At Esquire, Ian Frisch writes of the love he and his mom share for poker, and of how his mother turned to the game not only as a way to deal with the hand life dealt her, but also to attempt to support him and his sister after the sudden death of their father.

My mother had first started playing poker for the fun and for the intellectual challenge. Returning to competition twenty years later, she rediscovered old pleasures. She was playing not only to make money but also as an emotional escape. At the table, she wasn’t a single mother without a steady job mourning her husband’s death. It was the only place she felt comfortable playing the villain, cutthroat and cruel, lying to strangers’ faces and getting paid for it. “I love having a nemesis at the table,” she once told me. “It gives me purpose.” To this day, at every table, she picks a player and slowly, steadily, hand by hand, tries to destroy them.

Playing poker with my mother has made me realize that life isn’t anything more than a series of well-timed bets, and that sometimes things don’t work out and there’s nothing you can do about it. A run of bad cards—during a poker game or in life—cannot be escaped, only endured.