Poker Chip and Playing Card Party Treats

A poker party is one of the easiest themes to make snacks and treats for. Your guests will devour poker chip cookies, poker chip muffins, playing card cookies, and more, when you make them yourself. It’s exciting to create treats that look like things at the party, such as cards and poker chips. The special desserts, treats, and snacks will be the hit of the party so don’t waste anymore time; get into the kitchen!

Make everything from scratch or cheat a little, depending on how much time and effort that you want to apply. For example, you can make your own, homemade cookies, or you can just buy some cookies, and decorate them as you will. Graham crackers are a nice choice simply for their size and shape. If you’re making cookies, cut card-size shapes, and if you’re making poker chip cookies, make them small and round.

Frost the card cookies with a smooth layer of white frosting; frost the poker chips blue, red, white, or other poker chip colors. It’s best to make or buy white frosting and tint it with food coloring; you’ll be able to make small amounts of each color needed.

Gel frosting, which comes in tubes, makes it easy to draw on the cookies, but you can also pipe on the lettering and images. Just put frosting in a plastic bag, twist it tightly into one corner, and cut a tiny snip from the very corner.

Pipe or draw on frosting to represent the denomination of each card and/or poker chip treat. It’s helpful to look at cards and chips to get an idea of the placement of the lettering, sizes of images, and so on. All of the cards can be different – and the same goes for the poker chips – or you can make them all the same, like all aces or all blue poker chips.

Besides cookies, you can quickly make playing card cakes when you make your own cake, or buy Little Debbie snack cakes. Just purchase rectangular snack cakes, draw on top of them to create the cards, and you’re finished. It’s optional to put on a layer of frosting since most snack cakes are rather skimpy on the frosting. If you’ve made your own cake, you can cut it into individual pieces, or you can make the card design across the entire cake.

A fun element is added to the party when you create poker chip mini muffins. Purchase or make small muffins and then lay a clean poker chip on each one (after the cake is cooled if you’ve baked the muffins yourself). With this snack, each muffin-eater ends up with a free poker chip for the game!

Nothing like Poker in Vegas

Whew! Five days (no nights) in Vegas wore me out. I flew in Saturday to watch my son play poker in the “main event.” I’ve never been to football’s Super Bowl or baseball’s World Series, but this WSOP shindig seemed every bit a combination of both.

My son, Bret, began play noon Sunday. That morning I suggested he consider going over to the Rio a couple of hours early, just in case it was a registration madhouse. He said he was pre-registered so wasn’t going to bother getting there more than five minutes early.

Oh well, I knew it really wasn’t important to start with the herd on the first hand out of the gate. Phil Helmuth makes a trademark of showing up late to tournaments. Truth be told, it isn’t a big deal since not many wonderful things can happen early in big tournament play but a bunch of bad things can. Also, blinds are so tiny, the cost of tardiness is nil.

I did worry about administrative screw-ups. Stuff happens. I wasn’t comfortable walking in a few minutes before “shuffle up and deal” rang through the rooms, especially when I saw the mob as our taxi pulled up at the Rio entrance.

I needn’t have worried. We filed in, went with the signs that guided the flow toward the event. Bret peeled off at the “will call” desk to get his ticket. He presented identification and, after filling out an IRS tax form, was given his room and seat assignment. I was impressed. No muss, no fuss.

Luckily his table was on the edge with his chair closest to the ropes. I found a place to sit on some stairs so was able to comfortably watch the action…or, more appropriately, inaction. Tournament poker is hours of boredom punctuated by moments of terror and excitement. Combat pilots use the same description for their profession.

I took in the sights until Bret was in a hand. Then I’d walk over to watch what went on. During hands he wasn’t playing, he’d come over to where I sat and we’d chat about the game or other players. It was most enjoyable for this father.

The huge central exposition hall had a “carnival” atmosphere. Books, software, educational DVDs, cards, chips, even a car customized into a “Pokermobile” were hawked from display booths. It was a flea market without fleas.

As I moseyed through the expo hall, Doyle Brunson rode past on his handicap scooter. He zipped right by. Had I stepped a foot to my left, I’d probably have gotten my name on the nightly news. “Doyle Brunson hits fat southern boy at WSOP main event. Otis Gardner rushed to hospital. Scooter successfully removed.”

I ran into a bunch of familiar folks. I stood in line with Hevad Kahn. He wasn’t hyperventilating or agitated one little bit, unlike his televised persona. He seemed like a nice, quiet guy. I suppose some players don’t go into “character mode” until on camera. I was surprised Chris Moneymaker was such a short dude. I don’t know how he manages to see over his chip stacks.

Mike Matusow apparently doesn’t come alive until ESPN people show up. He’s known as “The Mouth” because he constantly runs his. But on this day, he sat at the table next to Bret’s and I didn’t hear a peep from him. No camera – no sound. It’s magic!

Jerry Yang, last year’s winner, was in the house. Chris “Jesus” Ferguson most definitely looks like the artistically classic Jesus. Joe Hashem and Daniel Negreanu were signing books at separate tables.

I want to read Negreanu’s new book. I would’ve bought it there, but why carry it around all day, signed or not? I don’t care much about people’s autographs unless they’re on checks to me or already dead like Elvis.

News folks with cameras and microphones scurried around the room. When an “all in” was hollered from a table, they’d rush over to film and record the play. Most of what they filmed would be edited out. It’s mostly chaff excepting a few kernels for entertainment consumption. I look forward to seeing the finished product on ESPN.

It was a lot of fun even though we won’t be seeing Bret on TV. He got “all in” with the best of it but was drowned by a two-outer on the river. It happens. It’s the nature of the game, both its biggest strength and weakness.

I learned something. Now I understand why so many players wear headphones. It isn’t about the music. The big room full of players fiddling with their chip stacks sounded like the soundtrack of a Japanese horror movie, “Cricketzilla.”

Being southern, the cricket sound filling the room didn’t bother me at all. In fact, it made me want to grab a cane pole and bait up. Needless to say, the trip was a total hoot…or should I say, “chirp.”

Like Arnold, I’ll definitely be back.

Is Texas Hold’em a Game of Luck?

Texas Hold’Em is a card game played by millions of people all over the world. It is most known for the World Series of Poker which is held once a year in one of U.S.A’s largest casino’s. The winner is awarded millions of dollars and is considered by many to be very lucky. Luck has some role in any card game, however hold’em is also a game of skill and strategy.

Each hand starts with all of the players receiving two cards face down. These cards are referred to as hole cards. Knowing what hole cards to fold and what cards to hold is an important aspect of the game. By setting a base set of hole cards such as a pair of aces, pair of kings, pair of queens, ace king, pair of jacks, pair of tens, ace queen, ace jack, ace ten, and a pair of nines one strengthens their chance to win. With that in mind if a base hand is not in the hole cards then one should fold. This is considered playing tight and saves the player from buying in to hands that they are destined to lose.

The betting will start with the player sitting to the left of the dealer. The player sitting to the right of the dealer is referred to as sitting on the button. This is the best position at the table because one will get to see everyone’s move (fold or bet) except the dealer. Knowing how to read the bets is a crucial element of Texas hold’em. If a bet is placed and it is half the amount in the pot that player probably has a decent base hand. If a player places a bet that matches the pot then they either have a strong base hand or they’re bluffing. In any case one must evaluate their hole cards and decide to either match the bet, raise the bet, or just fold.

Knowing how to Read a players body language and facial expressions is another way to improve chances of winning. If a player scoots closer to the table after making a bet they probably have cards they feel are among the winning hands. If a player is biting their lip or will not make eye contact they are more than likely chasing a hand and hoping their bet scares everyone off the pot. Playing several hands with the same group of players will allow one to pick up on the body language and facial expressions of that group.

Knowing how to read bets, what hands to start or fold, and reading someone’s body language or facial expressions has nothing to do with luck. The cards that come flying out of the deck are the only aspect of hold’em that should be considered luck. If one plays with skill and strategy then the luck aspect of hold’em is virtually eliminated.

How to Play No-Limit Texas Hold’Em Poker

So you want to be the next poker superstar? Possibly the next Phil Ivey? Or perhaps you just want to learn the game to win some extra cash. Whatever the case may be, you will first be required to learn the basics of this game we like to call no-limit Texas hold’em; this is the most popular form of poker nowadays. So let’s get started!

No-limit hold’em or NLH is a form of poker that requires a deck of 52 cards with a minimum of two players and a maximum of 10 players per table. When you are playing against one opponent, this is called heads-up. In every game, there is a dealer; this is the person chosen to deal the game by distributing two cards to every player. The dealer will typically start a game by checking its deck of cards to make sure there are exactly 52 cards. In NLH, the joker is not part of the deck. Once this is done, the dealer will draw out one card for every player and the player with the highest card will be known as the dealer button; this is represented typically by a white medium-sized button with the text :Dealer.” The dealer button, which rotates clockwise from player to player after every round is also what defines who will post the blinds. So what are the blinds? The blinds is the obligatory amount of chips that you must put before the cards are even dealt for each round. There is a small blind and a big blind which is expected to be put by the players to the left of the dealer button. Example:

The stakes are $5/$10. There are five players in play.

Player 1: Dealer button

Player 2: Small Blind (Puts $5)

Player 3: Big Blind (Puts $10)

Player 4: N/A

Player 5: N/A

This also defines our round. Once a round has passed, the dealer button moves clockwise to the next player and thus the next players are now Small Blind and Big Blind. This is how it would look on round 2:

The stakes are $5/$10. There are 5 players in play.

Player 1: N/A

Player 2: Dealer button

Player 3: Small Blind (Puts $5)

Player 4: Big Blind (Puts $10)

Player 5: N/A

This leads us to the actual game. As previously mentioned, you are dealt 2 cards; the goal is to make the best 5-card hand combination using the Community Cards (the combination of the Flop, Turn and River). The flop is the first 3 cards, the turn is the next card, and the river is the last card. Once the blinds have been posted and the dealer has dealt all the players, the first person to act will be the player to the left of the small blind. This player will have 3 options:

1) Raise (You must put at least double than the big blind, or more)

2) Call (You must match the big blind)

3) Fold (You must throw away your cards)

Then once this player has made a decision, it will be up to the player to the left of that player to make a decision; this player will have the same equal decisions available to him with a slight difference: He is able to re-raise the previous raise; this means he is able to put up any amount of chips more than the double of what his previous opponent raised. Example:

Player 1: Small Blind $5

Player 2: Big Blind $10

Player 3: …. Decides to raise to $20

Player 4: …. Decides to re-raise to $73

Once each player has made their decisions, the only players left should be the ones who haven’t folded their cards. All the chips put in the middle is now known as the pot. The flop is now dealt and 3 cards are shown. (Part of the community cards to help you determine your hand) The player to the left of the dealer button is the first to act and gets 2 possible decisions in this case:

1) Bet (You must put any amount you want, and must match at least the big blind)

2) Check (You basically pass your turn to your opponent)

If you decide to check, your opponent will be next to act, and he can check as well. If he decides to check, we will

see the next community card or the turn. If you decide to bet, he will once again have the options to: call, fold, raise. And so on… So for the sake of our example, you decide to check, and he checks as well. The dealer shows the turn and once again it is the player to the left of the dealer button who must act first. Then finally comes the river or the last community card shown by the dealer. This would look something like this:

Flop: [A] [7] [K], Turn: [2], River: [10] (Community Cards)

So now you ask, how do we determine the winner? Simple. Remember, you’re trying to make the best five-card hand combination. This is done by looking at the following poker hand ranking:

www.pokerpages.com/pokerinfo/rank/

Remember the community cards are here to help you determine the best hand.

The goal is to accumulate and extract as many chips as possible from your opponents and be the last one standing. Now that you have learned the basics, I hope you can take it to the next level. The best way to learn is through practice. And although you may be overwhelmed with these basics, don’t be worried as you will catch on very soon and start playing this great game.

How to Get the Most Out of Poker Bonuses by Using Kickbacks

Though poker bonuses and kickbacks are generally associated with online poker, there are many brick and mortar card rooms that also offer enticing bonuses. Generally with an online card room your bonus will be in the form of a deposit match or a percentage match of a deposit. In a standard card room you may receive food comps, a monetary bonus for every hour of play, a free buy in to a tournament, a free-roll tournament (usually based on hours of play), a coupon for extra chips, and many other bonuses that can really help a player on a short roll. Whether you’re playing at the local club or online, taking advantage of bonuses and kickbacks can be tricky and somewhat confusing.

Often players jump at an on-line advertisement of a deposit match bonus without really determining whether it is beneficial or not. Many bonuses have hidden criteria that could actually end up costing you money. Let’s say for example you get a 100% deposit bonus up to 100 dollars. Now, reading the fine print you find out that the deposit is based on hours of play at a certain limit. For every hour of play at this limit you will receive one dollar of the bonus deposited into your account. This can really end up costing you a ton of money if the limit is either too high of a limit for your roll or even to low. You may find yourself stuck several hundred dollars attempting to make good on your bonus. Not all bonuses are a trap. In fact, many bonuses can help you make some extra cash for doing what you already love doing. Reading the fine print associated with any bonus and requirements to be met will really help build your bankroll.

One bonus that can be extremely lucrative is free-rolls. Free-rolls cost you nothing, you’re getting the opportunity to practice and improve your level of play, and you might even get some free dough! What could be better than that? Another bonus that can be lucrative is the chip coupon bonus.

Many card rooms offer a coupon that gives you an extra 20 dollars in chips for your buy-in. Use the coupon, sit down at the table and blind off for one round, let a couple of hands go buy (if your catching cards go ahead and play aggressive, you just received 20 dollars in free chips) and then get up and cash-out! This may seem like a rotten thing to do and in some rooms it is not allowed (depending on bonus requirements). Though, if you are on a tight budget, doing this every now and then might come in handy.

Finally, the best way to take advantages of bonuses and kickbacks is to be informed. Get a subscription to an on-line poker magazine. Often, you will find weekly or even daily coupons and bonus offers for numerous card rooms inside. Also, become a member to a poker forum and network with other players to see which site or card room is offering what. Bonuses can be very lucrative, but you have to do your research and stay in the know!

Greatest Poker Champions in World Series of Poker History

The World Series of Poker has grown from a small tournament of poker’s greatest stars to a free-for-all that anyone can win at the final table. Champions of the poker world turn into celebrities with endorsements, websites, and even fan sites for those who religiously follow one of the most popular poker games in the world.

Many colorful characters have won the World Series of Poker Championship from experienced professionals to younger amateurs. Here’s my pick for some of the best of the best.

Doyle Brunson still plays in the World Series of Poker even though he is in his mid-70s as far as age. Technically, he was won ten World Series of Poker titles but has only won the huge jackpot twice. In 1976 he took home $220,000 and the following year Brunson won $340,000. The legend has passed on the love of poker to his son, Todd, who won a 2005 title at a lower table.

Amarillo Slim Preston not only won the Championship in 1972 but even continued playing into the early 1990s after having been credited with taking the World Series of Poker to new levels after touting the sport on late night television. Preston was indicted on charges of child molestation that have since been retracted by his own family who brought the charges in the first place, sadly destroying his family life in Texas.

Stu Ungar is a multiple winner of the World Series of Poker Championship, winning the final table in 1980 and 1981, and then again coming back and winning in 1997 after 15 years. Unlike all of the best old poker players, Ungar was born in 1953 and had an existence of “hard livin.” After years of abusing cocaine and other drugs, Ungar was found dead a year after his 1997 triumph of a heart attack. So far, he is the second three-time Champion aside from tournament founder Johnny Moss.

Jamie Gold is famous for winning the most money in 2006’s World Series of Poker with a whopping $12 million, almost three million dollars more than his closest competition. Gold started as a talent scout for actors in Los Angeles and then took his poker playing to a new level despite lawsuits about his winnings and being dropped by sponsors. Still, his brazen style of no holds barred poker propelled him to the legendary 2006 championship.

Phil Hellmuth holds several records in the World Series of Poker. In 1989 Hellmuth became the youngest World Champion at age 24 and to this day he still holds the record for most bracelets won at various events. He still plays today and you can read about his exploits on his official website and doesn’t plan on resting even though he’s won eleven bracelets.

Entertainment Value: Casino Royale – Connery Did It First, but Craig has Done It Best

I will admit that going into this movie I had my trepidations. My main concern had to do with longevity of any cult icon. Superman, Batman, James Bond, these are all movies that have had such powerful staying power that they are being remade over and over again, regardless of whether they should be remade or not. I’m pretty sure that the reason that they keep getting remade is in order to make them not only better than the original, but the best period. The combination of director Christopher Nolan and actor Christian Bale did this with Batman Begins not only making up for what can only be described as the mockeries that were the previous two installments, but it was so much better that it could easy be argued that this was how the Batman series should have started. I wasn’t so sure that director Martin Campbell and actor Daniel Craig could do the same with James Bond in Casino Royale. I was wrong.

From the very beginning the revamped James Bond is given an overhaul with a darker grittier representation that Daniel Craig brings to the table. It is quickly apparent that the dry cool wit and sexual suggestiveness that is all previous Bond movies holds little to no sway over the new direction that this film takes.

Even the opening theme song is a far cry from the days that we would see silhouettes of naked women strolling through the frame over and over and over again, ad nauseum. If you’re gonna have boobs in the film, show them damn it! Instead the opening is a blend of artistic creativity with the harshness that could only be the life of a double O.

From there the audience is treated to what I believe to be the finest foot-chase scene ever caught on film. After you see it you will come out with the same question: you mean that free-style walkers can actually get movie rolls? Hey, what can I say? It worked.

Not that this movie is a total departure from the original campy versions of Bond movies, there are still plenty of action filled moments that are not only improbable, but probably impossible. Yet somehow Campbell has filmed them in a way that not only seems possible, but they are so entertaining that you really won’t give a shit. It’s just fun to watch.

Now, I’m not sure if anyone actually knows this, but there was already a Bond movie called Casino Royale! I know; I had no idea either. Evidently it was made in 1967 and starred the much fabled “third actor to play James Bond”. I’m pretty sure that it’s only a Trivial Pursuit question these days, but if you are ever asked to name all five actors that have played James Bond, the answer is: Daniel Craig, Pierce Bronson, Sean Connery, Roger Moore, and David Niven. Who is David Niven you ask? Exactly. Though one could also ask the same for Daniel Craig. Of course, you should answer this as: the best actor to portray James Bond. And if you are that curious to see the original, just remember this, there is a point in the movie when all agents are named James Bond and Woody Allen makes a cameo as young Jimmy Bond. Still interested?

Whoa, whoa, whoa, before you all get your panties in a bunch faster than Trekkies arguing the question Kirk or Picard, take a deep breathe and keep reading. I love Sean Connery as an actor and I live for hearing him say “Pussy Galore”, but it just doesn’t hold up to the remake. Not only does Casino Royale reinvent James Bond, but it also has the sense of humor to poke fun at itself for the past ridiculousness that Bond movies have released upon up. Example: Bond- I’ll have a vodka martini. Bartender- shaken or stirred, sir? Bond- Does it look like I give a damn?Admit it, that’s funny.

And for all those out there that refuse to accept a remake of James Bond, I would like to ask this question: are you the same losers that were made that Star Wars Episode I was made for mature audiences? Because the originals were made for everyone, too. Just because you’re a 35 year old virgin doesn’t mean that you get to see Queen Amadala’s boobs. The same holds true here. There is plenty that is James Bond. There are moments that he is dry-cool and damn sexy. But there is also a side to him that admits the stupid little character flaws that are all too present in the franchise history. This movie is darker, more realistic and just plain better at every angle. If you’re looking for a bit of nostalgia, you’re in the wrong place.

Oh, yeah and I suppose I should tell you what the plot is: do I really have to say it when it comes to a James Bond movie? Freedom fighters, suicide bombers, chases, fighting, high stakes poker to replace baccarat, a love interest and a couple of twists to keep you guessing. The details aren’t that important when it comes to this review, besides, do you really want spoilers? You’re in the wrong place.

How did it rate: It’s just plain better on every level than the originals. I suppose that the only thing it lacks is originality (well that and I’m not really sure that you can classify good pokers players when you only see them play the best hands, you’ll understand when you see it). Craig delivers on all levels and we can only hope that this Bond’s run is not short lived. 5 out of 5.

Bob the Bubble Boy and the World Series of Poker (Part II)

There wasn’t a cab in sight and several men waiting in the area. A short conversation revealed they were all entrants in the event and running late. When the next cab arrived, they shared the ride to the ultimate in poker tournaments. Bob bought a hard-boiled egg and a cup of coffee when he arrived to help him make it through the first hour of the tournament.

Bob’s early hands were marginal at best. He was playing a tight game at first so he folded every hand that wasn’t premium. Even though it was tempting, he dumped an ace rag. Finally, he had a pair of jacks, but was in early position. They were dangerous, he knew that, so he proceeded with caution and simply called.

Perhaps it was the excitement of the game that dislodged the trapped gas from the meal the night before or simply was its time. Immediately after calling, Bob felt that gurgle in the depth of his colon as a bubble of gas started to make its way to the exit. Sweat began to form on his brow as he squeezed his cheeks tightly together.

“Oh dear Lord, what’s taking you guys so long? Either fold, call or raise.” He thought to himself as each player behind him slowly mulled over the options. They all folded and the big blind raised. The bubble gurgled as it descended the colon even farther. In an almost crazed move and effort to end the hand, Bob went all in. The big blind folded.

The bubble remained but now Bob was the blind with an ace/king suited in spades as his hand. He couldn’t fold and yet the urgency of the bubble remained. If he raised, it would take even longer for the hand to end, so when it was his turn, he checked. Two spades flopped and small blind raised. The bubble inched even closer to the exit in his body. Bob went all in, something he would never otherwise do, but he simply wasn’t thinking straight. He had to end the hand. Everyone folded but the small blind. He called.

Again, Bob was sure he’d ended the tournament for himself but it didn’t matter. He knew that within minutes, either in silence or in a rumble, the gas would meet the outside world. Sweat formed heavily on his brow as he pinched his butt tightly, and adjusted his sitting position. He was ready to explode.

The small blind revealed a pocket pair of queens, but Bob was oblivious. His mind focused more on the gas problem than the turn that wasn’t a spade. He didn’t care, the hand would be over in a minute and he’d be free to leave the table. The river was a queen of spades and Bob, in an impetuous move, won the hand. Luckily, his small blind was a 9/2 off suit. He quickly folded and headed towards the men’s room.

He wanted to empty everything but found only a few gaseous bursts came forth. His eyes watered as the foods from yesterday proved fatal today. How could he continue? Even if the noise of the room disguised the exit of the gas, there was no hiding the odor. It emanated throughout the bathroom causing those in the area to leave rapidly and those entering to mutter a comment or cough.

As the play continued, Bob played his normal non-aggressive safe game until another bubble of gas formed in his colon. At that point, he became the terror of the table. No one knew what he had. His style varied so much with a quiet fold or an aggressive all in when gas formed. A few times during the game, a minor amount of gas slipped out when his attempt to hold it failed. Several times it occurred during a break on his way to the bathroom. The smell was so overwhelming it prompted the game officials to have maintenance check the plumbing to see if there was a problem.

By the end of the day, Bob became the subject of discussion among the other players and the television crew. His style of play was like none they’d seen before. He was a genius at the table, confusing even the pros.

Hellmuth shook his head and folded even though he had a strong hand when he played at Bob’s table. Negreanu, Esfandiari, Michael Mizrachi and even Doyle Brunson had a problem reading him and succumbed to his style of play. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason for his big raises or any pattern that people could decipher. However, Bob knew the secret. He was the epitome of a tight-aggressive player with no apparent pattern. He ended as one of the chip leaders at the end of the first day.

Bar Poker Leagues: Free Live Poker Practice with Prizes

Everybody’s gotta start somewhere. Sooner or later, if you are interested in playing poker, you are going to be playing a live game. Whether you are new to the game, or if you have been playing online, bar poker leagues are a great way to get used to live play without risking your own money.

For the purposes of this article I will use the bar poker league sponsored by The World Poker Store in Minnesota, however there are countless bar poker leagues across the nation. To find one nearest you I can be as easy as walking into a bar that has a Texas Holdem Tournament sign. Most tournaments are held one a week at rotating bars.

The World Poker Store has created a tournament in Minnesota that is held seven days a week out of a rotating group of over 40 bars and restaurants. Each location has the option of holding either one or two no-limit Texas Holdem poker tournaments each day, whatever day of the week they see fit. Each tournament is supervised by a representative of The World Poker Store that is available to contest any play and enforce all applicable rules including blind increases and rule infractions.

These tournaments are easy to sign up for. You can sign up either online at www.theworldpokerstore.com or in person the day of the tournament. All locations are posted online as well as the state and district standings, but more about that later.

Sign up for tournaments usually begins at least one hour before play is to begin and many locations also hold a practice game in the time before play begins. Due to the constant additions to all games, new players are often accepted and most players are patient when it comes to unclear understandings of chip values and times that blinds should be posted.

If you are new to live play, these games are a great way not only to learn poker terminology, but also player interactions and acceptable poker room etiquette. Yes, I know that it’s poker, a game that was made famous by the likes of Wild West outlaws Doc Holliday and Wild Bill Hickock, but there is a certain understanding and honor amongst players that should be adhered to. Polite play is always encouraged, but getting emotional over hands is inevitable and usually overlooked depending on the circumstances.

The bottom line is that you don’t have to worry about risking your own money and dealing with harsh sentiments when it comes to real money being in play. While there is nothing wrong with learning poker in casinos, it is much more common that you will come across players that aren’t as accepting of slow play and amateur-like play.

Of course, there is an added incentive to playing in free bar poker leagues, the World Poker Store league in particular: the chance to win a free seat at the World Series of Poker valued at $10,000. Every six months there is a tournament amongst the top 200 players in each district (central, northwest, northeast, southwest and southeast) are invited to a state tournament at Jackpot Junction Casino to determine the best in state. The winner of the tournament wins the coveted spot in Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker Championship and the chance to win millions in prize money (2006 winner Jeremy Gold won $12,000,000). Other places at the state tournament win prizes that range from trips to Poker Fantasy Camp, poker tables, chips sets, etc.

To earn points all you need to do is show up. Just for playing in a tournament you are given 5 points. Additional points can be earned for making it to the final table. First place receives 100; second place 90, third 80 and so on until eight place receives 30 points. Additional prizes are awarded to the top two or three places (prizes vary from gift certificates to chip sets) Points are added up and maintained online so that you can check out not only your district rating, but also your rating overall in state.

Practice, play, risking nothing, but potentially win the most coveted prize in poker, not to mention a hell of a lot of money. That is what the World Poker Store brings to the table. Other bars offer their own prizes ranging from bar tabs, cash prizes and even trips. Check your local bar for times, dates, rules and prizes. Nothing wagered? That’s okay; it doesn’t mean you can win more that you ever imagined.

A Christmas Trip to Indiana’s Belterra Casino

The Belterra Casino and Resort is located on the Ohio River in southeastern Indiana. It is one of several casinos along the Indiana side of the river from Cincinnati to Louisville.

Normally casinos aren’t part of our usual travel itinerary; gambling and grease just doesn’t resonate with us. But since we were going to be in the area on Christmas night, we figured Belterra might have an open restaurant. It had 5.

The hotel’s interior was very classy. A 15 foot high Christmas tree made of poinsettias was the centerpiece of the holiday decorations in the lobby.

Our room was clean and the bathroom featured a nice array of pretentious toiletries. Those would have been useful had there been hot water — our only complaint with the hotel.

We also had a nice view of the Tom Fazio-designed golf course, which looks to be worthy of a visit all by itself. At least from the 20th floor! Seriously though, the course at Belterra is highly-rated by Golf Digest, a more trustworthy source for golfers than me!

Before figuring what and where to eat, we decided to check out the casino, located on the opposite end of the Belterra facility from the hotel.

On the way down the airport-like walkway to the casino we saw a long line of people at the Champions Club desk. The Champions Club is a points program where folks earn hotel and restaurant discounts based on how much you gamble at Belterra.

It seemed like waiting in line was the primary benefit of the program, considering this queue along with the long Champions Club lines inside the casino itself.

My soon-to-be wife was happy to get carded on the way into the casino. Finally inside, we were treated to a smoky environment with a strange droning musical note filling the air. It was maybe an E?

We soon discovered the drone was from the few hundred electronic slot machines, purring away the song of addiction-based American commerce.

While the rest of Belterra gave off the feel of a swanky, top-shelf establishment, the casino itself was more like a cut scene from the rural-Indiana version of the Godfather that never got made.

It was mostly the clientele (loitering or not) that gave us this impression. Settling down at one of the slot machines, I proceeded to try the machine’s luck. I lost around $20, but both times I won a small amount ($5), two loiterers who were hanging out nearby our machine just had to look over our shoulders to see what happened. Creepy.

Done with gambling, we decided to continue the social experiment by walking around the smoke-filled casino. The pit-boss looked like Fredo Corleone. There were cocktail waitresses clad in shiny pantyhose and little else. There were people at the slots who looked like they couldn’t afford to stay at Belterra’s hotel.

This was Christmas night and because of Indiana law, no alcohol was being served. I don’t want to speculate what that would have done to the room’s ambiance.

My lady wanted to go back to our hotel room to wash our hands after our casino adventure. I had to agree. We took a quick glance at the buffet, and decided on room service, which was top rank like the rest of Belterra, with the ironic exception of its casino.

We would definitely come back to Belterra for golfing, or if we are in the area on Thanksgiving or Christmas nights. As a libertarian, I’m all for adults having the right to gamble if that is their choice; I just probably will stay away from the casino unless another social experiment is in order.