Learning the rules of poker is actually one of my clearest early memories, and I have no idea why, because I don’t think I was especially interested at the time, and I know I promptly forgot them. But I distinctly recall sitting on the hardwood floor of a Baltimore row house as my aunt showed me how to play seven card stud, explained what hand beats what, etc. I was about six years old at the time.
How I Became a Poker Player
A few years later, I started playing penny ante games with my grandparents. Gambling has always been popular in my father’s family. His uncle, a 450-pound cross-dressing homosexual stand-up comedian, was a real character, one who deserves his own story really, but among other things he loved gambling. He took me to the dog track when I was five years old and placed my bets for me.
Uncle Tubby had a heart as big as his stomach and was always extraordinarily generous with his winnings, sending my grandparents on vacation or buying me gifts whenever he won big at the track, but he would argue like hell if he thought he was getting cheated at penny ante poker.
The Early Years
Dad was the big winner in those days, but my grandmother saw to it that I always came out ahead at the end of the night. Hell of a lesson to teach a kid about gambling, if you think about it. According to my father, he grew up too poor to get any kind of allowance, but his mother gave him a quarter every week to pay his tuition at St. Joseph’s High School, which he used to win spending money at lunchtime poker games. Then again, next to the fish pond, the poker table is probably the place where a father’s exploits grow largest when recounted to his first-born son, so take that with a grain of salt.
In high school, some friends and I started a regular dewa judi online night, and that was the first time I really began to think about the game. It was dealer’s choice with a nickel ante (occasionally bumped to a dime if the dealer was stuck), and every game was played no limit. It didn’t much matter how you did in the game, because most sessions ended with a round of suicide sevens that was guaranteed to reverse everyone’s fortunes. But I played for pride and wanted to win, so I bought Ken Warren’s “Winner’s Guide to Texas Hold ‘Em.” I probably learned something from that book, though I don’t really remember what.
The Big Game
Browsing the stacks of a used bookstore one day, I found a 1970’s era “Hoyle’s Guide to Poker”, in which the author declares that seven card poker (a game played to make seven-card hands, such as quad eights over trip Kings) was getting to be all the rage and would soon supplant the popular five card versions of Stud. It was my first introduction to the concept of odds, and armed with this, I decided to sit in on my grandfather’s game the next time I visited him in Florida.
This was .25/.50 dealer’s choice, where the dealer was expected to choose some variation of Stud or Omaha and only the wives were allowed to declare wild cards, over the groans of their husbands. The first time I check-raised, my grandfather’s best friend, a former teamster and WWII Marine, stared daggers at me and declared, “I’ve seen men shot for less.” Although Grandma covered my $40 in losses, I felt like shit the next morning.