For a few hours yesterday, I lived the life of a degenerate gambler. And I liked it.
While the kids were in school, my dad and his wife and I went to play poker at the casino where Mr. H and I like to play. I don’t do this often, but it always feels decadent to play poker during school hours. (On occasion, Mr. H will offer to pick the kids up from school so that I can play the noon tournament.) It always feels like playing hooky.
On Monday mornings, the poker room is mostly empty, with just a few tables running games. A couple of $3/$6 limit tables, an Omaha table, and a $4/$8 table. The crowd is made up of a lot of regulars, many of whom I have played with over the past few years. I know some of their names, but I know them better by their style of play.
I like the daytime crowd more than the one that forms in the evening. These guys–there are few women–are the ones who make their living at the tables (though I suppose a few of them lose their living, too), and I like feeling like one of them for a few hours. There’s a part of me that feels very comfortable in dive bars, and that part of me comes out a bit when I get the chance to play with the regulars, in the middle of the morning on a Monday.
It’s that part of me that tips its hat to the fact that I was raised in the country in Missouri. The part that misses the days when I would hang out with friends at bars like The Black Duck in Westport, Connecticut and The Repair Shop in Springfield, Missouri. The part that likes country music, the county fair, and (Mr. H laughs at this) used to go to the tractor pulls with my family.
That part of me needs things to be gritty and imperfect sometimes, and balanced a bit precariously on the farthest edge of good clean living, even though I really am more comfortable when everyone minds a few manners, uses a napkin, and doesn’t do anything too shocking.
I lost $67 at the tables yesterday. It just wasn’t my day, but I still had a great time. Poker teaches a good lesson: to shake off a loss or a bad beat, because eventually the luck will go your way again.
There’s another thing I know. That no matter where I go, or how much I admire fussy things like nice stationery and $4 coffee and Victoria magazine, inside of me and pointing true north, there’s an old dirt road running through my soul.
And that last part, I think, would make a good country song.