Adjusting to poker in an unfamiliar environment


Soon after moving from Gainesville to Tampa only months ago, I began my search for a local poker game. Such illicit activity is not always easy to find.


My old Gainesville poker circuit was pretty robust. There was the Wednesday night game at Damion 2.0’s, Thursday nights at JD’s place and Friday’s at Brother Bill’s… not to mention Mr. C’s debaucherous, bimonthly 17-hour poker binges.


Damion 2.0 Wednesday’s were $20 buy-in cash games with re-buys allowed as long as you had money in your wallet. Things would start around 7 pm, with people coming and going all night long. It was a game characterized by über-aggressive play. With blinds holding steady at $0.25-$0.50, it was rare to see a flop for anything less than $3.25. It was not uncommon to see someone win or lose up to $400 in a single night.

poker3Thursday nights were my original house game at JD’s place, where the liquor was always free-flowing. We’d generally start the night with quarter games, i.e., Five Card Draw, Follow the Queen, In-Between or Screw Your Neighbor. Years back, we’d play tournament style but that slowly made its way to a cash game. A lot of the old school guys dropped out when things got too cutthroat, but the game also gained people as it got more competitive.

Friday nights at Brother Bill’s were much more casual. With as many as 18 players on any given night, Bill’s game was strictly tournament play. A gracious host, Bill’s open bar always kept people animated on a Friday.


I played at all three of these venues for well over a year. The environs were comfortable. Every seat, every table, every format, every friend.


Enter the new house game.


A new friend invited me over to check out his local game. As I had become accustomed to supplementing my (lack of) income with success at my previous three house games, I accepted his invitation looking to make a mark.


When I got there last Monday, it was a different environment indeed. Instead of the usual sports or rock n roll music playing in the background, the crew that had arrived early, a mostly younger group, was watching the “Get Smart” remake. You know you’re getting old when the crowd around you recognizes Alan Arkin, not from “The In-Laws” or “Grosse Pointe Blank”, but rather as the grandfather who dies at the end of “Little Miss Sunshine.” I didn’t necessarily have a problem with the movie being played in the background… until its second viewing. They never changed the channel. A man can only take so much Steve Carrell. Keep in mind, the final game of the Texas-LSU college World Series was on that very evening. Distraction # 1.




As is protocol with sportschump, I brought my own personal stash of Jack Daniels. Hey, with the amount I drink, I don’t need to mooch off someone else’s bar. That’s a good way to get yourself uninvited from someone’s house game no matter how much money you’re dumping at the table. I gauged their reaction as I placed the bottle on the countertop. Raised eyebrows. No big deal, a few drinks ease my tension at the table. I’m fully aware of the dangers of drinking too much at the poker table. Everything was fine…until their ice machine went down. Warm jack and coke equaled distraction # 2.


At this house game, each person is dealt 100 worth of chips to start. Not 1000, not 1500, not 10,000 as is customary at most house games or tourneys. 100. Chips had denominations of 1, 2, 5 and 10, which was the first time I had ever encountered that chip structure at any local game or casino. Distraction # 3.


There’s a scene at the end of “Hoosiers” where Gene Hackman walks his young team through the largest gymnasium they had ever seen prior to their championship game. Hackman calmly pulls out his tape measure and measures from rim to floor and from baseline to free throw line to prove a point. That court was exactly the same size as the one they practiced on in their home town of Hickory, Indiana.


The same applies with poker. The more experienced poker player knows to set aside the distractions of the new and unfamiliar. While I didn’t play all that poorly that night, finishing 5th out of 14 in the first tourney, I failed to cash in either event. I tightened up my game to gauge the players at the table but failed to do a good job of putting aside the distractions.


What should have mattered, as is true in any poker game is table image, mine and theirs, chip stack and position, not what B-movie was playing too loudly in the background or whether I would have to make an ice run.


If you ever switch venues, or even online poker, say at 888 Poker Tournaments, these principles apply. Pay attention to the game itself and do your best to put aside the external distractions otherwise your game will suffer.


Now that’s all the poker advice I’m going to give as I might be running into you at a poker table some time soon.

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40 Replies to “Adjusting to poker in an unfamiliar environment”

  1. Great stuff Chris! Very funny. Kind of like a bizarro world version of a Rick Reilly column. I hope you can find a good game in Tampa.

  2. I wish you had a picture of the collective reaction when you pulled out your bottle of Jack.

    BTW…I haven’t had a sip of Jack in decades. Had a really bad night at a Motel 6 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania after drinking too much Jack…that shit does me in.

  3. It is hard to find a new game that’s decent. It’s tough to be the new guy, especialy when you’re surrounded by douchebags. Not that they all are, just takes some getting used to…lol

    You ever play at the dog tracks?

  4. Frank, it’s a good game and they’re good guys.

    I played again last time and finally cashed. It’s just a matter of getting comfortable with my new surroundings.

    I had played with that G’ville group of degenerates (you know who you are, guys) for years. They’re all my best friends.

    You’re right about the Bizarro comparison. It’s an entirely different game from what I’m used to.

  5. Chris …. aka sportschump

    For me come WSOP time I’m hooked. I just can’t get enough of the stuff ! As much as I like Matusow ,Negreneau and Annie Duke. My favorite player is still and always will be Phil Ivey.

    Ricky Don’t Lose That Number More To The Point More NBA Teams Are Said To Be Beguiled By Ricky Rubio

    And here’s my MMA piece.

    Well This Is The House That Dana White Built But Now Who’s Goin’ To Tell Him How To Run It ?

    And as a repas here’s Serena

    Serena Williams

    This second pic may well make you want to spend some time alone and scratch an itch if you can’t find a female companion close at hand.

    Mirror or on the wall who’s the hottest of them all ? Definitely you Serena ! Definitely you !

  6. Han… they have a poker room at both dog and horse tracks here in Tampa, neither of which I’m played at yet.

    I live only minutes away from the Hard Rock here in Tampa so I go there more often.

    Besides, you can’t beat their hours.

  7. Maybe the douche bags didn’t read this and you won’t hear the thwack of a Louisville Slugger on the side of your head. (That’s a famous line from Gene’s Mike Hanner: Private Eye saga.) lol

  8. I LOVE the ‘scenery’ at the Tampa Hard Rock. The casino…not so much.

    The dog track in Memphis, actually across the river in Ark, has electronic hold-em. You sit around at a real poker table with monitors built in to show the cards.

  9. I posted on Fox before I came here. If you know how to cut and paste to here feel free.


  10. Chris …..

    Real time or pre-recorded I just am enamored to see these guys play.

    I’m closely watching and waiting for the court case that’ll be placed infront of the Justices of the US Supreme Court between the NFL and an apparel company based out of Illinois. It may well have some serious ramifications not only for the NFL but for all of the major governing sports bodies at the professional and collegiate level. As it questions the anti trust exemption for the likes of the NFL and others.

    I’m in the process of finishing an article on the case.

    Alan aka tophatal ………..

  11. Ath…. those guys are more likely to kill you with kindness. No bats needed. You’ll know you’ve been bamboozled when you leave their homes with an empty wallet.

  12. Did you see that everyone? That’s Damion 2.0’s way of saying come give me all your money.

    You sly fox, you.

    I’ll be up there soon and I’ll be sure not to pee on your couch…. maybe.

  13. Geno… they used to have that PokerPro here in Tampa, and at the Hard Rock down in Hollywood which is MUCH better than the one here in town.

    I actually used to do well at that since half the people that would sit down at that table couldn’t figure out how to play that machine properly.

  14. Thank gawd u don’t live near Vegas! Sounds like you have overcome a big challenge…finding new poker buddies. Jack, however, is always ur best friend!

  15. Lisa Lise… one of my best buddies lives out there, Croshere. He was raised in a gambling family.

    Croshere has to allot a certain amount of his monthly salary that he’ll spend on gambling, i.e., blackjack, sportsbook, video poker mostly, without going over.

    I imagine I’d have to incorporate a similar policy.

  16. Whats goin on Rev – Love the new site -I also love online poker – But something about playing a video game for money I just don’t trust..

  17. J-Dub… I think they’re regulated. And I’ve won enough money online to trust most services.

    Remember, it’s just as easy to cheat at a house game. You’re just a lot more likely to get your ass kicked.

  18. Chris aka sportschump …

    The piece is now up and is there for your perusal. See link provided below.

    I’ve just read where former boxing champion Alexis Arguello has been found dead. He was one the guys I truly appreciated when he was atop of the heap as a fighter. Little known fact about him was that he attended medical school. Upon his retirement he returned passed his medical exam and finally became a doctor.

    Oh What A Tangled Web We Weave When It’s All Being Done To Deceive

    So Roddick (defeated Lleyton Hewitt, 6-3,6-7,7-6,4-6,6-4) has made it to the men’s singles finals ? Now he’ll definitely be the underdog as he faces Britain’s own Andy Murray.

    So the semi-finals ought to be really worth watching ! Murray, Federer , Roddick and it appears Djokovic who’s on the cusp of defeating
    Tommy Haas.

    Alan aka tophatal ……

  19. Chris ….

    On the men’s side it basically is ! Once Roddick steps down who’s there left to appreciate ?

    On the women’s side I for one can’t see either of the Williams sisters playing into their late twenties or much beyond that. They’ve made enough money and their mark has been indelibly etched into the annals of the game. So pray do tell where the next great players’ll be coming from either mann or woman for that matter ?

    It wasn’t that long ago we were harping on about Dr J’s daughter Alexandra Stevenson. She’s disappeared faster than Tara Reid’s career.

    All I hear the likes of Mary Csrillo and Pat McEnroe talking about is the meaningless Davis and Fed Cups ? That’s like two steps up from varsity tennis ! What a joke !

    Alan Parkins ………

  20. Actually, after Federer retires, aside from Nadal, things should be wide open for a new name to emerge and succeed.

    I heard in that Michael Wilbon interview with Tiger that he and Federer text each other every day.

    How sweet.

  21. Good stuff Pep…u never disappoint, (at least not yet). But as we all keep hope alive fo’ mo’ betta’ days, let’s remember 1 thang…
    Let is all hang out and wear two hats when ya feel like it…after all… ya can’t take it witcha 🙂

  22. Chris ….

    Federer retires and Nadal overcomes what appears to be an uncertain recurring knee injuries. And you’ve still got a gap from where Roddick is and that of Djokovic and Murray. That being said it’s more about confidence and overcoming your inner demons.

    And for the likes of Roddick and Blake that’s the fact that the likes of Federer , Nadal , Djokovic and Murray are somewhat better than them and a great deal smarter when it comes to their on court execution of plays. I don’t think that I can put it anymore succinctly than that ?

    Alan Parkins aka tophatal

  23. Chris

    It’s a shame the circumstances surrounding Alexis Arguello’s death. He was apparently shot point blank execution style at his home in Managua , Nicaragua.

    I guess that it sometimes goes with the political climate ? As he was the ex mayor of the capital city.

    He was politically active with both the Contras and latterly with the Sandanistas.

    I guess it’s true of the old addage ….’keep your friends close but your enemies even closer’.

    Alan Parkins

  24. Chris …..

    We’re said to be crying over the likes of Michael Jackson and what not. And here’s a guy who gave of himself . And rarely did he ask for anything in return.

    That’s the sort of guy Alexis Arguello really was. His fight with Aaron Pryor may well be one of the very best lightweight bouts ever to take place . That fight was brutally savage. And it’s somewhat reminiscent of the Hagler Hearns’ bout. But merely from the fact that the latter fight last all of three blisteringly savage rounds. Whereas Arguello Pryor went to a TKO in the 15th round , with Pryor winning something of what it’d been deemed to be controversial verdict.

    Alan Parkins …..

  25. Hey, Al.

    There was apparently a recent article in either the Times or the Trib that stated the Bucs spent less money than any other NFL franchise over the past four years. Now people are coming to Gruden’s defense saying he didn’t have anything to work with.

    Did you read that article and if so, can you send me the link online?


  26. Chris ….

    I rarely listen nowadays to anything coming out of One Buc Pl , much less WDAE. To my mind not ’til they get on the field can one truly legitimately say how this team’ll do.

    The piece was in the Tampa Tribune and here’s the link to it.

    GM Domink says Bucs have spent wisely

    As for the Bucs and spending money. Much like Ebeneezer Scrooge, Christmas comes but once a year. And this wasn’t it in terms of them spending.

    Tell me are all of the people in the Tampa Bay area on meths ?
    WTF ? Here’s this story about a 2 year old being killed by the family pet ….a python ?

    Police: Charges Expected To Be Filed Against Python Owner in Toddler’s Strangling Death …..

    I hope they ship his or her as_s to jail for some time !

    Alan Parkins

  27. Thanks for the props.

    I try to provide a good game and a fun venue.


  28. Brother Bill is in the house?

    Ladies and gentleman, we are in the presence of greatness.

    Keep raking in those pots, Bill, that is until I come back for a visit. Send my regards to the gang and Go Gators!

  29. Hey Chris, we are getting ready to play, your blinds are going up. I have this on the screen for all to see.

    Go Gators!!!

  30. Very nice. Well in that case, hey to everyone except for Puckett, who I’m sure at this point is trying to get everyone to do scotch shots.

    I’d say Go Steelers but I don’t want to send your house into an uproar.

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