Ten Commandments of Poker - Circa 1959

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25 July 2006, Created By: Chuck Ansbacher
Ten Commandments of Poker - Circa 1959
An extremely interesting book recently came into my possession: "Poker According to Maverick." Written by, and based on, the fictional character Bret Maverick who was played by James Garner in the Television series "Maverick" (1957-1962), this book is possibly one of the earliest poker guides ever written. At a cost of only 35¢, it may have also been one of the cheapest. Although often hammed up in an early Hollywood style, the book is meant to be taken seriously and is offering sound advice.

Poker According to Maverick

Published in 1959 - more than 10 years before Johnny Moss ever became a WSOP champion - the book provides valuable insight into what the face of poker was like pre-World Series. Not only is there no mention of the game of Texas Hold'em, there is no mention of any form of community card poker games whatsoever. According to Maverick, Five-Card Draw is the toughest of the poker games, Five-Card Stud is the most scientific, Seven-Card Stud is the fastest, most action packed variety of poker, and High-Low Stud is a completely insane game that only maniacs should compete in.

Those are the only games that Maverick devotes any serious attention to. But while all of those games are fairly obsolete, or at least footnotes in the grand scheme of modern poker, much of the strategy that Maverick discusses in his guide is still fairly valuable and surprisingly relevant. Most of the language is campy and outdated, but the main themes are all present and are clearly laid out in a chapter that Maverick calls "Ten Commandments for Poker Players."

Here are Maverick's "Ten Commandments":
1. If you don't have a fighting hand, drop it and wait for another.
2. In five-card stud, never draw a third card unless your hole card or your open card either equals or tops the highest card showing around the table. A back-to-back pair is an exception, of course.
3. In draw poker, "Jacks-or-better" to open, never call an opener unless you have the pair of Jacks beaten.
4. Never draw to an inside straight.
5. Never draw to a three-card flush.
6. Always call a known bluffer if you have a better than average hand.
7. Don't play poker with women.
8. Don't play with men who can't afford to lose.
9. Don't play yourself, if you can't afford to lose.
10. If you find yourself in a losing streak, relax and wait! There always will be another hand or even another game.

So yeah, those all seem like pretty good rules for all poker players to live by, right? Don't play beyond your means. Don't chase flushes. Don't play bad hands. Don't play with women. Wait - Don't play women? Um, Maverick?

Fortunately, Maverick elaborates further into the chapter. Of all the Commandments, he feels that the seventh is the one that should easily speak for itself. He says that although women are very cunning and have alleged powers of intuition, they are not good poker players. They have trouble with the rules of the game and the laws by which odds operate, since "in everyday life, so many exceptions to the rules are made for women that they find it hard to believe these exceptions don't exist in poker."

Maverick also believes that women are far too curious to ever win at poker. "Women's curiosity is so overpowering that it is almost impossible to drive one of them out of a hand. The result is that while they occasionally win a big one, they lose much more often, forcing the men in the game to relieve them of much coin."

Well, ok then. Now I understand where the guy was coming from. I was planning on going on some big tirade about how sexist Maverick was, and how we're all very lucky that society has matured over the past half century, and thank God women are given more credence in the game of life, as well as in the game of poker. But I can't really argue with what The Mav was saying. I guess that in poker, while certain games may gain or lose popularity, there are many things that will always be constants. From this day forth, I'll never play poker with women again.

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