Gresham’s Law has some bearing on the current California poker situation. According to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Gresham’s Law, a principle of economics, is “the theory that if two kinds of money in circulation have the same denominational value but different intrinsic values, the money with higher intrinsic value … will be hoarded and eventually driven out of circulation by the money with lesser intrinsic value … [Expounded by Sir Thomas Gresham (1519? – 1579), English financier.]”
(The question mark means the experts think he was born in 1519, but they are not sure.)
The efficacy of Gresham’s Law was demonstrated in 1965. The year prior was the last that this country used a large proportion of silver in coins for general circulation. In 1965, the silver coins were replaced with the copper- clad coins (often called “sandwich” coins). The replacement was ordered by the United States Treasury as the price of silver rose, and the cost of making some of the coins exceeded their value. In early 1965, silver coins were still in wide circulation. Soon people became aware that while the dime of 1964 had the same nominal value as the dime of 1965, in fact the earlier dime was worth more, and was likely to increase in value as it went out of circulation. People turned into collectors, and slowly the coins disappeared. Hundreds of millions of silver coins were minted over the years; where are they now? Some are in the hands of bone fide numismatists; more are in jars in people’s homes being saved for eventual gifts for the grandchildren.
Silver dollars were prized even more. They disappeared from general circulation first. That they were worth hoarding is demonstrated in that the coins that were worth a dollar each in the early sixties now often sell for $30 each and more, even in poor condition. Of course, silver dollars had not been minted since a considerable time earlier than 1964, but it wasn’t until people began hoarding other coins that silver dollars accumulated a sort of “gilt”-by-association, and left general circulation also.
In 1965, the last bastion of silver dollars in circulation was Nevada, where they were used in the casinos as dollar chips. Early in 1965, you could walk into any casino and buy a roll of silver dollars and take them home. By the summer, you had to put them in a Sbobet Indonesia slot machine or the casino wouldn’t sell them to you. By the fall, you just couldn’t get them, and the casinos introduced metal tokens for slot machine play.
Smart players stuffed metal tokens into slot machines, keeping all the silver dollar that fell into the tray, and buying more rolls of tokens when they ran out. Even if they lost $1 value for each coin, they gained (eventually, if they kept the coins long enough) at least $30 for each one kept from the tray.
In 1965, I played the blackjack machines, the first electronic slots to hit the casinos. A few months after introduction, these machines used simulated decks from which two 10-count cards had been removed, giving the casino quite an edge. At first, however, the simulated decks were complete, and basic strategy put a player almost dead even with the machine. I dropped clad coins into the slots, and whenever silver coins came out, I put them in my pocket. I built up quite a collection that way.
What does all this have to do with poker in California, you ask? The new games, just like the new money, are driving the old out of circulation. Not because of hoarding, of course, and not because of any intrinsic inferiority of the new games. The difference is one of action. The live players like the action more in the stud and community card games.
Some live players like the action even more in the casino-like games, pai gow, pai gow poker, California aces, pan nine, and so on. I call these games casino-like because they involve little skill, and are very close to pure gambling. The live ones have a much better chance in games in which skill plays a lesser part.
Think I’m wrong? Look at California. No-limit draw poker, which used to be played in almost all the clubs of Central and Northern California, has disappeared. No-limit lowball tables, too, are virtually nonexistent. All the forms of draw put together now represent only a small fraction of the tables in California. Many clubs have no forms of draw poker, and those that do, only limit lowball. Where once you could find lowball in limits ranging all the way from $2-limit(Northern California) and $2/$4 (Southern California) to $200 limit and $100/$200, now the lowest limit found in those few clubs that even have lowball is generally $20 or $15/$30. No “starter tables” exist for beginners to learn the game, and without new players, the game may soon die out in California.