the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Happy Birthday, Sophia!

One of the guilty pleasures of TV watching when I was with Sophia, besides All My Children, The Bachelor, and Professional Figure Skating, was “Poker After Dark,” a nightly show of high stakes No Limit Texas Hold ’em mini-tournaments, featuring a rotating cast of six top poker professionals.  While neither Sophia or I could name a single player on the Los Angeles Dodgers, we could easy chat about the playing styles of Gus Hansen or Phil “The Brat” Hellmuth at the breakfast table.  We didn’t actually play much poker, other than “Heads-Up” against each other, and I would usually win.   Sophia, always on the lookout for a new money-making scheme, had this idea that I would make a great professional poker player.

“You’re patient and you can keep a straight face.”

While this doesn’t make a good poker player, these qualities put me at an advantage over Sophia in our “Heads-Up” games.   She found it difficult to sit for long stretches of time, and her facial expressions and gestures were way too emotional.  When she would get a good hand, she could hardly contain herself.  When she was bluffing, I just KNEW IT.


Our splitting up, with she in LA and me currently in NY, has been good for us, but it has been lonely, too.  After so many years of having someone sleeping next you, being alone feels like driving a truck with only three wheels.

I have used the internet to connect with others, for better or for worse.  I tried to convince Sophia that she can get the same thrill from “social media.”

I remember the first day that Sophia joined Twitter.  I made a big joke about it, saying that my online life was “now ruined.”  Many online friends quickly “followed” her, thinking it would be fun to see us both chatting online together.    Sophia was on Twitter for about… two days.

“How come I never see you on Twitter?” I asked.

“What do you DO there?”

“You talk to people.”

“About what?”

“About anything.”

“Seems like a waste of time.”

“Because it takes a while.  You build up friendships.”

“Eh.  Boring.  I’d rather go out.”

Sophia and social media — bad match.  But she did find a new hobby — Texas Hold ‘Em.    Or rather she started playing what she used to only watch on TV.

She discovered some weekly game on, and started attending the beginners’ games in Los Angeles.  Gradually, she started winning the weekly games, and joined another group as well.  In the last couple of weeks she won $700.   Her secret weapon — she has balls.  She is not afraid to “go all in” with a pair of deuces.   One semi-professional player got angry at her for pushing him out of the tournament with such a “sh*tty hand.”

So far, Sophia’s playing is more for fun than “gambling.”   And she has met some new friends.

Today is Sophia’s birthday.  She is travelling to Las Vegas with two women she plays poker with, to have fun and play in some poker tournaments.  It is her birthday gift to herself. Good luck!

The last year has not been a good one for Sophia.  She lost both of her parents in 2010.  In poker terms, she was handed a very bad hand last year, and no amount of bluffing could change that.

As you enter this new year, I wish you only aces!

UPDATE SATURDAY:  Sophia took down a tournament at Caesars and won $1000!


  1. All Adither

    I like that you use your blog as a big elaborate birthday card. HBD, Sophia!

  2. Deer Baby

    Ah this is gorgeous. Happy Birthday Sophia! I wondered where you’d gone on Twitter.
    “Keep your aces up your sleeve, when the temperature’s rising….”

    My husband and I used to play bridge and Cheat. He always knew when I was bluffing too.

  3. Chris

    Happy Birthday to Sophia! What a pretty picture. 🙂

  4. Megan

    Happy Birthday, Sophia. Good luck at the tables – knock ’em dead!

  5. GrandeMocha

    That was very sweet. Did Sophia read it? What did she say?

  6. Ash

    Happy Birthday Sophia.

  7. Karl

    We’ve roomed together and I didn’t know you loved poker? I love watching it, too, though it’d be a boring experience if we didn’t get to see the hole cards.

    Happy birthday, Sophia!

  8. Lynn

    I absolutely love that you two are so amicable. This entry was sweet. 🙂

    Happy birthday, Sophia!

  9. Tuck

    What goes on in Vegas, Stays in Vegas….but do tell (or tweet)! Photos, too!

    Happy Birthday, Sophia.

  10. Stacey

    Sweet post, Neil.

    Happy birthday, Sophia! Looking beautiful as ever!

  11. Julia

    Happy Birthday Sofia!

  12. Juli

    Happy birthday, Sophia!

  13. Slow Panic

    Such a sweet post. Happy Birthday Sophia. Best of luck with the poker this weekend.

  14. Anna

    happy birthday! i know there are a lot of poker bloggers out there, maybe that is her next hobby?

  15. vodkamom

    I am envious of your friendship. However, you are incredible. So I am not surprised.


  16. Jane Gassner

    Happy birthday, Sophia! I’m a Lo-Ball player myself and I know the joys of fake out the “experts” at the table.

  17. Claire

    Happy Birthday, Sophia! Sounds like you’re having a grand time in Vegas. Congratulations on your $1000 win!

    Neil, just came across a post from 5 years ago that you commented on. Crazy that much time has passed.

  18. Rhea

    A very happy day to you!

  19. magpie

    Aw, happy birthday. And how cool that she won.

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