Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Maverick’s Guide to Poker; or, on the Omaha Trail

'Maverick's Guide to Poker' by Charles E. Tuttle (1994 reissue)Had a chance not too long ago to hit the used bookstores and grabbed me a couple of off-the-beaten-path poker books. One is a fairly straightforward strategy book by Irwin Steig called Common Sense in Poker. Published in 1963, so it’s primarily focused on stud games. The other was this cheapo-looking reprint of Charles E. Tuttle’s Maverick’s Guide to Poker. This edition is from 1994 (published to concide with the film starring Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, and James Garner), but the book was originally published back 1959 as Poker According to Maverick. Actually, Tuttle isn’t listed as the author -- the conceit here is Bret Maverick, the fictional character of the Maverick television series (which ran from 1957 to 1962), is the author, sharing with us his wisdom from the tables.

I’ve only just skimmed the book thus far. I’m seeing a few hokey poker stories, told in that faux-Old West style that can either be amusing or tedious, depending on yr P.O.V. Among Maverick’s “Ten Commandments of Poker” one finds the usual bromides (“Never draw to an inside straight,” “Never draw to a three-card flush”), plus one from the Old West and/or late 1950s: “Don’t play poker with women.”

'Poker According to Maverick' by Charles E. Tuttle (1959)The strategy portions cover draw and stud games, but there is a chapter on Hold ’em in here as well. I’m suspecting that chapter may have been added to the 1994 reissue. Hold ’em was around in 1959 -- Crandell Addington has said that was the year he first saw the game played -- but I don’t really see Tuttle giving a chapter to it like this back then. (By comparison, there’s no reference at all to Hold ’em in Steig’s book, published four years later.)

Further evidence that the chapter might have been added to the 1994 reissue is the fact that it ends with a couple of pages about Omaha, a game that Bob Ciaffone says originated in the early 1980s.

Then again, I could be wrong. At least one of the games referred to as Omaha in Maverick’s Guide to Poker actually does resemble an earlier variant that Ciaffone says preceded the game that Robert “Chip Burner” Turner and “an Oriental lady from the Seattle area named Gwen (nicknamed ‘The Dragon Lady’)” came up with in the Golden Nugget around 1982.

Maverick/Tuttle refers to three different Omaha games here:
(1) the variation of Texas Hold ’em in which the game is played the same except for the fact that instead of a three-card flop the cards come out one at a time, thus creating two extra betting rounds;

(2) what the author refers to as a “silly” game called “Mutual of Omaha” in which the game is played the same as regular Hold ’em except a player is allowed to purchase (for a predetermined price) an extra card after the river has been dealt -- an “insurance” card (get it?);

(3) the “Amarillo version” of Omaha in which the game is played just like regular Hold ’em except for the fact that the player has to use both hole cards to make a hand.
It’s that third variation -- the “Amarillo” game -- that most directly influenced what became the Omaha game with which we are familiar.

Never saw the TV series, but I do recall enjoying the film well enough. (Speaking of, I just noticed the PokerGrump recently reviewed the film.) Might end up giving this here volume a closer look after all. Hmm . . . what’s this chapter on “Poker Cheats” have to say? Stuff about signalling, marked decks, okay . . . . what’s the main point? Oh, here it is:

Never play with strangers.”

(Safe to say Maverick wouldn’t recommend playing online.)



Blogger Johnny Hughes, author of Texas Poker Wisdom, a novel said...

I write about Maverick in my novel, Texas Poker Wisdom. Check out the reviews and an excerpt at or

1/30/2008 12:36 PM  

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