Poker: A funny old game

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The Independent Culture
JUST for fun, six 20-year-olds came round for a game of poker the other night. They wanted to find out what the game was all about. One young man wore a white stetson, another sported a green eyeshade and brought his own bottle of bourbon. I threw a green baize over the kitchen table and set the stakes at 5p a chip. The game chosen was Texas Hold 'em, with one chip ante and two chips for the blind.

You can learn the rules of poker in about five minutes. But how long does it take to learn to play? 'All your life, son,' was playwright Michael Pertwee's answer. And he was right, because the game is a continuous learning process. For the first few rounds, the betting was cautious. One chip bets and two chip raises was about as high as it got and if someone hit a pair, however small, there was no shaking him out of the pot.

The boys bought in for pounds 5 worth of chips each. First man out, with an ace in the hole, refused to believe that with two jacks and an ace on the flop, his opponent could possibly have a third jack. He raised and re-raised until all his money was gone, to discover that the other fellow did not, indeed, have three jacks. He had four.

The next man out was unlucky. Dealt a pair of 7s in the hole, the flop came 2-8-Q. He felt pretty sure he was best and bet his hand up. But the next two up-cards were another 8-Q, making two higher pairs on board than his pocket 7s. His own pair, therefore, was completely valueless. Unfortunately he did not realise what had happened and continued betting.

As the bourbon went down, so the adrenalin level rose. The action really got going, with all sorts of big bets - '20p and raise you 20p' - and freakish out-draws. In one five- handed deal, four players were dealt pairs in the hole, each declaring himself a winner at the end - 5s, 9s, kings and finally aces.

In the final round, gambling fever bubbled over and the stakes were raised to 25p ante and 50p blind. One man with A-6 thought he was done for when the flop came Q-J-10, but as all his chips were in, he did not have to take any further action in the pot. Sure enough, a king popped up on the last card to give him a top straight.

In the last hand, the player with all the chips bet on a pair of 4s as if there was no tomorrow. Last card brought a 5, which paired his opponent, who had been playing 5-6 in the hole. Funny old game, poker. As the guys left, one question remained: 'Who's giving the game next week?'