Sunday, August 19, 2007

Star Trek Poker Primer

I'm worried that my work friends may not be eating lunch together any more because they don't like each other's hobbies. TallBrad talks poker. Mr. Mustard talks sci fi. Me...I like both, so I'm square in the middle. What to do? I think what's required is a way to get us on a common page so we can go back to clogging our arteries at Culver's and distending our stomaches at Chipotle. In that spirit, I offer a Star Trek Poker Primer:

Phil Hellmuth, Jr., in his book "Play Poker Like the Pros" breaks down poker players into several animal types to describe their styles of play. There is the:
Eagle - the expert, reads other players, knows the statistics, has more experience than you. Play against him if you want to take second, but learn a few things.
Mouse - a conservative player who sticks to the top 10 hands, AA, AK, KK, AQ, QQ...etc. Tight is right works quite often, but if you never take a chance, you'll usually lose more than you win.
Elephant - a player who is fairly loose, never believes you if you're bluffing, never believes you if you're not bluffing, and calls it all. In a game of Bullshit or Liar's Dice, they'd just give you that look every time that says, "Why even ask?"
Jackal - is loose, wild and crazy. Who knows what they're doing or why they do it. Who knows why they're at the game in the first place if they never pay attention to how anyone else plays. Most likely to splash a bet. Most likely to talk about their hands or offer unpolite commentary on the cards in the middle of the table.
Lion - a lion bluffs, but isn't tight - somewhere between an elephant and a mouse. They could be on their way to becoming an eagle, but may be content to rely upon the skills they already have to get by with a better than 50/50 season, which is really all anyone needs to make money. might write on a cave wall. This is poker - and it's god-awful boring. Next you'll be talking statistics and dissecting why your pair of snowmen with just one out in a heads up match was a good call given the pot stake and your carnal knowledge of your opponent. Not to fear...I shall know provide you with the Star Trek part.

Scooter's Guide to Star Trek player types (and a few other things) - with a tendency to adhere to the original series, and for good reason, because if you have to play poker against a type Wesley Crusher, you should just slap the fucktard and head home:

James T. Kirk - loose cannon, calls anything - because he believes he always wins. It doesn't matter that others help him win in other arenas of his life. He believes he's always going to come out on top, and that includes coming out on top despite his own merits in a game of poker. He only has for the Green Woman at the end of the game, and so he shows no restraint. If you challenge him and he feels it's personal, he'll call. If you raise, and he thinks your chip stack belittles his manhood, he'll call. He's not calling your bluff because he doesn't believe you. He's calling your bluff because that's....what...a

Evil Alternate Universe Kirk - far more dangerous than Kirk. He's exactly like Kirk - he's not alternate at all. Except when he takes it personally, he guns for you. He's not calling every challenge to his manhood at the table, he's challenging you. You, personally, bother him, and he could care less if he goes down, as long as he takes you with him.

Spock - a player who knows the stats and plays them. This player is tight and emotionless, except for the occasional raised eyebrow when you do something particularly questionable. But being half Vulcan, this is enough to give them away - they do show the slightest tell. There are full Vulcans out there who are cold-blooded, non-emotional, poker machines. He (or she) has memorized out percentages for the turn and the river (4th and 5th cards in the center) and can quote them to you. When they lose a game, they can tell you why, given the odds, they should have won. They may be able to tell you everyone's tell, but only if they learned the tell from a book they read. Dangerous to red-shirted newbies.

Leonard "Bones" McCoy - I'm a doctor, Jim, not a... Bone's isn't good with the statistics, but he is a good reader of people. He sits squarely between the Kirks and the Spocks and tries to take advantage of their weaknesses by declaring them both unfit to be captain. He can tell you what you did wrong, but generally doesn't. He may show a little bit of frustration, but you're never entirely sure why. You just know your poker prospects aren't as healthy as they should be. He plays flawlessly with his normal crew, and reads their chip and hand health in ways that would surprise you, but may be a little disconcerted when a new player joins the fray, particularly a Vulcan, as his experience is with the half Vulcan who lives next door.

Scotty - if I just had a spanner. A player who seems amazingly competent, despite assertions to the contrary. They seem incredibly disorganized, but somewhere under all that mess is a ticking machine that is analyzing everything and trying to find an edge. They're trying to learn the game as they go - and if they see it played right, they might just learn the angles you don't want them to have. Scotty-s play well. But a good player knows a Scotty is smart, but inexperienced and looking for new skills, and can take advantage of that by handing them a few hands of fizzbin.

Uhuru - sexist or not, there are players who wear short skirts, talk a lot, and are overtly distracting - for calculated effect. They're more likely to have a name that implies "Bend Me Over" than "Freedom". Worry about them - they have a mind unlike yours, and this makes them a tough nut to crack when you're trying to stare at their cleavage. An Uhuru can be a slash character, to borrow from D&D parlance. Uhuru/Spock. Uhuru/Scotty. Seldom Uhuru/Kirk. There are male equivalents - but there are more men playing poker than women, so it's not as noticeable.

Sulu/Chekov - Sulu and Chekov where the helmsmans and navigator, respectively. These are players who know their way around the table and have some experience, but haven't quite found their own style yet. What they really are is just one step above a...

Red Shirt - thank a beneficent universe for red shirts. Fresh meat that has to consult a hand chart to know that a flush beats a straight. Old meat that's too stupid to realize giving away $40 every week adds up to over $2000 a year. The pot wouldn't be as tantalizing without all of their money bulking out the chips.

Khan - the player who knows you. They don't know poker. They know you. You went to school with them, maybe elementary, maybe high school, maybe college, maybe all three. Perhaps they were your roommate. They probably know with whom you lost your virginity and where you had your first blackout. Khan is your uber-nemesis in poker, despite being a good friend, because s/he knows every single thing about you, right down to how you scratch your ring finger knuckle below your wedding ring when Uhuru gives you wood. This f*cker is relentless, despite being your best friend. They will use their knowledge of your entire life against you. On a positive note: you are probably their Khan.

The Enterprise - the ship. This is really what you want to be - a machine that isn't the sum of its mechanical parts, but the sum of its crew. You want to be a bit psychotic, my manhood/womanhood is being questioned, emotional, Kirk. Coupled with Spock's knowledge of the statistical game. Married to McCoy's experience with people and tells. Backed up by a brain working like Scotty's to learn everything there is to see. Hell, you want a little bit of Uhuru, the distractor, and even a little bit of everyone-thinks-I'm-going-to-die red shirt in your game to make everything solid. Pick the crew member appropriate to the situation and play to the strengths, and you'll be facing down Doomsday machines by feeding up other captains when you see those bad beats looming on the universal horizon.

Some odds and ends:
Amok Time - in poker, this is called "Heads Up". You and someone else are the last two left at the table and go mano-a-mano in some pon farr, with no Bones to pull your ass out of the fire. You might as well hum the theme in your head, because second place is for losers. Talk about your second place win for the next year - you still didn't get T'Pring, you just had to run home crying to T'Pau. This is where you want to be. And there's always theme music, even if the bitch across the table is humming Wilco.

Tribbles - as in, The Trouble With... Focusing on so much on the details that you aren't paying attention to the game. This can happen if you read a lot of poker books. You start counting all the outs. You start thinking about your out odds and pot odds. You look for tells that don't exist. Tribbles everywhere and, like Spock, they're making really annoying noises. Best recourse - talk to a Romulan or Klingon - they're good bouncing boards and will help you see that some of it just doesn't matter.

Devil in the Dark - some screwed up, completely not understandable event that causes you to lose. A bad beat. A silicon surprise in your darkest tunnel. You pull an A-A and an A on the flop, and some numbnut pulls down A through 10 suited at the same time. If the metaphor doesn't work for you, then picture instead waking up and finding your brain in a glass bubble, or some blue woman scamming on you until you find yourself in a dalek-esque's just going to be a bad day.

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