Monday, March 27, 2006

The Night Before

Friday night I met up with Tokyo's newest (white boy) poker blogger, Mike, to introduce him to the Japan Poker Player's Association poker room in the Ueno area, often referred to as simply "the Ueno Room" by local poker players.

Considering that there aren't any other poker rooms in town, they could probably just call it "The Room" and we would know what they meant.

The only other game in town that I know of is at Duke, a bar in the Nihonbashi area that I have described before. I think of it as "the Poker Bar". My friend J.P. will ask me "Room or Bar?" when I tell him I'm going out to play poker. Hopefully someday he'll have to ask me something a lot more complicated, but for now, that's it.

So anyhow, it was cool to meet up with Mike, who's out here for the Living In Japan adventure. I did the same thing, long time ago, and it made me smile. Somewhere along the line the adventure just became normal life, so it's nice to be reminded of what it was like to wrap things up in your home country, move halfway across the world to someplace bizarrely different in many ways, set up shop in a dingy rat-hole of a temporary apartment, and begin to struggle with the language and finding a place for yourself in a brand new society. Ah, those were the days.

Though several times over the course of the evening, I had to break out the old stand-by, "You know, back when I was a kid..."

as in...

"You know, back when I was a kid, gaijin houses didn't have internet access! I had to buy a converter RJ-11 jack to the headset of my borrowed PHS phone so I could use my laptop's mobile with dialup! Reception at my place was horrible, so I had to set my laptop on my bed and hold the mobile phone up to the window to get a signal, and had to type one-handed until the modem dropped out."

Damn kids today...

Ahem, where was it?

Anyhow, I showed Mike to the Ueno room and explained a bit about the weekly games they run there. It was already getting pretty busy as quite a few folks had shown up for the talks, and Linda and Jan showed up soon and started greeting the players they had met from previous years. I chatted a bit with Mark G's wife Mary, who works as a dealer and was quite friendly and outgoing. Jan also announced to everyone that the doctor who had treated her when she got very ill during last year's JPC, Dr. Yamaguchi, was there that evening and she gave her thanks for saving her life last year.

Bluejay showed up with another foreigner guest, but who was not introduced and who didn't really speak to anyone. I did a double-take - holy smokes, is that Jennifer Harman?! A second later I doubted it - she looked different than J.H. does on tv. I looked closer and started to get uncertain again. How many petite blondes with 1980s Meg Ryan hairstyles are likely to show up with Bluejay to visit his poker room? But no one said anything, no one freaked out, no one introduced themselves to her, so I just kept my mouth shut and waited for the talks to start.

The talks by the Card Player guests were very short. They were actually just a few minutes of off-the-cuff remarks, followed by a few questions from the Japanese audience. Linda Johnson did mention in the "Poker and Television" segment that they were starting a International Poker Tour tv show, with a set roster of 60 players visiting various locations worldwide for televised poker tournaments. Apparently Linda, Jan, Mark, and Hiroshi (Bluejay) are four of the players who will be in each of these events.

I whispered to Mike, "You think the tv audience can take another televised poker tour?" When I was back in the States over Christmas holidays, every time I turned on the tv I would find a poker tournament going on. It was pretty cool at first, but I got kind of sick of it after a while.

Mark and Mary spoke about being poker professionals, he as a player and she as a dealer (and player too, of course), which was interesting. Mary noted that she had done some of the dealing for the High Stakes Poker show, so I'll be sure to keep an eye out for her in future eps. Doyle-san asked a question at the end about how well the high-rollers in that game tipped the dealers. She made a non-committal reply, so I interjected another question, "Who got better tips, the dealers or those women you see walking back and forth in the background sometimes?" She laughed and replied, "Oh, those ladies did, by far! Doyle tipped them very well."

Something to consider if you are a hot lady in a slinky dress considering the life of a poker dealer.

Bluejay skipped his talk about "Japanese Players and Overseas Tournaments". Meg-Ryan-Haircut hung out in the back quietly and left soon afterwards.

So the talks ended pretty quickly and they switched to the dealer training portion of the evening. Linda and Mary each took one of the poker tables that were set up, and began going through all the processes of dealing poker, from the scrambles, shuffles, boxing, cutting, dealing, prompting players for their action, counting chips, figuring all-ins and multiple pots, and any other question about dealing that someone had. Quite a few of the players there act as dealers in the games, and some of them are quite good, but others seemed interested in all the techniques of a pro dealer, as if they planned to become dealers themselves. There are dealers schools in Japan, I know, but I am not sure how well attended they are since there's not a lot of demand for dealers here.

Bluejay was handling the translation at Linda's table, I believe, but there wasn't anyone handling Mary's table. Most of the Japanese can follow English to some extent, but not perfectly, so I sucked it up and tried my best as a translator. Everybody followed along, so that much worked out well.

After Mary went through it all, she encouraged some of those interested in dealing to give it a try. One of our regular amateur dealers gave it a go and managed it all pretty smoothly. One of the guys who looked like he was considering becoming a dealer also tried it out, did a reasonable job, and got some good tips from the professional. Then she suggested I give it a try. Uh... I had asked a question earlier on about how difficult it was nowadays to get work as a dealer, but I really had no intention of becoming a dealer myself! She might have got the wrong idea from my question, but I gave it a try anyhow.

Damn, the first time is not easy! The basic shuffle didn't give me problems, but I had never tried boxing and was hopeless at it. Linda came over with some expert coaching, and I improved somewhat, but would still need a huge amount of practice. I flung cards with too much arm movement, which Mary assured me would exhaust me in 30 minutes of real dealing. I got lost trying to follow whose action it was, and when two or three folks went all in and I had to figure the main and side pots, I felt dizzy and my brain was creaking.

It felt a bit like the first time I found myself in a HORSE game and had to learn all these new games quickly and shift from one to the other. My brain felt STRETCHED and my thinking slowed. Nowadays it gives me no problems, so I assume the dealing will eventually go a lot smoother as well.

So we played some loose and silly holdem for an hour or two to give people practice playing and dealing, then finished up and headed home at 11pm. The Card Player folks were still a bit jet-lagged, and everyone wanted to be well rested for the JPC tourney the next day.

Not much real poker for Mike, but maybe next time. Besides, he has internet at his gaijin house, so he can play online. Kids today are spoiled rotten.

1 comment:

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