Be careful what you wish for(Freddie Mays)

Be careful what you wish for

A few weeks ago I was talking about playing a game of “Anaconda”, a new poker variant introduced to me by my American friend Ben.  I’m always keen to try new types of poker games and this one sounded crazier than most. So I was really looking forward to my maiden game of Anaconda at the home game we had planned for that week.

But I never did get to play it. We had our home game alright, but we couldn’t get to play Anaconda for a very simple reason.  I’ll tell you that reason shortly but before that I ought to say that the rules I explained some weeks ago were not complete. The full rules are even more ridiculous than the ones I explained!

Just to recap what I told you last time, Anaconda is a game of 7 cards dealt face down. The aim is to make your best hand using 5 cards, so it’s like Texas Holdem in that respect.  After the deal there is a round of betting but then each player passes three cards to the player on his left. Then there’s a second round of betting and you all pass two cards to your left. After that you bet again and finally you all pass one card to your left.  I originally said that this would be your final hand, but this is where the first “missing” rule comes in:

At this point if you don’t like your hand you can buy up to three extra cards. This rule is not intuitive – it’s a bit of a “wrinkle”.  One new card is a dollar, two new cards cost $2 and three cards cost 50 cents. It’s totally bizarre that it is cheaper to buy three cards than it is to buy one and also, if you consider how much money is in the pot at this stage after three rounds of betting, $2 really isn’t a lot compared to the size of the pot.

Now all the players have their final hand. They put their cards face down and then they are revealed one at a time, from left to right. Although you can put them down in the order that you wish, you must reveal them in the order they are laid out – left to right one at a time. Of course, after each card is revealed there is a round of betting. So there are 10 rounds of betting all together and the pot is absolutely humungous. Don’t even think about folding in this game – it is positively bad etiquette to fold – and that’s not as mental as it sounds because as we shall see, you don’t just have to have the BEST hand to win this game.

This is where the second new rule comes in and I think it’s a cracker. Being a bit slow of the mark, it took me a while to understand this rule but once I finally got it I loved it: you have to “declare” whether you are going for the “high”, the “low”, or the “lot”.

The “high” is self explanatory – you are saying you have the best five card hand – if you do, you win half the pot.  If you are gunning for the “low” you are saying you have the worst five card hand out of your seven cards. But unlike in Omaha hi-lo, there are no qualifying low hands. In Omaha hi-lo, a low hand has to have all 5 cards below 8 and you can’t have a pair or better. But in this game the low is different. You just have to have the worst hand out of those who declare “low”. And this is key – you might the only player declaring “low”. If you are the only person declaring “low” you will automatically win half the pot. (In fact I wonder if it is worthwhile just declaring “low” 100% of the time and hoping you are the only one to go for it – you might even win the low on merit the times you do have competition?)

If you go for “the lot” then you must actually win both the high and the low. You get nothing if you declare “the lot” and then don’t win both the high and the low ends.  Harsh! But no doubt hilarious to your mates when your quads get shaded off by a straight flush for the high.

The declaration takes place after six of the seven cards have been revealed. You have a good idea what your opponent’s hands are but you don’t quite know for sure.  He might have a 3 for the nut low or an ace for quads. You want to reveal your most important card last, so there is a bit of skill in deciding the order of your cards before you lay them down.

Another thing – it is easy work for the dealer. You only have to deal seven cards to each player and that is job done! There’s no flop ,turn or river to worry about, added to which you probably only manage to get five hands per hour given all the rounds of betting.  But wheras you only get two cards each in Texas you get seven cards per player in Anaconda and with seven cards to start that’s most of the deck in play.

And this is the reason we couldn’t play that night. When we played the home game Ben was last to arrive. As he was the only person who had ever played Anaconda before, we really needed him there. I kept thinking “I hope Ben gets here soon so we can play Anaconda”. Sure enough he did turn up and I though “great, I’m finally going to play this game” until he glanced round the table and pointed out a simple fact:

“But we’ve got eight players!”

And that was that. It even hadn’t crossed my mind. Eight players = 56 cards required = no can do! Oh well, maybe next time.

Oh, I nearly forgot something Ben told me that amused me no end.

“One last thing”, he said, “it’s not called Anaconda – it’s ‘Ana-f**king-conda’”

Ha ha ha. It’s easy to see why with all those rules. More than one person told me in Las Vegas that Omaha Hi-Lo is always played by a table full of grumpy old men and having sat at a few games I can attest to that.   I bet those guys weren’t all misery guts until they played Omaha but the years of endless frustration that the game throws up just turned them that way: drawing to hands with 28 outs that don’t hit, holding the second nuts on the high and the low and losing both, not to mention the brutal suck outs. But I reckon Omaha Hi-Lo has got nothing on Anaconda when it comes to the frustration and misery that Anaconda could inflict. Fun as the game might be in small doses, I can perfectly understand why its name has changed to its new version.

Speaking of misery, my trip is almost at an end. Oh woe is me, cue the wailing of violins. I can’t believe 11 months could disappear so quickly but they have. I must say that my timing has been atrocious: when I landed in Brazil on 3 March I had just missed Carnaval. “Oh well never mind I’ll do next year’s”, I thought. Wrong! Carnaval is usually held in February but this year it starts on 4th March 2011 and if I don’t fly within a year of 3 March I lose my flight. So even if I did stay the full calendar year between 2010-2011 I would still miss the Carnaval. Talk about a bad beat!

Looking on the bright side, it is unbelievably expensive during Carnaval. Prices just go through the roof, by a factor of five to tenfold. Even the scummiest hotels charge $300 a night in Rio and a pint of Guiness costs…wait for it….. 20 euros a pint. (Of course you don’t HAVE to drink Guiness – there is Skol – but I’m just saying).

I’m already noticing the summer inflation because the high season runs from December-February in Brazil and I’m not exactly rich. Plus I’m still on the wagon and if I’m not drinking while an entire country gets on the piss for a WHOLE WEEK, you might well ask “what’s the point?” I suppose I can always come back for another Carnaval when I fall off the wagon or become rich or manage both.

So pretty soon, on a date yet unconfirmed, I will be back home. This is going to be a shock to the system because directly to my right, on the beach I can see 20 metres away, the temperature is nudging 40 degrees and at home it was frosty this morning. I don’t know how I am going to react to a 40 degree temperature drop but my guess is not very well.

Speaking of the weather, I was very worried on about 10th or 11th of January. With my friend and her daughter over on 15th January I wanted to show them round my favourite parts of Brazil but when I checked the ten day forecast it was forecasting thunderstorms every day for TEN DAYS!  I mean, I don’t care, but they were travelling 6000 miles for two weeks here.

Luckily, the weather has been great since their first couple of days – absolutely beautiful. But in my haste to capitalise on this I made a mistake I have seen many others make and that I should have had the experience to avoid. I didn’t bother putting on any sun cream, thinking it might be my last sun of the entire trip.

And I have paid the price!  I did have a lovely tan but now there is a huge area on my chest which has peeled off and is red underneath, giving me the impression of a man who has had a third degree burns down his neck (to be fair, I suppose it actually is a third degree burn).  Last time I got sunburned I went so red I said I looked like a crack addled Phil Mitchell in a really bad mood after being marinaded in a vat of red wine for a few days. But this is even worse. My friend’s daughter calls me “Mr Tomato face” and she is spot on to be fair.

Imagine a really angry Raoul Moat being told he was getting the sack from his job as a bouncer and coming back from a hard session of steroid fuelled weight lifting in the gym. Imagine he is then sitting on the bog, scowling, straining hard to curl one down due to a really bad case of constipation and imagine further that he glances out of his bathroom window to see the love of his life, Sam Stobbart, being given a good seeing to over the bonnet of his Ford Capri…..

….by a copper.

A copper in uniform no less, who catches Moaty glaring at him and just laughs and winks at him while making a rude hand gesture. He’d be pretty red by then I imagine.

Well that’s me – an imaginary roided up incandescant, constipated Moaty is pretty much what I looked like a couple of days ago.  And I was desperate for the hot weather.

Be careful what you wish for I suppose!


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