Thursday Night Poker

For the last 40 years, my husband and I have participated in a weekly poker game that began before we joined.  The age of the current members range from 40 to 80 and consist of 6 men who play without their wives, one woman who plays without her husband, two married couples and a single woman.  A member will post the game at his house by email and 5 to 8 players respond by indicating their intention to play.

The official name of this group is OWBNID which stands for Often Wrong But Never in Doubt, an apt title.  As we get older, we often forget the rules of a game we haven’t played in a while and 3 or 4 players will insist, with vivid detail and absolute certainty, how it goes.  Trouble is, there are frequently 3 or 4 versions … all plausible, but not all correct.  Each person swears that his version is the right one, and so it goes.  We often combine memories and create a “new” version of the game.

We play some strange games with weird names: Bundles, 4-44, Acey Ducie, Acapulco, Anaconda, No Peek (yup, you don’t see your cards), Scoop, 3-33, 7-27, Name Your Own Wild Card, Low Chicago, Red-Black, TV, Auction, Ed’s Game, Molotov and others. We play with wild cards as well as useless jokers (a card that does nothing for you.)

Once, we played a game called “Guts” which we argued about each and every time it was dealt.  Finally, 2 people took to paper and pencil and wrote down the rules which, at the time, everyone agreed to.  During a subsequent evening, we began to deal the game, had some dissension, and referred to the rules and … like discussing the Talmud, interpretations were varied!

Arguably the strangest game we ever played was the one where only the dealer knew what the game was!  He wrote it down on a piece of paper and dealt everyone a card. Betting proceeded.  You had the option of getting more cards or stopping when you wanted to.  When no one wanted another card, the dealer revealed the game and the hand that was the best for that game won!

Throughout the years, like every group, we’ve had our ups and downs.  There was a period of the Poker Wars where emotions ran high; one of our players separated from his wife for a while (they reunited and are happily married); sadly, one member died; others moved away; children were born; grandchildren came along; our youngest member welcomed a baby boy 5 months ago while one of our older members welcomed a grandson at the same time.

Oh, and we have markers for our antes.  Used to be that there was always someone who would be accused of not ante-ing so a member came up with the smart idea of using a small item atop the chip that would prove it was his.  I use a little smooth glass stone; the dentist uses a plastic tooth used for teaching; my husband a small metal wizard, the engineer some metal doodad; someone else a foreign coin, etc.  One guy uses nothing (“that’s how you know it’s mine, it’s the only ante without a marker.”)

Thirty years ago, one of our members was stricken with cancer and had to be in the hospital for chemo for days at a time.  We took the game to him.  We quietly snuck into his room with chips, cards and snacks, and played while sitting on the bed.  At 10 pm the nurse stuck her head in and said, “I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to leave.”  In a few moments, she returned and said, “On second thought, he’s so happy to see you guys it’s good for his spirit, enjoy and keep the noise down!”

We used to play until 11:30 and then reckon up and leave by midnight.  Now that most of us are old and retired, we usually finish by 10:45 but start ½ hour earlier.  And, by the way, we still play for the same stakes we started with … nickel, dime, quarter.  And, we balance to the nickel!  Occasionally, our addition is 5 cents off and someone who is anxious to leave, says, “I’ll take a nickel less.”  Nope, not allowed.  We go through it again until it works out perfectly.

It’s not the money, the snacks or the alcohol (although that helps!); it’s the fun, the stories, the memories, the laughter and the night out. It’s Thursday night poker!

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