I love people watching. Like, love, love, love it. Rarely a week goes by in which I don’t catch myself staring at complete strangers, enchanted by their behavior.
I also love poker. Like, love, love, love it. Rarely a week goes by in which I don’t play a game, somewhere.
Every time I take a seat, I either pay a lot or get paid a lot to sit in the best people-watching-seat in town. Poker has a way of bringing out the multiple personalities of every single person at the table, and once the cards are face up, a painting is often displayed which shows the very demons and angels to which the players are giving current mental and emotional refuge.
I also love words. Like, love, love, love them. Rarely a day goes by in which I don’t take the time to seek out and memorize a few new additions to my vocabulary, or to study the definitions of words whose meanings I thought I already knew. I study words on the toilet, and at red lights, and while standing in line at the grocery store.
I also despise adult bullies. Like, really, really despise them. I also loathe name-calling by anyone, toward anyone, especially when names are used like stupid and idiot. Any person who bullies and abashes others, has some sad and obvious void which he feels hurting others can somehow keep from widening. Of course, any person who believes any other person is stupid, simply doesn’t understand intelligence and how intelligence differs from human to human.
Damn. What better place than at a poker game to get a giant helping of mental casserole, replete with my biggest loves and anathemas. I get to people watch. I get to play cards. I get to use fun words in the psychological warfare of the game. And I also often get a chance to quiet the bullies and name-callers by doing nothing more than laughing and using words that are likely outside of their personal lexicons.
Take, for example, Deeber.
I have played with Deeber a few times now, and would you have guessed that Deeber is better in every way than everyone? A mop-haired early-twenties blond white kid, with a perma-scowl pressing the corners of his lips into a constant look of superiority mixed with the frustration of no other person recognizing his obvious superiority the way he does.
And, since no other person recognizes it, he makes sure they do by calling names and getting angry every time he is beat (which has, ultimately, been every time I’ve played with him). “You’re so STUPID.” He means it, too. “YOU’RE SUCH AN IDIOT.” He always says it so harshly. “YOU’RE THE STUPIDEST F***ING IDIOT I’VE EVER SEEN AT THIS POKER TABLE.”
The thing is, he only says it when he’s been beat or outplayed by others. Any time he loses his stack of chips, it’s always because other people are too stupid to know that they should have folded or never should have played their cards in the first place. In the three or so times I’ve played with him, I’ve been called “stupid” more than eight or nine times, easily.
When he directs his primate-level insults at me, I’m always reticent about it. I have no need to educate him on why I play and how I play. I just smile and take a moment to enjoy stacking his chips onto my own. But… when he starts attacking other, less capable players who just beat him, I feel my agitation start to build, especially when I know those other players already struggle with huge inner demons.
And one night, the last night I played with him, he went a little too far for me, and I snapped.
“Barry, you’re so f***ing stupid. You’re such a f***ing idiot.” Deeber mutter-screamed it.
Barry, an Armenian gambling addict and alcoholic who literally wears a black eye patch and speaks with a thick Russian accent, struggles at our table. The other players love to goad him and make him feel stupid. This, in turn, often sets Barry off on colorful barely-comprehensible rants about how he’s a good poker player, and he’s a better poker player, and bla, bla, bla, and within minutes Barry loses all of his money trying to prove them all wrong.