The Lizas

On the table sat a bowl of gribenes, chicken skin fried in chicken fat. Every so often, the gribenes, smelling of fried onions, would get smeared on a piece of  pumpernickel. The house always wreaked of onions.  Sometimes my eyes would tear. 

There were not many private homes on Cabrini Boulevard in Washington Heights in New York City.  Mostly there were apartment houses lining the street opposite PS 187. Sandwiched between some apartment houses were two small homes.  (At least, that’s what I remember.) I was around fourteen at the time. My thoughts are a little jumbled around all this.  Were there really two private homes, here amidst all these apartment houses?

The name Pete comes to mind.  Was Pete Liza the father or was he one of the Liza children? I can’t really say. I can say that I remember, that in one of these houses, the father (German or Polish immigrant, I assumed) sitting at the white, chipped-porcelain kitchen table. There he would sit, naked beneath his bathrobe.  His balls dangled over the seat edge. He had a cup of hot tea and a plate in front of him. He would sip some tea.  He would eat some bread smeared with chicken fat.  No matter the time of day, he was in his bathrobe.

In the schoolyard I was approached by a member of the Liza family; I assume, a son. He mentioned to a few of my friends and me about a Poker game at his house.  Since I was playing both Hearts and Poker (strictly, Seven-Stud, high only) on a regular basis–always with the same group of  friends, I was interested in this “other” game. A few of my friends were too.  The Poker stakes we regularly played for were nickles and dimes, maybe quarters.  I don’t remember whether or not we played Hearts for money.   We probably did.

A few days after we were first asked to play at the Liza house, we actually showed up to play.  There were about six Poker players, including the old man Liza.  I don’t recall where I got the original money for the first game in which I played there. As a kid, I never got an allowance. When I needed money, I just asked my mom or dad, and I would get money: $1, $2, $5–whatever.  I do know that whatever amount of money I brought to that first game at the Lizas,  I lost.  The stakes were for some amount of bills, not coins.  I assume the betting must have been at $1 or $2. (More?  Maybe, but I doubt it.) 

Coming up with money to keep going back to this game was a problem.  I do not know where my friends, who were also losing all the time, came up with the money.  (We never thought about why we were losing all the time.   Who new about card sharks and hustlers!) I do remember where I came up with the money.

Sometime after dinner, my father would be relaxing in the livingroom of our two-bedroom apartment. He would either change his pants or put a bathrobe on (I don’t recall which.). I know he did not walk around in just underwear, and I don’t think he had on pajamas. I do know that he would leave the suit pants, he had worn that day, draped over a cushioned chair in the master bedroom. In the left rear pocket of those pants was his wallet made of a light tan leather. This wallet had some oil-like stains and was cracked in most of its exterior.  There were no pictures in his wallet–just some pieces of paper and some identification stuff. What there always was in my father’s wallet was  lots and lots of bills–$20’s, $50’s, $100’s. His wallet was over-stuffed with bills.

When I was quite sure he was asleep in a living-room chair or couch and that my mother was in the kitchen, I would stealthfully find my way into the master bedroom and take some bills from my father’s wallet.  Usually, I took a few $20’s.  Certainly, he would not miss a few bills.  By lifting some bills from my dad,  I supported my loses at the Lizas. I probably played there being duped by the elder Liza (and maybe other members of the family) four or fives times. 

One night, my father caught me with my hand in his wallet. I suspect he must have noticed that some of his money was missing.  I remember well the evening.  My face must have been flushed, but cooly I told him that I was going to bring him his wallet because I needed some money for something-or-other. I know he did not believe me, but I admitted nothing.  Shame stayed with me.

The facts surrounding what happened afterwards are not too clear. For sure, since I no longer had access to   discretionary money, I stopped playing at the Lizas.  However, something dramatic must have transpired. A day or two after I was “caught in the act,”  somehow or other, my mother and the mother of one of my friends (Hal, I believe) questioned Hal and me about this card game going on at “that German man’s house.”  I was not in attendance when both mothers went over to the Lizas to confront them.

My First Kill

"Sheeney!" "Kike!" Shouts came a few times a week, especially when we left Hebrew school at Inwood Jewish Center in the Inwood section near the upper tip of Manhattan. Since we Sheenies attended Hebrew school five days a week, we were easy targets and were constantly being attacked by one group or another.  Yet, we had no street gang of our own; so, every so often, we would join the Micks from Arden Street and Thayer Street when they were being attacked by the Guineas from north of Dyckman Street--pocket knives, shivs, garbage-can covers, taped hockey sticks, baseball bats, and fists all being flailed. Luckily, no one got killed.

Then there were two times I was held up at gun point in a deli I owned in New York City on Madison Avenue. This store was open 365 days a year.  We were open until midnight or one A.M. every night--a perfect target for those needing a fix so bad, they would steal from the first available place that seemed to have cash available. That first time, I had a pistol aimed at my head.  After the robber scooped whatever was in the register, probably under five hundred dollars, I attempted to call the police.  However, I had lost my voice. I actually could not talk to the police when they arrived, after a clerk who worked for me called the authorities.  The second time I was held up in the store, the robber made me feel more at ease.  I remember joking with him, asking him if he wanted a sandwich to-go.  Crazy, right?

Some years later, I was managing a Kings Supermarket in Livingston, New Jersey.  We had a safe in this store.  It was before closing, a little before nine at night. In the store along with me, were three customers, one cashier, and two clerks.  Three men with ski masks came into the store and jammed the door so it could not be opened.  Two of the men wielded some type of shot guns or rifles (police thought carbines). The leader of this fierce threesome kept making circular motions with his weapon, some kind of revolver with a very long barrel.  His motioning was signaling all of us, the employees and the customers, to go into the backroom.  We were told to lie down, which we all obligingly did. We lay on the floor, panicked. The three gunmen then took whatever they wanted, including my wallet.  It was the taking of my wallet that set me off.  I rose from the floor and approached the shotgun/rifle man who had my wallet.  I demanded that he give me my wallet back, stressing that they had plenty without my wallet and its meager contents, mostly ID's  and pictures.  He returned my wallet, in tact. Crazy, right?  The hold-up got even stranger.  The leader with this huge-looking pistol directed me back to the front of the store, where the safe was. I was ordered to open the safe. The gunman kept pointing this scary pistol at me. I became disoriented.  I informed the gunman that if he did not stop pointing his gun at me two things would probably happen. Firstly, he was not going to get any money from the safe; secondly, I would probably be killed. Luckily, he pointed the gun in another direction.  Finally, I was able to recall the combination to the safe.  I opened it. I gave him all the bills and checks. The three gunmen left.

It was not any of the many street fights or hold-ups or even my stint in the Military Police that brought about my first kill.  Actually, my first kill was in Foxwoods at the $5/$10 Omaha Hi-Lo table. I never knew what the reference to kill was in Poker until I sat down to play Omaha, $5/$10, Hi-Lo, "with a kill."

To kill a pot means to post an overblind that increases the betting limit. A full kill is double the amount of the big blind, and doubles the betting limits. A half kill is one-and-a-half times the big blind, and increases the betting limits by that amount.  There are other forms of "kills" as well.  For edification, I have referenced all "kills" at bottom of this portion.

This $5/$10 game became doubly exciting at $10/$20 after any pot, over $100,that was won by one person.  These days most kill pots are in $4/$8 games and are half-kills, $6/$12.  Some of the more enjoyable Omaha-with-a-kill(half-kill, actually)games are at Foxwoods in CT, The Taj in Atlantic City, and The Venetian in Vegas. At a $5/$10 dealer's choice home game I host every so often, we have a "kill" in effect: After any pot over $100 is won by one player, the stakes of the following hand go to $10/$15. If a $10/$15 hand is won by one player, the next hand is played at $10/$20.  My first kill had a lasting effect.
For complete "kill" information, consult "Robert Rules of Poker" which is authored by Robert Ciaffone, better known in the poker world as Bob Ciaffone, a leading authority on cardroom rules or http://www.cardplayer.com/rules-of-poker/kill-pots.

Make Seven

Since so many of the home games at which I play have eight, nine, and sometimes ten players, it’s nice to come up with new games that work with nine (or even ten).  When these newly introduced games gain some popularity, a sense of satisfaction is achieved.  Many players just enjoy the variety offered by new games; others, like I, relish the challenges. Many new games are proffered all the time.  Not too many stick.  Here’s one, Make Seven, I came up with in October of this year (2009).  This game is gaining in popularity.  Action is ever-improving.

Make Seven is played as a hi-lo, split game, eight-low required, cards-speak. (Game could possibly be played as a declare game.  I have never tried it.)

When played with up to nine players, each player receives five cards, face-down; with ten players, four cards. 
After all players have received their face-down cards, seven cards are placed face-down in the center of table, thusly:
        Row 1                       A  B D F
        Row 2                           C E G
Players use seven-cards from which they form their best five-card hands.
Players may use 1, 2, or 3 cards from their hand with Row 1 or 1, 2, 3, or 4 cards from their hand with Row 2. [For clarification, players may not use 4 cards in their hand and 1 card from Row 1 nor may they use all 5 cards in their hand and none from either row.]
There is a round of betting. Then cards A B and C are opened simultaneously.  
There is second round of betting. Then cards D and E are opened.
There is another round of betting. Finally, remaining cards F and G are opened.
There is a final round of betting.        
Remaining players reveal their hole cards. Best five-card high hand splits pot with best five-card low hand. It is possible to win both high and low using same row or both rows. Note: Cards from Row 1 may never be combined with cards from Row 2.         
GAME: Make Seven


It seems that Omaha attracts a little older set of players than Hold ‘Em does.  Of course, at the lower limit Seven Stud games it seems all the players are on-break from a geriatric ward.

Sometime back in 1994 or 1995 , I was playing Omaha Hi-Lo at Foxwoods. One of the younger players at the table  started a conversation about a home game at which he plays. This game, which he called *Sequence,  is not dealer’s choice nor strictly Hold ‘Em nor Omaha. Neither is this game hi-lo.

As far as he knew, the game had been in existence for at least fifteen years before he joined it. *Sequence is a split game: Best high hand splits the pot with best sequence hand. I was fascinated with the prospect of playing this game and introducing it at a Thursday night game in Newton, MA at which I had been playing since sometime in the 1970’s.  This Thursday night game was always at the same place, hosted by a fellow player and his wife, an extraordinary cook, who plied us with scrumptious food.  She  always seemed to know whose birthday it was and managed to prepare the birthday-boy’s favorite dish. The group was composed of a nucleus of five.  The balance were transients who stayed as part of the group for anywhere from one week to a few years. At another time I will probably elaborate on this long, on-going game, since defunct and now in its new propagation at my house. 

In due respect to what I call Hi-Sequence, it differs from Sequence as defined on various poker web sites. *Sequence as it appears on various web sites is defined as a wild-card game.  I have defined that game below the sequence game I was taught which contains no wild cards.


First, let’s define what I refer to as sequence.
The lowest possible sequence would be two cards: Ace-deuce of clubs, followed by ace-deuce of diamonds, etc. Therefore, the highest possible sequence would be ten-jack-queen-king-ace–all in spades. Any three-card sequence beats any two-card sequence. Any four-card sequence beats any three-card sequence, etc.
Sequence must be a combination of  touching cards in the same suit. In most instances, two-card and three-card sequences win the sequence half of the pot. Unlike low portion split hands, there is no possibility of a tie-hand in sequence segment of game. If  one plays the game without a common (community) card, there is not always a sequence, and the high hand takes the entire pot. (I prefer the game without a community card.) The beauty of this game is that unlike hi-lo, one is never too sure if someone is betting or raising on a high hand or a sequence hand.
The game can be played declare or cards-speak (lay-down).
Process:   (May be played as a five-, six-, or seven-card game. My preference is as a six-card game.)
Each player is dealt two cards, face-down and one card face-up. There is a round of betting.
Each remaining player is then dealt another card face-up. There is another round of betting.
Each remaining player now receives another card, face-up. There is another round of betting.
Each remaining player now receives a final card, face-down. There is a final round of betting.
Supposing game is played as non-declare, players show their hands. Best high Poker hand splits with best sequence hand (assuming there is one). As a declare game, this game leaves a reasonable betting round after declaration– if players prefer another betting round—and ample opportunity to bluff a sequence, if in fact, you do not have one and opt to gamble on being the only sequence player. With let’s say a flush for high and a king-ace sequence, a player may opt to swing and win both high and sequence.
GAME: Hi-Sequence
RANKING: Four ÅÅÅÅ   (I would choose to rank it higher because it does get a lot of action. However, due to its lack of popularity, it gets a mediocre ranking.)


*Sequence  [As defined on some Poker web sites, but not as I play it]

Sequence is a seven card stud poker game with wild cards. If at some moment during the game a two is dealt face-up to one of the players, twos become wild. If after a two has become wild, a three is dealt face-up, threes become wild and twos are not wild anymore, and so on up until the Ace. If two was never dealt face-up until the end of the game, no cards are wild, and the game is played as standard seven card stud.

Babel 1:2-2

Genesis 11:1-9   To this point of time in the Bible, the world had but one language, just one uniform way for all people of the world to communicate. God confounded their language and caused them to speak disparate languages so they would not understand each other. Furthermore, god taught them to play Poker but supplied discordant rules.

Babel 1:1-2 began describing the turmoil of starting a “new” Poker game.  I remember many years back when I would attend meetings of the Kinsman Cousins Club, a group of my cousins and quasi-cousins [whose relationship to each other was not questionable, but confusing–when all was lost, related through Tanta from Brownsville (or was it Bronsville?)]. We were all jolly,  good friends as well as relatives.   For decades, we had monthly meetings, alternating in some rotational manner, at  homes (or apartments) of various cousins; yearly, some picnic meetings at places like Van Saun County Park in Bergen County, New Jersey.  Yet, whenever we got together (not always the same cousins were at all the same meetings) and the minutes of the last meeting were read and new agenda was completed and after much food was consumed and laughs and catch-ups completed, some of us would attempt to start a Poker game. Usually, we spent more time discussing “ground rules” than playing.  

Once, when I was in Chicago at an electronics-business convention, a group of people I had known very well, for a very long time, and I all went to a suite in the hotel at which we were staying and decided to play Poker. It took so long to decide on which games we would play and to explain some of the games, which some of us assumed were academic, we never got the game, per se, going.

At some home Poker games, in declare games, after high-hand(s) and low-hand(s) have been determined, there is betting.  There is even dispute over who the first better is. Greater than that difference is that in some games, if there is only one person going in one direction, unchallenged (Let us say there are two lows and one high, as an example.), that one person is restricted from betting–leaving only the active participants to compete, monetarily against each other. The non-challenger must call all bets. However, in other home games, the non-challenger is forced to be the first bettor and must raise all subsequent bets, in many instances effecting the outcome of the competition between (or among) the challenging players all going in the opposite direction of the non-challenger.  With all the possible raising that might ensue, marginal hands will be paying a lot of extra money for what might just be a contender and not a winner. In other declare games, there is no betting permitted after declarations are completed.  In these instances, after declarations, all hands are revealed and “cards-speak.”

Confused?  “Babelrific,” I say!  A few years back I played in a game in Marlborough, MA. Talk about dealer’s choice.   This game was dealer’s choice personified. In some games the best low was ace, 2, 3, 4, 5 (a wheel); in others, ace, 2, 3, 4, 6. In some games, straights (as in the wheel above) are considered high hands and cannot be played as  low hands. In this game, the dealer had to announce not only the game he was dealing, but whether the best low would be a 5 (as in a wheel) or a 6. Most games set one parameter for best low and do not give dealer the option to alter it.  The wheel is the most accepted best low. I believe the wheel is the casino standard as well.

How about betting and calling and raising? At some home games you can check and raise. At many friendly games, check-raise is verboten. At some games you may call and then raise if there is a raise after you call.  At other games, if you only call, you may not raise, and, if you check, you may not raise. At most games there is a limit as to the number of raises allowed.  Usually limited to three (maybe four) raises.  Sometimes, if there are only two contenders, raises are unlimited.

In some games, there is no checking allowed, meaning force-betting is in effect.  One must either bet, call, raise, or fold. There are no free rounds. In some games, there is what is called protective raising. A protective raise allows a player to actually reduce the amount being raised, limiting the possible loss of the raiser. Let’s  say stakes are $1/$5/$10. Person A bets $5 and person B raises $10, making it $15 to person C to call. Person C now raises $1, making total bet $16, limiting his or her exposure depending on the action of the next to act.

What about using mucked (previously discarded) cards if you run out of cards?  Rather use common (community cards)? I prefer using mucked cards, but I am probably in the minority?

Lastly, but most importantly, stakes of the game need to be established.  Some games might be more fun as pot-limit or no-limit–more so in tournaments though. Perhaps, we’ll get into further discussion, but not now.

“So the lord scattered” players “over all the earth.”

Babel 1:1-2

“…its name was called Babel, because there the lord confused the language of all the earth….” (Genesis 11:1-9)  The confusion of tongues is usually thought to have occurred during the days of Peleg (Gen. 10:25).   Not so!

Every time a group of people, maybe even friends or relatives or business associates, get together and decide to play Poker, having never before played poker as that particular group, chaos occurs. Now, this chaos never occurs when people for the first time sit to play Hearts.  It’s just a matter of passing cards one way, then the other, across, then not.  Not too many variables in Hearts. In Bridge, of course there are Duplicate and Contract, maybe even Chicago. When two sit to play Bridge, no doubt but it is going to be Honeymoon they play. With Rummy, there are variations like Gin, and Knock…even Michigan (aka, Boodle), if you have the board.  Usually, when someone says Rummy, he or she means Knock  Rummy.  When someone wants to play Gin Rummy, he or she just says, “Let’s play Gin.”

When it comes to playing Poker, unless someone says let’s play Hold ‘Em or Omaha [or god forbid, Stud (and then what kind?)], agreeing on terms and conditions gets harried.  As an example, with Omaha one could mean Omaha High-Only or Hi-Lo, the latter almost always is accepted as eight low or better–“cards-speak ” or “lay-down,” as played in casinos. As unusual as it may be,  one  player, in one home game in which I played, used to deal Omaha Hi-Lo with a declaration after river card betting was complete. 

If we stop here, we can start to see how “Babelrific” all this can become.  In some games, there is betting after the declaration; in others, there is not.   (In years gone by there was actual verbal declaration and one could possibly win one way or the other by default. As example, if there were four players remaining and the first three all declared high, the fourth could claim half the pot by just declaring low. Games with verbal in-turn declarations are rather rare these days, because position-value of declaring last is so great it makes the game unfair.) In games of declaration there is much *confusion over how many chips indicate(s) low; how many, high; how many, both ways (in some games refered to as “going pig” or “swinging” ).

Most commonly, simultaneous declarations are  done by remaining players placing chips or coins or tokens in their hands and forming a closed fist. Each player remaining in the game takes *two chips or coins or tokens below the table, then brings up a closed hand  containing zero, one, or two (*or in some instances more). After all players have brought their closed hands above the table, they all reveal their holdings. Zero may indicate the player low, one high, and two chips swing.

*To digress………………..Perhaps, you will  join me.   Contact your Congressman or Congresswoman now!  It is time to “standardize declaration in Poker games.”  The nation requires uniformity in declaring at poker games. Zero for low, one for high, two for both ways should be the standard.  I am sure that if we can get this legislation through, we can then get this before the United Nations and get this standardized internationally.

More Babel coming in 1:2-2 (maybe more)


Splits and Tits

Though both of these games are just variations of  six-card stud and five-card stud-with-a-common , they are unique enough to have garnered major popularity at three of the home-card games I frequent from time-to-time.  Of the two games, Splits and Tits, Tits is the one that has become the mainstay.

Both of these games were introduced by an astute card player, who has a studied command of poker. As I understand, he has applied for a patent for Fifty-Two Splits, which is what he calls Tits.  The players all refer to the game as Tits because it was a cute take-off on splits, the original game that was introduced to us. Splits and Tits are unique because of their card hierarchy and hi-lo aspects . 

Hierarchy:  ( •A take-off on Canadian Stud)
Straight flush
Four of a kind
Full house
Five-card flush
Five-card straight
Four-card straight flush
 •Four-card flush
•Four-card straight
High card

 Now for the other aspect, the one that gives these games that extra Åction factor: After all betting is completed, the best high hand and the best low hand split the pot. Note, there are no requirements for winning low–no declare, no eight low. In some instances, a pair or more might be low winner. Since there are low-hand players and high-hand players betting, and  sometimes straights and flushes win both ways (the high and the low),the pots bespeak the Åction.

The added benefit of Tits, it works well even with ten-players!

Each player receives three cards, two face down (hole cards), the third face up.
There is a round of betting. Each player then receives another card, face up.
There is another round of betting. Each player then receives another card, face up.
There is another round of betting. Then, each player receives a final card, this one, face down.
There is a final round of betting.  Players show their hole cards.
Best high hand and best low hand split the pot.
GAME: Splits
* Ranking would be higher if not for popularity of game of Tits.
Each player receives three cards, two face down (hole cards), the third face up.
There is a round of betting. Next, two common cards are then placed face up in center of table.
There is another round of betting. Each player then receives another card, face up.
There is another round of betting. Then, each player receives a final card, this one, face down.
There is a final round of betting.  Players show their hole cards.
By combining the best combination of their five cards and one or the other of the common cards, the players form their best five-card hand.  Players have the option of using one of the common cards for high hand; the other, for low hand. Note: Players may use one common card or the other common card, but not both common cards together in any one high or low hand. Players have the option, as well, to use neither of the common cards.
Best high hand and best low hand split the pot.
GAME: Tits


In the late 1950’s, when the draft was still in effect, I was scheduled to go for a physical one Monday. The night before, I started experiencing pains I had never encountered before. The pains  were so sharp, so severe that I was up the entire night.  Instead of worrying about what was causing the pain, I was concerned with getting to my physical for Selective Service in the Armed Forces and what might happen if I did not show. The result of that physical would rate my standing in the draft. Since I was in relatively good health, I knew I would be rated 1A and that I would be called up  soon after my physical.

Very early that Monday morning I contacted a cousin of mine, a medical doctor, and described my condition.  Soon after, I was under going an appendectomy in the hospital, the Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx.  Prior, the only few times I had ever visited Montefiore, was to see relatives suffering from severe cancers.  I thought Montefiore was a hospital at which one came to die.  To my delight, after a few days, I was sent home.

The doctor contacted the Selective Service System and stated that I should not indulge in any strenuous activity for six months.  Given this ironic reprieve I busied myself trying to find a placement in either the National Guard or Armed Forces Reserve. If I could get into either of these programs, I would have to serve active duty of only six months. If I were to get drafted, I would be forced to serve a minimum of two years in the Infantry.

I contacted Armed Forces centers throughout New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.   There were no openings in either Reserve or National Guard units. I was getting quite concerned that I might end up going through the draft system.  I lucked out.

Another cousin (Fortunately, I have a lot of relatives.) who worked for an airline based out of Miami, FL, informed me that he heard that there were openings in the Air Force Reserve unit at Homestead Air Force Base, not far from Miami.

At this juncture I’ll move ahead, leaving for another tale the humorous story of how a young lady joined me when I flew down to Miami for enlistment and how she ended up in jail.  I took a battery of tests: written, oral, and physical. I scored well enough that I was given a choice of schools to attend after my four weeks of basic training at Lakeland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX.  The committment for Air Force Reservists included basic training, followed by “schooling,” followed by balance of six month tour at originating unit, Homestead AFB.

Of all the school choices I had, I chose whichever of the schools was the shortest. So it was I ended up in the Military Police, Air Police to be precise.

There are many stories to be told of when I was in Texas, many humorous–many, sadly, just a sorrowful sign of the times. While in the service, I was quite fortunate financially.  I had cut a deal with my business partners, albeit my mother and brother-in-law, that I would receive $75 per week (as opposed to the $200 per week I was earning at the time) for the six month period I was in the service.  In the late 50’s, $75 a week (especially with no overhead) was a lot of money for a single guy.  We received no leave time until after basic training.  Sometime after my first few weeks of  Air Police school, also at Lakeland AFB, I got a two-day, weekend pass.

I rented a Pontiac convertible. I asked a young black man from Columbus , OH, I had befriended, if he wanted to join me.  I soon discovered that I was the only Jewish person my friend had ever met. Together we headed for downtown San Antonio– no River Walk, no Spurs, no fancy anything as I recall. (As a matter of fact, if you wanted to give the United States a good enema, San Antonio in the late 1950’s was a good place to insert it.)We went out to eat at a very ordinary restaurant.  We were stared at as some kind of weirdos.  As I looked around, I realized that he was the only black face in the restaurant.

This weekend turned into a disaster.  As we went from motel to motel, hotel to hotel, no place would rent us rooms together.  Finally, I had to drop him off at some seedy-looking motel, where he checked-in.  Worse than San Antonio proper, were the outskirts where he had to stay. We would meet during the day and sight-see.  Sadly, we spent no more weekends together.  Anyway, I diverted from my tale.

I spent ten weeks training to be an MP (AP).  I experienced physical training I thought I could not endure. I learned to  toss grenades and how to fire and clean many weapons including M1 rifles and BAR’s (Browning automatic rifles) and two different pistols. I learned judo and to direct traffic. I became familiar with all procedures surrounding military funerals. The worst of the chores was securing the scene of an aircraft crash–bodies, limbs, horror. Then, there was the hours and hours of classes and the UCMJ, the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

After Texas tour and five-day furlough in New York, I packed my car and drove straight through to Miami, staying awake on dexidrine and caffeine. I reported for duty. I was given two days to get my affairs in order.  I rented a furnished apartment in Miami Springs, where, thanks to my cousin and his stewardess friends, I had a very pleasant three months.

Day to-day tasks at Homestead AFB were routine.  Except for planes being hijacked from Cuba and being parked at the base, there was not much that required AP services. Every now and again I would be sent to Miami International Airport or to some bars to check on a minor complaint. Mostly, my duties were confined to the base.  Our schedule was three days 8 A.M. to 4 P. M., three days 4 P. M. to midnight, three days midnight to 8 A. M., and three days off.

One of my first assignments was the overnight patrol, securing the perimeter surrounding a few of the planes hijacked from Cuba.  I was on base two days when my sergeant instructed me to take the  Military Police  Chevy station wagon and secure the perimeter. I told him that I did not have a Military Driver’s License.  As I recall, he said that he didn’t give a shit.  So, he tossed me the keys. Then, the “fun” started. I went to start of the Chevy, only to discover that it was a manual transmission wagon. Since the only experience I ever had with manual transmission was on my college roommate’s Dodge, which had Fluid Drive and was just partially manual, I was more than just a little concerned at my ability to actually drive this wagon.  Since the sergeant was not too pleased about my lack of a Military License, I was not about to tell him that I could not drive a manual transmission.  So, that is how I learned to drive a standard shift car.  Now, any of you, who have seen me drive a standard transmission vehicle,  might better understand my “clumsiness.”  I chugged and stalled and stalled again, finally getting the hang of driving without Hydromatic or Jetaway, whatever it was that automatic transmission was called then.

Marching prisoners (there were only two) to and from chow was the most formal part of my daily activities. Ironically, it was these two prisoners who got me involved with Tonk.  I now realize, I no longer remember how to play this card game. If you are interested in specifics of this game, there is a great web site that explains the game in detail, www.pagat.com/rummy/tonk.html

During many of my night shifts, I would chat with the two prisoners, both black, both serving time for stealing some cash from the PX (base store). Coincidentally, both of these guys were from Georgia. Both were older than I and very street smart. The two often sat and played Tonk. So it was, I asked them to teach me. We played for cigarettes, a cheap commodity at that time, especially tax-free at the PX.  When just the three of us were in the brig, I would let them out of the cell, they shared, and we would all sit and play Tonk for hours on end.  I started to like the game and thought that playing for other than cigarettes might be fun.

One of the prisoners mentioned to me that there were nightly Tonk games on base in many of the barracks.  Because of my Sam Browne gear (intricate leather belt that held night stick, hand gun, handcuffs, many keys, whistle, etc.), I was not too welcome at the first game I approached(Hmmm? Maybe it was the color of my skin. I was the only white guy there.)  Anyway, I removed the belt, the holster, and all and found a game at which I was accepted. Even then, I was the only white face at the two games going-on simultaneously. So many nights, after working the four to midnight shift, I would head to a game of Tonk, with my newly found friends on base, who, by the way, were the only fellow airmen I befriended while I was on active duty.

At first, I was the welcomed neophyte. The players were happy to take my money.  After a while, my game improved.  I started to win and kept winning. 

If you were expecting a poker tale, sorry for wasting your time.


Henny. The name stems from Henny Youngman, King of One-Liners like: “I take my wife everywhere, but she keeps finding her way back.” ” If you’re going to do something tonight that you’ll be sorry for tomorrow morning, sleep late.” ” I once wanted to become an atheist, but I gave up because they have no holidays.”  

I was first introduced to Henny in about 2005 when I was invited to play in a weekly, Wednesday night poker game in Wellesley, MA. I knew only the one person that invited me. That night I was introduced to a few new games, one of which was Henny–as in a one-liner, five cards in one line as  laid out in Hold ‘Em and Omaha. More important to me than the new games played, was the camaraderie of this warm, friendly group of men playing there.  Ever since this night, many of these Wednesday night poker players have remained as important parts of my life.  

Henny [Now referred to as Single Henny (redundant, yet self-explanatory) or as R O H (Regular Ole Henny)]  

Each player receives five cards, face down.
In the center of the table, five common cards are placed face down–thusly
                       A B C  D  E
Game is played, Hi-Lo, 8 or better. This is a Vegas style  (meaning non-declare) game.
To achieve best possible hands, players may use any of the following options:
1-All five cards in their hand, utilizing none of the common cards.
2-Three cards in their hand with any two of the five common cards.
3-Two cards in their hand with any three of  the five common cards.
Players may use one option for best high hand; another option for best low hand.
It is possible, as well, to use the same option for the best of both hands.
There is a round of betting. Then, cards A B C are turned face up. FLOP
There is a second round of betting. Then, card D is turned face up. TURN
There is a third round of betting. Then, card E is turned face up.  RIVER
There is a final round  of betting. Hands of remaining players are then revealed.
GAME: Henny

Double Henny.  I came up this bastardized version of Henny soon after I joined the Wednesday night Wellesley game.   Most nights we have nine players. Henny (aka, Single Henny) works very well with nine players. One night, when we were only eight players, I introduced Double Henny.  

Each player receives five cards, face down.
In the center of the table, ten common cards are placed face down in two rows of five cards–thusly
                       A B C  G I 
                       D E F  H J
Game is played, Hi-Lo, 8 or better. This is a Vegas style  (meaning non-declare) game.
To achieve best possible hands, players may use any of the following options:
1-All five cards in their hand, utilizing none of the common cards. 
2-Three cards in their hand with any two of the five common cards in any one row.
3-Two cards in their hand with any three of  the five common cards in any one row.
Players may use one option for best high hand; another option for best low hand.
It is possible, as well, to use the same option for the best of both hands.
There is a round of betting. Then, cards A B C  and DEF are turned face up. FLOP
There is a second round of betting. Then, cards G and H are turned face up. TURN
There is a third round of betting. Then, cards I and J  are turned face up. RIVER
There is a final round  of betting. Hands of remaining players are then revealed.
GAME: Double Henny


Henny and a Half.  The staunchest member of our Wednesday night game came up with the idea for this game, combining the variables of Henny and Double Henny. The beauty of this game is that it, like Henny, per se, can be played with nine players. Henny and a Half is probably the most popular of all the Henny’s.  

Each player receives five cards, face down.
In the center of the table, seven common cards are placed face down–thusly
                       A B
          G F C
                      D E
Game is played, Hi-Lo, 8 or better. This is a Vegas style  (meaning non-declare) game.
To achieve best possible hands, players may use any of the following options:
1-All five cards in their hand, utilizing none of the board cards. 
2-Three cards in their hand with two of  the following five cards
     A  B  C  F G  or D E C F G.
3-Two cards in their hand with three of  the following five cards
     A  B  C  F G  or D E C F G.
Players may use one option for best high hand; another option for best low hand.
It is possible, as well, to use the same option for the best of both hands.
There is a round of betting. Then, cards A B C are turned face up. FLOP
There is a second round of betting. Then, cards D E F are turned face up. TURN
There is a third round of betting. Then, card G is turned face up. RIVER
There is a final round  of betting. Hands of remaining players are then revealed.
GAME: Henny and a Half


Sure there was poker, and Hearts, and Pinochle, and Red Dog through highschool and college years, but for now I jump to sometime in the 1950’s, 1956 or 57.  I was living in Castle Village, which overlooks the Hudson River from the New York City side. One of my neighbors was a young man [I’ll call him Winky] who owned an insurance agency. We were more acquaintances than we were friends. As an insurance agent, he was always promoting his services. I started using him for my car insurance and household insurance.

Eventually,  he introduced me to a group of  guys with whom I started playing poker on a regular basis. The game continued for many years to come.

One of the places we played at was at the apartment of one of the guys who lived on West 92nd Street off Central Park West in New York City.  He owned an investment company. Another of the players owned a sandwich shop down near the Bowery. Another was a prominent actor who lived in New York City. There was another regular who also sold insurance.  On and off, transient players attended as well. Then, there was Lou [actual name], who lived in Chelsea Towers on West 26th Street in New York City.  We played there as well as at West 92nd Street location.

Lou was a stock broker (as best as I recall).  When my second child was born, I named him after my father, Louis.  When I saw Lou, who I had become close to, at the poker game soon after my son Louis was born, I informed him of my son’s birth.  When he asked what my son’s name  was, I told him Louis, after him.  I was joking, of course. However, my friend Lou was so honored, I never told him the true story.  Moving ahead to the future, my friend Lou moved to Mill Valley, California.  I lost track of him. Some years later I received a birth announcement from Lou. It was one of those custom printed off-white cards that had some black engraved-style printing announcing the birth of Lou’s son, David. Hand-written on the card was, “named after you, Dave.” So, was the joke on him, or, ironically, was it on me!

Back to poker.  We were playing almost exclusively high-low games at this time.  Believe it or not, declaration was verbal.   Last active better declared first.   Therefore, positioning yourself to raise or not to raise was  part of the strategy. As an example, if there were four players remaining and three players before you all declared high, you could, by default, win low by just  stating “low.”  Winky was usually the one who split the pots. Winky had huge hands and was very quick. We all appreciated his taking the responsibility for splitting the pots. Sometime after four or five years of playing with the same renegades, I noticed that Winky, calling a bet,  was putting a chip into a pot.  However, the chip never came from one of his stacks.  I started to concentrate on Winky as he split one of the pots.

When I thought I saw what was a chip or two remaining in Winky’s palm after the pot was split, I grabbed his wrist and turned his cupped palm up, revealing two chips he was palming. He made some feeble attempt to justify his actions.  I recall some tall story about his feeling duly compensated for splitting the pots most of the time.  Since we were playing $1/$2 stakes, Winky was compensating himself $1 and more for who-knows-how-many-pots per night.