It’s an ill-kept secret that I love poker. I am living the dream, working in the business of providing my favorite game to the world. Sadly, my schedule and life rarely permit me to settle in for a long session of poker. But last night, after a night-time run along the Monte Carlo seaside, I treated myself to a three-hour session in a PLO cash game.
French is, of course, the local language here and English is the lingua franca of poker. So there was a healthy mix of both being spoken. Being immersed in French the past week has brought back my high school lessons and I find that I’m able to basically play poker en français. The dealer told me that my French was very good. I told her, “Je connais trente mots de français; j’en ai utilisé vingt-huit. Il ne m’en reste que deux: fromage et grenouille.” [“I know thirty words of French. I’ve used 28. Only two are left: ‘cheese’ and ‘frog’.”]
The guy on my right lives in Switzerland but Hebrew is his native language (“I can do German or Spanish if you prefer”). Then the Italians showed up and started trading Italian jibes from the #1 seat to the #7. We could have invoked the “English or French only” rule, but that would have been churlish – it was time to leave the rule book under the table and enjoy the babble.
I got to check-raise poker legend Casey Kastle (whose native language is Slovenian) and said to the dealer “Tapis!” She smiled and said, “He’s all in.” [Casey reluctantly called. We ran it twice and my massive draw hit once.]
The French, English, Italian, and even a little Spanish flew across the table in parallel with the chips – it was glorious. The young lady in the #5 seat said, “C’est la première fois que je joue au PLO.” Oh yeah, sure. Italian guy sits in #6 and says “They tell me if I just say ‘Pot!’ at every opportunity, I can’t lose.”
The next thing I knew it was trois heures du matin and “tomorrow” was a school day. I stood and thanked the table for a wonderful time – they bade me goodnight in three different languages.
How much did I lose? I actually booked a €20 win, but you know that’s not what this was about. It was about enjoying a game that, at its best, is nothing less than a bouillabaisse of different people, languages, and cultures. And this was, indeed, poker at its best.
Moi, j’adore le poker.
Lee Jones is the Head of Poker Communications at PokerStars. He first joined PokerStars in 2003 and has been involved in the professional poker world for over 25 years. You can read his occasional tweets at @leehjones.