I decided to take a trip down memory lane this week and talk about something that I remember fondly — poker.

I grew up during the televisation of no-limited Texas hold’em and the game grabbed my friends and I.

I remember sitting at my friend Petey’s house with my other friend Al. Al pulled out some cheap red, white and blue Bicycle poker chips and began to explain the game to me. Although our little three-man game played for over four hours, it sparked some of the best times that my friends and I had growing  up.

A month of so later, we got together one of our first poker groups. Petey would upgrade our chips to a hard plastic set  and we sat down greener than the felt we were playing  on and began a high school tradition. I don’t remember who won many of those first games but the passion for poker grew between my friends and I.

With so many hands, bad beats and all-ins, the passion continued to grow as Petey and myself would head to Las Vegas with two other members of our poker crew — Looms and Nelly (nicknames of course). The last hurrah before we went off to college, the group made its way from Fergus Falls to Sin City in hopes of fooling a few pit bosses into believing that we were 21 and ready to gamble. The trip had its own memories but in the long run we got to see a lot of the sites that poker legends like Doyle Brunson and Phil Helmuth speak of in regards to Vegas.

In returning to our home game, the trio began to change their style of play. Al took on the nickname of “the rock” for his  lack of play, racking in a big pot and sitting on it. Petey developed the identifier personality, constantly calculating the play of each player and striking like a rattlesnack when he believed he caught someone in a bluff. I decided to develop a aggressive style, while also throwing in fake tells in an attempt to hide my real ones.

One of the many inspirations we drew from was the movie “Rounders” starring Matt Damon, Edward Norton Jr. and John Malkovich. If you haven’t seen this movie, it is basically poker’s version of “The Hustle.” This movie would play in the background during many poker games as we tried to tell people “we didn’t have spades” or we had “alligator blood.”

As we got older, the game became harder and harder to put together. A death of a friend (someone that would bluff you with 7-2 offsuit) sent the regular group their separate ways. After that, finding six or more people to sit and play for three-plus hours became a chore. I can’t remember the last time that I actually sat down and played a true no-limit game.

When I think back on those days, the thing that I miss the most is the camaraderie that was built between so many different people. Some people who became friends would have just been acquaintances if it weren’t for those late night games. Some may have thought of it as a fad but many of us would look forward to sitting back down and playing a few hands.

Well, I better fold before the stakes get to high and someone begins to push me out of here. Here’s to those that have sat down beside me and chased the river hoping to hit that late flush or straight.  See ya next time.

Zach Stich is the managing editor of The Daily Journal. His column appears each Thursday.


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