Have you ever played poker where the other players aren't interested in winning pots? Don't even think about the answer. Sure you have! It happens in tournaments. You have played fairly well and are down to the last two or three tables. Players have less chips and they aren't really interested in calling a bet or raise unless they have a powerful hand. All you need to do in a situation like this is to sniff the wind: When you sense weakness, strike! It will generally win you the pot!
Classified ads have always intrigued me, especially those personal ads that appear in alternative weekly newspapers like the Los Angeles Free Press and Open City. When I lived in Lake Elsinore, CA., I was a regular reader of a weekly newspaper published in nearby Palm Springs, where many Hollywood film stars, producers and directors lived in mansions with olympic-sized swimming pools shaded by imported coconut palm trees.
Those were the days! Willie, Waylon and the boys. Here I am working in Phoenix, AZ. on a newspaper. I have my own column. I am single, footloose and fancy free. During the day I write stories about things that interest me, everything from reviews of restaurants like Bill Johnson's Big Apple, to feature stories about the Thunderbird Country Club or a discovery of gold at the Garden of Allah Ranch near Wickenburg. Someone sends me a letter about a musician named Waylon Jennings at J.D.'S River Bottom in Tempe.
Los Angeles was my kind of town. It had everything an aspiring young bachelor writer could desire. Hollywood, the Sunset Strip, Dino's, jazz joints, the Los Angeles Dodgers AND poker. When I was drafted into the U.S. Army, I was sent to Fort Ord near Monterrey, CA. for basic training. After those eight weeks of learning to march, salute, break down and reassemble my M-1 rifle while blindfolded....I graduated and was dispatched by train to Fort MacArthur in San Pedro, just across a body of water from Long Beach.
When I was a child, my parents would give me and my brothers a dollar each on a Saturday and send us candy shopping. We would walk a half mile to town. There were three stores on the main street of Sutersville, PA. and each of them had a wide selection of chocolate, mints, Mallo Cups and so many other forms of candy it would make your head stagger. There we were each of us with a whole dollar to spend. The question was: ''What do we spend it on?'' This question sometimes drove me crazy.
W.C. Fields would have been a worthy poker opponent in today's world. The great comedian from the 1930s admittedly was a thief, scoundrel, liar and drinker. And I am not referring to mineral water or Perrier. When it comes to poker, the same can be said of 95 percent of the people you will find yourself playing against whether the game is a tournament or cash. Ah, yes. Poker rooms are dens of iniquity. There is no question about that.
When I first played Texas Holdem in the early 1970s, nobody -- and I mean nobody -- knew much about the game. We were all stud and draw players. We frequented the card rooms in Southern California and Las Vegas, and played low-ball and draw with a joker.
It began in Southern California in 2008. Players were getting bored with Texas Holdem and wanted to try something different. After considerable thinking, one of the card rooms began spreading a new game, a variation of Omaha High-Low. The game added a fifth card to the four cards that were normally dealt. They came up with a name for the game called it Big O. The game's popularity quickly spread to the other card rooms around California. Players were excited by the game's possibilities. The fifth card in the starting hand assured players of more action. The game was not boring.
There is something about the old country western music that has attached itself to my soul. Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, George Jones, Glen Campbell, Charlie Pride, Hank Williams Jr., Don Gibson and some of the other legends sang about women, whiskey, old friends, blue days and traveling. Always traveling. I can still hear their songs in my inner mind. Songs like 'Gotta Travel On,' 'It's a Blue, Blue Day,' 'On The Road Again,' 'By The Time I Get to Phoenix,' 'Amarillo By Morning' and many others. Over the past several months...
It was a lazy southern afternoon in Charleston, S.C. Sadie, our intelligent Siberian Husky, was wrestling with Koko, our lovable Mexican Chihuahua. I was reading a book about Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini when my daughter approached me with a freshly made cup of coffee. "Daddy, want to play poker tonight?," she said. One of her boy friend's pals had invited us to their house for an evening of poker. Rossana said the guys were fun and friendly. '"it's a tournament," she said. 'Just a $20 buy-in. You'll have fun."
Monument Valley is a land of fire, red rocks, cathedral-like formations, and distance. Located in the vast high desert country of northern Arizona, it is one of the most spectacular regions in North America. Film director John Ford was seeking a location for one of his classic western movies when he discovered Monument Valley and claimed it as his own. There the hard-drinking, cigar-smoking pal of John Wayne, Ward Bond, Ben Johnson, Strother Martin, and other fine cowboy actors established his roots and shot some of the best western films to ever grace the Silver Screen.
All poker players are actors. I'm talking about the good ones. And if they aren't, they should be if they are really interested in making money. I had an actor friend named Dick Alexander who made television commercials, movies and who appeared regularly on Michael Landon's popular television series, 'Little House On The Prairie.' When he wasn't acting, Dick Played poker at some of my favorite card rooms in Phoenix, AZ. His movies included: 'Raising Arizona,' 'Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure' and 'Electra Glide In Blue.'
When I was a child, I often found myself imagining what a perfect life would be like. I didn't think many of my neighbors were living it. They worked day after day at hard jobs they didn't especially like. They argued with their spouses, drank too much at the area bars or lodges, sometimes fought with their neighbors, and generally lived lives of quiet desperation, the way Henry David Thoreau described most people in his book about living at peace with nature. That would not be my fate, I told myself. I am going to live a perfect life as a writer.
It's a fact you can take to the bank: poker players never retire. Well, maybe never is too strong a word. I can see a player hanging up the cards if illness comes along or if he or she moves to a place where legal poker is not available. Or a player might take up another hobby that takes up his time and energy and that provides him with more pleasure than a card game. A couple of years ago I spent some time with Doyle Brunson and asked him about his retirement plans. Doyle just gave me a grin and shook his head. 'Would you retire from writing?,' he asked me. It's an old Yankee trick to respond to a question by asking one of your own.
He owned a ranch before he got into the building business. He was a good horseman, a crack shot and he loved to play poker. Legs and I both were hunters and we had secured our deer hunting licenses to hunt in an area just outside the mile-high city of Prescott, AZ., about 60 miles north of Phoenix. Or owned a cabin in the mountainous area and invited Legs and me to be his guests for the weekend. There were a couple of other people who were invited along for the hunt. 'We'll make a poker journey out of it,' he said. 'We'll hunt wild animals during the day and play poker when the sun goes down.'
Don't tell anybody, but I am excited. A new poker star may be looming on the horizon. I realize this may be construed as nepotism but I don't care. I am talking about my daughter, Rossana. While Rossana has always been a good card player -- she excels at Uno and Old Maid -- she hasn't played much poker over the years, at least not to my knowledge.She partnered with me once in a Jack and Jill tournament at Downstream Casino near Joplin, MO.
Kenneth Williams was smiling as he entered the editorial offices of The Observer. We were operating out of a building next to the 18th-century church in Basseterre, capital of St. Kitts. Willims was my publisher and he was smiling. 'Geno - Banky Banks, a reggae musician, is going to put on a street concert tonight in downtown Basseterre. He is from Anguilla. I think we should cover it.' I got up from my typewriter. 'Your wish is my command, Sire,' I said, bowing.
I once possessed a good luck charm that worked. All of us know people who believe in good luck charms. I have run into dozens -- make that hundred -- of poker players who bring good luck charms with them into a casino. Horseplayers do it, dice players do it, and slot players do it. Johnny Chan follows an ancient Oriental custom and brings a perfect orange with him when he plays in a big cash game or major tournament. Don't even think of stealing or eating Johnny's orange...
Poker players like to talk about a lot of things. If we hit a bad beat jackpot or win a tournament, we enjoy talking about what we spent our money on. I have shared my tales of my Caribbean adventures with many friends and always enjoy reliving those experiences with others. The one thing we don't talk about much is losing. Our losses we generally keep to ourselves.Poker players don't feel they are supposed to lose. When it happens and when it starts repeating itself, they frown and shake their heads and keep the information to themselves. Somewhere in the great scheme of things...
'Dear Geno,' a reader writes. 'I have a question that demands an answer from your worthy mind. I have a low-paying job which means I don't have much extra money to spend on poker, which happens to be my favorite past time. My question is this: if I have $100 to spend maximum, should I buy into a $1-3 no limit cash game or should I invest the money in a tournament? David W., Phoenix, AZ.' Good to hear from you, David. If you have played at Wild Horse Pass or Talking Stick Casino, we have probably rubbed elbows at a poker table.
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