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 Las Vegas Dreamin'

12-February-2010


If you’ve just gotten into poker games don’t be surprised if they eventually start creeping into your dreams. I’ve had some recurring doozies myself and fancy it’s something like dreaming in a foreign tongue: Once you’ve crossed that fluency threshold, getting back to your normal way of thinking is like squeezing into a crib.

Still, we’re not talking playing Bocce with some old French guys here. Most of the time we’re talking Freddy Krueger-on-the-felt shite; real horror-show, lose-your-house kinda stuff. Take for instance the most vanilla of my poker nightmares: There I am heads-up for the WSOP Main Event title. I’m sitting across from some famed pro (sometimes it’s Ferguson, sometimes it’s Hellmuth or Nguyen), and we’ve come to the final showdown.

Everything seems set for me to take the bracelet. I’ve been holding K-Q clubs for a straight flush since the flop, and I know my boy’s betting it all on the four-of-a-kind jacks he drew on the turn. I’m so stoked, so cocky, so absolutely sure I’ve won that I decide to commit the height of poker faux pas and slowroll. My opponent shows his pocket, and sure enough, it’s two jacks. I, in turn, flip my hand over and leap from my chair punching the air above me.

I run to the stands where my mother’s sitting and give her a kiss on the cheek. I do a victory lap around the table even Rocky would envy. Then I realize nobody’s cheering. In fact, they’re just staring at me.

“What the heck’s your problem?!” I shout. “I won, dammit!”

I turn to look at my hole cards again and see a Queen of Spades lying on the felt like an open sore. Instead of a premium hand, I had just showed a rag. Suddenly the entire room bursts into laughter as the camera guys from ESPN close in….



My dreams don’t always center on poker’s ultimate tournament. Nor are the hands or opponents always the same. In another of my little incubi I show up on the river with a winner but with too many cards in my hand. When no one’s looking I try sliding the extra card off the table only to have it stick to me like it’s drenched in crazy glue.

I inevitably end up fidgeting around the table like Steve Martin’s character in “All of Me.” Now it’s on my knuckle, now it’s on my chest; now it’s on my knee, my shoe, my ear, my bottom. Finally I wind up back in my seat somehow with the card stuck to my forehead. And that’s when my opponent looks up and says, “This ain’t Blind Man’s Bluff, chum.”

Even more imaginative, sometimes my unconscious throws me into a bizarre realm where my hole cards change every time I look at them. I never know whether to fold, raise, sandbag, or bluff, and I invariably end up just trying to outrun the voodoo.

At the start of the hand, for instance, I’ll be holding bullets. I’ll raise, and the flop will come A-K-10. Knowing my unconscious’s sick sense of humor and realizing everything else seems normal so far, I’ll take another peek at my cards: Lo and behold, they’re now Q-J.

“Fair enough,” I’ll think. “You might have taken away my three-of-a-kind, you little monster, but now I’ve got a straight—raise!”

Then comes another ace on the turn, and I peek again to find a 3-8.

Usually the kicker in my ever-changing-hands dream is I’m playing strip poker against Pamela Anderson—and naturally she’s catching the deck. After I shove on what I think is a straight for my last stitch of clothing, the rag comes like clockwork. Heck, sometimes my tortured consciousness will even tell my unconscious to behave itself just this once and leave my hole cards alone. When that happens the board transforms before my dreaming eyes, and I’m still left holding garbage.

Eventually Pam and I go into a showdown with me shivering in my undies, and moments after I show my hole, she just laughs and walks out the door. I guess the moral of the story is that, as in my waking life, I’m doomed to spend my dream hours naked and alone in a Vegas honeymoon suite I got comped by blowing thousands in the pit. As a bit of payback, then, I’ve taken to sending sardonic mental notes to myself when I wake up from this one. I’ll push the ‘ole gray-matter-record button and say things like: “Gee, thanks for the reminder, you lousy jerk.”

But even more interesting than my unconscious’s sick sense of humor, all these dreams have recurred over several decades. So recently I got to wondering how Sigmund Freud might interpret them. I picked up a copy of his “Interpretation of Dreams” one day while waiting for the Midas boys to fix Uncle Tubby’s precious jalopy, and here’s what I came up with:

Turns out “Unexpected or Changing Hole Cards” dreams—the official terminology in Freud’s book—come from getting in there when you know you shouldn’t. Apparently my unconscious has never forgotten these long shots and torments me for them while I sleep.

As for the “too many cards” dream, I figure it stems from one real-life Texas Holdem hand when I indeed had two kings and a 10 in the hole. My only explanation, ex post facto, had been that two of the cards had stuck together—which explains my Steve Martin-style antics.

But perhaps the best of Freud’s diagnoses is what he says about the Pam Anderson dream. The book says (and I quote): “If you ever dream you can’t beat a member of the ‘Baywatch’ cast at poker, you might want to find another game. See: Definitely don’t quit your day job.” Now how about that for life-tilt stuff, sports fans?

Personally, though, I think Freud was a quack, and I plan to place nil importance on his “analysis.” Instead, I’m just calling my forays into the game’s twilight zone “poker baggage” and chalking them up to some pretty useful learning experiences.

After all, what could my unconscious possibly know that the rest of me doesn’t? All it’s there for is just some harmless poker theater, and when that’s over it’s time to hit the wall again. Taking any of it more seriously than that would just be absurd, right?



By: Dave Cinch
dave.cinch@acehoyle.com



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