The rules to what I lovingly call “Old Man Poker”

April 20, 2015

cropped_fishing_photo

Hello again everyone!

I thought I’d start off my return to regular blogging talking about something near and dear to my heart: Hanging out with my father and his cronies during the annual fishing weekend. It began more than thirty years ago when a group of young men would help each other open a cottage in the spring or close it for the fall over the course of a long weekend, and it has evolved into an excuse to get together and spend some guy time away from the wives and kids. There’s golfing, and fishing, and telling the same tall tales the grow with each year’s repetition, and of course a healthy dose of eating and drinking like they still have the metabolism of twenty-somethings. They’re a cool bunch of guys, and I could go on at some length about how much fun we have, but for the sake of talking about something specific, I want to talk today about something we do every year that I never see anywhere else: We play what I lovingly call “Old Man Poker.”

fish_storyNow when most people of my generation talk about poker, they’re talking about Texas Hold’em. I can’t speak for everyone, but I believe Hold’em first rose to prominence in my imagination during the 2004-2005 NHL lockout. Canadian television was a wasteland that winter as station after station scrambled to fill all the airtime we normally spent watching the Toronto Maple Leafs lose, the Ottawa Senators choke, and Vancouver and Montreal whip themselves into a rioting fury whether they win or lose. Someone seized upon the bright idea of televising no limit Texas Hold’em tournaments as a cheap airtime filler, and before you know it every young man with at least four friends was organizing a get-together where he could push all his chips into the center while trying to deadpan, “All in.” I had a lot of fun with that as a young man, and without claiming to be any good at it, I won more than I lost. I enjoy Texas Hold’em a lot, and I can get my father and his friends to play it from time to time, but it’s not their game at all. For them, Texas Hold’em emerged as the king of Poker when they had already been playing poker for thirty years. They’re loyal to their way of doing things, and more power to them!

So what exactly is “Old Man Poker”? Speaking in broad terms, it’s the traditional poker games that would not have been out of place in a Legion Hall basement in the Fifties and Sixties. Everyone gets a turn as dealer, and each dealer calls his own game after anteing for the privilege. A dealer who starts describing his game of choice without putting his money down is met with a chorus of clearing throats and requests for him to speak up because no one can hear him. It’s a rule that mystifies the non-regulars at the table, but everyone learns in time.

Anyway, all manner of stud and draw games are welcome, and some truly rare and magical variations have been created over the years as well. My Dad’s crowd plays a friendly game with between twenty and thirty bucks in coins each. A dime is the traditional wager in each betting round, with a nickel almost automatically raised on principle and pennies not welcome. Twenty-five cents is big money, and the maximum raise per round is fifty cents. That said, many of these games have ten or twenty betting rounds, so folding money does trade hands over the course of the night. A player who goes bust is allowed to play on without anteing on the understanding that when they start winning again, they start paying again. It’s a pretty solid way to guarantee everyone will have a good time for the entire evening.

Here are a selection of some of the games that a dealer may choose from:

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Starting this blog up again

April 19, 2015

Hello everyone,

bluedustydeskAfter a hiatus of more than two years, I have decided to get back into blogging. I don’t know how often I’ll update this site, but I have begun writing again in earnest, and this was always a great forum for me to change pace and work on something different.

When this blog was good, it was very good. The post about presidential knife-fighting became a runaway hit, with more than 300,000 views to date. I imagine I’ll try to do something equally hair-brained in the future if I ever hope to see those numbers again. I’m also delighted that so many readers of my two novels, Inca and Zulu, have come to this site to learn more about how and why I wrote them. You can definitely expect to see more of that, and hopefully my renewed enthusiasm for seeking our the elusive and possibly mythical third novel will offer much grist for the mill.

There are a few things that I did not do in 2009 through 2012 that I will likely do now: I can see this blog being a space for me to talk about current issues and events as I see them, and so moving forward I will not be so worried about the longevity and staying power of a piece. Better to write prolifically and have some content become stale than to sit idle for months for want of inspiration. I also suspect I will lean more towards many short posts rather than my more customary long and rambling essays. We’ll see how that goes.

Anyway, people start and stop blogs all the time. This was a longer break than I meant to do, but I was busy with other things in the last couple of years, and I have no regrets about how I spent my time. Now I am back, and hopefully we can have some fun with this.

Cheers!

–Geoff