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Copyright © 2006 Clear Channel Communications
February 13, 2006
How to Get Poker into the Olympics
Author: Pete 'BoneRack' Mills
When it comes to exercise, you’ll find all types in the
poker world. From jocks that wouldn’t dream of taking a
seat without a strict vegan diet and a regimen of yoga & cardio,
to players that just about need to be forklifted from the casino
buffet to the table. It’s a beautiful diversity. And now
with the Torino Games upon us, perhaps the more lackadaisical
of us let our minds wander into the realm of cold-weather sports
crossed with our favorite parlor pastime... It just looks so darn
fun, flying across the ice or snow at top speed, careening around
insane curves, the graceful fluidity of motion on frozen surfaces....
How can we get in on this?
Air Hockey Poker, that’s how.
It’s played on a hexagonal poker layout outfitted on a
fully functioning air hockey table... not the cheap home versions
you could pummel into submission 72 hours after Christmas morning.
The 1,000 lb. stainless-steel surface, air-compressor powered,
professional arcade tables. The ones on which you could break
a finger if you screwed up using outside grip on your striker.
Real Air Hockey.
6 players, one per side, and each position features a small goal
centered in the side rail. First and foremost, the dealer is the
most talented person at the table. He or she will spend years
perfecting the curling-esque art of directing the cards toward
the intended player, and watching them slide artfully across the
table is a spectator sport itself. But stay on your toes players...
you’re responsible for securing your cards on the table
by capturing them, and if you miss & one or both of your cards
get past you into your goal... tough beans! You’ll be playing
that hand with one card. Or none. Slacker. Wake up next deal!
Dealers will revel in making you suffer, so tip well if you know
what’s good for you.
The Play. Blinds and betting occur as usual. Placement of blinds
and bets on the playing surface is crucial. Do not allow your
bet or raise chips to slide into another player’s stack...
any chips that do so are awarded to the player who’s stack
they touched. I’d recommend stacking the chips to achieve
maximum weight pressure against the air flow, and your blinds
should never be at a level where only one chip is used... unless
you crave that sort of hot blind-sliding action!
The Showdown. Careful here... any bravado of tossing your hand
into the middle of the table doesn’t fly in Air Hockey Poker,
but your cards might! And if you forget, and your cards go flipping
about higgledy-piggledy and land face down (one or both), guess
what? That’s how your hand will be counted by the dealer!
Goaltending Strategery. As you might expect, stacking your chips
in front of your goal will help prevent your dealt cards from
going down the drain. But you might want to be ready to open that
sucker up in case another player wants to help you out at a crucial
moment. That’s right – Chip Sharing! At any time during
play, you may choose to slide any number of your chips across
the table into another player’s goal for them to use as
they see fit. This is particularly useful, and often reserved
for, moments when a crucial hand is at stake and a player may
be short stacked against a bet. Other players can come to the
rescue and add chips to the short player’s stack to assist
in the call – they can invest in your hand!. Not only does
that entitle them to a portion of the pot if they slide into a
winner, but it’s a strategic assist to try to knock another
player down or out. This play is also particularly valuable as
trash-talking fuel if you slide chips to someone on the sucker
end of a hand. Obligations to pay back such blown assists are
unique to house rules, and probably depend on how much bad blood
your home Air Hockey Poker buddies can stand. But a killer new
play known as the ‘Check/Raise/Open-goal’ will flourish,
and Vince Van Patten will have kittens when he calls the play-by-play...
“Oh gosh Mike, he’s all in and he’s moved his
hands from in front of his goal, just inviting other players to
cash in on this over-the-top raise that’s making his opponent
wonder ‘what have I gotten into?!’”
The Chip-Steal Slide. The real fun. You may stack your chips
any way you see fit, but I’d suggest a fort-like protection
of your high-value stash. What would Air Hockey Poker be without
the cut-throat action of pirating your opponent’s chips
with the flick of a wrist? The rule is simple: at any time, you
may use one of your chips as a weapon to dislodge chips from an
opponent’s stack, and whatever you succeed in dislodging
belongs to you. If you don’t dislodge anything, the chip-contact
rule is in effect, and the failed fired ammo chip becomes your
opponents’. Chips in transition are not legal targets. The
obvious strategy here is to slide a low-value $1 or $5 chip and
hope to knock loose a $50 or $100 chip. I’d advise against
the chaotic-pileup strategy to defend against this... chips are
likely to slide into your goal, forcing you to move your hands
from the playing surface to retrieve them, and at that point you
might as well just hand your stack over to the brutal multi-pronged
assault sure to be flung your way.
Air Hockey Poker isn’t for everybody. Tournament directors
really need to stay on their toes to keep track of the slide-steals,
and with enough alcohol things can really get out of hand quick,
so keep your head on a swivel! You’ll need to carefully
choreograph the placing, raking in and stacking of chips, always
on guard for assault. And of course, cat-like reflexes never hurt.
That alone ought to level the playing field for any poker pros
who decide to give The Big Slide a whirl. But have fun with it...
tweak up the rules for your home game; minimum chip-steal attempts,
randomly distributed ultralight chips that float away and force
wild saves, rewards for scoring chip-goals on opponents... the
sky’s the limit!
And by all means, holler at the IOC if you’ve ever seen
a hexagonal air hockey table.
from the World Wide Web on February 12, 2006:
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