Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published (2008) in Poker Player newspaper.
The next, companion entry focuses on “Edges,” while this one is just “Edge.”
You should read both, because this entry gradually wanders into the advice that follows in Mike Caro poker word is Edges. Don’t go there yet; you’ll find another link at the bottom of this entry. — Mike Caro
Gardena, California was once billed as the poker capital of the world. It was a fitting title, because within the boundaries of this otherwise quiet Los Angeles suburb existed the largest and most prosperous poker clubs anywhere.
I remember them all. There was the Eldorado Club, which replaced the Embassy Club on land where Larry Flynt’s Hustler Casino is today. And there were the Normandie Club, Gardena Club, Rainbow Club, Horseshoe Club, and Monterey Club.
When I tell you that these were the largest poker clubs, we’re talking kind of small by today’s standards, where Hawaiian Gardens, Commerce, the Bicycle, and Hollywood Park casinos rule. Only the Hustler Casino and the Normandie Casino remain in Gardena, and both offer many more tables than the 35 maximum allowed by city ordinance through the early 1980s.
I’m not sure why I’m sharing this bit of poker history with you, since it has little to do with today’s entry about the word “edge.” But while I’m thinking about it, you should know just how peculiar Gardena was. Most pros began there. And, in fact, most pros stayed there, because there just wasn’t anywhere else in the world that offered ’round-the-clock poker, with a wide selection of games.
Scratch that “’round-the-clock” part. When I first came to Gardena, clubs closed at, I think, 4 a.m. and reopened at 10 a.m.
That was by city ordinance, also. In the years I earned my living there, way before I published my first book, the closing times slipped later, until there were only a couple hours between closing and opening. Finally, there was just time enough to sweep the floors and reopen the doors.
Then 24-hour play was introduced, about the time that a more massive poker establishment, the Bell Club, opened in nearby Bell California. Although the Bell offered more tables, it was still small by today’s super poker-and-Asian-games casino standards. The biggest modern clubs in the Los Angeles area have more than 100 tables devoted to just poker.
One form of poker
Also, scratch that “wide selection of games” part. While there was a large choice of limits, and you could usually pick between profitable and unprofitable tables, there was only one form of poker offered — five-card draw. You could play it either traditional high-hand-wins or lowball.
In the bizarre poker world that was Gardena until 30 years ago, the most you could bet or raise was $20 until the 1980s. All games were limit.
Stranger still, there were no dealers. It was pass-the-deal, and you took your turn dealing. There were no procedures governing how you must shuffle, gather cards, or anything. Players who scream at dealers for carelessly exposing cards today would faint dead away if they could be transported back in time to old Gardena.
Anyway, I’m rambling, and I just remembered why I mentioned Gardena in the first place. One day, as I was standing on the rail, preparing to choose a game, a friend came by and asked, “How many things do you need to consider before making a bet?”
I recall being slightly annoyed by the question, since I wasn’t in a thinking mood. Fortunately, he supplied his own answer, taking out a piece of paper. He said, “I’ve written down 19 factors. Did you know there were that many?”
I quickly looked at his list. In the days that followed, I began to realize it was incomplete.
So, I started to create my own list of betting factors. I did this in outline form, with main factors, sub-factors, and sub-sub-factors.
It soon became clear that there wasn’t an answer to how long the list of things to consider before betting should be. You could go on forever.
One of the main categories I created was called “Edges.” This is where I tried to itemize all the things that could be considered advantageous and weighed toward a decision to bet. Another main category, I called “Anti-Edges.” These were reasons you shouldn’t bet.
Next time, I’m going to continue the series of columns where I get to ask and answer my own questions, focusing on edges. Then, we’ll also talk more about anti-edges. In the meantime, make your own list of edges and see if yours includes any of the points covered in my questions and answers.
It’s a great exercise in understanding poker, one that I’ve asked students to perform from time to time. Making a list of your own will help you focus on what’s important when thinking about whether or not to bet.
And doing the exercise leads straight to profit. If you’d like, you can even share your list in a comment below. We’ll have fun comparing notes. — MC
Continue to Mike Caro poker word is Edges.