On point: A trivial anecdote about not getting impaled by sharp objects

October 27, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
Oct. 27, 2014

One recent evening, I was playing — and playing well — in a World Tavern Poker tournament in a billiards and sports bar called Buck’s. This establishment is located in southwest Raleigh, except maybe, as it turns out, it’s actually just across the border in Cary, North Carolina. When I disclosed my confusion about this point to a friend, she suggested that we just think of Buck’s as being in a place she called Careigh.

Done and done.

Anyway, it was break time for the early tournament at Buck’s. In North Carolina, break takes place after the first four blind levels: 100-200, 200-400, 300-600 and 500-1,000.

Break lasts a few minutes — five or so in a small tournament with a director who is on top of things, 15 or 20 in a game with a lot of players and/or a game with a tournament director who enjoys chatting or stepping outside for a cigarette.

There’s also vital business to be conducted during the break, mainly by the director and his or her assistants. First, players count and stack their low-denomination chips — reds and greens, which respectively are designated as having 100 and 500 nominal units of value. Then the director and the aides travel from table to table, distributing the equivalent amount of high-denomination chips — blacks and grays, respectively worth 1,000 and 5,000 units.

This process is called “chipping up,” and it’s the poker equivalent of making change. Of course, it’s not exactly like making change; occasionally the players get a little extra. Directors often round up to the next 1,000 for players who have anywhere from 500 to 900 spare chips.

There are variations. Some directors will round up to 1,000 if a player has 300 or more stray chips. Some directors will round up to the next 1,000 if a player has any extra reds or greens. Some directors will do a run-off, in which each player gets a card for each stray red chip; the person with the best hand wins the run-off and gets 1,000, while the others get nothing. These techniques can be combined: The TD will round up for every 500 or more a player holds and do a run-off for the excess reds that remain.

Once everyone has been appropriately compensated, the director and the helpers — which often include regular players sitting at the tables — will stack the chips so they’re ready to be distributed for the start of the next game. In many places, the stacks consist of 15 reds and three greens. (That’s 3,000 total units, for those of you keeping track.) Buck’s does it differently: 10 reds and two greens.

Anyway, that’s how it usually works. On this particular evening, I’d finished stacking and lining up unneeded low-denomination chips. I’d done pretty well, so I had a hefty bankroll. Now the challenge would be to keep it — or better yet, to expand on it.

I stood around aimlessly for a few moments, lost in thought. Then, after absent-mindedly deciding to head to the bathroom, I began walking around the right side of the table.

As I did, I noticed what appeared to be an open, empty glasses case resting atop a high stool sitting by one of the table’s corners. I stared at it, puzzled, not only because I’d never seen it before but because it was oddly shaped. Also, frankly, I couldn’t fathom why anyone would leave it lying around…

Then someone, “Ahem.”

I looked up. A woman named Andrea was standing to my left, just past the stool. She was holding three darts, and she was facing…the dartboard on the wall to my right.

I started. “Oh!” I exclaimed. I hustled out of her way.

Then I started laughing. “Well,” I told her, “I’m glad somebody was paying attention!”

“I always pay attention,” Andrea replied.

I smiled and walked away, shaking my head at my own obliviousness.

— End scene —

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