What people do in their spare time is their business, not mine, and good for them. I don’t ask questions. I have no reason to. When the going gets too weird or aggravating for me, I gamble, which is just what I did last weekend. My job was pissing me off, and my girlfriend had been nagging me for weeks on end about everything under the sun and then some. That’s about all she does anymore. I don’t know why, and I don’t want to know why. I couldn’t care less.

So on Saturday morning, I got up real early and drove to a little town in the hills where gaming is legal. I strolled into my favorite casino at around 10 a.m. and bought in at a poker table for $300. As I was standing there waiting for my chips, I started sizing everyone up. I checked out the size of their chip stacks and the clothes they were wearing. Sometimes, clothes can tell me if a player is cocky and arrogant or quiet and conservative. Gambling isn’t fun and games for anyone who really wants to win. It’s hard work, and you have to know more about the process than most people will ever understand. Some will even tell you that you have to have a special gift for it. I think that’s true. But when you get good at it, it’s addicting. It becomes a way of life.

I pulled up a chair and sat there, bored out of my mind for a while, waiting for a good hand and just watching the way people played. They were all pretty predictable. Some were playing a lot of hands while others were just sitting there waiting to make a move. I kept an eye on how much people bet and what they had when they showed their cards. Most players normally bet the same amount when they get the same hand later, and this was holding true for everyone at the table. I watched to see if they looked away or weren’t paying attention to the hand even though they were still in the game, which meant they had a damn good hand. A smart gambler can almost always tell.

I kept an eye on why people were calling my bets. If I bet and they called me, there was a reason. I was analyzing every situation and playing accordingly. If I had the “nuts,” or the best hand possible, I made bets to keep other players in the hand, not too much and not too little. I wanted to extract as much out of them as possible. If I didn’t have the best hand possible but it was still a really strong hand, I bet just enough to not have anyone come over the top of me and steal the hand. You want to minimize the damage if you’re beat. This is called a feeler bet, or value bet, to see where your opponent is at. If you think he has a weak hand and you don’t have crap, you can take a stab at a bluff. The best victories are when you take pots from chumps with bluffs. This means you have a good read on them and own them. I love that part of the game, and that day, I was pretty well dominating that table.

Then at around noon, this 6’2″, 300-pound guy with big bushy sideburns and a fat gut sat down all the way at the other end of the table and started being stupid and obnoxious right away. He was bumping people, and he was loud, and he was dressed like a moron, wearing a bolo tie, sweaty shirt, real tight jeans, and cowboy boots with silver skulls and crossbones covering the toes. I immediately made eye contact with him, and he sent a glare my way. A real tough guy. In my head, I was telling myself I was going to roll that fool. It was my mission. I started playing my A game, patient and alert. There was no telling how long this would last. At one point, I was sitting on pocket Jacks and threw out a bet of $15 dollars to let everyone know I had a pretty good hand. The big tool at the other end of the table re-raised me to $40, so  I called. The flop, or first three cards, came 2, 7, 3, so I bet $30. He came over the top again and made it $60, so I re-raised to $160, and he folded.

I won that battle, and he was pissed. I had him right where I wanted him. I wasn’t going to let him bully me around the poker table, and I had just made my statement. But this guy wasn’t going to give up for anything, which was fine by me. We were both playing for blood, so we played for hours. At one point, I looked up at the clock and it was 9 p.m. I had taken $1,300 from that fish. He shouted across the table at me, “I’m your damn ATM machine today. Do you know who I am? They call me ‘Lucky.’” I couldn’t believe my ears. The guy actually called himself “Lucky.” What an ass. It made me want to squeeze every last dime out of him.

About 15 minutes later, the dealer dealt another round of cards, and I was sitting on pocket 6’s. Lucky bet $15, which meant he probably had KK, QQ, JJ, or AK. I called his $15 bet to see if I could hit a set, or 3 of a kind, to snap that moron. The flop came A,6,2. Hell yeah. I had just hit my set. He led out and bet $50, so I re-raised him to $150. He called. The dealer now dealt the turn card, or 4th card, which was a 9.  I bet $100, and he raised me to $200, so I came over the top and re-raised him to $300, and he came back over the top, raising me to $400. I had put him on Big Slick, or AK, at the start of the hand, but now I was getting a little suspicious. The river, or 5th card, came, which was a 10. I checked, and he bet $100, so I called and watched him flip over AA for a set of aces.

I mucked my cards in disgusted. I had just given that fish all his money back. That was enough for me. I rose from the table and told him we’d see each other again. He said, “Maybe.”