The old and new of Poker

Prop Tales

By Bill Patty

There is no doubt that some things change and some things stay the same. As 2016 leaves us and 2017 gives us all a chance to reflect on the old and the new, I find myself looking back on how I learned to play Poker and how keeping up with the new can be fun too. Isn’t it interesting how sometimes we wish the old was new again? And why is new good? Or is it?

The Old

Growing up with my family in Fresno, I learned to play Poker at a young age. Often we would have eight or 10 of us around the kitchen table playing our beloved variations of Stud Poker. No Peekie, Baseball, and my personal favorite, Dr. Pepper (where 10s, 2s and 4s are wild) were weekly family fun. Of course we also played regular Seven-Card Stud, which was my game of choice any time I would venture to Reno or Vegas.

I rarely get to play it any more and I miss it. There must be others like me who would support a casino-based seven-card stud game. What do you think?

Some of the old things are still with us. Let’s call them experienced (LOL)! I am talking about the dealers you have seen for years in your local cardrooms. They are the glue that holds games together. They are people like Michelle, Lin, Phan, Sammy, Kellen, Pua, and Vanh, who day after day give their best to provide us all with a positive poker experience. Tell them today you appreciate them and the professionalism they continue to display.

If you are one of the players who thinks it is okay to berate, put down, blame, or otherwise disrespect these dealers, I hope your local floor person shows you the door. Nobody wants to hear it and it is not appropriate.

As a Poker prop, I am asked a lot of questions about Poker and the way I play. To understand and learn from any Poker player, you must understand them. The first Poker book I read was “Hold’em Poker for Advanced Players”’ by David Sklansky and Mason Malmuth. This book was followed by more by Doyle Brunson, T. J. Cloutier, Tom McEvoy, and Dan Harrington.

If you are wondering who most of these poker players/authors are, you must understand that, like me, they are “old school.” I learned to play from the ground up. These books preach starting hand ­requirements, percentages, psychology, well-timed aggression, and folding a lot of hands.

This fits well with my personality. I am a very patient, perceptive, analytical person. To play the way I play is neither glamorous nor exciting. Many players have told me they would like to play more like me. Others have said they would rather shoot themselves in the head! However you play, use your natural strengths and learn from those that play differently from you.

When I was becoming a serious Poker player, I used to watch and learn from my new friend Happy. Henh “Happy” Ho always seemed to have the right amount of patience and aggression. In the nearly 20 years since then I have learned a lot from many different Poker players. Learning never gets old.

The New

Younger players often bring new dynamics to the game. They usually play a lot of hands and rely on aggression for their success. They also tend to have scoured the internet for information and Poker strategies.

When they win, they win big. When they lose, the phrase “crash and burn” comes to mind. These players help keep me learning and trying to adapt to a new kind of game that sometimes takes me out of my comfort zone. It sure looks like fun!

I asked one of our new props, Josiah, about the way he plays. “I just think differently than most players.” Hmm. I have been watching Josiah carefully over the last couple months and, in a way, he has reinvigorated my thinking. No, I am not going to play J-4 offsuit for a raise out of position in a kill pot, but I do appreciate his fearlessness and he is a pretty good reader of whether a player has a strong hand or not.

He has had his ups and downs already, and has started to ask questions. Any successful Poker player will continually evaluate and reevaluate their play and continue to improve.

The great thing about being a young Poker player is that you feel invincible. Even if you go broke, you have many years of earning power left.

Is it just me, or does everybody now have a “favorite hand”? My buddy, Mr. “Nothing Funner Than Runner Runner,” has an affinity for J-3. Huh? Another of our regulars swears by 7-5 suited. The owner of our club loves 10-6. Other local favorites are J-9, 6-9, and pocket 4s. The list goes on and on.

One recent morning, our regular $4/8 Hold’em game was in full swing. One player limped from early position and Mr. Runner Runner, in late position, asked jokingly, “Who’s big blind is it?”

It was my big blind, of course, and after he raised, I looked down at 2-7 suited. Now, 99.9 percent of the time I just muck this hand. But on this morning I announced, “You’ve got to fight fire with fire,” and confidently put in another four blue chips.

When the flop came 5-5-2 I bet without hesitation. The limper then folded and it was up to my buddy to act. He says, “I should raise your ass.” I laugh and he just calls.

Another 2 hits the turn and I want to check-raise so bad, but he does not cooperate, checking behind me. A seven comes on the river and, with his pocket eights, he thinks he has me. When I turn over my hand, the rest of the table erupts in laughter and my buddy can’t believe it,. He shakes his head and utters a few choice words before starting to laugh himself. That’s a new one for me!

Rationalization chalks that one up to advertising.

New can be fun—new promotions, learning a new game, new players, new menu, new ideas. But … we must learn from those who came before us for the new to be good.

People and Places

It has been almost two years since I visited one of my favorite Poker establishments, the Reno Peppermill. I plan to make it there soon and hope to sit at a table with the best poker dealer I have ever met. Her name is Montana. Her dealing is truly a work of art! Also in Reno, I love to eat and play poker at Atlantis. They used to have a great limit mixed game that has since gone by the way. Those were the days!

Until next time, enjoy your game and call me when I bet the river!