My husband and his family began getting together every Friday evening to play Texas Hold Em shortly after we moved to Michigan. I got sick and tired hanging out at home alone so I began making plans for my entertainment. Shopping mostly, but that soon became old. Don’t get me wrong, I love shopping, it’s just you can visit Wal-Mart, Dollar Stores and of course the mall so many times before the managers start thinking you’re actually casing their store for a future robbery. My evenings soon changed when my niece moved to Michigan and she wanted to give the poker game a try at buktiqq. I thought okay, I’m game. It was actually fun, not so much the game, but the socializing was right up my alley. After that, my niece and I joined my husband. We would usually go to his younger brother’s home. He had kids, plus my daughter would join and her boys and a big place, the main objective-enough chairs.

That was over a year ago and now poker night is mainly held at my place. I usually cook dinner for everyone; my daughter comes over with the three boys while my son-in-law joins the game. once in a while she joins in to.

One evening my husband decided he wanted to try Texas Hold Em at Great Lakes Downs Horse Track. They hold tournaments every Saturday and Sunday with $60.00 buy-ins, but a chance to win (depending on how many people sign up) up to $1100.00, quite the return if you take first place and a trophy to boot, but you know as well as I do it’s not the trophy everyone is going for. During the summer months, I tried my hand at betting on the horses and always picked the feisty ones. Did well, the one with spunk usually placed and I made a few dollars. I enjoyed watching the big winners reactions, their arms would go up in the air when their favorite ran across the finish line and whooping and hollering with huge smiles on their faces, but then the season ended and going down there to sit and watch my husband play poker got old, real quick, although I enjoyed watching the entire tournament as a whole. I would enjoy it better if I could sit next to him and watch, but they don’t allow it.

It wasn’t until we came back from working in North Carolina that I decided to give the tournament a shot. I was sweating, my heart pumping furiously (I knew people could hear it pumping and see the vein in my neck continuously bulging out with every beat), and I’d laugh nervously. I don’t know how I got through the first tournament without passing out or ralphing up a lung, but I did and truly enjoyed myself. I felt myself relax after I sat down at the table with the eight others who had drawn the same table. When you are a bystander, the entire room is intimidating with 70 to 90 people playing and playing to win. I didn’t realize that once you sit down at your table, all others seize to exist until the pit boss begins moving you around to fill up the empty seats. My heart would twinge every time I heard “Man down!” Nevertheless, those words made me feel good too. Being an amateur, I lasted a bit longer than the experienced players.

The card strengths confused me and still do. For instance, straights and flushes, what beats what. I’m getting better and wiser and yes hoard my chips, hardly ever go “All in”. When playing with family I occasionally get bored and play cards I shouldn’t and I lose.

Now the Great Lakes Downs is a wonderful place to enjoy an evening either as a couple or a family. There are a restaurant and bar with high cafe tables lining the wall on the south end with glass-enclosed stands for the non-smoking racehorse enthusiasts. The north end entrance is the one the tournament players use. Upon entering there is a gift shop to your right with a statue of a horse jockey to greet you; a few feet past that is two double glass doors. There you will see an almost theater-like atmosphere with monitors for the televised horse races all over the country and players with their heads down as they study their racing programs, with a few already up at the ticket window. To your left past the glass doors you’ll see a lot of activity at poker tables placed throughout the area. The first tables you come across are the cash games (too much money to be lost in those; not my style). There is a sign-in sheet at the counter for the tournaments and you have a choice to either pay when you sign up or minutes before the event begins. We have entered on Wednesday evening which begins at 7:p.m., buy-ins cost $30.00 with re-buys for an hour cost $10.00 for 1000 chips. I have played on the other two.

The people involved are energetic, helpful and playful. The entrants are of the same nature with a few exceptions of loud, obnoxious men and women. Yes, it’s not just the men who get irate. Me personally, it is just a game and no need to get upset. Perhaps the difference between me and the pros? I go with the knowledge that I will lose my $30.00 for the night. The tournaments can last for 5 hours or more or even shorter depending on how long you last and if you re-buy. The tournaments on Saturday and Sunday are similar except no re-buys. There are actually two tournaments held on each day. The first begins at 4:p.m. and the other starts at 8:p.m.

During one particular tournament I watched (lost early), there were 7 payouts and eight guys left. The group of men agreed upon that whoever was the bubble, each man who placed would pay the bubble $10.00 each so he would walk away with $70.00 since that man would put the other seven in the money. Now that’s good sportsmanship.

All of the events are hosted by All-In Entertainment; the majority of the proceeds go to charity or school events. Every week there is a new school-sponsored. Last week it was Mona Shores School Band. The students were invited to perform in a parade down in Florida and needed to raise money for their adventure. The schools always have other sales going on at the time, but with tournaments helping out the kids, they are able to reach their goal sooner. Because of the money sharing to charities and schools, the events are legal in the state of Michigan.

The people who attend the events crack me up and such a wide variety of people. You have your elderly gentlemen who use their manners and tell stories while playing the game. The jokesters who are loud once they have a few drinks in them along with the glazed eyes, but are harmless and quite frankly make me laugh with their unbridled wit. The women, who drink too much and cackle at anything, begin swearing and acting well, stupid. There are also women who just play the game with a drink or two or not, remain in control, making small talk, occasionally joking around, but still being a lady. Then there are the young ones who come in, pay their fee and end up bewildered when they are knocked out of the game after five hands. There are a few young people down there that are quite good, too. My least favorite is the characters who, when they lose, jump out of their chair, grab their head and begin yelling obscenities. If you are overheard, by the way, the pit boss comes over, removes you from the table and you are penalized for ten minutes from the game. Your chips are still put in if you are either the small blind or big blind. The easy-going participates thankfully outnumber the bad apples.

I look forward to going down and playing, but just like playing with the family, it is the socializing that draws me in.