Being a guest in Iraq means doing without a few things that I enjoy. My wife and beer come immediately to mind. Being a short timer here at the Liberty/Victory Camp Complex means I’m a guest of those long-timers who are here for a year or more. This comes into play with things like bunk selection and transportation. I just can’t front someone who is putting up with this lifestyle when I’ll be home in under two weeks (9 days now, but who’s counting).
It also comes into play at the poker table. Most of us players have been in the situation where we are the new person in a group of regulars. We are the guest and we should act like it. That means not talking too much about things that no one else has any interest in. It means being extra observant and polite about the rules of the house. Is everyone taking off their shoes? Can I go in the fridge? That sort of thing.
It also means not being a jerk about the rules of the game. They play a certain way so that’s the way I’ll play tonight. I’m having to do a lot of that playing here in Baghdad. Our regular home games are pretty serious about the rules of the game. All of us have played a lot of casino poker and we try to fashion our rules after theirs. After all, they developed those rules over many years for various reasons. I like to say, “We learn from the mistakes of others because we don’t have enough time to make them all ourselves.”
But here in the desert, I get the feeling that most have not seen the inside of a casino and several kitchen table rules are in effect.
Two cards wins in Omaha. In every casino I’ve played in, if there is a showdown, the players must show all of their cards to win the hand. Not here. Actually they have started enforcing that rule for hold’em, but most of our hands are Omaha and winning players regularly show only the two cards they are playing. This has led to the comical grab for the face-down cards when the player realized he’s folded a winning low. Thankfully, those cards have been ruled dead and much laughter generally ensues.
String bets are out, but unannounced single-chip raises are fair game.
Announcing “there is a low” “there is a flush” “there is a straight”. Yep, talking about the hand when you are not involved is not only tolerated, it is encouraged. I cringe every time I hear it and I hear it on every hand. “There’s the low”, “There’s no low.” There’s the straight/flush/boat/whatever. Arrrrrrrggggggggggg. I just bite my lip and shake my head. It’s their game.
Dealing the turn and river after the flop. I saw and commented on this one last year. Usually, after the flop, the dealer will continue with a burn and the turn card face down and then another burn and the river face down. Some have even been known to deal the cards and then immediately deal the flop, turn and river, all face down. We almost had a hand killed when mucked cards hit the already dealt board. Do you think that put an end to the practice. Nope. I’ll admit that I’ve been able to pick up whether the down cards are face cards or not from time to time. If they are going to make it a part of the game, I’m playing.
There are apparently no cut cards in all of Iraq. I’ve seen the cards shuffled face up, turned over and sat in front of the cutter who just taps the deck. I generally know 3 or 4 cards on the bottom of the deck when the deal starts. If I miss it I just have to be patient because the bottom card will be flashed several times before all the cards are dealt. Since we are playing Omaha, those cards are likely hitting the board.
The worst one came last night. One fellow was having a really rough night. He was complaining about all of the bad play and suck-outs that he was enduring. We all know the drill. He had a really bad habit of holding his cards down on his lap under the table. This made me a bit nervous, but he was on my immediate right and I could see his cards so I doubt that anything dirty was going on. He finally sees a hand and a flop that he really likes and goes all-in. As play in the hand continues, he takes his cards with him to the fridge, to show the other table and all around the room. On the turn or river his high straight got counterfeited He got quartered and lost money again. I had no sympathy.
But like I said, I’m a guest and I don’t make many suggestions and they seem to respect the one’s I do make. Maybe I’ll try for cards on the table at all times tomorrow night. I’m afraid I’ll have to leave them with early dealing. I’ll call it a quaint local custom down at Huckleberry Farms.
And I lost $80 last night. So there.