What the hell — let’s have some fun: Poker with the boys

Club One Casino in downtown Fresno on a typical morning, around tournament time.

Personally, it was one of the last social barriers to cross in my trip to the girls’ side — playing poker with the boys. Well, actually I’d done that several times — I still play with a crew of mostly Fresno Bee sports guys present and past and other pals — but that’s a home table. I’m talking about a bunch of strangers in a tournament setting, 90 percent of them very much male and highly unlikely to change anytime ever.

But there I was the first Thursday of March, exiting my car in the downtown Fresno underground parking garage, heading to the elevator that would (slowly) take me the two floors to the street level and Club One Casino, to play in one of the regular 10 a.m. hold ‘em tournaments.

You’d think I would’ve gotten all my gender jitters out of the way by now. Well, most of them. As I departed the elevator and walked past the OTB room and the restaurant and stepped into the carpeted arena of the cardroom, I was ready for another adventure. And curious to see how different an experience this would be.

If your experience with casinos has been Vegas, the two behemoths in the eastern Connecticut woods (Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun) or Atlantic City — well, Club One is not the first thing that would come to mind.

It’s essentially a classy, comfortable, modest-sized cardroom on the northwest corner of Van Ness and Tulare, next door to a Holiday Inn. It has a floor full of tables, mostly for hold ‘em, along with some Pai-Gow, a few blackjack tables and some Mexican Poker, with an occasional game or tournament of Omaha as well. There’s also a glassed-in betting parlor for the horses, with multiple screens broadcasting from tracks all over the country.

In between that and the cardroom sits a restaurant/bar with an excellent selection of food, especially the Asian menu — some of the best Pad Thai in town. It gets rather crowded at lunchtime most days, when people make their way over from the county courthouse across the street. (I did that a couple times while sitting jury duty on a three-week fraud trial three years ago.)

Like a lot of things in this spread-out cowtown of a half-million, Club One has a small-town feel about it. It’s a place where the players know each other, at least by face, and some of the regulars banter with the dealers.

I’ve played in one evening tournament, in the days when I could afford it, but never gone late at night — when, apparently, all the young studs come in after closing time, after a night of clubbing and drinking, thinking they can go all-in with impunity. I’ve never tried to take advantage of the situation, but the thought entertains me from time to time.

Apparently, though, that’s when the real fun is. Like the night about three or four years ago when some idiot, in a story that made national headlines, bet a bag of pot — then, deciding he bet too much, took the bag back and settled for laying down a couple of buds.

But I like going in the mornings. The 10 a.m. hold ‘em tournaments are good, clean, cheap fun. Technically, it’s a $14 tournament, where you get 2,000 chips — but for another $5, you can get an extra 1,000 chips when you sign up, so figure on $19. And then, unless you’re really having a good morning, figure on another $20 rebuy for 2,000 more chips. And there are unlimited rebuys up until the break at the end of the third round, but more than one rebuy isn’t really cost-effective.

Two of my poker crew, Matt James, the Bee’s sports columnist; and Kenny Lewis, the main sports page designer — or, as he’s often called, K-Lew, or, as I call him, Looloo — enticed me into playing one morning about three years ago. After playing at the home table for a couple years and smoothing down the rough edges of my game (well, most of them — I do like keeping a couple of jagged edges), and needing competition beyond the usual bunch of guys, it was a little nerve-wracking to play poker with a bunch of strangers.

Back in the day, in the midst of the hold ‘em craze and before the economy tanked, it wasn’t uncommon for there to be seven or eight tables full of players for the morning tourneys, and first prize to be in the mid-$300s. These days, the 10 a.m. events are about three or four tables big, with first place somewhere around $170. But regardless of size, I could never get past maybe two-fifths of the way through the field. I never made it to the final table, where I would’ve had at least a chance of at least getting my money back.

*****

The first time I played poker with the boys as my female self was Sept. 14, 2009. I remember because 1) It was the day Matty J moved into his new house — not a stick of furniture inside, but the card table fit nicely outside on the patio; and 2) It was the night before I came out to my parents.

We usually had a poker get-together around that time of the year because our pal John Romero, a former Bee sports copy editor who’s now living in the D.C. area, would come back to visit to coincide with the start of the NFL season. It was usually a fun little get-together.

I had told Matty J about the gender thang the day he helped me move a month before; LooLoo I told over a cup of coffee at Revue not long after. They were fine with it. (And actually, words had gotten around to them from a couple other ex-sports colleagues who had seen me already.)

So on this night before J-Ro headed back across the country, Matty J was christening his new place with a card game. And it did occur to me that I might play as my better half, but come 8 o’clock, I had just gotten back from a Target run and was still in boy drag, and to tell you, I wasn’t feeling it. The depression and anxiety that came with the unemployment were starting to settle in, coupled with the anxiety over just how I would tell my parents they had a daughter.

Commissioner Looloo — I call him that because he’s the chief organizer of card games and get-togethers — called right after I got home.

“Ceski!” (That’s what he called me — a corruption that started as Frankie, then Francesco, then Cesco, and finally the rather Polish-sounding Ceski. Lately, it’s become Cesquelo — or, as he’s gotten used to the pronoun thing, Cesquela.) “So are you coming over?”

“I’ll probably be over around 9.”

“So, are you coming as a lady?”

“I’m not sure.”

“You should. Come on, Ceski!”

Well, I mulled it over a few more minutes and then finally said what I normally say when I’m about to do something rash at the table — “What the hell — let’s have some fun.” I pulled on my white Celtic top, jeans and a pair of black flats and did up my face and headed over.

I walked in the front door of the empty house, apprehensive as all hell, and heard the chattering on the patio, straight back. “Ceski — is that you?” The Commish came in, gave me a hug — this was the first time he’d seen me as Frannie — and he said “Come on out.” And the three steps to the back door felt like a quarter-mile tunnel — or the moment where you get to the top of the roller coaster and realize you can’t turn back.

And I came out. Literally and figuratively. And it was more than a full table. About a dozen guys were there. Matty J and Looloo, J-Ro, C-Moll, Butters, Lalo, Bryant, The Bils Collector, Simon with his poker “bible” and a couple others I’m trying to remember. And I got welcoming smiles and hugs from all of them. As far as I knew, Bryant and Butters were the only ones of the bunch who had seen me before as my better half. In fact, Butters told me, when he saw me for the first time on the patio at Landmark three months before, “Just because you’re a lady doesn’t mean I’m not taking your chips.” I never asked, but I’m guessing Matt and Looloo told the other guys ahead of time and explained the situation. And that they would’ve been disappointed had I not shown up as my better half.

A biggie out of the way and a big sigh of relief. So I took a seat at one end of the table and played into the night and pretty much broke even. And at one point, Lindsay, Matt’s girlfriend, who works in corporate HR, came over to me and pulled up a chair. “So tell me about this,” she said. And when I told her, she said, “Doesn’t it feel wonderful?”

And we’ve played several times since, and I can tell you they sure as hell don’t treat me like a lady at the table. Then again, I’m not very ladylike to them, either. And I have no problem taking their chips, either. (Yeah, I know — them’s fightin’ words …)

*****

I first seriously considered what the gender thing would do to my poker life midway through last summer, when I was starting to go through the name-change and gender-change process so I could get my license redone. It did occur to me that being female could put a serious crimp in my poker playing, at least on the cardroom level.

With some irony, I celebrated the official name change — my last official act of boyhood, the actual mid-September 9 a.m. appearance before the judge, leading to my official name and gender and photo change at DMV five days later — by heading over to Club One afterward to play the 10 o’clock. I actually made it the farthest I’d ever gotten — to 14th, midway through the next-to-last table, thanks to winning three rivers. The most memorable was one where my pockets were a queen and a jack. A Q and a J came up on the flop, the guy next to me called, then he pushed me all in on the turn. He had turned the straight to my two pairs. But the last card was the third queen for the boat.

(And by the way, I’ll take credit for this nickname: I call a trip-queens hand “Priscilla,” as in “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” — of course, a film, and now a Broadway musical, about three queens. It was a name that made much more sense to my friends after I came out. Four queens, the first time I get them, will be known as “The Drag Show.”)

Anyway, I decided to do a little exploring the next time I played there, souse out a couple of friendly faces ahead of time. That was early November, for Looloo’s birthday, when he and Matty J and I met up for a little friendly tourney action and lunch afterward. I went in boy drag, wearing my Saints Deuce McAllister game jersey and a doo-rag, as I usually did.

I often take it as a good sign, that I’ve made a positive impression, when the people running an establishment remember me, even if I haven’t been there for a while. After all, they see hundreds of people, if not more, on a daily basis. I’m not one of the regulars, but Claire, the woman who handles the tournament sign-ups before doing a waitressing shift, had a smile for me and a “Hey! Haven’t seen you in a long time!”

Claire’s a willowy redhead who’s taller than me in flats, and she has a very good nature about her. And she was one of the people I wanted to talk to. I told her, “Hey, I need to pick your brains about something when you have some time later.”

So anyway, at one of the breaks, she came up to me. “So what’s up?”

“Well, I need to pick your brains about something. This is something totally unusual, and I don’t know what to expect, so I figured I’d pick the brains of a couple of friendly faces here. I don’t know how else to say it, but I’m in between genders right now. In fact, I got the license changed over a couple months ago. And I’m just trying to see how it will go over here.”

Not batting an eyelash: “You’ll be fine. You’ll have no trouble here. This is a good place. In fact, we have a few players like you who come down occasionally.”

“Really.”

“Yeah. You won’t have any problems. So let me see.”

So I showed her the license.

“That’s a beautiful driver’s license photo! Definitely come down next time.”

“Cool. I just needed to make sure.”

And, during another break, I also soused out another friendly face from the casino — Cindy, the waitress who takes my order at lunch as often as not. She’s a classic, hard-working, good-hearted, salt-of-the-earth waitress. And she knew and remembered my name, even if my visits were few and far between. And I came away with the same reaction: “You’ll have no problems here. The way I look at it, I don’t care what people do, as long as they’re happy and don’t hurt other people.” And I showed her my license, too, and she told me I looked great. (I’m in the less than 1 percent of the universe who has ever taken a good driver’s license photo, I guess.)

My last appearance in boy drag was not a memorable one at the table; I busted out about a quarter of the way through, after getting no cards to play with. But lunch and the company were good.

*****

Matty J is a marathon runner — he’s going to accomplish a dream next month; he qualified for Boston — and he’s heavily involved with Team in Training, the organization of runners and cyclists who compete to raise funds for cancer research.

In late January, he held a hold ‘em tournament at his place to raise money. It ended up being a smaller-than-expected turnout: two tables, mostly Bee and Team folks and a couple of other friends; top three players win cash. But it was a revelation.

To an extent, I’ve always played, well, like a girl — not very aggressive, let the other guy get overly aggressive and see what happens. But since the transition, with my insides running at a much calmer pace (well, when the unemployment anxiety isn’t raging full-on), I’m a lot more patient, folding a lot more. I’ve realized in my middle age that poker isn’t a figurative war to be waged every hand, but more a battle of attrition.

And this was, indeed, a battle of attrition. The first two hours, I played one solitary hand. I was getting nothing, nada, zip, zilch, the big ungatz. But the lady was smart enough and patient enough to play as tight as a virgin and constantly fold her shitty pockets. By the end of the first couple hours, my initial stack was down to a nub — or, as Looloo calls it, a third-grade chub. But somehow, I had hung around long enough for the condensation; somehow, I made the final table.

And that’s when the fun started. I went all in twice in the early goings and won one hand with a straight, the other on a flush. I suddenly had built a respectable pile of chips. And then I knocked a couple of guys out. Then another on an all-in. And suddenly, The Girl Most Likely to Lose was one of the final three. Where my incredible tournament run came to an abrupt thud — at the hands of a genetic girl. Who ended up winning the tourney.

The buy-in was $50; I won $56. I walked away with enough for a cocktail that night at the Landmark.

And after that, it was time to go play with the boys.

*****

I just felt that March would be a very good month in a lot of ways. Maybe not lately, as the unemployment has lingered, but it sure started great. The first Wednesday night, our pub quiz team at the Landmark took down a huge jackpot, and it occurred to me: Maybe this will be a momentous month after all, and I should take $40 off my winnings and go play the tournament tomorrow. Besides, I went to Club One’s website to check out tournament times, just in case something changed, and I saw something else: They were holding a World Series of Poker satellite tournament that Sunday. The winner of that tourney would get into the Series itself — the $10K entry fee plus $1,500 in mad money.

The wheels were turning: If I won the morning tourney, that would give me enough to cover the $150 buy-in for the satellite tourney. And I could see myself making it deep into the tournament, and the TV folks would be profiling me at some point, since, as far as I know, no one from my tribe has played in the Series, or at least gone deep enough. And what player doesn’t fantasize about being at the final table in November and having Norman Chad say goofy things about them on ESPN as they walk away with over a million all but guaranteed? Besides, the Central Valley has had one male WSOP champ already, Jerry Yang. Why not a woman, no matter how I got to that point? And maybe it would open up a lot more doors for me … and for others. Hmmmmmmm …

So it was decided: I would get up early the next morning and go play and see what happens.

Set the cellphone for 8 and jumped in the shower right off instead of lingering in bed or screwing around on the laptop. Got in one of those close shaves that I’m pretty good at these days (I have to be, since I have to shave every day for now), and got dressed. I didn’t want to draw any undue attention to myself, and besides, who gets dressed up at 10 in the morning at a cardroom? So I was casually conservative: black Celtic top, jeans, black patent ballerina flats, pink eye shadow. Then came breakfast, and around 9:30, I left for downtown.

To tell you, in the early days, when I first entertained the thought of playing at the casino as my better half, I did have a lot more fear about it. After all, let’s face it: More than 90 percent of the people who play there are male, and there’s a certain degree of testosterone in the air, and what if some guy saw the cute blonde and was attracted to her, then found out she wasn’t, well, quite female and got pissed off? Maybe tailed her back down to the parking garage, especially if she won his money? But talking with Claire and Cindy the last time out eased my mind a lot; after all, I wouldn’t be the first trans player there. So I looked forward to the experience with mostly a degree of muted excitement. But I’ll always have eyes in the back of my head …

The elevator from the blue parking level, two stories down, was taking its sweet-ass time as usual. I got in, and a young Asian guy, seemingly in his 30s, also got in. Of course, I’m always wondering if people can read me, and if they do, how they’ll react. Well, the elevator stopped and I started to get off,  but it was only the green level — one story in the time it takes most lifts to travel two. “Oops,” I said, and we both smiled as I got back in. I felt like such a blonde — and I’ve been having a lot more blonde moments of late, even though I’ve been naturally blonde my whole life.

So the door opened again — this time for real. I made my way down the hall and, just when I walked from Matty J’s front door through his empty living room to his patio, had the feeling I was walking through this long dark tunnel that would soon burst open into a world of uncertainty. Oh hell, I thought, the worst of it was over at this point. Just some anticipation, that’s all — that and wondering how I would play as my better half.

I made my way across the cardroom to the far end, where the tournaments are held.

Claire recognized me right off and smiled a huge smile as I approached the podium.

“Look at you! You’re beautiful!” she said and gave me a huge hug and I thanked her.

One of the regulars, an older guy in a cowboy hat, looked at us and held out his arms. “What about me?” Well, I think it was more directed toward her, anyway, but I knew I certainly wasn’t gonna go there — after all, what if one of these guys didn’t read me, then found out later? That probably wouldn’t have been good. I grabbed a cup of coffee from the dispenser at a table on the cardroom side of the tournament area and waited for 10 o’clock.

I settled in among the guys. This was gonna be a small tournament: four tables. The tourney director went through the rules and said, “Okay, throw ‘em in the air.”

*****

Things were different in some ways playing as my female self.

For one, my demeanor. I definitely didn’t slouch like a guy at the table. I sat rather closed-stance, on the demure side. I also didn’t talk a lot. My voice is still the weak spot in my girl game, and besides, I didn’t know these guys, though I’ve played with several of the regulars before.

Also, I notice that guys at poker tables do not go easy on girls. I picked up on this in subtle shades. Like perhaps they’ll bet a little more aggressively — if I check, he’ll raise a large number of chips. Or if I raise, he’ll often come back and top my raise. Things like that. And I’m not talking about the idiots who come in and push big amounts on the table and occasionally go all-in in the hope of catching a little lightning. I’m talking about regulars who play smart, who have their own ways of playing and are usually around at the end.

That didn’t bother me. As a former guy, I figured out pretty quickly that guys don’t like having a girl around. Besides, as I said before, I always did play somewhat, ahem, like a girl, even as a boy with the home crew. I was never very aggressive — I’m prone to lay back and be patient and take advantage of the other player’s aggression, kind of a poker version of the tender trap — and, more often than not, it works well for me. And on this morning, it worked very well for me.

But not initially. I don’t think I played more than one hand for the first hour. But by the same turn, I was playing very tight, very conservatively, folding cards the daring (OK, foolish) young Ceski would’ve played — and, like the tourney at Matt’s, I figured I’d be okay if I could just get some cards at some point.

But about midway through, I found myself down to my last mini-stack, even after the $20 rebuy for 2,000 chips at the first break, the last call for rebuys. And on this particular hand, my pockets were a 9 and 10. A 7 and an 8 came up on the flop. So when the bet came around to me, I said to these guys what I say to the boys at the home table: “What the hell — let’s have fun.” And I went all-in with the little I had left. I turned over my open-ended straight draw; the guy who called me had pocket queens. The turn was a jack. Big sigh of relief. And I knew my luck was gonna change.

And the clock made its way around a couple of trips and I started to notice the number of players dwindling. And damned if, just around noon, I made it to the final table. My first final table at Club One. Out of the four females in the original field, two were among the last 10. However, the other one — I don’t know her name, but she’s around my age and works as a nurse — was not very friendly to me. Not vicious or bitchy, but cold. She was a regular, she was essentially one of the boys and was at least as territorial as them — a perceived “Who the hell are you to crash this party?” And since she’s a nurse, I figured if anyone could read me and know I wasn’t biologically what I seemed, it would be her. At one point, she took a chunk of my chips, but I later got them back and then some.

Since the jackpot money was so small, due to the low turnout, they were only paying out for the top nine, so there was some extra bit of jockeying, just as there was to make the final table — and, of course, players play a little more conservatively when they’re on the bubble. And I was pretty much on the bubble at that point. But one of the guys got daring, went all-in and went out.

The nurse finished eighth, leaving me to do battle with the rest of the boys. I only recognized one — Jerry, one of the most frequent regulars: a slight guy in his 60s, Armenian descent, I’m guessing, with slightly longish white hair and beard and a baseball cap, and he usually carries a book with him. He doesn’t smile and he doesn’t say a hell of a lot, but he’s got game, that’s for damn sure.

And at least on this day, I did, too — at least enough to get me where no Fran had gone before. And suddenly there were just four of us — me on one end of the table, the other three on the other side of the dealer. Them vs. me. The boy vs. the girl — figuratively as well as physically. But let’s face it — my stack wasn’t as large as theirs, and I didn’t expect to get any further, and I was right. I busted out in fourth and cashed in for the first time ever at a cardroom: $77. So, after the initial $19 and the $20 rebuy, I netted $40. Which meant I could at least enjoy a leisurely Pad Thai lunch.

I stopped by the OTB room, and there was Looloo, along with Coop, another of the sports guys who plays with us occasionally, and Robbie, who handicaps racing during the Fresno Fair for the Bee and sometimes plays cards with us as well. Got a hearty congratulations from them, in between looking at their racing forms. And Claire was waitressing when I got to the restaurant, and she asked me how I did, and she smiled a pretty large smile when I told her — and this is a woman who smiles a lot to begin with. I was pretty satisfied. I was wondering whether my style of play had changed that much or I was just able to take advantage of their lack of familiarity with me, or a combination of both. And even if I didn’t win anything — which I did expect to do for some reason — I did accomplish something, even if it was to conquer another personal psychological barrier.

Oh, by the way, lest you think I was a little paranoid about the boys-vs.-girls thing: I found out later the other three chopped the pot shortly after I left.

*****

CODA:

Three Thursdays later, I decided to try my luck again. I was a little apprehensive this time — not because of the gender trip, but because I was feeling weird when I woke up. A good part of it is that the stress of job hunting has turned me into an absolute wreck, and I haven’t been sleeping a hell of a lot because of that.

But I was up at 8 and out of bed and, after wavering on this and doing a little coin-flipping, I decided to head on down. I’ve been spending too much time with the damn laptop lately — in fact, that’s all I’ve done lately, between job hunting, corresponding with people and making feeble attempts to work on my book. Maybe last time wasn’t a fluke — maybe I have game now. Maybe I can win a little pocket money. After all, the day after I last played, my bicycle shit the bed — a stress break in a bad place — and I’ve been failing miserably in my attempts to find a good hybrid bike on craigslist. So I might have to splurge money I don’t have just to be able to ride and lose the weight I’ve been gaining and get back in a decent frame of mind. So I had ulterior motives.

Claire looked up and smiled brightly when she saw me waiting to sign up and then gave me a big hug when I got to the head of the line — “You look beautiful,” to which I replied, “You, too.” This was definitely a larger turnout than the last time; while there seemed to be just a scattering of people a few minutes before 10, the tables filled in out of nowhere. There were five full tables of 10, and not quite enough to fill a sixth, and many of those players who signed up did make the tourney eventually. First place was $356, and where fourth was $77 when I won it, it would be $171 this day. And all 10 at the final table would make money.

I challenged myself: I not only wanted to make the final table, but I wanted to see if I could go without rebuying for a change.

I started out afire for once; I won my first hand, then a couple more in the first 20 minutes. Then I went cold. I still had a decent amount of chips in front of me, and I was getting decent pockets, but other guys started pushing. I had pocket 8s at one point and raised pre-flop, only to have one player go big on the flop. Another time I had pocket queens. I begrudgingly laid down, something the boy would never had done. And I did get bluffed out of one hand, but except for that one instance, every other time I folded, it turned out I made the wise choice. I wouldn’t have stayed around had I gone big on any one of those several hands instead of laying down.

I had to make a decision at the end of the second break: Rebuy or not? My initial stack of 3,000 was up to 7,800 — not bad. But would it get me through as the stakes climbed? I said no — I don’t usually have this many chips by this point, and 7,800 is more than I often have after a rebuy. So I was gonna stick with what I had, and if I won, great; if not, that was the less I wasted.

But the drought was lingering — another hour-long war of attrition. Finally, with just about four full tables remaining, I was down to a chub. My pockets were suited: ace and 7 of diamonds. Jerry pushed me all in. And once again, I said, “What the hell — let’s have some fun.” He had queens. I caught an ace on the flop and it held up. Like three weeks previous, that turned things around.

Joining the table and sitting next to me on my left was a woman named Donna — soft-spoken, late 30s/early 40s, in a red Fresno State Bulldogs sweatshirt. She came off as distracted and maybe a little spacey. But I was watching her with amazement. Twice I saw lay back and let the boys try to push her, then watched her raise them on the river — not all-in by any stretch, and maybe less than I would’ve bet — and then turn over her pocket aces. She definitely played like a girl in the good way — much more so than me. I’m glad I wasn’t going head-to-head with her.

We commiserated before the last break. She gave me some friendly advice: “One thing you have to know is that the boys don’t like having us at the table. You have to be better than the boys because they won’t give you an inch.”

“Oh, yeah, I found that out three weeks ago, last time I played them,” I told her. “There’s definitely a macho thing going on — they don’t want to get beat by a girl. They push a little harder. A couple times before, I raised and they came right back at me. I totally understand that.”

Then I told her, “You know, you’re a dangerous player.” She looked at me a bit surprised. “I mean, you were sitting there laying back with those pocket aces and letting them come to you. And then you turned them over. You’re pretty dangerous.”

“I don’t think so,” she said.

Finally, as the blinds got up to 400/800, then 600/1,200, the field began to shrink rapidly. And like that, the four-table logjam was down to two. And the three girls — Donna, the nurse and myself — found ourselves at Table 1.

And I kept looking over at the other table to see how close we were to the final 10. Since I was getting nothing to play, I was laying back. Plus, the timing of moving from table to table worked to my advantage — I kept finding myself being seated behind the button, which allowed my dwindling stack to last longer. I wasn’t having to ante many blinds. The nurse lost halfway through the table to a flush. It got down to 12, then 11. Then Donna went all-in and busted out.

And once again, the girl least likely to make the final table made it to the last 10.

But this time, I harbored no illusions — I really had no right to be there in the first place, except that I sat back and kept folding my empty pockets and watched everyone make their all-in moves. It was ugly, defensive poker, but hey, I was there at the end. But I also made it to the last 10 with a handful of beans, down to 2,800. So I cashed out in 10th and pocketed $39 — meaning, since I didn’t rebuy, I actually netted $20 for my three hours of trouble and fun.

I ran into Claire as I headed to the girls’ room near the restaurant, and she seemed pleasantly surprised to see I made it to the last table again. This time, though, I didn’t stay for the Pad Thai.

As I headed through the restaurant toward the elevator, I saw Cindy. I called her, and she looked at me puzzled before it hit her who it was. We caught up briefly, since I hadn’t seen her in like four months. I told her about how I’ve done at the table so far, and she said, “Hey, I’m jealous! I want some of that.” She also told me, “Well, you look great — you look better than me.” To which I told her, “That’s not true.”

I don’t think I want to make a habit of playing there, but there is one last WSOP satellite coming up. Maybe I can win the money for the entry fee. And then I can win my way to Vegas and maybe Norman will be saying goofy things about me on TV after all. Hey, a girl can dream, can’t she?

3 Responses to “What the hell — let’s have some fun: Poker with the boys”

  1. Jay Parks Says:

    Excellent writing. We have a friendly game on the first Friday of every month that I’d love to get you into. Me, Jim K., Hank Delcore, Kiel, Steve B.. and a few others. Let’s chat about it!

  2. Harry Minot Says:

    Jeez, Fran, this piece is TERRIFIC. I have re-emailed regarding you and your awe-inspiring talent to a writer feller of some prominence. If there were any Joy or Justice in the world he’d give the Universe a push in your behalf. As usual I remain optimistic.

  3. Julia Says:

    I know you’ve got a lot going on, but, Fran, you’ve gotta write a book. This is lovely.

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