Br(u)no: The Inadvertent Sexual Tension of Czech
Poker is a game that is simple and complex at the same time. When you throw language into the mix, it can get downright confusing. Photo credit: stock picture / Freepik.
Texas Hold-em, a style of poker that is popular around Brno, is where each player has two private cards and the table of players share five community cards. The object is to make the best five-card hand from those seven cards. If you have the highest ranking — four-of-a-kind is better than a full house is better than a straight is better than a pair — then you win.
The complexity is in the social interaction over the community cards. Specifically: when and how much to bet.
I’ve played poker for a long time and the in-game banter is the most fun. In New York, every Thursday night, my colleagues and I would play for hours in the press box of the racetracks where we worked. We’d cut a dollar from each pot so that the photo-finish cameraman would have a budget to purchase pizzas, cigarettes, cigars and beer for the following week’s game. Bigtime journalists sat in on the game. Jockeys and trainers played. The buy-in was around $200 so there was significant money on the line. But, because it was among a core of colleagues, it was friendly and conversational throughout.
Since moving to Brno, I’ve played sporadically with a lot of different people, mostly with only a symbolic amount of money on the line. The games are definitely more social than monetary.
Sometimes, when two players have decent cards, there is a bit of gamesmanship. “So what card are you waiting for?” “Did you make your flush?” “I don’t want to take all of your money, so I’ll make a small bet.”
When the banter is in English, it is easy. When it is in Czech, a language I know to a decent degree, it can become difficult and altogether strange.
Once I was playing with a group of colleagues, both male and female. We were mixing English and Czech. Toward the end of the night, I had decent cards. A woman across the table, apparently, also had decent cards. I thought my best strategy would be to bully her out of the pot. So, when the next community cards were shown, I asked “Jak to máš ráda?”
In my imperfect Czech, I thought I had said something like “How do you like those cards?”
She blushed, noticeably.
Excellent, I thought, that must mean that she is bluffing. I bet. Then, surprisingly, she bet, too.
Another card. Again: “Jak to máš ráda? ” She laughed nervously. I bet. She bet again.
The final community card came. I bet. She bet.
We turned over our cards. She won.
Unbeknownst to me, “Jak to máš ráda?” is a phrase that is most commonly associated with sex, as in, what sex position do you prefer?
The poker-game blushing had nothing to do with her clearly-better cards and everything to do with the out-of-place intimacy of my question. Ignorance can, literally, cost you money.
I hope that this column will provide thought-provoking observations of local life that will be interesting for a Saturday-morning read. If you have any suggestions or comments, please pass them along to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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