Al Martinez: Poker twist draws new players to card game

Aug 11, 2012   //   by admin   //   Magazines, Press  //  Comments Off on Al Martinez: Poker twist draws new players to card game

It came to him in a flash of lightning and a roar of thunder not unlike the way Moses must have received the message from God to lead his people out of Egypt. In the case of Bruce Paul it didn’t involve salvation, but rather chips and cards. He was told to invent a new poker game.

“It was a spark out of nowhere,”

he said the other day, dealing cards on a glass-top table in his Chatsworth home. He is an amiable man of 58 with thinning straight-back hair and rimless glasses, looking more like a teacher than a poker player. He added: “I had no plans to invent a game.”

He was showing me how his game was played. It’s a variation of Omaha, which itself was introduced 30 years ago, the last new poker game to “hit the felt,” as they say. You can check out its rules online. I lack the space and the wit to unravel them for you.

I’m what is known around poker gatherings as a fish, the guy who is pretty clueless about poker. Even the language of the game is foreign to me – terms like “burn,” “button” and “cold call.” I watched Paul deal the cards to demonstrate his creation and heard what he said, but I quit studying poker years ago when I figured out how to play five card draw, and anything beyond that is Chinese.

Paul’s dad had been a gambler back in Texas, and in later years Paul began playing poker, but not with any serious intent. Then about five years ago there was that epiphany, that flash of light, and he began putting together what he calls 2-11 based on a facet of the game and numbers that kept popping up in his life, the way 11:11 keep popping up in mine.

He showed a bunch of the good old boys how to play 2-11 and they loved it. Then he had it mathematically analyzed and the company that did the work predicted that he had a winner. But it was Paul’s introduction of 2-11 to the world that convinced him he had something special.

That occurred during the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. He set up a table at the accompanying gaming expo to demonstrate his invention. “For four days they lined up to play,” he said, “and then I knew it would be a great game played by thousands.”

During the demonstration he met the marketing director of the Bell Gardens Bicycle Card Casino, who initiated efforts to get Paul’s game into the club.

“Anyone who knows anything about poker knows the Bike,”

Paul says. “It’s the fourth largest card room in the world.” During a tournament there, 259 played 2-11 in a single day. Paul was beside himself with delight.

Now the more he licenses the game in different clubs, the more money he’ll make, but one wonders if that’s really his point. It may be enough to know that the flash of lightning five years ago produced something that bears his stamp and figures to last for a very long time.

Al Martinez writes a column that appears in the Los Angeles Daily News on Mondays and Fridays. He can be reached at

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