Whether alone, in groups, or hanging out in cyberspace, legions of gamers are discovering, and rediscovering, the hold'em and fold'em fun of poker. Thanks in part to the phenomenon of ESPN's World Series of Poker, and a plethora of online sites, a whole new generation of players is putting on its poker face and anteing up.
"I was surprised at how much fun it is," said Stothers, an Oakley resident. "I started foolin' around online and then thought it would be fun to play with the kids; it's good for the math skills and it's nice to have something we can do together."
"I'm a long-timer," said Buzzard, a senior at Liberty High. "I've been playing since I was about 13 or 14. It's fun because the game is different every time. You think you know what is going to happen, but it can always change."
Depending upon your vision - and your pocketbook - finding a spot to play a hand of Texas Hold'em can be a simple matter of clearing off the kitchen table, or plunking down some cash for a more professional environment.
David Lewis, owner of Play At Home in Brentwood and Antioch, says he has seen a steady stream of interest in poker accessories for a couple of years now. According to Lewis, enthusiasts can set themselves up with a table and the works for as little as three hundred dollars, or invest as much as a few thousand.
Aside from the requisite table and chairs, poker pieces can include monogrammed plastic or clay chips, and the popular plastic-coated cards; also available in different colors. "Those are great because they don't bend and they don't get stained," said Lewis.
Local retailers like HomeGoods and Not Native in Brentwood also sell a variety of poker accessories including felt tables that fit right over a kitchen or dining room table and can seat as many as 8-10 players. Clients enjoy creating their own custom rec and game rooms, and poker tables are a natural fit.
"We've seen it all," said Lewis. "We get customers who come in and order a table for $1,200 and some leather chairs, and others who want to go for something a little less. It just depends upon what you want."
And for parents, knowing where their teenager is on a Friday or Saturday night is well worth the price of a poker ensemble, accessories and some munchies.
"Oh, yeah, there are certainly worse things the kids could be doing on a Friday night," said Stothers, who has a 16-year-old son. "I'm all for knowing where Nick (her son) is. I'm happy to keep them in pizza and soda and have them here."
For teens, it's a great way to hang out with friends while perfecting their game, and perhaps more importantly, their poker faces.
"It's a way to kick back with my friends," said Orman, a senior at Liberty High School. "We play as often as we can. My poker face? I smile a lot when I play poker."
"Sometimes I'll wear sunglasses," said Buzzard, referring to his poker face. "But most of the time I don't need them. It's just fun; we've started playing sometimes at 8 at night and go till 3 in the morning."
But in the end, toothpicks and an old deck of cards will also do the trick. The real
appeal, gamers agree, lies in the camaraderie and skill.
"All you really need to play poker are some cards and chips," said Lewis.
And, of course, the pizza.