If you haven’t read it yet, please immediately purchase and read Victoria Coren-Mitchell’s eloquent reflection on poker and life, For Richer, For Poorer. There are half a dozen reasons it’s a must-read, but one of the most compelling is her description of her Tuesday night home game in London. By the time she’s done, you feel that in a proper world, everybody should be spending Tuesday evening playing poker at somebody’s house. Imagine, then, my delight when I learned there was a home game in my new neighborhood, hosted by Chicago Mike. And it was every Tuesday night. I had finally aligned with the rest of the poker universe.
I guess it was the first or second Tuesday night that somebody said, “Is Chair coming tonight?” “Why do you call him ‘Chair’?” “That will be obvious when he walks in.” Sure enough, Jimmy arrived a few minutes later, carrying a chair. Turns out he has a bad back, so he carries around a simple kitchen chair that makes him as comfortable as possible.
Jimmy (or “James T. Chair”, as he’s formally known) is a stalwart of the Tuesday game. He’s got a wicked sense of humor when he pulls out the earbuds (I am told that he’s listening to Slipknot, but who knows?), and he’s got dozens of stories. Things happen to Jimmy that don’t happen to the rest of us; he never starts them, but unlike most, he’s willing to finish them. For instance, I’ve never been forcibly evicted from a movie theater, but I’d have paid money to have been there when Jimmy was (as he tells it, and I believe him, it wasn’t his fault).
Jimmy’s also cool in that, as the hours turn wee, he will suggest that we play a few rounds of PLO instead of hold’em. If there are no vetoes, we “play a few rounds of PLO” meaning, of course, that it’s Omaha for the rest of the night. After all, once you’ve gotten a fist full of cards to look at, who wants to go back to just two?
Most of all, Jimmy, he gets it. Sometimes one of our group will say something that deserves a response or comment, but it would be wildly inappropriate (or encourage the speaker) to make said comment. I’ll cut my eyes over to Jimmy, a black-clothed giant in the #1 or #9 seat, he’ll silently look out from under his baseball cap at me, and we’ll both know that we’re thinking the same thing. That’s about as good as actually saying something.
I tell you all this about James T. because it appears that he may be moving to Florida for work. He’ll be just down the road from a real poker-playing casino and his eyes light up when he talks about that. Here in the casino desert where we live, the nearest regulated live poker is two and half hours away when there’s no traffic.
But as I told him, it won’t seem quite like Tuesday night without him there. Which brings me back to my Tuesday night game, Victoria Coren-Mitchell’s Tuesday night game, and all the Tuesday (and other weekday) night games in between. Such games are the pacemakers that keep the heart of poker beating across the U.S., U.K., and around the world. Nobody’s getting rich and nobody’s going broke. The money makes the wins tingle and the losses sting, so it’s a necessity, but it’s not the most important thing. The most important thing is that we’re out of the house, stories great and small are traded, politics and religion are implicitly banned from the discussion, pizza is steps away, and cards and chips are flying.
I encourage you, find a home game near you (there is one, and a little sleuthing will uncover it) and join. Or create your own – it’s embarrassingly simple. But take an evening that you’d be clicking buttons on PokerStars, put the mouse down (yes, I just encouraged you to step away from our product), and find a place to sit down across from your fellow players. You will remember why you loved this game in the first place, and probably start marking off every Tuesday night to be there.
But if you want to invite me to your game, please make it an evening other than Tuesday. That’s the evening when I hang out with my regular poker buddies. Including Jimmy the Chair.
Lee Jones is the Head of Poker Communications for PokerStars. He first joined the company in 2003 and has been part of the professional poker world for over 30 years. You can read his occasional Twitter-bites at @leehjones.