It started as a lark and it turned into a mission: Could I play poker in all fifty states?
When the idea occurred to me back about five years ago, I made a list of all the states where I had already played. When I included public poker rooms and private games, there were 25 states in which I had played: ME, NH, MA, CT, NY, NJ, MD, SC, NC, GA, FL, AL, MS, LA, OH, IN, MO, MN, OK, NV, NM, AZ, CA, WA, AK. I started to think about how to get to the rest, planning vacations around places in which I had not yet played. My list of states expanded to include: VA, IL, TN, WI, IA, PA, RI, VT, WV, MI, DE. By this time two years ago, I had played in 36 states. During the past two years I went on to play in: CO, TX, MT, WY, ND, SD, KS, KY, AR. By the start of this summer, I had played poker in 45 states.
I went out to the World Series of Poker in July of this year. It was a great visit, as I’ve reported here and on my blog: www.houseofcardsradio.blogspot.com. A friend of a friend put me in touch with the operator of a well-run underground game up in Utah, north of Salt Lake City. Though it was a 6-hour drive from Las Vegas, I went, played, had a great time, and added Utah to my list of states in which I’d played poker. My wife Debi and I planned our 30th anniversary trip for August of this year. We settled on Hawaii—because it was supposed to be so beautiful, so romantic—and, oh yeah, I had never played poker there. The challenge was in finding a game.
I sent emails everywhere I could think of where there might be people who knew of poker games: restaurants, bars, hotels, newspapers, radio stations, police stations, fire houses—all without any positive response. I then did the obvious thing. I asked the concierge at the resort hotel where we were staying. It took all of about three days for her to find me a game.
When my wife and I arrived for our second honeymoon in Kauai, Hawaii, I called the contact. He told me to meet him at a restaurant on the island near where the game would be. If everything checked out he’d lead me to the game. I met him. Turns out he’s one of the leading businessmen in town. We had a nice chat over a Longboard Lager. He led me to the game. It was a two-table tournament: $40 buy-in with one optional reentry. The setting was idyllic—on the property of a beautiful estate, surrounded by mountains. The players were all affable and welcoming. Many drank heavily. My contact had won the tournament the prior week, and, as was their custom, catered the affair for everyone. The food was great—marinated tenderloin sandwiches. I busted out after three hours and elected not to reenter.
I met someone at the tournament who invited me to a private $1-$3 no limit cash game—that I gladly attended. There were two tables of 11 and a $2 maximum rake! It was truly beautiful—overlooking the deep blue Pacific, nestled among the lush green mountains of this idyllic Hawaiian island. There was a hearty lunch being served when I arrived in the afternoon. They had all sorts of beverages including a local Hawaiian beer. And they were very friendly. I gladly bought a T-shirt with the name of their poker club “A-Town Poker” for Anahola, Kauai, Hawaii. Before I left, I put on my new shirt and proclaimed loudly to the group, “THIS IS POKER PARADISE”. And indeed it was.
I have only three states left in my 50-state poker quest: Idaho, Oregon, and Nebraska. Oregon is the easiest—with many legal poker rooms. I’m looking for contacts for private games in the other two states, so if you know of a game there, please contact me. I’ll report on my progress as I make it!
Ashley Adams is the author of Winning No Limit Hold’em and Winning 7-card Stud, both available at Amazon.com. He is also the host of the popular poker radio show, House of Cards. For listening times and stations, to get a podcast of the show, or to check out the blog, go to www.houseofcardsradio.com. You can email Ashley at firstname.lastname@example.org.