Mikes Got The Nuts: Another Observation of Bar Poker Culture

I like to play Texas Hold ‘Em about once a week or so depending on whether I am traveling or how busy work is keeping me.

There are several bar games in my neighborhood – just about every night of the week, actually. Different local sports bars will host or have a promoter host free Texas Hold ‘Em games. They are played tournament style: everyone starts with a certain amount if chips and the game goes on until everyone but one person is eliminated by losing their chips.

It’s a hobby I took up a couple of years ago and I have really enjoyed the down-to-earth “scene”, which I have blogged about before. It gives me a chance to hang out and make some friends with people who I might not otherwise encounter unless we were related or introduced through several degrees of separation.

I’ve also learned a few things along the way. And the bar poker culture is full of great stories.

Last week I finally asked One if the regular players if he would let me take a picture of his nuts.

The ones that he kept on the table, I mean.

You see, like many “professional bar poker” players, Mike always has a talisman or “lucky charm” that he brings with him to play. Two, actually. One is a triangular prism he made in wood shop when he was in high school probably thirty years ago. He uses it to hold down his pocket cards and just likes the way it feels. The other is a pair of over sized lug nuts that are held together by a red string.

mike's nuts

He explained that be didn’t start carrying those until he “got really good” at poker. You see, the word “nuts” In poker means the best possible hand of any that could possibly result from the combination of cards on the board or in anybody’s two pocket cards. For example – if the four cards on the board after the river are 9, 10, Jack and Queen of Spades, the player holding he King and Ace of Spades has the “nut” hand – the highest possible / flush / a royal flush.

So, what Mike is saying with his luck charm is that – by way of tongue-in-cheek posturing – he has the “nuts”, or best possible hand.

I liked that story. Most people usually carry around and display a token or other object that they were given wining a tournament – to show that they have proven their skill and are this a force to be reckoned with as a poker player.

I also learned a couple of new slang names for pocket poker hands at that game: a typical blue-collar, off-color slang for a combination of two cards that one is dealt at the beginning of each hand:

10-3 = “hot waitress”: “a ten with a tray”

Queen-3: “gay waiter”: “a Queen with a tray”

I said it was off-color, didn’t I? Again: just reporting the anthropological observations. Participant observation in ethnography is a definitely an art that sometimes requires a healthy dose of objectivity.

In any case, I have not yet achieved the right to carry around a good luck charm. I’ve one a few tournament style bar games and gotten to play in a couple of “finals” tournaments but have not earned my “nuts”. I have earned the friendship of a great groups of folks that I am so happy to spend several hours a week with and am grateful that they have been so open to my anthropological prodding.

Here are couple of my other  “poker” posts:

https://thenarcissisticanthropologist.com/2012/07/05/the-poker-principle/

https://thenarcissisticanthropologist.com/2012/10/30/the-dead-mans-hand-a-little-bit-of-poker-context/

 

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