What the Flop? | My First Time

I could barely see in the room. It was dimly lit, the person across me almost a mirage, an apparition of sorts. I was so nervous, but excited at the same time. I knew a whole new world awaited me, all I needed to do was participate. I remember my breaths coming faster and faster the closer it came to my turn. I was wearing a blue striped short-sleeved shirt, classy yet feminine, my hair was down. I felt free, arriving into town last night, having no idea I’d be where I was at that moment. “Christina?” I started walking towards him and butterflies started to race in my heart, stomach, whole being. “You’re in seat 5. How many chips would you like?”

Woman at Poker Table

That was my first time…playing poker. It was at Buffalo Bill’s in Primm, Nevada. I thought it was the sh*t, such a fun place to stay, when nickels in a roll was still a thing. I passed by the poker table, just barely turning 21 and leaning into a baller self I’d get to grow much more familiar with during my years playing poker, put my name on the list.

They were only spreading seven-card stud at the time. I didn’t care. I shakily took out $40 or $60 and gave it to the floor person that had led me to the table. (And where did I get $40 or $60 at the time to play poker? I wonder this now thinking about how Buffalo Bill’s used to have specials where I got a free room, a coupon book including the roller coaster and the buffet, and it maybe cost me $100 a trip.)

Falling in Love with Poker

I’d first come to Vegas the first time as a semi-adult when I was 20, on a charter bus with my ex-in-laws. They were fun, liked to travel frugally but with sights, smells and sounds that would attract me for years to come. The irony was I wasn’t carded that first time and it seemed like a magical Narnia and the next trip (legal) I opened up a door that I still can’t shut the door on. The pandemic has quieted my poker lifestyle, but I still love everything about it, disgusting, fun, sexy, weird, village of people that has enriched my life. Mostly…

I sat down at the table, seat 5, got my chips, and played. I was surrounded by all men, my first time in the testosterone zone. (The wave of that zone is the most intense at Hawaiian Gardens and the WSOP. I’d have to stop in the bathroom first at HG, now just known as “The Gardens Casino” to make sure I felt my best, put on that baller persona before I sat down. As soon as I entered the doorway to the casino, then in a tent-like space, the wave of pure man hit me. Not necessarily good, but it struck me wave after wave as I walked to my table.) I’d played a lot with my family at home games, and some of the men my family is friends with made the guys at the table less intimidating. I remember being told at 12 to keep all my chips on the table by a guy who’d been in San Quentin. (I was skimming my profits and putting it in my pocket. Smarter at 12 than sometimes as an adult, lol.)

Reflecting on My First Poker Session

I ended up sitting there for six hours my first session. It was thrilling, commanding, sexy, new, that fresh new car smell in my brain. I knew no one at the table and they didn’t know they were all participating in my first time, one where I don’t remember any of their faces, but their importance in my life will always be there. My ex at the time sat behind me for hours. He had enough testosterone to ignore the ribbing from the other players. One even offered him money to sit down and play. I didn’t know how lucky and rare it was to have someone support me in this passion, had enough self-worth to let me enjoy and love something that’s outside the norm. These days, I hate having someone rail me. Hate it and feel sorry for the (mostly women) people that rail others at the table. I talked about in another article about how I had a date that wanted to watch me play poker. For hours. And he did and I hated it. What fun is that? I want to fully immerse myself in the table, the experience, seeing the weird stuff that happens at the table and in that world. It would’ve been better (for me) if he’d take a couple hours to instead play casino games online at

I walked away from the table that day, years ago, elated, excited and hooked. I knew it wouldn’t be my first and only time. I knew I’d want to do it again and again, never knowing I’d make my living doing it, not knowing I’d fly from Maui to do it for weeks at a time, not knowing it’d make me cry, frustrated, finally realizing I’d never get better and leaning into doing it just for fun, sociability and stories.

When was your first time?… Playing poker?



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Christina Bradfield poker author
Written By.

Christina Bradfield

Christina Bradfield is an author currently living in Las Vegas. Her love for poker began at a young age when her mother introduced her to Texas Hold’em in a home game where she learned not to put her cash winnings in her pockets.

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