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The cool October breeze blew through my hair as I approached my friend's house. Walking into the garage, the time had arrived to be serious.
My anticipation grew when I saw a bunch of guys from my class gathered for the poker tournament. I've played poker with my friend, but playing in my first tournament was reason enough to be nervous, and with money involved, it was even more nerve- wracking.
I anxiously waited for the others while my five dollars were turned into 25 chips. I looked around the cold, poorly lit garage and recognized many faces, all of which looked as serious as mine. Several were good friends and some just friends. Friend or no friend, I knew I was going to win.
The faint odor of used cat litter filled the room as Jake explained the rules. He was the feared player due to his ruthless style.
"Since we have 18 guys, there will be two tables of nine each. We'll wait till the first nine are eliminated, then we'll make the final table, and see who will be the last man standing. That blessed individual receives $85 and second place gets his money back. Okay, let's play some poker."
As the early hands passed, the number of participants dropped. I glanced to my left and right and saw open seats. This made me more nervous. As midnight approached, we still did not have a final table. We needed a few more players to be eliminated and then the game would become a real battle. What happened next may be one of the strangest events of the night.
"Okay, boys, I need to leave ... I have to leave ...." Everyone looked up and saw Ben Morton, one of the newer players, standing to leave. "And I want my money for these chips," Ben began to scream as he pointed to his large pile of chips. The problem was the chips had no individual value, but he didn't understand this.
"There is no way you can get your money back," Jake yelled.
Ben's face grew red and his eyes dark; he was truly angry. "Like hell, you cheap skate. I want my money, and I want it now."
I couldn't believe my friends were treating each other so badly. I hadn't realized that money could tear friends apart. After the eliminated boys deliberated in the corner, they decided to give Ben back his money.
"No way is he getting any of my money out of this," Chris, my friend whose house we were at, yelled. Ben got up and began screaming as everyone yelled at each other. Finally, Ben decided to leave with just his entrance money. He stormed out while Jake and some others yelled at him and swore. The tournament had to proclaim a winner, no matter what.
Then, after four hours of play, we had the final table. I was in second place to Carl in the amount of chips. He was a fearless player who will bluff when he needs to. No matter how much the intensity grew, Carl always claimed himself the leader. He had twice the number of chips, which put him in a better position to win. Just knowing he was there made me so nervous I couldn't even look at him. His golden hair, his stern face, just added to the drama and suspense.
The games raged on until we were left with three: Carl, Mike (my best friend since first grade) and me. The chip amounts were fairly equal. In poker, the only gateway to understanding the others' hands is by their expressions. I looked at Mike and Carl and could tell they were holding high cards by how their pupils expanded as they glanced down.
Carl, "Crazy Carl" as they call him, bets and plays with no cares. He put himself at risk of elimination by going "all in" against me. "All in" means that a player puts all his chips in the pot, and risks elimination. I couldn't contain myself as Carl did this. I could only think this was a gift from heaven, as I stayed quiet. Mike folded, excluding him from this hand. I took my eyes off Carl and glanced at those crowded around the table. They all had a perplexed look in their eyes. No one expected me to say what I said next.
This is a term that indicates when a player meets the chip amount bet by another.
Their faces, as well as Carl's, went white.
"60 ... 65 ... 70 ... 75 chips" Carl told me I needed. I nervously counted them out.
"What do you have?" I asked Carl.
"Full house, queens over aces." The boys blew in a roar since they thought I was toast, screaming and cheering Carl on.
"What do you have, Rakoczy?" Carl asked. There are moments when you realize that life is truly wonderful.
"Nothing much, four aces," I whispered, almost too quiet to be heard. Everyone looked at my cards and then back at me. No one expected a hand of such magnitude. They were dead silent.
"How in the world did you pull that out? I can't believe you beat me," Carl began screaming, as he walked away. The only thing I could think was that I was one step closer and would now begin the final hand against Mike. I didn't even hear Carl's comments. All I could hear were my nervous thoughts.
The time rolled on and now it was three a.m. Mike and I would play until one of us was defeated. The hands raged on and my aggressive behavior was beating him down as everyone crowded around. The way I bluffed was a thing of beauty until I got carried away, and Mike caught me with nothing when he went all in and took the lead by doubling up.
Now I was angry, and the fury grew. I didn't want to lose. I looked at him with his little smile, and he smirked at me.
"Don't ride high street too long," I called to him as he winked. Then came the hand that ended the tournament and named a winner.
"I'm all in," I said on my next hand.
"I call," Mike said quickly as he smiled again. All I could think was that it was over. We both flipped our cards. Mike had three twos and I realized I had lost as I cowardly showed my pair. Noise filled the room as everyone chanted for Mike.
"Nice game," Mike yelled, but I ignored him and walked out. I couldn't believe he'd beat me and won all the money.
Mike's mom drove me home. When I got out to close the door, Mike grabbed my hand. I quickly pulled it back and slammed the door, but not before he stuffed something in it. As their car sped down the road, I opened my hand and saw the money - all of it. I started wondering if gambling were really worth what happened that night. - not because of the money, but rather that Mike didn't want it. He actually gave it up. Behind all the greed, anger and competition of that night was one noble soul - my best friend, Mike.