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Mon, June 17

Don't let the chips get you down

The Daily Courier/Joanne C. Twaddell

The Daily Courier/Joanne C. Twaddell

I recently reviewed the movie "Lucky You" and gave it one out of five stars. The film's plot revolved around one addicted gambler's attempt to redeem his so-called life and fortune by staking everything on a seat at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. Besides finding the film incredibly boring, numbing and ill-acted, I thought it was a waste of my time.

Imagine my surprise when I found myself at Doreen's Backstreet Bar & Grill in Chino Valley on a Sunday afternoon, sipping a cool drink after an interview stood me up, and noticed a crowd of patrons jockeying for position at tables for a few rounds of Texas Hold'em.

The Bad Ass Poker Tour was back in town! As part of the tour, both neophyte and experienced poker players can meet somewhere in town literally every evening to play the game.

"It's not about the gambling - no money changes hands," commented Tracy Strickland, poker waitress at Doreen's. The restaurant pays five dollars a head, which goes into a pool to stake high scorers a seat at the World Series in Las Vegas.

"We can get more than 45 people in here," Strickland said. "On slow nights, it ups our business with drinks and food."

Margie Wheeler is so good at Texas Hold'em that she won a seat to the poker World Series. She, along with John and Carol Kachur and Lee Channel, all from Prescott, took me under their wings and attempted to teach me how to play Texas Hold'em.

When I asked why they play this game for what can become hours a night, their collective replies were, "It's fun, it's a great way to meet people, laugh and joke around - we're more like a family."

I picked up my quota of Bad Ass chips: white, blue, red, green and black - different denominations ranging from 25 to 1,000 virtual dollars.

My instructions were as follows: the dealer gives out two cards to each player, then places one card face down, the "flop" card, followed by three cards face up. After a round of betting, the dealer burns another card and flips one more (the turn) card onto the table. A player has the option to raise the bet or check (no bet). Finally, the dealer burns a card and places a final card (the river) face up on the table. After yet another round of betting, the best five cards wins. A royal flush is best. All players try to match the two cards in their hands with any of the cards face up on the table.

To my surprise and delight, my first hand won with a king.

"That's all there is to it," they told me. But that was simply beginner's luck. My game went downhill from there. I kept doing everything wrong - not placing the chip on the correct part of the board, not keeping the dealer chip on top of the card deck - but worst of all, I showed another player my card hand!

"Never do that," the group stressed, eyeing me with what I could only interpret as scorn and dismay. The reason I showed another player my cards, is that he had just got through explaining to me when you should fold your hand - for instance - when you get a king and a deuce. At that moment, the dealer dealt me a king and a deuce. I thought it was funny, wow, what a coincidence.

As players drop out, what started out as six tables became one with the leading point winners staying until the brutal end.

My take is that it seems like a different way to meet people, but I wonder if the competition gets in the way of keeping acquaintances. The atmosphere was upbeat, noisy and smokeless. It was an entertaining way to spend a couple of hours, but I cannot picture myself sitting and doing the same thing over and over again. Doreen's was, however, better than the movie. "Lucky Me!"

The Bad Ass Poker Tour rotates between establishments. It starts at Doreen's, 2879 N. Arizona Trail in Chino Valley, on Sundays at 5p.m. Mondays, the group meets at Hooligan's Pub on Whiskey Row, 7 p.m., Tuesdays at Doreen's, 7 p.m., Wednesdays at Pinion Pines on Hwy. 89 in Prescott, 7 p.m., Thursdays at Donna's Hut, 444 W. Goodwin, Fridays at Billy Jack's in Dewey, 5 p.m. and Saturdays at Score, 1228 Willow Creek Road in Prescott, 5 p.m.

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