Ed. Note: This is the third 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.
Hearing a deck being shuffled, the sound of thousands of poker chips, the smell of a casino’s carpet right before you reach the poker room. All of these mostly subconscious sensory stimuli that gives the experience of going to play poker an imprint as we first walk in the door: Of relief, of anticipation, pleasure, nervousness, or “holy crap here we go again.”
It had never occurred to me quite how all the surrounding smells, sounds and tactile experiences contributed to my time at the poker table until I had another experience. I was in Vegas during the WSOP, taking an elevator down to the casino floor, and I smelled a combination of smells that’s imprinted in my mind even today. As I told one gentleman in the elevator who was hilarious and had just performed in a show at the casino that night, it smelled like a combination of weed, fart, and desperation. He laughed and laughed while another gentleman tried to make himself as small as possible in the corner of the elevator while looking horrified.
Sensory Memories That Last a Lifetime
It got me to thinking about all the things that contribute to our live poker games. (I’m not going to guess what your homes smell like or if you related to the combo above.) Apart from the people, all of these things amplify my experiences. Hearing the chips, especially when I walk in the door, triggers the relief of being there and the excitement of playing.
I used to love to play at the Gardens Casino, back when it was known as Hawaiian Gardens. When I walked in, the sound of chips hit me right away; the lights were a little too bright as I made my way to my section. Granted, the chips used to stick together sometimes, which I had to block out of my mind, just as with the combo of smells in the Las Vegas hotel-casino above. I still love that hotel and need that blank space in my memory. My usual Diet Sunkist on the drive home is also indelibly imprinted in my Hawaiian Gardens experience.
The WSOP Is Just Around the Corner
When I go to a Spa, the music relaxes me before I’ve even done anything. Before I put on a robe, get a massage, drink their tea, I’m more relaxed than when I go in. When I go to the Rio during the WSOP and push in the doors that lead to the Amazon and Brasilia rooms, amongst others, my steps get quicker, my outlook is excited and I haven’t done anything but push in those doors. I’m now embracing that part of the game, the total package of playing… smells and sounds included. (Even the smell of All-American Dave’s stays with me, that slight powdery smell of the protein smoothies I get.)
It lets me know the WSOP has arrived, those particular smells and sounds. Things that haven’t been awakened in me the rest of the year come to life, lying dormant waiting until the next summer’s series begins. Just as the smell of sunscreen brings me joy when the world is warm enough for dress weather, so does the sound of chips flying, hearing “shuffle up and deal.”