Poker Playing Places of Power

April 13, 2008

Poker Playing Places of Power

Everyone always talk about how one plays poker. The tips and tricks. The tells and traps. The hints and decisions, the online strategy at Full Tilt Poker, and everything else that makes a poker player what he or she is.

Well, while the “how” seems to get all the glory, I personally find the “where” to be just as interesting. Have you ever thought about all the different venues in which you’ve played your favorite card game? I recently have, if only because I was bored for a few hours this week, and I’d already exhausted the Internet (I know, can such a thing really be done?).

So, I thought I’d walk you though almost everywhere I’ve played America’s favorite card game pasttime, and tack on a mini-review for each one.

1.) Binion’s Horseshoe Casino – Figured I’d start with the best to keep you interested. The place is actually a little dirty, and you don’t necessarily feel in awe as you walk in. But you do HAVE to play there…it’s one of those casinos on Freemont street in downtown Vegas that you go to just to say you played poker there.

2.) My parents’ backyard gazebo – From one extreme to another. I actually have a lot of fond memories of our high school poker group basically camping out overnight and playing cards until the sun came up. It was the only place we could play at that time where we weren’t kicked out by 1 a.m. Plus it had a wicked awesome ceiling fan.

3.) Cruise ships – I’ve been on 4 cruises in my life, but only 1 that actually had a poker table that wasn’t of the Caribbean Stud variety. I thought I’d hate playing with the cruise ship crowd, but it was actually pretty enjoyable…probably because I cleaned up every night. Also the only table I’ve ever played at that I can remember that had burgundy felt surrounded by faded black leather. The dealer was also cool. At the end of the night we taught each other new games – he was fascinated by Spot (aren’t we all?).

4.) A friend’s house – You know the familiar setting…beer all over the place, chips on the vacant chair so as not to obstruct the table, and someone serving as banker (somehow poker night always turns into Monopoly). I’ve been lucky the past few years down here in Florida, as my poker friends ponied up for one of those nice, shiny table-top covers. It keeps everything so much more organized, and the cupholders reduce the spilled drinks count by a good 15%.

5.) Canada – Windsor Casino to be exact. Here I only got to play Caribbean Stud (man I hate that game so much), and Blackjack, as they didn’t run traditional poker tables. If you’ve never been there and don’t mind the game restrictions, it’s actually a very lavish, elegant setting…outside of the casino that is. Plus you can buy Cuban cigars in the gift shop. It’s like an upscale European hotel until you get into the casino, at which time you think you’ve stepped into a 1980s Indian Reservation. Speaking of which….

6.) Indian Reservation – Kind of depression, actually, although I can’t 100% put my finger on why since all casinos on the inside tend to be the same at heart. I think I was 19 when I went to my first and only Indian Reservation casino either in Illinois or Wisconsin….or maybe Indiana. I felt like I was doing something wrong the whole time…and not in that awesome, “yeah I’m buying illegal fireworks” way, either.

7.) Work – If you can get away with it, playing at work is…..just kidding. I’m not that stupid.

8.) School – However, I was stupid enough to play cards at school when we were in high school. We thought we were being all sly playing for “credits” instead of “money” so the teachers didn’t think we were gambling during our lunch break and down time. Our group of 6 or 7 managed to get playing cards in general banned from the entire school, a rule which stands to this day, 12 years after I graduated. This was a time when there were as many wild cards as pimples on my face.

9.) College – In my fraternity, when I was a pledge, a bunch of the older brothers rounded a few of us up after asking if any of us wanted to play cards. I was extremely quiet as a freshman in college, at least in situations when I didn’t really know anybody yet, so I came across as shy I suppose, and thus I’m sure these guys were planning to take me for everything I was stupid enough to pull out of my wallet. This was the beginning of my 4 1/2 year reign as poker king of the AEPi house. Others will disagree, but I guarantee you I’ve either taken their money, their textbooks (as good as cash) or a piece of their furniture at one point or another. We’d play in rooms, the hallway, the basement, the front porch. The only place in that house I didn’t play cards was the deep fryer…although my constant full houses probably would’ve tasted better fried up than half the garbage we were given to eat.

10.) The Internet – The Internets!!!! I have to be honest, I hate playing poker online. But I love playing hearts and spades online. Personal preference, I guess. Maybe at the heart of things, I like poker as a social gathering just as much as a challenge and an avenue for winning money, and online you just can’t get that.

So those are my poker travels…it’s been a fun ride, and I look forward to adding zephyr, rugby game and the Playboy Mansion to that list sometime in the next 20 years or so.