“It’s all art.”

That’s how 36-year-old Jeff Hubbard summed up the popular poker game, Texas hold ’em. The game has taken over the country’s casinos and has now entered the bar scene, he said.

“With the advent of poker on TV and poker on the internet, it’s everywhere,” said Hubbard, the bartender and manager of Randy’s Grill amp; Chill, 4957 Holdrege St.

ESPN and the Travel Channel often air celebrity Texas hold ’em, also known as hold ’em, poker games and the World Series of Poker has a televised tournament every year.

Instead of the usual ante, or initial bet, from all players, in Texas hold ’em two players put up fixed sums: the small blind, half the minimum bet and the big blind, the minimum bet. With each hand, the big blind, small blind and dealer responsibilities rotate.

Players are then dealt two cards facedown, called the “hole cards.” The opening bet begins with the player to the left of the big blind calling the big blind bet, raising it or folding.

Over three rounds of betting, the dealer turns a total of five cards face-up, three “flop” cards, one “turn” card and one “river” card. These are used by all players along with their hole cards.

The winner has the highest five-card poker hand using any mix of his or her two hole cards and the five community cards.

“Poker is truly a game, if you look at it from one side, it’s all mathematical,” said Hubbard, who was taught hold ’em by his grandmother when he was 10. “There’s a lot of probability, there’s a lot of odds.”

At Horseshoe casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Texas hold ’em is the fastest growing game, said Matt Roane, Horseshoe’s poker supervisor. The poker players have all but replaced the blackjack and craps players at Horseshoe, he said.

Horseshoe went from having five poker tables at Harrah’s, the neighboring casino with the same owner, to having 18 tables at Horseshoe. When the World Series of Poker circuit is in town, they put an additional 40 tables on the floor for hold ’em, Roane said.

According to the Texas State Legislature, Robstown, Texas was the birthplace of Texas hold ’em in the early 1900s. Since then it found popularity in the Las Vegas and Atlantic City casinos. Other than that it was a backroom, late night phenomenon until the last few years when it became more acceptable, Hubbard said.

When Hubbard isn’t managing and bartending at Randy’s, he can usually be found at a poker table in Council Bluffs. But at work he also helps owner, Randy Wilson, run poker leagues.

“The popularity has grown because people don’t have to gamble,” Hubbard said. “They can start off learning to play for free on the internet, they can learn to play for free in bars and there’s no real risk for them.”

Randy’s has free Texas hold ’em poker every Tuesday at 8 p.m. where players are required to sign up in advance. Sometimes prizes are giveaways from beer vendors and some are cash prizes from the owner, Hubbard said.

The idea is to get people in to spend money on food and drinks, but Hubbard said that usually doesn’t happen. Most players come in to play poker in the hopes of winning the prize, with no intention of eating or drinking, he said.

In bar poker, there are a few rules to keep it legal. They can’t charge people to play, the prize must be independent of the number of players and the chips can’t have denominations on them, Hubbard said.

Hubbard has been very successful in poker games over the years. When he was unemployed for two years, he paid his bills by playing internet poker, Hubbard said. He also went to private poker games at friend’s homes, but they quit inviting him because he usually left with all their money.

“You’ve got to know how to read people,” Hubbard said, “know how to bluff, when to bluff and what kind of bet to make at what time.”

Hubbard said to do well at the game “you have to be smart, but you also have to have a feel for it too.”

About The Author

Erik Allaire is a master poker player who has won many professional poker events, wishes to represent his country at the world level.

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