The Passing of a Legend

From an AP news article:

Poker Star Chip Reese Dies at 56


“I knew him for 35 years, I never saw him get mad or raise his voice,” Brunson said. “He had the most even disposition of anyone I’ve ever met. He’s certainly the best poker player that ever lived.”

After attending Dartmouth College, Reese was on his way to Stanford in the early 1970s when he stopped by a Las Vegas poker room and won big, said World Series of Poker media director Nolan Dalla.

“He just accidentally stumbled into Las Vegas and never left,” Dalla said.

His immediate success at cash games and low-key persona won him friends, even among those who wound up passing him their chips.

Despite winning three World Series champion’s bracelets over the last four decades, including a $1.8 million HORSE event in 2006 that combines five poker disciplines, Reese focused on high-stakes cash games away from the limelight.

“I’ve seen him with a million dollars in front of him,” said Dalla, describing how Reese would put out racks of $5,000 chips “like he was betting a few bucks.”

Reese was part of a generation of players in the 1970s who challenged established greats like Brunson, Thomas “Amarillo Slim” Preston Jr. and Walter Clyde “Puggy” Pearson, Dalla said.

Brunson and Reese eventually became business partners, investing in everything from oil wells and mining to TV stations and racehorses and becoming sports betting consultants.

None of the ventures was successful, Brunson said.

“We went to look for the Titanic. We went to look for Noah’s Ark. We were two of the biggest suckers whenever it came to business, but we both had poker to fall back on,” Brunson said. “Thank God we could play, so we always survived.”

Reese’s prowess at both cash and tournament play was cemented with his 2005 win, said World Series of Poker commissioner Jeffrey Pollack.

“Many consider Chip the greatest cash-game player who ever lived,” Pollack said in a statement. “His victory in the inaugural $50,000 buy-in HORSE championship … made him a part of WSOP lore forever.”

In addition to his son, Reese is survived by a daughter and a stepdaughter, Brunson said. He was recently divorced from his wife.

Services are planned for Friday in Las Vegas, Brunson said.

EdNote: Doyle Brunson and Chip Reese went to look for Noah’s Ark?! Whoa.

Some reading for the new year

Quoting from January Magazine‘s Holiday Gift Guide:

Dead Man’s Hand: Crime Fiction at the Poker Table
edited by Otto Penzler (Harcourt Books) 400 pages

Dead Man's HandHaving already commissioned original short stories for anthologies with sports themes (basketball, boxing, baseball, tennis, horse racing, etc.), Penzler is finally tapping into the enthusiasm for what seems to be America’s latest favorite spectator-friendly endeavor: poker. Taking its name from the aces-and-eights card hand that Wild Bill Hickok was reportedly holding when he was shot to death in Deadwood, Dakota Territory, in 1876, this compilation bears all the excitement and inconsistency associated with Lady Luck. It’s nice to see talented stalwarts such as Peter Robinson, Joyce Carol Oates, Walter Mosley, Jeffery Deaver, and Michael Connelly pitching their prose into Penzler’s pot. And gambling’s longstanding nefarious edge makes it an ideal subject around which to build a crime-fiction short-story collection. I only wish that the poker theme had been played as expertly by all of the contributors, as it is by some. Still, for fans of cards and crime, Dead Man’s Hand is a good bet.

Offered Without Comment

Nice pair

(Insert your own “nice pair” joke here.)

3-card Hand Rankings

For the record, I’ve done the math (correctly–I think) for the various kinds of three card hands, and have come up with the result that a straight flush definitely beats three of a kind in three card poker.

As with any kind of poker, the harder it is to make a hand, the more the hand is worth. It turns out there are 48 ways to make a straight flush (12 possible straights, from {A,2,3} through {K,Q,A} in each of 4 suits equals 48 possible ways) and 52 possible ways to make three of a kind (for any given rank, there are 4 ways to make three of a kind–“without spades”, “without hearts”, “without diamonds”, and “without clubs”– and there are 13 ranks, so 52 possible ways).

Since it’s harder to make a straight flush, the straight flush wins.

For completeness sake, here’s what I worked out for the number of ways to make each kind of hand in 3-card:

# Hand
48 Straight flush
52 Three of a kind
720 Straight
1096 Flush
3744 Pair
16440 Ace High or Less

Some ideas to discuss

A couple of different people have been talking to me about how the increased aggression at the games has made it harder for people with smaller bankrolls (not stacks, bankrolls) to play successfully in the game. This can be phrased as either “I don’t want to lose more than $20, but I want to play for more than 10 minutes” or “Man, I’ve lost $80 a week for the last several weeks”, or “it’s pretty ridiculous that we get as much money in the pot with 6 or 7 guys at a weekly game as we have with 15 at a tournament”.

Now, part of me wants to ignore these complaints (especially since on average this year I’m taking home a good chunk of those large pots and anything that limits pot size will reduce my take-home), and assume that everyone who’s complaining will eventually have a winning night that will make them happy about the format again, but I am concerned about the possibility of losing several people and not being able to depend on having a game at all.

So, in order to start the discussion, a couple of ideas. I’m just throwing these out there—feel free to suggest other ideas or modifications to these; especially if you’re one of the people who isn’t happy with the current situation:

  1. Can we have different stakes on different nights? For instance, could we switch (back) to the $5 buy-in on the 1st and 3rd week of the month? The idea here is to both “slow the bleeding” and make a smaller stake last longer (at least $20 could be 4 all-ins, instead of 2). The problem here is that this magnifies the dominance of someone who does establish a large stack.
  2. Can we try some nights where we play with a structured limit (or hell, even a pot limit) rather than everything being no-limit? This doesn’t even have to be a “special night” thing, but could just be something that people call when it’s there crack at dealer’s choice. Instead of calling “Hold ‘Em” call “25-50 Limit Hold ‘Em” or something. This would obviously change the dynamics of play substantially, and presumably in a way that would result in smaller pots, and fewer bust outs. The downside here is that pretty much everyone in the universe agrees this is less fun than regular Hold ‘Em (precisely because it is less dangerous). The other downside is that this will just magnify the “can’t bluff anyone off anything at this table” issue.
  3. Can we limit the number of buyins at (some of) the weekly games? The idea here would be to do two things: first, to prevent the weekly pots of getting really big, which in turn would prevent a lot of the “swinging my stack” behaviour that can cripple people with small bank rolls. The second effect would be to artificially level the playing field for people with different economic realities: it doesn’t matter how many times I could afford to buy in if I know that I can only buy in three times a night—and you want to believe that during that third buyin I’ll be playing like quarters matter to me, because I don’t want to have to go home.
  4. Can we have some nights without crazy games? I know that some people work hard all night to build up a decent stack during real poker, and then are actually crushed when they get into a “four aces versus five queens” situation at the river. The crazy games are the thing that prevents the answer to a complaint of “I keep losing more money than I really want to every week” from being “well, play better”. I suspect that having some weeks be “all poker” would also help with some of the people who are complaining.

Game Tuesday?

Since the mailing list seems to be fuxxored again, let’s use this for discussion for the moment.

First of all, is it true you shmucks let Gibbs win again? I was enjoying being the only threepeat, and now I have to welcome Bob to the club.

(Congratulations Bob. What do you want on the trophy?)

Then, since I had to miss this weekend’s rituals at the altar of Gamblor, I am interested in the question of a weekly game this week, in order to get my fix. Are we up for that, and do we have an offer of a host?

Obama Can Play Cards (Allegedly)

Since this person has a statistically valid chance at being the leader of the free world in the next 13 months or so, I reckoned this story regarding his implied “poker prowess” was worthy of mention:

Gambling buddies: Obama flush with poker prowess

SPRINGFIELD, Illinois (AP) — Barack Obama’s triumph in the 2004 U.S. Senate race earned him a memorable send-off from his friends in the Illinois Legislature — they emptied his wallet in a take-no-prisoners night of poker.

Sen. Barack Obama is careful, focused and competitive at the card table, say his old poker buddies.

“We brought him down to earth real quick,” said state Sen. Terry Link, chuckling at the memory.

Obama was a regular at the low-stakes games — sometimes stud poker, sometimes draw — designed to break up the tedium of long legislative sessions. Poker, beer and cigars were staples; Democrats and Republicans, lawmakers and even the lobbyists who Obama sometimes rails against dealt the cards and placed their bets.

The traits Obama displayed around the card table those many nights are ones he brings to his presidential bid and are certain to be evident — and analyzed — if he wins the White House.

By his poker buddies’ accounts, Obama is careful and focused. He’s not easily distracted and doesn’t give away his intentions unless it’s to his advantage. He’s not prone to taking risky chances, preferring to play it safe. But he’s also serious and competitive: When he plays, he plays to win.

“It’s a fun way for people to relax and share stories and give each other a hard time over friendly competition,” Obama said by e-mail. “In Springfield, it was a way to get to know other senators — including Republicans.”

Obama, then a state senator, was a founding member of the group. He became known as a cautious player with a good poker face, someone who paid more attention to the game than to the chatter and laughter that accompanied it.

Obama studied the odds carefully, friends say. If he had strong cards, he’d play. If he didn’t, he would fold rather than bet good money on the chance the right card would show up when he needed it.

That reputation meant that he often succeeded when he decided to bluff.

“When Barack stayed in, you pretty much figured he’s got a good hand,” said Larry Walsh, a former senator.

More than one lawmaker teased Obama about his careful style of play.

“I always used to kid him that the only fiscally conservative bone in his body I ever saw was at the poker table with his own money,” said state Sen. Bill Brady, a Republican from the central Illinois city of Bloomington. “I said if he would be half as conservative with taxpayer dollars, the state would be a lot better off.”

Obama is taking a different kind of gamble in seeking the Democratic presidential nomination after just two years in Washington.

Showing the same analytical style he brought to the card table, Obama weighed his options for months before deciding to run.

Now that he’s in, the image he’s cultivating is a match for the one described by his poker buddies — friendly and relaxed yet still serious. And he clearly brings the same competitive streak to the campaign, where he has raised nearly $60 million and challenged front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Obama once called poker a hidden talent and judged himself a “pretty good” player.

He began playing in high school, sometimes with his grandfather and sometimes with classmates. After leaving Springfield, he didn’t join a Washington version of his weekly poker game and he doesn’t play on the campaign trail.

The poker nights — sometimes called the “committee meeting” by the players — began around 1997 as a way to kill time during long legislative sessions in the small capital city of about 115,000. Under state law, it’s illegal to play poker for money, but the law is seldom enforced when low-stakes games are involved.

Players didn’t study their cards and their opponents in icy silence. Instead, they joked and griped about legislative leaders and talked trash.

“Barack was always focused on anything he did, but he would certainly engage in banter,” said Stephen Selcke, a lobbyist for AT&T. “Barack was one of the guys.”

Mixing up the game

The group didn’t always stick to traditional kinds of poker. They often played variations that resembled blackjack or split the pot between the highest and lowest hands. They even played a version that awarded half the pot based on a random card.

On most nights, a player might win or lose around $30, participants said. A really big night would mean winning, or losing, $100.

The players rarely talked about legislation. The lobbyists felt strongly that it would break an unwritten rule if they tried to sway the lawmakers during the games, Selcke said.

As a presidential candidate, Obama doesn’t accept political contributions from lobbyists or political action committees. But as a legislator, he took thousands of dollars from the groups represented by some of his poker buddies. AT&T in its various incarnations, for example, gave more than $13,000 over the years.

Still, Obama routinely voted against the communications giant’s interests. He opposed SBC Communications Inc. — as AT&T was then called — on a major initiative in 2003 that would have increased costs for the company’s competitors.

Poker night also included a lobbyist for the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, and the game eventually was moved to the association’s office. Obama often voted to raise taxes and fees for businesses.

Players say the poker game affected legislation only by building relationships, and lobbyists might get a more respectful hearing for their arguments.

Obama usually broke even or came out ahead. Part of the reason he fared poorly in that final game was that he faced card players focused solely on beating him, Link said. Other players took risks they wouldn’t normally take and called all his bluffs just to have a little fun with the new political superstar.

Obama took it in stride, but his opponents say he always hated to lose.

“He didn’t throw his cards or take a swing at anybody, but he wasn’t a happy person,” said Link, a Democrat from the Chicago suburbs. “He’s got that competitive spirit, no doubt about it.”

With the departure of Obama and others, the Springfield poker nights have dwindled to just the occasional game. But the players haven’t given up on the possibility of another game with Obama.

“I’m hoping that maybe one night we’ll have one in the White House,” Link said.

Heard At The Tables

More poker slang from around the world, and the Internets.

  • San Francisco Busboy – Another name for the old , with the same etymology. Just as funny if…
  • zombie – Someone showing no emotion or behaviour. A good poker face. “He’s a total zombie, but only when he actually has a hand, which is kind of ironic.”
  • Upstairs! – another way to say “I raise”.
  • philosopher – slang for a card cheat in England, apparently. I like this one.
  • No vacancy! – another way to announce that you hit the boat.
  • foot – A terrible hand. As in,”my hand’s so bad, it might as well be a foot”

Would You Play Poker With This Man?


Would You Play Poker With This Man?

Jarrod Wanted