“If you’re here to make money, you’re in it for the wrong reasons.”
That was one of the first things I heard last week at the Otter Saloon in Minneapolis during the weekly Saturday cribbage tournament. The triangular old building squats at the corner of Central Avenue and 7th Street SE, wedged between Nicollet Island and the northwestern border of Dinkytown, a favorite go-to area for the University of Minnesota’s local students. On a hot Saturday afternoon, I was–not surprisingly–the only student in the bar. I grabbed a drink, slapped down $11 for the weekly tournament, and was soon playing.
There’s a lot to be said about the loyalists of a game who are just as passionate and punctual in a casual weekend bar setting as the organized league play I grew accustomed to with the ACC this past year. There were no more than 10 of us–“a small crowd,” a regular named Tommy told me, “last week we had 20.” As I’ve come to expect from just about any gathering of crib players, everyone was generous with their time, patient with a newcomer (I rotated right, ACC-style, when everyone else rotated left around the table), and interested about why a 20-something dude came to play, and curious in general–where ya from? Whaddya do? How do you like the Twins for the remainder of the season? “You want a drink?” the eventual winner asked me after we had just introduced ourselves.
It’s not a long tournament, but it is a fun one. $11 gets you a chance at two pots: top game points (3 for skunk, 2 for a win, just like in the ACC), and the other for high hand, high hand ties splitting the pot. Besides that, the drinks are cheap, the conversation plentiful, and a free, scrumptious spread of hot dogs, all the ‘fixins, and bowls of chips is available for anyone hungry.
What was bad was my play; I tag-teamed seven games with a friend I met at Northern Spark. Of my four games, I got skunked twice, and came out with a few wins. My partner did better, with a pair of wins and a loss. We held high hand at one point–20–but were shortly usurped by a dominant 24.
You Otter Come In reads the mural on the side of the building. If you’re ever nearby, make an Otter Stop–you won’t regret it.