Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The Gamble

From behind his chip stack, Dozer looked unbeatable.

The nightly Mosul poker game saw the regulars leave in a predictable fashion. Mark built up a strong stack in the most unlikely string of winning hands, only to fall after his luck ran out. Steve played tight to his chest as his chips slowly melted into other stacks. Bill let it ride one too many times, sipping Mountain Dew as the other players siphoned his chips. Dozer and I emerged with nearly equal stacks in a game of head-to-head poker. A full poker game means playing the cards you're dealt. In head-to-head, the cards are almost irrelevant. You play the man, using your chips as a battle ax or a scalpel, depending on your playing style. In just a few rounds, his chips barely outnumbered mine. I chose to use the battle ax.

I peeked underneath my fingers before the flop. Pocket twos. Not ideal for a pocket, but a pair off the bat is a good place to start. The flop came out: 2-3-J. Three of a kind! I maintained my cool and placed a healthy bet. Dozer immediately called. I quickly assumed he was holding another Jack. He rarely bluffs, and with a slim lead, he didn't have to. The turn came: 7. Just what I wanted to see. Even if he held two pair, it didn't beat my three of a kind. I bet even larger than before. Without hesitation, Dozer raised. That threw me off. What the hell was he holding? I called his raise, less confident this time.

A nine flopped on the river. My tensions cooled. Staring at the big pot, I decided to go for the gold and make a big dent in Dozer's stack. "All in," I said, a hint of arrogance carried from my throat. Dozer didn't even hesitate. "Call." I flipped my cards over and pushed them forward, expecting to see a frown appear over his face. "Three of a kind twos, dude." Dozer still shielded his cards from view. He erupted in laughter. "No way dude!" He tossed his cards toward the pot. Pocket threes. His three of a kind threes beat my twos. Holy shit.

The countless poker games in Iraq weren't so much about the money as they were about escapism. Once you get on that plane, there is no going back unless you're injured or dead. The heat, the dust, that saccharine septic smell - it swirls overhead like a black cloud. Distractions like poker and endless DVD libraries prove to be valuable tools to keep that overwhelming feeling from slowly eroding morale into dust. Outside the wire was the time to take it all in, to be masters of our own senses. Back on base though, one has to relax. Tension, they say, is a killer.

The Third Stryker Brigade is in the process of heading back to Iraq for the third time in six years. The brigade has proven itself in combat - From Tal Afar, Samarra and Mosul in 2003-2004, to Mosul, Baghdad and Baqubah in 2006-2007. My old company, Bravo 5/20, has been the tip of the spear in both deployments. Bravo company was legendary in its recovery of a Kiowa helicopter in 2005, a story later made into a documentary on the Military Channel. In March of 2007, Bravo Company, along with Alpha and Headquarters Company, moved into Baqubah to take it back from al-Qaeda in Iraq. What ensued in those bloody months form the core of this blog and forever shaped the lives of the men who were there.

5/20 has seen more than its fair share of combat in Iraq. For once, I hope their tour is memorable for all night poker sessions and gathering around a small TV at three in the morning to watch the Super Bowl. I hope firefights this tour are as showers were the last tour. The first thing I want to hear when Bravo Company 5/20 returns is "Man, that tour was fucking boring." 5/20 is notorious for finding trouble. This tour, I'm praying they find time to play poker so I can hear all the great stories of full houses beating flushes. I want pranks and jokes to be what the men come back with. We've seen enough scars, thrashed minds and body bags. We've heard Taps far too many times.

I dug up this video from the waning months of our deployment. It's all doom and gloom (typical of the media), but there are moments of hilarity featuring the Snack Master. Second platoon, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did:

Good luck, Bravo Company. I wish you all the best and I'll be following your tour closely. Bring it home, and I'll see you on the other side.


Jackelopette said...


Anonymous said...

This was a great one. I think we all want them to come back with poker stories and pranks. Good luck guys!

Tabitha Winton

David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 08/06/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

Jordan said...

hey dude,

tweezy is BOG.

as long as my blog stays under the radar, i'll be posting opsec-friendly updates about the tweezy's triumphant return to the far side of the world.


Alex Horton said...


Sounds good buddy. I'll be keeping up with you. Good stuff so far.

Unknown said...

Good luck, Jordan. I've bookmarked your blog which luckily is right next to AOD in my favorites folder, so I won't forget to look at it daily. One new thing that will be interesting to watch is the use of Twitter by deployed troops. Let us know how that works out.

In about a year I'll be anticipating reading your blog post that you're about to board a charter plane headed back to the Pacific Northwest.

Dude's Dad

CI-Roller Dude said...

Easier and faster way to breach them damn metal doors (that shotgun breaching round is made for American wooden doors)
Take a little bit of C-4 and roll it like playdoe...into a strip about 1/4 inch thick and a foot long.
Take some 90 mile an hour tape and tape it around the lock. Stick in a blasting cap (with about a foot of time fuse) pull the igniter and step around the corner.
If you do it right, it should cut a nice hole out around the lock.

My goal for my last few months in Baghdad in 05 was to watch the first season of Scrubs on DVD. I almost made it, but got too busy anyway.

NUGHT said...

Word up dude. good luck Jordan. Im leaving this country for good hopefully in about a month... by my count i have 39 and a wake up.

Unknown said...

Alex: Your uncle Eric has a good tale about poker games in 'Nam if you can pry it out of him.

ABQ fan

themorethingschange... said...

Hey! Nice to see this in the Sandbox!