Monday, July 20, 2009

July 20, 2009

The evolution of a home poker game is an interesting thing. Invariably, we all start by playing ‘kitchen table’ style, often at the actual kitchen table, tossing nickels and dimes and quarters into the pot and playing dealer’s choice games like Five Card Draw, Seven Card Stud, Low Chicago, Anaconda, and all the other variations. Then somebody actually buys some cheap dollar store-type chips, and perhaps a felt cover for the table. Maybe now you play in the dining room instead of the kitchen.

But soon you want a bigger game, and you switch to Texas Hold’Em. Now you get a poker table, and a new set of real chips. Then after a while, you tire of your set of chips, and you upgrade, and then you upgrade again. Eventually you have the set you’re happy with, a clay-plastic composite that you can riffle and do chip tricks with ease.

My friend Jeff (who we all call Teach, so I will refer to him as Teach for the rest of this post) hosts a game periodically, and is very proud of his chip set, which he purchased about two years ago. It’s a nice heavy set of clay chips, and generally everyone agrees that we like them the best of anything we have played with in the past as part of this game.

The one odd thing about this set, is the $10 chip. Now, anyone who plays poker regularly is used to the basic trinity of lower-level chip denominations: $1, $5, and $25. You rarely ever see a $10 chip, nor is it really necessary. Poker players are used to visual stimuli, and accustomed to the regular colours that are generally assigned to chip denominations. We know that whites are $1, reds are $5, and greens are $25. So when you look across the table at a player’s stack to try and assess what they have, you can pretty much figure it out on a visual cue, based on the size and colour.

The introduction of a $10 chip (which is blue) messes with everything a player is used to. Now, there’s a stack of blue chips that you have to figure into your visual assessment. I’m not saying that I’m not bright enough to be able to add this to my mental arithmetic repertoire, I’m just saying that it’s an unnecessary addition whose only effect can be to change the accustomed parameters of the game. Imagine looking at a chess board and seeing that someone had added a row of red checkers in front of the row of pawns.

Let’s assume a person casually tosses four chips into the pot. Whether you want to admit it or not, as a regular player, your brain is telling you that the bet is either $4, $20, or $100. Now, with the new $10 chip, a $40 bet is also an option. I submit that based on what you are accustomed to, your brain doesn’t want to recognize this new option. When someone bets with whites or reds or greens, the bet is clear…however, when someone bets with blue $10 chips, invariably someone asks what the bet is (I would guess about 75% of the time). Even if it’s something as innocent as leaning over and asking “Is that $30?”, it’s still a new added step that is unnecessary. I know it’s just a few seconds, but it slows the game down. I’m not in a rush, I just don’t see the point in introducing something if it slows the game down, with no real upside.

And that’s the thing, I can’t find an upside to the $10 chip. If I could, I don’t think I would care that much. The only thing I can think of is that it allows the host of the game to use less physical chips, which means less space in cases, and in your home. However, any poker player knows that we all love big stacks, and we love to have a big mound of chips in front of us. It’s a visual treat, good for your own mental state, and can be psychologically intimidating to other players. (see picture below) Now, a stack of 120 white chips is replaced by 12 blue chips. Much less effective.
Plus, I always see betting errors with $10 chips. People throwing chips in thinking that they are $5 chips, and being forced to bet more (often double) than they intended. Again, no upside, only potential problems.

In short, I don’t like the $10 chip. At all.

Teach disagrees with me, and insists that it belongs in the game. I’ve offered him a chance to write a rebuttal to this post, which I will post fully complete and unedited if (ahem….cough…I mean ‘when’) he sends it to me.

Poker players and non-players alike: your thoughts on the $10 chip? Discuss below.


Kev said...

That picture reminds of a time when Jer used to win at poker.
Ahhhh the good old days!

any2crds said...

AH.. the $10 chip. Pokers answer to the salad fork. Its there for the taking and the appearance of sophistication but its never really used. It does nothing but confuse the individual sitting at the table and wondering "when do i use this?".

I believe might come in handy in a limit game of 5/10. But who plays limit.... its like kissing your sister. Even when playing HI Stakes, its 5,25,100 and 500 chips. Having said that, some $100 chips are hard to see in a pot and get confused with the red chips. I have only seen that with the Brass Tangiers chips, not the Paulsons. I digress...