Robbie Eilat
At the Eilat airport

Last week, I was treated to a special departure from my regular routine as I joined over 200 of my work colleagues on our annual company trip. This year, we jetted off to the resort city of Eilat, at the southern tip of Israel. Traditionally, the company trip lasts just two days and one night, but what a sweet escape it is – packed full of fun activities, great food, and large doses of camaraderie. I’m currently in my third year of employment for the company, so this trip represented my third time spearheading what’s also become an annual institution: the company poker game (not to be confused with the annual online/live hybrid company poker tournament).

The Anticipation Begins

As I often get asked to proofread and edit our HR department’s email announcements before they get sent out, I’m usually among the first to know when and where the annual company trip will be taking place each year. As excited as I am anticipating the upcoming getaway and R&R it portends, I get equally as jazzed up for the inevitable poker cash game(s) that we’ll be playing.

Within a couple hours of the others finding out there will be a company trip, I get at least two emails asking me if I’ll be bringing my chip set and cards. I walk out of the building later that day to go have lunch and get a knowing look and a smile while passing a colleague with whom I have pretty much nothing else to do other than participating in the annual company trip poker games. Mind you, the trip is still a few weeks away at this point…

We all know that lots of poker fun and good times are on the way.

Don’t Forget to Pack Your A-Game… and the Poker Chips

300-chip poker set
No chips? No game…

As we’ll be flying back and forth to Eilat, I prepare my smaller set of 300 chips for travel. While my poker-playing colleagues have on multiple occasions thanked me for doing all the organizing, I don’t think they realize how annoying it is to have to carry around an almost 10lb. case for extended periods of time while traveling to and from the destination. Of course, as we’re in Israel, I’m always ready to be grilled by inquisitive and thorough airport security personnel as to what the big silver briefcase is, what’s in it, what I need it for, etc. Oh, and that means I’ve got to pack really light on the personal items… but hey, it’s all for the good of the game, right?

The domestic flight from Tel Aviv to Eilat is just 45 minutes long, but I’m always worried in the back of my mind that “for undisclosed reasons” my chip case will have mysteriously disappeared en route.

I breathe a sigh of relief when I see my bag emerge onto the carousel.

Even for Poker, It’s Hard to Flee Paradise

Eilat, from the hotel window
View of the pool and the Red Sea, from my hotel window in Eilat

Generally speaking, we’re free to do whatever we want while on the company trip, with the exception of a couple scheduled activities. While everyone who participates in the annual company poker game obviously enjoys playing cards, the fact is that it’s tough to tear oneself away from the allure of pure rest and relaxation in a gorgeous resort setting.

You can play poker anywhere, anytime, but it would be a true shame to spend the whole time indoors shuffling chips when all those hotel amenities awaited and stunning Red Sea views were in the offing.

From pounding out a couple of 5k runs in the fitness room to gaining all those burnt calories back via the breakfast and lunch spreads to just simply lounging by the pool without a care in the world, I feel like I really would’ve missed out if I stuck to “just poker”.

So How about Some Actual Poker Talk?

company poker gameEilat is known, among other things, for offering world-class diving and glorious underwater views. When it comes to classifying the poker players I was sitting around and playing Texas Hold’em with, let’s just be polite and say that the Red Sea wasn’t the only place to find fish.

The fact is that over the past couple of years, I’ve won a good amount of money from my colleagues on the company trips. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no Phil Ivey when it comes to playing poker, but there are some poker tables you sit at and can’t help but lick your lips.

With all of that said, this time around I had to settle for breakeven. A couple of overplayed hands, playing too many hands in general with the feeling I could outplay everyone else post-flop, and one critical mistimed bluff sealed my fate. I certainly adjusted to the table’s skill level and would’ve lost a bundle had I played the same way in my regular home games or in a casino poker room.

Winning and losing aside, however, the ambiance was one of convivial amity. The fact is that we were all on vacation and the poker could be classified very much as a recreational activity rather than one where money was to be made.

The Aftermath

cashier window
Not exactly what my office looked like, but you get the picture…

Since we didn’t really have a good location to play other than out in the open adjacent to the hotel lobby, the wisest course of action was to not have any money present at the table. It thus fell to me (see a pattern here?) to keep records of buy-ins for all the players, with the understanding that we’d all settle up after the game.

After returning home, I added up all the numbers (we had multiple short sessions, each with a slightly different lineup of players) and drafted an email that I sent out to all the participants. My office then became the default go-to destination back at work for everyone to pay their poker debts and receive their poker winnings.

While I unfortunately ended up no richer for all the effort put into getting the company poker games together and running them smoothly, that sentiment is only true when it comes to my poker bankroll. It’s a special kind of pleasure to forge and develop lasting bonds with your workmates that extend beyond official tasks, duties, and idle office chatter.

The experiences we all had just sitting around and enjoying each other’s company over a lively game of poker will last us for a long time to come… until the next company trip :-).

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