…Know When To Hold ‘Em…

On a warm summer’s evenin’ on a train bound for nowhere,
I met up with the gambler; we were both too tired to sleep.
So we took turns a starin’ out the window at the darkness
‘Til boredom overtook us, and he began to speak.

He said, “Son, I’ve made a life out of readin’ people’s faces,
And knowin’ what their cards were by the way they held their eyes.
And if you don’t mind my sayin’, I can see you’re out of aces.
For a taste of your whiskey I’ll give you some advice.”

So I handed him my bottle and he drank down my last swallow.
Then he bummed a cigarette and asked me for a light.
And the night got deathly quiet, and his face lost all expression.
Said, “If you’re gonna play the game, boy, ya gotta learn to play it right.

You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table.
There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done.

Ev’ry gambler knows that the secret to survivin’
Is knowin’ what to throw away and knowing what to keep.
‘Cause ev’ry hand’s a winner and ev’ry hand’s a loser,
And the best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep.”

And when he’d finished speakin’, he turned back towards the window,
Crushed out his cigarette and faded off to sleep.
And somewhere in the darkness the gambler, he broke even.
But in his final words I found an ace that I could keep.

Everyone knows this song, right?  One of a few songs you will never hear in a casino. You’re more likely to see a clock on the gambling floor.

This thought has been niggling at me for a while. To provide the back story of ‘why’, there was a trivia game with the answer included this song among others with “songs about cheating.” I calmly and respectfully disagreed: “Are you crazy? That song is NOT about cheating!!!!!”

And since then? it’s kinda boggled me how anyone could think the song was about that. As I surfed around the net to back up that position, I saw a lot of crap and rhapsodizing bullshit about this song. Mostly about “metaphors for life” and all that. Ok, yeah. whatever. I see it. But it’s also a song about exactly what the song says it’s about:

A younger guy and an old man are bored and idly chatting on a night-time train ride. The old man tells the younger man that he can tell he’s in a bad way and if he gives him a smoke and a drink, he’ll give him advice. The man receives his payment, advises the younger man, and then falls asleep and dies. Seems very straight forward so far, yes?

A sip of whisky and a cigarette was very small payment for the lesson that young man got that night.  And in my opinion, everyone who has aspirations of a ‘career’ at poker or even a serious hobby should play this song on a loop as they sleep. For years.  In my personal experience, I agree with every single “rule” in this song.

You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em:  the key to that sentence is “WHEN” to hold ’em.  Every hand should not be played; in fact, most should not. If you aren’t tossing the majority of your hands, you are doing something very wrong. But you also need to know which hands to play.  I am not even going to get into that. That would be a book on poker, not an ocd little blog post.  Besides, you are the one that wants to play poker. It’s your job to figure that out. 

Know when to walk away, and know when to run: I think this is the line that actually triggered the “CHEATING” response. Knowing when to walk away is simply having the self-discipline to say “ok this is NOT working for me today.” And simply leaving the game rather than staying for the inevitable “crash and burn” , that intermediate step that bridges directly to making the walk of shame back to the cage.

“Knowing when to run” is like the other side of the coin: it’s about the awareness. A streak only lasts so long. It’s going to end. Ideally, you can feel the tide turning. THAT is where you *run.* You pack up your shit and you go have a cheeseburger.

“You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table, there’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done:  Firstly, it’s just incredibly bad etiquette to sit and ass with your chips at the table. Remember, every dollar you have above your original stake is someone else’s money.  And it’s just sort of shitty to ‘rub his nose in it.” There will be a day when it’s you looking at your money over in Joe Blow’s stack. Secondly, I would say, if you don’t know basically how much money you have, you shouldn’t even be sitting there. You need to know how to follow the pot.

So there you go;  a little poker lesson from me to you. I will give you an exception to my last rule, though. My amendment to the “Don’t Jack With Your Money” rule is the “Cute Poker Tricks” exception.  There are many of them. Walking a chip down your knuckles. Shuffling your chips. That’s my favorite. Being able to take two 4-7 chip high stacks of 2 different colors and with one fluid movement, turning it into one stack of chips alternating perfectly. Even more advanced, is the ability to reverse it so you are back to the 2 stacks again.

As a dealer, I should have never touched the pot aside from making change, taking a rake, when necessary splitting it, and most importantly: delivering it.  I can’t tell you how many hours I spent sitting there watching the game and practicing my shuffle. I wanted to be able to smoothly press the chips together and apart with one flick. I can, but I never mastered it to where it was fluid.  Clearly, I took full advantage of the “Poker Tricks” clause. 



~ by Layla on November 22, 2009.

One Response to “…Know When To Hold ‘Em…”

  1. […] admin wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerpt […]

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