All about poker's outs, bars and killers

Sep 15, 2009 5:09 PM
Back in the Saddle by Johnny Hale |

As I was paying a few insurance bills, I was reminded of poker insurance.

Carol, did I ever tell you about the first time I heard about poker insurance?

Well, the first time I ran into poker insurance was about 60 odd years ago. I was playing a $1,000 freeze-out, no limit hold’em poker game with none other than the founder of the World Series of Poker, Benny Binion.

We were playing poker in the baccarat room over at the old Horseshoe; Benny had invited me and a few of "the boys" down to have a little private game.

Mrs. Binion did not like poker, but she let Benny have a game now and then. Among the players were Puggy Pearson, Bill Boyd, Doyle Brunson, Sailor Roberts, Johnny Moss, Jesse Alto, Junior Whitehead, Titanic Thompson, Joe Bernstein, Bill Riddle, Natty Blank, Jack "Treetop" Strauss and a few others who were the nucleus of The World Series of Poker.

These were the type of players that Benny would invite to his little poker game. I got there early and the ring game had not started yet, so Benny and I were having a little fun with each other playing a $1,000 freeze out while we waited for the other fellows to show up.

But I will fast forward to the hand: I held two black kings; Benny held two red aces at just about the time that Puggy, Bill, Jesse and Doyle and some of the other boys showed up.

Now we had all of our money in the pot.

Puggy was always the promoter and was a good insurance man and he wanted to lay some bets – he wanted to insure Benny’s hand for him. He wanted to bet that the two aces that Benny had would hold up and win the pot.

Well Carol, when you talk about poker insurance, there are certain words that creep in such as outs, bars and killer cards.

An "out" is an expression that means that there is one card that can come in the proper play of the hand that will defeat the better hand. I had two outs – either of the two red kings.

Bar means that if that card comes, it does not count. For example, if I did catch an out – one of the two red kings on the turn – Benny could catch a killer card on the river – one of the two black aces – and I could not win. So, to make the math work, sometimes you need to "bar" a card from play.

You have seen this on the craps table. When on the come out roll, if you are betting the don’t come the house will bar the 12 so that the house will retain its vig or keep the chances of the player winning so that the house always has the best of the gamble.

After the flop, I was about 21-1 the underdog; that is, if you barred the aces.

So some bets were made and of course the two aces stood up and I lost the pot.

But this experience introduced me to poker insurance.

You know Carol, you can buy insurance on cars, boats, houses, health, life, and just about anything that has value or against any risk.

Lloyds of London and other insurance companies have written policies on Betty Grable’s beautiful legs, Jane Russell’s breasts, a singer’s voice, crop insurance, flood insurance, hail insurance, fire insurance, even insurance called no-fault insurance that will protect you if someone else does not have insurance.

But few have ever heard about poker insurance. But now you’ve heard the rest of the story.

Poker Tip of the Week

This week’s poker tip comes to us from one of the players in that first insurance poker game, Jack "Treetop" Straus.

Poker chips have no home. If money is your God, you should forget no limit poker because it is going to hurt you too much to turn the money loose.

The way I feel about poker chips is that you can’t take them with you, and they may not have much value later. But right now I can take them to the cage and get green pieces of paper for them and trade them in for pleasure or bring pleasure to other people.

If God had wanted you to hold on to money, He would have made it with handles on it.

Thanks Jack, save me a seat in the game up there.

Remember to always stay lucky!

You can try out your strategy by playing our free live online poker.

Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Johnny Hale