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Online Poker News Archives - February 13, 2006

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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! Psyche!

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.

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