Driven: An anecdote (part 1)

May 15, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
May 15, 2015

Something funny happened Wednesday night on my way home from the poker game.

This is the 13th of 26 weeks in the current World Tavern Poker season. (Quick reminder: World Tavern Poker is free poker, with absolutely no buy-in or monetary outlay required to play; the business model depends on players voluntarily buying food and drink at the bars and restaurants that host games.) The midway point is when the circuit holds All-Star Tournaments. The winner of each venue’s All-Star Tournament, which is actually a pair of tournaments, gets entry into a national World Tavern Poker event along with a commemorative victory medallion.

I didn’t do particularly well in Wednesday night’s first tournament, finishing 18th out of 44 participants. After some early struggles in the second tournament, my hands started hitting, and my stack grew. At the end, I was heads-up against a young woman whom I’ll call M. (Heads-up refers to when two and only players remain; it can refer to a single hand or to the conclusion to a tournament, as in this case.) Lately, I’ve had a lot of difficulty winning heads-up matches, and that was the case this time: M. won the game, leaving me in second place with a respectable haul of more than 10,000 points.

It was nearly midnight when I hopped in my car with K—, another player from Durham whom I’ve taken to driving to World Tavern Poker tournaments in recent weeks. We’d been playing at a restaurant off of U.S. 70 near William B. Umstead State Park. I turned onto 70, passed a few businesses and then hit the gas on an empty stretch of road that runs alongside the northeastern edge of Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

Before we go any further in this tale: I take driving seriously. More than 30,000 Americans die in car crashes each year; as recently as 2007, the annual death toll exceeded 40,000. This 2011 article lists car crashes as a top-10 cause of death in the United States, following (in descending order) heart disease, cancer, strokes, suicide, accidental poisoning or drug overdoses and falls.

I also take drunk driving very seriously. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 10,000 people died in drunk driving crashes in 2012, accounting for nearly a third of all U.S. traffic deaths. On Wednesday night, as is typical when I’m playing at a venue with a kitchen, I hadn’t had any alcohol. The irony here is that, when the first game began, for some reason, I’d felt like having a beer. But I didn’t manage to catch the eye of the server at a convenient moment, so I never ordered a drink.

To be continued

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