"Walking back to Houston” is the Ace-King starting hand in Texas Hold’em poker. Championship player T. J. Cloutier coined the term, saying: “I can see you learned to play in Houston. Those Houston players would come to Dallas and play that ace-king, but they’d always end up against a pair of aces. That’s why we call that hand ‘Walking back to Houston.’”
The term appears to have started to receive acceptance outside of the poker world. “Walking back to Houston” means that someone has lost and is coming back home in disgrace, having lost it all—even the car.
Poker Hand Nicknames
Nicknames for Texas Hold’em Poker Hands
written by BeatTheFish.com
Unpaired Starting Hands: AK
Walking Back to Houston (the old-time poker players would play this hand so well that they’d leave their opponents walking back to Houston)
Poker Terms or Slang
Big Slick (originally referred to A♠K♠, but the name has become common for any Ace-King, especially suited), Anna Kournikova (looks good but rarely wins), Machine Gun (AK-47), Walking Back to Houston ("I can see you learned to play in Houston. Those Houston players would come to Dallas and play that ace-king, but they’d always end up against a pair of aces. That’s why we call that hand ‘Walking back to Houston.’” - T.J. Cloutier, quoted by Barry Greenstein)
Name: T.J. Cloutier
Current Residence: Richardson, Texas
Birth Date: October 13, 1939
Birth Place: Albany, Calif., United States
Amusing Anecdote by Barry Greenstein
When T.J. and I first played together, we had discussed how I had played some No-Limit Hold’em in Houston in the ‘70s whereas he had played in Dallas. I moved in on someone with ace-king. The player called with a pair of queens and I won the race.
T.J. said, “I can see you learned to play in Houston. Those Houston players would come to Dallas and play that ace-king, but they’d always end up against a pair of aces. That’s why we call that hand ‘Walking back to Houston.’”
Letters from readers.(NEWS)
From: Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)
Date: September 15, 2000
Haskins, Yudof and the `U’
In the poker game “Texas Hold ‘Em,” when a player is dealt an ace and a king, he generally will raise the ante, but if he loses, the players will tell him that he’s “walking back to Houston.”
University of Minnesota President Mark Yudof, having lost the first hand to former basketball coach Clem Haskins, has now raised the ante by suing him. My guess is that when he did that, he didn’t know Ron Meshbesher is in the game. If Yudof’s not careful, he’ll be “walking back to Houston.”
- William Starr, Minneapolis.
Championship Hold’em (The Championship) (Paperback)
by Tom McEvoy (Author), T.J. Cloutier (Author)
Paperback: 360 pages
Publisher: Cardoza; 1st Cardoza Ed edition (October 26, 2004)
Championship Advice., June 17, 2005
By Bernard Chapin “Ora Et Labora!” (CHICAGO! USA)
My mind immediately scanned back to page 299 where he states that what you do with Big Slick, and how you play when the other player holds it, makes or breaks you during tournaments. Here, Cloutier shares that it is also known as “Walking Back to Houston” as it has so often broken the players who held it. I knew that folding it would have been cowardice--particular with three spots vacant at the table.
New York (NY) Times
Walking Back to Houston With Anna or Waingro
By JAMES McMANUS
Published: September 17, 2005
A-K’s dangerous appeal is connoted by its most common alias, Big Slick, which seems to suggest a large, unreliable greaser: think Elvis, Michael Madsen or Kevin Gage (Waingro) in “Heat.” Big Slick also spawned the nickname Santa Barbara, after the 1969 oil spill off the coast of that picturesque town.
Texas road gamblers like T. J. Cloutier call the hand Walking Back to Houston, since that’s what they sometimes had to do after overplaying it in high-stakes no-limit games in Dallas and Shreveport. Younger folks have taken to calling it Anna Kournikova, because it always looks great but usually doesn’t play very well. More gunhappy Slavophiles call it AK-47.
Whatever we call it, A-K is ranked by most players as the fifth- or sixth-best starting hand, just below the four or five highest pairs. Some rank A-K when suited as high as, or even slightly higher than, jacks.
Poker Wit & Wisdom:
Quotes and Writings on America’s Favorite Card Game
by A. D. Livingston
Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot
Texas Hold’em. But it can be a trap with few outs when you run into A-A. One of the old Texas Road Gang, T. J. Cloutier, called the hand “Walking Back to Houston” because so much money and so many cars were lost on it in the big games around Dallas.
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (3) Comments • Saturday, July 05, 2008 • Permalink