Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Table Stakes are Different Since James Garner Played Maverick

I heard the news about the great James Garner’s death just before I was getting ready to write this post, and I realized that I could actually tie in the subject of this post with one of Garner’s most famous characters—TV’s Maverick.

For people of a certain generation—ahem—the late 50’s, early 60’s TV show Maverick may very well have been their first introduction to the game of poker.  If you watch Maverick or any early TV or movie depiction of poker, it bears little resemblance to the game you seen in any card room today, of course. For one thing, the game was usually five-card draw, and when was the last time you saw that playing in a poker room—or anywhere else, for that matter?

Of course in those old westerns, you always hear someone say, “I’ll see your $500 and raise you another thousand.”  We all know that’s a string bet and would only be a call in any card room today.  And you see the guy throwing the deed to his ranch, or his watch, or his horse, into the pot.  But we all know how table stakes work.  In fact, just recently, Poker Grump, as part of his excellent “Casino Poker for Beginners” series for Poker News, did a column on table stakes, and even referenced how inaccurately poker has been depicted in popular culture.  You can (and should) find that column here if you haven’t already read it.

Well, last month I ran into a couple of guys who didn’t seem to understand how table stakes work, and caused much delay and confusion at the table.

Just for fun, we’ll call these guys Bret & Bart, like the Maverick brothers. They were both senior citizens—and then some.  They were definitely old enough to have been around when Maverick was on first on, I can assure you of that.  Bret had lots of very silver hair.  Bart was pretty much bald. They were from Texas.

Now as I arrived at the table, it seemed they were getting into it.  I had no idea they knew each other.  All I can recall was that Bart made a pretty big overbet—something like three or four times the pot—and when Bret folded, he made some snarky comment about Bart’s bet sizing.  You know like, “Way to get value for your hand.”  And Bart replied, “I won, didn’t I?  How’d you do on that hand?”

It seemed to me like it was getting nasty.  This was really odd, you very rarely see a couple of older folks get into it like that.  Usually it’s younger hot-heads.  If you do see an older guy battling with someone at the poker table, it’s almost always a young “whipper-snapper,” not a fellow old-timer.  I actually thought it was possible that the floor would get called over to settle them both down. 

But, after a few minutes, I suddenly realized that these two guys were actually friends!  Not newly-made at the poker table friends, but friends from way back, probably going back to when Maverick was a new show.  As I listened more, I learned that the two of them had left their wives back in Texas and had come to Vegas for a 3-4 day trip.  They were even sharing a hotel room. In fact, Bart joked that Bret wanted them to get a room with just one bet but that Bart said no way.

During the evening, they bickered and fought constantly, like an old married couple. At one point, Bret won a pot from Bart and was kind of rubbing it in. He kept talking about the hand, which he did a lot after winning a pot Bart was involved with. Now, let’s say Bret’s wife name is Ethel.  It isn’t, I can’t remember what it was, but it was definitely an old-school name that no one under 50 has, so Ethel works just fine.  Bart said to Bret, “After you have sex with Ethel, do you talk about it for an hour? Or is it just winning poker hands you do that with?”

The more I watched, the more I realized that Bart mostly made those big overbets when he was against Bret.  Not always, just most of the time.  I suppose it might have looked like collusion but I really don’t think it was.  I actually think they were playing against each other really hard.  Bret was playing most hands, and catching cards and winning pots with a lot of regularity.

At one point he had a pretty big stack.  Bart had had to rebuy at least once that I saw, but then he built up his stack nicely and he too had a nice stack of chips in front of him.  I would say they both had about $300-$400 when the relevant hand happened.  Bart had less than Bret, but not by much.

Apparently, before I got there, Bart had borrowed $100 from Bret, money he used at the table.  Now that came up presently as it was claimed that Bret had given him the $100 off his stack, and no one had said anything.

Clearly that would have been a violation of the “Table Stakes” rule.  Once money is on the table, it can’t come off until the player is ready to leave the game.  And of course, you can’t just give money to another player.  You see that attempted all the time.  Usually it’s a married couple, one of them busts out and the other one, with plenty of chips left, tries to give the busted spouse money of his or her stack to play with. 

Anyway, they got into a big hand together and Bart was all in, Bret called, and Bart won the pot.  He now had a ton of chips, and Bret was short stacked.  Bret took out some money to rebuy.  Included in the pot were several hundred bills (which play).  Bart took one of the hundreds he’d just won and handed at across the table to Bret and said, “Here’s the $100 I owe you.”  They were sitting across the table from each other, so everyone could see this.

The dealer stopped it immediately.  And then Bart proceeded to launch into a long story about how he had these money orders on him and they were from Wells Fargo and he assumed they were the same as traveler’s checks (do people still use traveler’s checks in this age of ATM’s?) but the cashier at the casino wouldn’t cash them.  And so he had to borrow money from Bret in order to play, and he was just paying him back.

Now, as far as I could tell, Bret had plenty of cash and didn’t need the money paid back right away.  So I’m assuming that Bart wanted to return that money specifically to make sure that he didn’t lose it to someone else before he had a chance to return it to his pal.

The dealer said none of that mattered, he couldn’t give $100 off his stack to another player. He was more than welcomed to give him money out of his pocket, just not off his stack.  Then Bart and Bret told the dealer that a previous dealer had allowed just such a transaction.  The dealer said it didn’t matter but wisely called the floor over because the two of them were pretty much ignoring him and the $100 from Bart’s stack was sitting in front of Bret.

The game went into pause when the floor person arrived and to explain the table stakes rule.  Again, the story of the money orders that the cashier wouldn’t accept was told.  Again it was explained that a previously dealer had allowed it.

At this point, another player spoke up.  He wasn’t a friend of either of the two, but had been playing with them for a long time—since before I had arrived.  He vouched for the fact that a previous dealer had allowed it.  And then he said, “Who cares?  It’s not a problem.  I have no objection with him giving him the money.”

Well glad you don’t object sir!  Who the hell put you in charge?  Now me, I did object, because it’s a violation of the rules and everyone has to follow them.  You don’t make an exception because a guy from Texas doesn’t know the difference between traveler’s checks and money orders.  I didn’t say anything because I was sure the floor would get it right.

Anyway, the floor told him the only way he could take money off the table was to leave the game.  He could play in a different game and not have to keep all the money on the table.  For example, there was a $3/$6 limit game going at the time, he could move to that game and buy in for the minimum.  And stay out of a 1/2 game for an hour (it might be two hours, I’m not sure).  Or he could just leave the game and come back in two hours and enter any 1/2 game for the minimum buy-in.  But if he stayed at that game, the $100 belonged to his stack, not Bret’s.

The floor person said if a previous dealer had indeed allowed it to happen, she would find that dealer and have a talk with him. It didn’t change the rules. Again, I wasn’t there, but I don’t think the story about a previous dealer allowing it is true.  But if it did happen—if Bret did give $100 off his stack to Bart—the dealer didn’t so much allow it as he just didn’t see it.  Especially if it was a bill, it could fairly easily be done without the dealer noticing, especially if he was concentrating on a hand neither Bart or Bret were in at the time.

The other thing I want to point is this.  As I said, it didn’t appear Bret was hurting for cash, I assume he had brought traveler’s checks with him and seemed to have plenty on him.  So the only reason that Bart was so intent on giving Bret his money back right then instead of after their session was over was precisely to get around the Table Stakes rule!  If he lost that money, all $600 or whatever it was, he’d still be on the hook to his buddy for the $100. 

It’s sort of like the Steven Wright joke.  “I was walking with my buddy late at night and a guy sticks a gun in our faces and says, ‘Give me all your money.’  So I said to him, ‘Hang on one second,’ and turn to my buddy and give him a bill and say, ‘Here’s that hundred I owe you.’”

That seemed to settle it, and after about five minutes play resumed.  Actually, I think there might have been a few hands dealt then with both Bart and Bret being dealt out.  Bart said he would move over to the 3/6 game.  The floor person left, and a second or two later, Bret announced he was going to take a bathroom break.  On his way there, he stopped over to talk to Bart, and then, to my astonishment, Bart just took the same $100 bill that the floor had insisted he take back from Bret and handed it to Bret!  And Bret proceeded to head over to the Men’s Room.

Well, the dealer called the floor back and she was quite upset and she made it clear to Bart that the $100 he had just given Bret was still in bill—in Bart’s stack.  And that he was playing “$100 behind.” I suppose a case could be made for asking them both to leave since they had both so clearly violated a rule that had been explained to not once but twice, and which they said they understood.  But they did a good job of acting like they were confused old man, rather than two guys trying to get away with something.  At the time I thought the former, but as I was writing this up, I started to lean toward the latter. 

At first, the floor waited for Bret to return, and watched the play of a few hands, announcing that Bart was $100 behind several times. But Bret took his sweet time returning from the Men’s Room (like I said, he wasn’t a young man). So she left and made it clear to the dealer that Bart was $100 behind and he even announced it a few times when he entered pots.  At some point Bart again indicated he was going to leave this game and move to the 3/6 game, and even started racking up his chips.

But then another player at the game came up with another solution.  This guy happens to be a former regular in the room I hadn’t seen in many, many months.  He was having a good time this night and so he proposed that he himself would accept one of Bart’s money orders, and give him a $100 out of his wallet, which Bart could then give to Bret to repay his debt.  No money would come off the table. 

It took some explaining to Bart to make him see that this wasn’t the same thing as what he was trying to do and that it would be ok, but he agreed, and he didn’t have to leave this game to move to the limit game.

And that’s what happened.  Bart added the $100 from the long-time reg’s wallet to his stack, and Bret got to keep his $100 when he came back.  And the reg had a money order in his pocket which he was hopefully able to cash (it was from Wells Fargo, Bart repeatedly pointed out, so it has to be good.)

Well, that’s the end of the Table Stakes story.  On the TV show Maverick, what Brett and Bart were attempting would have been perfectly ok.  But not here.  Not now.  Not in the real world.

There was actually a lot of good poker to blog about—and by good I mean I won—but that will have to wait for another time.  But I’m pretty sure both Bret and Bart figure into that story too, so don’t forget about them. (Note:  The follow-up has been posted and can be found here).


  1. well, as my old pappy used to say.....

    RIP Brett Maverick

  2. black and white pics??????????? i was wonndering what kind of pic u were going to use. i will let it slide .they didnt have yoga pants or BIG BOOBIE IMPLANTS in the 1800s

    1. Well, Maverick was on TV before color was invented. I don;'t just mean color TV--I mean color. It was a totally black & white world in those days.

      Now, I tried real, real hard to find a pic of Garner with an attractive, provocatively dressed co-star. You would think with all the roles he's played, all the leading ladies he's had, it wouldn't be tough. But you'd be wrong! It was well nigh impossible to find him next to a woman wearing an outfit that would be "anger" approved.

      I remembered a film he did in the 60's called The Art of Love, which featured Angie Dickenson and Elke Sommer (and Dick Van Dyke, as well). Those two ladies were two of the sexiest actresses around during that era. But I couldn't find a pic of Garner with either one of them in anything close to a revealing outfit.

      At least I managed to find a pic from Maverick with a (theoretically) naked Connie Stevens.

    2. true, angie dickenson was HOT. POLICE WOMAN. i know u tried ,sir. who else has aged well is donna dixon from bosom buddies and dan akryoids( i cant spell it) wife. he was in ghostbusters and doctor detroit.HOT HOT HEAT!!!!!!!!!SMOKING COUGAR. almost as hot as JOSIE.LOL. also, i like playing with older players .they got better stories and dont use the word LIKE every other word too.

    3. Donna Dixon was awesome. I loved her in Bosom Buddies. There was also a guy named Tom Hanks in that show, I wonder whatever happened to him. But I haven't seen her in years, I think she retired to be a full-time wife, no? Where have you seen her?

      Angie was awesome....when she was done with Police Woman she did a movie or two where she took her clothes off. I'm sure you're shocked that I would know that.

    4. dan 'HOWEVER U SPELL HIS NAME" is in that new moviw about james brown GET ON UP. i saw an article on yahoo. i remember that tom hanks? dude doing a movie called" bachelor party" IT WAS EPIC but then POOF no more HANK

    5. Oh, I've seen DAN AYKROYD ("Jane, you ignorant slut") here and there. I was talking about his wife, Donna Dixon. She retired I guess to be a full time mommy & wife....no IMDB credits between 1997 and 2014.

    6. in the article it said she did a spike lee movie recently???????

    7. the movie is DA SWEET BLOOD OF JESUS. due out in 2014

    8. also her dad had a club in virginia called HILLBILLY HEAVEN .i bet that was the SHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEIT

    9. Yeah, looks like that's her first role in 17 years. Will be interested to see how she looks.

  3. its wrong for a dealer to allow a player to pass money to another player--and then the NEXT dealer to not allow the other player to pass the same $100 back. not only should they be allowed to pass it back, they should actually be FORCED to pass it back.

    anyway thats not the issue here, the real issue is if there is a married couple at the table, (gay or straight) and one goes broke and the other one wants to pass them money and has everyone covered by a wide margin (or even more if its a LIMIT game and they have $1000 in a $3-6 limit game and no one else has more than $200-300) people should mind their own business instead of following the strict letter of the law, and spoiling the mood for not only the married couple, but everyone else at the table who simply wants to have a good time with no arguements. the most important thing is to not make the whole table angry, and kill the game. if this happens, a lot might never play poker again the rest of their life, and we would all lose out then.

    its one thing if they are a normal stack, but if they have everyone covered by a wide margin the money would unlikely ever be in play anyway. and dont we all want the LOSER to be the one sitting back in with the money--the fish in other words--instead of the big winner? this is good for the whole table in the long run, and the poker economy. id certainly would like to see the fish passed the money from the heavy winner whose the better player. So would most people, with the exception of Rob, the rules nit.

    1. Thanks, Tony, you make some very good points.

      On the first matter, it wasn't the next dealer. IF they had already passed back money before, it was several hours earlier. No one working in the poker room had seen it, in fact, it was probably an entirely different shift working there.....and frankly, I'm not sure it actually happened. And again, if it did happen, I'm sure they only got away with it because the dealer didn't notice, not because he "allowed" it.

      On the general issue, I would be inclined to agree with you if the person who is giving the spouse money has a really big stack--but where and how do you draw the line? If the wife has a $1,000 at a 1/2 game and wants to give $200 to her husband,that would sound ok, but what if she had $400 and wanted to give him $200? Not so good. So they question is where do you draw the line and how do you create the rule? You can't just leave up to someone's discretion, that would get too messy.

      Another issue tho is that if have a couple passing money back and forth like that, it starts to feel like they're playing as a team, not as individuals. Not only does that get into the area of collusion, but it violates the one player to a hand rule.

    2. LOL. STUpid UNGER is so funny. stick to slamming obama and trying to get a woman to kiss u,sir

  4. I like "Rob the rules nit...". :) Yeah, I also think that the table stakes rule gets taken too far in certian situations, and I wish that common sense could be applied to it (Ex. Guy with 400 in a 3-6 limit game want to gives his wife 30 after she busts). As a dealer, I enforced it and just kinda shrugged my shoulders and said it's a rule we have to follow. In situations where it would give someone breaking it an obvious advantage, I defended it more vigorously... :)

    1. I didn't address Tony's point about limit games, I do think that makes a difference. But still, a dealer is only at a table for a half hour and they can't really be making up the rules as the go along.

      --Rob the rules nit.

  5. people from texas do things differently.

  6. Ann-Margaret, age 73, was in Ray Donovan on Sunday and she looked phenomenal!

    1. That's interesting, Dave. Sorry I didn't see that.

      During her day, Ann-Margaret was possibly the sexiest woman on the planet.

    2. Totally gorgeous and smokin' hot (tho we didn't say that back then), anger, no doubt.

      But for pure animalistic sex appeal, I'd go with Ann.

    3. tooooooooo true. also mimi rogers too. imo

    4. Yeah, there are some guys out there that seem to be into large-breasted women.

  7. I just read Grump's article that you linked to in this story. I couldn't help but notice the following line:

    "Suppose you start with $300 on the table, and you quickly run your pocket aces against some other poor schlub’s pocket kings, and rightly win."

    Now where on earth do you think he would have come up with an example like THAT?!?

    1. Yeah, I noticed that when I first read. As much as I'd like to take credit, I'm sure the whole Aces vs Dreaded Pocket Kings scenario is common enough that I'm sure he came up with it on his own.

  8. Im a follower of you blog and is increible. Congrats mate

  9. I just wanted to let you know that I love your blog, Rob. Keep it up!