Betting Against the Odds

by Wendell Locke

I love playing card games. When I was in preschool, I was introduced to Uno cards and quickly figured out the key strategy was to acquire enough wild cards to control the flow of the game. As I grew older, I started playing every card game I could, from Pokémon to Magic the Gathering. At some point I realize that playing card games based on imaginary characters were expensive and had no real tangible benefit. I wanted to play something that had real tangible benefits and something at stake.

Poker just came naturally to me. A deck of 52 cards, 5 cards can be combined to form a hand, and depending on the variant of poker, you can guess your odds of winning or losing throughout a game. People have said I must be really smart at counting cards when I explain poker to them, but this is not card counting, like you might find in Blackjack or Baccarat, it's one-part statistics and one-part psychology. If it was purely statistics and math like the latter two games, I wouldn't be playing, because that's all based on luck. I'm not just gambling; I'm playing the game, because I like it.

During freshman year of college, I hosted our dorm's weekly Texas Hold'em poker tournaments. It was against campus policy to have these kinds of games, but my college wasn't hosting these games and I wasn't robbing people. Resident Assistants, or RA's, were instructed to intervene and stop any such activities if they knew about them. I even heard stories of campus police raiding common rooms in dorm buildings, where tournaments were being held. Luckily for me, I kept everyone at low volume and tried to maintain it as a small private affair without a lot of excessive issues.

You buy-in with $10 and see how far your skill and luck take you. Everyone starts out with 1,000 points worth of chips for $10. If you get knocked out, you can rebuy-in two more times, capping your nightly losses to $30 at most. I don't take any of the money and host the entire event free of charge, I play in the games, but respect my own rules and will usually only buy in once.

Like I said it's for fun, we're poor 18-year-old college kids with work-study jobs and scholarships, we were the epitome of small rollers. Since I was hosting these games, I ordered Dominos' pizzas with $5 deals, so people had something to munch on. It was a fun time for all, but I had another simple rule to keep us off campus radar: I asked the guys to keep the game free of alcohol. Alcohol lowers inhibitions and creates antagonism beyond an acceptable point for good poker games, other games around campus get out of hand when alcohol gets mixed in. Besides, we all have been to Mark's dorm room for Tequila and Jell-O shots at other points in the month.

I can't say I always won; more often than not, a streak of bad luck at the end of a night torches me. Poker is strategic, but no matter how strong your strategy, if there's bad luck, then you still will lose. I can only say that overall, I've won enough and enjoyed enough good times to make it worthwhile. Part of the enjoyment is whenever I get to the final table, when it was down to the last 3 or 4 guys and girls, Mick would be with me. Mick wasn't my boyfriend; though, I sometimes wished he was and other times, I wanted to kill him.

Mick was a pain in the ass with his slow-play passive-aggressive betting style, he was extremely tactical with his hands. He'd bluff with suited connectors like he had pocket pair or when he had a pocket pair that filled a full house, he'd slow play you until you got a flush. I had to use over-bets for pot odds and position to keep him from beating me, when we faced off. Even then, it's a waste of chips and resources to test his resolve or figure his card value. Sadly, despite his abilities, he was never able to win the final table at any of those tournaments and would always be angry after the game, tossing his losing hands at the person beating him.

Funny thing was, if you saw Mick, you wouldn't have guessed how angry he could be at the final tables. Mick was a skinny dark-haired guy with very noticeable Irish features like his chin and a pale skin tone that someone of the goth subculture would kill for. He was shy in front of other people, never answering questions unless directly asked and polite to a fault outside poker. He was also really short, like 5'5 at best and I could tell from the way he avoided staring up at people as he walked, he hated the fact all the guys and girls were taller than him. I remember his younger brother was a 6'3 basketball player in high school at the time, while only being 16. In his heart, I think all he wanted was to prove to everyone that he can win.

With all that said, I kind of fell in love with Mick. I can't explain why I loved him and still do even now. His odd mix of tactical precision and anger with an inferiority complex was and still is attractive to me. On some level, I relate to him far more than he ever will realize. I don't show how introverted I am openly like he does, but I can understand his feelings. I love the feeling of winning and showing that I can beat you, "this gay kid" can beat you. My family are not the worst homophobes you will encounter, but they still draw comparisons between me and my sister or my cousins. I don't outwardly show my inferiority issues, but I know I have them, too.

Mick and I played poker together, ate lunch and dinner together, and nearly became roommates at one point. I've also seen him completely naked after a shower, when he didn't realize he had opened the curtain while I was in the bathroom. When he heard my footsteps, he slammed the curtain shut and I made a hasty retreat. I don't even think he realized it was me. The rumors about Mick being gay were circulated by his roommate Allen. Mick never had a girlfriend in college, nor did he ever talk about his past love life or showed any interest in normal "guy" talk. Still, no one actually believed Allen's claims, since Allen was misfiring his gaydar constantly, not to mention he never claimed I was gay until I came out in our Junior year. Even after I came out, Mick never made move and never expressed any opinion. We still played poker, ate together, and even though we weren't roommates, I let him stay over and play video games with him. In my mind, I wanted a relationship or something, but I was afraid to try something and getting an answer. Even today, years later with him still being single, I can just write him off as an asexual, but part of me still wants more. There was one time, when I tried to check if it was possible to be more than just friends during our last year in college.

In our senior year, college policy had changed significantly and the administrators understood that poker games couldn't be raided across every dorm building on campus. They legitimized it and made a poker club, which I quickly joined as a student member. The college set new rules on what we can and cannot do with poker games, including the limitation of monthly tournaments for the entire campus with "Gift Cards" rather than cash rewards for entrants' fees. All entrants' fees would be given to the campus in exchange for fixed gift cards. Basically, if 100 students played for $10 each, the school would give the poker tournament one $100, two $50, and four $25 gift cards. This means the college gets to keep the other $700 from these students They claimed it was to protect the students from getting involved in scams or rigged poker games, but in reality, they were lining their own pockets.

After a few months of this, everyone in the poker club decided, we should just end it with one last major tournament for the entire school. Instead of a single tournament, we had a series of 3 qualifiers for a final tournament. You can enter in any of the qualifiers for $5, if you make a cut off, you will be in the final tournament. If you win the qualifier tournament, you will have a 3,000 instead of 1,000 points in chips. The college gave us $300 gift cards again, but we only gave them $600 in fees. They demanded to know how that happened and we gave them our records of entrants vs. successful cut-offs. We may not be able to make policy, but being senior college students, many with business degrees on the way, we were already adept at gaming their system.

While all this was happening, I had entered the final tournament along with several others from the 2nd qualifier. I built up an early chip stack lead of 27,000 points by knocking out everyone at my table within 20 minutes. In the next table, I tore through several veteran poker players with a blend of straddling and aggressive betting, since I had the chip stack at this point to place loose bets. By the time I had reached the final table, I was at 189,000 points in chips, but the chip leader had 329,000 points. Position wise, I was in good shape with what I had achieved and relatively at the average stack.

Mick, sitting to my right, was in very bad shape. He had lost several major hands already at the final table. He was down to 24,000 points in chips with betting at 1,000/2,000 for big and small blinds. I knew his next hand might be his all-in hand. Sure enough, he did what I had expected him to. Everyone folded, except for me. I had a king of clubs and queen of clubs, a decent hand, which I played. Mick had pocket sevens of diamonds and spades, so I had over cards with the odds slightly favoring him before the flop. The three cards that came up were king of diamonds, nine of hearts, and three of diamonds. Mick looked at me with an intense level of hatred, mumbling "Lucky son of bitch" under his breath. I had a pair of kings and was about 4-1 favorite to beat Mick. Then, the next card came, it was a six of diamonds. Mick now had a chance at a runner-runner flush draw, but the odds were still favoring me at 5-1 after 4th card. The last card was an eight of diamonds, giving Mick the win and a chance at redemption. He was genuinely surprised to see I lost our heads-up battle

Mick regained his chip stack and reached 110,000 points in chips, while my luck began to run dry as I went down to 94,000 points in chips after 30 minutes. With the blinds now at 2,000/4,000, I knew I needed to make a big play, so did several others include Mick. When I received pocket eights of club and hearts, I went all-in, followed by several others, including the chip leader. Mick did not follow us though. The flop was eight of diamonds, ace of hearts, and jack of spades. I had gotten three of a kind. The chip leader and another big chip stack player began making side bets against each other. The next card was a jack of hearts, so I now had a full house. The remaining players with chips to bet checked to the last card. The fifth card was eight of spades. Now I had the 2nd best possible hand within this deal. The chip leader went all in and the other big chip stack called with all his chips.

The chip leader had ace of diamonds and jack of club, so he had jacks full of aces, but his counterpart had two aces, giving him aces full of jacks. I had four eights, meaning I won the main pot of 382,000 points in chips. The old chip leader was now down 60,000 points in chips and his heads-up opponent now had 421,000 points in chips. One other player was knocked out without ever showing their cards.

Mick looked around the table in amazement at what had transpired between me and the other two players. In one hand, we reshaped the entire tournament, but that's the reality of poker. The old chip leader now was down to his last few bets, so he went all in on his next hand, Mick seeing his opportunity to improve his position called, while me and the new chip leader stayed out. Mick held pocket aces, while the other guy had my old king and queen of clubs. The first three cards were king of diamonds, queen of spades, and queen of diamonds. Mick didn't have to look at the other two cards, because he knew he had lost. His anger started to spike again.

He went all in-in on the next hand and no one called him, except me. I had the worst possible hand in poker, seven of diamonds and two of clubs, Mick had king of hearts and nine of spades. When we went heads up, he looked at me with a quizzical expression. I just told him, I don't want him out like that. In my head, I argued with my instincts that I just want him to win one game before we all graduate. Pointing out to my ego that I've won other tournaments before and winning this one might be satisfying for me, but if Mick won it, it would be even more satisfying for him. Deep down, I knew the reason was because I wanted to show I loved him and was willing to lose for him, but in the heat of competition, I couldn't use that rationale.

Mick was able to go up to 86,000 points in chips and I dropped to 340,000 points in chips. After a few more hands, Mick was back up to 127,000 points in chips and there were only 8 players in the game, meaning he just needed to survive 1 more player going out to make the money. He tried again to go all in, but this time someone else called him first before I could offer him any more help. The chip leader soundly beat him with pocket tens versus Mick's ace of clubs and ten of clubs. He wasn't angry this time, when he left the table, but he looked at me and just said "Thanks, I'll see you later".

I didn't win the tournament, I made 2nd place and got a $50 gift card, but what was special about it wasn't the game itself this time. Part of me, maybe the most romantic part, wants to believe Mick knew how I felt for him. It's the only time I've ever seen him play a losing game of poker without an outburst at the end or severe swearing. Maybe he never understood the meaning behind my sacrifice for him either, he would later tell me that if I had just kept my chips, I could have done more and maybe won everything. We're both guys, who are driven by our needs to win, but I am willing to bet against the odds, knowing I will lose, to see if I could win something more out of him.


This story is part of the 2019 story challenge "Inspired by a Tweet: Non Consent". The other stories may be found at the challenge home page. Please read them, too. The voting period of 8 March to 29 March 2019 is when the voting is open. This story may be rated, below, against a set of criteria, and may be rated against other stories on the challenge home page.

The challenge was to write a story inspired by this tweet:

2018 Inspired by a Picture Challenge - What?

This challenge is to write a story based on reading the tweet and to write a tale within its spirit, albeit a male homosexual teenage tale.. There is no picture, Just the tweet.

Betting Against the Odds

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