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Braving the Perils of Live Table Poker

28 April 2006

Let's see. Where did I leave off relating my misadventures with Texas Hold'em? I think I had just gone through a quick, basic run-through of how the game is played. I've been playing regularly for the last two years, but there was a period of time, about a year and a half, in which I had quit playing completely.

I had not done poorly, but I certainly wasn't a stellar student. My main problem was that, even though I had already grown a thick skin from my blackjack-playing days, I was afraid to embarrass myself. I can still remember how sweaty my palms were when I sat down at my first tournament game at Grand Casino Biloxi, and then how wringing wet they were when I played my first ring game.

I would let several good starting hands go without playing them, just because I didn't want to call any attention to myself. I figured that if I didn't bet, no one would notice that I was even at the table. And of course, if I did open and even if the flop fit my hand, I would simply call or fold because I knew everyone at the table could tell how unsure I was of betting and raising.

And calling is no way to win large pots. In most situations, you must be willing to bet and raise in order to get more money in the pot.

So, for a while I gave up. Of course, I said I wasn't giving up; I was just putting this effort on hiatus. But I didn't give trying again any serious thought until two things happened. The first was the 2003 World Series of Poker, which was won by Chris Moneymaker, an accountant who had won his entry to the WSOP through a $40 online poker tournament.

The Travel Channel's and ESPN's televising of the World Series garnered a lot of attention and whipped up the public's interest in Hold'em, which is an exciting, fast-paced game. How could I not get caught up in the frenzy surrounding this game?

The second thing that made me want to try again was the publication of a book written specifically for beginners, Get the Edge at Low-Limit Texas Hold'em, by Bill Burton (Bonus Books). Burton is the casino guide for About.com, and even though he was an accomplished blackjack and video poker player, he had never tried his hand at live casino poker. When he decided to learn Hold'em, he read, studied, practiced, became a winning player and then chronicled his success in Get the Edge.

I had heard a lot of buzz about the book on numerous video poker message boards and finally decided to get my own copy. After reading through it once, I started studying it more intensively, section by section. And then I started playing.

Grand Casino Biloxi used to have $5 poker tournaments at noon on Tuesdays and Fridays, while Grand Casino Gulfport had $5 and $10 tournaments on Wednesdays and Thursdays. I tried to do one of those tournaments once or twice a week, but I didn't do rebuys and add-ons, so I was usually gone by the first break.

Then I would head over to the Copa for a couple of hours of mid-afternoon poker. The Copa's Poker Room was small, very low-key with almost no intimidation, and was just downright fun. It was definitely a recreational, social venue, but that didn't mean that anyone was going to cut you any slack. The regulars took their poker seriously, and every player had to earn his or her stripes.

But it was a game that I looked forward to every afternoon.

Of course, now those days are gone with the wind, quite literally. But I'm still learning, and periodically I'll be writing about my successes and failures, not from a teacher's viewpoint but from a student's. There are so many more levels in table poker than in blackjack or video poker, and besides, it's just a hard game to learn for someone who didn't grow up playing kitchen poker all her life.

But I've learned to bet and to raise instead of just limping in with a call, and I've even won a few sessions. I don't still feel my face turn red when I do some incredibly stupid things, and I've come a long way, baby.

Until next week, aces and faces to you.

Linda Mabry

Low Roller Linda Mabry lives and gambles on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. She writes a weekly, general gambling advice column for the Biloxi Sun Herald, and may be contacted through her e-mail address, lnmabry@cableone.net or her web site www.thelowroller.com
Linda Mabry
Low Roller Linda Mabry lives and gambles on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. She writes a weekly, general gambling advice column for the Biloxi Sun Herald, and may be contacted through her e-mail address, lnmabry@cableone.net or her web site www.thelowroller.com