SMOKE: Poker In The Suburbs

Originally published: 5 October 2004

I've never been much of a card sharp.

My grandmother was a rummy queen and I would play rummy with her whenever she came a-visitin' from East London. But other than that I've never really been into card games for some reason, although a couple of years ago I went through a serious phase of online Blackjack.

Idly surfing through the DStv bouquet at around 05h30 on Monday morning (just before I went to bed, incidentally - my work for Sunday finally completed) I came across the World Poker Championships on ESPN.

In case you're wondering how exciting poker could possibly be when televised, take my word for it that it was absolutely spellbinding - I would never have thought it possible.

They had special cameras on the edge of the table and you could see what hands the players had, and they had an inset which showed exactly which players had what cards.

It was fascinating to watch how a guy with absolutely no cards of value could beat a guy with a good hand. The camera-work captured the mood, atmosphere and expressions (or lack thereof) perfectly.

Really cool.

And it reminded me of two poker evenings that Tashi and I hosted a few years back which I thought I should tell you about, in case you're looking for a brilliantly fun evening with friends.

The poker evenings were inspired by the movie Maverick with Mel Gibson, in which he plays a card-sharp snake in the Wild West. In the movie Mel Gibson's character enters a poker contest in which the entry fee is $25 000, and all the money gets put into a sealed coffer.

At the end of the contest the winner takes the coffer, making him a seriously wealthy man (or woman). Cool movie.

I watched the movie and decided that a scaled down version of it would make for a great evening with mates and for my birthday we invited around 10 other people to play in our poker contest.

The entry fee was R20 each and with 12 players that made the pot R240. Not quite the lofty fortunes of Maverick, but the point wasn't really the money - it was the entertainment of watching a bunch of people who knew very little (to nothing) about poker trying to outbluff each other while drinking from a steady stream of beer, tequila, wine, schnapps, vodka and anything else we could rustle up (we even had the anti-freeze on standby in case stock ran low).

You have no idea - the raucous, bawdy, smoke-filled room was filled with wenches and cowboys getting blind drunk as fortunes were won and lost. We could have been a snapshot straight out of the old West.

Before the first evening I popped onto the Internet and copied some poker rules then printed them out and stuck them up at convenient places. I even had graphics of the various hands and how much each was worth, so someone who had never picked up a deck of cards before could also play.

We worked it that as soon as someone had run out of chips they were out of the game, and those first losers spent the rest of the game sitting around the fringes getting rat-faced and sneaking peeks at the cards of players still in the game.

I was in the game until the very last hand when I drew two kings, two 2s and some other card. In a bold move I ditched all cards but the two kings and drew three from the dealer - one of which was a third king.

I was able to bet with confidence and we all put our last remaining chips into the pool, and when the cards were revealed my kings were the top hand. Outwit. Outlast. Outplay. I was the poker champion of Claremont Lower.

Naturally there were whispers of collusion and my sleeves were subjected to an ace investigation, but I put a stop to all that by firing a round of my Colt .44 into the ceiling. I grabbed the pot and stuffed the bills down my shirtfront, picked up the girl and bolted, heading west.

I didn't get far though because I remembered it was my house, so we went back and made a good job of polishing off the last of the Cuervo Gold instead.

It all made for a fantastic evening of fun and merriment, and I would seriously recommend it as an alternative evening for friends. All you need is a couple of decks of cards (depending on how many players you have), a set of chips which you can purchase cheaply at any toy store and a set of guidelines for your guests on how to play the game.

Stock up on booze, make some buffalo wings if you're of a mind to, harvest your hydroponic marijuana plantation and send those invites out.

Dress up as cowboys and sweaty-breasted wenches if you must, although personally I don't attend any fancy dress party with anything other than a pair of trusty jeans and a t-shirt - no matter what the theme. I simply don't do fancy dress.

Once it's all together then burn that one-hoss town down, baby.

All Smoked Out,
Luke Tagg
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Copyright © Luke Tagg. All rights reserved. A few lefts as well.

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