The Scent of Battle

Poker is war.

SouthCarolinaCasinoPoker

Anybody who plays poker for money realizes this eventually. Oh, the game may begin as a social affair. But sooner or later it comes down to a battle for survival and the gloves come off.

We left Phoenix about a week ago for the long cross-country journey. Our trip by car took us more than 1,700 miles across Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana and into the Outer Banks country of South Carolina.

We stopped in Vicksburg, MS. to spend the night. An Ameristar Casino was located a short distance from our hotel and I decided to play a little poker.

The poker room manager informed me that he was sorry he could not offer me an Omaha High-Low game but he had a good $1-2 no-limit Texas Hold'em game I could get into.

Since it was the only game in town, I shrugged and sat down at the table.

It felt weird to be playing against strangers. But to a poker player, no poker game is strange. The rules and strategy are the same. I took my seat, bought in for $100 and began playing poker.

I knew what I had to do. I wanted to wait for the right hand -- and strike.

That hand came sooner than I expected. I was dealt pocket kings and erred by slow playing them, hoping somebody would raise and let me re-raise. Well, the raise didn't happen and somebody beat my kings with a straight.

Learn from my mistake. Never slow-play a big hand.

About 30 minutes later another big hand came. I flopped two pairs, kings and fours, and made this hand pay off. An aggressive player to my right came out betting. I just called and there were two other callers. On fourth street, he fired another bet into the pot and I went all-in.

He hesitated and then called my bet. He turned out to have one pair and a big kicker and I won the pot.

PokerHandWinningChips

I remember when I was a kid growing up along a fast-moving stream. My buddies and I used to go swimming in that creek. The water was cold and it took courage to be the first to jump into the stream, but my brothers and I never hesitated. We were the first ones to leap into the water.

That is what you need to do in poker.

You may get a bloody nose. You may find yourself in over your head. It doesn't matter. Win or lose, you need to be ready to do battle. The other players will respect you. Win or lose, you will have experienced the scent of battle and you will be poised to triumph.

After I collected my winnings from the poker room manager, he smiled.

'You did okay,' he said, shaking my hand. 'Come back again. You'll always be welcome here.'

That is what poker -- and war -- are all about.

I am looking forward to playing in more new games. In the next few days I will be heading south to Jacksonville, FL. where I will mix it up with some players on the cruise ships. I love sailing and poker. The action is friendly but intense, and the pots can be sizable.

Don't be afraid of the water and don't fear the other players. Once you get a whiff of the scent of battle, you'll be fine. Trust me.

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