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Real live poker

18 February 2016

I don’t write a lot about live poker — the Texas Hold’em, seven-card stud and Omaha that you see in casino card rooms. Most of my poker playing has been done in home games, with rules that have little to do with anything you’ll find at casinos. Just try to find a seven-card stud, low hole card wild, roll your own game in a poker room.

So I stick to the games you see on the main casino floor, some of which are poker-based, such as Three Card Poker, Caribbean Stud and Mississippi Stud.

Nonetheless, I recently got into a conversation with a couple of poker-playing acquaintances involving the times you can see neighboring players’ hole cards.

On the main casino floor, it doesn’t affect your chances when someone else can see your face-down cards. You’re not trying to beat other players. You’re either trying to beat the dealer, or just hoping your final hand is good enough to land on a pay table.

The casino would rather other players couldn’t see your cards, especially in single-deck blackjack where seeing extra cards can give a boost to a card counter. But that’s something that affects the house, and not your own chances.

In the poker room, it’s far different. You ARE playing against other players, and if another can see your cards, it will hurt you.

One acquaintance, Stu, learned that the hard way.

“One of my most embarrassing incidents came playing Hold’em,” Stu told us. “I’d played a lot online and did pretty well. I even won a couple of tournaments, not for big money, but I won a couple of thousand dollars.

“I was in Vegas for my buddy’s bachelor party, and I decided to join a Hold’em game and show ‘em how it’s done. I was pretty full of myself from winning online. Reality smacked me in the face about how different it is at a live table. Every time I got a playing hand, either the pot was small or when it was big I’d get hammered.

“There was a change of dealers, and after a couple of hands, he looked right at me and said, ‘You might want to protect your hand better.’ Other players smirked, and then it hit me. The guys next to me could see my hand. I wanted to crawl under the nearest rock.”

Stu considered it a lesson learned, and said he’s been a card room regular for 10 or 12 years now. The other poker player in the conversation, Griff, is a poker player from way back. He said it’s been almost all he’s played since the late 1980s.

“It’s been quite a journey,” he said. “I watched poker decline, and kept playing even while some of the good old card rooms were closing. Then I watched it become almost a fad or craze, with the young players like Stu coming in, and new rooms opening.”

Griff is not shy about using the information if someone tips their hand.

“If I can see the cards next to me, I’ll tell the player, ‘Hey, you need to protect your hand.’ I’ll give him one warning, but that’s it. After that, he’s fair game, and I’m going to go get him.

“Even the one warning is more than some of my friends do. They figure anyone who’s playing in the card room should know better, and if they can see your cards, they’re going to use it against you.

“If I can repeatedly see your cards, you’d better hope you’re never in the same hands as me, because I’m going to bust you.”

Look for John Grochowski on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/7lzdt44) and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).
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Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

The Craps Answer Book

> More Books By John Grochowski