Omaha's birth was quite a poker tale

Aug 22, 2017 3:08 AM

When I met my husband Robert, I was fascinated by his poker stories. Playing for over 50 years, he’s played with many colorful characters. Here are a few of my favorite tales.

Naturally I was curious about how Omaha came into being. He joked that everyone in the poker game he ran in Alabama in the 60s was holding out cards, and when you picked up the deck to deal, there weren’t enough cards to go around.

So Robert said, “Look, I’m going to give everyone two extra cards, but you can only play two of the four.” And that’s how Omaha started; I almost believed him.

The true story was he played a lot of versions of four-card poker in the south from Spit in the Ocean to Greek Hold’em. As the games got shorter, you dealt people more cards.

Sometimes the game was four-handed, and they’d deal everyone ten cards each, but you could still only use two. That sounds ridiculous. Robert says it’s true. How do you hold that many cards?

Later Robert along with a lady from Seattle named Gwen introduced the game to Bill Boyd at the Golden Nugget in 1982, and now Omaha is the second most popular form of poker after hold’em.

Robert was a regular player at the Stardust in Las Vegas in the early 80s. He knew every dealer. Before the dealers started their shift, they would line up against the wall and the players would all say hi to them.

Then something strange happened. Robert noticed three new faces and asked who they were. Nobody knew, which was very strange in Vegas because in those days, there were only two major poker rooms and everyone knew every dealer.

They were older gentlemen, who stood out. Word got back to Robert that strange things were happening in the games. He went to the poker manager who said he’d call him when it was ok to play.

You could only play there or the Golden Nugget if you were a hold’em player. Whether something was going on or not, he cannot say for sure, but as a professional poker player, you had to look out for yourself.

Things are different now, but stories like this need to be preserved. Robert has always wanted to write a book. He has talked about it since he met me and found out I was an English major. I think it’s time.