My biggest poker win was shortly followed by the biggest loss. I think a lot of people say that. I bought in at a $5-10 no limit hold ‘em table with $500 and played for almost two hours before getting into a big hand. Until then I’d won some small pots, lost a couple smaller pots and basically treaded water.

Everyone folded to me on the button and I looked down at Jack-Queen, both diamonds. I raised to $30 just to put some money in the pot. The little blind folded and the big blind looked at his cards then stared at me. I stared back. He wore a gray suit, gray tie, had gray hair and a gray beard. Even his skin looked gray.

“You just puttin’ some sugar in the pot with position,” Gray said. I didn’t answer.

The flop came down 10 of diamonds, King of diamonds, 2 of clubs. Just your ordinary open-ended straight flush draw with four cards to a royal flush. Gray surprised me by betting out $50. I raised to $150.

“All-in,” Gray said and counted his chips. “I got about six hundred more so I think I got your five covered.”

“That’s about right,” I said, counting my chips. “Started the hand with five hundred. Doesn’t matter, I’m calling, I’ve got a sick draw.”

“Knew you were on a draw,” he said, looking at my cards and flipping over his. “But that is some draw, I only got a set of deuces.”

“You’re ahead, technically,” I offered.

“Technically, yeah,” Gray said rubbing his beard as the turn came a King of spades giving him a full house. “Oooh, now you need the royal.”

“Or the nine,” I said, “nine of diamonds.” The dealer turned the river—nine of diamonds. Several players jumped out of their chairs but Gray calmly counted out five hundred from his stack and pushed it in my direction with a nod. He reached into his pocket and reloaded.

The next few hours were a blur. I played crazy, won all kinds of pots with bluffs and even a few suckouts. In three hours, I built my stack to five thousand. Gray was right there with me. We stayed away from each other for the most part, but we both won huge pots from everyone else. The table was like musical chairs with new players sitting for only a few hands before going broke and heading for the door.

I was on the button again and looked down at pocket Aces. I raised to $30. The little blind folded and Gray looked at his cards then said, “That’s what you bet when you had that royal.”

“It was just a straight flush,” I said, “I never did hit the Ace.”

“Ah, details,” Gray said, “I’m gonna raise you to seventy five.”

I looked back at my rockets and pretended to think about it. I counted out a raise to $250 and pushed it out to the center of the table.

“I’m all-in,” he announced, “all five grand of it.”

Nobody had ever bet that much money into me when I was a sure winner. “I obviously call your ridiculous overbet,” I managed to say, turning over my cards. Gray clenched his face a little, but didn’t seem to care all that much as he turned over his cards—pocket Kings. The rest of the players stood in amazement as the flop came down—King, King, Jack. Just a little flopped four of a kind for the Gray guy. I didn’t hit the miracle runner-runner Aces. Instead Gray and I counted our chips. I had him covered by $500. I slid the rest over to him and sat back down.

“Gonna walk away even?” Gray asked as he stacked my ex-chips.

“Hell no,” I said, “next hand.”