Chips Ahoy

October 26, 2008

Throughout my life, I’ve gravitated to collecting things. Pretty much whatever you can think. It started out when was just a little kid, and little by little I amassed the greatest original He-Man and the Masters of the Universe collection known to man.

Or at least known to my basement. From there I progressed to buttons – not clothing buttons – the ones with the pins, you know, Vote for Joe Schmo, I heart New York. Those buttons. For a short time, I emptied nickel after nickel into my Osco Drugstore vending machine and put together a nice little super ball collection. Micro machines, muscle men (weren’t those great?), model trains, all had a place in my collecting world.

As I grew older, all my other collecting habits gave way to newer (and more expensive) hobbies. I started collecting basketball cards and sports memorabilia. I started collecting movies (first DVDs, and now blu-ray). I even collected different packs of playing cards from casino’s and other places around the world. (Do you have your Iraq’s most wanted deck of cards? I do).

But my favorite and most unique collection, and also one that can be attained with the least amount of money, is casino chips. I love my chip collection. I even gathered about 63 of my top chips, bought a pre-cut framing felt online, and went to a local hobby shop to get them framed. I think I only have about 80 or so in my entire collection, but whenever I’m on vacation and there’s a casino nearby. I make it a point to stop in, plop down a dollar, and get myself a casino chip.

I built the majority of my collection when I turned 21, and my Dad took me on a trip to Las Vegas. We walked up and down the entire strip (and downtown Vegas’ Fremont Street) going casino to casino (yes, even to all the little dive places) getting $1 chips to add to my collection. I also grabbed quarter buckets from each one, but that didn’t last too long, and I’ve since tossed those in the garbage.

I have to say, it’s a really fun hobby, and I have tons of fantastic memories. I also got to see the inside (sometimes more than I wanted to) of every Las Vegas casino at the time.

It’s funny, too, how friendly the cashiers were to me. I wasn’t some young, cut kid. I was a grown adult…and I was really taking up time from other people buying chips, making change. I was buying something, too, but obviously not exchanging as much money, and therefore taking time away from the casino when they could’ve been handling other people’s issues and requests.

Nevertheless, every place I went to was more than happy to oblige my request. In fact, almost half would sort through a stack of $1 chips to pick out the cleanest one for my collection. (You would be amazed how dirty some of these get. I’m sure the casino industry goes through more Purel hand sanitizer in a year than cocktail umbrellas). Some of these places even have special designated souvenir $1 chips for such an occasion. How accommodating!

So, which are my favorites? I have a few. My first one is a buy-in chip from the World Series of Poker. I can’t remember the year off-hand, but it’s surrounded in bright orange with a white center and black writing in the middle. My second favorite goes back to when I was a kid. That’s not when I got the chip, but that’s when I was a fan of Howie Mandel’s stand-up comedy. And the chip has Howie’s face on it, a souvenir $1 chip from a celebrity tournament he played in back in the 90’s.

And my third favorite chip is a plain old, unimpressive chip from Binion’s Horseshoe Casino. Nothing flashy, just plain and too the point, but nothing signifies the history and grit of the game of poker like that chip – just like the casino it came from.

It’s no shock that casino chips are the one collection that sticks with me to this day. And has been a part of my collecting interest long before I was legally eligible to put these chips in play.

And the way Vegas has changed – and keeps changing – I’m sure the next time I make it back there, I’ll have to plan another trip up and down the strip to freshen my collection. My feet hurt for a week after that first trek. I’ll have to get better shoes next time around.

Just say no?

October 19, 2008

I had to say “no” to a poker game tonight.  The reason isn’t important, just one of those things that didn’t end up happening…the timing wasn’t right, we were doing something else, etc…

But it was the first time in years, almost since I can remember, that a group of us were together who have played cards before and we didn’t end up playing tonight. 

And this isn’t just any group.  We had two different people from out of town (different cities, as well).  We all were hanging out at a friend’s house, and the five of us were there…our old “original” Florida poker group from 3-4 years ago.

Everything was actually set.  We had talked about playing cards leading up to tonight (all week).  We all were looking forward to it.  Nobody was late, nobody was too drunk to play (I was the closest).

So what happened?

I’ll tell you, we all actually were content just hanging out, eating and talking on the back porch.  That, believe it or not, became more fun than sitting around playing cards.

It opened my eyes quite a bit on my drive home.  Things change, priorities change, people change, preferences too.

What was going on in our lives was – shockingly – enough of a conversation holder not to need poker infused into it.  And by the time we realized we hadn’t gotten around to playing poker, it was late enough that half of us had to leave for the night.

No big deal.  Not the end of the world.  Just a funny twist of events.  We didn’t play, and nobody even brought it up.  Nobody said, “Hey we should wrap this up so we can get a good hour of cards in.”

I was waiting for it, but it never came.  From the porch we went to the dinner table, kept on talking, and then after dessert we migrated over to the TV to catch some of the ALCS Game 7. 

So what does this mean?  Not much, I’d imagine.  I still love playing cards, and I’d still get in on a game whenever I had the opportunity.  I suppose it did signify another chapter in my life, though, as cliche as that may come across.  I usually would’ve been the first one to remind people about the game of cards.  I’d have been the one with a deck waiting like hot coals in my back pocket.  I even would’ve thrown my chip set into the trunk of my car as a backup in case the house didn’t have the right tools to get the game going.

Did none of those things tonight.  In fact, I only even brought 9 bucks in cash with me.  Didn’t even think to stop at the bank to grab some more bills – even on the off chance a game would occur.

I guess sometimes you just say “no” – even without realizing that you’re saying it.

Now if only I could find a way to practice the same technique when it comes to alcohol.

You call this gambling?

October 12, 2008

You know, a lot of people look down on poker. 

Is it because of the critical thinking involved? No, they don’t know anything about that. 

Is it because of the skills it teaches and/or hones, like reading a person, patience, etc…  No, and you can read it all over their judgmental faces.

So what is it?  I’m sure you already know the answer.  It’s gambling.  Why?  Because it’s immoral, didn’t you know?  It doesn’t benefit society.  You know, the one where you could make better use of your money giving it to a church, or a community center.

And now we have a monumental mini-collapse of world markets, including the big 3 in the U.S. (Dow, NASDAQ, S&P), and it just begs the question…what is gambling, really?

Is gambling winning or losing $50, $100, $200 once a month or so?  Is gambling exchanging small bills over beer and chips on a Saturday night?  Are you kidding me?

How about dumping half your fortune into a stock that just dropped faster than Mizzou’s chances of getting to a BCS game (humor me, I went to Mizzou).  THAT’s gambling.

How about dropping a good $300K-$400K on a house you don’t even plan to live in?  That’s gambling.

Or, for arguments sake, how about saying “I do” to someone without having them sign a pre-nup.  That’s definitely gambling.  (For the record, I am not in any way, shape or form speaking from personal experience :).

Now, aside from flipping houses, nothing I just mentioned above is frowned upon by the greater fabric of society.  Why not?  Surely the immense fluctuation or finances serves as an eye-opener that there is much more large-scale “gambling” going on in this country.  Why is poker the “bad boy?”

Doesn’t make sense.  Even with it’s recent explosion of popularity in this country in the last 5, 6 years, the rights of a poker player are still far more limited than any other form of legalized “gambling.”

I can buy a house anywhere in the country, I can buy stock from my computer 20 times a day.  Why can’t I legally play poker on my computer now? 

Eh, I guess I’m just venting.  I’m not even really in a bad mood, either.  I’m probably one of the few people left in this country that has very little, if anything, invested in these tumbling markets.  Of course, the instability in general affects everyone, but as far as tangible net value decrease, it hasn’t hit me like it’s hit many others.

I guess the economic turmoil has just pushed the unfair classification that poker receives by many back to the front of my mind.   And I know the fair treatment of poker is probably the furthest thing from important conversation these days, what with a presidential circus…I mean election….and gas prices up and down $1 a gallon every month. 

Even so, I won’t be “folding” the issue anytime soon.   Wow, that was really bad.  :)

Poker Home Games: 3-5-7

October 5, 2008

I’m digging into my old-school bag of games with this one.  In fact, I had completely forgotten about it until I learned another new game this past weekend, of which the name was all numbers, too.  Make me think of this, so here we go.
3-5-7 is a match pot game, meaning at each stage of the game (and there are 3 major ones here) instead of a round of betting, each player declares in a 1-2-3-drop method whether they intend to remain “in” the game.  If a player is in and loses, he matches the amount in the pot (plus an ante), if he wins, he clears the pot.
Now, 3-5-7 isn’t quite a match pot in the traditional sense.  And by this I mean in order to progress from stage 1 to stage 2, and from stage 2 to stage 3, you must remain “in” the game.  You might now have a winning hand on stage 1, but by the time you get around to the major pot of stage 3, that might very well change, and thus be worth giving up a small pot match to have a crack at the big one.
Now for the rules:
1) Each player antes (whatever amount you want)
2) Each player is dealt 3 cards, face down.  During this first stage of the game 3’s and only 3’s are wild. 
3) Players declare in or out by holding or dropping cards at the same time.
4) Winning 3-card poker hand (no runs or suits, just high card, pairs and triples count here) clears the pot.  All losers match plus 1 ante.
5) Players who went “out” are now done for the game. 
6) Players who went “in” are each dealt 2 more cards to continue the game.  These two cards will be added to the three cards they already have. 
7) In stage 2 of the game, 5’s and only 5’s are wild.  (Yes, that lone 3 you had to win the first part of the game is pretty worthless now). 
8: Again there is a “declare” and the winning traditional 5-card poker hand gets the pot.  Losers match the current level of the pot plus an ante.
9) Players who went “in” again are dealt 2 final cards.  These 2 cards are added to the five they already have.
10) In stage 3 of the game, 7’s and only 7’s are wild.
11) Last round of “declare.”  Winning 5-card poker hand takes all. 
12) If someone goes in and loses, he still must match the pot.  All players are “live” again, and the game resets to the first 3-card stage again.  So there can be a severe penalty for going in and losing even on the last stage of the game.
***Very important note*** You only have to show (order depending on who’s sitting to the left of the dealer – rotating one spot through each stage) as much of your hand to guarantee you the win for that round.  Meaning if you show a 3 on the first stage, and nobody else can beat a guaranteed pair, you win without having to disclose the rest of your hand.  What’s the difference, you ask?  Well, it makes a big difference when you’re able to keep future wild cards (5’s and 7’s) secret in your hand.
And, if you’re dealt a pair of 5’s or 7’s (or even one of each or either) on the first round, you’re probably going to want to stick it out and stay in the first one, even if you know you’re going to lose….odds are it’ll be worth it for you come stage 2 or stage 3.
Depending on how many people you have (as is usually the case), this can end up generating some sizable pots, of which you don’t have to feed along the way in order to see it grow.  You can either sit out and watch, or keep pumping the “match pots” into the game…there’s really no gray area on this one.
So, for people who hate wild card games, I’d stay away.  Not only is this one full of wilds, but it’s full of rotating wild cards.  Believe me, even I hate this game sometimes.  Nothing worse than sitting with a pair of sevens on the second stage, and nobody goes in but you.