Holiday Shopping for a Poker Player


by Adam Marshall | December 7, 2009

Shopping for a poker player is trickier than you think. The first impulses of many well-meaning mothers and girlfriends are quite often...well...terrible. It's not their fault though. During the poker boom a lot of poker-related products were flooded into stores. They appear in glossy ads touting them as being "the perfect gift for your poker hubby" (kill me). Don't get me wrong, some of them are novel or useful. A lot are just spin-offs of old trustworthy poker products. The majority of these trend-capitalizing poker baubles, however, are complete crap.

So as Texas holdem website owner, a serious poker player, and total hater, here's my holiday gift guide to help you sort through the jungle of trinkets, starting with some do-nots.

Do Not Buy...

Novelty Garbage. That t-shirt with a royal flush that says "ALL IN!" makes poker players want to puke. Some of us might wear it as a joke but never in a poker room, at least not right-side-out.

Other general non-recommendations include anything normal with a poker added, like candles with spades and clubs on them. Or poker-themed glassware. Another great one is a sign that says, for example, "Adam's Poker Room!"

Yes, I got all of those things. If you are the friend or mother responsible for those gems, I'd like to come clean: when I said I liked it, I was bluffing.

Random Poker Books. Again, the poker boom caused some books to come out that were not the best. Some were just restating old theories, others babbling about pointless ideas, or the worst ones were giving money-losing poker advice. If you are going to arbitrarily buy a book, remember that despite being hundreds of years old, poker has changed significantly as a game in the last decade, so newer material is often better. Or look for my favorites list on the next page.

Plastic Poker Chips. Those blue-red-white kinds that you see at department stores are not acceptable poker chips. I mean, they function...it's tough for a small circular disc to not work. On quality though, plastic chips are too light, they don't shuffle, and only stack if you line up the little ridges.

* A good indicator that the chips are bad is when they come in a brittle plastic tray, like what girl scout cookies come in. Buy Tagalongs instead. Mmmmmm.

Poker Magazines. Although I hesitate to say it, it's just a general trend that print media is dying. A lot of subscription-based poker magazines are already half-full of ads nowadays. Instead I recommend using the series of tubes that is the internet to accomplish your pulp poker needs. Sorry old people!

Automatic Shufflers. With one major exception (see the next half), automatic shufflers are generally terrible. They usually take more time to fiddle with than it would to actually hand shuffle the deck. Plus they don't really do a good job, in my opinion. The one I got years ago took 30 seconds to load for one single riffle, which it got right half the time. I'm still trying to think of spare part applications for it.

I'll recommend what poker stuff to get that is permissible, and possibly even awesome, in the next section:

...Poker gifts you SHOULD get


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