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Pet-peeves at the poker table

have a pet peeve with a growing number of poker players. It has to do with what they wear. When I first began going to Las Vegas, there was a special clothing store on Las Vegas Boulevard that catered to gamblers. It was called Frenchy's and I loved to shop in the place. There you could buy silk shirts, sequined jackets, gambler's suits, hats and many other accessories that made you look and feel good. I would drive to Las Vegas and play for a while at my favorite casino or poker room. I would test my favorite games -- blackjack, dice, poker and the horses -- and if I won, I would pay Frenchy's a visit. I always found something there worth buying.


Do not make rookie mistakes

What are the most common mistakes beginners make when they try to play poker in a casino setting? The question was asked me by a friend of mine in Charleston, S.C. He and his fiancée were planning to leave Charleston for a new life in Reno, NV. where his company was transferring him. Wayne is a Certified Public Accountant, brilliant in math, and an all-around good guy. 'We're planning to get married in Reno,' he added. 'I am not much of a gambler and I know that poker is a game of skill rather than gambling. So what should I avoid when I get to the Biggest Little City in the World?'

When lying is a good thing

Poker may be the only game in the world where it is acceptable and even necessary to be a liar. I will go one step further: the better you can lie in poker, the more you will be rewarded. When I lived on St. Maarten in the eastern Caribbean, I would work hard on my bluffing techniques to stay ahead of the opposition. When I wasn't playing poker, I would head down to one of the white sand beaches and luxuriate in the tropical sun. Sometimes I would be accompanied by an island beauty or two and we would throw Frisbees or a soccer ball while frolicking in the surf. One of my swimming companions was Debra, who was born on the island of Dominica.

Getting ready for Vegas

A member writes, 'Dear Geno: I have a question for you. I have been playing a lot of poker for the past year or so in my home town of Amarillo, Texas. We have home games and we play at some of the fraternal clubs around the city. I have done pretty well in the win department. In fact, I can honestly say I am pretty much the big winner in our group. I work part time for a company, but the majority of my money is made playing poker. I have accumulated a bankroll and am thinking of moving to Las Vegas so I can pursue my true passion, which happens to be playing poker. My question to you is this: when is a person ready for Las Vegas? Sincerely, Tom J., Amarillo, TX.'

Bullies are part of poker- learn to deal with them

Bullies are a part of life. They exist in grade school, middle school, high school and even the work place. When I was a child growing up in Douglas Hollow, PA., a neighborhood made up of coal mining families -- all our fathers worked at Warden Mine, about a half mile away -- my brothers and I were targeted by bullies in our daily walks to school. We couldn't go to anybody else with our problems. We had to solve them ourselves, and that either meant giving in to their demands or fighting them. My brothers and I did a little bit of both. A bully is convinced he is the boss. He is convinced that what you own really belongs to him. And he will take extraordinary measures to make it his.

Bobby Baldwin - the one who can stand up to Doyle Brunson

Doyle Brunson has few peers in the world of poker who can stand up to him. He is a winning poker player who has beaten the best during a career that has lasted more than 60 years. But there is one player who can stand up to him and that player's name is Bobby Baldwin. A native of Tulsa, OK., Baldwin hasn't made much noise in the poker press since the 1970s. That was when he won his fourth WSOP bracelet. He has won the WSOP main tournament as well as the 2-7 stud tournament, piling up tournament winnings of nearly $3 million. For the past three decades, Baldwin has been a casino executive, working in high executive positions for the Golden Nugget, Mirage, Bellagio and the Mandalay Group of casino resorts.

Poker basics

Let's face it: getting old has its drawbacks. Oh, there are good things about getting older. You gain wisdom (supposedly), and you save money on bus fares, AMTRAK and other things that you buy. If you are a poker player, aging has mixed blessings. Johnny Moss, for example, played a tough poker game every day of his life and he was well into his 80s when he got the Golden Handshake. Today a new breed of poker player has seized control of the poker world -- and they have done it big time. They have developed new techniques that have caused a lot of problems for the old timers like myself.

H.O.R.S.E. - the most challenging poker tournament

It's Friday afternoon and I am sitting at my desk in my newspaper office when I get a phone call. The caller is my poker-playing buddy, Allan, and he has a proposition for me. 'Hey, Buddy, he says,' how's your poker playing?' 'Not bad although it could always be better. What's up?' Alan tells me that Wild Horse Pass Casino near Chandler is hosting a H.O.R.S.E. poker tournament that evening and he asks if I want to play in it. I tell him I never played H.O.R.S.E. before and ask him what's involved. He laughs out loud.

Competitiveness - a necessary poker skill

After winning a major poker tournament at the World Poker Open in Tunica, MS. some years ago, I decided I wanted to spend some quality time with my family. I drove back to my home town of Sutersville in Western Pennsylvania and began looking up old friends as well as relatives. Everybody was interested in hearing about the tournament I had won. One of my cousins suggested we play poker that evening 'so you can show us what you learned.' While I agreed to the no stakes poker game, it was b-o-r-I-n-g. We played for a couple of hours, but we couldn't really get into it. My mother finally figured out what the problem was. 'You're not playing for real money,' she said. 'Right?'

Bluffing and Winning

I have a question for you. Would you purposely turn your cards up and let your opponents see what you are holding before you push out your money? I already know your answer. It's no, of course. Yet there are many poker players who do precisely that every time they sit down at a poker table. They do it through tells, the way they hold their cards, and even in how they bet. Before you inform me, 'I don't have any tells,' I beg to disagree with you. Anybody can have a tell --- even some of the best players who ever played the game. I remember watching the World Series of Poker played on television. Russ Hamilton, one of the best poker players in the business, was in the hand. Viewers could see his cards.

When lucky streak takes over

One of the things a poker player looks forward to is a rush. Nobody knows what causes rushes or where they come from. It's like a mighty prairie wind that springs up from the ground and seizes control of everything -- the cards, your luck, and the outcome of a poker hand. But when a rush occurs, it can be a major change in your bankroll and your feelings about the same. The first time I heard about rushes was when I interviewed Doyle 'Texas Dolly' Brunson in 1984.

Poker - a game of skill

Some years ago I came across the story of a poker player who had won a lot of money in cash games and tournaments. He traveled a lot and kept careful records of his travel expenses, his wins and his losses. When he filed his tax returns, he listed his travel expenses and declared them against his winnings. Then he filed his federal tax returns. The Internal Revenue Service denied the expenses and the poker player took the IRS to court. There, with the help of a good attorney, he argued that poker was a skill game rather than a gambling game and that he had every right to declare his travel and other expenses, just like a professional tennis player or golfer. He showed the Court his winnings over the years.

The strength of the AA and AK

An intriguing email came to me from Wayne R. in Ft. Worth, TX. 'Dear Geno,' he writes, 'I have a poker playing buddy who insists that A-K in Texas Hold.em is a better hand than pocket aces or kings. Huh? That doesn't seem to make sense to me. If you could expound on that, it would be greatly appreciated. 'Also, I have started playing poker tournaments on line and want to know your opinion about bluffing and picking up pots. The last couple of sessions have been card-dead for me and I am wondering if there is anything I can do to improve my chances of making that final table. Thanks for our help. Wayne R., Fort Worth, TX.'

Playing poker and panning for gold

When I lived in Phoenix, AZ. and worked as a reporter for the Phoenix Gazette, I would drive to the Wickenburg area a couple of times a month to pan for gold. It wasn't a money-making venture. While there was gold in the mountainous area surrounding Wickenburg, gold was selling for $35 an ounce, not the $1,200 or so that it is going for today. It was good exercise for me and I loved climbing Rich Hill to search for the yellow metal that has been the subject of literature, movies and legend almost since time began. I was sharing a house with Dick Alexander, an actor who had appeared in 'Raising Arizona,' 'Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure' and 'Little House On The Prairie.'

Breaking the most important rule of gambling

It took me a while to write this article. The reason is that it goes against my principles and violates my long-standing belief that it's never wise to go into debt to gamble. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized the story should be told. I am not advocating for you to do the same, by the way. I am just telling you what I did in Lake Elsinore, CA. about 20 years ago. I was working in Phoenix when the urge to play poker settled in me. I tried to fight it, but it didn't work, and that weekend I made the five-hour drive to the 24-hour card room by the lake where Steve McQueen raced his motorcycle.

Annie's the bad beat Omaha High-Low Jackpot story

One of the thrills of playing poker happens when the bad beat jackpot increases to a serious level. My friend, Annie W., realizes that and when the jackpot gets high, she goes into action. Annie is a regular player at Talking Stick Casino near Scottsdale, AZ. She plays a limit game, usually $4-8 Omaha High-Low with a kill. I would never refer to her as a high roller because she does not fit that image. But this retired Postal worker does love her poker. A widow, she plays poker several times a week as her social outlet. The bad beat jackpot for Omaha High-Low had passed the $60,000 mark, and Annie came up with a plan to increase her chances of cashing in on the jackpot if it got hit.

A poker player's bag of tricks

I recently visited one of my favorite card rooms and as I ambled through the place, I came across several poker magazines. I placed my name on the list for a seat opening, picked up the magazines, and started reading them. The magazines were packed with articles about upcoming poker tournaments. The tournaments seemed to be everywhere. While I was familiar with most of the card rooms and casinos and had even played in many of them, some of the others were strangers to me. But one thing I did notice: their prize money for winners was big.


Battles at the poker tables

During the 1960s, I worked as a reporter for the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner in Los Angeles, CA. The Vietnam War had turned a growing number of Americans, especially young people, against the U.S. government and the prevailing theme was, 'Make Love, Not War.' Protestors mellowed out by smoking marijuana. They marched in parks, staged anti-war rallies, and even took over political offices to show they were serious. While I supported the U.S. government in principle, I had my own personal doubts about what warring nations could accomplish. I often fantasized about the leaders of nations using different ways to solve their problems with other countries.

Poker game during the basic training for the United States army

After basic training at Ft. Ord, CA., the U.S. Army assigned me to become a radar technician on a North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) missile site on Mt. Gleason between Pasadena and Palmdale. The Nike-Hercules site was located high on the mountain, one of 16 missile sites that circled the greater Los Angeles area. My profession was journalism and writing, and I wasn't thrilled with my assignment, but I was determined to make the best of it. We had just under 100 soldiers on the site. Our first sergeant was a stern military veteran who was related to track star Jesse Owens, whom I would later meet.

Seeking advice on skill and strategy

Stephen R. sent me an interesting email this week and I would like to share it with you. Stephen lives in Albuquerque, N.M. where he owns a book store. He is in his 40s and wants to learn how to play poker. Here is the context of his email: 'I have never been much of a gambler, but I enjoy watching poker on television. What would you recommend that I do to become a good poker player? I don't mean world class, although playing in the World Series of Poker would certainly be a dream come true. I just want to learn to play the game well enough to be an occasional winner. Is that asking too much?' No, it isn't asking too much, Stephen.

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