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Poker: A few bucks among buddies

Alison Miller
Vail, CO Colorado
Preston Utley/Vail DailyA group of friends gather at a home in Avon to play a game of poker. Poker is becoming increasingly popular and the weekly games becoming more and more frequent.
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AVON ” After moving all-in with your pocket cowboys, the flop came down with big slick and a four. Your luck seemed to be improving until the turn brought an ace and you realized your opponent had bullets. The river didn’t bring any help, and you found yourself declared the bad beat of the night.

To some, what was just described is a mystery. Others know exactly what just happened thanks to the rising popularity of Texas Hold’em poker.

Poker players across the valley gather each week in their homes to put their money in the pot, test their luck and bolster ” or lower ” their paychecks.

“I’m not really a gambler, it’s more of a social event for me,” poker player Chris Amoroso said. “It’s just a great excuse to get out and get together in a social setting that’s not a bar, and that’s something that’s lacking in the valley.

“As far as entertainment value goes, it’s worth the $10 to get three hours just goofing around with your friends.”

It’s all about friends competing and laughing it up, said Chris Parker who plays in a weekly game in Avon.

“We each buy in for $10 or so, and are allowed one re-buy if you’re knocked out,” Chris Parker said. “The winner takes it all home and then we come back again next week to do it all again.”

Poker is a game of skill and is more intricate card game than any other, poker player Charlie Wood said.

“It’s such a challenge because you have to play your cards, read the other players and know whether to play tight or loose,” Wood said. “It’s a great game.”

In Colorado, it’s a game that could land you in trouble if your game is deemed to be illegal.

State law states gambling is illegal “when conducted for the profit of any person,” but the law also aims to avoid restricting “participation by individuals in sport and social pastimes which are not for profit, do not affect the public, and do not breach the peace.”

It’s a law that is rarely enforced, and determining when a game is illegal can be difficult, said Avon Police Detective Paul Arnold.

“People can engage in social gambling as long as everybody at the game knows each other and there’s a bona fide social relationship,” Arnold said.

When players don’t know each other or aren’t friends, losing money in a poker game can lead to other crimes such as assault, Arnold said.

The safest and only legal way to play when money is involved is in a friendly setting, he said.

The weekly game Amoroso plays in is a friendly weekly game, and he doubts anybody in the group would know there’s a law against gambling, he said.

Parker sometimes plays with co-workers and friends of friends, and he questions what defines a social relationship.

“These are people I work with, but does that make them friends,” Parker said. “Do I have to like everybody at the table, or just know them? What if I know them all but one? The police are more than welcome to come bust in on our game if what we are doing is wrong.”

Avon police rarely break-up games unless they are causing some other disturbance, Arnold said, but the law still gets under Parker’s skin.

“Honestly, I think legislating entertainment in the privacy of your own home is akin to legislating sexual morale,” Parker said. “Not only is it wrong, but it’s way too esoteric to be able to enforce, so why keep the law on the books?”

“This is suppose to be the freest country in the world,” Wood added. “But I guess we’re not that free after all.”

Free to play or not, Parker and Wood said they will continue to hone their game.

“I like to play tight, but aggressive, and let other people knock each other out,” Parker said. “I’m a suited connectors freak and play them all the time, but I only bluff about 10 percent of the time, so if I bet that means I probably made the straight.”

Knowing how to recognize other people’s “tells” ” or signs ” they have good cards or are bluffing is something Parker said he is working on. Knowing your own tell can be good strategy too, because you can play with your opponents then, he said.

“I like to play any ace,” Wood said. “I always play aces and kings to the flop, and now I know my tells are being looked at so that will help my game.”

Staff writer Alison Miller can be reached at 748-2928 or armiller@vaildaily.com.


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