Seductive eyes. Charming smile. Eric has been coveting my stack of chips from the moment he met me. And he is good. Real good.
"I was playing in a game against my accounting professor," the Indiana sophomore tells me, "and I raised $10 without even looking at my hole cards. The flop comes 6-7-9 rainbow. I go outside for a few minutes. Then I check, and he checks. A 9 on the turn. Now I look. I'm holding 6-6. I got the boat [6s full of 9s]. So I go all in and win $150. I mean, it was blind luck."
Eric took his professor to school. And now he was looking to do the same to me. Eric is the devil -- don't think I didn't notice that he beat his prof with a 6-6-6.
Three months ago I didn't know a big blind from a duck blind. The first time I sat in on a game, on Super Bowl Sunday at the University of Florida, I was relieved of my entire $20 buy-in after only two hands. Gainesville? Lossesville.
Greater moments of ignominy awaited on my Heart (Club, Diamond and Spade) of Darkness odyssey. When an Internet poker honcho's offer to put me in touch with Doyle Brunson was met with apathy on my end, he asked, "Do you know who Doyle Brunson is?"
"Uh, no," I replied.
"He's the Babe Ruth of poker."
Wait a beat.
"Who's Babe Ruth?" That, I have since learned, is called reraising with rags.
"The thing that separates good players from marginal players," Flounder, a Duke senior, told me a month later, "is knowing when to fold."
To think it cost me $100 in Durham that evening to learn that lesson, whereas I would only have had to spend $10.97 (plus shipping and handling) to purchase Kenny Rogers Greatest Hits. Remember when eight guys would sit around a table and smoke pot as opposed to splitting one?
But by now, sitting next to Eric in Bloomington, I too have become a poker face. I marvel at how addictive hold 'em is, remember what an undergrad at Central Florida told me: "My roommate is begging me to quit playing poker. Can't stand what it's doing to me -- and she's a stripper!"
I'm in. Eric's in. Everyone else, after the two of us raised preflop, has folded. High Noon in Bloomington. I seriously do not want to mess with Eric, who is a finance major. Over pitchers with about 10 of the self-proclaimed "Poker Crew" at Kilroy's on Kirkwood earlier, I had asked why they all play so much.
"I think we're doing it for fun," Eric replied.
"I can't gamble unless I'm having fun," said Danny, another member of the Crew.
"I can't have fun unless I'm gambling," said Eric.
The flop is a monster, something out of a limousine service ad: 7-7-7. So unless Eric is holding suited cards -- and why would he still be in this hand if he were? -- a flush is out of the question. Then again, when I had asked at Kilroy's who the best at reading tells (i.e., figuring out if an opponent is bluffing or not by his gestures) in the Crew was, it was Eric who said, "Whoever is the best is not talking."
I raise. Eric reraises me. I have yet to read Super/System or Super/System II, Doyle Brunson's epochal how-to tomes on the game (whereas Eric, when I asked, "Have you read Super/System?" replied, "Which one?"), but I'm putting Eric on a high pair. Or does he have the fourth 7? But if he did, then why did he not fold? What if he ... well, what do I know? I've lost $140 researching this story.
"I'm all in," I say, pushing my last $60 of chips to the center of the table.
Eric grins. Studies me. Ten minutes ago I won a big pot holding nothing better than K-2 offsuited. Is the dude from SI bluffing again? Eric wonders.
"All in," he announces, turning over his hole cards. His friends "ooh" and "ah." My head drops as swiftly as the trap door on a hangman's gallows.
"Got a pair of kings," Eric announces. His eyes radiate. The glow from his smile can be seen in Terre Haute. The $160 pot is --
"But you don't," I answer as I turn over my cards, "have a pair of aces."