So I bailed on watching Women's Murder Club again on Saturday and instead watched Friday Light Nights and Las Vegas. Trust me, they were better than the ball game. The Las Vegas episode was particular fun thanks to the appearance of Larry Manetti and Roger Mosley along with Tom Selleck. Manetti played "Larry Ryan", billionaire night club owner while Mosley played "Roger Hartley", billionaire airline owner from Hawaii who got started with a single helicopter. There was supposed to be a British billionaire with them but he was a no show; perhaps appropriate because John Hillerman retired from acting in 2000. The only thing they didn't do was to put A.J. Cooper (Selleck's character) in a Hawaiian shirt or ball cap. The major point of the guys being on the show was the annual poker game between Cooper and his friends. After scaring off one of Sam's "whales" (a big spending casino guest) by lurking around trying to figure out what Sam does, Cooper decides to make it up to her. She wants into his card game and she wants him to provide her with the buy-in, which he does. And it's the game that I want to talk about because it is typical of most of the poker games that are seen on TV.
First off, there's the game itself. They're playing Five Card Draw, which is the classic Poker game, the first version of poker that most people ever play (or at least it used to be before Hold'em started showing up on TV). It is however a game that is virtually never played in a casino setting or in tournaments. I'm willing to accept that these guys are playing Draw, though one might have expected a more challenging game like Seven Card Stud from guys like these. Then there are a couple of occasions when a character says something like "I call your $10,000...and raise you $30,000 more." This is something that wouldn't happen in a public card room. It's called a string bet and wouldn't be allowed because the first verbal declaration takes precedence over everything. In other words by saying "I call" you are limiting yourself to that action; correct form in this incident is to say "Raise to $40,000 total," or "Raise by $30,000," or simply to say "Raise" and move the number of chips representing the call and the raise into the centre of the table. Yet this is another thing that you can probably let go because it's allowed in home games by common consent of the players. In fact at the World Cup of Poker Tournament put on by Pokerstar and broadcast online, I saw a member of Team Canada who was playing his first tournament in a casino setting make that mistake at least twice – you don't say anything in online poker obviously and his only other experience was in home games.
All of these things are comparatively minor and even acceptable in social situations. The key element of this episode is not. After losing a hand to Cooper in which he admits to bluffing, Sam thinks she has picked up on his "tell." During a break in the action she borrows $75,000 from Delinda to stay in the game because she's sure that she can beat Cooper when she sees him make this action again. Sure enough she sees him doing his "tell" a second time (he slowly turns a chip that he is holding on edge with a finger) and calls a huge bet that he makes. The problem is that she doesn't have enough money to cover his bet. As a result she bets an extremely rare coin that she received as a bequest from a former customer even though the coin is worth more than the amount that is needed to cover the difference between the amount that Sam has and what Cooper bet. She has four Queens but he has a Six High Straight Flush. She loses.
This doesn't happen – ever – even in home games. This would allow the player with the most money to win pots by simply betting more than any of the other players has to play with. And you can't bet money or other assets that aren't known before hand. In other words you can't reach into your wallet and pull out a $100 bill and bet that on an active hand. You can pull the money out and buy more chips before the next hand starts, but you are restricted to playing the money you have on the table at the time the hand starts. In cases where a player bets more than another player has available to play with, the player with the lesser amount calls and the amount they play for is capped at the amount that the player with lower amount has. If there are more than two players in the hand there is a "split pot" where the other players play for any amount over what the player with the lowest amount has bet.
The thing is that this isn't just restricted to Las Vegas although it is somewhat irritating in a show that has had Chris "Jesus" Ferguson and Howard "The Professor" Lederer on it. Most television shows that have featured occasional Poker games have had the players playing Five Card Draw, had them making String Bets, had players reaching into their pockets for extra money, and had players forced to find extra assets to cover a bet that exceeded what they had on the table. I don't remember enough episodes of the series (and it's been so long since I've seen it that I don't remember the episodes that I did see all that well) but it probably goes back at least as far as Maverick. I don't expect this will ever change either even though viewers are growing increasingly sophisticated when it comes to Poker knowledge. Or maybe, as a Poker player, I know just a little bit too much for my own good.
(BTW: There's art for this but Blogger won't let me upload it when I'm posting - I'll try again later.)
(Update: Image posted.)