The massive paradigm shift of poker over the past 15 years from America’s favorite kitchen table draw game to a multi-billion dollar industry changed the game forever. Cigars and felt tabletops have largely been replaced by computer screens and dreams of massive tournament spectacles.
Despite that, I think that the best poker stories and experiences for most of the poker-playing populace are still found in home games, where emotions don’t need to be hidden, you don’t have to drive to a cardroom, and you actually (probably) like everyone else at the table.
That’s on full display in a true home game poker story recently sent in to me by reader Freddie Dorn, who owns a video production company called Picture This Video and has worked with some big names over the years. I’m happy to pass it along. Long live the RPA, Freddie…
Hot Rod Lincoln
This is a true poker story, as told by Freddie Dorn of the Rivertowns Poker Association.
You’ve all heard the expressions – once in a blue moon, finding a needle in a haystack, a cold day in hell and when pigs fly? Common phrases we’ve all grown up hearing.
The Beatles of…
One of my favorite comedians on the circuit today is Dana Gould. He has an hour-long HBO special that is truly funny. One of the routines during the special is his take on The Beatles. He claims The Beatles is the best musical group of all time.
He compares people and events in life using The Beatles as the top of the line benchmark. The Beatles, as Gould states, “represent the most successful version of a thing you can be”. By that definition, he continues, “the Rolling Stones are the Beatles of music…not including The Beatles”.
But this can only be used as a positive statement. You cannot say, for example, that Adolf Hitler was the Beatles of Dictators.
The Rivertowns Poker Association
Poker home game ritual
Last Friday night we had another RPA card game in Hastings, New York. Players from Ardsley, Hastings and Dobbs Ferry started the Rivertowns Poker Association about 18 years ago.
We try to play monthly and have been pretty consistent over the years, getting in about 10 or 11 games every year. We have a roster of about 12-14 players and the first 8 to confirm a seat get to play that night.
We have table nicknames, I’m Doctor Low – because I usually get low cards. Stephen is Grumpy – because he is. There’s also Barney Flat Top, Sprouts, and Doc. Almost like the 7 Dwarves.
We have real Las Vegas style chips, play strict rules for a friendly game, and take the hands of poker very seriously while still having a great time every time we play. We smoke, we drink, we laugh, and enjoy the 4 to 5 hours of serious cards.
Ranking of poker hands in a split-pot game like Hot Rod Lincoln
For those of you who know the ranking of hands please excuse this short lesson. We play a lot of split the pot games, which means:
- The high hand and the low hand for each deal split the pot.
- For the low hand, we usually play 8 or better. This means, if you’re going low, all the cards in your 5 card hand must be 8 or lower.
- The best low can either be 6-4-3-2-1 if “the wheel” is not good or 5-4-3-2-1 if “the wheel” is good.
- The 5-4-3-2-1 is also a straight high hand so a player could win both the high hand and low hand in one deal with those 5 cards. That is why it is called the “wheel”.
- The ranking of high hands goes like this, as in every other high-hand poker game like Texas Hold’em: High Card, 1 Pair, 2 Pair, 3 of a Kind, Straight, Flush, Full House, 4 of a Kind, Straight Flush and Royal Straight Flush. A Royal Straight Flush is five cards of the same suit from the 10 up to the Ace (10-J-Q-K-A).
A Straight Flush is, like, unbeatable
Honeymoon in Vegas
As we learned from the wonderful early ’90s RomCom Honeymoon In Vegas, “Like unbeatable is not unbeatable.” In this film, and subsequent Broadway Show, high roller tough guy conman Tommy Korman (James Caan) falls for Betsy (Sarah Jessica Parker) who is a dead ringer for his late wife Donna.
Betsy is the girlfriend of Jack Singer (Nicholas Cage) who finally – after years of broken promises – takes Betsy to Las Vegas to get married. At the hotel pool, Korman spots Betsy and knows instantly he must have her.
Talk about a poker story
Korman sets up a game of poker and invites Jack to play. And, just like in The Sting, the game is rigged. After a few hours of playing, Jack is dealt a straight flush and bets everything he has and everything he doesn’t have.
He asks for credit from Korman so he can bet big on his straight flush that is like -unbeatable. But because the game is rigged, Korman gladly gives Jack the credit of $65,000 because Korman also has a straight flush, but a higher one!
The ultimate bad beat
Jack loses the hand, does not have the money to pay off the bet, and is freaking out! Korman makes a shady side deal with Jack that in exchange for the $65,000 Korman gets to spend the weekend with Betsy. I said it was a romantic comedy.
Betsy is livid after hearing the surprisingly bad news from Jack and screams at him saying that “You took me to Las Vegas and turned me into a whore, Jack!” Jack tries to explain that a straight flush is, like, unbeatable. Betsy says, “LIKE unbeatable is NOT unbeatable!”
Jack gets insanely jealous after seeing Korman drive away with Betsy and then spends the next several days pursuing Betsy, who has been whisked away to Hawaii for an unforgettable first-class weekend.
An unbelievable Hot Rod Lincoln poker hand
Last Friday night we all experienced an unbelievable, once in a lifetime event. We were playing the poker variant Hot Rod Lincoln.
How to play Hot Rod Lincoln
- Each player gets dealt 6 cards down.
- This is a split the pot game so the high hand and low hand split the pot.
- You can use the best or worst 5 cards of the 6 you were dealt to make your hand. Or, alternately use 2 in your hand and 3 from the 5 community cards about to be “flopped” on the table.
- Three cards are “flopped” first on the table after the 6 cards have been dealt to each player. There is now a round of betting.
- Then another single community card is flopped, this is called ‘4th Street’ or ‘The Turn’. There is another round of betting.
- Then finally, the 5th community card is flopped onto the table, this is known as ‘The River’. The River card can often make or break a hand.
In this hand, I was dealt my six cards that didn’t amount to anything special although I had a King and Jack of Spades. Nothing in my hand was good or bad enough so I knew I would have to rely on the community cards to make a hand worth betting. Hopefully the flop would help my hand.
The flop and turn
The flop was a 10 of Spades, Ace of Spades and Jack of Hearts. That’s a little better for me. I have a potential flush – with 4 spades, need one more – and a potential straight with a 10, Jack, King and Ace. I just need a Queen. There is a round of betting. Then Fourth Street is dealt and it is the Queen of Spades.
Getting the miracle card
This is exactly when the blue moon appeared in the sky, I found a needle in a haystack, the Devil needed a sweater and Porky took flight. I had, for the first time in my life, a Royal Straight Flush in Spades. So, remember that Betsy said “a straight flush is, like, unbeatable,” this straight flush IS unbeatable. A Royal Straight Flush is the highest possible hand in straight poker.
Rubes hits his quads
But believe it or not, this is not the best part of the story. There is still one more card to be flopped, the 5th community card, the River card has yet to be dealt. When the River card hits the table it is an Ace of Hearts. There is now a pair of Aces on the board. If you have a pair of Aces in your hand then you would have 4 Aces – a spectacular, winning high hand that is, like, unbeatable. Except last Friday night.
Rubes, Mark Rubin, a founding member of the RPA is sitting across from me and is betting and raising as much as he can although we do have three dollar bet/raise limit per round. It is a friendly game. I am seeing and raising his bets. I know that if he has a high hand then it’s not high enough and he loses. If he has a qualifying low hand then we will split the pot.
Once the betting is over, Rubes throws down his pocket pair of Aces on the table and announces confidently that he has won the High Hand with 4 Aces. And who could blame him, 4 Aces is, like, unbeatable. The table applauds because we don’t often see 4 of a kind, let alone 4 Aces. I, too, applaud, but I announce after a few seconds, “That is a great hand Rubes, but it is not the winning hand.”
The table falls into silence. Rubes looks at me and says, “No, no you don’t!” And I say, “Yes, yes I do,” and drop the King and Jack of Spades on the table, making my Royal Straight Flush. The table again erupts into applause because none of us can believe what just happened. I had The Beatles of poker hands.
1 in 88 million
This was a six-handed game – we only had 6 players at the table whereas we usually have 8. I looked up the odds for this to happen and as close as I could find there is a 1 in 88 million chance that 4 Aces would come up against a Royal Straight Flush.
Beep beepm, beep beep, yeah!