With all the craze these days towards Texas Hold 'Em Poker, myself included, It got me thinking about when and where I started playing cards for money. Besides the occasional game my Dad would have with my uncles of Penny-Ante Poker at the dining room table, I guess it started at Tippecanoe Country Club in The Youngstown Area.
Not that I was the Son of The Privileged, playing in a back room there against other Ne'er-do-wells, playing for the keys to Father's Jaguar. I was a Caddy playing Tong on a Picnic Table in the Caddy Yard. I often made more money playing cards than I did caddying on any given day.
Tong was a fairly simple game that had the objective of having the highest or lowest point total or both. Having both meant you needed a lot of Aces to beat everyone else. I started Caddying at the minimum age of twelve. Most boys had hours to kill while waiting to be selected to haul some one's bag. I began studying other boys playing Tong and learned strategies. No one seemed to mind if you looked over there shoulder. On a slow day, somebody started a game. I took a gulp and said,"I'm In!".
Over the weeks of that Summer and the Summers until I was Sixteen, Tong put as much money in my pocket as Caddying. My Folks never wondered I guess why I would come home with a pocketful of change. They must have figured the Golfers paid me in coins, the Cheap S.O.B.'s!
Poker started in my early teen years in the basements of a couple of buddies' houses. we either played on a rickety Card Table at one's or on a felt Pool Table at another's. Stakes were nickels, dimes, and quarters. The big winner on any given night might have won twenty bucks. Still, not bad for a teenager in the 70's. On the weekends, we had Poker Tournaments with maybe ten guys playing. We would sometimes raise the stakes to a Quarter and fifty cents. We thought we were Big Time! Playing all night wasn't uncommon and we'd go to The Truck Stop in North Lima for Breakfast.
My gang of high school buddies continued playing Poker after graduating, until one-by-one, we all got married. Nobody could afford to lose twenty bucks at Cards when we had house payments and a Wife to answer to when we got home. After most of us had kids, we began getting together again to play Tripoly or Shanghai Rummy. No money involved or Baby Sitters. Everyone brought their kids and they crashed on the Living Room floor until it was time to go home. Cheap entertainment for young families on a budget.