Ed. Note: Cardplayer Lifestyle is happy to introduce this first in a series of recurring articles by Christina Bradfield entitled “What the Flop?” a poker column about the absurdities, humor, and just “random stuff” that goes along with playing poker.

It’s amazing that I’ve been around poker as long as I have, spoken about it, dreamed about the Main Event at the WSOP, which I had no idea that I’d one day be working at, and just remembered that it’s an evolving game. Duh Christina, I know, but poker has rules and structure and statistics. Yet, at the same time it’s instinct, feel, innate talent, reading people, and the charisma of the top player; the player that is rare in a generation that blows the rest of the competition away.

I’m an amateur player and will always be one. After watching Rounders and being caught up in all things poker, wanting to play until it felt like my poker chair was superglued to my behind, and I catch myself wondering when the last time I went to the bathroom was, I emerged on the other end realizing that I was much more interested in the social element of the game. I love speaking about it with other poker players, and the energy at the WSOP is palpable, giving me head rush as I open the door on my way to the Brasilia or Amazon room. Most of my friends in Vegas are in the poker industry, and are able to connect to me in a way most can’t.

I’m not interested in playing professionally, but I know enough to visit sites like pokersites.io if I wanted to start learning the game better. Poker is a fun social time for me — well, depending on my table’s personality or lack of one. As my mom would say, some players have the charisma of a number 1 pencil. Yes, not even number 2, a number 1. I love getting ready to play, (we’ll talk about dressing for the poker room in a later column), love my Commerce fruit cup that’s $1.95 if that’s where I’m playing, love seeing how long my rack lasts, or how much it can go up. I get excited seeing friends there. That said, seeing friends is how I learned my latest poker lesson.

commerce casino poker
A sea of poker tables at Commerce Casino

I hadn’t seen this particular friend since the WSOP and I was excited to catch up. We ended up getting there at the same time and that’s when I started to realize just how different our poker lives were. Let’s just say I play with the masses in the pit at this enormous card club (nicer than it sounds) while he plays not just in another room, but one that has its own safe deposit boxes and supervisors. I felt like it was the first time I’d ever been in a poker room, as I was wide eyed while trying to hide my squee in my head. There wasn’t a seat available where he played yet, so he asked the question that I now know I will always have a different response to in that moment:

“Can I sweat your rail while I wait?”

The answer now would be “No. NO. NO!” However, at the time I said “Sure!” We walked down to my area and his area would call him when his seat would be ready. At my level, if you miss your name being called, you’re out of luck and it wisps away like the wind. He sits behind me, and tells me to lift every hand so he can see it properly. I’m used to squeezing my cards low when I look at them, but I acquiesce.

It had been a while since someone sweated me, the last time being a date who thought it’d be fun to watch me play for three hours. It’s not and I’ve since learned to NOT go on a date while at a card club. The one and only time I met another player there for a date, he ended up talking trash at the table, that this was wayyyy below his limit, yet he ended up getting spanked and hit the ATM multiple times. There was not another date.

My friend sat there watching me and started grunting like a labor coach seeing how I played my hands. And then he uttered phrases of “Oh my God” loud enough that my table stared at me. And yes, I was at a table where it was definitely number 1 eraser charisma. The grunting and intermittent phrases escalated until I was sweating copiously and cheered internally when his seat was called and he left. He’s still a good friend and I learned a very good lesson about boundaries.

I’m all for learning to up my game, plug whatever leaks I need, etc. But not with someone who regularly kills it at a much higher level watching from behind. It’s like me playing with someone who doesn’t know if a straight beats a flush or vice versa. I’m good with whatever level someone’s at, and I’m good at what level I’m at. I enjoy myself, know why I’m there, and enjoy all the carnival atmosphere of playing poker. And yes, it’s not the first grunting I’ve ever heard at the table, but for different reasons. I love poker, while also knowing my place in the scheme of things.

And yes, I’m still excited at the thought of that fruit cup…

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