Features
11.19.17: a rebel alliance of quality content
our facebook page our twitter page intrepid media feature page rss feed
FEATURES  :  GALLERYhover for drop down menu  :  STUDIOhover for drop down menu  :  ABOUThover for drop down menu sign in

i'm all in
why you should be too
by dan gonzalez
8.19.05
pop culture

She's decidedly nervous. He actually wanted to come shopping today, and has been very accommodating. He even took the kids for a pretzel and then agreed to go the Michael's. Something was definitely up. And when he returns, he has a large framed poster. She looks, and to her ultimate horror, it's A Bold Bluff from Cassius Coolidge's dreaded 'Dogs Playing Poker' series. She shrieks and store security converges...

You can't turn on a TV, go to a sports bar, even go to a department store without seeing some vestige of poker. Chips, cards, how-to books, DVDs, and ballcaps that say "I'm all in". Oakley sunglasses have an entirely new connotation now. The makers of the movie Rounders, who were apparantly WAY ahead of their time, must be gritting their teeth in chagrin. Like reality TV, self-help, or talk shows, it tempts one to throw a beer can at the boob tube or angrily shout "Enough!" in the middle of Target.

Poker is everywhere. It is huge. And it is hugely aggravating to those of us who wax rebellious, who have a penchant for non-conformity. But I've got bad news, my disenfranchised friends, and badder news. The bad news is, it's here to stay. The badder news is, it deserves every bit of the hype and attention because it is the single greatest game ever invented, and the most fun and rewarding to play.

At least, the variant of poker known as 'Texas Hold 'em' does and is.

Even if you don't like to gamble, Texas Hold 'em is cheap and harmless. Unlike the typical dealer's choice home cash games, where a slightly brash, intoxicated fool could end up down a thousand bucks, Hold 'em has a built-in parachute. That's the buy in. It can be very low, like $5, to much higher, like $100. The money is thrown into the bank for the cash prizes, and each player is given a stack of chips, usually $500 - $1000 worth. And that's what you play with. It's tournament-style, last player with chips gets the prize. If it was low stakes, like $5, that's only $40 for 8 players, or $80 with 16, but for the higher buys, it's in the hundreds. It's typical to offer 2nd place double their buy-in, and third place gets their money back. That keeps everybody honest and playing for something. So in the $5 dollar game above, the winner gets $25, first loser gets $10, and third gets $5. A six-pack of beer and some pretzels, and everyone has saved $50 on bar tabs and had a better time.

Did I just say honest? Yes, poker is a purely ethical, zero-sum game, even though everybody who plays it are liars. That's because it benefits most players to play strong when they have strong cards, and to play weak or fold when they are weak. Derivations such as bluffing, semi-bluffing, intentional mis-tells, advertising, representing all factor in, but the vast majority of the time, overly slick players lose chips. So you must be honest a large percentage of the time, but you HAVE to lie at times and hope you don't get caught. How fun and instructive is that? What type of metaphor for our workaday lives is that? The best one I've seen yet. Sometimes you have to be bold enough to go with your gut against your better judgement, sometimes you have to be disciplined and reject the instinct, like when the numbers scream "DON'T DO IT" to your brain, but your gut already has your hands on your chips.

Hold 'em is for everybody. Math freaks and bit-brains love it, sure, because there's odds to calculate. But verbals and intuitive people? You bet. It's all about information, reading people, communicating and miscommunicating. The bold and the sneaky can play, the loud and the quiet. The thinkers and the doers. The lovers and the fighters. Actors and role-players? Absolutely. Much cooler than Dungeons and Dragons, you can adopt an alter-ego and be a different person for an entire evening. (And you can even dress up if you want to.) You can use your words and actions to distract others from their game, or to cover your own tracks. (I call my favorite poker personality 'the annoying jackass'. It's not a big leap for me, and seems to work fairly well!) You can be quiet and sneaky, you can be brash and arrogant. You can be funny or you can be sexy. You can be perverted or snobby. You can be anybody and have fun doing it.

Some critics say 'poker is for posers' because of this last element. But that is not true. Poker is for people, and we happen to be posers every minute of every day anyway, so we are posers in poker too. But this game allows you to refine that tendency, and rewards analytical thinking and intuitive thinking as well.

All of people are tempted to ask 'Why? Why should I play poker'. The better question is 'Why not?'. People of both genders, orientation, and ethnicities, from all walks of life, can and do play poker on amatuer and professional levels. Novices and experts alike can play against each other. In fact, it's the only game that ANYONE can play, with an equal opportunity to all the diverse others, and can succeed at largely due to their own abilities and with only a little luck. An atheist can bust an evangelical, a garbageman can make a sucker out of a brain surgeon, a 10-year old kid can (and has) beat a 39-year-old engineer/poker jackass in a heads-up game in the front yard.

I've played with all kinds of people. I regularly play with a 20-something female attorney who likes to display her breasts. And so I stare at them. Her name is Amy, but I call her Amber Waves all night, stare at her chest, and fold a lot. Not because I'm lecherous, although coincidentally I am, but because I want her to think she's pushing me around with her boobs and, surprisingly enough, I get a little cocky playing cards and need all the encouragment I can get to fold.

I've played with a doctor, a rich gynecologist, and called him the 'Pussy Doctor' all night. (That's right, workin' on two levels there!) I've seen my brother-in-law -- with novelty, Deliverance-style hick-teeth in -- look at me, a black guy, and a 6'5'' Korwegian, and say "Goddamn, there's a lot of fuckin' foreigners at this table". I've heard that same Asian Viking commenting on my wife's sexual appetites while playing at a table with my Father-In-Law.

The bottom line, it's not boring, it's a great release and an instructive metaphor for life. It's open to everybody, and absolutely everyone can and should try it. Now, who's gambling?

Part II, "Floppin' The Nuts - The Game of Hold 'Em Itself" is forthcoming.


ABOUT DAN GONZALEZ

Maybe it's you, maybe it's Dan. Things aren't quite the way they should be. And now it seems Dan's peace of mind has come up for the bidding, and those that he respects and trusts must all have been just kidding. Dan's little world has lost control, but still it keeps on spinnin'...

more about dan gonzalez

IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...

oldies
or goodies from an uninvited old man
by dan gonzalez
topic: pop culture
published: 12.27.04


celebrity boors
hollywood babble-on
by dan gonzalez
topic: pop culture
published: 4.20.04





COMMENTS

sandra thompson
8.19.05 @ 12:38p

I used to play poker with my grandgeeks when they were little boys. I still have two rolls of pennies we used for those games. We played dealer's choice, but the most rigidly enforced rule was: no wild cards.

We had a lot of fun. I can see where your game would be fun, too.

tracey kelley
8.19.05 @ 2:17p

Quiet and sneaky. That's me.

I plan to rekindle my interest in poker this winter.

russ carr
8.19.05 @ 2:30p

Poker with M&Ms. That's how I played when I was a kid. Of course, you had to be patient and not devour your bank.

trey askew
8.19.05 @ 4:37p

My ego and taste for alcohol keep me in more hands that I should be in.

Awesome game except for all the new found celebrities it has made.



Intrepid Media is built by Intrepid Company and runs on Dash