The Tsunami

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A Tale from the Ghosts of Poker Past

Merry Xmas! I fell asleep last night while watching Wargames, the classic hacker movie from 1983 starring Matthew Broederick…complete with a Galaga arcade scene, dot matrix printers, and dial-up modems. It’s a bit cheesier now than it was when I saw it as a kid. But some of the stuff in it is just classic:

1.) School administrators have the password to the school’s admin panel written on a notepad on a simple slide out drawer.

2.) The creator of a military computer system uses his son’s name as the password.

Come on people…computer security 101!

I don’t really have a good transition from that to the main content of today’s blog post. Oh well.

I come from a fairly religious family. The religion of choice: Catholicism. My parents have pictures from my baptism, my first communion, and my confirmation. Towards the end of my religious schooling, I began having my doubts, and I think I declared my atheism to my parents when I was 17. They were a little disappointed, but they got over it eventually (I think). Despite my atheism, and despite my disdain for how retailers have turned Xmas into an excuse for the average person to waste money he doesn’t have on gifts that his friends, family, and coworkers don’t need (not to mention the waste of paper on wrapping paper and the waste of electricity on lights), Xmas always seems like the time of year meant for reuniting with family and friends. And I have to admit that I enjoy some holiday movies, with A Christmas Story topping the list.

So now that it’s Xmas, the Ghosts of Poker Past want me to share a gift with you. Back in my Caltech days, my friends and I played some dealer’s choice home games (actually, we still do). Here’s one of the games we played:

1.) Players are dealt 4-5 hole cards each
2.) A cross is dealt face down on the table: 3 cards vertically and 3 cards horizontally for a total of 5 cards. These cards are community cards.
2.) Round of betting
3.) Expose one card from the column (non-center) and one card from the row (non-center)
4.) Round of betting
5.) Expose the other card from the column (non-center) and the other card from the row (non-center)
6.) Round of betting
7.) Expose the center card
8.) Round of betting
9.) Players may play any two of their hole cards plus the row or the column to make the best 5-card hand possible

I can’t remember if we played this game hi-only or as a hi-lo chip declare game, but it can be played either way. You might know this game as Iron Cross, or some other similar name. However, we dubbed it Jewish Christmas in the spirit of the type of goodhearted yet simultaneously offensive brand of humor that belongs in every home poker game.

As the story goes, one of our good friends was Jewish. And there was one hand where he either won a huge pot with a huge hand or lost a huge pot when his huge hand got beaten by an even bigger hand. I wasn’t present when the name Jewish Christmas was dubbed, and the person most likely to dub the game Jewish Christmas doesn’t remember the exact story…sigh, an important piece of poker history lost forever. But either way, the cross on the table made Jewish Christmas the perfect name for our home game. And now that I’ve shared the gift of Jewish Christmas with you, I hope that you enjoy it in your next home game regardless of your religious beliefs.

Merry Xmas! May your EV always be positive!

Tony Guerrera (The Tsunami)


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