Bluff Magazine: 2-11 The Next Great Poker Game?

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Bluff Magazine – July 2008Adam Slutsky

If nothing else, my tenure at BLUFF has given me the opportunity to interact with a colossal assortment of unique and interesting people — people I never would have met scribing for other publications. And although I always do my best to chronicle my experiences for your reading pleasure, words alone cannot convey the innumerable amazing memories that have been forever cemented into my gray matter.

Just a few of the many that come to mind are: Marv, the reclusive UFO chaser in the high Sonoran Desert. “Paul Bunyan” and his poker-obsessed Bigfoot-hunting buddies up in Kettle Falls, Washington. And that scarier-than-Satan-with-a-rusty chainsaw marijuana cartel kingpin down in Juarez, Mexico. Good times all! However, while my most recent escapade offers very little in the way of high-octane adventure or taco-short-of-a-combo-plate zaniness, it is easily one of my all-time favorites. And that’s simply because it put everything I know and love about poker into perspective. On top of that, it reminded me the very reason that I — and most of you — learned to play the game in the fi rst place: Because it’s a helluva lot of fun!

The Original 2-11 Home Crew w/ Jamie Gold

The Original 2-11 Home Crew w/ Jamie Gold

The day’s exploits began at the offi ces of the Game Show Network in Los Angeles. My good friend, 2006 WSOP Main Event champion Jamie Gold, was there pitching a new TV show and it seemed like the perfect place to hook up. Jamie’s one of the few professional poker players who actually has a “day job” — president of production for BuzzNation, a multi-faceted entertainment company with an emphasis on reality television — and with his crazy poker tournament-related travel schedule and burdensome Hollywood workload, I don’t get to see him all that often, so this was a rare treat. But my get-together with Jamie was more than just a social gathering. You see this was a “working” trip for me. I had been invited to play in a long-standing home game (one that had been taking place for the better part of forty years!) where I would be given a journalistic exclusive on a brand spankin’ new poker game that is being groomed for mass consumption. And while I certainly love poker as much as the next guy, I’m hardly an expert on the subject. Far from it! So I fi gured who could possibly be better at evaluating a new game than someone who had mixed it up with many of the greatest poker players on the planet?

When Jamie fi nished his pitch, we were both famished; so we headed over to The Hidden, an eclectic restaurant in Santa Monica (3110 Main Street/310.399.4800) of which he is part owner. It’s not often you fi nd Spanish, Italian, Vietnamese, and Japanese cuisine on the same menu, but the chefs pull it off in high style. And as good as the food is, the layout and scenery are even better. Think HBO’s Entourage meets “Rehab” at the Hard Rock in Las Vegas. Open-air terraced tables, private and semi-private cabanas, an impressive sushi bar, and beautiful people as far as the eye could see — a descriptor that extends to staff and patrons, alike. Jamie did the honors, ordering a wide assortment of tapas: thin-crust ricotta pizza with spicy sausage, yellowtail sashimi marinated in yuzu, ultra-tender short ribs on lemon grass skewers, succulent kobe beef tacos… the food just kept on coming. I washed everything down with a couple of their signature cocktails, most notably a special martini melding Grey Goose vodka with nigori unfi ltered sake. Topped with gold leaf fl ecks, it is appropriately named after the 2006 WSOP Champ.

I had hyped Jamie about the poker game prior to meeting up and, I must confess, did a wee bit of fi bbing (well, maybe a little more than a wee bit) about the stakes. As you can imagine, he had numerous other offers for that evening’s entertainment but I assured him attending this game would be in his best interest. While en route to the game’s San Fernando Valley locale, Jamie queried me about the initial buy-in.

Jamie Gold Playing 2-11 Poker

Jamie Gold Playing 2-11 Poker

“Just how serious is this game?” he asked. “I really don’t have a lot on me.” I bit my lip to keep from laughing. “That’s cool. I got you covered,” I replied casually with the knowledge that Jamie probably had more cash in his front pocket than I had stashed in any of my offshore “getaway” accounts.


From a purely fi scal standpoint, the amounts the Chatsworth Crew routinely played for weren’t even in the same galaxy as the limits Jamie was accustomed to playing these days. But in terms of a social experience, I fi gured Jamie could probably use a break from the heart-in-the-throat action he had been experiencing since taking down the biggest fi rst prize in poker tournament history. For this game wasn’t about the money. And when you boil it all down, neither is poker, in general.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking and, yes, I fully understand the underlying principle of the game — to beat all of your opponents into submission, taking every last cent they have in front of them, in their pockets, and access to on their ATM and credit cards. But c’mon people, delve a little deeper. Factor in the camaraderie and the “daily grind escape” that your time at a poker table will provide. Dare I say it, but poker tables may just be the last bastions of fervent but respectful organized competition left on the planet. And that’s where Bruce Paul comes in.

An ardent card player for the last decade, the 55-year-old entrepreneur learned the game from his father, Eddie, a losing dice player (“Were he alive today, he’d tell you he was the table cooler,” quips Bruce) who eventually gave up on craps to focus on poker. For Bruce, it was love at fi rst sight and he began devouring books and magazines on the subject, anything and everything that offered information and advice. Before long, Omaha emerged as his favorite game. Online poker was an easy way to satisfy his cravings and he soon began taking down low- and mid-level buy-in SNGs on a regular basis. When his hunger for live poker turned ravenous, Bruce became a fi xture at numerous area home games, some meeting once a week, others biweekly, such as the one I’d been invited to.

One day, after another successful online session, the idea for a new game hit Bruce like a wrecking ball striking a dilapidated building. Rules, format, betting structure — the whole shebang for a unique Omaha-like split-pot game had embedded itself in his mind. So complete was the knowledge that he didn’t feel compelled to put it in writing straight away. This was his brainchild, fi guratively and literally, and there was no possible way he would forget any of the details. Needless to say, Bruce introduced the new game at his next card consortium and the other players loved it.

“I fi rmly believe the poker world is not only going to be about Hold’em in the future,” Bruce explains. “The public is hungry for a new game to stimulate the senses and this just might be it.”

The only thing the new game was missing was a name. As it turns out, that aspect was easier than its creation. Everyone the world over has lucky numbers — numbers they feel connected to. For Bruce Paul, that number is 211.

“Whenever the two-eleven shows up in my life, something is going to happen,” Bruce states adamantly. “There comes a point when coincidence simply doesn’t cut it. And anyone who really knows me is fully aware that 211 and I are forever linked.”

While Bruce relayed numerous stories of his 211 link, one of the more interesting tales involves an on-foot shortcut through a Tarzana alley where he spotted a can of an obscure brand of beer. A 211 logo was emblazoned on the can. A little research on my part revealed it to be Steel Reserve 211, defi nitely not the most common beverage.

Spontaneity plays a huge role in Bruce’s association with 211. It’s never anything planned. And as such, the discovery prompted him to visit Hollywood Park Raceway with a friend later that day. “I can’t really explain it, but it just seemed like the right place to go,” Bruce said.

And right it was! After three races, they were $3,450 ahead. Understand Bruce is about as close to being a bangtail handicapper as I am to being elected Hegemon of the Skinheads of America. Realizing that improving on their good fortune would be a diffi cult task, to say the least, they said goodbye to the racetrack and hello to Mastro’s Steakhouse for a no-holdsbarred dinner with all the trimmings. Long story short, when it came time to name his new game, 2-11 Poker was the obvious choice. That the title perfectly describes the game’s layout is, in a word, spooky, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

Jamie and I arrived at Bruce’s house where we were welcomed like long lost friends. And while the crew was stoked by my arrival — BLUFF was everyone’s favorite poker mag — they were especially jazzed to meet Jamie. Writers are a dime a dozen, especially in So Cal, but it’s not every day you get to mix it up with the winner of the largest, most prestigious poker tournament on the planet. In addition to the freshly-baked cake courtesy of Bruce’s daughter and a top-notch lox and whitefi sh spread that brought back memories of the Catskills, there was a heaping supply of fresh blueberries for Jamie.

During the sustenance session, introductions were made, the names sounding like a veritable rogues’ gallery of rounders and cardsharps. No wonder they were so quick to ply us with vodka and scotch. In the lineup was Robert “The Ice Man” Rock, Ed “Mr. Ed” Baker, Jay “Jay-Go” Goldfarb, Marvin “Ace of Diamonds” Mazviz, Jan “Help Me River” Neveaux, Alvin “Big Penny” Russell, Ron “Simi Valley Slim” Caro and, last but not least, Bruce “Mr. 2-11” Paul. Were it not for the fact that the freshly-felted table held less than a $1,000 total in custom clay poker chips — the initial buy-in was only $100 per man (you should’ve seen Jamie’s face when he realized this — absolutely priceless!) — I would have made a run for it. When the pleasantries were fi nished, it was time to play cards. Naturally, 2-11 Poker was the fi rst game to be dealt.

The way the game works is pretty straightforward and easy to grasp, even for a broccoli- brained writer like me. Just like in Omaha, after the blinds are posted, players are dealt four down cards apiece. But unlike Omaha, where you must use two cards from your hand, with this game you can use two or three cards. Lots of possibilities!

A round of betting follows and then the fl op hits the board — only in this case it consists of two cards, not three. Bruce is considering renaming it the lop (something that is cut off) to differentiate. Another round of betting is followed by the turn. Players bet again and then comes the river, after which the fi nal wagers are made. Four cards on the board, four in your hand, and just like Omaha, players are seeking their best fi ve-card high and low hands — with one more major difference. In Omaha, an 8-low is the condition. In 2-11 Poker, a 7-low is the magic number.

Visually, it takes a few times to “unlearn” traditional Omaha. But after playing it once, you’ll defi nitely want to play it again. And again. And again. That’s how it was for us that night; the action the game creates is off the hook. Put it this way: If you like Omaha, you’ll love 2-11.

Inventing a new poker game is one thing. Variations of innumerable funky home games have been played forever, all with different twists and turns. But Bruce is defi – nitely going that extra mile, although the distance he’s traveling is more like a marathon since he’s attempting to bring his game to the masses.

Patenting and a trademark were the fi rst steps, followed immediately by a determination of 2-11’s mathematical and statistical logistics. For that study, Bruce turned to Providence, Rhode Island’s Minimax Consulting. Rather than bore you with the entire prospectus, I’ll simply relate a summary of their fi ndings. In the words of Barron Gati, Minimax Consulting’s Chief Operating Offi – cer: “The game is both interesting and relatively easy to play. It has a similar structure to already popular games but has different enumerable boards, which drive the playability. Overall, we found the game enjoyable and very marketable. I do believe you have got something here.”

The professional opinion was music to its creator’s ears, prompting Bruce to begin licensing the game for play in the states with the greatest number of card rooms — namely Nevada, California, and Washington. As of this writing, applications are currently pending in the offi ces of the Nevada Gaming Commission, the California Department of Justice, and the Washington State Gambling Commission. Barring something unforeseen, legal or otherwise, there should be no snafus, leading one to believe that Bruce Paul’s 2-11 Poker marathon is rapidly closing in on the fi nish line.

Additionally, there’s already been considerable interest from the National League of Poker and more than a few online gaming sites, and Bruce is contemplating introducing 2-11 Poker to the world at this year’s WSOP Gaming Life Expo and/or the Global Gaming Expo in November. But if you can’t wait for an in-the-fl esh demonstration, check out: or call: 1-877-211-LUCK. There’s sure to be more information than I’ve provided.

Summing it all up, we played a ton of games that night, not just 2-11. A typical dealer’s choice home game, anything goes. Friendly doesn’t even hint at the table rules — $1 and $2 limit with NO check-raising — prompting Jamie to deal one game where a checking action forced that player to raise if he elected to call a subsequent bet. He also dealt a Hold’em variant with an ocean card — an extra card on the board after the river. Amazingly, despite the miniscule stakes, I still dropped $87! It should come as no surprise that Jamie was the big winner of the evening, pocketing $167. Had he been playing his “usual” stakes, that would have translated to a sum large enough to purchase a 2008 Aston Martin Vanquish, or something in that price range. But at the end of the evening, when all was said and done, the pluses and minuses were totally irrelevant. We were all big winners. And that, my friends, is what the game of poker is truly all about.

However, instead of trying to wax poetic and leave you with some eloquent saying, I’ll defer to the words of Bruce Paul, creator of the soon-to-be-everywhere 2-11 Poker and someone I’m delighted to call my friend: “When sitting at the poker table of life, there are two kinds of people. It’s up to you to determine who the angels are. They come in all different forms and each player you sit with will have a lesson for you. Sometimes the lesson says to give your aces away. When that happens, you have to ask yourself if you have the courage to let go of the small nugget. Generally, when you show courage, you gain the strength to handle the larger nugget.”


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