Thursday, August 26, 2004

Every Sunday evening after dinner, my dad and my uncles used to play poker with my Grandma (Bachan, for those other buddhaheads). It wasn’t the kind of poker you see on ESPN. It wasn’t even the kind of poker you see on Bravo. It was five-card draw, jacks back, no betting, just a quarter to ante. They’d sit on the floor for hours and play while the moms would gab around the dinner table, and the kids were expected to entertain themselves by reading comic books or watching TV.

I’d sit and watch the poker game. I learned Uncle Howard could squeeze cards tighter than anyone else, and after seeing the tiniest micron of paint, know whether he filled his two pair or hit his low hand. Since there was no betting, my dad and Uncle Kaz were prone to picking up their draw cards and slamming them face up on the table to declare their hands. Uncle Benson used to randomly flip cards while he was dealing, just to be a pain in the ass. Bachan had this funny high pitched cackle whenever she got a good hand, and would frequently ask my uncles (in pidgin) which cards she should keep.

As I got older, she would ask me to help her more and more. “Bachan, nobody opened, so it’s low. Throw away the king and queen.” Or “Howard opened, keep your pair of sixes and draw three.” They played with a joker, so she loved trying for gutshot straights and would pick up her cards yelling “Jo-kah! Jo-kah! Ohhh-hhh God-damm-ma!” before mucking her cards. And on the rare occasions that she hit a strong hand, she would spread her cards carefully and smirk at everyone and reach for the pile of quarters at the middle of the table. Sometimes, her strong hands were beaten by stronger ones and we would have to tell her “Bachan, so-and-so has a full house. They won.” Sometimes, we wouldn’t tell her and let her collect the pot.

All of my cousins eventually started bringing quarters so we could play, and the uncles gradually faded to the dinner table to talk rather than play. But with eleven grandkids (and eventually some spouses), there was never a shortage of players. I think she really enjoyed connecting with her grandkids that way. Her English was spotty at best, so long conversations were out of the question. And as she got older, it got spottier until the only words I could understand were “Toddy! Po-kah?!” That was my introduction to poker, such as it was. No crap about implied pot odds, no check-raising the turn, no slowplaying a set, no Big Slick or Pocket Rockets. Five card draw, jacks back, quarter ante. Simpler times. I miss them.

Bachan died yesterday. She was 94.


At 9:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

that was a great memory. sorry for your loss.


At 1:45 PM, Blogger John-Paul said...

Great story. Sorry for your loss.

At 3:25 PM, Blogger Uwannabet? said...

Sorry for your loss. Great memories like this one are what it is all about.


At 5:06 PM, Blogger Ignatious said...

wonderful story. my condolences.

At 9:46 PM, Blogger Felicia :) said...

Very awesome memorial. I empathize fully.

At 1:37 PM, Blogger PokerProf said...

Could not agree with the above comments more, sorry for the loss; but thanks for sharing it.


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