Poker? I Don’t Even Know Her!

I was recently told that my face is very expressive. You know, like a puppy. Or a Muppet. This isn’t a new sentiment and it is something I had heard many times growing up. Except, while this sort of facial honesty may be endearing for a child, for a grown woman it is, well, childish. It bothers me now that I can be so easily read. I don’t want people knowing what my cards say by the way I hold my eyes. I would much prefer to be a brooding, mysterious enigma but I’m not quite sure how. 

I never know what my husband Stephen is thinking so I looked to him for advice. Stephen regularly plays poker with his friends and I wondered if this practice has helped him cultivate the tight-lipped, straight face he wears. (Maybe if I took up poker I too would have much less to say and remember nothing about my day!) Like Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler, lately I have been feeling like I am on a train bound for nowhere, but with a few lessons, I was sure to become the next Annie Duke, bound for Vegas or Celebrity Apprentice. I couldn’t wait!   

“No other wives come to our games,” said Stephen when I told him my plan.

I searched his face, trying to tell if he was bluffing. I wasn’t sure. I had to put another card out on the table.

“Oh, so you would rather spend time with your friends than with me!? Is it because you’re ashamed of me!?”

“I’m just saying you would be the only woman!” I could instantly tell he was annoyed and congratulated myself on learning so quickly. “You’re more than welcome to come,” he continued.

“Ah ha! Would you call that a flush?”

“Call what a flush?.”

“I flushed out your point.”

Yup, he was clearly not happy.

I still felt like I had won, except when game night rolled around I realized there was nothing I would rather do less than sit around and play poker with my husband and his friends. Seriously. Nothing.  Why would I put on pants and go out to play poker when I could do it right here on my couch in my pajamas with a mud mask? I looked up an online poker site and registered myself for Party Casino. (

 “How exactly are you going to become an expert bluffer playing online?” Stephen asked.

“I’m not going to sign up as “Wendy,” obviously. I am going to pretend my name is something else.”

Maybe Stephen wasn’t the best tutor.

“I’d rather stay here with the dog and cat,” I continued, “does that give me a…full house!?”

He walked out the door. I guess it doesn’t.

I Googled ‘how to play poker better than your husband’ and was excited to put my new skills to use. Logging on to Party Casino, I was immediately distracted from my poker venture by its list of 112 slot machines. Kung Foon! Crocodopolis! I had no idea what these were, or that that you could play slots online, but these sounded awesome! I settled on Glamour Puss, in honor of my cat who hasn’t been feeling well lately. I clicked spin and watched the five reels go. Images danced about the screen. I didn’t know what they meant or what kind of line I was looking for but I cheered regardless, getting really excited as the spinning came to a stop and revealed a flashing red line across a row. I was ecstatic. I’m a natural! I grew increasingly excited with each spin, yelling at the screen, bouncing up and down on the couch cushions. Understanding the game with the same depth as I did, the dog barked and wagged his tail, bouncing with me like a popcorn kernel in need of a bath.

I have played real, live slots before. My college roommate, Sarit, and I went to the casino once together while we were away at school. When we won $10 on a nickel machine we screamed so loudly security asked if we needed to be escorted to our car. We turned down the security detail but couldn’t contain our excitement with every nickel won. And why not? Isn’t it fun to express joy? To really feel our feelings through and through?

Just as there are supertasters who experience taste with a far greater intensity than the average person, so too are there whole-hearted people who experience their emotions in the extreme. Maybe inexpressiveness is sexier than expressiveness but it is also less colourful, less lively. Less fun. I want to be so genuine, so utterly authentic in my feelings, that people can tell when I’m bluffing and being untruthful. I want to live this way even if it means my cards are always on the table. I want to cry meaningful tears when something is sad, laugh with my belly when something  is funny and scream my head off when I win two dollars on Party Casino’s Glam Puss.

I look at my pets, cuddled under each arm, and consider that this is what we humans love most about animals: the vulnerability of their emotions, their inability to hide what they are feeling. I look into my dog’s sweet eyes and I see love reflected. I want all the people I love to see the same thing when they look into mine. I guess you could say the dog, cat and I are three of a kind.

“No,” says Stephen, “you couldn’t.”