To Hold ‘Em or Fold ‘Em

It’s Wednesday night and I am taking part in the weekly ritual that a lot of Murfreesboro residents have recently caught on to. I am about to play Texas Hold ’Em poker.

Like so many times before, I come to a point where I have to make a decision on whether I should check, raise or fold. Beside me, Jason Merryman, a newcomer to poker is still in the hand and he seems to have an advantage over me with nearly twice as many chips as I have. I ask him how long he has been playing poker and his response is he’s only been playing since this past summer.

Like a lot of people, Merryman became a fan of the game by watching it on television. In the past year, television has boosted the popularity of the game with programs like The World Poker Tour, The World Series of Poker and Celebrity Poker.

I wonder how lucky I might be in the hand, and ask Merryman about luck. ’If you get the cards, then you get the cards,’ he tells me, ’but it’s mostly a mind game.’

Texas Hold ’Em is a game where the right cards can mean everything, but the way that you bet is a major aspect as well.

Billy Webb has been playing this form of poker for nearly eight years and also thinks skill is involved in the game. That is why he believes most people are starting to play the game more often, he said.

’There is a rush when you bluff someone out or when you are waiting on them to decide to call your bet. It’s not just playing cards, there is an excitement to it,’ he said. ’And it’s easy to learn. Anyone can win.’

Winners can come from anywhere’the 2003 winner of the World Series of Poker on ESPN was Chris Moneymaker, a former Tennessee accountant. Moneymaker won his seat from one of the many online

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poker sites. By winning the entire tournament on television, Moneymaker may have possibly started a trend all across America, including here in Murfreesboro.

Many of the local bar and grills around town such as Bluesboro and Coconut Bay Caf’ hold free weekly games in which players can come in and win prizes. This is what brought me to Fanatic’s under the Doubletree Hotel on Old Fort Parkway. On Wednesday nights at 8:15 p.m., 35-drawn-at-random names are called and seated at tables in the restaurant where they begin their night of drinks, laughter and cards.

Many of the patrons are regulars to the poker night and recognize each other. One regular to Fanatic’s, and no stranger to winning, is Kevin Mitchell.

Mitchell won Fanatic’s overall final tournament by lasting through the semi-finals and being the winner in the finals on Jan. 25. The prize for the tournament was a round trip ticket, and room at the MGM in Las Vegas.

According to Mitchell, the thrill in the game is the unknown. While eating his free meal, compliments of winning the $25 gift certificate the winner of each table receives on any non-tournament Wednesday night, he discusses his love for the game.

’It’s the unknown,’ he said. ’It could be your night . . . might not be.’

He only plays for fun, he said, and actually sold his trip to Vegas.

Mitchell believes that luck is more at stake than skill.

’I definitely believe in luck,’ he said. ’It’s probably 98 percent luck and 2 percent skill.’

He must be a lucky guy, because he won five straight weeks at Fanatics prior to this night, and out of the 100 home-games he has played, he claims to have won close to 70 of those.

Mitchell also believes that the television coverage is mainly responsible for the recent growth in poker popularity, as wells as its ease of play.

’Anyone can pick it up,’ Mitchell said.

He plays as often as possible at Fanatic’s and at home and he regularly practices a lot on the internet on sites such as

pokerroom.com and ultimatebet.com.

So here I am staring down at those 7s and at three community cards that, if paired, could beat my hand. I wonder whether luck is on my side or not. I consider what cards my new friend, Merryman, is holding and if he is trying to play mind games with me.

Anticipation is building as I bet him and wait on his call. My mind races as he raises my bet and I decide, wisely, to lay my cards down and fold.

This was just not my hand, but the psychology of it is the reason why I keep playing. It may be the reason most people keep playing. It may be the opportunity to test one’s luck that has people playing. Whatever the reason may be, Texas Hold ’Em is sweeping the nation, and Murfreesboro is certainly not left out.


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The Murfreesboro Pulse: Middle Tennessee’s Source for Art, Entertainment and Culture News.

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