I don't play poker. When forced into playing, I get permission to use a "cheat sheet" listing the card combos that make up a winning hand. And even with "special help", playing pushes my anxiety buttons: fear of failure, fear of slowing down the other players, fear of people noticing that my nervous smile is more nervous than real. Overall, not a pleasant experience, so I just avoid this game. (Truth be told, I have the same avoidance reaction to most card games, and I avoid playing golf, too, but not for the same reasons - different story.) Anyhow, in spite of the fact that I have no interest in playing, I still love Poker Night.
I love Poker Night because Mike plays, each and every Tuesday. I love Mike and I'm relieved and happy that through poker he's established relationships with men throughout our High Vista community. I was worried last year, when he was finally ready to retire from a long and all-consuming career, that he'd be at a loss for how to fill his free time. Besides a few golf buddies, there didn't seem to be anyone nearby who had risen much above the level of "acquaintance" for him. His getting in on the men's poker game, first as a substitute, then as a regular, and now as this year's official host/player/refreshments coordinator has brought pleasure to us both.
The High Vista poker game rotates from house to house, so if the rotation holds up, we don't have to host the guys here but once every other month. Tuesday night, therefore, is "Free Time" for me. Mike leaves by six o'clock and he knows he's going to snack heartily during the game, so I'm free of my (admittedly self-imposed) responsibility to plan and bring dinner to the table. I'm free to hold the remote control so it can find "What Not to Wear" or "Chopped" or even the occasional chick flick on the Lifetime or Oxygen networks instead of "NCIS," "NCIS-Los Angeles," "Unforgettable," and "Body of Proof" - which I believe are essentially all the same show. Or even more likely - I can read or get lost in my craft studio for hours, without feeling that I'm abandoning my partner. I was single until age 35, so Poker Night is like a flash from the past, a weekly delicious dip into the luxury of "alone time," while knowing that the garage door will open and my sweet love will come in bubbling about "winning big" or seeking a hug to offset his painful losses.
This week, the game was at our house. Surprise! I also love when that happens. I enjoy watching Mike clear the kitchen counters to serve refreshments, make room for the bring-your-own beer in the refrigerator, assure the right number of chairs and flip the table pads in the dining room to "green felt up," sort the poker chips, lay out the decks of cards; everything must be just so and completed hours in advance - he's a perfectionistic host. I like saying a quick hello to the early arrivals as I coax the dog to follow me in a disappearing act upstairs where we entertain ourselves while the poker game symphony proceeds.
I really mean it - though I relish the quiet when poker pulls Mike out of the house, on nights when he's hosting the game, the male banter around that table is music to my ears. I was a first time bride when Mike and I got married, no children of my own. His son Chuck was already off to college and Doug was just about to leave the nest. So, it's a treat now to listen in on the give and take in a male register. I love hearing "my boy" teasing and being teased, the revival of "rank out" skill I had no idea still existed. Off-color jokes they are free to express in lieu of cursing the illusive Lady Luck. I'm impressed that they are willing to share playing tips as well as personal exasperation. And sometimes I get a windfall of "insider's info" about the goings on in the greater community as gossip flies.
Bottom line - I don't like to play poker, but I'm thinking I get lucky whenever Mike does.