you gotta know when to fold ’em…

I had a deck of cards in my hands by the time I was… oh, about 8 or 10 years old. No, my family didn’t have a gambling problem. We played Pinochle. A tradition passed down through several generations of my Pennsylvania Dutch side of the family, I grew up watching my parents play against my grandparents (or against my aunt and uncle). Before my time, my grandparents played against my great-grandparents. From an early age, my older brother and I would find spare decks of cards to practice our shuffling skills. Also, we had to practice organizing twenty cards into our hands, quickly.If you’ve never played Pinochle, I don’t think I can explain it to you. It has tricks, trump, bids, and melds and involves three or four players. As soon as Dan and I were old enough, we would play against my parents, or with Grandma and one of my parents. And since we didn’t like having our hand of cards taken away, so that an impatient adult could organize it for us (you try organizing 20 cards fast, and neatly in your hand), we worked hard to do it ourselves.After us, my three younger brothers watched eagerly, awaiting the day that they’d be old enough to join in. My Grandma was so patient with us, and would play endless hands of three-player Pinochle, so we had plenty of practice. So, we learned to shuffle TWO decks of cards, deal four cards at a time, how to bid, and how to keep track of the score. As quickly as possible. I’m pretty sure my youngest brother was playing with us, by the time he was six or seven. Possibly younger. It was the game of choice, in our house, and we all wanted the privilege of playing.It’s just normal shuffling, though, nothing special. Anybody can do it, right? Apparently not. My Aussie family was teaching me how to play Five Hundred, which has many similarities to Pinochle. Trumps, bids, and taking tricks. No trouble understanding those, just have to learn all the little rules, in between. And only one deck, so it isn’t a long hand.Then, the deck was set down next to me, I picked it up, and shuffled it. One deck shuffles in about a split second, and Mrs. B’s brother jumped like he’d heard a gunshot. And then demanded that I do it again. Now, I thought that this “skill” of mine only impressed the kids… and I mean the three to five year olds. But I guess that isn’t true.It’s all in the eye of the beholder, though, because they all tend to shuffle sideways, like my aunt does, the way I’ve never been able to figure out how to do. It looks so haphazard, compared to the way I do it. But it’s not as “schnazzy” looking, their way, so they aren’t impressed by it.But if they can teach me to play Five Hundred, then maybe I can find a Pinochle deck and teach them to play. Hey, I can dream, can’t I?

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