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More poker -- Slug and Countdown

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  • More poker -- Slug and Countdown

    Kenny Slinkard (not sure of the spelling) was a rovin' gambler and more-or-less friendly adversary of mine in the late '70s/early '80s. Besides being a skilled gambler, he was one of many reputed tush hogs I have known. I say "reputed" although I have no doubt, but I never saw a single one of the 5 in action.

    Kenny was about 5'6" or 7", 260 pounds, and quick as a cat. He'd pitch coins to a line with anybody for whatever his, or their bankroll would stand.

    He was a very good poker player and played occasionally with the big boys in Vegas and South Louisiana, as well as around his home base in West Memphis, Arkansas. He had a few "moves" at the card table and was not averse to applying them when he was short of cash or in a spot he thought he was surrounded by naifs. When really short of cash he'd move with more risk. What were they gonna do, shoot him?

    Kenny finally decided he wanted to lose some weight and struggled with that to no avail for about a year. He made a big score and decided to have gastric bypass surgery. It worked, at least in one way: he became a shadow of his former self, down to about 170.

    However, about this time he developed persistent pain in the region of his digestive track and couldn't get a definitive diagnosis. He was able to manage it reasonably well for a while with pain pills. He eventually graduated through hydrocodone --> oxycodone --> morphine-naltrexone. When these became ineffective, he moved on to heroin and within 5 years he was dead, allegedly of an overdose, but I don't know for sure.

    Back to the subject at hand, which I haven't even told you yet: the "countdown."

    For some reason I decided it would be fun or interesting to check out Kenny's spot in West Memphis. I got a phone number for him in W. Memphis from a mutual adversary and confirmed that he was in town. I headed down from Kansas City. When I got there I called to find out how to find the joint the game was in, which turned out to be an after-hours joint that sold beverages off-the-books, especially "shine."

    The game was in full force when I arrived. When a seat opened, I took it, to play "Deuce to Seven" lowball draw.

    In the past there was a lot of action in lowball draw, first "Deuce to Seven" (or "Seven-Five") where Aces are high only and straights and flushes count against you, the best hand being 7-5-4-3-2, and "Wheel" in which the best hand is a 5 high straight, even if it happens to be a straight flush. Lowball draw has been largely killed by the much faster gambling games of two card Hold'em and Omaha.

    It was dollar ante no limit, but players were allowed to sit in for as little as $50. Most of the stacks ranged from 200-400, so I bought 200.

    I played a few pots here and there and was struggling around even. I picked up a pretty good drawing hand in an early seat -- probably something like 2-2-3-5-8 -- and opened for the standard, maybe $15. I got one call and it went back to Kenny, who was dealing. (You're already thinking, "Uh, oh," but I wasn't.) He raised a tempting amount, maybe 30, which I decided had priced me in. The guy behind me called. I drew one, the guy behind me drew 2! and Kenny drew one. I caught a K and checked, the two-card drawer checked and Kenny checked. The guy behind me made Q-J-x-x-x and Kenny showed his 10-9-8-x-x to take the pot. I was surprised that Kenny had raised to draw to a 9-8-x-x, but he had position, so...

    I don't remember how I finished that day, but it couldn't have been far from even one way or the other, or I would remember. When the game broke up Kenny and I went across town for a drink. When we walked in Kenny told the bartender to give him a deck of cards, so I thought he wanted to play Gin, Pitch, Cribbage or Tonk, but he didn't.

    When we sat, he said, "You paid a little for this, so I'm gonna show you why you lost that pot that I raised and you caught a King." I thought a second, and said "And why you raised to draw to a 98?" He laughed and said, "You got it."

    He said, "This will only work in a game that is casual enough that nobody will object to you messin' with discards while a pot is going on. When it's gonna be your deal, you gather about 6 cards in descending order and slug them to the first six that will come when we draw, then you hop the cut. If you pick up a good drawing hand, you hope you slugged small ones, but if you have a bad hand you hope you slugged big ones. The important thing is, they have to be in descending order as they come off when the drawing starts. Also, you don't want to tie up too much money before the draw, just in case someone stands pat on you.

    "The pot you lost with a K8, I had slugged a King high straight, so I knew you'd catch a King, Dudley would catch a Queen -- I didn't expect him to draw two -- and I'd catch a Jack. But Dudley drew two so he caught the J and I caught the 10. Normally I would bet in that spot because once in a while somebody will try to catch you bluffin' with something bigger than a 10, and besides, I wouldn't usually want anyone to see that I raised to draw to a 98, which is kinda hinky, but I wanted you to see it."

    He finished, "I don't know if you're interested in usin' this, but at least you know to watch out for it."

    I'm not gonna bother claiming I'm too honest to use it, but you'll probably understand why I always tried to avoid games that were that casual about the discards.

    =================

    This is a little hard to figure out from the little Kenny said, so here's a little more detail:

    If there are 8 players in a 5-card draw game, when it comes time to draw there will be 12 or 13 cards left in the deck, depending upon whether a joker is being used. So if 5 cards are "slugged" (organized and put in a specific place in the deck) there will be 6,7, or 8 cards under them (the other variable being whether it is customary to "burn" the top card before dealing the cards to be drawn.) As you can see, these things vary from game to game, but when playing in a game one will know all the variables and the numbers that apply.

    So, if as Kenny did a King high straight is to be slugged in a game with no joker and no burn card, there will be 7 cards under the slug. What the bottom 7 are doesn't matter, but the fifth card from the top will be the 9, the fourth card the 10, etc.

    If a mover slugs small cards in a lowball draw game -- say a 6 high straight in deuce to seven or a wheel when playing wheel -- after seeing how many cards are drawn in front of him the dealer will know what low cards are coming next, and if one of them will pair him he throws his duplicate away and draws 2, or even 3!

    Poker players will recognize that slugging low cards is less likely to provide a winning opportunity, because he'll have to have a decent drawing hand to take advantage, but more likely to win a big pot if he picks up a good drawing hand and the slug fits what he holds.

    They will also recognize that the same mechanical process can be used in Hold'em or Omaha. Slugging 7 cards would allow a countdown dealer to know the flop, the turn and the river!


    You might want to keep a close eye on the discards.
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