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20/11/2006 No. 4
he Guardian G2 Poker Column
Victoria Coren
Monday Nov 20th, 2006

Reader John Holme has written to ask why I bang on so much about Texas hold 'em. Mr Holme has been playing poker for 50 years, and for most of that time he has enjoyed a wide range of poker variants, played in a congenial spirit ("conversing, drinking, smoking and general ribaldry").

These days, Mr Holme has noticed, people seem to play hold 'em almost exclusively. And they transform it into a "silent, often sullen, ruthless bloodletting process in which the sole purpose is the eradication of other players".
I don't think ruthless bloodletting is an intrinsic part of the twocard poker variant. But both trends may have the same root: televised poker tournaments, with giant pots, have spread both the popularity of hold 'em (the easiest game to fi lm) and the concept of "professional", money-making poker. So people not only select hold 'em as their game of choice , but they take it (and themselves) very seriously. They concentrate rather than chat, drink Red Bull rather than Wild Turkey, aim for profit rather than fun.

In my defence, much of the advice in this column relates to poker generally, rather than any specific type. But I do write a lot about hold 'em, because it's what most people play. The irony is that my own weekly game is a riot of poker variants, many of them freshly invented, and the mood more ribald than professional. Maybe poker is simply more of a laugh when it's played "dealer's choice".

Luckily, there is a retro spirit in the air. At this year's World Series, while the main championship event was $10,000 hold 'em, the most expensive buy-in was $50,000 HORSE: a combination of Hold 'em, Omaha, Razz, Seven-Card-Stud and Eight-Or-Better Omaha. This has awakened new interest in these variants, many of which are now off ered on the bigger websites. For the next few weeks, I'll try to give you an idea how to play them.


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