped cilantro for the tongue and the eye. Plenty of mind-enhancing dairy products — grated cheeses and sour cream — on the side. Yow, the brain wheels will be turning so fast they’ll come off the axle.

And, while I fine-tune my diet, I need to continue to practice, practice, practice … play as much computerized hold ’em on the computer as I can. To this end, I have two computers set up at my desk at home — my desktop (which I am using to write this column) and my laptop, into which the poker software is loaded. I have both computers on whenever I’m home and, as I write, I play hands on the laptop. I am multi-tasking. I intend to surreptitiously load the program into my computer at work.

It’s difficult to keep up with each process in the two-computer mode, largely because of that cad, Rafiq. I’m trying to write and that no-good #**^#!!* is bluffing on nearly every hand. It’s rough when you’re stuck in late position and you’re pondering the choice of adjectives in an editorial and struggling to determine whether you call with a suited ace and three.

I lose most of the time, but I figure the distraction of writing stands in for the aging cocktail waitress asking if I want another glass of watered-down gin and tonic, or the persistent hack of the heavy smoker who’ll be seated to my left. I use the distraction of my work as a training aid.

Hold on a sec — Carmella’s coming over the top again. I’ve got two kings and there’s a pair of fours in the flop.

I eat a piece of feta, take a sip of wine and reraise.

The turn and the river help neither of us. I raise. Carmella reraises. I call.

She has aces in the hole.

Oops. I swear I hear Rafiq snicker.

I make note to buy a whole lot of salmon. And more grapes.


I’m all in.

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