Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Poker Game

It all began about a quarter of a century ago. We were young, many still with a full head of hair. Our bellies were firm and our lives paths were just beginning. Our days were consumed with work and our nights and weekends consumed with our families. We began the poker game as our weekly retreat to the world of male bonding. It was a time for men to be boys.

Through the years it became a part of the fabric of our life. As important as the events of the rest of the week were, so did the game take on great significance. It was not the money, it was never the money. We never increased the stakes even as wealth multiplied for some (I was not among that chosen group). I always found it particularly amusing when one of the players became almost agitated at the thought of putting down a dollar (in a chip of course) that might be an unwise bet. Set against the backdrop of that person's life, the consternation had no rational basis. But, this undue concern just helped the game, and the night, take on an added import. Each dollar lost here had a meaning far beyond the reach of the rest of the world.

I took on the role of organizer. It was something that came naturally to me, as I have always liked to be front and center in social gatherings. There is always one in every crowd, and I was the one. For many years, before computers made mass communication the accepted way of doing business, this meant weekly phone calls to every potential participant. I would call all those in our entourage (at times numbering a dozen or more) and get a tentative response from some (I will have to see what is happening during the week), a hypothetical reply from others (if you are short a player or 2 I think I can make it) and a definitive answer from just a few. I would have to take notes in the yes, maybe, and no categories, and then start another round of discussions as the time of the game grew closer. The truth is that I loved this 'responsibility' as it kept me in constant contact with everyone. While the reason for the call was nominally to do the math on the numbers for poker, the involvement in what was going in with the lives of those I spoke to, was really what is was all about.

Eventually, as with almost everything else in life, things changed over the course of time. First, our children grew up. No longer did we all feel the need to be tied to the community where most of us had resided. Many of the group worked in New York. Some left their homes as their children left the nest, and resettled (at least part time) in the city. Joanne and I moved 5 years ago. Further, while some of the core group remained in the game, others did not, as life's events interceded. The fit of the personalities of some of the 'replacements' was not always perfect.

About 4 years ago, I stopped organizing the games. Shortly thereafter, the game disbanded. Many of the people whom I had seen regularly over the course of 2 decades, I suddenly had almost no contact with. The game, and many of the people in it, became just a fond memory.

But none of us really escaped from its clutches. I have periodically gotten calls from at least a half dozen of the participants asking when we were getting back together. I would always agree that this was something we must do, and then do nothing.

Several weeks ago I got an email from 2 of the original group, setting a specific date and place for the rebirth of the game. It turned out, that given the way in which some middle aged men handle internet responsibilities, the message never got out to the intended recipients. But, this oversight has now been corrected, and we are set to start anew in early January.

We are now mostly out of shape and fighting the ravages of time. Some are already retired and all of us are thinking now not about raising children, but of present or future grandchildren. Our lives have taken us to places unexpected, good and bad. But no matter the years, I believe all of us are genuinely excited about the prospect of spending moments worried about whether to raise a dollar or fold. It is a bond among all of us, that neither time nor distance has broken. And so, come January, I look forward to a new tradition among old friends. It is long overdue.


Anonymous said...

right on,
count me in for jan 12

Anonymous said...

I am on vacation in Mexico today. Normally I might not read your post on vacation. But poker caught my attention. I still have my hair. Ted

Robert said...

No matter where they are, the game clearly draws their attention. Men will be boys.

Pam said...

I don't remember that many of you having hair.... even back then!!!

Anonymous said...

is it one for low, two for high
none for low, one for high, two for both..........

I enjoyed those few games as a sub, and i am sure my legendary hand of 4 aces and producing the wrong chip will be remembered....
at least by me.

Robert said...

We are starting up again next Tuesday. Your money is always good in our game.