How Not to Play Poker at 30,000 Feet


I had to take a flight across the United States to Baltimore for a family matter.  Now, I don’t dislike flying, but I’m not a huge fan either.  Don’t even get me started on the security measures and “random” screening, which I’m proud to say I’ve “won” for the last 419 straight flights.

Playing Poker on Airplane

They say, “Oh sir, you’ve been randomly selected for a security search. Please come over here and open up all of your belongings… and we need to give you a pat down as well.”

What I hear: “Hey brown guy, you look remotely related to someone that might fit our profile for someone that might cause trouble.  Come over here and let us totally evade your privacy in front of a huge line, never mind that you had priority level ticket status to get on first… we’ll make sure you’re on 45th.”

I was all excited because I found out that both legs of my flight had power plugs for my laptop!  Hooray!  At the very least, I can write up articles or just mess around and play some video games to pass the time.  Sounds good.  Then, I found out that I could access GoGo Internet on American Airlines, so I can even access the internet.  Rush Poker at 30,000 feet?  Sign me up!

I read that you need a cigarette lighter adapter in order to plug in your laptop, so I first went to Wal-Mart to pick it up.  Big mistake.  The one I bought on impulse was complete junk upon checking it out when I got home.  I gave Best Buy a call and the guy seemed to know what he was talking about, as I explained that I have a 17” laptop that draws mega power.  “No Problem!” he exclaimed, “I just bought this very item for my mom!”

I went to Best Buy and stood in a customer service line for 15 minutes.  During this 15-minute wait, I watched employees gather around the register while a huge line grew longer and longer.  Finally, I was able to get my item, which they wrung up for the wrong price, but thanks to my handy iPhone 4, I was able to show that the price was lower… on their own website! Getting out of there, I was happy to see I got a great adapter that could definitely fulfill my giant laptop’s needs.

EmPower Plug

Back on board the first aircraft, I saw that indeed there is a plug for the laptop.  Unfortunately, it was something I (and most of Western Civilization) had never seen before. I later found out that it was called EmPower, and is only on some flights, no matter which airline you fly with.

On, it says say that in-flight internet costs $4.95.  This is akin to saying that there’s absolutely no variance in Pot Limit Omaha.  As it turns out, it’s a tiered system in which the longer the flight is, the more the cost is for internet.

The flight I am on has two rows, one row of two seats and another row of three seats.  I got the window seat only to find out that the seats are literally 14” to 16” apart.  How am I supposed to operate my laptop as it is, much less if the guy in the Rockstar Energy hat in front of me decides to nap?

It was here that I made a critical mistake in judgment.  Instead of putting my laptop into the overhead bin and then getting it during the flight, I decided to be a gentleman and put everything underneath my seat because I’m sitting next to a very nice business lady and I don’t want to be a hassle.  Terrible idea.

So, I have this huge laptop back in front of me and have bent my legs and feet to a degree usually reserved for inmates at the local prison.  But, it’ll be a fine price to pay to get on the internet and play online poker from the skies.

A few minutes after takeoff, we’re told that we may operate our electronic devices and connect to the internet.  Awesome.  So, I get out my cigarette adapter, plug it in, and get the green light.  Bingo.  I plug in my laptop and fire it up.  Uh-oh… it says I’m running off the battery.  I double-check my connections and see that the cigarette adapter is in fine and so is my laptop cable.  But, the brick for my laptop isn’t lit up, meaning only one thing – the airplane’s power port doesn’t supply enough power to juice my laptop, even with the screen minimally lit and other applications turned off.

It’s at these critical moments where a lot of people give up.  But it’s here where my personal litmus test comes into play: “What would Indiana Jones do?”  Ah ha!  It came to me: if I took out the battery and disabled all of the lights (keyboard and otherwise), it just might work.  I went to work and removed the battery, made sure whatever I could turn off was turned off and then… epic fail.  The idea was half-baked to begin with, but as last-ditch efforts go, it wasn’t all that bad.

I fired up the laptop anyways and connected to the GoGo system because they said there were some free components to it.  I then find out the charge for this flight from Dallas to Baltimore is actually a whopping $12.95.  I know Southwest Airlines has internet for $5, which seems very reasonable, but $12.95 seems super excessive, and to be honest, without power, my laptop maybe lasts 45 to 60 minutes.  Paying that much money just for the principle of getting online seemed to cross a line in the world of mental stability.

Thus ends my futile attempt to play poker at 30,000 feet.  Better luck to you!


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