New Year’s Resolutions – Poker Style!

December 28, 2008



OK, forget about ’tis-ing the season. This is the time to make your New Year’s resolutions heading into 2009. So let’s do that…but to save everyone the lying and stress of coming up with resolutions you know damn well you’re not going to stick to, we’ll keep the focus on this squarely on poker.

I typically don’t do resolutions. If I need to lose weight, I’ll plan to drop 5-10 pounds whenever I can’t fit into my pants without sucking in the excess. If I need to be nicer to people, well, odds are they’ll have to learn to live with it. But poker’s a different story…everyone has room to improve their game, and it usually can be pinpointed to a few routine things that are easily corrected.

Let’s see what I can identify in my own game …you might find a few similarities.

Things I need to do in the year ahead:

1.) Patience

– If I could master this, it’d solve a good 75% of all my poker-related problems. Especially in those no-limit games. I have a horrible tendancy to jump on the “all-in” bus on the first decent hand I get. It’s worse online, since it’s just a click of the button instead of phyically pushing in your entire stack of chips.

I tend to be impatient in all aspects of life, not just poker, so mastering (or at least improving) my ability to be patient would be helpful on so many levels. I always have to run out and buy the new movie or videogame, all the while knowing it will be dropping in price within a month. Sometimes I don’t even play the damn things until they’ve dropped 50-60% in price.

Maybe I could use all that money I’d be saving on videogames at the poker table.

2.) Studying up

– I’ll admit, knowing exactly what the experts tell you to do in certain situations is not my strong suit. It takes time to learn these things, and for whatever reason I never get around to spending the time to remember even the most important betting situations. When I do, though, I’m sure I’ll be quickly reminded how intricate a game poker can be, and how much time you have to dedicate to put yourself into an advantageous position at the table.

Sometimes I think really, truly learning poker is more involved than running an NFL defense.

3.) Knowing when to walk away

Usually it’s the house wife at the Indian casino pumping the kids’ college fund into the slot machines one quarter at a time who falls victim to something like this. You know, the one who gambles once a year or so…goes to Vegas for the shopping. Yeah, you know you know. But even those of us who are regular gamblers without diagnosed addictive tendancies can fall victim to the trap of “just one more hand. I know I can break even if I just play another 15 minutes. Oh! I just broke even…well I’m on such a hot streak, I’ll double my money if I keep it going!” Or my favorite…. “Well, I’m already down $50 million, what’s the difference I keep playing and lose another $5M.”

Those millions might be singles for you and me, but you get the idea. I must say, I’ve done better with this. I have a dollar limit set, and if I breach it, I am done. No amount of drunken badgering from those around me can coerse me back into the game, either. But I do have to fight those voices in my head every time. And there’s always good reason to include “conquering the voices in your head” as a New Year’s resolution.

Just don’t write that last one down on paper where someone else can see it.

Happy New Year!

Poker Home Games: Overwrite

December 21, 2008

I’ll admit, sometimes I learn a new version of poker, and I’ll think, “Did they just come up with this last night after a couple hours of drinking?”

Creativity is one thing, as is creating a game out of necessity (I’ve done it…not enough people so you invent something that two can play so each hand still matters), but every once in a while a game seemingly so random gets plopped in front of you that you have to wonder under what influence were the creators when it was being thought up.

So, I have what you might find to be such a game for this article.  Personally, I liked it when I learned it, and it has a simple but unique twist I haven’t seen in any other “crazy” home games lately.  So it kept my interest, at least enough to remember how to play it a few weeks later that is.

Here it is, you can of course judge for yourself. 

While I can remember how to play it, I can’t for the life of me remember what they called it, so I came up with my own name: Overwrite.

1) Each player is dealt 4 cards, hidden.  You can look at your own set of hidden cards.

2) Three cards are dealt face down in the center.  These will serve as community cards.  Some home games prefer to “bury” a card between each one, similar to a casino…it never really mattered to me.  You can do it this way or simply keep dealing straight from the deck.  House preference.

3) Before any community card is turned, there is a round of betting.

*** The “hook” – OK, now that cards are dealt, it should be noted that the main twist in this game is as follows.  Your highest odd numbered card in your hand – excluding Aces and face cards – is wild.

However, big however here….however – If during the flipping of the three community cards, that same card that happens to be your highest odd-numbered card comes up, it cancels out its, uh, wildness, and makes it just worth face value.

Your next highest odd-numbered card hidden is NOT your new wild card.  You simply lose your wild.

Example:  Your down cards are J, J, 5, 4.  Currently you’d be betting on a hand of three jacks.  If a 5 comes up as a community card, you’re now betting on a hand of only two-pair…J, J, 5, 5.  Easy enough.

4) Round of betting takes place after each community card is turned up.

5) No river card, no high low.  Best hand wins.

So, like I said, a little unique twist that keeps the game interesting and provides for a small, but good amount of strategy.  It also doesn’t completely kill your hand if you lose the wild card, which is always nice.  If you’re sitting on a powerhouse hand early, you can still bet big and mostly know you’ll have a hand to compete with by the end. 

You might have had four Jacks turned into “only” a full house, but it’ll still be enough to clean up in the end.

How much is that hand really worth to you?

December 14, 2008

I was sitting on my couch this afternoon, waiting while my ribs were smoking on the back porch (they were delicious), looking at my 1-year-old son, and the strangest thought popped into my head.

I’m going to share it with you, mainly because I needed something to write about this week, but it sparks a logical question that every serious or semi-serious gambler has or needs to ask himself or herself at some point.

I thought, “Well, there’s definitely no way I’d ever wager him in a poker game.”

Sound reasoning, right?  Yeah, I thought so.  No clue why that random thought pushed its way to the forefront of my brain, but it did nonetheless.

So, I’d quickly established what I wouldn’t put up for grabs at the table…thus prompting the inevitable question – what would I put in play?

What would you put in play?  How much?

We’re talking a house game, of course.  Unless the new rules in Vegas allow for pink slips among green and black gambling chips.

I also want to lay out one more ground rule for considering this question.  It doesn’t pertain to a “can’t lose” hand.  No “sure win” five of a kind hands.  There’s no risk there, so it’s no fun to weigh what you could win against what you’d actually risk losing.
            All right…me first.  I’ll set the scene.

Let’s say we have a nice game of seven-card stud going (a preference to Hold ‘Em for me…at least this week).  My opponent has 3 different hearts showing…with an Ace and some lower ones (that happen to be 3, 4).  He’s been betting strong since the start, so for the sake of argument we’ll assume he has at least 4 hearts before the river.

The river comes out and he bets $1,000.  The pot’s already built up to about $700 through your bets and others.  And, obviously, it’s not an all-in type of game.  Anyone can bet what they want, whether it’s on the table or not.  I understand it’s not a likely set of circumstances for a house game, but let’s humor the situation…suspend reality a bit for this exercise.

You have a pair of two’s showing…a couple more hidden.

Not to steal anything from “Speed” but…what do you do?

He could have that straight flush.  Or he could be betting on you having only three of a kind to his high flush…either way, he’s put a ton of money in play.  Do you let him buy it or do you come back even stronger?

Ah, one problem, though…you don’t have that much money, even in your bank account.  So no checks.

But what about that nice Movado watch you’ve got on?  The college graduation gift from your parents…yeah that one.  That should cover it. 

Worth the shot at paycheck there in the pot?

I would.  The watch would go in.  But that’s probably where I’d draw the line.

As cool as it’d be to re-enact some ’80s movie where I’m tossing my keys into the middle in slow-motion, I just wouldn’t go that far.

My house, my car, my family, anything that would compromise my job…all that’s off the table.  Literally and figuratively.

But I’m sure there are many of you out there that have made some ill-advised bets.  So I wonder, how far did you go?

A couple hours with your girlfriend? (Given she was on board with the wager, of course.

30 minutes in the dog run with the crazy neighbor’s pit bull?

How about a good head-shaving?

Ah, the possibilities are endless…especially for the drunk and stupid.

Well, that’s the end of my random thought.  And I’m thinking, as long as everyone keeps their unmentionables safely secured in their pants, no wager could be that bad, could it?

Poker Home Games: Egyptian Rat Screw

December 7, 2008

Ever have your hands turn so red during a game of cards you needed to take time out to dip them in a sink of cold water?
It’s not Texas Hold ‘Em that brings something like that on.  It sure as hell isn’t Pass the Trash or Five Card Stud.
It is…in fact…the ultimate in physical punishment.  That is, at least, as far as a deck of cards can probably take you.
My favorite game of all-time – Egyptian Rat Screw.
A game that no doubt goes by many names in many circles across the globe.  I have no problem with that, call it what you like.  But just know that no name is as cool as – Egyptian Rat Screw.
All right, now that we got that out of the way, I can clarify something else.
This isn’t really a poker game.  But I’m tweaking the betting rules (actually adding betting rules) to give it a poker flavor, and kick up the relevance to this column. 
Trust me, though, the sheer terror of getting the back of your hand pummeled is enough incentive to keep the adrenaline pumping.  Any extra dollars or quarters is just a bonus.
Let’s go:
1) Any number of players can join.  You can have a dozen, it doesn’t matter.
2) The deck is dealt out completely, you shouldn’t have anything left by the time you’re finished.
3) Players gather their cards, face down.  Nobody looks.
4) In order (usually clockwise) players flip a card into the center of the table.
***Note, you MUST flip away from yourself.  Flipping toward you gives the advantage that you can control the speed and see what the card is first…which you’ll soon find out would amount to nothing more than cheating.
OK, I’ll change gears now to go over the rules:
Rule 1) Cards are flipped, one per person per turn, until a face card or an Ace comes up.  At that point, depending on what that card is, the next person must flip up a face card or an ace within a given number of cards, or the deck is forfeit to whomever flipped the first face card.
If an Ace is turned over by Player A, then Player B has 4 chances to turn over a face card.
If a King is turned over, the next person has 3 chances.
If a Queen is turned over, the next person has 2 chances.
If a Jack is turned over, the next person has only 1 chance to turn over a face card.
*If the Player B does turn over a face card, that becomes the new card for the next person, who has the same situation presented to them, with a limited number of cards to turn over based on the value of the last face card.  Needless to say, if a Jack is covered with a Queen, and then two low cards come up…whomever lost that Jack will be one unhappy camper.
Rule 2) If at any point two of the same card are turned up one after the other – doesn’t matter in which scenario – whomever slaps the deck first gets to clear it.
Rule 3) If you run out of cards, you are not out of the game.  You can slap your way back in.
Rule 4) When one player has all the cards, he or she is the winner and the game is over.
All right, so let’s add some betting flair into it….more like pot-growing flair.
- Each player must ante $5 (or however much you want, but I’d make it a good amount)
- Each time the middle is cleared, everyone except the person who clears must add $1.  The person who clears gets to take $1. (This is where the pot builds…the deck is cleared a lot).
- If you run out of cards but want to make yourself eligible for slapping back in, you must re-ante $5. (It’ll seem like chump change when there’s $50 in the middle.)
That about covers it….you might want to wear mittens, depending, of course, on how fast of a reaction you have.
Happy screwing.