By BG © 2004
If the question hadn’t come from a six year old with moon pie eyes and no concept that the mountain of chips in front of me at the moment meant more in the context of the game than the piddling little stacks of the others hunched over the coffee table playing Hold 'Em, I might have been prone to give the question the ol’ roll-my-eyes-and-sigh-audibly treatment.
“He is honey,” Anna’s father, Joe, replied. “Look at how many more chips he has than all of us.”
It was true. Even a kid who couldn’t go from ten to eleven without taking her shoes off should be able to see that. I was easily holding a three-to-one chip lead over any of the other five people playing at that moment. As a matter of fact, in the span of the first ten minutes of the tournament, I had knocked out Mr. Seventh Place when he called my lowly pair of fives with his lowlier Ace high, and had completely suckered another player into an unspectacular sixth place finish when my pocket fives flopped a set.
You give me a lead like this one, and I’m not likely to lose it.
“I wanna be on his team.” Joe gave Anna a look of mock devastation as she sidled up next to me on the ottoman on which I was perched. “He’s gonna win,” she announced. She climbed up to my ear to confirm, “You’re gonna win, right?”
“Naw kiddo… we’re gonna win. You’re on my team now, right?”
She smiled and picked up the cards I had just been dealt: a ten and a deuce. Off-suit. She gave a furtive glance around the table to make sure no one would be looking when she peeled them off her chest to take a peek. One look, and she whispered back to me, “Are these good cards?”
“No Anna, I would say those cards pretty much suck.” Joe shot me a quick, we-don’t-want-her-saying-‘suck’ look. “I meant, stink. They stink. These cards are terrible. Throw them in the middle.”
She obliged and asked again, “Are we still winning?”
I nodded and asked her back, “What’s your favorite game?”
She thought about it hard for a moment, finger scratching her temple to prove to me it wasn’t an easy decision. She finally replied, “Chutes and Ladders. That’s my favorite game.”
“Well, you know that in Chutes and Ladders there’s only one winner, right? That’s the one that gets to the finish line first.” Anna was nodding her agreement. “Well, in this game, I try to take everyone else’s chips. That’s how you win here.”
“And are we going to win?” She was talking in a hushed voice again, making sure no one could hear our secret “let’s try to win” strategy.
“We have to take your dad’s chips to do that. Should we beat your dad and win the game?” Joe smiled and asked Anna, “Don’t you really want to play on Daddy’s team?”
“No Daddy. I want to win.”
So smart, in fact, that I gave her a chance to prove her mettle on her own terms. After she had taken my hole cards and given them a good look, I asked her, certainly loud enough for anyone at the table to hear, “Do I throw two chips in the pot, or should I throw those cards away?”
She picked up the cards again and studied them intently. “You tell me,” she said. “You look at them.” It was obviously a decision of tremendous magnitude for her.
“I don’t want to look,” I told her. “You’re on my team, right? I trust you. Go ahead. Do we throw two chips in to play, or do we throw them into the middle?”
She grabbed the cards off the table for the third time, sweeping them up and clutching them to her chest in one quick motion, lest anyone get a glimpse of anything on the other side. She peeled the corners back and saw the cards again. Her brow furrowed, and she looked back to me for an answer. I hadn’t seen the cards, so all she got was an encouraging smile.
Still protecting the hand, she came right to my ear and whispered secretively, “I’m going to throw them away. They’re not very good.”
I grinned. “Go ahead, throw them away.” She carefully slid them underneath another set of discards in the middle as she had seen me do previously.
When the hand was complete, Dan, the dealer at the time, couldn’t resist. He fished my cards out of the muck to find my hole cards, which he proudly showed to the rest of the table.
I poked Anna in the ribs and gloated, “Good move! You’re good at this game!” She giggled and was beaming proudly.
A few hands later, we pulled the same trick. I was under the gun, and hadn’t yet looked at my hole cards. She had already swiped them off the table for a glance, as had become her habit.
“What do we do with these Anna? Should I put two chips in, or throw them away?”
She only thought for a moment before asking, “Can we throw more than two chips in if we want to?” There was an audible groan from the table. If a six year old knew to raise, what kind of trouble were they in?
“Sure Anna, how about six chips? Sound good?” She nodded and sat back to watch how the others were going to counter her brilliant strategy.
Joe was next, and knew he was playing his hand directly against his daughter. “I’ll call you Anna.” She smiled and clapped when she realized someone was going to lose money to her. Everyone else had the good sense to get out of the way.
Flop came out KQ4 rainbow, and I was first to act. I’ve played blind before, and I put out a fairly strong bet to get a feeler for where Joe was at. He took one look at my bet, saw his daughter beaming eagerly, and didn’t need Caro’s Book of Tells to know he was beat.
I turned over KQs, and high-fived my teammate.
As the next hand was dealt, Anna was curious. “Did we win?”
I mussed up her hair a touch and replied, “Just that hand Anna, but with your help, we’ll beat these guys yet.”
At that moment, she got that look in her eyes like pure ice water was flowing through her veins. She glared the table down, swept the hole cards to her chest and only gave them a cursory look before confidently letting me and the rest of the table know who was now in charge.
“That hand sucks. Throw it away.”
BG is a writer from Michigan who still dreams of one day seeing his ex-wife naked.