Saturday, December 31, 2005

Pulling A Dagwood

BY MICHAEL WATT Ask Mr. Long Island

Last night I played poker with the boys.

That’s right, poker with the boys just like Dagwood and Herb from the comic strip Blondie. Just me and a bunch of guys from the ‘hood sitting around the table, shooting the breeze and dealing the cards. This morning I am paying the price – four hours of sleep, sodium overload from the pretzels and potato chips and, ahem, the vast fortune I plan to pass on to my two sons reduced by eight dollars and 25 cents.

But boy was it fun.

Now playing poker with the boys may not seem like a big deal to you, but it is to me. Poker is one of those social activities whose nuances – like attending the opera or picking up strange women in bars - always eluded me. Perhaps it’s because poker is not just one game but rather a thousand different games with rules that sometimes seem as if they are made up on the spot.

For all I know they are made up on the spot but it does not matter because that makes it all the more interesting. We played “straight poker,” “hi-lo,” “baseball with threes and nines wild” and “two jacks or better to open and trips to win.” It just so happens that our host for the evening had the last name of Tripp so I played the first two rounds of this game thinking it was a game he concocted, a theory that gained validity when he won those rounds. Turns out “trips to win” means you have to have three of a kind (triples) or better to win. As in life, there is so much about poker I need to learn.

When I was in high school some friends used to put together a game from time to time and I dutifully attended whenever I could. I rarely played, however, opting instead to crack wise from the sidelines while consuming many, many cold adult beverages. I tried to keep up with the action but the aforementioned game variations and rules on the fly made my head spin.

Last night was a different story, I am happy to report. While I still managed to crack wise – as did many of my poker-playing brethren – I also hung in there as a player. Granted, it was a friendly game and much to my benefit my cohorts were kind enough to explain my hand to me and how it compared to the others. It usually did not fare too well, but the one time I won a huge pot despite my not realizing how good a hand I had resulted in a huge howl of “how did he do that?” It also kept me in the game for another hour or two.

The coolest thing was seeing somebody – not me, unfortunately – draw a royal flush. I was told that’s quite rare, that it happens about as often as we see the Jets play a meaningful football game in December. I thought it only happened in the movies – the royal flush, not the meaningful Jets game. But there it was, in black and white. Well, red and white, really – it was all diamonds.

Speaking of Hollywood, as we played in a smoke-free zone with relatively few adult beverages being consumed I kept wondering how so many men over the years played the game while puffing on cigars, drinking whiskey and eating corned-beef on rye sandwiches like you see in the movies. I developed a keener understanding of why Felix Unger’s exhortations to use coasters and napkins caused so much chagrin for Oscar, Speed and Murray the Cop. As it was I was getting dizzy toward the end of the game but not because of the drink – from which I abstained – but simply from sitting for nearly six straight hours.

As I suspect is the case in that vast majority of card games of any kind – except for the games played for real in Vegas and Atlantic City, of course – it was not so much the playing of the cards that mattered but simply the interaction amongst the players. No kids, no wives, no social pecking order. Just a bunch of guys looking to enjoy some harmless fun. One of the wives called on the cell phone around one in the morning, a move which will result in her receiving untold good-natured grief from the rest of us because if you had to pick one guy from our group who is least likely to be doing something he should not have been doing – rendering such a phone call completely unnecessary - it was the guy whose wife called. This guy could not be any more regular or reliable if Robert Young played him in a TV sitcom.

The game ended around two in the morning and we all walked quietly back to our homes. I successfully maneuvered myself into bed without waking my wife, Sharon, not because I was afraid I'd be in trouble if she knew how late it was but simply because I did not want to wake her. Even without my wife waiting for me with a frying pan in her hand, however, coming home late from playing cards was a Dagwood moment from which I derived great satisfaction and amusement. Hey - when you win maybe three pots all night you find your entertainment where you can.

Thank you for reading this column. Happy New Year!

1 comment:

wwabco4 said...

very well written
happy new year