Poker Home Games: Anaconda

March 30, 2008

Poker Home Games – Anaconda.

Yes, you read that right, the card game is named after a giant snake and/or said movie with Jon Voight, Ice Cube and Jennifer Lopez, which was almost as painful.

The game, however, is much more fun, and often can lead to some fairly large pots if you’re playing in a group that actually has some balls.

I’ve played this at every regular home game I’ve ever been associated with, it always seems to be a big hit. Over the years, in an effort to spice up the game (as we tend to do with most home games), it evolved from 7-card to 10-card, but for the purposes of explanation, we’ll just stick with the straight 7-card Anaconda variety.

Also, just for the record, I have absolutely no idea why it’s called Anaconda.

1.) Each player is dealt 7 cards, face down. When all cards are dealt you are free to look at your hand, all 7 cards at once.

2.) Each player determines which 5 cards he wants to keep to make his best poker hand.

3.) Each player then discards 2 to a common trash pile in the middle, and arranges the remaining five cards in the order that he wants them to come up individually when the game begins.

***Note, this step is absolutely crucial in so many ways, as will become apparent as the explanation continues****

4.) Now that everyone has their stack of 5 cards, face down, in front of them, everyone flips their first card up and there is an initial round of betting – starting with the high card (high hand).

5.) The single-card flip up and round of betting is repeated until everyone has 4 cards face up and 1 left face down. At this point, again starting with the high hand, each person must declare if they are “in” or “out.” If you go “in” and win, the pot, of course, is yours. If you go “in” and lose, you must match the pot (along with anyone else who went “in” and lost) and the game continues with another hand and another round of betting to add to the already built up pot. If you go “out”, you are not penalized if the game continues…meaning you still will be part of the next hand.

*** As you now can see, the order in which you arrange your cards before they’re revealed can play in your favor or to your detriment. Example: If you’re sitting with two pair, Aces and whatever, you’re likely going to have to be the first one to declare if you’re in or out…which means you get to bluff first if you’re bluffing, or you get to sit there after declaring “in” and watch three other people go in, as well. Let me tell you, nothing tests your poker face as much as knowing immediately you’re going to be forced to match a $30 pot.****

***Note*** Once you go “in” you’re in, that’s it. There’s no turning back — with one exception. As this declare round is also a round of betting, if someone raises you or re-raises you, that frees you from your commitment to go in, and you’re free to fold if you want. Of course, it could just be another bluff, albeit a very, very nervy one with such a high penalty for going in and losing. It also should be mentioned that if you raise someone during this round, that puts you “in.”

VARIATION — This also can be played as a high low game. In this instance:

A) When you get to the declare round, each person holds a coin in his hand. Heads for high, tails for low. It’s hidden until everyone reveals at the same time (having it hidden takes away the possibility of someone changing if they’re going high or low based on what others are going for).

B) The high hands battle first…picks up same rules as above, best hand showing declares “in” or “out” first.

C) Low hands battle in the same way.

***Note, you CAN go both if you want, you just have to say “both” during the coin reveal. And that’s assuming your low straight or flush can count as high and low under the house rules. ****

D) High winner claims half, Low winner claims half….but all losers match the FULL pot, and the game goes again.

If you are interested in playing Anaconda online, then contact FullTiltPoker and let them know to add that game.

Don’t Lowball Me, Please

March 23, 2008

Lowball poker.
Rarely played as a standalone game on it’s own, the “bastard child” of poker games is usually thrown in as a way to claim half the pot if your high hand leaves much to be desired. Someone will call “seven-card stud high-low”….which usually means if you’re only playing with 4 people, odds are if you stay in the game you’ll probably just end up taking back more or less what you paid into the pot to begin with.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy playing lowball…to an extent. It’s a nice diversion from regular-score poker, and everyone always seems to think it’s much easier to pull a crappy hand than a good hand. Granted, they’re probably right, and the odds are certainly in your favor that you’ll end up with a stinker over a full house or a royal flush. However, there’s a part of me that just sees lowball poker as a cop-out.
And if I’m going to play a split game at all, I’d rather it be a game like spots, where there’s a little more entertainment to taking the pot with the non-high hand….and it leaves open the option of forcing you to win both in order to win any money at all – high hand and spots. With lowball, it’s much more difficult to win the high and the low…which actually brings me to my main point of debate with this game.
I run into this ALL the time, and while I firmly stand to one side of the rule, there always seems to be someone who’ll argue – passionately mind you – for the other side.
So what’s the debate?
Is Ace, 2, 3, 4, 5 the lowest hand you can get? I say yes, without question. But there’s always…ALWAYS….someone who will argue, usually to the point of my immense irritation, that it can’t be a low hand because it forms a straight. A similar example is if you have 2, 4, 5, 6, 8 or something like that, but they’re all of the same suit….is that a low hand? Or is it disqualified because it’s a flush?
Well, the first thing I’ll try to do is quote the line from Rounders where Matt Damon cleans up because he has “what is known as the wheel…it has enough kick to win me the high and the low.”
So, if the person I’m arguing with has seen Rounders, and by a miracle remembers the line, typically that’ll end the debate right there. But if he or she hasn’t, the debate goes on and on. I’ve wised up a little bit these days, and if we’re not playing at my house and a split pot or lowball game comes up, I make sure to ask what the house rule is so we don’t end up in a fight while there’s a $25 pot sitting unclaimed in the middle of the table.
Anyway, another thing that bothers me about lowball is that I just don’t understand the point…even with structured games like high-low Omaha. Why add low into the equation? What exactly is to be gained except giving someone a side door to collect some money (stealing it in the process from the rightful winner I might add) if he or she manages to scrounge up the worst hand?
I’m sure a justified arguement can be made as to why lowball has a vital home in the world of Saturday night poker games, and like I said, I don’t mind playing it, but when it means the high hand has to share the winnings, especially when most of these split-pot games don’t generate a massive pot to begin with, it takes away from the point of playing – which is to win money, right?
I will throw in one exception – which is why playing a game like “Anaconda”, which I can’t recall if I’ve talked about on this Web site yet, but I can add that in next week if I haven’t…anyway the game ends when everyone has 4 cards face up and 1 left hidden, and in turn from highest to lowest hand, each person must determine whether they are “in” or “out”….with the winner taking the pot, and all the losers who “went in” having to match the pot, and the game continues for another hand.
In this scenario, if you have 2 people fighting High hand and two people fighting for Low hand (and it becomes obvious after the third card if someone is going for high or low) then the two warring sides build up the pot, and even though it’s a split-pot game, there’s a good chance someone’s going to match the full pot and give everyone another chance to win a decent amount of money.
Then there’s the lowball where I’ll try to sell someone a sports figure or videogame online and they lowball me with an offer of $10…but that is DEFINITELY a different article, most likely for a different Web site altogether.
Practice your lowball skills at www.FullTiltPoker.net today.
Either way, happy lowballing!

Poker movies rock!

March 16, 2008

If there’s anything I enjoy more than playing poker, it’s watching poker movies. Yes, they can fall into all sorts of tired clichés, predictable conclusions and such, but when they go out on a limb to tackle the coolest topic in cinema (arguably), all of the secondary problems and shortcomings are forgiven. The list of movies, TV shows, plays or other forms of entertainment that have revolved around or included bits and pieces of poker are probably endless, and span back much further than my “day.” If anything, all that does is serve as a perfect example as to how timeless the game really is.

This isn’t the point of my article, but as I’m writing it, I’d love to find or see a compiled list of movies and television shows that were about poker and see how far back it goes, and how numerous it would be.

And that transitions wonderfully into what is the point of the article…and that’s simply applauding some great quotes from poker movies or shows that are at the top of my favorites list. As long as the list of great poker movies is, the list of quotes could gun it down with a six shooter…sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself with the Western poker gunfighter theme already.

Anyway…..

*** WARNING **** You will encounter movie spoilers in the rest of this article. ********

Maverick: For a movie with such a big-name cast (Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, James Garner), it certainly doesn’t seem to be talked about anymore, or quoted for that matter, in poker movie circles or general movie circles…which is such a shame, because as much as I can’t stand Mel Gibson lately…I do still appreciate and enjoy most of his movies and performances. Maverick is definitely no exception. While it’s a little too silly for me, there are a few great quotes to uncover.

When Jodie Foster finally loses at the final poker table, she says. “I’ll just pretend like I was playing with someone else’s money.” It’s a cute line because she pretty much was playing with money Gibson’s character got for her. It earns a quick response from Gibson, “Shouldn’t be too hard.”

The best quote, which does serve as somewhat of an inside joke in my poker circles, is right before the final reveal when Gibson shows he “magically” pulled the Ace of spades on a draw to make his winning royal flush…the bad guy – named Angel, believe it or not – is furious that Gibson won’t check the card he was dealt. It’s his accent and attitude that sell the lines, it’s hard to convey that here in type, but if you’ve seen it you know what I’m talking about.

“You’re not gonna look at your card?” “What kinda poker you playin’? LOOK AT YOUR GOD DAMN CARD!”

Good stuff.

Rounders: A movie many more people are likely familiar with, about Matt Damon and a slimy Edward Norton (and let’s not forget Famke!!!!) playing cards in the underground of New York, with Damon’s character Mike having aspirations of making it to the big time. Great supporting cast, as well.

Funny enough, Malcovich’s Russian character Teddy KGB has the best quotes in this flick.

Right at the end when Damon beats him, after he gets pissed off he goes – “He beeeet meeee, straiiiiight up. Pay heeem, pay dat man, heees money.”

A few others from Teddy:

“Big man with new attitude, and you – won’t – be – pushed – a -round. I cawl.”

“You’re right Mike, I don’t heeave da spades.”

Norton’s character snake has a few choice quotes, as well.

“You know what cheers me up? Rolled up aces over kings. Check raising stupid tourists over and over again….”
“You know what grandma, I need your charity like I need a c— in my a—.”

Many of today’s poker pros credit the movie Rounders with starting them out on the poker road. Guys like Chris Moneymaker from PokerStars.de and Jerry Yang from Full Tilt Poker.net say they started playing poker because of Rounders.

Shade: Definitely an under the radar movie worth checking out. For some reason it never made it to the theater, but it has a high-profile cast including Stallone, Griffith, Jamie Foxx and Gabriel Byrne. It’s basically about a bunch of con artists and cheaters and it revolves mostly around poker. I can’t remember any specific quotes, but it doesn’t matter because Byrne’s accent is so damn cool in everything he makes everything he says quotable.

Case in point. “I caun’t feel my legs…….Kaisa'”

Yeah, bad ass.

A few others worth throwing in.

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure: One of the best scenes in the movie (aside from when they introduce the historical characters to Missy – “Bob Ghengis Khan”) is when they go back to the old West.

Billy The Kid: “What I win, I keep…..what you win, I keep.”

Bill and Ted together: “Sounds good Mr. the Kid!”

Casino Royale: I’m sure most of you are familiar with this movie since it came of fairly recently. During the scene right after Bond gets tricked into losing his money…as soon as he realizes it, the bad guy (Le Chiffre) says “You probably thought I was bluffing, Mr. Bond.” Then Bond’s face lights up with realization that Le Chiffre knew Bond was on to his so-called tell the entire time. Great scene.

Well that’s all I got…I’m sure there are a million more poker quotes to throw in, and maybe down the line after I’ve seen some more poker movies (or they make a new one!), I’ll post some more.

Poker Home Games: Freeze

March 9, 2008

Poker Home Games: Freeze

Although this will make 2 for 2 recently for “poker” home games that don’t really revolve around poker per se….I’m excited to bring you a home game special of my old high school group.

The title, Freeze.

I probably could sum this up real nice as a complete rip-off of the 80’s game show Card Sharks, but we tweaked it a bit to make it easier to play as a money game in a Saturday-night game format.

So, it’s a bit different…plus I don’t look nearly as good as the dude who hosted the show.

All right, here’s how it works.

1.) A pre-determined amount from each player is put into a central pot. This isn’t a long game, and also can be played quickly multiple times in a row, so it’s really up to the table how much you want to ante. When we were in high school, we threw in like 75 cents or a dollar each time. If I were playing now, I’d probably ante $3 to $4 each person.

2.) Dealer shuffles and deals out 10-card rows (you can do 7-card rows, too, if you don’t have enough cards…you also can put together multiple decks – which is what we used to do because it’s more fun and somewhat more challenges if you have more cards for each person to go through), 1 row of cards per person in the game.

3.) Each person gets their own row of cards to play with.

4.) The first card in each row is turned face up.

5.) The person associated with the top row takes the first turn. He basically just calls “high” or “low” for where he thinks the next card in the row will fall in relation to the previous card.

6.) If he calls it right, he can either continue with another turn or say “FREEZE.” If he chooses to freeze, the game moves on to the next person.

*** Note *** If you make a wrong call, you’re done. Your row is scrapped and you’re out of the game for that hand.

7.) This continues until there is either 1 person’s row remaining or until someone makes it to the end of their row.

*** There actually is a little more strategy here than you’d think, and here’s why…There’s a constant decision as to whether you want to play it safe and freeze your turn, or be the first one to make it to the end and automatically pick up the win.

A few rules to pay attention to:
- Each player is allowed two “replace” cards off the top of the deck, which are placed directly over the current face-up card in their hand. If you’re sitting with a 7 or 8, it’s probably a good idea to replace if you still have the option.

- If an ace comes up before you call high or low…you can determine if the ace is high or low. But if you make a call on another card and the ace is turned up, the Ace is always high in that role. That high ace remains high through the next card turn, as well.

- If there are only two people left and 1 person calls wrong, then he is still in the game IF his row is above the other person’s row (meaning he played first). If the second person also calls wrong, both are still in the game and new replacement cards are put down.

Winner takes the pot!

Next week I’ll find a way to turn Press Your Luck into an online poker game at Full Tilt Poker ….NO WAMMY….NO WAMMY….STOP! (just kidding).

Dear “John”, let’s play some poker

March 2, 2008

I don’t usually dive off into a questionable topic like I’m about to, and it’s definitely going to appear to be unnecessary to some. But I have no doubt that quite a few people, possibly even the majority, are immediately going to identify with my observation here and shake their heads in understanding as they read on.The topic? How awesome it is to play poker on your cell phone while your taking care of business in the toilet.

Yeah, seriously, that’s what I’m going to talk about.

I’ll add that the only reason this even crossed my mind in the first place was because I recently bought a new cell phone, and for a few horrific days, didn’t have a Texas Hold ‘Em or video poker game within fingertip access while I was sitting on my throne. That, coupled with a slow week of no poker games, sends my mind wondering, and the result is usually something like this.

Hopefully this article doesn’t strike you as a pile of crap. (Ba dum bum).

All right, so after a couple days I found the time to cruise through the games on my phone and download a generic poker game. It’s Texas Hold ‘Em, but I couldn’t tell you the actual name of it off the top of my head.

Man did I miss it. I mean, without the game, my whole stall routine was thrown off. One time I even forgot to grab the Best Buy and Circuit City ads before entering, it was a total disaster. I had to stare at the wall for a good 45 seconds.

Anyway, I have to say, I almost prefer the bathroom setting while I’m playing poker. It’s cozy, nobody can read you, you’re already concentrating so hard on one thing, you can’t help but to bring that focus and determination to the poker game itself.

You might rack up the anytime minutes, but it’s for a good cause, so you make due.

Or…you make due due. (Ba dum bum…again).

I’ve actually thought about this so much that I’ve ranked my favorite poker games as relating to order of usefulness when you’re in the bathroom.

1.) Video poker: Score 5/5 flushes — Why is this the king? Well, we’re talking easy, quick action (good for those fast urinal trips), you don’t have to play against anyone else (again good for quick in and out play), and you more often than not can use one hand to make all the necessary decisions (leaving your other hand free to make all of the real world bathroom decisions).

2.) Shoot ‘Em up poker: Score 4/5 flushes — I don’t know if many of you have found this game on your cell phones, but I came across a free demo of it and couldn’t get enough of it. Basically it’s just 5 card stud poker against the computer, but after you discard your cards, your draw cards are determined by which cards you shoot at a gallery where the cards are moving back and forth like the ducks at a carnival shooting gallery. They’re going at different speeds, there’s wild cards…it’s great. Quick, fun action ranks this one high, the only thing keeping this from being at the top is it does require back and forth betting, so you’re probably looking at about 1-2 minutes per hand…maybe enough for a urinal visit, but you might want to committ to a stall just to be safe.

3.) Hold ‘Em (against the computer or online  at www.FullTiltPoker.com vs. others who also are probably on the toilet) 3/5 flushes: For this one, you need to know you’re holding in a jumbo turd, and you’ll need to be prepared to dedicate a good 10 minutes to the game. Restricting this one from being a great toilet game is just that, the time and commitment needed. Plus, “community” isn’t really a word you want to be throwing around while you’re in the bathroom.

So there you have it, the scientific expert rankings for toilet poker hierarchy of awesomeness. Now….if you’ll excuse me….I should probably wipe. :)