I have a 91-year old Aunt who has all her faculties including, shall we say, she remains quite opinionated. We talk or see one other about once a week but she never calls here past 9:00pm. It was 9:45pm and when I saw her name on call display, I braced myself for catastrophe. And for my Aunt, this was a catastrophe: she heard I was playing poker, no worse, I was gambling.

While she is always proud to introduce me as her niece who is a bridge author and teacher (and sometimes I am also introduced as a psychiatrist) I might as well have been having an affair with a married man now that she found about my new venture. Remember this is ‘Toronto the Good’ whose City government has three times voted down a combination hotel, convention centre with a high-end casino, while our Mayor has been caught smoking crack cocaine. (Indeed U.S. news pretends Canada doesn’t exist but coverage of our Mayor is a top priority.) 

By the way this Aunt and a younger one, make a pilgrimage to Las Vegas where they always forget to say how much money they ‘donate’ to the slots while trying to convince me that seeing Tom Jones sing ‘She’s a Lady’ and ‘It’s Not Unusual’ makes going to Las Vegas worthwhile!  Nonetheless I hear, “but Ellen you could bid [she too enjoys bridge] your home away (given my game this week, she isn’t far from the truth) and your father must be rolling in his grave.” I, too, think of that as my mother loved the slots at casinos, while my dad wasn’t going to give a dime of his hard-earned money and such was true as he was born very poor and grew to own much of ‘Toronto the Good’. If he only knew of our Mayor’s escapades.

Note that slot machines and even lottery tickets are equated with gambling and poker is the ultimate in gambling. For my dad, lottery tickets were only bought if they were fundraisers for a worthy cause. That we have no tax on our lottery tickets—the kind that you buy at the corner store which fund many hospitals and smaller but vital social programs—could still not convince my dad to ‘gamble’. Little did he know that when the pot reached $50M, my mom and 3 siblings bought 4 tickets. I always wondered how we would hide $50M if we won. But we had a plan. We would divide it in name only amongst my parents 8 grandchildren.

Bridge is a different story and almost all my relatives play it. I can think of only two sanctioned money events by the World Bridge Federation but trust me, if you’re playing online with a top-ranked bridge pro and he is slow, trust me he’s got at least 2 cash tables going at Pokerstars. It’s no coincidence that many U.S. bridge pros now live in Canada, Mexico and even Europe, Dare I tell this to my 91-year old Aunt?

So I have fallen from grace but I’m having one hell of a time as a villain.