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You got to know when to hold 'em

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Oct 28, 2015 at 3:47 PM

Country singer Kenny Rogers had it right: You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, and know when to run.

At least, that's the advice local poker player Larry Fisher, 34, has for new players.

"The biggest skill a new player can get is being able to fold," he said. "That's the No. 1 thing a beginner needs to learn is to be able to fold."

And there are a lot of new players out there. Poker's popularity has taken off during the last few years with televised tournaments on various cable channels, including ESPN, and a boom in online play. A Google search of Texas Hold 'em returns more than 5.5 million hits. And, while once portrayed in westerns as a game for whiskey drinking outlaws, Hershey has signed on to sponsor the 2007 World Series of Poker.

"Getting poker on ESPN has been huge," Fisher said. "I've played poker on and off since I was a kid ... But one big difference is it's a lot easier to get friends together to play cards then it was a few years ago."

Fisher plays in local charity tournaments about once a month, tying for first place in a tournament sponsored by the Norwalk Jaycees last month. He has won money in three of the last four tournaments he's played in.

Patience is the key to his success.

"A lot of people don't realize (poker on TV) is heavily edited, they don't show players folding 30 times in a row," he said.

While exposure is likely the key to the poker boom, the reason it has caught on with the public is the combination of ability and pure dumb luck.

"I think what draws a lot of people to it is that it's a game of skill and luck. Someone who is not as experienced can play and still win," Fisher said.

For some "professional" poker players, this influx of inexperienced and aggressive players has lead to more "bad beats." A bad beat is a poker term referring to a good hand that would have been expected to win the pot but is beaten by a lucky draw.

Fisher, on the other hand, said bad beats are just part of the game.

"If it wasn't for the bad players you wouldn't make any money," he said, "It's frustrating when you lose on (a bad beat), but you've got to look at it in the long run you'll make that money back in the long run."

Fisher said he used to play online almost every day, but new laws aimed at prohibiting online gambling have made it too complicated.

Nether, one of the leading virtual checking companies, announced earlier this month that it was withdrawing its online funding services to U.S. residents. Following federal charges against executives from Nether and BetOnSports.com, dozens of the more than 2,300 Web sites that service online gambling have stopped taking U.S. wagers, according to USA Today.

The recent poker popularity also has lead police in some areas of the country to break up home games. Norwalk Police Chief Kevin Cashen said there have been no problems with poker in the city.

"Where you start having problems is when the house starts to get a cut of the profit," he said. Bars and restaurants also can host poker tournaments, but new laws require a percentage of the profits be donated to local charities. And, of course, non-profit and charitable organizations can host poker tournaments as a fundraiser.

"A lot of organizations have benefited from that in our community," Cashen said.

And, at least locally, the poker craze has not led to an increase in problem gamblers. Bonnie Hayes, a state-trained gambling counselor with Firelands Counseling and Recovery Service, said she has only seen two people with gambling addictions in the last two years, and neither was for poker.

"It's only a problem when it becomes a need," Hayes said, adding gambling is just part of society, citing something as simple as a contest from a fast food restaurant as an example. "If you can do it in moderation, there's not a problem with gambling."

The main sign someone might have a problem is missing money, Hayes said. If someone is addicted to gambling, Hayes said family members are encouraged to take the person in for counseling and take control of the money and bills. Someone with a gambling addiction should have limited amounts of cash on them and be sure to show receipts to family members.

Hayes said problems also can occur when people see gambling as an opportunity to make money.

"You can't look at it as a chance to get rich, that's where people get themselves into a lot of trouble," she said. "When you're going to gamble, decide how much you're going to spend it should not affect bill payment or food or gas and once that's gone, you're done."

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