We use fifty-two cards, but none of us really play with a full deck.
ILLUSTRATION: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
I speak, of course, of the Saturday afternoon low-stakes poker game I look forward to with feverish anticipation. After all, I can't belong to the Garden Club on account of my lack of a green thumb. And I can't zip down to the local karaoke bar and do the hokey-pokey and sing "Yankee Doodle Dandy" because, there isn't any local karaoke bar.
So I play poker.
I live in CreekSide Village, although it would be more accurate to call it CreakySide Village. It is one of those 55-and-over communities that punctuate the landscape from California to Florida by way of Arizona. CreekSide is south of Temelec, another 55-and-over enclave, and west of Chantarelle. I scarcely dare mention Seven Flags and Country Meadows. We're surrounded.
In the poker game, then, we are all 55 and over. Mostly way over, and a little to one side.
Usually eight of us play, six geezers and two geezettes. On occasion we're more than eight and we have to decide how to split up into two tables. This results in arguments of unbelievable stridency and volume, and it delays the game for, I've timed it, as much as 21 minutes.
Damn! I could win $2.21 in those 21 minutes if I hit a lucky streak.
We play 25¢ limit. The initial bet is usually a nickel, and that's the minimum. Losing $10 in one session is a disaster.
Players are then forced to lie to their spouses when they go home.
"How'd you make out, hon?"
"Oh, I dropped a buck or so. I forget."
Only in a very loose sense do our games resemble poker. If the seasoned Las Vegas pros were exposed to our poker games, they would be inclined to take up crocheting.
I'm going to explain a few of the games. Now listen carefully. You wouldn't want me to repeat this
The roots of Five-Six-Seven lie deep in Seven-Card Stud. The faceup cards are the key. If you get a five, faceup, that's a wild card. If you get a six, you get an extra card. And if you get a seven, you're eliminated. Out the door.
Five-Six-Seven is not a good game to play if you have a short fuse, and most of us in CreekSide have what might be called geriatric short fuses. Not long ago, after five cards had been dealt, Van had four nines. A dynamite hand, of course, and he was betting it like crazy, 25¢ a crack. His sixth card, the last faceup card, was a seven. Van stood up and uttered a mighty oath, and I thought he was going to run and jump into our swimming pool. It took several of us to calm him down. And it delayed the game.
M&M stands for Major Minor. Each player gets five cards. Then the dealer turns five cards faceup, one at a time. If one of your cards matches the card that's been turned up, you get rid of it. And so on. The pot is divided between the two players with the highest and lowest arithmetical numbers left in their hands. That's why it's called Major-Minor, dummy.
In M&M, ruination always lies in wait. Anni introduced the game and now she hates it. Anni's husband is Paul, a most amenable man. Paul is curiously indifferent to our game. Among us zealots, Paul is known as "The Bench:" If we find ourselves short of a quorum, someone will say to Anni, "You better call the Bench:' The Bench invariably chooses some eminently sane, unimaginative game, like Seven-Card Stud.
Follow The Queen
Every time a queen appears, faceup, the next card is wild. But then another queen appears and the six of hearts, perhaps, becomes wild instead of the three of spades. Annoying. Kent likes to deal this aberration. Kent is a dear man in his 80s, our "senior" by a long shot. We love him as much as he loves poker. The thing about Kent, however, is that he'll start to deal Follow The Queen and then, in midstream, switch to something else, like Baseball. Oops! Chaos reigns. We have to settle him down and get him back on track.
BS With Fuzzies, Two-Card Draw, Eight or Better for Low
This is a hig-hlow game. Split pots. I can't bear to go into detail. Suffice to say that the Fuzzies are all one-eyed cards: the king of diamonds, the jack of spades, and the jack of hearts, and they are wild. Boy, are they ever wild. I have no idea why they're called Fuzzies, although I think I named them. Walt distinguished himself late one afternoon when he was tired by throwing away two Fuzzies. Walt is on our board of directors and when word got around about this, it shook CreekSide to its very foundations. People whispered to each other, "How could we be governed by a man who threw away two Fuzzies?"
Now in this game the fives are worth zero or ....But wait, wait. I'm sure you've had enough for one day. If, however, a resident of, say, Sarasota, FL wants to learn the intricacies of Huntington Beach, all he has to do is come to the CreekSide Village clubhouse on a Saturday afternoon.
And he should bring money. At least $10.