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“I didn’t bet yet,” I informed the gentleman sitting to my left. We were playing $1-2 No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em at Harrah’s Casino in New Orleans, Louisiana. “I see that you have declared yourself ‘all-in.’ However, I must note that it is my action, not yours. Thus, I deem your premature bet a breach of appropriate poker etiquette.”
“What do I care for your judgment?” the gentleman queried. “I am all-in, regardless of whether you check or bet, and will announce myself as such on my own timetable.”
“He’s right!” exclaimed my opponent’s girlfriend. She was seated to the left of my opponent, and was also not involved in the hand, but, unsurprisingly, came to her boyfriend’s defense. “He’s all-in, and he’s committed himself, and he can commit himself to this action whenever he pleases. Let the hand play out.”
I looked to the dealer—-the one person in the casino who could shed light on our debate—-for clarification. The dealer remained silent. I regarded my cards. I held the ace of spades and the jack of clubs. I had raised from early position pre-flop, determined to thin the field, as my holding was relatively weak. My opponent had been the only player to call my raise. The flop had come ace-five-deuce of assorted suits. Though I had flopped top pair with a decent kicker, I suspected my opponent had flopped two-pair or even trips. After all, he was a boor and a rogue, but no fool.
“Time!” my opponent exclaimed. The dealer began to count down the seconds which remained for me to choose my next move. My opponent had invoked this obscure technical rule to pressure me. To my dismay, I found his stratagem effective.
“All right, then,” I conceded. “I’ll check.”
“As declared,” my opponent replied, “I am all-in.”
“Well, then,” I conceded again. “I fold.” My opponent raked a not-inconsiderable pot. I stewed.
An hour passed. Some thirty-two hands later, I found myself holding the king of hearts and the jack of diamonds in early position. As is my habit, I again raised with my unimpressive holding to thin the field. All players folded except the moll who had come to her boyfriend’s defense. The flop came K-Q-2 of assorted suits, giving me top pair with a middling kicker. I bet a not-inconsiderable sum. My bet was called by the grande dame, leading me to suspect she had flopped a better king or two-pair. The turn came—-a seven. I again bet, and madamoiselle again called. The river came—-a nine.
“I’m all-in,” I declared. Though I still held only a pair of kings—-and, truth be told, I believed the young miss to hold a superior hand—-the nine was a good bluff card. My opponent might believe I was holding jack-ten and had rivered a straight, and throw her cards into the muck. The senorita stared at her cards for some time.
“I don’t know what to do,” she declared.
“Time!” I called, invoking the obscure technical rule so successfully used against me earlier in the evening. The dealer, neutral as ever, began to count down the seconds in which this mild-mannered debutante must make her decision. Her boyfriend, prevented by house rules from making any recommendation to his lady love, remained silent.
“I fold,” my opponent announced only seconds before her hand would be declared dead. I raked the not-inconsiderable pot, stood up, took my chips, cashed them, and walked to Canal Street. There, I hailed a taxicab.
“Where to?” the driver inquired.
“Oh, driver,” I cried, “take me to country where the power politics—-or, at least, the power politics of poker—-do not exist.”
“Sir,” the driver replied, “that country does not exist.”