A few months ago, I wrote about Butch Cordora, a Texas Hold ‘Em dealer from Philly who’s brought the game into the city. At the time, he ran one poker tournament in New York; now he has four, and I figured it was about time I went to see him in action.

Last Saturday night, I showed up to Boxers HK fashionably late in a vintage wool coat, carrying my favorite sequin Prada wallet. The game was just about to start: It was so busy that they had two tables going. Inexperienced, I ordered a cosmopolitan and sat to Butch’s right, just wanting to watch. To my right, a very cute boy assured me he’d help me understand the game. I noticed he wore rings on the ring finger of his left AND right hand, just to make sure everyone knew he was married. I asked the bartender if I could order two cosmos at a time.

As the night went on, and I got drunker, I began to grasp the game – not because I got poker, but because I get dating. And poker is, ultimately, a perfect metaphor for dating.
Cosmos or not, it made perfect sense to me. We’re all betting on the same cards (or, the same boy we want to date) hoping that our cards match with the cards on the table better than anyone else’s (or, that we’re the most compatible companion). We don’t even see all of the cards we’re betting on when we begin – like getting to know someone over coffee, more cards are revealed as you bet more. We might bet all the chips we have on a good hand – we might give someone we fall in love with everything we have. In both
scenarios, the risk of losing to someone
with a better hand
is always there.

Everyone has a tell. When the married man to my right had a bad hand, he couldn’t stop shaking his left foot: I could feel vibrating through the floor. When I’m on a bad date, I keep checking my watch, even when I forget to put it on and just keep glancing at my wrist.

“Sometimes,” cute boy said, “I lose on purpose. I get bored, and then it’s not worth it to win.”

Everyone pretends they’re disinterested, until the last moment, until they finally reveal their true cards. Cute boy won a hand, laughing at someone upset he didn’t win with four of a kind. “I think you have a gambling problem,” he smirked. Or a dating problem.

Entirely too drunk, and thinking more about my love life than gambling, I stumbled into a taxi. I thought about how if I were a card, I’d be the ace: It can be high or low, depending on the hand, depending on which matches better.

Next time, I think I’ll play. I’ve always had a good poker face.