Thanks to managing to get to the cinema just in time to miss the first half-hour of Lucky Number Slevin a few days ago, I ended up joining a few friends at a small pub in Llangollen to try my hand at this Poker Not On A Computer lark. And I had a great time. Making the transition from playing online poker, where everything from posting the blinds to shuffling the cards is done automatically, to real-life poker in front of people you don't know, has led me to make the following observations:
- Gleefully admitting that you're a cackhanded buffoon when it's your turn to shuffle and deal is probably preferable to copying the actions of Johnny Sunglasses on the other side of the table, as accidentally flicking a dozen cards accross the room is a bit of a poker 'no-no'.
- In online poker, you never have to pester other people with "does anyone want to swap a 'fifty' for ten 'fives'?" every few minutes.
- Not really being 'up' with all this poker lingo, means that listening to other people going on about a 'gutshot draw' or 'Findus crispy pancake draw' (or whatever) can be confusing. Smiling politely and chuckling in a 'too right, mate!' manner generally works well enough here.
- The bar staff will happily take orders for drinks, then bring them to the table for you. This is excellent.
- If you really need to go to the toilet after downing all those drinks the bar staff have happily delivered to you, you'll suddenly get ten great hands in a row, meaning you'll have to fold on a great set of cards if you want to relieve yourself ("Gah, another potential flush. Flush? Christ, I need a slash"). Clearly, Lady Luck is tremendously amused by the thought of people pissing in their pants.
- If it's your first game in a poker league, and being a really obvious newbie, you're a bit crap at first because you're self-conscious about messing up putting down the right blind at the right time, about being a rubbish shuffler, about being unable to remember what your cards are - all two of them - for more than two seconds at a time, then finally settling down and playing your normal game just when everyone else thinks you're really easy pickings, is a tactic that works surprisingly well.
- You can get away with shouting "you miserable fuckers, I had three aces!" at your monitor when everyone else folds after your first raise (nothing massive, just a 'teaser' raise - I'm not a total poker idiot) when playing online. In real-life poker, you've got to try and pretend this was exactly what'd you'd wanted them to do, a bit like Sawyer in Lost probably would, if he were playing poker, I'd imagine.
- When the numbers are diminishing, and some other people come to join the table, and they're two irritating squalking chavettes from the beginners' table, with Chavette One knowing quite a bit about poker but had been on the beginners' table (loudly) coaching her idiot friend Chavette Two, who knew nothing at all about poker, meaning that effectively Chavette One had two seats with which to clean out the beginners' table in next to no time, meaning they turn up with armfuls of chips, and they proceed to loudly squalk at each other in between texting people in the middle of their turn, and Chavette Two is utterly incapable of grasping the fact that when dealing, the cards need to be face sodding down so that everyone can't see them, and they go off to the toilet for ten minutes together for more loud squalking holding everyone else up, but then stay in the game for ages because Chavette One is quite good at poker, and Chavette One is still telling Chavette Two what to do, and they'd arrived at the table with more chips than anyone else in the first place, is quite annoying. But, thankfully this won't happen too often.
In summary: Real-life poker is good, especially when you're not about to lose a bunch of real-life money.
After all that, I still did fairly well for a first go. Not anywhere remotely near winning the prize (an expensive looking professional poker set in a smart aluminium case), but I'd seen off most of the people from my original table, which was better than I'd been expecting (and by then it was 10.30pm, I was 40 miles from home, it was snowing, and it was a school night, so I'm saying I would have won if my subconscious didn't want me to go home at that point).