I had traveled down to Paradise Island in the Bahamas in search of some restful time with my wife. I had not planned on playing any poker whatsoever – since we were only going to be there for three nights – and my wife has no interest in poker, casinos, or gambling in general. But, as is often the case, I couldn't resist the temptation to find a local poker game while I was there. So poker in the Bahamas it was!
I knew that there was some no limit hold 'em action at Crystal Palace Casino - on the other end of Nassau, across the bay from Paradise Island. But I didn't want to travel that far. The Atlantis Casino was just a short walk away from my resort. But I learned that while they spread a couple of big tournaments each year, they did not have any regular poker action. So I asked around about any local private games.
As it turns out it's illegal for Bahamians to gamble in their casinos. They are only for tourists. But you can't keep a good thing down for long. So Bahamian poker players have managed to start underground games all over the place.
During my last visit I discovered two of these poker games. One was in a back room off of a back room in a sports club in the over-the-hill neighborhood in Nassau. The other was in the back of a Bahamian Restaurant right near the bridge from the main part of Nassau to Paradise Island.
Neither of those sites were convenient for a late night session after my wife went to bed (the only time I felt that I could play without violating our tacit agreement on my poker play for the trip). So I asked around for something closer.
Sure enough, there was a game literally within a stone's throw of where I was staying (I shant get any more specific lest the local constabulary figure out the location and bust this wonderfully convenient game). I discovered that they played there nearly every night – often until sunrise.
Bahamians don't play hold 'em, stud, or any other conventional poker game in their private poker clubs – at least not as far as I could tell. The game they play is 3 X 4. That's right! Like the plank of wood size: three by four. It's a great game, simpler that hold 'em, and with lots of action throughout. I've introduced it to some of my American poker-playing friends who have welcomed it. Here's how it's played in the poker clubs in the Bahamas.
Each player must buy in for what is called a "stock". A "stock" is just another word for your starting stack of chips or stack of bills. It identifies how big the game is. I've seen three variations: $100 stock, $50 stock, and $20 stock. This was a $20 stock game.
Players ante. In this game and in the $50 game we anted $1.00 each. In the $100 stock game they ante $5.00 each. Players are dealt three down cards. There is no blind. Players then have a betting round. There is no checking on the first round of betting. Players must bet or fold – "bet or get" as they say. If they bet, the minimum is the minimum chip or bill allowed in the game. For the $100 game it was $5.00. In the other two games it was $1.00. These were all no limit table stakes games. So the maximum bet was your entire stack. There was no reaching into your pocket for more money during the play of the hand.
After the betting is done, the dealer flops two mutual cards. There is another round of betting. When that betting is done, he flops two more cards. That second flop and final flop is followed by a final round of betting. Best high hand left at the showdown wins. There are no special hands or rules. In all other respects the game resembles hold 'em.
In the three sessions I've had in the Bahamas, the betting was wild and crazy much of the time. Here's a hand from my last session.
Philip: (x x x)
Andrew: (x x x)
Cole: (x x x)
Nazar: (x x x)
I had what I thought was a pretty good starting hand. As a stud player, who is familiar with starting three card hands, I knew that a pair of Jacks was above average at this stage - especially in a game of only five players. Ideally, I wanted to narrow the field — as I would try to do if I were playing stud. So I started out with an opening bet of $5.00.
Philip, to my left, immediately made it $20.00
This happened about fifteen minutes into my session. I had watched these players for a while. These guys were often wild. They often threw in their entire stack of $20. Philip had about $40 or so. So this was only half of his stack.
Andrew, Cole, and Nazar folded right away. I figured that I had come to play so I went all in with my remaining $15.00 (I had started the hand with just about $20.00).
They did not burn a card. The dealer, who was not in the hand, just slid two cards off of the deck. He did it with a certain flair, snapping the cards off the table and then slamming them into the table in one smooth move.
The dealer repeated this. This time he slammed them down one at a time.
We each turned over our hands.
Philip had . He won with a pair of Kings.
Cole said, "Damn man, I would have had a flush".
I bought in again.
A few hands later and I was dealt the following:
Nazar, to my right, led out with $1.00. This was a common opening bet. I raised to $5.00. Everyone folded. I won $6.00.
The very next hand and was dealt: .
Cole started off the betting. He bet $3.00
Nazar called $3.00.
I figured to have the best hand. I made it $10.00
Philip and Andrew folded.
The flop was .
Cole bet $20.
I raised going all in for $5 to $25.
Cole called me and smiled, flipping over his two pair. I turned my hand over too.
The final cards were the uneventful and .
I won my first contested pot.
It was 4:00 AM and I really needed to get back so I could sleep and wake up before my wife woke up for breakfast at about 9:30 AM. I decided that, either way, win or lose, this next one would be my last hand.
I had $36 left in my "stock", having bought in for a total of $60 over the night. If I folded after the ante I'd be down $15 - not much of a loss for a great story to write about and for a wonderful night's entertainment playing 3 X 4. But if I won I might leave with more money than I came with - making the night even more entertaining and the story even better.
The dealer was Phillip, to my immediate left.
He dealt me — a fine starting hand to end the night with I concluded.
Andrew opened for $1.00. Cole called and Nazar raised to $10.00.
I called. Everyone else folded.
The flop was: .
Nazar bet $10.
"Last hand," I said. "I'm all in". I pushed out my remaining $25.00 dramatically. I figured that with a flush and straight draw and the chance that he might fold, I had a good chance of winning this pot.
"Ohoo" smiled Philip. "He's trying to scare us" he chuckled - as did the other players.
Nazar thought for a while - very unusual in this game. He then called and said, "Kings", showing .
I smiled and turned over my hand: - a 4-flush, a 4-straight, an overcard, and a double belly buster royal straight flush draw. My hand was filled with possibilities. I had 16 outs (Three Aces, two Kings (he had the other two) four 8s, and seven other hearts).
The dealer added to the drama by laughing and holding the next flop card out, unturned. He then dramatically slammed it down.
OK. I just picked up 5 more outs - 21 total! All in all my odds of winning were nearly 50%!
The final card was again dangled out face down. And then
Nazar laughed in relief. I smiled in defeat, shook everyone's hand and went back to my hotel — a $60 loser but glad to have played this pleasurable game.