Take Me To The River


“Two of Clubs on the Turn – no help there.” I said to myself, as the dealer flipped over the fourth. I was nearly two grand in the hole, and I needed a big win to get back in the game. The only problem being that I had nothing in my hand, and the Flop (and now the Turn) hadn’t helped matters.

Texas Hold ‘Em is rapidly becoming one of the most popular card games outside of Vegas, and for those unfamiliar with it’s romantic-sounding terminology, the game is essentially played like this: Each player is dealt two cards at the beginning of a hand. The dealer then, after a round of betting, lays three more cards face-up in the center of the table. These cards are called “The Flop.” More betting commences after which the dealer lays down another card in the center of the table, “The Turn.” After the Turn, and more betting, comes the final card, “The River.” The player then has five cards on the table, and two in his hand, from which to make a winning hand.

In spite of the fact that I’m originally from Texas (or perhaps because of it) I hadn’t heard of this game until I saw an episode of the Bravo network’s entertaining Celebrity Poker Showdown in which popular media stars show off their poker prowess (or lack thereof) before a national audience. The show is hosted by Kids in the Hall alum Dave Foley, and a genuine poker expert who often says things like what I was saying to myself last night while playing the latest Xbox Live Arcade game, the aptly-titled Texas Hold ‘Em.

“His only chance at this point is to go ‘all in’ and pray,” I said.

“All in” means “bet everything,” and sometimes it’s your only option when you’re so far behind that the ante for the next hand (called “The Blind”) will put you in the poor house. An aggressive bet will often make the other players think you’ve got a better hand than you actually do (this is called “bluffing” in poker, “lying” everywhere else).

So that’s what I did, and sure enough it worked. Almost. Two of the four players folded, leaving me to face the most aggressive player at the table (and the one with the most chips) head-to-head with the worst hand I’d been dealt all night.

“It doesn’t look good for Fletcher, here. He needs a nine or a miracle.”

I got a miracle.

As bad as my hand was, the other guy’s was worse. The highest card in his hand was a 10, whereas mine was a Queen. Nothing, Queen-high beats nothing, 10-high in Texas Hold ‘Em, and a win is a win, no matter how you get it. I was back in the game, and back in the lead. For now.

I would later go on to lose every single one of those chips on another daring “all in” bet, and be forced to leave the table in disgrace, but when the money is fake and the only thing at stake is status, losing can be just as much fun as winning. Maybe.

Texas Hold ‘Em was released for free for 48 hours last week as part of Microsoft’s Live Arcade Wednesday program, but if you missed the 48-hour window for the free version, you can buy the game for 800 points ($10US), which is relatively cheap, but still may be a bit much for this no-frills poker simulator. If you’ve got a few people in your friends list though, it can be a good way to get together for a casual game. Look for me at the low-stakes tables.

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