“It’s A People Game Played with Cards”

It’s July!  Angela and I have officially made it to the halfway mark on this Gals With Goals craziness.  Before I get all mushy and start sharing feelings that lose your interest, I’ll just say this blog rocks my world.  The amount of people who read this thing makes me feel happy and squirmy.  So let’s do July….

My goal this month is to learn how to play poker and play at a table in Las Vegas.  I used to say “learn how to play poker and play in Vegas” but I was shocked at the number of people who asked if I was going to play video poker.  Video?!  No way.  I’m all in.  Poker room.  Table.  Possibly poker attire like a hat and sunglasses.  Mainly to disguise my identity, not because I know what I’m doing.  ::thinking of buying wig too::  Oh yeah, and my Vegas trip is planned for July 15-19 so I technically only have 15 days before Sin City.

A little background on my poker skills.  Not a clue.  Watching Lady Gaga’s acoustic performance of “Poker Face” on youtube on repeat is about as close as I’ve been to poker.  Oh, I’m lying, I was in Las Vegas in May and obviously knew this was an upcoming goal so I did walk very slowly by the poker room in the Bellagio just to see how it was making me feel.  I don’t get intimated too often, but the fact that the ratio was about 395 men to 5 women and the fact that everyone was so focused I could’ve run through that place with no clothes on and no one would’ve even looked up (well, it is Vegas) was a little like “oh, okay, this ain’t no fireball slot machine….this is the big leagues.”  I get a rush from these things.

So, I start this month with literally no poker experience.  No clue on how many cards you get, what it takes to win, how to bet, and I’m still trying to figure out if online poker is legal.

July 1:  I’m starting easy.  Since I didn’t even know what it took to win a poker game I thought I’d start with the basics…like how many types of poker are there and which one should I learn?  I googled “types of poker” to find that there are 6 types with Texas Hold ‘Em as the most popular in ‘Merica and the type that’s played on the World Series of Poker (hey, ya never know!).  Other types include:  Omaha, 7-card stud, 5-card draw, high/low Chicago, and Follow the Queen.  I confirmed with a former coworker/friend of my mom’s that Texas Hold ‘Em was the type I should learn.  This friend is named Amy.  She is the real deal when it comes to poker and will be feeding me pieces of advice along the way.  I’m convinced she is a secret poker millionaire.  In addition to confirming Texas Hold ‘Em, she gave me this piece of advice….

“If you can’t figure out who the worst player at the table is…it’s you” – Amy H.

I spent tonight studying the different hands which you can see in the picture below.  It seems like a lot to remember and I’m starting to get embarrassed that I’m learning poker from a Pinterest infographic.  I was so focused on trying to make up some sort of way to memorize the difference between a straight and a flush that I didn’t even realize these were in hierarchical order (even though it says so at the top).  All I could think was ‘straight……straight up now tell me…..do you really want to love me forever….wait….how will that help me remember that it’s numbers in a row….maybe if I think of Paula Abdul counting out 5, 6, 7, 8?’  My brain still wants a straight to be the same suit.  If Amy finds this out, she’ll probably cease all advice and deny having ever met me.

I also read a little bit about the general flow of the game.  You get 2 cards and there’s 5 community cards with multiple rounds of betting.  After you get 2 cards, called “hole cards” or “pocket cards,” and do that slick peek at them thing while holding your other hand over them so no one sees them (wondering if it’s normal behavior to look at them multiple times?  I’m positive I’ll forget what suit they are unless I keep looking at them) then I think you do 1 round of betting, then there’s 3 community cards that are shown which are called “the flop.”  I started wondering if these terms were the formal ones and if I said “the flop” in a casino people would be like ‘no one really says that at the table’ (as if there’s a lot of mingling going on).  There’s another round of betting after “the flop” and then 1 more community card is shown which is called “the turn” followed by another round of betting, and then the final community card called “the river” is shown followed by the last round of betting.  You’re shooting for the best poker hand using 5 of those cards.

Okay….so now I know how to play poker.  Kinda.

poker hands

July 2:  I went to a 5:45am spinning class, stopped at Starbucks, and came home and turned the TV on a little before 7am.  Well, well, well…..the World Poker Tour was on TV.  Jackpot!  Now that I’ve clearly mastered the game by way of Paula Abdul lyrics, I wanted to see it in action.  There were 2 guys in the game (or left in the game?  note to self to see how many players are required) and I couldn’t believe there was cheering from the audience?  What?  There were dirty looks and that weird camera view from the inside of the table where you can see their pocket cards (day 2 and I’m using poker jargon!).  This made me realize that I can’t figure out which 5 cards go together to make up the best hand that quickly.  When they finally revealed their cards (which there’s probably a fancier name for that part….wait….I think it’s called “The showdown”….love that!) I couldn’t even figure out what hand they were looking at.  Straight, flush, 2 pair, wait….why won’t they let them (me) move the cards around to line them up so I can tell which ones go with which?  I consoled myself by thinking of how quickly I can identify a win on a 30+ line slot machine even though I didn’t even know how to play one at first.  I guess it takes a trained eye and lots of $20 bills down the drain.

“People have a tendency to comfort themselves when they bluff.  Watch for women to pull or pet their hair or play with a necklace.  Men scratch or rub their beards, put their hand on their neck or even their opposite shoulder.  This behavior has to stand out as different from their normal behavior.  You need to watch every hand.  See what they do when they have a good hand versus what they do when they have a bad hand.”  – Amy H.

At this point, I’m wondering how I am supposed to read people when I can’t even read my cards.

July 3:  Thank God for YouTube!  I decided it was time to jump to videos.  I think my grand search was something like “how to play poker.”  I first watched a 9 minute video which was perfect!  It was a computerized version of people sitting at a table which told me you can have 2-6 people in a poker game.  Unlike that fun wheel game I like to play in Vegas, I guess you have to wait for someone else to show up before you can play which makes sense now that I think about it because you’re not playing against the house like some other card games.  I actually plan to go back and watch this video again because they did a really nice job of showing how you bet, raise, fold, etc.  I also didn’t realize that as you bet every player has to end with the same bet (is this right?).  I watched another quick video in there that reviewed the same things and then ended with a video that said “poker is so easy, even a monkey can learn” and then proceeded to teach you how to play while dealing to a guy dressed in a creepy monkey suit.  I was irritated and semi-offended.

Poker doesn’t seem nearly as confusing as euchre so that is promising.  I love that once you get good with knowing how to play, it’s mainly about reading people which is my specialty!

“Poker is not a card game.  It is a people game played with cards.” – Amy H

We’re planning to meet my Dad at the horse races tomorrow night.  I may just have to wonder over to the casino side to “study.”