I’m not exactly sure of the date, but sometime soon, I’ll be celebrating my 26th year anniversary.
I’m not talking about my marriage of 42 years, or the anniversary of when I quit smoking, or even the anniversaries of deaths, births, accolades or the fact that very soon, we’ll be celebrating the fact that it’s coming up to a year since my wife Janice beat lung cancer.
I’m talking about the anniversary of when I became one of the “Poker Guys”. Since 1994, on the first Friday of each month, I’ve now played in over 300 home poker games with the same set of guys – Leon, Dave, Bob, Tom W., Tom C., Marty, and Tim (less Phil who escaped to live in Florida a while ago) – and I would be very much surprised, if on the balance, my cumulative winnings were over $500.
For those of you keeping score, that’s about $1.66 per game. Back when I started with the group, that was enough to take your wife out for a wild night on the town, just as long as you only had one cocktail apiece. Now, I think I’m spending more on gas just to drive to the games.
We play for quarters and half-dollars, 3 raise maximum. We keep our quarters in dedicated velvet Crown Royal bags, cigar boxes, Tupperware containers and plastic coffee cans. We play ten or so different types of games and limit wild card games because (my opinion) they suck. Some of the guys keep a record of their monthly gain or loss on teeny tiny handwritten spreadsheets. 30+ years of data.
You gotta love CPAs.
Our children, and now grandchildren, have been told of the dire consequences that will befall to any who dare to raid our collection of quarters that we haul out of their place on the shelf, behind the good plates, once a month.
I hold the second place all-time greatest one game haul – about $130.00. That’s 520 quarters. I had to borrow a shopping bag to take my bounty home, and truth be told, I never returned the bag to that evening’s host. Who knew that in this age of the banishment of plastic shopping bags, that bag is now worth some serious money. Maybe even more than $130.00.
To satisfy your curiosity, the all-time winning total was “earned” by Tom C – about $160.00. I put “earned” in quotations because 5% of that win was skill and the other 95% pure luck. That’s why no one came to visit him at the hospital when his hernia had to be surgically repaired for carrying 640 quarters out to his car.
Our lives have intertwined through health and sicknesses, marriages and divorces, employment and unemployment, the passing of our parents, and now, retirements. We’ve shared our joys – and sometimes our sorrows – of seeing our children’s path to adulthood, and now, parenthood.
Yesteryear, we shared tales of our career or athletic prowess while (some of us) smoked cigars and drank bourbon, like, “Puff. Puff. Sip. Hey guys, I just closed a quarter million-dollar deal on my Motorola StarTac cell phone while I was finishing the last leg of the Appalachian Trail!”
Today, we compliment hosts on the bountiful crudités platter, put our beer snobbery on display (not a bad a thing), pile our plates with forbidden goodies like peanut M&Ms and way too salty BBQ potato chips that would trigger our wives’ evil eye if they were present and speak of our health problems like, “Oy. I have pain in my feet that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemies.”
I’ll be 91 when I celebrate the 50th anniversary of my time with the Poker Guys. I’ll still have the same container of Tupperware for my quarters. I’ll still bring a really bad joke to the game. It’s likely that my 30-year-old granddaughter will have to drive me back and forth. I am hopeful that I will still be able to remember the order of winning poker hands.
And, I’m hopeful that all the Poker Guys will all be there to play a few more hands. I’m still gonna kick your ass.