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The Hipster Holiday Home Game Where Nobody Knew How To Shuffle The Cards

by Houston Curtis |  Published: Dec 30, 2020


The holiday season is now behind us, and what I missed this year more than anything was the home games. One game I remember fondly came a week before Christmas in 2003. I found myself at a no-limit hold’em game in Silverlake, California. For those that don’t know, Silverlake is kind of like a hipster haven that is located somewhere between Hollywood and Glendale.

A buddy of mine had set up the game and he was pretty excited because he had a couple actors coming to it. One of actors attending the game was this up-and-coming, flavor-of-the-month kid who had been on one of those Disney-style shows as a child, and now had a new action movie out. Now, I can’t remember his name (he didn’t last long) or the name of the film (it wasn’t worth remembering) but I do recall what happened at the game that night.

The first guy to show up was my buddy Mike. Like myself, Mike was a television producer and he and I had worked together on many different projects. However, this would be my first time playing cards with him.

In fact, as I looked around the room, I began to realize that aside from my friend Ash, who set up the game, I had never played with any of these cats before. But there they were, cash in hand and excited to get the cards in the air. One dude even came wearing a Santa hat which I thought was a nice touch.

Like most games in the early days of the poker boom, it was Texas hold’em only. Ash dealt the first hand of the night and I was pleased to see two of the newbs wasted no time by immediately getting it all in preflop. The first hand!

My buddy Mike was one of the all-ins. I’ll never forget seeing him and his opponent turn their cards over to watch a showdown between J-9 offsuit and Q-3 suited before the deck was even warm! Mike hit a nine on the flop and but the other guy went runner, runner to backdoor a flush.

I looked up, excited about these newcomers who were in the giving spirit, and caught eyes with Ash, who just quietly mouthed back, “Christmas come early.” At least that’s what we thought.

When Ash was done dealing, he passed the deck to the guy on his left. Now it was the child actor-turned-action star turn to deal. When handed the deck, the actor dude looked at Ash like he was crazy and said, “Oh, I didn’t think I would have to be dealing tonight. I just came to play.”

And then, as if it were a totally normal procedure, the kid just handed the deck back to Ash. He didn’t even know enough to pass it to his left. Of course, nobody said anything because the actor was the “draw” for the evening so to speak, and I for one, don’t like to clear out the cobwebs when there’s a lot of flies swarming around.

Ash politely handed the deck to the next person and said, “Looks like you’re up pal.”

The next guy with the deck was some dude from Silverlake who dressed like it was still 1993. This cat looked like a cross between Eddie Vedder and a Venice street bum. And he reeked of that weird incense people used to burn in their car or apartment to try and hide the smell of weed. It was like smelling a skunk covered in pine needles.

With about as much confidence as a one-legged man in an ass kicking competition, this dude picked up the deck backwards and started overhand shuffling it with all the cards facing outward in plain sight. I was loving it because all the cards were staring me right in the face, but Ash was sitting on the other side of the table and knew I had a sharp eye, and he wasn’t going to let that fly. He told “Eddie” that he had to keep the cards on the table.

The guy looked at Ash like he had asked him to solve the riddle of the sphinx and said, “This is the only way I know how to shuffle man. This guy here (pointing to the actor) didn’t even have to shuffle, why do I have to shuffle?”

Try Not To Shuffle Like This!Then, almost as if on cue from a Quentin Tarantino film, every guy around the table began to pipe in one by one with their own opinion on how the game should be ran. To Ash and my surprise, not a single one of these dudes had expected they would have to deal. In a home game!

They were all belly aching at once when Ash yelled, “Guys…it’s a f***ing card game! Why would you come to play if you didn’t want to get your pansy ass hands near a deck of cards?”

I had already figured out the answer to this question, but the actor saved me the trouble by standing up and saying, “I’m out bro. I watched Chris Moneymaker win the World Series of Poker and he never had to shuffle the deck one f***ing time!”

At that point, you would think there would be an uncomfortable silence around the room followed by an eruption of laughter. Nope! All of these yahoos were nodding in agreement with him!

I signaled to Ash to concede, asked the actor dude to stay, and politely offered to be the sole dealer for the night. That only to caused Ash to do a spit take with his beer. After throwing out a few different solutions, including a crash course in how to deal poker, we all ended up canceling the home game entirely and heading to the Hollywood Park Casino. At least there, these guys would only have to hold on to two cards at a time and got to feel like they were on TV.

We all got separated at the casino and I took my place at my old familiar stomping ground in the top section playing pot-limit hold’em. To my delight, about an hour into the game, the actor sat down with three racks of $10 chips he had earned playing in the $10-$20 limit game. Apparently, he had been playing at the casino quite a bit and even seemed to know a few of the regulars at the table.

It took about 45 minutes before he went broke and had to head to ATM and reload for the minimum buy in. I got a piece of him, but he basically got chopped up between myself and seven other grinders at the table. It looked like a bunch of vultures feasting on the remains of fresh road kill.

So, what is the point to my little story? Don’t be afraid to learn how to handle a deck of cards!

Some of today’s best players grew up playing online poker, and have never dealt a hand of cards in their life. I feel like learning how to handle a deck is kind of like, shaving or driving a car. It’s a rite of passage, especially if you love the game of poker. Plus, it just can’t hurt to learn the basic mechanics that go along with shuffling and dealing a square game of hold’em.

While I’m quite certain the actor kid would have still lost at our home game, had he known how to shuffle, he would have at least had a shot. Hell, he might have even won a few pots off the other newbs, and he definitely would have had a better time. Learning the dealing procedure is not difficult and it teaches you a lot about the game while giving you a different vantage point that can prove valuable to you in the long run.

So, in the spirit of the Christmas home game that never was, I wanted to give Card Player readers a free tutorial on how to handle a deck of cards. Simply head to or check it out on my Kardsharp YouTube page.

Houston CurtisHouston Curtis, founder of and author of Billion Dollar Hollywood Heist has lived a successful double life as both a producer and high stakes poker player for nearly 30 years. His credits include executive producing gambling-related TV shows such as The Ultimate Blackjack Tour on CBS, The Aruba Poker Classic on GSN and pioneering the poker instructional DVD genre with titles featuring poker legend Phil Hellmuth.

Barred for life from Las Vegas Golden Nugget for “excessive winning” at blackjack, Houston is one of the world’s most successful card mechanics and sleight-of-hand artists of the modern era. Curtis, who rarely plays in tournaments, won a 2004 Legends of Poker no-limit hold’em championship event besting Scotty Nguyen heads-up at the final table before going on to co-found the elite Hollywood poker ring that inspired Aaron Sorkin’s Academy Award-nominated film Molly’s Game.

Curtis now resides in Columbia, Missouri while maintaining offices in Los Angeles, and Phoenix, Arizona. In addition to running a production company and independent record label, Curtis also consults as a poker protection expert to clients across the globe seeking insight into master level card cheating tactics via advanced sleight-of-hand technique. In addition, Houston is now available for in-person and online speaking engagements, private sleight-of-hand instruction, and a variety of media creation/production services. Houston can be contacted directly at