A short story

Many years ago I ran into an old school friend.  She’s a smart chick and my wife and I always enjoyed her company, so I invited her and her husband, who I had not met, to a poker game at my home.

She brought her husband.

In this poker game there were some real engineers, some retired military NCO’s, some rednecks, some engineers and retired military NCO’s who are rednecks, some hicks, some oilfield hands, etc.  The players ranged from 21-78 years old.   They are an unlikely crowd.


  • Engineers count cards and know all the odds on everything all the time.  YOU CAN NOT PLAY POT ODDS AND WIN WITH MECHANICAL OR ELECTRICAL ENGINEERS AT THE TABLE.  They are frugal and play very tight, but you’ll never buy a pot.
  • Career military men have played millions of hands.  MILLIONS.  They may be calculating odds, maybe not, but they have developed intuition based on reps.  They are also adrenaline junkies.  At their best they’ve played so many hands they are experts. At their worst they love to call.  They can’t be bluffed.
  • Oilfield hands are much the same as the military guys  When they are in the doghouse waiting until they need to add another joint of pipe or whatever, they are playing cards.   They have millions of reps in.  They are also adrenaline junkies.  They also bring more capital to the games than you are ready to deal with.

Another person you don’t want to play poker with is an ex-con.  They have played MILLIONS of hands, are adrenaline junkies, and can’t be bullied.  Some of them are razor smart.  One of the country-est rednecks in the game is an ex-con and one of my dearest friends.   He may be the smartest person I know.  He never finished high school.  In fact, he went to federal prison a long time ago, and while he was there for about five years he completed the GED and read everything there.  EVERYTHING.  HE READ 60 HOURS A WEEK FOR OVER 5 YEARS.  When he was in he either lifted weights, read, worked cafeteria, or played cards.  Oh, and when he got out of the joint he worked drilling rigs for ten years.  More card play.

We played poker twice a month for years and years.  My ex-con buddy was the net winner in this difficult, difficult game.   His intuition is astounding.  His memory is perfect.  He doesn’t calculate pot odds, HE SEES THEM INSTANTLY when cards turn or chips are tossed.  Not only that, but dealing crazy people in the joint AND being super smart, he had developed an ability to size up people, read body language, and understand them more deeply and quickly than anyone I have ever met in my life.   He could be a pro poker player, hostage negotiator, NFT trader, whatever.  The guy is  formidable.

My friend brought her husband.  He was a fool, a midwit.  He got busted out of the three buy-in elimination poker tournament very quickly.  He just wasn’t a good poker player.  He had been told he was a smart guy his whole life, had a smarty-pants job, all that stuff.  He just couldn’t imagine that these rednecks, army guys, and middle class dudes could win fair and square.  After all, he’s smart.  He went to a better school than all of us.  The truth is that EVERYONE AT THE TABLE, INCLUDING HIS WIFE, WAS SO MUCH BETTER AT POKER THAN HE WAS THAT HE COULD NOT UNDERSTAND WHAT WAS HAPPENING TO HIM.

There was an IQ gap there that he could not bridge.  There’s a theory that if there is an IQ difference of 2 standard deviations between two people, communication between them will be impossible.  The dumber person will think the smarter is either crazy, or a magician, the smarter will think the other is just stubborn.   No information will exchange.

This guy could not understand what happened to him.  He knew we weren’t magicians, so he figured we were cheating. I saw him make bad bets, bad calls, bad raises, bad folds, all of it.  Not only did I see them, I knew why they were bad.  My ex-con buddy saw more than I did.  He always does.  Meanwhile this guy thought he was playing solid if not excellent poker.

Not being able to understand that he was outclassed, he accused us of cheating. The con doesn’t take cheating accusations or ghey jokes lightly.  I’ve kidded around with him and joked about everything.  I made a ghey joke at his expense one time and he beat me down with a hardhat.  He’s capable of great violence, he only beat my ass with a hardhat because he loves me.  I’ve never accused him of cheating.

The con took $100 out of the breast pocket of his Ely shirt, held it out to him and said, “One of us has to go.  It’s not going to be me. Take this and go on.”

The thing to do was take the money, thank everyone for the invitation and walk calmly to the car.

Nope, the husband refused the money.  This guy went to an expensive private school from k-12.  He went to an expensive private university.  He’s never seen an ass whipping.  He didn’t, and probably still doesn’t understand certain cues that you learn when you hang out where feral people hang out, places like beer joints, prison, drilling rig doghouses, military barracks, shitty schools, places were all of us were from.

I knew that fucker was in extraordinary danger.  He did not know that.  I was worried.

His wife, my old school friend, who was from my hometown where we lived with kids who had cigarettes put out on them and don’t feel pain like you and me has seen crazy stuff.  I suspect she’s been part of crazy stuff.  IMMEDIATELY, she saw, and she knew.  She got him out of there.

I bet he still thinks we are card cheats.

The midwit, and the gamma, which this guy also is, do not understand how reviled they are and how much danger they are in ALL THE TIME.  They get in over their heads in all kinds of ways, taking on projects at work that they aren’t capable of completing properly, making bad investments, getting mudholes stomped in their chests at poker games.  They just don’t know their limits.

The truly dumb guy knows he’s dumb. He says, “Man, I just can’t do that stuff.”  Or, “I don’t get all that financial stuff, I used to be late on payments so I cut up my credit cards.  Now I just buy silver and guns.”  He’s wide-eyed about the world and learned his limits early.   The smart guy is smart enough to see the limits.

The midwit is successful 80% of the time in school, at work, and the rest of this society.  He is too stupid to realize he messes up 20% of the time.  He can’t even see it, especially if he is a gamma.  He focuses on the 80%.  That’s all he can see.   At work he may not even get to mess up 20% of the time.  His manager, in trying to protect the company would only put him on tasks and projects he can complete.  He thinks he’s superman.

Then a bunch of rednecks take ALL his money.

He can’t come back to my game.

9 thoughts on “A short story”

  1. Do you think this guy was truly a midwit with a 100 IQ? It seems to me that he was probably a decently smart guy who was totally out of his element and whose life had utterly not prepared him for the culture of your poker table. Obviously, his grave mistake was to leap straight to an accusation of cheating. Though I would not make that mistake, I do see a little bit of myself in this unfortunate dude. I was a high IQ kid, got put in a gifted program, got pushed into university, grad school, white collar employment, and so on. Due to no fault of my own, the child version of me never got to meet the military guys, ex-cons, oilmen (not much oil in Maryland!), and rednecks. As an adult, I’ve found myself at poker tables, utterly bewildered by my inability to compete. I think that the standard upper middle class upbringing programs people to think, “Well, I understand differential equations, economics, history, whatever….this poker thing is just a game and I should just naturally be good at it.” What people like me utterly lack are those millions of reps that you mention early on in your story…and when we realize what we lack, we don’t know where to go to get the reps. We are such shitty players that the military guys, ex-cons, oilmen and rednecks just take our money but don’t really teach us anything. Meanwhile, if we play with other guys like us, we all suck and don’t learn anything. It is a real conundrum to realize, as you approach middle age, that somehow your entire life has been sheltered from anything even remotely resembling blue collar work/culture.

    1. The midwit is not a dimwit. He’s a 112-115 IQ guy. The cheating accusation is the giveaway.

      Not only did he lack the reps or experience, everyone else there had 20+ IQ points on him. He was in bad trouble from jump.

    2. The fact that you realize that, “What people like me utterly lack are those millions of reps that you mention early on in your story…and when we realize what we lack, we don’t know where to go to get the reps. We are such shitty players that the military guys, ex-cons, oilmen and rednecks just take our money but don’t really teach us anything,” shows you are not in the same realm as this wingnut.

      1. Agreed….and I appreciate you pointing that out.

        Do you think an actual ass kicking would have made a difference in this guy’s life, or would some good old fashioned mockery served the same purpose? I am loathe to promote that kind of violence over a laughable accusation of cheating, especially when every other person at the table was well aware what a jackass the dude was being. Honestly, I doubt there is much you can do for people like that, other than avoid them. In a way, they are just another category of victims of our fucked up culture.

        1. Gamma’s do not respond to mockery. They have NO self awareness, which is necessary if the mockery is going to help.

          Also, note I did not advocate for him getting stomped. He was just in grave danger.

          150 years ago there would’ve been a duel and he’d no longer be able to apply his dumbassery.

  2. He reminds me of a guy I used to work with. He was an engineer and generally smart and capable in that one area, but never knew when he was out of his depth and made some big mistakes as a result. My favorite non-serious example occurred when I had some coworkers over for a cookout. He had always talked about how he was into cooking and grilling, and he even brought his own steak and insisted on cooking it himself because only he knew how to make it a perfect medium rare. 30 minutes on high heat later and the thing was an overdone burnt crisp. “Just perfect” according to him though… The right combination of intelligence and arrogance in person can be a nasty thing.

    1. That insistence on cooking the steak himself shows an utter disregard for any concept of hospitality and being a good guest. That would annoy the shit out of me if someone did that at my cookout.

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