If, like me, you spent large chunks of your twenties meeting for five-card stud poker, which generally involved getting together with a bunch of friends with some pennies and some suds, and using the whole exercise as a pretext to shoot the shit with oddball conversationalists who didn’t mind congregating in oddly decorated and often smoky dens, then you were probably somewhat annoyed by the rise of Texas Hold ‘Em. The winner-take-all approach changed everything. People no longer wanted to converse. They wanted to win. Even if it was some measly $60 pot. And the emphasis shifted entirely to money. No longer could a ridiculous bluff be thrown into the fray to remind people that it was only a game. For it was always clear that this version of poker hardly reprsented the kind of brash, seemingly Iacocca-inspired intensity that seems to fuel today’s young poker-playing pipsqueaks.
What was particularly annoying about all this is that when Texas Hold ‘Em became the jeu du jour, everyone wanted to play nothing but Texas Hold ‘Em, which left the five-card stud afficionados (well, really those of us who enjoyed conversing while playing) left in the dust, forced to move on to some nonexistent territory like a Cherokee pushed west.
But it turns out that we five-card studders may have the last laugh. CNN reports that poker-themed television shows and merchandise sales are plummeting. Curiously, Teaxs Hold ‘Em (and this shift in rules) isn’t even mentioned in the article. But when you perpetuate a game in which you can’t walk away with anything if you lose and the level of playing is amped up to an intensity that precludes socialization, it’s no surprise that “macho-man type of people” are the only ones left.
But five-card stud is still there for the rest of us. Who knows? Maybe it will be to the 2000s what bridge was to the 1950s. But I think we can keep poker somewhat illicit by reminding people of another form of five-card stud. I can confirm from personal experience that it is quite enjoyable (and, in fact, if you apply Texas Hold ‘Em rules to it, it isn’t any fun at all). It’s a little thing called strip poker.