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Lowball, or Low Poker. This is any form of draw poker in which the lowest poker hand instead of the highest wins the pot. Perhaps because most players consider themselves poor cardholders, this form of the game has had a tremendous rise to popularity since the late 1930s, but almost solely on the Pacific Coast. The low-hand principle creates a lot of action because there are many more good one-card draws to otherwise worthless hands than there are in other forms of poker.

High-low poker. Any form of draw or stud poker can be played high-low; the high and low hands split the pot. The true expert, playing in an average game, has a really tremendous advantage in high-low poker. Barring the most unusual bad breaks, it can almost be said that the best player cannot lose in a high-low game. Yet the average player almost never realizes this and welcomes a high-low game because he thinks it gives him a better chance to overcome the luck of the deal.

Wild-card games. These are principally ladies' games and the serious poker player usually scoffs at them. Many serious players do use the bug—the joker considered only as an extra ace or as a filler in straights and flushes—but they too sneer at any greater extension of the wild-card principle. It is true that the use of wild cards is most suitable to purely amateur games, but make no mistake about one thing: the greater the number of wild cards, the more freakish the game, the greater the expert's advantage becomes. Mathematically, luck can play no greater part in one form of poker than in another, and the more complicated the game, the greater is the part played by judgment as to what constitutes a good hand and what constitutes a losing hand.

Special hands. Even the most serious players sometimes choose to introduce special hand values that have no place in poker tradition—dogs, cats or tigers, skeets, skip straights, four-flushes, and so on. The purpose is to enliven the game by providing more combinations to which even a conservative player may choose to draw. These hands are played chiefly in men's clubs and in home games among more or less serious players. They do not hurt the game if a player can bring himself to remember that all poker values are relative and that you stand to win if you play only good hands and to lose if you play bad hands. The traditional gambler who bet his pile on a pair of sevens against one opponent on a Mississippi steamboat was no worse off than the club player who bets his pile on a little dog or the stud player who bets on ace high. Whatever the form of poker, the pot is usually won by the hand that figures to be better than anyone else's, whether that hand is ace-king high or four of a kind.

I hope that through these pages has run one recognizable thread of thought: All forms of poker are games of skill, and one form is no more a game of skill than any other. The player who complains that in the freak games, or ladies' games, the palookas are always drawing out on him, condemns himself as a poor player. I admit that it hurts to lose a pot you thought you had won, but the more they try to draw out on your best hand, in any form of poker, the more you figure to win.

The greatest fallacy of all is the one so solemnly asserted by California law, that draw poker is predominantly a game of skill and stud poker is not. It would superficially seem that the absence of information in draw poker increases the difficulty of judging the relative value of a hand, but precisely the contrary is true: The more information there is, the greater the scope for reasoning to replace blind guessing. In addition, the expert player of stud poker requires both the drudgery and the impervi-ousness to distraction that go with remembering all the cards that have been shown and folded. These cards affect the possibility of the hands that may be made. Without remembering at least a certain number of these cards, one cannot play stud poker well. (That is why a stud dealer in a professional game is never supposed to announce "Possible straight flush"—his occasional failure to announce it might give a player the benefit of his observation that a card essential to the straight flush is already dead.)

I have no desire to criticize or to influence California legislators, and I am as happy as any other poker player that in at least one state at least one form of poker has been recognized as a game of skill, as it should be in all states; my object is only to point out that all forms of poker, including deuces wild and spit-in-the-ocean, are games in which luck can be overcome and skill is paramount.

I repeat: If you are losing consistently you are not unlucky. You are being outplayed.
 
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