Doc Holliday may very well have rolled over in his grave in Glenwood Springs’ Linwood Cemetery Thursday night – rolled over and smiled.More than 118 years after his death, poker remains the real deal and is going strong in Glenwood.Maybe the gambling gunslinger who was laid to rest here was sharing a laugh with Bob Brooks. Brooks could only let out a guffaw of surprise at one point in Thursday’s Texas Hold ’em tournament at Butch’s Steakhouse & Sports Bar in West Glenwood. Brooks won the pot with a measly pair of 3’s.Doc wouldn’t have been proud.”That’s the second time a pair of 3’s has taken it!” said Marc Adler, seated next to Brooks at a felt table where 11 poker players were watching their stacks of chips rise and fall.Brooks confided later that he thought he might as well bluff and see if it would work.”It was better than I’d hoped,” he said of the results.Brooks, a recently retired Glenwood Springs High School teacher now selling real estate, and Adler, a former Glenwood mayor, were among dozens of poker enthusiasts to take part in Thursday’s tournament. It’s one of a growing number of such local events. A poker craze is sweeping the nation, with the help of the Internet and the media, led by sports channel ESPN.
Thursday’s event, put on by the Denver Poker Tour, was free to enter, and there was no cashing in of chips at the end of the night. It’s all a matter of keeping things in accordance with state gaming laws. Instead, people played for a few giveaways such as gift certificates. But more importantly, the winner is eligible to join in a monthly poker tournament put on by the Denver Poker Tour. Its winner gets to participate in a satellite tournament that offers the chance to qualify for the jackpot of poker events, the World Series of Poker.”That’s the ultimate goal, is to at least play in the World Series of Poker, and ultimately to win it. I could pay my house off,” said Todd Hurst, who has won several of the recent tournaments at Butch’s but came up short Thursday night.”It’s the luck of the draw. Tonight, my luck wasn’t in the draw,” Hurst said, shrugging it off.That’s gambling.
You can’t win them all. But sometimes, even a rank amateur can win it all. In 2003, the aptly named Chris Moneymaker fared well at a satellite tournament and went on to victory at the World Series of Poker. Moneymaker’s story is repeated often among poker players such as Hurst, and allows people at tournaments such as the one last week to at least dream a little.That dream, and the mere love of the game, drew up to 70 players to Thursday night’s event. Many had to wait for others to lose before getting a seat at a table. Entrants are given chips worth $500 in play money and remain in the game until it runs out or they outlast everyone else.Waiting lists have been common at Butch’s, which now also offers a poker tournament on Mondays, and is considering adding a Saturday night event as well. People are signing up to play as much as two weeks in advance.”We’ve been doing well with it,” said Butch Lontine, the restaurant’s owner.He took over the restaurant last summer and almost immediately began offering poker tournaments as a way to draw in people who also spend their money on drinks and food. The restaurant pays the Denver Poker Tour to put on the Thursday tournaments there.Lontine’s son, Butch Jr., said it’s just like hiring a disc jockey or a band.”You’ve got to pay somebody to get people here,” he said.
On this night a jukebox was belting out the music, which of course included Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler.” A lot of guys wore baseball caps rather than the cowboy hats of Doc’s day. But the sight of a room filled with cigarette smoke and poker chips, cards flying around gaming tables and determined steely gazes might have looked familiar to the famous gambling dentist.The younger Lontine said probably 80 percent of those who play are regulars.For less experienced players, it’s a good place to learn the game.”This being free, the dealers are there to help you,” he said. “They want you to have a good time.”His dad said he’s watched beginning players last longer into the night as the weeks have gone on.”I’m not very good. I just kind of play my own game,” said Melinda Bower, of Carbondale, who was waiting to get a spot at a table.”I’m getting ready to have a baby in about a week, so I don’t think I’ll be playing much after this,” she said, sipping from a bottle of water while others enjoyed stronger beverages.
Rob Bercher, of Silt, stood nearby, watching the action after becoming one of the first to go out. He said he gambled his remaining chips on a strong hand but fell victim to someone with a stronger one.He said he has done pretty well playing for money in places like Black Hawk and Las Vegas. He sees a change in people’s betting strategies in casinos.”They think a little more about their decisions than with free money,” he said.”It’s a little more than just playing cards. It’s really playing people.”Hurst admits to getting jitters when playing in Black Hawk. But he thinks that wherever he plays, doing well comes down to betting on the right cards, and not about poker faces. He said he had a competing player say to him once that he knew Hurst’s “tell” – the facial expression that might give away something about the cards he’s holding.”I don’t have a tell that I know of. I pull my goatee a bit,” was all Hurst would concede.He said the competitor didn’t last long in their game.”I don’t think he knows my tell,” he said.
Poker is full of its own lingo, said Dave Margowski, assistant manager of Denver Poker Tour. In hold ’em, some of the lingo has to do with the two face-down cards each player is dealt. For example, a jack and a 4 are called a “flat tire” – as in what cars have a jack for.The game offers a lot to learn about terminology, tactics, and perhaps psychology.”They say about Texas hold ’em that you can learn it in hours but it takes years to master,” Margowski said.Perhaps you can learn it in hours, but maybe not in 15 minutes. At the urging of several players, I finally entered a game in mid-evening. Only later did it dawn on me why they might have wanted me to play. On my very first hand half of my chips ended up in some of their hands.Shortly afterward, I had burned up the rest. I was easy pickings – a face with a giveaway “tell.”Michael Matthews had a far better night, winning the tournament. Misty Rideout was the runner-up.Besides that shot at eventually qualifying for the World Series of Poker, those who advance to the monthly winner tournaments have the chance of going on to higher-level tournaments in which Denver Poker Tour awards thousands of dollars in cash and prizes.As for the losers of Thursday’s round, there was the chance to play at the consolation table. Not to mention the consolation of going home thankful that they hadn’t played with real money.Playing with fake money is one thing that Doc probably wouldn’t have appreciated.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516 email@example.com
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