Sunday, November 12, 2017

Why is poker night like rewrite night

Got invited to a poker game recently. A friend plays in a regular game and needed an extra body. Poker is an ingenious game. It involves both skill and luck. If only I had either.

I hadn’t played poker in probably fifteen years so I pretty much had forgotten everything other than I always lose.

Still, I enjoyed myself.  The players were usually a group of comedy writers or improv chums so there were always more laughs than chips (especially in front of me). I likened it to a rewrite night where you didn’t have to address network notes.

This time the only person I knew going in was my friend. But it was a low stakes game so I figured what the hell? The guys all turned out to be fun, and they all came from other branches of the industry so I got to hear all-new horror stories. Nothing breaks the ice like getting fucked over in Hollywood.

I was worried that these dudes would hate me. Since I didn’t know what I was doing I would surely test their patience. And if I won they’d really despise me. Fortunately, they were tolerant, and fortunately they took all my money. So my fears were for naught.

I needed one of those little cheat sheets that told you that a royal flush beats a pair of threes. I thought, wouldn’t it be great to watch an episode of THE WORLD SERIES OF POKER and one of the finalists has the same cheat sheet next to his chips?

Remembering what beats what is hard enough for someone who needs a cheat sheet to retrieve his messages from voicemail, but we rotated dealing and the dealer got to select the game. Holy shit!

Seven card night baseball with the next card after a queen is a wild card

Hi-lo – 5 ½ or 21

Three chip buy-in pass your garbage

Seven card elevator (not to be confused with seven card crisscross)

Seven card Texas hold ‘em, 3’s are wild and 4's entitled you to buy another card if you wanted

On and on. They know you’re not a savvy player when it’s your turn and they say, “What are we playin’?” and you begin your answer with “What’s the one where…?” As the deal was going around the table I was getting progressively more anxious. What to do when it came to me?

Finally, I was up. I decided to just fake it. “Okay, five card double-draw hi-lo Taj Mahal, pig fives are wild, threes are sevens, sevens are tens, face cards are a half, and Jews get six cards instead of five.” Everyone laughed, but one guy who asked what Taj Mahal was.

The night moved along but required a lot of concentration. More than I could muster after a couple of hours. Again, it was like a rewrite night where you just zone out. “What page are we on again?” “Who’s asking who to stop doing what when?” “Has the food arrived yet?”

The food was another reason poker night is like rewrite night. Delivered pizza that you eat off of paper plates while standing . All we needed were Red Vines for me to feel really nostalgic.

You’d think as the night went along I’d get better. But actually, I got worse. I knew I was in trouble when I won a pot with nothing in my hand. Everyone complimented me on how well I bluffed. But I wasn’t bluffing. I actually thought I had a winning hand.

They should also have a cheat sheet for poker slang. Clubs were puppy paws. Pocket aces were American Airlines. Full houses are full boats. If you have a nine and a five that’s a Dolly Parton. But why do they call kings “cowboys?” When I think of cowboys I rarely imagine Richard Burton.

But it never fails.  The minute any six guys sit down to play poker they all start talking like they're in GUYS AND DOLLS.    The Pope and his cardinals get together and the Pope is dealing saying, "No help. crabs, Kojak, bitch in the bleachers.  Pony up gents."

All in all, it was a fun night, I made some new friends, now am aware of more industry shitheads, and I think after all this time I finally figured out how to win at poker. Have Jennifer Tilly play for me while I drive around for four hours picking up the pizza. 

12 comments :

Jenna said...


Ken, are you disappointed with new sexual misconduct allegations against your hero/idol Louis C.K?

Mike said...

OK, Levine, I think you're bluffing. I see your Richard Burton and raise you Richard Harris.

Terrence Moss said...

"Finally, I was up. I decided to just fake it. “Okay, five card double-draw hi-lo Taj Mahal, pig fives are wild, threes are sevens, sevens are tens, face cards are a half, and Jews get six cards instead of five.” Everyone laughed, but one guy who asked what Taj Mahal was."

This slayed me.

Terrence Moss said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter said...

C'mon, we all love gossip. Can't you at least name a few of the shitheads you heard horror stories about?!

Mike Bloodworth said...

There's a lot of down time on a set. So, there was always a poker game going on somewhere. Its a strange phenomenon on movie/T.V. sets that like characters tend to hang out together. e.g. prisoners would sit with prisoners, gaurds would sit with guards, Indians (Native Americans) would hang with N.A.s, etc., etc. There was surprisingly little interaction. Except when it came to a poker game. Then it didn't matter what part you were playing, what race* you were, or gender. Everybody was welcome as long as you had the cash. It was always fun, but sometimes I had to wonder if all the cards were coming off the TOP of the deck. And it seemed inevitable that you'd have a great hand and get called back to the set.
*The African Americans usually preferred to play Dominoes over poker and rarely joined us. It wasn't a racist thing. More a cultural thing. Although, I did play Dominoes with the blacks on occasion and sometimes they played cards with us. These guys would have loved a newbie like you, Ken. They would have torn you up like a Coyote on a Yorkie. However, if someone acts too ignorant and/or naive you can't help but think that he might be trying to hustle you.

YEKIMI said...

I've never, ever been able to grasp the concept of poker. I've had people try and teach me over the years, especially in high school, and just was never able to learn it. Or play any other type card game except Go Fish or Solitaire. It's like me trying to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics without a Rosetta Stone. No idea why unless it has something to do with my dyscalculia. So I envy those who can play while I just sit like a lump on a chair watching them or reading a book.

Kirk said...

As a fan of MASH I have to ask, did you whistle louder when you had a losing hand?

Diane D. said...

Poker is a very simple concept. Dyscalculia would obviously be a problem in learning to play, but you surely know that. So what can you mean by that comment?

Edward said...

Last week, I was channel surfing and came across one of your "Written By" episodes "The Merchant of Korea" with Winchester winning at poker until the other players discovered he whistled loudly when bluffing.

Did you whistle when you were bluffing?


CRL said...

If Jennifer Tilly is sitting across the table from me I probably still haven't looked at my cards......

MDL1 said...

"The name of this next game is, uh, New England baseball. What it is...is regular 5-card stud, only deuces are wild for white men."