Ed. Note: This is the second in a series of 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.

You know that famous line in “A League of Their Own”? “There’s no crying in baseball.” Well, I’ve come to find out that’s an unspoken rule in poker. Nobody enforces it, but think about it: What’s the last time you saw someone burst out crying after their trips got sucked out on the river? A part of me wants to do that now at a poker table, just to see what the reaction is. Maybe I can make animal noises when I pull in a particularly large pot, or make a sound my ex-boyfriend did of “Hup Hoooo” at random intermittent times at the table and see which one gets a larger reaction, those or the crying?

Most of my good cries in poker have come after I’ve left the table. I stay classy, collect my belongings, and walk my way towards a bathroom or outside the casino or card club. I can take my time in the bathroom because honestly, men don’t know what we’re doing in there anyways. We brush our hair, put on makeup, make new friends and just allow ourselves the time to breathe.

There’s unspoken protocol and etiquette at a poker table, sometimes confusing at the disparity, sometimes known only to someone who’s taken their time at the tables, until certain rules are just layered in like hoodies on most men at the table. They include:

  • Eating Buffalo wings dripped in BBQ sauce and then ceremoniously and repetitively dipped in ranch dressing while still continuing to hold your cards, talk to your girlfriend, and play in the hand is deemed acceptable, albeit gross. Or maybe I’m the only one that thinks it’s gross, although I highly doubt that.
  • Swearing at the table. This one can change depending on the occasion and if it’s caught by a floor supervisor. I look like Reese Witherspoon is randomly at a casino about to play limit hold’em so that holds off most cursing at the table until I pull in a large pot, as I confuse most players in the beginning. I’ve been asked if I’m a nurse or teacher more times than I can count. One time I told them I was a rocket scientist that was researching spinning black holes and alternate universes. (A friend of mine works at Cal Tech and fortunately does this same thing.)
  • You can wear pretty much anything if you’re a man. I’ve seen men in Batman outfits and wearing sweatpants for days, but I stand out like a unicorn is dancing in a rainbow if I wear a dress or classy pea coat. However, now that I think about it, I’ve gotten excited seeing a man play while wearing a very stylish outfit whose very debonair appearance looks like he worked out that morning and shaved. And yes, I only have one reference I’m thinking about at the WSOP. I understand the necessity to be comfortable, as you’re sitting there for hours potentially, most card clubs are extremely cold, and wanting to not call attention to yourself or your potential tells. Just once in a while though, it’d be great to see more button down shirts and nice shoes… You’re out in public, folks, it’s not like you’re playing at a casino online.

One of the things I love most about poker is the free-for-all nature of it. True, there’s rules, regulations, statistics, etc. However, I’ve done the wave, had other players put chips on their heads, given each other nicknames, etc. at the table. In this more and more tightly wound world we live in, it’s a relief to go somewhere where at least there’s the possibility you can be yourself. The irony is that at the higher stakes there’s more and more personas. But there’s relief that you’re around people that don’t judge you for wanting to play poker, that give you a smile the more often you see them, and support each other in a way that’s amazing.

So if you see me crying at the poker table, I’ll consider it a step towards my inclusivity at the table. You can stare at me as I do at the man eating his buffalo wings at the table, and ask me if I’m a teacher, or if I’m lost. Hup hoooo!

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