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To help delay a decision, I remember turning the radio to a Dodgers game.

We, at the table, all felt better about ourselves for playing with a bona fide TV pro. The fillies finished their little march.

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Her hair was brown, blonde, another shade of blonde, and black, all of it gathered into a ponytail that sat high on top of her petite skull. There is searing unease that comes from watching that same loved one twist uncomfortably whenever you give them a gift bought with the spoils of gambling.

There is the tedium of sitting at a filthy felt table for hours, sometimes days, feigning a studied intensity. Of course, I won big that day, and the next day and the next day, before I went broke again.

Dribbling in the Dark

All the money, of course, was gone. Pain in poker comes in many forms. On the advice of a better gambler, I decided to keep track of my wins and losses in a notebook. Whereas drug literature comes from those who have bottomed out, there exists no bottom in gambling because every new hand brings fresh hope and possibility. The real pain of poker, the only chronic, threatening pain, comes from the daily loss of livelihood—how a player views himself in the face of losing.

I knew that if I bet now, she would put in a huge raise.

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My interest would be to rip open my suffering heart and show you its beautiful beating, and in this way, I might think of myself as having been more alive than you, my hopefully horrified reader, were at a similar age and time. I sat there for about an hour, watching all the horses of Texas and Washington race around on the plasma screens. I cleaned them out.

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She was first to act and raised double the size of the pot. Twelve thousand dollars lay wadded up in the glove compartment. Being a loose, aggressive player, I knew if she had either of those hands, she would have disguised the strength of her hand by checking the flop.

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Then, with an affected flourish, I pushed the rest of my chips into the middle of the table. After a month straight of losses, a player can become convinced that losing is his role.

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I remembered the ninth horse was named Randini. The table gasped in delight. I felt older, somehow, and suddenly became aware of my karma. The stripper kept winning and we ran out of things to discuss.