DEALING with it

A LEAGUE OF OUR  OWN | Flirting can be used to your advantage when playing poker in a gay league. Just ask Pocket Rockets founder Jeff Teller. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

Even with Lady Gaga’s advice, poker face does nothing to help the couch potato know when to hold ’em and fold ’em in gay traveling card tourney

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Playing for money without really playing for money is my kind of betting. With gas at three bucks a gallon, my wallet is screaming for help, but Pocket Rockets turns me into one high roller. All I really have to dole out is a couple of bucks for drinks and put on a poker face for some Texas Hold ‘em action at three clubs around the gayborhood. The best part — total exhilaration — comes even when my ass is handed to me by my opponent’s full house.

“We go out of our way to make sure people are comfortable in poker setting,” says owner Jeff Teller. “It’s just about fun.”

At Sue Ellen’s on a recent Tuesday, I got my game on. Activities that involve sitting while partaking of alcohol are ideal for the dedicated couch potato. The cardio behind it is just my speed at the deal … but seriously, poker is stressful. Thinking it would be all drinks and laughs, the “fun table” was just as serious as the tournament final table dealing across the dance floor. I’d played Texas Hold ‘em once before at some friends’ loft. Once. And that was three years ago. Without Cliff’s Notes in hand, I was about to be “that guy.” But once people figured I was the speed bump, they all pitched in to help.

“Lots of people are intimidated by poker, but we’re really friendly,” Teller assures. “[My partner, Aaron Ahamed and I] were nervous our first time. The one thing we do at our league is, we emphasize good sportsmanship. I really feel that enables us to bring in new players.”

By day, Teller is a yoga teacher and licensed massage therapist, but his interest in poker got him started on the path with his new company.

Poker isn’t new to Dallas gays: The Round-Up Saloon hosts a Wednesday tourney that goes on hiatus for a while after each championship. Pocket Rockets, however, runs continuously, offering prizes each night (which I didn’t win).

Teller says up to 45 players will play on any given night, which (as of now) takes place four times a week. Along with Sue Ellen’s on Tuesdays, Pocket Rockets hosts poker tourneys at TMC: The Mining Company on Thursdays and at the Brick Saturdays and Sundays. Teller and Ahamed plan to keep players going at each of those venues while adding more.

“We’re making an effort to get out there, be involved,” he says. “We started going and went to a couple of other leagues and thought how nice it’d be to put emphasis on gay community.”

My night of play, despite my half-hearted efforts in true CPAJ style, left me a total loser. My first plan of attack wasn’t working: Fold and never bet until people fell out of the game. This was not a good idea. Confusion led to checking which led to unfortunate bets. When I looked down I had less than 10 chips — just over a $1,000. This was the inevitable “fuck it moment” and I went all-in with a hand that I felt confident about … too confident as it turned out.

With an ace and a queen in hand and an ace and queen on the table, I had a strong two pair hand. I was edging, trying not to jump ahead to do my “in your face” dance. Something about a side bet would have put me back on track but another player won with his ace and king, also mirrored on the table. One other player had his ace but a weaker hand. It was climactic and the table rallied with “ohhhs” as each hand revealed.

“Yeah, there’s that drama because queens are playing,” Teller says. “ Some people take their game so seriously that you’d think the Super Bowl was going on. You can’t help the drama.”

I have no idea what he’s talking about.

Going in as a novice, margaritas and beers obviously did not affect my judgment, but Teller still gave me tips on how to be ready for the next time.

“Sense you’re players and if they are cute, that could work in your favor,” he says. “You can distract with flirtation and then all of the sudden take him out. And glute exercises, because sometimes you’re sitting for hours at a time.”

Wait, exercise? Ugh.

For more information, visit PocketRocketsDallas.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 25, 2011.

—  John Wright