Monday, December 10, 2012

Unusual day

Sunday was a highly atypical day for me.


First I had a late lunch with my sister, her husband, one of their daughters, and her husband, all in town for the annual rodeo. Then we went bowling at Sam's Town. I won both games, scoring 139 and 150, which is pretty good for me--especially since I haven't bowled in about 18 months.

Unfortunately, in the process I somehow managed to wrench my back, so now I'm in pain and walking funny, dreading when I have to change positions. Getting old sucks.


Came home, did some work. In the evening I sort of invited myself to a home game some friends were having--@spencer_chen, @gamble24x7, @veggiepoof, and one other whose Twitter I don't know. It was my first chance to play open-faced Chinese poker, which seems to be all the rage these days. I had never even played regular Chinese before, though I had watched it a few times and understood the basic idea.

My entire knowledge of OFCP comes from an article in Card Player magazine by Jennifer Shahade , a blog post a few days ago by Shamus, and an article by Dave Behr in the December issue of Bluff magazine, which by coincidence I had just read yesterday. So I was green as green could be, and knew I was likely to lose money. Which I did--$89, to be exact, at $1/point. But that's OK. Learning new forms of poker always costs money as one makes mistakes and, hopefully, learns from them to play better.

But ya know what? I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say that OFCP is not, in fact, a form of poker. For that matter, neither is traditional Chinese poker.

This is a point that I haven't seen raised in any of the three sources I mentioned, but which occurred to me as I watched the others play during the one hand out of five I had to sit out. (A maximum of four people can play at once, since each player needs 13 cards.) There are several ways to express the basic element that is missing, but they all amount to the same thing:

  • There are no hole cards, no secrets that you hold which are unknown to the other players. 
  • There is no betting on the strength of your hand. 
  • It is a game of perfect rather than imperfect information. 
  • You cannot bluff. 
Mike Matusow is generally not a font of wisdom that I turn to, but Michael Craig quotes him as saying, "If you can't steal, it ain't poker." He's absolutely right. 

Mike Caro has argued that the ability to bluff is more a defining element of poker than are cards. He describes an imaginary game of "cow chip poker," in which the players scout a nearby field for cow chips, conceal what they find in paper bags, then reassemble to bet on who has the biggest one. You can win with an empty bag by betting in such a way as to convince your opponents that you found the biggest cow chip. That's poker, even with no cards. In another hypothetical situation, he describes how two people can play poker with a deck of just three cards, because you still have the crucial elements of being able to have a secret card and bluff with the worst hand. 

Video poker is not poker, in part because it's played against the house rather than against other players, but also because it lacks secret information and bluffing. OFCP fails by that same criterion. They are both games that superficially resemble poker because they use the standard 52-card deck and poker's traditional five-card hand rankings. But resembling is not being. They are not poker. 

It was, nevertheless, highly enjoyable. I didn't find it nearly as addictive as others breathlessly describe it after first exposure, but it's definitely an intriguing game. 

Oh, and the other important thing I learned about OFCP is that people say "fuck" a lot. Really a lot. 


After I got home, I watched the premier of "Sin City Rules" on TLC, which I had taped earlier. The only reason I was interested in it is because one of the stars is Jennifer Harman, whom I like. But I thought the whole thing was awful, painful, unwatchable. Jennifer is fine, but the other women are completely unbearable. They're self-absorbed attention whores. Judging by the first episode and the teaser on TLC's web site, the show exists mainly to capture and televise the catfights among them. Ick. I can't understand why anybody would watch such trash. The preview for next week's show seemed to focus more on Harman's life as a mother and poker player, so I'll probably give it one more try, but I can't see myself tuning in much beyond that. I'm kind of perplexed how she got associated with the show; she seems not at all like the others. 

And that was my completely out-of-the-ordinary day. 


stlphily said...

Hey Grump, I've been reading your blog for about 7 years. Just wanted to say I've really enjoyed it and have looked fwd to it while at work. I've never commented b4 and don't know why I got the hankering to now, but thx for the good reading. Take care.

Phil in Saint Louis.

Listening said...

You said: "..the show exists mainly to capture and televise the catfights among them."

Correct. Remember what Hawkeye said: "People only go to see a cockroach crash!"

Think of it like people watching Phil Hellmuth play because they want to see one of his rants or see him throw a chair. Same principle.

Cable is lousy with this low-class drivel. I imagine Jennifer went for the money, but maybe also to promote the industry to other women. No matter what, we always love Jen.