It’s all about the game

By Jonathan Koepke

You wake up on Monday and the last thing that you want to think about is how much stuff you have to get done that week. Friday seems like an eternity away. Tuesday rolls in like a fog, and there is only one thing that you can look forward to: 24 hours until Wednesday. Wednesday is wonderful. It’s all downhill from Wednesday, and Wednesday is wonderful from 9 p.m. on. After all, it’s Poker Night.

I believe it to be a well-documented fact that when playing cards with your friends, life does not seem so bad. Once a week you can forget the fact that you have a lot of things in your life that give you stress, and just put some money on the table, sit down with some of your best friends and crack open a bottle of good beer. There is truly something great about it.

This, of course, does not mean that everyone who comes over to the apartment every week hates everything else about their life. It just means that something special happens between the 5 to 12 guys who show up. There is a kind of camaraderie that happens that cannot truly be explained, yet exists nonetheless. For those who have played, they know what I mean.

We play games of all kinds and types. If it involves cards, usually there is no limit to what we will play. In many cases we have to modify ridiculous games that last for hours and involve ridiculous amounts of money. In most cases we will modify the rules for such games as 727 or Heartburn. Also, there are any number of three-, five- and seven-card games & some are blind games and others, straight up. We even made up our own game: Chips Ahoy.

There are a number of regulars and each one has their own particular style and favorite games.

We can start with Kris, my roommate. His style is usually to drink as much as possible. (Just kidding & sort of) He usually bets with his hand consistently and is a solid player. Trae is there every night, yet has had some very cold hands as of late, but usually is always good until the wee hours of the morning. Steve is about as hardcore at gambling as it gets in our circle and would bet on just about any card game. He is probably one of the most experienced and strategic players at the table each night. He also is a pretty consistent winner. Jeff (Mr. Five Aboard), my other roommate, bets ridiculously at every hand without batting an eye, yet it seems to work out for him. Eric is a hit or miss guy. He either loses it all or wins everything; he is definitely the question mark of the group in terms of winning. Will, who knows if he will show up each week, but he usually wins our money and then leaves. Everyone despises his luck and timing, yet we love him. Joe is also in the fry; he is a consistent player as well, and usually he and Eric are most concerned with finishing the night with enough money for chalupas from Taco Bell. Jeff is also a regular when not playing in his band, and usually does well, yet somehow seems to consistently sneak under the radar, probably pulling a profit at the end of the night.

I must also mention some of the past players whom have moved on and the guest players whom have shown up over time, including my little brother Ben, Adam, Mike, Darrin and anyone else I have forgotten.

This leads me to the inspiration for this little experiment that began over a year and a half ago. A simple movie about poker, “Rounders.” After sitting and watching what is probably one of the finest movies about poker ever made, we decided we needed to put a game together. It’s been a weekly ritual ever since that night.

“Rounders” stands out because of its frank depiction of the poker-playing world, and the intricacies of its highest form, No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em. The back-stabbing, ignorant ways of Worm (Ed Norton) always strand Mike (Matt Damon), who is a great and consistent player. The final match with KGB is just brilliant.

Another great movie that involves some gambling is “Swingers.” There is just no replacing the interplay on the $100 blackjack table in Vegas. Who could think of a better nickname than Double Down?

Other notable films involving gambling or poker include “Maverick,” “The Hustler,” “The Sting” and “The Cincinnati Kid.” Of that group, “The Cincinnati Kid” is probably the most accurate and brilliant movie about the game of poker. Its plot involves something like the World Series of Poker that takes place during the Depression.

The other thing to keep in mind is that we are simply small stakes guys. It’s a $5 buy in and we play with nickel, dime and quarter chips. It’s not a good idea to become a compulsive gambler, because it can only lead to real problems. What makes our night great is because the $5 is not going to make or break anyone, yet it is enough for us to care about what we bet.

It’s a great tradition and will continue for as long as possible. I highly recommend it to any group of friends, and there are plenty of films to look for to find inspiration and strategy.

Poker night is as much about spending time with people as it is playing cards. It brings out their personality and that’s what makes it fun.