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“Poker Babies”

“I vill betz two hundred,” said the well-groomed German man. His movements were methodical; this newly acquired courage at the stroke of midnight caught my attention. I secretly watched like a proud father as he took down pot after pot. With a calm, unwavering determination, he battled from behind to claim an unprecedented (novice) victory.

Germany is like the little brother or sister who tries to play catch-up with an older sibling. There’s a bit of a delay there. During my first six months in Deutschland, I had the feeling like I had gone back in time. Aside from your everyday teenager wearing vintage Michael Jackson attire, you’ll find many other things that are reminiscent of ‘80s America. Turn on the television and you’ll see American shows that are from the same era, but it feels like they’re not. Ironically, I've had that "been there, done that" feeling in my expat life. Poker was no exception, either.

In the span of a year, I had seen an increase in poker advertisements in two major German cities. And just when I thought I had kicked my quasi-poker addiction, I got sucked back in, only this time it was in a new setting.

It was a Friday night. The game was low-stakes Texas Hold ‘em. The scene: a table, one deck of cards, one set of chips, a card shuffler, a nearby television broadcasting the twenty-four hour poker channel, some snacks, and some beer. My budding competition stood right before my eyes: three Germans and one Australian. They were all pretty much green, with the exception of the Aussie; he’d been playing for a few endless months.

Pre-game time, we all sat at the table in a relaxed, professional manner. It was bit of a change from the games back home with the boys, where jovial jabs and ball busting ensued before any cards were dealt. I thought I had seen it all before and was unconditionally prepared for a banal beginner’s game on this particular night, since I’d played loads of house games for the better part of two and a half years before shacking up in the land of Bier and Brot. But for this one, I needed to keep things in perspective and recognize what brought me there in the first place: I was in a fierce mood to play poker’s greatest game, so I took what came my way.

No flash. No arrogance. Not even a mean, competitive face on. They learn. They work hard. They try to do it well. And, they catch on quickly. That’s a German. I was no doubt impressed by the signs of poker competency these guys were displaying. The amiable, tall, slender German man was beating me like I was his bastard son. It didn’t matter that it was only his second attempt at poker—he remembered his first time as an entirely different game—and that he hadn’t a clue about the value of his cards. Every pot I raised, he called … and won. Even more depressing was the revelation of his hole cards at the end of each claimed victory. This was the same man who professed his undying love for cheese, with no reservations about ordering a quattro cheese pizza for our evening dinner (I would not have been the least bit surprised to learn of a daily breakfast of bratwurst. Germans are genetically impervious to high cholesterol).

“I raise,” said the eventual champion, his subtle smile an obvious tell indicating he was about to rake in the mother lode.

“I’ll fold … again,” I said.

“I call you. How much?” said the other German player, who showed strong resolve as he tried to make a run. And the Aussie? He was impressive in his own right, with dominant play for a respectable amount of time.

To tell you the truth, I was thrilled with the competition. It's a master's dream to see his students come into their own. But you know, when you're a poker baby, logic and strategy are out the door. You're untrained and you lack the experience. Nearly every hand is played just to see where you end up. Often times, it's leaning over the skilled, experienced guy who's wondering what the heck is happening to him. For some inexplicable reason, it is something that frequently occurs with absolute beginners. But after a few rounds, you can kiss your beginner's luck goodbye.

Maybe I was a bit bitter because the poker gods weren’t there for me on that humbling evening. But that’s fine, that’s okay. Because I’m not even sure that I could’ve necessarily chalked up my miserable loss to a beginner's luck invasion. Nevertheless, what I do know is this: as the surrogate skipper of that evening's poker gig, I felt beholden to the development of my rookie crew. So I could only hope for a flash of gratitude when they eventually rolled on past me to the esteemed poker star world.


I really hope my German genes come thru, what with me craving bacon for breakfast. I make sure the bacon comes from happier pigs.

The beginner's luck thing is real. I had a day off, from summer camp, where I was employed to take the children out into the woods as Nature Coordinator.

A beaver swam past. I pointed out Beaver. The children adored Nature Coordinator.

The nearby fire station was sponsoring Bingo Night. I'd never really experienced this very rural Bingo phenomenon, before. About twenty people were there, including an entire category of professional Bingo players.

One woman had a special wooden rack constructed to hold up to 25 Bingo cards at the same time. The remarkable lip stick. The finger nail polish. The cigarettes, smoke wafting thru the room. The hairdo straight out of 1956.

It was getting pretty embarrassing, as I seemed to keep winning. At some point, I needed to leave, to take the crew back to camp and I walked out with most of the cash. I recall receiving some very odd stares.

Now maybe this lucky moment was tied to my very lucky at gambling, not German mother. Somehow, my mother could toss quarters into those machines and on multiple occasions, she was the big winner. She won $8000 once.

She had this small token, a little man, metal, and he was from Fitzgeralds. Whatever was Fitzgeralds, it was someplace gambling, and maybe Reno Nevada. This small token was in my mother's possession, during each win.

Fitzgerald was in my chest of drawers and I did really try to find him, during the evacuation. But that was not meant to be. Fitzgerald is gone.

I won' t be gambling, most likely, any further. Its risky, now.
It’s evident that the family luck has been passed on through the generations. Sorry about Fitzgerald.

Oh: so Wikipedia verified My Family History- altho now that suggests the Fitzgerald's lucky charm metal key chain maybe was not that old?

"Fitzgeralds Gaming was a gaming and hotel company based in Reno, Nevada, that operated four casinos under the Fitzgeralds brand. It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December 2000, and subsequently sold all its properties."

Think how valuable that dang missing Fitzgerald must be!

Wonder if such a thing might exist on ebay. I could somehow put my Mom's good luck back into a random charm obtained via bidding.
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