I was on a rush. Two pairs of aces, a couple of flushes, and a number of successful bluffs had left me with a big pile of chips and an aura of confidence that gave me a huge edge over the other players. My "table image," as they say in poker parlance, was optimum. Yet even with the blessed rush -- the phenomenon known to cause other players to weep, shake, and cuss to the point of delirium -- two players remained unconverted to my cause. One was a cowboy from Texas -- all gold bracelets and fat diamond rings. The other was a rowdy German who had been losing all night, throwing hundreds around like confetti. Even though I had established a solid table image by playing only strong hands, the fact that I was a young and traditionally attractive woman kept these jokers from giving me what poker players call, simply enough, respect.
Of course, it's annoying to have a couple of big scary men chasing your cards all night, trying to prove you're a ditz. But, like many perceived inequalities, the sexism at this particular table could be used to my advantage. Sure, I could in no way bully my way to big pots. No matter how much I raised or re-raised, I couldn't seem to get my bejewelled Texan friend or his transatlantic counterpart out of my action. But when I had big cards, I could make a killing. All I had to do was calmly play out my hand, knowing they would tag along, call my bets, and throw in some of their own just for show.
Around midnight I was dealt a particularly handsome hand -- a king/ace of spades -- one of the most versatile hands in Texas Hold'em, the most common poker game played in casinos. I was primed for drawing a winning flush, straight, or at least the top pair.
I first entered the pot by raising, and happily calling their counter-raises. The cards flopped better than I could have hoped; a ten of spades, a six of spades, and a jack of diamonds. This made my hand even more powerful, giving me good odds on my top flush or straight.
"Raise," I said calmly, watching as all the other players dropped out of the hand -- all but the two whom I wanted to catch in my net. On the turn came a god-send, a queen of clubs. I now had the nut-straight -- an unbeatable hand -- and thought that for sure I would scoop up the pot then and there. But to my utter bemusement the betting continued. The Texan re-raised me, the German then re-raised, and both of them called when I raised them again. The next card fell and the betting was capped. They were throwing their money away. The German looked at me strangely, "What could you have," he asked incredulously, "the nut-straight?"
Once the betting was finished, I showed my cards and nabbed the pot. They had each drawn second-best straights to the king. The Texan, for his part, pulled out one more hundred and stayed in the game. The German was absolutely infuriated, cussing and throwing a fit. He couldn't believe that a little lady like myself could beat his cards. Security came to take him away, which was unfortunate as I wanted him to stay. Nothing in poker is like winning a sweepstakes more than a player on tilt.
Katy Lederer has written for Las Vegas Magazine and Poker World and enjoys hold'em and seven-card stud.