Fast and loose, the Los Angeles card clubs are like a new gold rush of poker. Players favour a style known as "No Fold 'em Hold 'em". Here is a typical example, witnessed by a friend of mine. Sitting next to the big blind in the $3-$6 game, he found 4A-4K in the hole and raised the $3 opener to $6. All the other eight players saw his bet.

My friend was not displeased with the flop, which came down !A-!10-22. Everyone checked around to him, and he duly bet the regulation $3. Seemingly automatically, they all called.

The turn card was the !6 which did not delight him. Again everyone checked around and he bet $6. And again, everybody called.

Finally on the river came the !9, which was very bad news. Yet again the whole table checked. With four hearts staring him in the face, my friend could hardly risk a further bet. "Turn 'em up," ordered the dealer. Everyone showed down their hands. They were Q-8, 8-4, J-5, 7-4, K-3, J-7, 9-5, Q-6 - all off-suit, with not a single heart among them! It is very rare to see nine hands showed down at Hold 'em, with not a properly playable hand among them. Except for the Q-6 after the turn, they were all drawing absolutely dead. My friend, dazed, raked in a $135 pot. That's No Fold 'em Hold 'em, mister!

In the bigger stakes games, the standard is commensurately higher, but still loose. The explanation is partly inexperience among the locals and partly that the Asian players, who predominate, simply love to gamble.

Be careful, however - the casinos around LA can be dangerous places. You should never stray outside the well-lit front entrances, and always use valet parking to collect your car (at $1 a go, the best value in America). One night recently another friend of mine was attacked by two robbers and shot in the head. Fortunately he has a tough cranium. He survived to tell the tale.

Which reminds me that Casino, the video, is now on sale. Its picture of Las Vegas in the corrupt Seventies is brutally accurate, if you want to see the Mafia overplaying its hand.