Poker And Prayer

It was already on the cards that I will become a good card’s or chess player when I was a child. I showed my talent very early and with the passage of time it continued to improve. My mother encouraged me to play chess only and forget about any form of card’s game. Whenever she dissuaded me from playing cards I would make a poker face and never argued. But, when her “discard the card” advice became more frequent like a true chess player I decided to make my move. One day I asked my father how good was he at card games and told him that my cousins told me that their fathers were very good card players. My father, however, decided to keep his cards close to his chest and asked me to tell actually what I wanted instead of making him play blind. I told him about mother’s advice to which he replied that he will talk to her about the matter. I later learned that he told my mother that that there was no harm in playing the game. After that, she did not talk to me about the matter.

I had learned to play different card games like Rummy, Sweep or Seep, Ace Move and Currency by the time I was eight years old thanks to my cousin Iqbal four years elder to me. Starting with Currency which was the easiest one, I moved to Ace Move, Rummy and finally graduated to Sweep. As for chess I learned it from my uncles and very soon became a good player. In a family tournament in which I was the youngest player, I was able to win two matches and lost to one of my uncles who ultimately won the tournament.

pokerHaving gained mother’s implied consent I went wholeheartedly in to playing cards and soon left my cousins behind who declared me as “Ustad” meaning “Master”. My addiction with card games continued for about five years and then a change occurred. I was youngest of all the cousins and after few years each one of them moved to whatever they decided to do and I was left with no one to play as in school there was no card playing culture or facilities and I had to confine myself to playing chess, field Hockey and Cricket.

It took more than fifteen years to bring back cards in any form in my life. I won a scholarship to study Human Resource Management at International Public Institute of University Of Connecticut at Hartford the capital city of the State of Connecticut in the USA. It was a very good opportunity to enhance my knowledge as the program was attended by Managers from more than twenty countries, which I grabbed with both hands. In our orientation program we were told that during our four months program we will participate in a Family Friendship Program in which each one of us will be associated with an American family as a friend. The main purpose of the program was to increase the awareness about each other’s country and develop a bond of friendship between its people.

On the last day of the first week after classes a function was held where the participants and the host families were introduced to each other. The Hayes was my friendship family. Mr. Hayes worked in an insurance company and if I remember correctly by the name of Sigma Insurance Company. Mrs. Hayes was a teacher. It was mutually decided that every Saturday they will take me to their home or visit some place of interest.

Next Saturday Mr. Hayes reached my place of residence at the appointed time and took me to his home. It was a small beautiful house. The family had two lovely children a daughter and a son. After short introductions we had lunch prepared by Mrs. Hayes. After lunch we went to the sitting room. Mr. Hayes told me that at that time every Saturday they play scrabble and asked me to join if I knew the game. I knew the game and joined them. To the surprise of children I used some very difficult words during the play that continued for an hour and half. After the game Mr. Hayes told me that next Saturday he would invite a few friends to play Poker and asked me to join. Until that time I had no idea about Poker and told him about that and that I knew some other card games like Rummy and Sweep. Mr. Hayes told me that if I knew Rummy, then I can easily play Poker.

As the next week started I decided to get more information about Poker. At that time there was no internet and for me the best source of information was that innocent face lady Susan Yeagle, our Coordinator. Although she never played Poker she gathered information for me and within two days gave it to me in the written form. The next three days I tried to have a  grasp of Poker as much as possible by taking out time from my studies to have some knowledge of the Poker game. During this time I learned the basic rules and came to know that it was more of a luck game as the following quote of Mary Austin also indicated:

“People would be surprised to know how much I learned about prayer from playing poker.”

For me that looked very attractive as I was known to be very lucky and my every prayer seemed to be answered. Nevertheless it was evident that a certain level of intelligence, confidence, common sense  and analytical skills were required to play the game.

Saturday arrived. Mr. Hayes was right on the time and we reached his home. His two friends were already there. After lunch, we went to the Sitting Room to play Poker. The four men including myself were the players and Mrs. Hayes and children were the spectators. At the very start Mr. Hayes informed the players that the purpose of game was not to win money, but it was simple fun, enjoyment and entertainment as one of the players (me) was hardly conversant with the game. Instead of money small buttons valuing 100 units would be used. Ten buttons would be given to each player. Losers would be punished not in terms of money, but in a very different way. They would pick one chit from a number of folded chits and do whatever is written on it.

The game started and within fifteen minutes the first game was won by one of Mr. Hayes friends. All the losers had to pick from the folded chits. The chit I picked stated “Narrate a joke you like most”.

I dutifully narrated the following joke:

Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn’t seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. The other guy takes out his phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps: “My friend is dead! What can I do?” The operator says: “Calm down, I can help. First, let’s make sure he’s dead.” There is a silence, then a gunshot is heard. Back on the phone, the guy says: “OK, now what?”

In the next game Hayes was the winner and this time I had to sing a song which was a difficult job for me, but I had to do that. In the third game I again was at the losing end and had to narrate two one liner. I narrated the following:

A diplomat is someone who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you will look forward to the trip.

My wife and I were happy for twenty years. Then we met.

In the last game too being on the losing end I was required to call out alphabets in the opposite order, i.e.  from Z to A, which I did easily.

The day was really enjoyable. The other losers had to dance, cry like a child, act as an actor and make animal voices. The room resonated with laughter whenever funny things happened. My song was one of the examples that produced moments of humor and laughter as my voice would be stuck in my throat regularly during the song.

poker jokeAfter the games were over I requested Mr. Hayes to arrange a rematch on the last Saturday on our last get together as I hoped by that time I would have improved my game very much. He agreed.

During this period besides my studies I took time off to play Poker with the staff of YMCA where I was staying to prepare for the final encounter. I also came to know that Poker was becoming a very popular game had different forms and was catching up with youngsters. I felt happy that I had come to know about the game at the right time and also motivated myself by recalling my expertise in Rummy, Sweep, etc.

The D day came. We all were there in the sitting room after having a very delicious lunch. Mr. Hayes, before the start of the game informed that the punishment part would take place together after conclusion of all the games.  In total, three games were played and to my delight I won first two. The third game was won by Mr. Hayes. Although very pleased, I suspected that may be the other players deliberately lost the two games. When I asked them about that, all three burst in to laughter. Hayes on their behalf replied that it was half true. Only in the first game they played casually, but in the second game they lost genuinely due to my better game. After the games, when the time of punishment came Mr. Hayes declared that as I had won a poker game for the first time it was time for enjoyment  instead of punishment. He also told about Chris Moneymaker quote “Poker is meant to be enjoyed.” He said they would enjoy the moment and would have  a farewell dinner with me at a famous local restaurant as that was my last day with them. Another surprise was in store for me. Mr. Hayes presented me a shield inscribed with the following words:


We had a sumptuous dinner and then the Hayes family dropped me at my place for the last time with a lot of hugs and feelings.

After a few days, on completion on my studies I was on my way back home with fond memories and having another card’s game up my sleeve. Although I had yet to learn all the niceties of the game and yet to play in a poker tournament I was confident that due to my basic knowledge and experience in playing cards (and knowing the strength of my prayers) it was only a matter of time before I would be a champion also in this form of card’s game.

Tasneem Hameed



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3 Responses to Poker And Prayer

  1. A cute story, also pretty funny ^^ I hope everything worked out well 🙂

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