The Hand You’re Dealt

The Cast: Friends (Erich & Others), Myself (Loser).

Have you ever just really sucked at a game?

I mean really SUCKED at a game? Any game? Cards? Tennis? Video? Virtual? Hand-held? Board? Badminton? Hopscotch? Solitaire?!? (you really gotta be bad at games to suck at solitaire)

No matter where you go in the world, there seems to be some things that everyone understands and likes, things that bring us together, that unite us. Food is one of those things. Sure, there are different types of food and ways it is prepared, but people still can come together with food. Games are another thing. They can be culturally specific or not, people still enjoy the subtle (or extreme) pleasures of outwitting—or outplaying/outlasting—an opponent. It’s fun (usually more so if you win). And poker is one of those games that everyone knows how to play, and have fun at.

Think about it. It’s everywhere. People the world over, can sit down and play some form of poker and not even speak the same language. You hear the phrase all the time, “Wanna play cards?” And they’re talking about poker! How is it that everyone knows how to play this game? HOW?!

My father used to mesmerize me with fond memories of his days in England, and how he would play penny poker while riding the bus to and from his destinations. Poker. On a bus. Crazy.

Well, I suck at poker. I do. Really, really bad. I’m not exaggerating. Say, for example, that if perchance the survival of the world depended upon my winning at a hand of poker, I would first, bet against myself, and second, find a way to kiss my own butt goodbye. I’m that bad. Seriously. I am. But, I still enjoy the game. However, since I am not much of a gambling man, my friends and I play the game with a twist: Cookies.

Yes, that’s right: Cookies. We use cookies instead of chips or money. This way, everyone’s a winner (except me—seriously). I don’t recall how it got started, but we’ve done it for years. See, what you do is this: Everyone that is to arrive brings at least one pack of cookies. And the best part is, it doesn’t even matter what kind they are. Then, when they arrive, the group decides which cookie is worth the most, and what the conversion rate is.

For example: Oreo is worth the most. Two Chips Ahoy chocolate chip cookies are worth one Oreo. Two Nilla Wafers are worth one Chips Ahoy chocolate chip. Nutter Butters are the ante.
Note: Name brands always outrank generic/store-brand.

After the basics of what is worth what, you divide out what was brought amongst the players (any broken cookies belong to the party that brought them, regardless of how many there are). Pour some milk. Deal the cards. Play.

One of the best parts of the game are the snacks. They’re already there! They’re the cookies. And this is where the game gets to be fun. See, if you get hungry, you can just eat a cookie or two (or more). But, if you want to keep betting, you have to leave some of the cookies. In addition, if you are bad at poker—like me—and want to eat cookies, you have to eat them before you lose them to the other players. And if you want to eat more cookies, you have to have some to gamble with to gain more cookies. The whole situation is a double-edged sword. But super fun.

Once, Erich and I were sitting in a camper (in my backyard) playing cookie poker. There was the dim/poor overhead lighting, it was late at night, it had been a long day, it was poker time. We had Oreos, Nilla Wafers, a gallon of milk, and all night to trade cookies back and forth. This was going to be awesome.

The cards were dealt, and as per the usual, some were traded back in. We anted up, and the game began. It didn’t take long before Erich had almost all of the cookies. During the first two or three hands we played, we had eaten maybe a few cookies each. By the end of the fourth hand, I had one Oreo and three Nilla Wafers, Erich had the rest. Now, I know there aren’t that many cookies in either an Oreo package or a Nilla Wafer box, but my memory of that moment in time, was of Erich, overlit by a low-watt bulb, thin wisps of smoke wafting about the small trailer (I don’t know where it came from, we didn’t/don’t smoke—but it’s there in memory), and giant stacks and piles of cookies all about him. The stacks and piles are like the kind you see in movies and cartoons. Like when Scrooge McDuck counts his monies. Yeah, it’s like that—in my memory.

Now, because he had earned them, we both felt it unfair for Erich to just give me some (sympathy) cookies, so he got to keep what he had won. And so, there we sat, watching a movie, eating cookies. I was finished in a few moments while Erich had enough to fill him up, and have some leftovers. Still, it was fair.

Another good round of poker involved Erich, myself, and our wives. My wife and I were spending the weekend with Erich and his, and we decided to play a hand or two of cookie poker. Once again, lots of fun (and I lost my cookies). There was one point where I was doing alright in the hand, Erich had bowed out, as had my wife, and so it was down to Erich’s wife and myself. She felt pretty confident—but so did I.

Before the round of cards had even begun I had established a plan as to how the game would be won. However, from the outside, it looked like a desperate man just trying anything he could to win the pot (which had happened to have built up into almost all the cookies). At one point my wife had asked what I was doing, to which Erich responded with something like, “He’s just trying to win.” But that honestly wasn’t the case. Based upon how the previous games had gone, I had anticipated either Erich or my wife as the final two, but that wasn’t what was happening. While I don’t recall exactly what I had contrived, I clearly recall the winner was to be decided by a single draw, with high card the winner. And wouldn’t you know it? Yes! I lost. I lost, once again. Sad. So very sad.

Even playing at home, with my children, I lose. It’s sad—but so much fun. So, next time you’re looking for something fun to do with your friends or family, try a hand or two of cookie poker and see how things turn out for you. Hopefully, you’re not as pathetic at the game as I am, and even if you are, just fold every hand and sit and eat the cookies you were given at the start, like a sore-loser. Have some fun with it.

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