I recently read "Bringing Down The House" (which is rather amazing, not because of the way it is written, but because of the utter amazingness of the real events that transpire), and it dawned on me that this particular tale - one of cards, gambling and basic strategy - could not be more foreign to me (and there is a possibility that this is why I found the book to be so good).
Growing up, the only types of cards guaranteed to be found in our household were (maxed-out) credit cards. And perhaps the seasonal greeting card or occasional - occasional - Uno deck. But even that was a stretch. So where am I going with this? Ah yes: I never learned how to play a single card game. Not one. (Some might argue Uno to be a real card game, but when you are approaching 25 and the only quasi card game you are able to play somewhat proficiently with small and large groups of people involves brightly colored cards with enormous letters and numbers and a recommended age of "5 and up" printed on a Mattel box... you have officially proven your loserdom to both yourself and society.)
From the wholly inane (Go Fish) to the common-man's game (Euchre) to lucrative, strategic puzzles (Blackjack), I hadn't a clue. Ignorance is bliss, and I was pretty damn blissful all throughout my youth. While this provided me with ample time to engage myself in other activities (like painting plaster statues of dragons, for example), the number of social interactions and camaraderie I missed out on is a number with even more digits than pi itself.
Yes, for a long while I rode the social bench, so to speak, watching from the sidelines as friends and significant others engaged in the games. It was a lonely time. In the early stages I struggled with math problems in grade nine that involved probability and what-if scenarios where we had to calculate the odds of drawing a certain card from a shortening deck. It was nuclear physics to me. I recall labeling one of these scenarios as "impossible" on a test, in frustrated capital letters and pencil-lead smudges, and I had to stay after class because the teacher thought I was mocking him. Afraid not, sir. On the other end of the spectrum, I even contended in college with drinking games that involved the very presence of a deck of cards, which is torment no one should have to endure.
So as my friends continue to settle down and get married and have kids and further disappear from my life, it is with great conviction that I recommend the following to you bastards: keep decks of cards in your homes. Lots of them. Keep them everywhere. Hide them, even. Help your kids. Help them understand. Full-blown 10-deck Las Vegas style blackjack shoes, books and literature on card counting, clay poker chips, automatic shuffling machines. Cover your kitchen table in green felt, I don't care. Just please: do whatever it takes to set your child up for success with the values, mores, personality and general knowledge of card games that he or she deserves. They will love you for it down the road.
As for me, I guess the skill just wasn't in my cards.