Don’t get me wrong, I understand how to play poker — and several of the variations.

What I don’t understand is it’s popularity. It’s not like it’s something new. I was playing poker over a quarter of a century ago — and quit when it put my young family in financial difficulty.

It was in the 1970s—cold war time period—and I was on a missile submarine in the North Atlantic. It was a three month patrol, 90 days without any way for the individual sailor to communicate with anyone not on the ship. We could receive five family grams during the patrol — 20 words, and censored to ensure there was nothing upsetting.

There wasn’t a lot of entertainment available to us for distraction. We didn’t have video games, DVDs or even VCRs. We had movies after the evening meal, but if you were on watch or asleep you didn’t get that. Most guys brought some books and there was a tiny library with a few more.

A lot of the time, for some, was filled with games, mostly card games like pinochle, spades, hearts, and cribbage. Some guys played backgammon. And then there was the weekly poker game and — in the middle of patrol — casino night. I’m not sure what the legality of it was, but as an enlisted man, I have sat next to the commanding officer of the ship at a black-jack table while at 400 feet below the surface of the ocean — and, yes, we were gambling for money. A percentage went to the “welfare and rec. committee.” Funds from it, I suppose were available to help guys and their families who might, at times, be struggling to make ends meet. The only benefit personally I saw from it was the ships party held each year when we were the crew off of the ship. (The missile subs had two crews — the blue crew and the gold crew. I was on the blue crew.) As I recall it, there was only one casino night each patrol, and I always came out ahead from it.

The weekly poker night, though, is what brought me down. It wasn’t high stakes, but over a period of the several weeks, one could lose quite a bit of money. A percentage of the proceeds from it also went to the “welfare and rec.” fund. Since most of the guys didn’t have much money with them, the winnings and the losses were kept track of in a notebook. I never really did terribly bad, but I seldom came out a winner — and, for a time, I couldn’t stay away. When what I owed was somewhere over $200, I stopped. It wasn’t more that we would be able to handle. However, I still had to tell my wife that we were going to have to get by with less money for a while and that I had lost it by playing poker.

I never played poker after that. I really enjoyed playing the game, by I also recognized in myself that it was something that I could enjoy too much, that I could easily get very engaged in it and lose a lot more than I lost on that submarine and that I lost that when there wasn’t a drop of alcohol to be had anywhere. I hate to think how much I would have lost if American ships allowed liquor on board.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against gambling. I gamble on occasion, generally the slots — and the lottery, when I get somewhere that has one —, but I don’t let my enjoyment of it overwhelm me, like I know it could. I keep in mind that I’m not going to win big and that I will likely take home less money than I came with, but I won’t lose more money than I planned.

Some card related links:
Rules of Card Games – Alphabetical Index
Card game – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Poker- the free encyclopedia

Post from one of my abandoned blogs – North Farnham Freeholder – recovered from Internet Archive WayBackMachine and edited slightly 2/27/2011 – page

life, people, Uncategorized, values

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