Raising the Stakes

In poker, there is a term called "raising pre-flop." It means that you are raising the stakes after only seeing your two hole cards. Five more cards have yet to be shown, but you add more money right away. There's several reasons for doing this:
  • You have a strong starting hand (A-A, A-K, K-K, Q-Q, etc.)
  • To get people with weak hands to fold
  • A "feeler" bet to see how others react
  • To make others think you have a strong hand

Conservative players become intimidated by a pre-flop raise if they have nothing. Loose players will call whatever raise you make; they know that anything can happen after the flop. The trick of the pre-flop raise is to scare the weak hands out of the pot, but not to scare everyone away. It's an intricate skill learned by reading other people, knowing your odds, and being confident when you make your play.

Last night, my other boss threw a party for all the poker dealers. There was food, prizes, and games at the event. It was held at the poker room, so we sat amongst the sea of Texas Hold'em tables and chairs.

After being knocked out of a sit and go, I sat at a table with the owner and a few other dealers. Someone asked me about the car business, and how sales were going. I told them that business had been slow, and that there are times when my conscience struggles with the job. I told them I wanted out as soon as possible. When asked why, I said nonchalantly: "Well, I'm still considering the priesthood, and it's hard for me to continue working in that kind of environment."

I didn't even realize I'd said it until I saw everyone's eyes grow huge. I envisioned scaring everyone away from the table. As an afterthought, I said: "I don't know if Joe (the previous owner) told you guys that, but it's something I've thought about for almost 8 months."

Without thinking, I had dropped a huge wager on the table. I just told one of my bosses, a handful of co-workers, and several passers-by about my vocation...without knowing how any of them would react.

To my surprise, there were more "callers" than I expected. My boss and others eagerly asked about the experience: what was I going through, have I made a decision where I wanted to go, how was the celibacy going? There were some that left the table, either uninterested or uncomfortable with the topic at hand, but for the most part everyone was positive and supporting of what I told them.

In the end, it wasn't me that had the biggest play on the table. In speaking about my vocation, I told them how I wasn't trying to be holier than anyone, just trying to help those in need as is my calling. As if he were reading my mind, my boss replies: "You know, I wish more priests had more....experience. I would much prefer someone who's lived life than a priest that's been in the seminary since high school."

I felt great after hearing his words. Perhaps there is a place for me in The Church. Perhaps I can offer something unique, or have a perspective that will give insight to others. Perhaps I just might be good at being a priest. Perhaps by raising the stakes, I've actually taken another huge step on this weird journey of mine. The irony of this event happening at a poker table was beyond measure.

It all felt so perfect until today when someone stole my cell phone. Now I just want to stab someone in the neck with a spoon.


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2 Response to Raising the Stakes

July 31, 2007 at 5:45 AM

Hi Vito,
Just followed a link from Dirty Catholic. Can I just say how refreshing it is to read of your experience. There are quite a lot of Seminarian/people who feel they have a vocation to the priesthood who are blogging out there but I find that most of them are a bit out of touch with real life. It's nice to come across someone who is living an authentic life, with authentic struggles and is basically the same as us, rather than some 'plaster saint in waiting'. Should you decide to take a chance on the priesthood, it isn't going to be particularly easy, you know that, but I'm sure that if that is what God is calling you to you'll make a great priest. People will appreciate that you know where they are coming from. When these guys go to seminary at 18 they haven't got a clue about pastoring the people. Above all, keep it real. God bless and I pray you successfully discern God's will for your life.

August 1, 2007 at 1:14 AM

Thank you very much for the compliment. I never in a million years thought "keepin' it real" would apply to a religious vocation, but I like the analogy. =)

I know there's more hardship to go, but the greatest roadblock has been those feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness. I know some of those blogs you speak of, and while you may consider them out of touch, I spent a lot of time wishing I were those seminarians/postulants.

It's gotten a lot better. I think there's more to worry about than "being good enough." There's people who need help, poor who need shelter, troubled souls that just need someone to hear them. If my life makes me better at any of those jobs, then perhaps there is a place for me.

Thanks again for your prayers.