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The Column

Know When to Fold Em
7/10/05

There are some celebrities that are good at poker. Ben Affleck earned a seat at the World Poker Tour by winning the California State Poker Championship. And Jennifer Tilly just beat 600 other players to win the ladies no-limit Texas Hold-em at the World Series of Poker. But the next time I see a retired super model bet fifty grand on a straight flush of shovels, I'm going to stab myself in the eye with a croupier wand.

I love poker. It's fun to play, and it's exciting to watch. But I don't know why seeing celebrities bet makes it any better. I should correct that - seeing people we're told are celebrities bet. The producers of "The Celebrity Poker Tour" should change the name to "The People Who are On TV That You May or May Not Recognize Poker Tour." I'm not excited to turn on Bravo and say, "hey, isn't that the guy from…oh, you know who I mean!" We shouldn't need IMDB to know who a celebrity is.

Real celebrities have an unfair advantage when they play against everyone else. The $10,000 buy-in to the tournament Ben Affleck won is nothing to him - I'd be great at poker if money didn't mean anything. Also, the man bluffs for a living. Not as an actor, but as a person. When you can convince the world that "Gigli," "Reindeer Games," and "Daredevil" are good flicks, going all in on a pair of sevens is cake.

Nevertheless, watching poker is exciting. It's fun to see a guy push all his chips forward and either take them back or get wiped out, it's fun to see an unpredictable hand settled on the final card, and it's fun to imagine what you'd do if money were no object. I've been playing games with a $20 buy in since I was 15 - it'd be much more exciting if my friends and I were playing for the box office receipts of Gigli. You know, $50.

But soon we may not just have household names playing poker, but poker players becoming household names. Interpoker.com is running commercials to garner support to place poker in the Olympics. The commercials are probably just a way around the rule that a gaming website can't buy advertising time for itself. But it begs an interesting question. What would happen if poker were played between countries? I'd love to see how the economic disparity played out.

The French representative could lead off with a bet of 10,000 Euros. After everyone finished laughing at him for having purple money, the bet would come to the representative from Burundi.

"I see your 10,000 Euros, and I raise you this baby."

Not to be backed off, the American would see both those bets.

"I'm in for 10,000 Euros, which is about $12,000 US now because our currency is worthless. And the baby - I guess that's the price of a cup of coffee per day, right?"

Of course, the American wouldn't raise. He would just watch what the other countries do, judge them later, and wait to hear what the Saudis have to say.

The Saudi representative would have to bet - he'd be playing with the most cash of anyone on the table. He'd be able to easily see the 10,000 Euros, and the baby, and also raise everything in his pocket. Which, by coincidence, would be the American's politicians.

So everybody would be in - well, not everybody because the French guy would fold. But everyone else would be in. First, the guy from Burundi would get disqualified for eating the king of spades. And the guy from Saudi Arabia would get arrested for BEING the King of Spades. So the only one even eligible to win would be the American, who would throw down a full house. Actually, it would be a pair of threes, but the American would swear it was a full house.

"We thought we had a full house on the table. There was documentation of a full house. British intelligence told us there was a full house! And we're going to keep playing until we find one."

So poker fans, do you know who would be the big winner? No, not the American - the baby. Or maybe the Canadian because he would still have good health care.

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