I was playing in a 9-handed $5/10 NLHE cash game at the World Series of Poker in Vegas and a friend who I hadn’t seen in a while came up and tapped me on the shoulder to say hi. I was happy to see him and everything. But not really all that excited. On the next hand, I was going to be in the cutoff seat. I wanted to play my cutoff and hijack because of the good position, so I told my friend, “Hang on for two more hands and I’ll take a break.”
Two hands later, I hopped up and went over to my waiting friend. We talked, said goodbye, and I returned to my game in time for my big blind, about 4 hands and 10 minutes later.
An hour after that, another poker buddy came up behind me and said hi. This was a much closer friend. I was at this guy’s wedding, and we talked once a week all through his divorce. We had not seen each other in three years. When he came up and said hi, the hand that was finishing was my big blind. If I were to stay in the game and take my small blind, then of course I would want to play my button, and the cutoff at least, probably the hijack too. But that was way too long to make this person wait, given the condition of our relationship at that moment. Even though I had just played my big blind, I stood up right away without even thinking about it and said deal me out. That gave us an entire round for visitation, after which I re-entered the game on my next big blind.
Back in the game, in between folds, it occurred to me that I had inadvertently stumbled upon a way to quantify my willingness to trade poker time for people time. And that led to a way to rate my relationships, which is an abhorrent idea, but let’s do it anyway.
If I am willing to forego the Early Position hands, as I was with my first buddy, then he’s an EP buddy. We’re tight enough that I want to get up to visit, but not necessarily immediately. If I’m willing to get up on my Small Blind, as I was with the second guy, then he’s an SB. A special buddy.
Back home a week later, I went up to Lucky Chances one day because my buddy Alex was going to be there and we’d been apart for two months. I arrived before he did, and when he showed up, I was already rooted in a game. He walked to my table while the dealer was shuffling up for my cutoff hand. The first thing Alex did was look and see where the button was. When he saw that I was in late position, he turned and walked away. He knew to not even expect me to look up, let alone get up, on this valuable hand.
Two hands later, I took a break and we went outside to gab properly. I told Alex about my new rating system idea. As usual, he cut right to the crux:
“The real test would be if a very close friend who you haven’t seen in a long time came by while the dealer was shuffling up for your actual button hand.”
“That’s an easy one,” I said. “They can wait.”
“What if it was your Uncle Tony?”
“No fair! Then I’d probably get up right in the middle of a hand. I’m talking poker players only here.”
“What about me? Let’s say we hadn’t seen each other for ten years, and I came by your table. Are you saying you wouldn’t sacrifice a few bucks and a few precious positional moments for me?”
“Couldn’t happen,” I said.
“Because you would never ask that of me. And if you were capable of asking such a thing, we never would have become friends. So it all works out. Let’s get back inside. I think my button is coming.”