I had intended on writing this a bit earlier than I have, but as is sometimes the case, circumstances were not favorable. For one, I did not arrive home last night from a poker night until after 12:30AM, at which point I was quite exhausted even though I had to settle down a bit before going to sleep, though I was not particularly up to writing at that point, nor did I have any other compelling reason like having made a particularly disastrous faux pas that forces the painful reflection that is sometimes made after such social events . So, that said, it is probably a good sign when one comes home after midnight from a poker night, because one likely had a good reason to be there that late. In my case, my reason for being there so late was very straightforward–I still had chips to play, and so I did, and was there when everything finished with a respectable second place showing out of around twenty players that allowed me to win back my entry and break even for the night. So, having given that spoiler alert, it is now time to talk about the night in a bit more detail.
In general, one knows that one is going to have a good time at these particular events. This is about the third time, I think, that I have gone to one, and as someone who has made other visits to the host’s house, I can speak with some experience that any time spent there is going to be a good time in some respects. For one, the food will be fantastic as the host is a very accomplished cook. Last night our meal included pasta e fagioli soup, a very tasty salmon alfredo with pasta, and a tasty lasagna, all of which I enjoyed. Most of us ate (some of us more slowly than others) largely in silence because we were paying so much attention to the food, trying (not always successfully) to avoid making a mess because we would be playing cards on the same tables we were eating at not long after we finished. There was dessert too but after filling my plate with other food I didn’t have any room for it, and by the time the games started my attention was so focused on cards that I wasn’t interested in noshing at all otherwise.
By and large I do not consider myself a particularly accomplished poker player. To the extent that I am aware of not being a great player, I seek to at least avoid being a fish among sharks by a combination of practice, observation of those more skilled and experienced than myself, and a devotion to study and improvement in my knowledge of strategy and probability and in my understanding of psychological matters. As is often the case, this effort paid off in allowing me to eat well and spend some six hours talking and playing poker for the cost of $5 to cover the food. Having now been to more than one of these events, I have been able to notice that there are definitely some accomplished regulars, most of whom did a pretty good job today as well and some of whom I was able to carefully observe approvingly throughout the course of the night.
My own goals were to stay in the game as long as possible and to test out if I could avoid losing my chip stack in bad hands, and by and large I was successful at this aim. Playing a pretty tight game with enough people willing to call to keep the playing honest, our table had a low key atmosphere to start the night, and it took a long time for anyone to be eliminated because our betting was so light. Having a lot of garbage hands that I was quick to toss off (some of which would have worked out okay because unlikely straight or flush draws would have pulled through), I spent a lot of time watching other people play and determining how tight or loose they were. There were occasions of bluffing but usually enough people to call that eventually the bluffeurs (one of which joined our table during the first consolidation) had their chips removed from them by other players who were onto their tricks to buy the pot without having the right cards. While the betting was lively at the beginning of the game and at the end of the game where everyone wanted to go home and sleep (or, in the case of last night’s winner, watch some golf perhaps), for long stretches of the evening the blinds were the place where the biggest action was taking place.
Given the lack of activity because people were playing so tight most of the time (myself included), I kept interested and involved in the game by being more than a bit of a chatterbox. Like some noted Hold ‘Em players (Daniel Negreanu comes to mind), I like to use my conversational interests as a way of keeping strong in the psychologial part of poker. If I saw another payer agonizing over whether or not to get into a hand, I commented about how much it was going to cost him  to see the flop, a joke I made more often as the blinds kept increasing. If I saw some inconsistency in a player’s behavior, I would note it, such as a time when someone kept on saying that they didn’t want to get in a hand as they were counting chips, to which I commented, “Your lips are saying no but your chips are saying yes.” As it was frequent towards the end of the evening, when we were down to the last four players, for people to only involve themselves in a hand if they either had really good cards (like the eventual winner) or if they were on the little or big blind (where they were already invested in the hand regardless), I would comment about how our table was so much a checking station that we were like Bohemia and Moravia , to the occasional amusement, I think, of those who were playing and watching. By and large, I think everyone had a good time, whether or not they felt they actually did well, and I found the stories and the mood around the table to be a generally enjoyable one. Of course, having done well, it is easy for me to say that, but having been shortstacked for much of the night, I had to keep my head in the game to pick out hands where I would be able to stay in the game, which I think I managed to do a good job of, all things considered. And for those that paid their $25 to enjoy a few hours of poker and manly conversation, it went for a good cause, helping out our congregation’s food pantry to pay for groceries for those in our congregation who are worse off, so that makes an evening go better as well when one knows one’s money is going for a noble purpose.
 See, for example:
 Lest I appear to be sexist by saying this, I suppose it would be worthwhile to note that all of the people at the poker night were adult men. The youngest player was the adult son of the host, who ways playing in his first poker night and thus might be said to have been accomplishing a bit of a rite of passage, so to speak, among the card players of our area.
 These are the two constituent parts of the Czech Republic, or Czechia as it is now called, I believe.