Occasionally I go to the Wayback Machine and read old posts from my blog that I nuked years ago. They’re like reading someone else’s words. This site dates back to 2003 – 11 years. If I’m feeling particularly mawkish, I can check out the archives of the site I have before this one, which go back to 2000. Apparently I used to write a lot. Who knew.

Rather than just a mindless stroll down memory lane, this time I went back to find one specific post, from when I went to Crown Casino for the second time to play poker. It was January 2006 and ‘I went down during the Aussie Millions. I went back to this post because one of the things that struck me last night while I was playing poker was how relaxed I felt. I felt competent, which was a far cry from how I felt on that first trip to Melbourne, when I ran into the one and only man who’s ever been verbally abusive to me in a poker room. I called him “Lucky”, I think because I overheard someone else call him that. I’ll let the me of eight years ago tell the story:

My first day in the poker room at the Crown was definitely traumatic. First of all it was $4/$8. I had spent weeks playing $2/$4 on PokerStars in preparation for this trip because it was the lowest limit Crown offered on my previous visit and the thought of playing $4/$8 freaked me out a bit. It was twice as much money and I didn’t feel twice as prepared…but it was my only option so I went with it. And – despite the fact that I’d played at Crown before and played live tourneys here in Canberra – I found myself intimidated playing with people I could see and who could see me, as opposed to the relative anonymity of online poker. Everything I’d read and learned flew out of my brain. The cards I got weren’t great but even when I got good cards I played them like crap.

Lucky sat in the 10 seat on the table that night. He said he was Armenian and looked something like I imagine an Armenian version of Weird Al Yankovich would look like. He had no problems telling you, especially if you were a woman, when you played like crap. He berated the woman sitting next to him after she lost a hand – “You no raise! Why you no raise?” – but she ignored him.

Late in the evening I got dealt AKo and so, even though I hate Big Slick when I get it, I raised. “I’m supposed to raise,” I told myself. So I did and got two callers, Lucky and the guy sitting directly across from me. The flop came down Axx with two clubs. The guy across from me bet out and all I could think was “He’s got a flush draw and he’s going to hit it”. I knew that I was supposed to raise, protect my hand, try to define his hand, but I couldn’t. I simply called. Basically, I was afraid. I was certain he was on a flush draw and he was going to get it. Call it women’s intuition or my little poker voice, whatever. I knew I was beat.

Lucky followed along behind me and the three of us saw the turn. It was the third club. The guy bet out again and I knew I was sunk, but I called all the same. I didn’t raise because I knew I didn’t have the best hand. I didn’t lay it down even though I knew for a fact that he had the flush (my little poker voice was screaming “FLUSH!!!” at the top of its lungs). I was like a rat pushing the bar, waiting for the pellet to emerge, hoping against hope not to get the electric shock.

Again Lucky called behind. The river came and it too was a blank. Same scenario: guy bet out, I knew I was beat and bet anyways, Lucky followed along behind. The guy turned over two clubs for the flush and I threw my cards into the muck. Lucky did the same.

“What you have?” asked Lucky, “I have Ace-5.” I lowered my voice and replied “I had Ace-K.” Why I answered him, why I told him the truth, I don’t know. I should have just shut up or made something up. He was indignant. “I knew you had higher Ace! You just call, you should raise! Raise! You just call! I can’t raise, I only have five. I knew you have Ace! You raise, he fold with nothing!”

I just nodded and said “Yeah, yeah”. Because I knew I should have raised on the flop. Not that it would have necessarily made the guy give up his draw as Lucky insisted. (Not much makes the players at a $4/$8 table in Crown give up a flush draw.) But I should have raised to protect my hand, define his.

Lucky dismissed me with a wave of his hand. “You just beginner.” A new dealer joined the table about 20 minutes later and Lucky took it upon himself to give the new dealer a rundown of everyone at the table. He got to me. “She no good. She beginner. She no good.” He was looking at me as he said it, knew I was watching him say it. The dealer looked at me uncomfortably and said “I’m just a dealer, I can’t comment.”

That was the last straw. Down almost a buy in, I couldn’t sit there any longer. I gathered my few remaining chips and wished everyone good luck and good night. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

I saw Lucky again on Saturday night, hanging on the rail, waiting for a spot on a table to open up. My chip stack by that point was about $400, up from my original stake of $100. I was seized with the urge to stand up and scream at him – “Who’s the begnner now, Lucky?” – but I didn’t. I just turned back to my cards and tossed in a raise. Not because I had much of a hand, but just because I could.

On another trip to Melbourne that year I ended up with Lucky at my table again, and again he abused me. I raised one time and he said, “Since that come from you, I call. I no respect you.” He got told off by one of my tablemates and quieted down after that, but he still glared at me from time to time and always took the chance to play aggressively against me when he could.

If I ran into Lucky again, I’d like to think he’d just ignore me. Not because he deals with women any better but because I’m not that scared woman at the poker table anymore.

In which I return to the felt.

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