Archive for March, 2010


Recently, a friend of mine lent me a book entitled “New Poker Games” by Mike Caro.  Since this book was originally published in 1984, the word new is now probably irrelevant.  Nonetheless, most of the games in the book were new to me.  A few of the games looked quite challenging, but I have yet to suggest any of these games to fellow players in any of the home games in which I play.

The game I found most intriguing was a game Mike Caro called Tic Tac Hold ’em.  Like Hold ’em, it can be played with many participants.  Mike Caro rates this game as complexity, “medium to great;” luck factor, “medium.”

In Tic Tac Hold ’em, each player is dealt two face-down cards as in Hold ’em. Then nine common cards are placed  in the center of the table:

                                            C    D    E
                                            A    I   B
                                           F   G   H
Cards A and B are face-up; the others, face-down.  There is an initial round of betting.
Then, cards C D E are turned face-up. There is another round of betting.
Then, cards F G H are turned face-up. There is another round of betting.
Then, card I is turned face-up. There is a final round of betting.
Players may use the two cards from their hand with any of the following combination of cards (Think of Tic Tac Toe.):  Any three in a row, in a column, or diagonally.  That’s it–like Hold ’em with many more variables.

Every so often, one of our poker-playing group hosts an evening of $1-$2, No-Limit Hold ’em.  He gets more than 25 players and manages a very professional three-table tournament.   As losers drop out, they form a cash game.  Other than that, Hold ’em gets little or no action in our home poker games.  I have not (as yet)introduced Tic Tac Hold ’em.  So, I decided to experiment with the Tic Tac Hold ’em concept and developed Tic Tac Dough, an Omaha hi-lo (with a little twist) version.

Tic Tac Dough 

Each player receives four cards, face-down. Then nine common cards are placed in the center of the table:

                                            C    D    E
                                            A    I   B
                                           F   G   H
Cards A and B are face-up; the others, face-down.  There is an initial round of betting.
Then, cards C D E are turned face-up. There is another round of betting.
Then, cards F G H are turned face-up. There is another round of betting.
Then, card I is turned face-up. There is a final round of betting.
Players must use only two cards (of their four) from their hand with any of the following combination of cards (Think of Tic Tac Toe.):  Any three in a row, in a column, or diagonally.  Best five-card, high-hand splits with best five-card, 8-or-better  low-hand. 
Now, for the twist!  Though two cards from player’s hand may and must be always used for the high hand, there is a possibility for player to use three cards from his/her hand for low.  If there is no possible 8-or-better low-hand combination to be formed by using two cards in player’s hand and three cards on the table, then, player may use three cards in his/her hand and two cards in a row, in a column, or diagonally.  Of course, if there are not two or three low cards in a row, column, or a diagonal; then, there is no low hand possible.
Though the game gets plenty of action, it has not gained much popularity.

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It was a simple game.  Probably still is. We just don’t play it anymore.  This game was in effect long before I joined the on-going Thursday night game, that was the first weekly poker game I became part of since moving to Massachusetts in 1970. FIVE-TWO-C was the mainstay of the game. Each hand seemed to take an eternity to play, since, after all cards were dealt and replacement cards were distributed, there was a declaration round followed by yet  another round of betting.  How long it took to play each hand was secondary to the yucks and camaraderie of this game in its earlier years.  There was an interesting mix of players. A few were excellent; the majority just there to have a great night with the boys. No wonder we didn’t care about how long it took to play a hand, game had no definite quitting time–going sometimes past 4:00 A. M.

FIVE-TWO-C is basically a five-card stud game with a common and two replaces after all cards have been dealt. [Hence, five (cards dealt to each player), two (replacement cards), and a common (community card).] It is a declare game as well, increasing the chances that there could be an additional round of betting after the declare.

Each player receives one card down and one card up.  There is a round of betting.
Each player then receives another card face-up. There is another round of betting.
Then, there is a common card. There is another round of betting.
Each player then receives a card face-up. There is another round of betting.
Each player then receives a face-down, fifth card of his/her own. There is another round of betting.
Then, each player has the opportunity to exchange a card for a new one. There is another betting round.
There is then another opportunity to replace a card.  There is another round of betting.
Then there is a declaration round.  Best high hand splits pot with best low hand.
There are seven rounds of betting before declaration. Game generates large pots, especially if players must pay for their replacement cards.

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 It was the fall of 2006. Though the individuals were not all the same, it was our group’s second visit to Las Vegas. All of us were poker players. Some of us had gone in May, 2006 as well, frolicking and echoing lines from “Animal House”–though years past our prime.

The fall, 2006 trip included six, of which five were from the Wednesday night poker game in which I played. The sixth, a good friend of a few of the other attendees and brother-in-law of one as well, was a guy I had never before met. I had heard his name mentioned in various humorous stories. He used to play in a long-running poker game–a previous incarnation of our Wednesday night game. It was a pleasure to meet him. He exuded friendship. His round, full face seemed to have a perennial smile. We immediately started to bond. While old stories were being repeated, new tales were being spun. This tale is as memorable as he was. Rather than use actual names, I’ll call him Gill.

We were staying at Harrahs. Harrahs is certainly not one of the fancier venues in Las Vegas, but it sure is well located. In addition, Harrahs has always gone out of its way to make us feel welcome. Always great dinners at The Range Steakhouse! This particular night at Harrahs, we pigged-out on many great appetizers and then so many tasty main courses. We enjoyed them all while we laughed and drank at Ming’s Table. The good times and laughs continued as we all wended our way to Caesars Palace to play poker.

Las Vegas is a Mecca for billboards. It’s a Mecca for a myriad of neon lights. Loud jokes and song and music boom from marquees. As you cross Las Vegas Boulevard you are aware not only of all the hustle and bustle of the street, but of all the lights and all the noise from extravagant billboards. Each hotel, each casino competing to outdo the other–a cacophony of sight and sound. Outside Caesars Palace, their billboard featured Jerry Seinfeld, including some Jerry Seinfeld humor. The dialog boomed, yet it seemed to drift into the night air along with all the lights and the fountain sprays and the cigarette smoke.

The poker room at Caesars was unusually quiet. Management was kind enough to open a $5-$10, hi-lo Omaha table for us. At first it was just our group. Then, we were joined by others. To Caesars surprise, they had an actual Omaha game going. We cajoled and socialized with other players, who would come and go from the table. Every so often one of us would disappear for awhile and run off to shoot Craps or play Black Jack. While two of the group returned to Harrahs, four of us remained at Caesars, playing-on past 1:00 A.M. or so.

By the time we were ready to leave Caesars Palace, the night air had turned chilly. The four of us were anxious to make our way back to Harrahs as fast as possible. Three of us were walking back. The fourth, Gill, whose knee was more pained from recent surgery than he had anticipated, was headed back on a motorized wheelchair-scooter he had rented. .


We had come all the way from Caesars to Las Vegas Boulevard. One of the group was still waiting to cross. One of us had traversed the treacherous street. Gill, on his scooter, was just about at the center island of the boulevard. I was about halfway across the first section of the boulevard when I saw a speeding car traveling along the lane closest to the center island. This car just recklessly whizzed-by in front of me as I turned my head to the right and saw the vehicle racing along, headed directly for Gill on his scooter, not yet safely on the center island.

The impact was fierce and unforgettable. The horror is not to be described here. It was immediately apparent how close Gill and his brother-in-law must have been. One could feel all the true affection they had for each other. Their family ties interspersed with their business ties which interspersed with their long, on-going friendship–demonstrating that we become relatives by chance; friends by choice. This catastrophe has effected all of us. Too often I relive the events of this needless killing of this very vibrant man.

We were there for hours. A few witnesses gathered. Police arrived. Las Vegas Boulevard was closed during the lengthy investigation. The wanton, inebriated driver was taken into custody. Caesars Palace security showed up. Caesars Palace management team showed up. There was nothing they would deny us. They brought out blankets for us and the witnesses. They brought us hot coffee and cold drinks. They went out of their way to comfort us. Yes, Harrahs and Caesars are part of the same corporate conglomerate, but their personnel appeared to be trained in compassionate care-giving for the public. They offered to make phone calls for us. They offered us an inside comfort area, which we declined.

Through all this tragedy and sadness, Jerry Seinfeld’s comedic remarks kept booming through the chilling air. The humor was just out of place. We all were grieving and dealing with this shock and calamity. The constant recycling of the same Jerry Seinfeld routine was just an inappropriate interference. When Caesars management asked if there was anything else they could do for us, I said “yes” and requested that they please mute the Jerry Seinfeld sign.

The somberness befitting the tragic events finally quieted the impending morning dawn.

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West 92nd Street

Long before I moved to the Boston area and long before I started playing in a local Thursday night poker game in Newton and Medford, I played in a game at Mel’s apartment in New York City. Mel was a bachelor who owned an investment company. Each week he hosted a game. He supplied sandwiches, snacks, and beverages.  He never took any money for the sustenance.  It was usually the same group of renegades.  We were seven at maximum.  Many times we played with less.  The group consisted of a few insurance guys; Harry, who owned a diner somewhere near the Bowery;  Lou, who I mentioned in a previous post (he hosted a similar game with some of the same guys); and, when he was in town, the actor James Broderick.

It was a nice size game for the 1960’s with stakes at $1, $2, and $5.  We played a few wild card games, one we called Manhattan. It was a Seven-Stud, hi-lo, declare game.  The low card in the hole  (and any others in your hand that matched it) was wild.  In addition, after the seventh card, there was a replace card that cost $1.  So, if by chance you were betting your hand contingent upon your low card in the hole being a four, let’s say, and your seventh card was a two, you had a chance to get rid of the two in hopes of getting a card higher than the four so that the four would be reestablished as your low card in the hole.  Anyway, there were many reasons to replace a card. By replacing an up-card, you could possibly match your low card in the hole. 

We played a five-card version of Manhattan, called Downtown. Each player received one card down, three cards up, and a final card down. There was betting each round. Of course, after you received your fifth card, which was down, it was very likely that your complete hand changed. You now had the option of replacing a card.  There was a lot of positioning and posturing.  This game made everyone think.

We played some Seven-Stud, hi-lo, declare with no wild cards, but still a replace.   In addition, we played some versions of Fiery Cross, described elsewhere in this blog under Criss-Cross Variants.

At that time, we played no 8-low qualifier games.  All hi-lo games were declare. Positioning was paramount, since all declaring was verbal. In the declaration round of betting, the last active better (the person making the initial bet or the person taking the last raise), was the first to declare. Sometimes, by posturing yourself correctly, you could back into winning by hearing, as an example, that the three declarers before you all went high.  You being last to act, might just declare low, feeling that your high hand faced too much competition.

Games would usually start at about 8:00 at night and run through 1:30 or 2:00 A.M. That’s when the real action started.  We played Poker for five or six hours, struggling to win $150 to $350; then, we would risk so much more.  Chairs got moved, a couch got moved. The carpet was moved back. We got on our knees and would start shooting Craps, many mornings until daylight.  The wins and losses at Craps were not relevant to those possibilities of the Poker game. Sometimes, someone who was a marginal winner at Poker, might win $600 to $1000 shooting Craps. Usually anywhere from three to five remained to shoot Craps.

House Craps (or Street Craps) varies from casino-style Craps. There is no felt listing all the betting options. All bets need to be covered by other players.  Many times, not all bets get covered. Usually, most action was against the dice roller. There was no behind-the-line action. The roller would put up let’s say $200. The other participants would shout out how much of the action he was taking and lay his money down. When the last of the $200 was covered, the shooter was “faded.”  If the $200 was not covered in full, the shooter would pull back the money that was not covered. Assuming there was no 2,3, 7, 11, or 12 on the initial role, the point would be established.  Then, there was usually more action: 2 to 1 on the 4 or 10, 3 to 2 on the 5 or 9, and 6 to 5 on the 6 or 8. That was the extent of the action.  No one was betting the hard-8 or placing a come-bet on the next roll. 

Most everyone at the game smoked cigarettes or cigars. If you were a non-smoker, you never objected since smoking was hardly verboten then.  By 5:30 or 6:00 A.M. we all stank from the smoke in the air and were all quite disheveled.  Many mornings, we never made it home to shower or change clothes.  Sleep! Sleeping was secondary.  There were many times that we just went from work to Poker/Craps and back to work–and that was without cocaine.

One day Mel, whose apartment was on West 92nd Street, not far from Central Park, parked his car.  He opened his car door to exit. At that moment, Mel’s life changed.  He was never the same. Some young man, speeding down the street on his bicycle, slammed head-first into Mel’s car door. The bicyclist was pronounced dead on the spot.

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