by Brian Clarey

It was a full house, for crying out loud. Tens full of jacks and did it matter that all three of those tens and one of the jacks was on the board? It did not. Not at the time.

It made perfect sense to answer with a call the all-in bet from the poker player across from me at the poolside table. Perfect sense. The only card that could have beaten me was the fourth ten, and there was no way this guy was holding it. If you knew the guy I was talking about, you’d understand what I mean. Plus I had him covered by a few dollars, so I wouldn’t go bust even if I lost, which I knew wasn’t going to happen.

Until it did.

Believe it or not, summer has not started yet and won’t for almost two weeks. June 21 is still the official first day of summer, no matter what the weather and pervasive marketing tell you. And so I have not yet lost any money playing poker this summer. And I aim to keep it that way.

We play a lot of cards in the summer, my wife, our friends and I. Nothing too serious: a cash game with a $10 buy-in. A big night at the table means maybe $50 or $75, and nobody gets hurt too badly, unlike those $10 and $20 scratch-off lottery tickets, which can really add up and offer microscopic chances of winning anything, let alone the 7- to 9-figure jackpots.

Of course, the lottery is state-sanctioned while what my friends and I are doing at the card table is of dubious legality.

Games of luck are forbidden in North Carolina, unless it’s bingo. Or the lottery, which is really more of a tax on impoverished dreamers than any sort of game.

Poker is defined in NC statutes as a game of risk and not of skill. “No amount of skill can change a deuce into an ace,” declared NC Appeals Court Judge Ann Maria Calabria in 2005, just after I endorsed her for the seat..That will teach me to endorse the Italian without doing my due diligence.

It’s ridiculous, of course, another ruling by the lifestyle police who seek to stamp out everything they fear or don’t understand. Poker is a game of skill. Unless you’re betting a full boat against four of a kind. That’s just unlucky.


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