May 07, 2014

Games Gatherings // A Poker Night

I recently had a long conversation with a colleague of mine about the benefits of family dinners. We both agreed that we believed gathering around a table for food and talks had an immensely positive influence on our social skills and the bonds in our family. For both of us it was a time to truly come together, share, spent time with each other and relax. To me it comes with no surprise that the formal dinner has long surpassed the family tradition and expanded to friends, neighbours and social clubs. I have a whole Pinterest board dedicated to the glowing gatherings that showcase people around a beautifully decorated table, laughing, sharing stories and food. Every time I marvel over these pictures I think me and my fav Englishman should totally do that: Let’s invite everyone to ours, I think, sit around a table and enjoy ourselves. That is until I remember: There is nothing relaxing about me cooking dinner for more than three people. What I am good at though is shuffling cards. Wait, you can’t see the connection here?

Well, let me go back a few decades. When I was a child, my family and I would visit my grandma every Boxing Day for a last Christmas dinner. I have fond memories of these delicious moments with my family. I have equally fond memories of the moments once the roast pork was stuffed into our bellies. As soon as the dirty dishes were carried back to the kitchen my grandma would bring out her playing cards and we would spend the afternoon playing away. (“Schwimmen” is our all-time-family-favourite). You see, it was all there: lovely folks around a table, snacks, beautiful decoration, laughter and stories – the perfect gathering.

A couple of weeks ago I turned marvelling thoughts to action and invited a bunch of lovely people over to ours for a fun Poker Night.

My previous boss taught me once a version of Texas Hold’em. We were on a work weekend away and spent night after night gambling away (no money involved by the way). It was addictive and I couldn’t wait to pass the fun on to my friends. We decided to give everyone a little incentive to try their best and set a small buy in of £3. To be true, in the end it didn’t really matter, but the fact that there was something for the win, kept everyone happily focused.

These were our rules:
  • Each player got a set amount of chips, counting from 10, 20, 50 to 100.
  • The minimum bet was 20.
  • We took it in turns to deal (shuffle and give out the cards), which was indicated by a chip with the word “dealer” that was passed round clockwise.
  • Next to the dealer on the left would sit the small blind and next to them the big blind. These two players had to place a bet before any cards were handed out. The big blind gave the full minimum bet (20 points) and the small blind gave 10 points.
  • Once the small and big blinds were placed the dealer handed out two cards to each player and the betting began.
  • During the betting each player would decide if they want to place a bet (put in 20 points or more), check (wait to see what others are doing) or fold (give their cards back and not play that round) based on the two cards they had on hand.
  • The betting always started with the first person left from the dealer or in the first round left from the big blind as these bets had already been made and would go round clockwise in order.
  • If a player was confident about his/her cards they could raise the bet by putting more points in. Players who would bet after that player would have to meet that higher bet in order to play. Once everyone had placed their bet the two blinds and/or any players who previously put points in that don’t match the highest bet get a chance to decide if they still wanted to play. If so, they had to top up their points to meet the highest bet. If they chose to fold, they lost the points put in previously.
  • Once every bet was made the dealer placed the first three community cards in the middle of the table (called The Flop) and the betting started again in the same procedure as before.
  • After that a fourth community card was placed (called The Turn) in the middle of the table followed by another round of betting.
  • Then a fifth card (called The River) was put out, followed by the last round of betting.
  • If by the end of that round there were still more than one player playing, the cards would have to be laid open, starting with the first player still in left from the dealer.
  • Winner of the round would be the player with the best hand, based on his/her cards on hand in combination with any of the five communal cards.

The poker hands from lowest to highest are:
  • High card (Ace, King, Queen, Jack...)
  • One Pair
  • Two pairs
  • Three of a kind
  • Straight (Five consecutive cards of any suit – Aces can be high or low)
  • Flush (Five cards of the same suit)
  • Full House (Three of a kind and a pair)
  • Four of a Kind
  • Straight Flush (Five consecutive cards of the same suit)

We had an absolute blast (and I am not saying that just because I won the pot) and are already making plans for a replay. If cooking is not your thing, but the idea of having friends around your dinner table for a fun night of drinks, stories and laughter, I highly recommend a games gathering. Poker being my current favourite.

I can't leave without a big thank you to everyone who joined us that evening!

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