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Two Ladies Make All The Difference

by Nathan Gamble |  Published: Jan 13, 2021


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After sitting behind the adults for months on end, I had persisted in weaseling my way into a spot at the table. One of the regulars had left Texas for work and was out for a few months, and the group had shrunk from seven to six. They were looking to fill the void.

How I managed to convince my dad to give me a crack at it is still a mystery to this day. Maybe all the hours we had spent playing Uno together convinced him that I could hold my own, or maybe it was just a consistent stream of questions from me that he didn’t want to deal with any longer. Most likely it’s because all of the men around the table were familiar with me and comfortable with “the kid” being around because I kept my mouth shut and didn’t make any trouble. No matter the real reason, I was given a crack at the game and didn’t want to blow my shot.

With the changing of the seasons the game had moved from my dad’s place over to my uncle’s house. It was a 15-minute drive up the street and ever-so-slightly more convenient for several of the players. The drive over with my dad seemed like it took an eternity as my heart thundered in my chest, the anticipation growing with every passing signal light.

I didn’t even have my own money to play with at that stage of the game. I had worked out a deal with my dad where he staked me my first $20 buy in. If a second was needed, then I would mow the yard in order to repay him. I was ready and agreed to the deal, my first backing arrangement.

We showed up and it was just like I had imagined. The table was set… literally. It was a dining table with a cheap, green felt topper. The packs of cards were off to the sides, jokers still in the pile. The chips were pulled out from a side closet, 11.5-gram clay poker chips that still sit in my dad’s garage to this day. They even had an official button. A giant, white, glistening puck that let everyone know who was the DEALER.

With six out of seven players there, everyone was anxious to get the cards in the air and start talking smack. They kept their banter confined to the main group and I was left alone. (They had accepted me, but not to the point of harping on me.)

The action was fast and furious. After all, these were men who knew nothing of no-limit hold’em and were accustom to playing wild card games with jokers and made-up rules. The game wasn’t in their wheelhouse but they were eager to jump on the wagon and ride out their luck just like Chris Moneymaker had.

The stakes were 25¢-50¢ and everyone started with $20, but it wasn’t uncommon to see someone raise to $5 before the flop and have someone else shove all-in with any type of garbage over the top. Then they would just look at one another and squint their eyes before issuing some bad Hollywood line and slamming in a call. To this day, I remember Kevin still vehemently claiming that K-2 suited is the best hand in poker because it always hits. Kevin doesn’t play much poker these days.

I had built myself up a nice little profit, turning $20 into $25 when I picked up two lovely ladies, two black queens. As I eagerly thought about all the riches that awaited me, my uncle raised to $2. After a fold, I settled on a three-bet to $6.

As every man peeked at their cards and threw them in the muck, I gained even more confidence and counted the dollars with every passing second. When it got back to my uncle he squinted at his cards, his glasses barely hanging on the tip of his nose, looked at me and issued a, “Hmm, don’t know how I can fold this. I’m all in.”

I knew I was calling the second he shoved. I was positive, in fact. But I wanted to give myself a second to process it all. I sat back and started thinking, and thinking, and thinking. Something felt off, maybe it was his words, or his bet sizing, or maybe it was just his energy. I didn’t know what it was in the moment, but it didn’t feel right.

I probably took five minutes to make up my mind, and almost without realizing what I was doing, I gingerly picked up my cards and threw them towards the muck. No one would have ever known, but they caught a little bit of a wobble in the air and when they landed did a flip landing face up in the middle of the table for all to see.

As was to be expected in any game, let alone a game that loose, everyone stopped and stared. Some started laughing, some gasped, and some started giving me grief. But my uncle let me off the hook.

“How did you know?” he asked, as he flipped over pocket kings. Everyone went quiet. I had been right.

Before the night was out, I had lost all my money and found myself mowing the yard the next day to recoup my losses. I mowed it again a couple weeks later. That next time stuck and I never had to mow our yard again.

Correctly folding those queens gave me a sense of confidence and made me feel that I belonged in the game. My dad still says it’s the moment that he knew I was going to do something special in poker, because I was willing to risk going against the norm and to trust my instincts.

Of course, it was an impressive fold for a kid. But it’s amazing how a fold can change your life. ♠

Nathan Gamble is a native of Texas where he learned to play the game of hold’em from his father. He is a two-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner, the first coming in the 2017 WSOP $1,500 PLO8/b Event, the second in the 2020 Online WSOP $600 PLO8/b event. A fixture of the mid-stakes mixed game community since moving to Las Vegas in 2019, he can often be found playing $80-$160 games at the Wynn. He is active on Twitter under the username Surfbum4life and streams mixed game content weekly on twitch under the same moniker.