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John R. HallDrawing dead is a poker term that applies to many of life’s situations. It means that no matter how the remaining cards fall, you are unable to win the hand. You’re unable to come out on top. You’re unable to prevail. In other words – no matter what happens: “You Lose!” No words are more devastating than hearing those two….

 

I have played poker most of my life. First, as a child, challenging schoolmates, adults and family members. I played for fun with plastic chips having no value other than bragging rights. In my teens, I played for cigarettes, gas, pocket change, clothing, whatever. In the U.S. Army, I played for serious cash on paydays. In 1976, a private’s top pay was $418.20. So, putting any of that into action was serious. As the days from the last payday widened, and soldiers’ dollars were depleted, push-ups became the betting currency (troops are known for insane behavior).

 

After my honorable discharge, the poker games I played in became increasingly volatile for me. Mommy and Uncle Sam were no longer providing food and housing, and monies bet had dire consequences – win or lose. The winning dollars were easily spent and the losing dollars were hard to reclaim. That was especially true on an empty stomach. I played poker consistently, if not constantly, until TV and Internet poker exploded in 2003 and ushered in a new age. An era when everyone dreamed of being the next big Moneymaker.

 

That was a time when poker rooms were transformed into testosterone pits, full of grandiose behavior and braggadocio egos and ids. They remain so to this very day. My feelings on that reality are best summed up by quoting President Trump’s typical endings to his mean and manic tweets. His trite residual message seems apropos in this context, considering I yearn for the old, smoke-filled poker rooms of yesteryear which will never return: “It’s so sad!”

 

I still play poker, but I no longer seek out games. I now rarely play. Looking back, as most gamblers are forced to do, I was, as the vast majority of poker players were, drawing dead from the very first hand that was dealt. And that’s fine. I had a lot of fun. I met a lot of characters. Some were shady. Some were stoned cold gangsters, killers. Some were loan sharks. Some were fixers (loan collectors). A few were even fine human beings. Most were just your run-of-the-mill working stiffs, looking for a brief distraction from their mundane existence. I wrote about the dying days of old school poker and its new era in “Has Anybody Here Seen My Old Friend.”

 

Binion’s Horseshoe casino was, as I still call it, a no apologies made gambling hall. Old Las Vegas at its finest, full of comps and eccentric creatures. Its poker room had a sign that read: “Welcome to the Horseshoe Poker Room … Where Millions are Played and Legends are Made.” Truer words have not been written. One night, while playing a game of Texas Holdem, a poker playing cowboy (yep, he lived life as a working cowboy on ranches he owned), said to me, “I lost all my cattle drawing to an inside straight. When I made the inside straight, I lost the ranch.” He was drawing dead….

 

On February 28th, 2017, President Trump appeared before a joint session of congress to address our nation. His pronouncements once again proved that the American public is the odds-on favorite for drawing dead throughout his tenure as president. In fact, we have been drawing dead since the agonizingly painful predawn hours of November 9th, 2016. That’s when Trump was declared the winner of the presidential election even though he lost by a margin of 2.86 million votes. You see, back then we were drawing dead against an Electoral College.

 

We are now “all-in,” in this political poker hand being played. All we can do now is hope against all hope that we are not drawing dead. Our lives are on the line; they are in the pot. Pray that we don’t hear: “You Lose!” Pray that we are not drawing dead….

 

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