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Online Poker News Archives - November 20, 2005

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Copyright 2005 WorldNow, WTNH, and Associated Press

November 20, 2005

Poker as a spectator sport? - imagine that

Author: Otis Gardner

Money has ruined team sports in my view. Apparently dollars fertilize egos, and, oh, how they've grown. On-field posturing and ridiculous simple-minded arrogance fills courts and fields to the bursting point, leaving very little room for games. I have no interest what-so-ever in them nowadays.

But, after years of my indifference, here comes an unlikely competition's popularity rising through the roof. Who could've imagined poker as a spectator sport?

Well, obviously somebody did and I'm glad. Once again there are broadcasts of sporting events I enjoy watching. They even have a "World Series." Could it get any better?

I'm not a new arrival to the poker table. My interest in the game has been around for as long as I can remember.

Our family played a lot of cards. It was fun, cheap and could be done at home. It was perfect entertainment.

We played rummy and spades and a host of other games. I particularly enjoyed pinochle.

I didn't care much for bridge. I suppose my dislike derived from the fact my parents always ragged on each other after everybody went home.

"Why in the world did you bid three no-trump? You knew I opened with two clubs." That's the way it went, especially if they lost. I liked it better when they weren't partners.

Dad taught me to play poker at the kitchen table. We played for matchsticks or paper clips. There was no wildcard stuff, just basic draw and stud poker.

To this day, I don't much like varying too far from basics. Even in Vegas on video machines, I shy away from deuces wild and such things, sticking with rock-solid comfortable "Jacks or better."

When I became an adult, those kitchen lessons evolved into a regular Saturday night game. It ran for years at my house, starting about 3 p.m. and breaking up after dawn Sunday mornings.

Even after all these years, I still smile when I remember some of the colorful characters around the table. My favorite was Charles Goodwin.

His card-playing moniker was "Charlie No-Toes." He'd lost them to disease but took it in stride. When asked about them, he'd say he lost them in a tough poker game.

Charlie was a true gentleman and a pleasure to have at the poker table. He was always considerate and courteous - a real class act.

Some of you may not know that poker has its own unique laws of etiquette, as do many sports. They're not set in stone, more courtesies than hard and fast rules.

For example, never bet, check, call or fold out of turn. And, when you put money in the pot, do so neatly so all can see your contribution. These are tiny nuances but are the diplomatic lubricant that makes a game run smoothly.

One regular player always welcome at our games was Pete Tripp. He had a glass eye he'd take out and place on his stack. He said he wanted to keep an eye on his money â?¦ and he did â?¦ literally.

Our game was strictly cash, no IOUs. If Pete got short-stacked, he'd hock the eye. Everybody around the table wanted the chance to take custody of the weird marble and maybe even win it so there was no shortage of eager pawnbrokers.

But that never happened, he always redeemed the orb by game's end. It seemed as soon as Pete pledged the eye, his luck turned. It was a very effective mojo for him.

I wish J. Willis would've joined our game. He had a wooden hand and wooden leg. Between him and Pete, they had enough parts to start building a human.

None of us around that table four decades ago would've ever dreamed we'd watch poker on television with million-dollar pots. But, that's where we are and I enjoy the contests if not what they play.

I'm not a big fan of "Texas Hold-Em," which is the popular game du jour. I like to watch but not play.

Luck is a huge component of all poker games, but randomness at the back end of "Hold-Em" can drown you in the river. Of course, that's some of its attraction. It's not enough to be good; you have to also be lucky. Given that truth, anybody can beat anybody on a given day. That opens the field and possibilities.

I gave it a shot in a little Vegas session but was "rivered" to death. I'd probably think better of the experience had I won.

However, I did manage to leave the table smarter. That's a win or sorts.

Otis Gardner can be reached at

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