My sweetie’s father, Raoul, is some sort of character. He’s a bit older than Filthy Willy, has been married eight or nine times (everyone has lost count) and has daughters younger than my sweetie’s son. He’s tall, stately, dignified looking with a full head of white hair, and looks very much like Cesar Romero (when
My sweetie’s father, Raoul, is some sort of character. He’s a bit older than Filthy Willy, has been married eight or nine times (everyone has lost count) and has daughters younger than my sweetie’s son. He’s tall, stately, dignified looking with a full head of white hair, and looks very much like Cesar Romero (when Cesar Romero was alive, that is). Every single night he goes out either to dance, or to sing karaoke (well, he calls it singing, but anyone who’s had to listen to him bellow six choruses of “I Did it My Way” might beg to differ), or to play poker.
What he calls playing poker, that is.
He once told me that Barbara inherited 98 percent of the poker talent in the family, while he got the other 2 percent. He wildly overestimates his share. While he may do OK in low-limit hold’em games—or at least he says he does–his passion is Omaha, a Togel Hari Ini game for which he is about as suited as Big Denny would be for dancing ballet in Swan Lake. He does have amazing stamina, though. When he goes to Vegas, he can stay up two or three nights straight playing cards. Or maybe it’s because he doesn’t want to waste money on a hotel room that he could be using for poker.
It’s unfortunate, but the subtleties of Omaha seem to completely escape him. I think the only time he ever won at it was when his table shared a jackpot that two other players hit. I once played at his table, and felt so sorry for him that I only check-raised him 12 times and tried not to peek at his cards, except when I absolutely had to.
Raoul doesn’t wear glasses, but he is farsighted, and holds his cards about three feet up in the air and three feet away from him. Not only can everyone at the table see his hand, so can everybody at the other tables … even at the tables in the restaurant. Everyone in the casino can read his cards better than he can. And, he must have been born under Aquarius, the water sign, because he insists on seeing every hand to the river.
The local casino he plays at runs a regular ad advertising Tuesday and Thursdays as “Giveaway Nights”: the nights when Raoul comes in.
Then, the last time he came up to Vegas to watch Barbara play, she asked me to give him a few tips on playing Omaha.
“I really could help him a lot, couldn’t I?”
“No, but even you couldn’t make him play any worse than he does now, and it would spare me the agony of trying to explain things to him.”
Reluctantly, I agreed. “OK, Raoul,” I said, “what would you like to know about Omaha?”
“Why do they call it Omaha?”
“Because it was invented in Texas, and … ow!” I yelled, as Barbara smacked me smartly on the back of my head. “Sorry, Raoul, I was only kidding. Omaha is an Indian word meaning, “Any four cards can win.”
“OK, OK,” I said, ducking. “I don’t know why they call it that. It’s just a name. What do you want to know about strategy?”
“What’s the best starting hand?”
“Well, some say A-A-2-3 double-suited, and some say A-2-3-4 suited.
“It really doesn’t matter very much. What’s your favorite starting hand?”
“I like four aces.”
“Well, it does cut down the chances of someone else making a wheel, I suppose, but it’s kind of hard to make anything with it. Why do you like four aces?”
“Because they’re in four different suits, so you have four chances of making a nut flush.”
I nodded my head. “I never thought of that,” I said.
I continued with my instructions, but without much success. Such strategic Omaha concepts as position, playing coordinated cards, and the value of back-up cards were as difficult for him as trying to act humble would be for Steve Badger.
The more I thought about it, the more I became convinced that Barbara inherited her card sense from her mother. Her mother, who lives in Las Vegas, doesn’t play poker, but is a whiz at blackjack. She doesn’t like the game that much, but she has to play it to support her bingo habit.
But, getting back to Raoul, I really didn’t mean what I said about him. He’s a great guy, and not that bad a player for a man his age, which I think is about 115. He’s the only man that Oklahoma Johnny Hale ever rejected for his The Seniors tournament for being too old.
To sum up, the best advice I could give to Raoul would be to move to New Jersey, to the retirement village where my older brother Ira lives, and try to get into his weekly potzer poker game. That’s a game where the maximum bet is about 3 cents, where everyone cuts the deck about 12 times with the cards ending up exactly as they started, and where an argument breaks out several times a night about whether a straight beats a flush. But do you know what the best thing about that game would be for him?
They never heard of Omaha in New Jersey.