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Thursday, April 14, 2005

Hold 'Em

I'm discovering the joys of playing cards.

It's led to long nights playing Spades in There from my computer in the eMotion Cafe. I have to say that I'm a little bit addicted to playing the cards, online. I don't think it's for the winnings, cause there's nothing monetary involved. It may be more for the opportunities to get to know those sitting at the table and the chit-chat that seems to make the world a little less lonely and a little more friendly - even if it is simply bits and bytes that are rendered by some silicone data processing engine onto a couple liquid crystal displays.

In the real world, my family has played cards at the holiday get-togethers my whole life. My Grandpa was the "Father" of all these games, always requesting for the family to sit together - and play together. I never really played much in those games of old, I just have fond childhood memories of watching all my Aunts and Uncles and Grandpa and Grandma playing over some big antique table in a tiny little bungalow in Northeast KC. It seemed that that table took up half that house when the lace tablecloth and vase / pitcher of plastic flowers was lifted to reveal the real table, beneath.

I was always the least likely to "throw in" with the family. It was a rite-of-passage for the Grandchildren - to be able to sit at the table with the adults and play. Grandpa didn't really like the Grandkids playing. Maybe for that reason, I never felt comfortable playing. I watched as my cousins played - but, to me, there was something disrespectful about that. Besides, the game always had a different feel when the "younger" generation of high-school grandkids sat at the table and tried talking trash. The old-schoolers just didn't seem to sit well with it.

It wasn't that I didn't want to be at the table, because in some ways, I wish I would have had those chances to spend more time with my Grandpa before he passed. But, as a teenager, you dont't really consider that in being considerate, sometimes you miss opportunities.

Or, perhaps, I refrained from playing after watching the arguments that ensued as a child over silly little colored chips, some funny looking pieces of paper, and an antiqued table. Looking back, I realize now that the arguments weren't really about the cards, they were about things that had nothing to do with the cards. It was safer arguing about the cards in their hands and on the table - about those little pieces of paper with pictures of pretend Queens and Kings - than it was to bring up the real issues between each other.

Perhaps, it was a little of both that kept me from playing my cards, until now.

I can understand now, why playing cards was a family ritual that was so important to my Grandpa. In cards, there were rules. It seems that people can play together nicely when they all play by the same set of rules. Sometimes, it takes a few hands to teach the rules to new people that come to the table, as it did with the boyfriends and spouses of Grandpa's Six Sons and Daughters. Sometimes, people played differently. But, in the end, they learned to play those games by the same rules - as a family.

They played funny games like: "Follow The Bitch", "In Between" , "Five Card Stud", "Seven Card Stud - 2 Down, Three Up, 2 Down", "No Peek", "Trips Are Better", "Knock Knock", and others. They each had their favorites. They took turns dealing and the dealer always chose the game and everyone played. Some liked the complex games. Some liked the simple games. Some liked the games that drew big pots. Some liked the games that were quick and not as costly. But, in the end, it was all for pennies and nickels and quarters and simply about how each player liked to play.

I remember a few things about my Grandpa when we played, like:

1. He never cut the cards. He always tapped the cards as they were passed to him - and accepted the way the cards were already stacked.

2. Every adult in the family had to sit at the table and play together. You could rotate spots (usually with your spouse), but everyone "had" to play if they were in the family. There was no "sitting out".

3. He didn't like playing cards with the Grandchildren. He didn't like taking that money. But, he did. Maybe it was because he knew that they chose to sit at the table and take those risks and it wasn't fair to not deliver the consequences associated with that risk. But, in the end, he just loved us enough to look past his own "feelings" about the issue. Regardless, the man survived the trenches of World War 2 in Europe, so I'm sure that any such "feelings" had a perspective that we probably lack, nowadays, about 'What's Really Important."

4. He hated to play "In-Between".

Nowadays, on Fridays, a group of guys get together from work and play Texas Hold-Em. I don't know if you really know a person until you've played cards with them.

You meet some great personalities that are sometimes kept bottled up as we move through life packaged in marketing campaigns and promotional opportunities that reduce us to products that are consumed.

You learn about the risks people take. You learn about what excites a person. You learn about how tied people are to things like money or anything else that falls into their lap, like simple little chips. You learn about how people handle losing - and sometimes, more importantly, how they handle winning.

I'm not sure that any of this has a point, and I'm fine with that, but it all just reminds me about the Things We Hold Onto in our lives and the Games We Play.

But, the best part of the whole thing is that with cards, the only people that sit down at the table are people that are willing to play the game. If you can't handle losing something, then you don't sit at the table. But in the same breath, the best players understand that you have to be responsible with the people that are sitting at the table that are willing to throw it all in and ride the cards to wherever they take them. In cards, there's a winner and a loser, and there's always a lesson.

Regardless, it seems to come down to the way we let things go and the way we hold 'em. In that, the cards seem to have all the answers and hold all the wisdom. We just have to play them to learn what they hold.


Echele said...

Oh my god,that is so funny that youshared that.

When I was a kid all the adults, aunts, uncles and grandparnets use to gather at our house in Texas and they would play cards...yes, dealers choice...floow the bitch, 5 stud, 7 stud and so on....and yes all variations...duces wild and so on...I was so young that I was happy to sit on someones lap and watch...then when I got older and everyone moved my dad taught us...then it was just my immediate it is still all of us playing...and when I go to florida we make sure to get everyone together to play again...and I do remember the arguements too...and yes usually about the cards...but also outrageous bets that had nothing to do with the chips...I won't go there though, b/c the one I remember is gross...but funny how families can be the same...have the same memories...and do the same things...and funny how the same people can hold the same things so dear to them.

Echele said...

and the one thing I do remember is that sometimes they all played with pennies and at the end of the night when me and my brother were sleeping they wiped all of the pennies on the floor and left them there for us to pick up in the morning...they said the penny fairy came and we believed them...I like that the most...b/c they involved us as kids...

Morris said...

You seem obsessed with cards. They are just pieces of strong paper/card board. Let it go!

Ask Morris