Making Poker Fun Again… Tilt

Long rant announced.

Just returned from Las Vegas – my first time in Sin City since the B.C. era (Before Covid). My goals were to Make Poker Fun Again by playing a variety of locations, games and stakes, and have more fun away from the tables. No Limit Hold’em is still my best game, but hours upon bleary-eyed hours of the same game eventually turn a recreational pleasure into a grind.

TL;DR… only tilted once!

Before I get to that, I’d like to note that I was profitable for the trip and logged hours at Resorts World, Bellagio, Caesar’s, Wynn and Aria poker rooms. Fun!

We also saw the Raiders beat the Broncos 32-23 in a really good football game. Here’s the view from our VVIP seats inside Allegiant Stadium.

In addition to No Limit Hold’em, I played Pot Limit Omaha (profitably) at the Wynn and Aria, and a “double board PLO bomb pots every hand” table (profitably) at Resorts World. In a bomb pot, every player posts an ante ($5 in this game), and there’s no pre-flop betting. Double board games have two sets of community cards, with betting after both flops are spread, both turn cards and both rivers. The best hand using each board wins half the pot. Lots of action!

Caesar’s offered a $6/12 fixed limit mixed game Saturday night. Whoopee! I like mixed games. I really do. There were a few clues, however, that I might not like this one (queue ominous music).

I asked the poker desk about the list of games and format. They kind of shrugged and said there’s a list somewhere and the players sort of work it out amongst themselves. Clue #1.

This was Caesar’s inaugural mixed game offering (Clue #2), thanks to the promotional efforts to grow mixed games in Vegas by some well-intentioned players. One of the players functioned as a table captain, with a large stack of placards in front of him, each engraved with the name of a different poker variant. For purposes of this blog, I’ll call him “Ernie.” We would play five hands of each variant, then switch to the next game in the stack.

Except when a couple of players threatened to leave unless we played their favorite game instead of whatever was on the next placard. “We have to change the order,” explained Ernie, “or else the game will break.” Ahh, now I get it. The order is set, until Ernie or his pals don’t like it. Then it’s fungible. Clue #3.

Yellow sticky notes covered several placards, including the top one. ‘888,’ announced the large, bold writing. Ernie proudly explained that he invented this variant. Clue #4. I’m a gamer though. Explain the rules fully and accurately and I’m confident I can figure out how to lose. (At a mixed game long ago, a player invented a new variant called ‘Best Man,’ which was 7-card stud where the 2nd best hand wins the pot. Irritated by this foolishness, I invented ‘Bridesmaid’ in response, which was the same as Best Man except queens are wild. But I digress.)

888 is 5-card triple-draw with three winners: the best Badugi, traditional low hand and high hand each win one-third of the pot. Have you ever played 3-way split pot games? The losers do not get participation trophies. Low hands must qualify with an 8-high or lower, and the high hand must be three 8’s or higher. Oh, and there’s one community card. Stay with me. Clue #5.

The table used almost exclusively $2 chips, resulting in large piles of chips in frequent multi-way pots.

Early on, I won two-thirds of a large 888 pot with a 5-high Badugi and the nut low. Yay! The dealer divided the pot into six stacks. Three taller stacks were all equal in height and three not-quite-so-tall stacks were also equal in height. The dealer tried to give me two of the three taller stacks, plus two of the three shorter stacks, but the other winner wasn’t having it. He demanded the dealer create exactly three super-tall and equal stacks, insisting that I would get less than I deserved the other way. Wrong, but arguing as the new guy at the game is a fool’s errand. Clue #6. The poor dealer couldn’t fathom the need to re-stack the chips, because… well, math. Eventually he complied, leaving two $2 chips and four $1 chips as a remainder. Ernie grabbed the remainder chips and gave $4 to me (remember, I won two-thirds) and $4 to the other winner. 🤦🏼‍♂️

The smart way to introduce an unfamiliar poker variant is to start with the base game. “This is a 7-card stud game…” or “… a triple-draw game” lays a foundation for understanding. Ernie never got that memo. Clue #7.

Several variants were built on the base game of 5-card triple-draw. Each player starts with five cards face down, followed by three rounds of draws, each preceded by a single burn card. To mitigate the risk of running out of cards, triple-draw games should be capped at six players. Not seven. Definitely not eight, which was the number of players at this table. Clue #8.

In every hand of triple-draw, the dealer ran out of cards. Sometimes twice! The procedure for re-shuffling is unnecessarily complicated, as the last card in the deck cannot be given to a drawing player, and that card along with the burn cards must be added to the discards for the re-shuffle. Discards from the current round of draws are excluded. Got it? Neither did most of the dealers. You could watch the entire Super Bowl halftime show in the time it took to complete a round of triple-draw games with 3-way splits.

One dealer kept pulling the 3rd draw discards into the 2nd round muck pile, instead of creating a side muck pile (that’s right, a “side muck pile”). Clue #9. Ernie and others asked him, begged him, pleaded with him, yelled at him not to pull in the discards into the main muck pile, and then not to pull in the discards at all, until all replacement cards were delivered. This is counter-intuitive to dealer protocol to pull folded hands and discards into the muck pile as quickly as practical, keeping the table clean and avoiding confusion as to which cards are still live.

Another base game for several variants was ‘Dramaha,’ sometimes called ‘Draw-maha.’ The base game for Dramaha is 5-card Omaha, for which the base game is Omaha, which is a derivative of Hold’em. Got it? Take a bunch of kids who grew up combining ‘Duck, Duck, Goose’ with ‘Stuck in the Mud,’ age them into cranky adults, and you get Dramaha. It’s a derivative of a derivative of a derivative. In Dramaha, each player has the option of drawing replacement hole cards after the flop, and the best high Omaha hand splits the pot with some other variant (e.g., 5-card draw, Badugi, 21, 0, Super Archie or some other bullshit Ernie made up after one too many edibles). Some of the Dramaha games are 3-way splits. Do the math… eight players times five cards = 40. Burn and community cards = 8 more. To have drawing cards available, the player to the left of the big blind was forced to sit out, the equivalent of watching paint dry. Clue #10.

None of the dealers were prepared. Weaker dealers should have been exempted from a turn at this table. The benefits of having a professional dealer are better game management, fewer mistakes and a faster pace. Not here. Multiple players berated the befuddled dealers throughout nearly every hand. Clue #11.

Unnecessary procedural details that would be mildly annoying in a self-dealt game full of regulars in Ernie’s dining room don’t work in a noisy casino with dealers who don’t know the rules. Next time I’ll look for a turtle race to bet on. I’ve NEVER witnessed players treat dealers so rudely and wouldn’t be surprised if Caesar’s poker director soon has a mutiny to ‘deal’ with.

I made a mistake in a ‘21 Dramaha’ hand when I confused the game with ’Omajack.’ Both are based on 5-card Omaha. In Omajack, there is no draw. After you make your best Omaha hand, the three unused cards play Blackjack (with no further draws) for half the pot. Aces count as 1 or 11 points, face cards 10, others their face value, and closest to 21 points without going over wins. In 21 Dramaha, there IS a draw. The best Omaha hand wins half the pot and the other half goes to the closest to 21 without going over based on ALL FIVE cards with aces counting as 1 point, face cards as zero and others as their face value. When I saw 8, 7, 6 in my hand, my brain locked on that as a perfect 21 in Omajack. Clue #12.

Between the slow pace, poor structure, unprepared dealers, children’s games, constant yelling, and a long stretch without any winning hands, a slow transition began. From intrigue to frustration, from frustration to irritation, from irritation to tilt. A few embers burning in the emotional center of my brain, taking on oxygen and dry leaves and branches, fanned into a camp fire turned into bonfire turned into a raging northern California wildfire that consumes everything in its path.

In hindsight, I’m part amazed, part ashamed that I had made it this far.

I made another mistake in ‘Super Archie,’ a 3-way split game based on triple-draw (don’t ask!). I thought it was time to bet again when it actually was time for the 2nd draw. I tapped the table to check, which was ruled as standing pat. I was not allowed to draw any cards.

And that’s when I snapped, a road rage type of snap where the transition from believing you’re still in control to all-out tilt is like flipping a light switch. From off to on, with no in-between.

I flung my cards to the muck, snatched up my remaining chips and bid this mixed game a permanent adieu.

Poker will be fun again. Just not like this.


  1. I enjoyed this, David, and would have lasted a much shorter time than you did at the fixed limit mixed game before tilting. Arrrrgh.

    I couldn’t find a way to post a comment on the article.. has that option gone away? If I could have commented, I would have asked a question about the picture depicting the flop(s) for the double-board PLO bomb pot game. That picture shows two (i.e., double) flops alright-but they’re the exact same pips on every card(!). Yeah, the suits are different, but the denominations are the same. Is that just a miracle/coincidence, or is that the way it’s supposed to be?

  2. Sounds disturbingly like the “call your own” game I sometimes get into on Thursday evenings with the guys. They are a great group to hang with, but they’ve been playing these games for years longer than I have so have a better feeling about the odds and what winning hands look like. I am a constant contributor to *somebody’s* next family vacation.

    If I sat down at a table like that in Vegas, it would only be in the hopes the cocktail waitress was right behind me so I could get my comp’d bourbon then blow that taco stand…

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