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My Introduction to Texas Hold'em

6 January 2006

I have been trying to learn to play live table poker for almost five years, long before Chris Moneymaker made it look so easy. And trust me, it's not easy. Not for someone who didn't grow up playing poker around the kitchen table and who had to start from scratch.

I've made a little progress, though not enough, and it's still painful to remember my first attempts. I had entered a Texas Hold'em tournament, even though I had never played a single hand of live casino poker in my life. Needless to say, I was petrified. My hands were sweaty, and I was physically sick to my stomach.

I was fulfilling a promise I had made the year before (Or was that a threat?) to learn poker and to chronicle my learning efforts, and I had come up with a multi-prong plan of attack: I would read a couple of books first, then watch a video, practice on the computer some, and then hit the tables, already knowing everything I needed to know about poker. What's that you said about the best laid plans of mice and men?

First on the reading list was Mason Malmuth's Fundamentals of Poker, a small pamphlet of only 72 pages. At that size, it is certainly not intended to be an all-inclusive, in-depth training manual. It is meant to serve only as an overall introduction to poker.

I got through the first chapters on history of poker and table etiquette okay, but when I got to the chapter on the mechanics of the game - in this case, Texas Hold'em - I had to re-read those two pages twice and still had to ask a friend to explain them.

That brings us to Madeliene. Madeliene is a friend who plays Texas Hold'em on a regular basis and who wins consistently. She has been playing for about a year and is completely self-taught. She had absolutely no one else to teach her.

When she first started playing poker, Madeliene says she would go home every night crying because of the mistakes she made. She wasn't losing much money, but she was playing very passively, too afraid to raise and re-raise. But she kept reading and studying and practicing. After about a month, she finally started playing more aggressively, and the rest is history.

So Madeliene got me through those few pages on the mechanics of the game; I started reading the section entitled "Strategy Tips" and finally realized, "Uh-oh, this is gonna' be way different from video poker."

I can just hear some of you old, grizzled, veteran poker players snorting out, "Ah, what was your first clue, Sherlock?" I realize that what I just said about live poker being different from video poker is an understatement, but I have to admit I was pretty naïve about the extent of that difference. I knew poker was more complicated, but I thought that meant only a few more rules to memorize. Wrong again.

I finished Malmuth's pamphlet without really absorbing it so decided what I really needed to do was to go watch a game, even if I didn't understand why the players were making the decisions they were making. I went over to the Grand Casino Biloxi and asked at the poker room if it was okay for me to just watch a game. I was put in touch with John Averill, shift manager for the poker room's graveyard shift. He was off duty and playing poker himself, so he let me sit down behind him and explained to me what was happening. I watched for only 30 minutes, but that half-hour helped immensely in understanding the mechanics, the terms, the jargon and the flow of the game.

It also helped me realize that, at this stage in the learning process, a video might help more than a book. I watched "Texas Hold'em Poker, Fundamentals for Winning" and was finally starting to visualize some of the winning concepts I was reading about.

But I was getting anxious to get my feet wet. I wanted to play a real game at a real table at a real casino. That's when I decided to enter the tournament. At the time, Grand Casino Biloxi hosted a Texas Hold'em tournament every Tuesday and Friday at noon. The entry fee was only $5, and where else can you get playing experience and risk only $5? Friday, January 26, 2001, I played my first hand of casino poker.

So, how did I do? Oops, looks like I've run out of column space.

To be continued.

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