Before Poker was a lifestyle

Miro invited the boys once a week to play Poker in his flat. It was one of the few opportunities left, where I could see the Pseudo-Russian face to face, besides the times in which he joined us to smoke pot. The poker round consisted of me, Ätz, Miro, then there was usually one of Miro’s friends, another who came up by some kind of tribal selection system based on past sympathy and on top of that one of Ätz’s clients was chosen, usually, the one he got along with best that morning.
So, the round this week was made up of Jadek from Miro, Chang (since none of the others came through the selection this week) and a university student who had been brought in by Ätz in the morning and whom he had invited after chattering about their poker skills.
Jadek was, on the other hand, a permanent member; an Armenian who liked telling stories. He just didn’t have any in stock. Recurring more than often, he told the one from his youth in Armenia where he shot with his father’s pistol at bottles on a fence and proceeded to pop all of them with one shot each. The number of bottles changed from week to week, from the beginning of twelve up to 30. 30 bullets for 30 bottles. Yeah, it all depended on how drunk he was. Jadek laughed a lot, but he drank even more.
Miro brought the vodka in drinking glasses, that were only meant for vodka. One by one, they turned them around. Ätz and I took it easier. We smoked while nipping on the booze. Chang didn’t drink. He reaped short-lived mockery and ridicule in our well-knowing circle; there he could repeat it as often as he wanted, he still got asked and the criticism did not become quieter. We rarely invited the Chinese. Not because his drinking habits seemed too different from ours. He was just too good of a poker player. The evening never got by without comment from Ätz on his playing arts.
“His eyes just don’t give much away, his poker face is incredible”
Exaggerated racist statements aside, Chang was a really damn fine player. If we invited him, we knew for a few days we’d be living on nothing but leftovers. This time he was there. But he didn’t get dealt a good hand. We played Texas Hold’em. Chang had to get off first.
I felt comfortable in the chip lead I won. In the early course of the game, I called many rounds. The hand was often suboptimal, but as long as I had more chips to play with than my opponent, I was able to increase the pressure and the fever gripped me. I won some with rounds even with a seven and two, different symbols, and lost rounds with two aces suited in hand. You can win with any hand. At the end of the day, Poker is just a game of betting on chance.
I can’t remember his name. It wasn’t really important. There were many out there like him. Long-term students in their “thousandth” semester of study in a field where the job prospects were close to zero. Despite his obvious lack of judgment, he seemed to be a good poker player though. If there was a moment in the game when it looked as if his hour had come, he recovered with a lucky hand that brought him victory with the last card up. He overtook Jadek, Miro, and Ätz with this single hand. He followed me closely and in the course of the evening, the lead went back and forth between me and him. The two vodka purists sitting next to us continued to drink each other under the table. Jadek was the first to show weakness. He swore that he would only lie down on the sofa for a moment and then fell asleep immediately. Miro, Ätz, the member of the future elite unemployed and I continued to play.
It made BANG and Miro’s head met the table surface. Somebody had ripped out all the power cables. His face banged on the table and he slept on his chips. Ätz checked. He didn’t suffer a head wound. The student wanted to abort, but Ätz stayed calm and I recognized no reason to worry.
“When they have all the necessary nutrients for the winter together, they hibernate, that’s the way of the Siberian bear”, I explained, and he seemed less worried.
We played a few more rounds where the conversation topic was still the possibility of leaving. Nobody wanted to take any chances anymore. The betted amounts became smaller, although we increased the stakes each time a player dropped out. Losing my patience, I tried to force it. Teaching this washed-up academic good-for-nothing a lesson.
“We should go then”, Ätz said to me.
“One more?” I suggested.
“Okay,” said Ätz.
The student agreed. “What do you do when you don’t play cards with the dangerous boys?”, I asked him jokingly.
“In my spare time?”
“No, on the moon”
For the outside, I rubbed my face in frustration, but it was to hide a misgiving smile. Ätz dealt the cards and gave me a bad eye.
“I’m currently writing and waiting for it to flow from my brain into my hands, jump to my fingertips and fall onto my keyboard”
“Who doesn’t?”, I replied deadpan, “You and everyone else does that. You’re not waiting for a prosperous future – you’re a loser right now. Stop, before you realize how much time you’re wasting”
He laughed embarrassingly, and I knew I had hit him where it hurt. We played further into the night. The student sat there playing his cards wrong and with each hand, he lost more and more chips. He wanted to prove to me so badly that he was somebody other than I had in mind. But a poor wretch was all I saw. Every round the author’s gaze became darker. For a moment, it seemed like he was losing control. He stood up and threw his chips with vehemence into the pot. On the turn, it looked like the student was winning, but the river blew over the bank and flushed his chips down the river. He threw his glass through the room and cursed.
Ätz and I watched him quietly. Waiting to see if he’d cross the boundaries of hospitality any further. However, he remembered where he was, kept his mouth shut when it became inappropriate and sat down again. Miro yawned up. Jadek’s hand twitched. They both slept peacefully. They remained like that for the remaining time. The student didn’t dare to do it again and when the rest of his chips changed hands, the drinks were emptied, and the herb was smoked, the scribbler had been reduced to his dream again. In the end, I felt sorry for him. I gave him 20€ for the trip home and some advice:
“No reason to wait, nobody waits for you, and even cockroaches dream of the day when the surface world belongs to them”


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