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‘Court’ of poker
can be trying!

Apr 8, 2003 12:17 AM


A poker game has all the elements of a trial.

A win can set you free and make you wealthy. Lose, and you could be heavily fined or sentenced to the rail.

Players who start with the best hands are the defendants. The prosecutors are those who seek to run them down and put them away. Which side you’re on is only a matter of money and changes from deal to deal.

The dealer is the court recorder. The floorperson is the judge. He rules on objections, considers what testimony will be heard in a dispute, and maintains order in the court.

Everyone not in the hand sits on the jury. Each forms an opinion about whether the defendant is telling the truth and really does have the best hand, or is just bluffing.

After a well-known pro was caught bluffing in a high-stakes game at a famous downtown Las Vegas casino, one member of the "jury" advised him to hire Johnny Cochran the next time he needed to convince somebody.

Whether you’re at the poker table or the Judgment Table, money talks. It’s a trial, not a search for truth. Justice is hit-or-miss, and fairness is a frail fantasy.

When court convenes, as your own attorney your objective is to win for your client, even if you know you’re guilty of playing a criminally bad hand.

So, you remind your opponent over and over, "Remember, if it doesn’t fit, you should quit."

A hand of poker is similar to a crime scene. It may be a small robbery, a big bank job, or even a gang shootout.

"I was mugged!" an elderly hold’em player complained. "I had two aces in my pocket when I was run down from behind and held up on River Street by some kid!" the retiree whined. "You know what he says to me? ”˜Welcome to the game, Mister!"

In the world of tournament poker, there are frequent felonies. If someone goes on a rampage, he can seriously injure several players.

It may become impossible to pursue and prosecute such perpetrators. They now have so many chips, they can protect themselves, making it expensive to take them to trial.

When a crime has been committed, perhaps a felony bad-beat, the victim may not be inclined to exercise the self-discipline and patience necessary to win back what the player "stole." For some, immediate revenge becomes their only priority.

When a player goes on tilt and quits playing good poker, he can lose everything and end up doing time as a railbird.

For most players, fate rests with the cards. And, when the "ballots" are counted, they win or lose on the strength of their case.

If you’re going to survive, you’ll have to have a sense of humor. A perfect example of this was the New Jersey couple, both seniors, playing $1-4 stud in a popular downtown Las Vegas casino.

"You’re going to either need a lot of luck or the Dream Team to get you out of this one," the woman declared to her husband as she watched from over his shoulder.

"Are you a witness for the defense or the prosecution?" he answered his critic of 35 years.

You don’t have to chase the bad ones down the freeway in an effort to make them pay. Sooner or later, they’ll return to the table. That’s about the only hope we have of getting back some of what was taken.

Remember, only in the Court of Poker can each of us determine how large will be the fine, how harsh the punishment. And remember, there’s no court of appeal.