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home : sports & recreation : sports & recreation January 16, 2019

12/18/2018 1:40:00 PM
The game's afoot at Sisters Saloon
By Ceili Cornelius

Old-fashioned poker is heating up winter at Sisters Saloon. Traditional poker nights held in Sisters have been going on for more than 20 years. However, this year, a new poker instructor came to town - and he has increased attendance at Wednesday-night poker upstairs in the historic Sisters Saloon.

Bud Wells recently moved to Sisters as he has relatives close by, and he started hanging around at Wednesday-night poker. Wells comes from a poker-playing family.

"When I was young, my parents and aunts and uncles would always get together and play poker at family gatherings and holidays. It was very social," Wells said.

He didn't play much when he was younger, but got involved in it through familial connections to the game. In Mammoth Lakes, California, where Wells is from, he saw an opportunity to start up a weekly poker game at a local bar.

"It was vacant in the town, so I thought why not," he said.

He ran the poker games there for 10 years until the World Series of Poker started making it easier for people to play and not come to private games at small-town bars. Business started to peter out and he had to ask himself if he really wanted to maintain trying to make it work. Eventually, after a few other jobs, he no longer ran the games.

Wells started coming to Wednesday-night poker when he moved to Sisters as a player. He spoke with owner Aaron Okura about making the game more popular, and thanks to Okura and Wells' passion for the game, poker night is becoming more and more successful. Okura enjoys having the game played in a traditional setting as it was historically at the saloon.

"I think it is one of the most fascinating games, and wanted to continue the tradition that's going on here, and we have had a pretty core base of players each week, around 25-30," said Okura.

It has also been good for business at the Saloon, and has been consistent for a couple of months, he said. They look forward to increasing volume of numbers with tourist season in the summer.

Wells enjoys poker because he appreciates the history of it, and the competition.

"There is a sort of equality to the game; when you first sit down everyone is equals, whether you're playing with the local police chief or homeless man, everyone at the table are equals," he said.

Pam Kirk, a Sisters local who has been playing poker for 40 years, and played local night poker back when it was played above the palace hotel in Sisters 20 years ago, also enjoys the social aspect.

"I enjoy being around people and the competition of the game and reading people's body language," said Kirk. "Everybody becomes friends and it becomes a fun event."

David Douthit, another Sisters local, is a frequent attendee of poker night and has been since the beginning. The thing he enjoys the most is the tradition and history as well as the social aspect of it.

"The environment is very sociable, and it's not about winning money, but enjoying a competition and strategical game," Douthit said.

The group plays traditional Texas Hold 'Em. The buy-in for the Wednesday-night games is $20. Wells recommends attendance at the Wednesday-night poker for people who know how to play and have experience, as they are formal games that start promptly at 7 p.m. and there is no instruction involved. However, he and Okura are working on a solution for beginner players.

Wells will be instructing poker classes for beginners at the start of the new year. He hopes to get people in that have never played and teach the basics, history, a few varieties of the game, and the ethics and etiquette of poker.

"I have had experiences with people who didn't know how to play and would be left with no money in a stakes game competing against people who have played. When people lose, they get a bad taste for the game and the interest is no longer there. So, I hope to prevent that and get people interested," he said.

Wells said at his age, he would rather prepare people for the game and help them know what they are doing versus just playing it for himself. The classes will start up at the first of the year and are for everyone, even those with no experience. The course will be six weeks of classes twice a week and then culminate in a tournament with the students playing at the end. The classes are free of charge and will be held at the Sisters Saloon game rooms.

For more information on classes and poker night, contact Bud Wells at 760-709-0260.

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