It called itself a cigar bar, but a few cigars in a case and a leather couch hardly make it such. In fact, the place was so small, one cigar probably would have been enough to smoke me out. Thankfully, everyone ignored the "cigar" part of the name.
I was one of the first players to arrive, but that's probably because I didn't know the 8pm start time really meant 9pm. It was my first time there, and I didn't know a soul. I asked for a Bud Light despite the fact that I hate drinking and gambling. I felt self-conscious sitting in a bar alone without a beer in front of me.More in this Poker Blog! -->
As more players trickled in, I worried I wouldn't be permitted to play because of a height requirement. Everyone else was under 6 feet. Are people generally shorter in Louisiana?
Eventually, the 16 players had all arrived. I quickly realized this wouldn't be one of my favorite poker playing experiences. We drew straws to find out which table we'd sit at, and then just took any chair we wanted. Our $25 buy-in got us 100T. You could rebuy once for another $25 to get another 150T. Thankfully, my $25 was paid for by a friend of a friend who was just happy I'd come. I couldn't turn that down.
I hate rebuys, especially when this one seemed so pointless. It's bad enough when you start with such a small stack. It's even worse when the blinds begin at 2/4, and double every 30 minutes. That means 6% of my stack goes every time around the table. Unless I catch some pots early, this was going to be a short night.
I knew I couldn't sit back and wait for premium hands, so my plan was to play rather aggressively. The first two hands, everyone at the table called the big blind. Everyone except me. I wanted to play the hands. If I had anything close to playable, I'd have paid to see a flop. The hands were just rags.
There was no method to the tables madness. Few, if any, pots were bought. And no one stole blinds. It didn't take long before people were going all-in, and we were still in the first half hour.
I saw just one flop before the blinds jumped to 4/8. I was down about 30T. When I finally caught a marginal hand UTG, I raised to 28T and everyone folded. I actually won a pot... wow. Maybe my "rock" status was going to pay off.
A few hands later, I got pocket 10's. My first real hand of the night. I raised again to 28T, and got one caller. The flop came 5-9-A, two diamonds. The slow cajun who called me looked at the flop, looked at his cards, and checked. He only had about 23T left in front of him, so I forced him all-in. He struggled with his decision, glancing at his cards, then at the chips in front of him, and finally called.
He flipped AQ of diamonds. There were just 6 of us left playing at this point, and he struggled with his pair of aces, great kicker and nut flush draw!?! I got no help on the turn or the river and suddenly I was pretty short stacked, and kicking myself for the misread.
The next hand I'm in the BB with J-7. No one raises in front of me so I check. The flop comes 4-5-6. I've only got a few chips left in front of me so I push all-in with my open-ended straight draw. The big stack at the table calls as does the small blind. The turn is a K.
At this point, the small blind goes all-in and the big stack calls him, too. I flip my lowly J-7 begging for a 3 or an 8. The big stack flips Big Slick, and he's calculating his chances of winning. The small stack flips 3-7. He flopped the straight and the big stack is drawing dead. I need a 3 or an 8 to split. A miracle 3 comes on the river, and I'm still alive. I don't have much, but I'm still alive.
A few hands later, I'm dealt K9o. We're down to just 5 at our table now, and that's suddenly a very playable hand. I raise and get one caller. The same guy who Aced me earlier.
The flop is 3-9-A. Five at the table and flopped second pair. The slow cajun checks, but I know that doesn't mean anything. I check as well. The turn is a 4. He checks again. I have to push in here. I don't have much in front of me, and the blinds are jumping to 8/16 on the next hand.
He calls me again and flips A5o. He flopped the pair of aces again. What the hell was I supposed to do? I didn't feel that bad actually. Even if I win that pot, I have a paltry stack. I make maybe three trips around the table before I bust out on the 8/16 blinds. Maybe I catch a hand somewhere in there.
I still hadn't re-bought at that point, but I wasn't going to spend $25 for 150T. That's just 6 trips around the table. It's not worth it. I would have been so short stacked in comparison that I would have needed to push all-in the first chance I got. And with my first 100T I got to play a whopping 3 hands.
I walked out of there without losing a dime. Well, I did buy two beers so I lost $5.50. It was fun only in the sense that it was poker. I didn't really enjoy it that much. Perhaps getting better cards would have helped, but the set-up was so poor, it discouraged solid play. I just don't have a good loose-aggressive style.
I don't think I'll be back. They play every Tuesday night, and they say starting next week, the cards will fall at 8pm. Unless they change the set-up, I'm not interested. They'll also be starting a 3/6/12 game on Thursday nights, but that's a little more than I'm comfortable playing with a bunch of people I don't know, unless I'm in a casino.
Speaking of casinos, this weekend might mean a trip to Baton Rouge and a report on the poker rooms there. Stay tuned!<-- Hide More
I was planning a post on "variance" following my big session on Saturday. Things weren't going as well until a bit of a personal triumph. Then I log on to see Otis roughing up more Empire Poker opponents. Kinda makes my accomplishment a bit minor in comparison... but here goes...More in this Poker Blog! -->
You may remember my $164 profit in just two hours of play on Saturday. On Sunday, I headed back to the Planet Poker tables and decided to try out the $3/$6 instead of the $2/$4. My first hand should have been a sign.
I'm dealt AJo in the BB. A guy in middle position raises, the button calls and I call. Three of us see a 10-Q-10 flop. Not ideal. In fact, it hardly hit me at all. I'm on a gutshot straght draw, but another club could mean the flush for someone and I might already be beat by a boat. I should get out of the hand, right?
I check, the original raiser bets out, the button calls and I, inexpicably, call as well. The turn is a K. Jackpot! I somehow caught my straight without a flush hitting the board. Unfortunately, there are now two clubs and two spades on the board, and the boat still beats me. No worries, though, I'm hot! Time for the check raise. The original raiser bets out again, the button calls, I raise and both call me.
At this point, I'm praying for a red rag on the river. Not only is it not red, but it's not a rag. The ace of clubs falls. That now means any two clubs beats me along with any boats, and any J splits the pot. I bet anyway and the raiser raises me. The button folds and I have to call. There's $79 in the pot and I already pumped in $27. I'm praying he's just got a jack.
He flips American Airlines. I'm beat on the river. That just made it even more painful because I was up before that card. I lost $33 on that hand alone. I wonder if I should have played it differently. Looking back, I figure I'd have done the same thing.
My last hand of the session also hurt. I'm dealt Hookers. Pocket Jacks. There seems to be a discussion in the poker world right now on whether Jacks are a medium pair or a high pair. In limit poker, they're probably worthless. I play them anyway.
I'm UTG and I call the BB. It's raised after me and everyone else folds. I call. The raise should have been a sign. The flop is 3-6-K, two clubs. I have to make a decision right here. Does he have a King? If he doesn't, I press this hand unless another scare card falls. If he does, I fold the first time he bets.
I decided on neither of the above, and that was my downfall. I checked and he bet. Right here, I should have raised. A check raise would have demonstrated strength. If he re-raises, I get out of the hand. If he just calls, I make another decision on the turn. Instead, I just call and get absolutely no information.
The turn is a 5 of diamonds. It's harmless. I check, he bets, I call. Am I an idiot? Why don't I see the holes in my play as they are happening? With the bigger bet on the turn, now's the perfect time for a check raise. If he calls or raises, I'll know he has at least the K and I'm beat. I just call.
The river is another 6. What I wouldn't give for a 6 right now. The idiot at the table checks, he bets, and the idiot calls. The guy not only had one K, he had two. Cowboys. Cowboys beat Hookers every time. Not even a six would have helped me. I played the hand horribly and it cost me $21.
Other than those two hands, I played about even. Winning a few pots and losing a few. The only good news was that I was playing a limit tourney at the same time. Here's the e-mail after it was over:
Congratulations UpForPoker on placing 1st in our Hold'em tournament on 6/27/2004 4:00:00 PM.
$90.16 have credited to your account.
Thanks for playing at Planet Poker and have a great day!
Sure, it's not winning $750, but it helped my bankroll! I'm starting to like this Texas Hold 'Em game again. Must have been the Bradoween Open to get my poker blood pumping again!<-- Hide More
When Jim McManus set out for Vegas to cover the WSOP, made the final table, then busted out, he wrote that he felt like he'd taken 5th out of 6th place instead of fifth out of several hundred. I sympathized with him, but never felt any real empathy.
Until tonight...er...this morning.More in this Poker Blog! -->
While working on a writing project Sunday night, I decided to enter Empire's $25,000 tourney. The buy-in was $100+$10. That's usually a little steep for me to buy into a multi, but the overlay on the guarantee was too good.
One hundred fifty-six players bought into the limit hold'em tourney. Top prize was $6750. Top 20 paid.
Four hours later, I found myself sitting at the final table.
Here's a not-so-surprising revelation: One mistake at the final table--even in a limit tourney--can kill you.
I placed 9th for $750.
That's the most I've ever won at one time, so I should feel good.
But I don't.
How about that?<-- Hide More
I left work last night with a very strong urge to get in my car and drive straight to a casino. I'm a compulsive gambler. I've admitted it many times. I also have a certain amount of discipline, and that discipline led me home instead.
I got up this morning, and that urge to drive to the casino was mostly gone. Frankly, my big expenditure for this month happened last weekend for Bradoween, and I didn't want to dip into my bank account again. The urge to gamble wasn't gone, however, and that led me to Planet Poker.More in this Poker Blog! -->
I sat down at about 5:30pm with $80 at the $2/$4 Limit Hold 'Em table. I'm not a huge fan of limit, but I need more practice before I head to the casino. There aren't any NL tables at the little cajun casinos that I plan to visit.
Early on, I wasn't seeing great cards, but I was winning enough hands to keep me about even. In fact, I was actually up a few bucks despite seeing no premium hands.
Then it happened, about an hour into the session. The cards were falling, and they were falling my way.
My first big hand really should have sent the rest of the table a message. I'm dealt 9-10 of diamonds UTG, and I call. There are four callers behind me, the SB completes and the BB checks. Seven of us see a Ts-Jd-7d flop.
Hmmm... middle pair, flush draw, gutshot straight draw, and ecstasy if an 8 of diamonds comes. It's checked to me and I bet out. Five players call, none raise. The turn is the 4h.
That doesn't do a damn thing for me. I bet anyway and get 4 callers. Wonder why no one is raising? The river is magic, the 8 of diamonds.
The SB bets!!! Must have the flush. I raise, the three behind me fold and the SB calls. Damn, must not have the Ace. I show my straight flush and he mucks K-3 of diamonds. After the rake, the final pot is $59. I make a whopping $43 on that hand alone.
A few minutes later, I'm dealt American Airlines in the SB. Obviously, it's my favorite NL hand, but in limit poker, I have a tendency to over play it. I'm just hoping for an ugly flop. There's one caller, I raise, the BB calls, and the original caller calls. Three of us see a flop.
Unfortunately, it's not a bunch of rags. Fortunately, it's J-A-A. I wonder had I been at a real table if I would have let out some kind of sound. I check, the BB bets, and I'm the only caller. The turn is another J.
At this point, I'm praying he's got a pair of J's, or at least one of them. I check again, and he bets. I call. I don't want to scare him away if he's trying to buy the pot. I want him to catch a hand! The river is a harmless 2.
By now, it's time to bet. Pot odds dictate a call from him no matter what he's got. Amazingly, he raises me! Maybe he does have a J. I re-raise, and he just calls. I almost feel sorry for him when he flips 7-2 suited. Had it been the HAMMER, I'd have given him a little credit. This pot is $46 and I make another $24 profit.
From there, I got more normal hands. In this case, I'm under the button when I get wired 8's. It's raised in front of me, but I call anyway. The SB also calls. Three of us see a 8-9-9 flop.
Bingo! Sometimes poker is easy. There's a bet in front of me, and I just call. The SB had checked and I want him around for the turn. He calls, too. The turn is a 10.
Beautiful! I hope someone is playing the straight. This time SB bets, it's called, and I raise. Both players call my raise. The river is the 6 of diamonds, the third diamond.
Marvelous! Maybe someone is playing the flush! Sure, there are hands out there that beat me. The straight flush, a better boat or quad nines, but I'm not worried. It's checked to me, I bet and just the SB calls. He flips over Q-J for the straight. Tough luck for him. He's the same guy I killed with my quad A's, maybe he was looking for revenge. It's a $50 pot and a $32 profit.
Next up, pocket T's in the BB. There are two callers and the SB completes. I simply check. The flop is 4-T-7 rainbow.
I love this game. The SB bets, I raise and he calls. The turn is a Q. I'm not worried, there's no straight on the table and no flush. He checks, I bet, he calls. The river is a K that not only puts a straight on the table, but a flush. I figure if he's playing either of those hands, he's an idiot.
He checks, I bet and he calls. Apparently he thought his T-6 might be best. This is just a $31 pot with a $17 profit.
The very next hand, I'm dealt A4 suited in the SB and I'm feeling frisky. It's raised in front of me, the button calls, and I call as well. Three of us see an A-A-2 flop.
With only 6 players at the table right now, I gotta figure I'm in good shape, despite the little kicker. Only the original raiser scares me. He checks, the BB bets, I raise, the other guy folds and the button calls. The turn is a 10.
The button doesn't scare me in the least. And when I bet, he quickly folds. I never got to see what he had. It was a tidy $21 pot with a $13 profit.
The next time I'm the SB, I get pocket 7's. There are two callers, I complete and the BB checks. The flop is J-7-5. I'm not sure when I've flopped so many sets.
I'm in a slow playing mood, not sure why. I check and the last guy in the round finally bets (phew!). I call and one other player calls. The turn is an Ace. That's good news for me.
I check again, the original bettor bets, I raise and he calls. The other guy wisely gets out of the hand. The river is a deuce. Only a few hands beat me at this point: 3-4, J-J or A-A. I bet out and he calls, showing me a measly J-6. This $37 pot means a $21 profit.
This next hand didn't bring me much of a profit, but it was indicative of the night. I'm dealt AJo in early position and I raise. Only the BB calls. The flop is K-Q-T. I've got the nuts. He checks, I check. The turn is a 5. He checks, I bet, he calls. The river is another T. I guess if he's got the boat, I deserve what I get. He checks, I bet, he folds. I'll never know what he had.
The last big hand of the night was my second most profitable of the session, behind just the straight flush. I'm dealt A-7 of diamonds in middle position (diamonds again!). I call, it's raised, the BB raises again, and four of us see the flop of Qd-8d-Ks.
With that much money in the pot, I'm in this to the river. It's bet in front of me, I call, it's raised and we all call. Four are still in when the deuce of diamonds comes on the turn.
Glad I didn't have to wait for the river! It's checked to me, I check and the big raiser at the table bets. I raise him and he calls me. The turn is another Q. Again, if he's got a boat, oh well. I bet and he calls with just Big Slick. This $62 pot brought me a $40 profit.
At 7:30pm, I left the table with $244. That's a $164 profit in just 2 hours. That's 20 big bets an hour! And if you add up the profit I made on just these big hands, that means the rest of the hands played cost me just $9. Does it get any better than that!?!<-- Hide More
In the middle of downtown Greenville, SC, there's an Irish Pub with a stage near the door. If you get in the door early enough, pound a couple car bombs, flirt with the best bartendress in town at the back bar, and get a good seat, there's a chance you might hear some good music coming from the stage.
A few nights a month, the musicians have an open-mic night. I've never participated for fear of ruining an otherwise good career as a local personality and back porch guitar picker.
Still, a friend of mine went the other night and sat down on stage. He had the crowd going pretty good, when the regular musicians eventually came up and said, in effect, "Okay, that's enough."
The implication was clear.
This is our game. If you wanna play for real, find your own stage.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Well, of course, that doesn't sit well with anybody. Right?
Well, then let's talk about Ben.
The chorus in the poker blogging community was nearly synchronized. We all dropped our chips, grabbed our crotch, and made sure our manhood was still there.
Whew, there it is.
How, screamed the chrous girls, could Ben win a poker championship? How, in the name of all things good and holy, could the poker fates allow the goateed boy-toy to hold up a trophy, smile a bit, and proclaim himself a winner? Watch your feet as we all fly over the shark together, the blogs screamed.
Simply put, folks, as much as we all might hate to admit it, Ben won. Why? Because he won. Simple as that. It doesn't signal the end of the game. It doesn't signal the end of the game being cool. And the shark can kiss my ass.
Before you start photoshopping pictures of me kissing Ben's ass and sending them to my mother, let's consider this rationally.
Ben may be no poker god, but neither am I. I'm good, but I'm no T.J., no Chan, and certainly no Professor. So, if I were to rake the final pot in a big tournament, would we all be afraid of the shark? I hope not.
What's more, despite being loathe to defend a celebrity, let's think about where Ben has been. He got screwed over by some self-important girl. He's been outed for being a strip-club junkie. He's been outed for wild nights at the Hard Rock, dropping a couple hundred grand at the blackjack tables and tipping cocktail waitresses with a few hundred per drink.
Ben is just a guy who doesn't have much else to love right now other than the game of poker (although, the world on the street is that he's got some new girl and this time it's love). Still, I get the feeling he'd rather be a poker celebrity rather than an actor.
And so he finally does what we'd all love to do and we try to bust his balls for it.
There are other celebs who frequent the tables. James Woods. Lou Diamond Phillips. Would we hate them as much? Both of their careers are doing about as well as Affleck's.
And lest I make a blogger faux pas (that's a Fox Pass to those in Oconee County), what would we say if celebrity blogger Wil Wheaton took down a pot in a legit, non-Hollywood Homegame game?
Here's the thing: The World Poker Tour brought a lot of people into the game. Sure, I've been playing poker since before I could buy smokes legally. I won some money, lost some money, and had a lot of fun. Then the World Poker Tour came along. Then, I really started playing. Hours a day online. Someday, I'll sit in a big tournament. And if I win, I expect a damned pat on the back.
But, there are those folks who've been grinding it out for years before the WPT. How do you think they feel about you? Probably about the same way the bloggers feel about Ben, you know?
There's a name for people like us: We're Internet Players. Even though we're not. Most of us have done our time and developed leather asses in casino chairs. We play on the Internet because it's more convenient. We don't live in AC, Vegas, Mississippi, or California.
Still, we're pariahs in the "real" poker community.
I've always found it peculiar when one minority picks on another minority. When Jews hate blacks, or blacks hate gays, etc., I just don't get it.
We're all fond of poker because it is the great equalizer. A Junior League woman can sit at a table with a scruffy mountain man and their differences diasppear.
Similarly, Affleck can sit at a table with Cloutier. They're both stars and they both play poker. Sure, T.J. is better, but he's beatable. And that's what we all want to do.
We want to beat the big boys.
Give Ben a break. Hate him for being famous. Hate him for getting to tap J-Lo. Hate him for being rich.
But don't hate him for loving the game of poker.
If you do, don't bitch when you win a big one and someone calls you a lucky, loose Internet Player who is usurping the game.<-- Hide More
The last time we saw Ben Affleck playing poker, he was rolling over to Willie Garson (you know, the gay friend on Sex in the City) in the inaugural edition of Celebrity Poker. Not exactly the best way to demonstrate your poker acumen.
Apparently the star of such blockbusters as Gigli and Jersey Girl does better when he plays with his own money. On Sunday, Affleck won the California State Poker Championship. This wasn't just some little Hollywood home game. Affleck won $356,400 and a spot in next year's World Poker Tour Championship.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Poker pro Stan Goldstein finished second and the head of Castle Rock Entertainment, Chuck Pacheco, finished third. It's clear Matt Damon's lesser half has a little talent when it comes to this game. You don't just luck into a win like this.
By the way, Spiderman apparently doesn't have the same skill as Daredevil. Tobey Maguire also played in this tourney but got knocked out on the first day.
This all brings me to my favorite celebrity poker player (and fellow poker blogger), Wil Wheaton. Yesterday, Wil announced he'll be playing in the World Poker Tour's second edition of the Hollywood Home Game. The winner gets a buy in to the World Poker Tour Championship. Wil doesn't mention who the other celebrities are, but my money is on him! If he plays like he did during his "lying in odessa" series (a must read!!), I'm sure he'll be fine.
And who knows? Maybe when the World Poker Tour Championship gets rolling next year, we'll see Wil and Ben facing off at the final table. Now wouldn't that be fun!
UPDATE: Wil reports the game has been played, but he can't talk about it. In comments here, he did divulge he couldn't drop the HAMMER. Maybe next time.<-- Hide More
From time to time here at Up For Poker, we like to open our pages to a guest blogger. We like to publish players of some note or noteriety. Boston J. Reilly is one of those players. He scooped first prize in the Bradoween Open this year. The following is his account of his win.
â€œPlay very tight at the first table and donâ€™t get seated with Otis or CJ.â€ That was the advice from my friend Jason about how I should approach the Bradoween Open. I needed this good advice too, having played only in a half dozen or so home games, none as serious as this. I knew the game a bit and was comfortable at the table, but I was worried about my chip management skills and betting strategy. Turns out if you can stay alive for the first 7 hours of the tourney, you can gain the skill needed to win it at the final table.More in this Poker Blog! -->
I was worried at the beginning about being the first out of the game. I was relieved when I heard of the first casualty from the other room and then when I put Trotter out of our table. I had stayed alive long enough to avoid major embarrassment. I had however chased a couple of bad hands and was the shortest stack when four tables became three. I told CJ I would have to go all in on the first hand I could or else be blinded off. The second hand at my new table brought me the hammer and all in I was. [Ed. note: Reilly is referring to AK, not 72o] I had three callers and a lot more money after that. Stayinâ€™ alive. I did not play another hand until just before the next break where I was able to double up again on a strong hand â€" maybe AK again. I wish I had the photographic memory like the rest of you guys, but I was just concentrating on surviving.
Now we were down to two tables and I got lucky again. This time me and my short stack were seated at table 1, where there was no dominant chip leader. Everybody here was fairly even in skill as well. I was able to increase my chips here some, but mostly I stayed out of the way of some fairly loose play at this table. Meanwhile at table 2, the big stacks (and what I perceived to be stronger players) were knocking each other off. By the time I was down to the final 12 of 33 players, I was happy to have survived and could go home holding my head high. I was not greedy enough to have visions of first place, yet.
The final table was a lot of fun, and I think I played my best there. Now I was hoping to finish in the money â€" just hang around below the radar a little longer as I had all night. Soon we were down to 5 and I could go home bragging how I played with the big boys and finished in the money, still no visions of winning. When I took CJ out in fourth place (when my pocket 33 became 333 on the turn against his pocket 22) I was thinking, â€œdamn I can play this game.â€ I was very impressed by CJâ€™s play all night (I played at the same table with him at 3 of the 4 I was at).
As we were getting seated at the final table I was talking to David M. and we were both saying we needed to play aggressive to stay in the game as we had the two smallest stacks. He said one of us needed to take the other down to have a chance. Turns out I took him out in third place on a hand he was favored on. We were both all in, me with Q7 and he was at K something low preflop. The flop gave me a second Q and the neither the king nor a straight bailed him out. Now it was down to two, and for the first time all night I was focused on winning the whole damn thing.
The crowd grew, as word got out it was just Scott and me. Scott was acting very drunk, but I knew he was playing too well to be that far gone. It was slightly intimidating sitting with him for the last hour or so because he had a bunch of family watching and encouraging him and they clearly knew what they were doing. I was again on the short stack when it came down to head to head play. I had never played head to head (or really even with a chip lead), but found it the easiest poker of the night. I did not have to worry about position or someone stealing the blinds. I very nearly lost everything, but managed to double up on some good cards a couple of times and eventually took a dominant position when my all in preflop Q3 delivered me a pair of Queens against his K 3. Now I had the bigger stack and if I liked my cards I made him play. I was aggressive for the first time of the night and felt I was playing well. When I put him out on my K10 offsuit against his K4 suited (flopQ56, then 8,6), Scott said: â€œYou played well. It makes me wish I had not been pulling for you at times.â€
I was more relieved than happy the moment I won. The tension I felt during the seventh hour of the tourney was crushing. My hands were shaking when I was anteing my blinds. But winning was amazing â€" the room was crowded and everyone was cheering and taking pictures. I tried to describe the feeling of winning in that setting today and I could not. It does not compare to winning at sports or any other game I have played â€" and it really had nothing to do with the money. I was a minor celebrity when I won, with paparazzi and congratulations from all around. I was sorry I missed time visiting with friends and all the Bradoween festivities, but I could still feel the buzz from my victory when Timmy asked me Sunday morning what I was going to do with my $300. My reply â€œBring me the Best Buy circular!â€<-- Hide More
Please be sure to check out CJ's write up on the Bradoween Open below the entry and BadBlood's write-up over at his site.More in this Poker Blog! -->
I think I may refuse to write about the actual tourney since I didn't spend much time actually playing (see BadBlood's account of the carnage on his write up).
So, while I was out directing the mess outside, I got word that the final table had finally sat down (and thanks to Greenwood Phil for his organizational help). Thirty-three players had been reduced to eight, all vying to make it to the top five and win a little money. Asses had turned to diamonds. I'm sure somebody was cursing me for renting cheap fiberglass chairs. The beer had begun to disappear. I started snapping pictures. Somewhere, there is videotape. Hopefully we can bring you that soon.
I was very happy to see two of the three poker bloggers in attendance make the cut into the money. You never know what to expect when you invite someone you've never met before. You're not sure if you'll get a raving lunatic or a crying drunk.
I got lucky this time. After meeting Badblood in Iggy's Blog Invitational, we discovered we lived in the same city. Turns out Badblood is a solid player and a helluva nice guy to boot. I hope to play with him again when I'm playing a little better and don't have 80 people waiting on their party host to tap the keg.
Long-time friend and webhost for Up For Poker, CJ, played his A-game, proving once again to be one of the top players among us. He flew a long way and sat in some serious traffic to play in the tourney. He deserved his money win. That's not to mention the other money winners, David M. and Team Scott Smith (for a picture of Team Scott Smith, scroll through the archive until you find a guy holding up four kings...he's been winning a lot recently).
Still, not to be outdone, Boston J. Reilly outlasted the crowd, paying for his plane ticket and most of his wife's plane ticket down to the Palmetto State. I miss those folks a lot and was damned happy to have them back in my home. Not a bad evening, eh?<-- Hide More
It was supposed to be a relatively quick tourney. Just a couple of hours to decide who would wear the crown of Bradoween Open champion.
Seven grueling hours later, we finally had a winner. And it was all worth it!!!
The Open included a Mt. Willis-record field of 33 players. The $660 prize pool was also a Mt. Willis record. The mix of players included those who learned how to play poker in the preceding 24 hours and those who have played for years.
My tournament came down to a pair.More in this Poker Blog! -->
I suppose I should start at the beginning. There were four women in the tourney, and three of them drew seats at my table. That may have given me a slight advantage except the quality at my table turned out to be pretty high.
Of the original eight at our table, 7 made it to the final 24, 5 made it to the final 16 and three of us lasted to the final four!
Going around the table, starting with myself, it looked like this:
CJ, Reilly, Marty, David, Kelly, Tracy, Dusty, Stephanie
The only ones at this table I had played with before were Dusty and Tracy, and that was just once. I knew Dusty was an unpredictable player, but he knew what he was doing. Tracy would also prove to be tough, lasting longer than any other female player, and close to the final table.
I played pretty tight to start, relying on strong hands to take some pots. I split the first pot with Dusty when 3 Kings and a Jack hit the board and we were both holding an Ace. I won the second pot when my Ace paired the board.
From there, I stole a pot or two, and managed to build a good stack. Nothing huge, but I was never in bad position. Then I got my first big hand.
I was in late position when I got Q-J of clubs. There were a few callers in front of me, and I just called. I figured if I hit the flop at all, I could bet big and take the pot. The table tended to be a bit tight.
The flop was Q-club-club. I bet out pretty strong and Stephanie called me. The turn was a 9, and that meant I had top pair, a flush draw and an open ended straight draw. I bet even bigger and Stephanie called. The river brought another Q and I loved my hand. I bet even bigger and was shocked when Stephanie called. When she flipped Q-2, I scanned the board to make sure she didn't catch a boat, and breathed a sigh of relief. That hand just about knocked her out.
That stack sustained me for a long time. I didn't make many big moves, but continued to pull in a number of pots. I rarely got into a hand that I didn't win.
When we finally moved, I ended up at what would become the wildest table. Dusty and Reilly came with me, and we joined G-Rob, Brian, Mark I, Mark II, and the Kid.
The very first hand of this table, Reilly pushed all-in. He was pretty short stacked at this point and he had already warned me he planned to move in as soon as he caught a hand (he didn't realize we were moving to the same table when he told me this). Three people called Reilly's all-in and his Big Slick held up. That hand changed the future of the entire tourney.
Soon thereafter, G-Rob became involved in two of the wildest hands we'd see all night.
First, G-Rob called Brian's all-in with A-8-x-x on the board. Brian flipped over A-T and G-Rob flipped the powerful 8-3. Brian was seriously outchipped and about to double up. Until Dusty flipped an 8 on the river. Ouch.
Next, G-Rob called Dusty's all-in with 10-9-8 on the board. Dusty flipped a pocket pair of 8's, but G-Rob was holding Q-J. His straight held up and Dusty was out. I'm not sure how often someone flops a set only to come up against the nut straight.
My only big move at this table knocked out the Kid. I was dealt a pocket pair of J's and bet out pretty big. The Kid was the only caller. The flop was 10-9-4. I pushed all in. The Kid was pretty pot committed at that point and called. He was holding A-8, so I'm not sure it was the best move. He got no help and I was in great shape.
After losing Brian, Dusty and the Kid, we moved down to two tables. Reilly again came with me along with G-Rob, and we were rejoined by David from our first table. The other players were John, his friend Roger, Otis' friend Ben and Team Scott Smith.
By now, I had moved into my tight-aggressive play, and it was paying off. My stack continued to climb and I was doing pretty well. However, G-Rob was pushing people around with his huge stack. When he lost a couple of hands in a row, he did something that shook up the table. He played blind.
I'm dealt a pocket pair of deuces, and I wanted to play it. I was in the BB, and G-Rob raised from T300 to T600. I call and it's called again by Ben. The flop is 8-4-3.
I didn't hit my set, but the flop is a bunch of rags. I'm first to act, and in most cases, I might push all-in right here, figuring the other guys for overcards. But remember, G-Rob hadn't looked at his cards!!! He could be holding anything! I checked, Ben checked, G-Rob bet big, and I reluctantly folded.
Ben called him and the turn brought another rag. I'm still kicking myself. Ben pushed all-in and G-Rob called him. Ben flips over A-x and amazingly, Gordon flipped over a pocket pair of 7's!!!!!!!!!!! Ben got no help on the river and he finished in 9th place. Had G-Rob looked at his hand, I might have gone out there as well.
The Final table looked like this: CJ, John, Roger, David, TWaller, Team Scott Smith, G-Rob, Reilly.
The top 5 pay, so you would expect that this would be where things got serious. For the next two out, I wonder if maybe stamina was the problem. TWaller was the first two go. He was the most inexperienced player at the table, and probably made some ill-advised moves.
Surprisingly, G-Rob was next to go. At one point, G-Rob had a massive chip lead, but he managed to double up just about everyone at the table. His biggest hit came in a showdown with me.
I was dealt my second or third pocket rockets of the night and made a 3x the BB raise. G-Rob called. The flop came K-10-9 rainbow. I pushed all-in and G-Rob called. The Q-J G-Rob had earlier flashed through my mind, but all he flipped over was QQ. At this point, Pauly's Hilton Sister Bounty flashed through my mind. Thankfully, he got no help and I was suddenly chip leader.
It wasn't much after that when G-Rob played the vaunted 9-4 offsuit and went out. I think he might have been more interested in partying at that point.
That meant it was bubble time. David and Roger were the short stacks, and David almost went out next, but recovered to a nice stack. Roger got no such help and his bubble popped.
I was happy to have made the money, but I wanted more. I had a solid stack and thought I could ride it to at least third. John was in the most trouble at this point, and never caught a hand good enough to recover. He went out 5th.
Here's where a hole in my game becomes exposed. I tend to become too timid when I should become more aggressive. The playable starting hands are supposed to increase at this point, not decrease. My suddenly tight play was costing me a lot in blinds.
UTG with just enough to make a few more orbits, I looked down at Ducks. Last time I had this hand, G-Rob forced a fold by playing blind. This time I raised the minimum (mistake #1, should have pushed all in right there), and that forced Reilly to make a decision. His stack was about the same size as mine, and he was the BB and already in the pot.
He pushed all-in, with just T100 fewer than I. Do I call? I've put him on overcards, but that goes without saying. Anything he has is an overcard to my deuces. I call, hoping he doesn't have a pair.
Reilly flips 3-3. What kind of message from the poker gods is that? He was a 78% favorite and only the other two deuces in the deck could help me. They didn't come. In fact, Reilly caught a 3 on the turn and I was drawing dead.
The fourth place finish earned me a $70 payoff. I think I played well up until the final five. I'm not sure why I changed my play once I reached the money. And if I was changing, it should have been the other way.
David went out next for a nice $100 prize. Team Scott Smith had Reilly seriously outchipped at this point, but one suckout later (K-10 vs. K-7, seven on the river) and Reilly was in the running. A few hands later and Team Scott Smith walked away with $150 and Reilly was our surprise champ and $300 winner.
It was a great tournament, and a lot of thanks goes to Otis and Greenwood Phil, our tournament directors. It couldn't have been smoother (although next time it will be shorter!). I can't wait for the next one!<-- Hide More
Apart from taking four hours longer than planned, the Bradoween open was a rocking success. We're hoping for full tourney reports from the winners. Some have already written. Your humble host (that's me) made a play shortly after the first break and got caught. Sadly, I got caught by a guy who thought he had a boat but only had ace-high. Further, sadly, I didn't even have Ace high. It was a bad move on my part, regardless.
Of the 33 entries, here are your money winners:
1) Reilly--Boston, MA--$300
2) Team Scott Smith--Simpsonville, SC--$150
3) David M.--Atlanta, GA--$100
4) CJ--Lafayette, LA--$70
5)John "BadBlood" D.--Greenville, SC--$40
Badblood already has his tourney report online. Check it out. CJ plans to write one up soon and we're asking for one from guest blogger, Reilly. I have some pictures that will go up soon as well.
Congrats to all the winners, and the few that went out just short of the money after playing for seven hours straight.
Like a switch that's been turned off, my hot streak has ground to a dead halt and I find myself running terrible. One night I was completely crushed, and then last night I was four big bets from getting busted until the game got shorthanded and I toughened up, avoided tilting, and made a nice comeback. But still, it's been mostly ugly.More in this Poker Blog! -->
There's a few signs when things are running well, besides the obvious cash money: basically, the premium hands hold up most of the time, flopped sets on non-scare boards don't get crushed, and you get at least one or two "big blind specials" that pull in nice pots.
Well, that just hasn't been happening the past three days. In fact, and I think this is pretty impressive, I went through a stretch of seven straight big premium pairs -- aces three times, kings once, queens twice, jacks once -- where not only didn't I win any of the hands, not once did i even manage the second-best hand! Ultimately, in my shorthanded play, I did have my Kings hold up on a two-pair board (though I did blow the last hand of the night when I threw away Kings on a raised JJ33 board, only to have the guy flash his T9 at me). It was the first of these losing big hands, the one that triggered the slump, I guess, that was the most interesting to me (though when my pocket Aces lost to 5c4c on a J33 board with one club, that was certainly interesting)(sorry, I'm whining, and I try so hard not to).
Kill pot, and somebody has already called the short-stacked early-position raiser when I look down to find pocket Aces. I three-bet it, we're five-handed going to the flop, and I'm already not expecting to win the hand. There's enough in the pot to make almost any draw worth going for; hell, you could be drawing dead and almost be getting pot odds.
Still, I like the flop a whole lot: 9-6-4 with two diamonds. I have the Ace of diamonds, so even that has some promise. Original raiser bets, I raise, he re-raises, I cap, and there's still four of us who see the turn, a black 7. The OR throws in his last two nickels, I complete, and we lose nobody.
The river pairs the board, a 6. I almost can't imagine that somebody is in there with a 6 (and the flopped 6 was one of the diamonds, so something like Ad6d is out), but still, something doesn't seem right, and the pot is huge. Checked around to me, and I just turn over my Aces.
"Ha!" the woman in the small-blind cries. She's a decent-enough player, there every night, but has tilt tendencies. She jumps from her chair and throws down her K6 offsuit, screaming "You tried to get me out of that pot but you couldn't do it, could you?!" I mean, just gloating about this shitty K6 suckout as she's pushed the tiny side pot.
And at that moment the original raiser, who, like me, hasn't said a word during this performance, turns over his hand: pocket 9's. He flopped the set and rivered the boat, shutting the small blind up real quick-like.
And folks: I have never, in my entire life, been so absolutely ecstatic to finish third in a hand and lose a side pot. "Nice hand, sir," I said as I rapped the table.<-- Hide More
You're invited to join the Up For Poker blogger community. Just send your submission here:
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If you already have a blog of your own, you can still enter to become a UFP blogger. In fact, if you have a new poker blog, UFP is the best place to find new regular readers. We've got hundreds of readers every day, and if they see your writing here, they'll be sure to follow you back to your blog.
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A quick hiatus from the hiatus to wish Iggy's cat, Monty, well. There is nothing greater the unconditional love of a pet. And little hurts worse than not being able to personally fix what's broken. From Scoop the Therapy Mutt and one animal lover to another... peace, friend.
Way back in the pre-blogging days, when us intrepid Internet pioneers searching for poker info were forced to make do with the rec.gambling message boards, one of the most common RGP terms was "Presto," signifying the seemingly magical powers that Pocket Fives had in hold`em. Well, this term reappeared in my personal vocabulary, as pocket fives was definitely my most important hand of my long poker weekend.More in this Poker Blog! -->
The poker blogger community is exploding, there's no doubt about it. When this humble poker blog started last September, I was excited when we reached 25 visitors a day. In our first month, we reached about 750 visitors according to Site Meter.
In May, 22000 people stopped by Up For Poker or read an entry in syndication. That's about 715 every day!!! And we just keep growing!
Now it's your turn to get your poker ruminations published on Up For Poker. Since early March, the stable of semi-regular contributors has dwindled to just two, and Otis is about to go on a well deserved hiatus. That means I need writers!
If you're interested... read on...More in this Poker Blog! -->
Here's how it's going to work (Otis' idea, really). I'm going to run a contest. Submit your own blog entry to this e-mail address:
Here's who's eligible: Everyone.
It doesn't matter if you already have a blog of your own. Most of the current contributors already have their own blog, but that's not a requirement.
Starting next Monday, I'm going to post some of the best entries, and by next Friday, I'll announce the winner(s). Otis and I will be the judges (and we can be bribed rather easily).
This is your chance to get your poker thoughts read by hundreds of readers EVERY DAY!
So make a name for yourself. There's a seat open, and it's just waiting for you.<-- Hide More
About every two days my wife looks at me and says, "Where'd you go?"
My eyes have drifted off. They might be pointed at a billboard or a eatery menu. A few people know the look, though. It's blank, hollow, and could be 100 yards deep. She knows as well as I do that I'm not looking at anything tangible.
"I'm here," I'll respond.
"Bullshit." She says it in a way that is neither mean, nor condescending. It's a matter of fact statement because, it is, in fact, a matter of fact.More in this Poker Blog! -->
"Everything and nothing?" she'll ask, not even needing to ask the question.
"Yep." That's me, conceding my mind is working overtime on absolutlely everything and absolutely nothing at the same time.
"Okay." She understands. She gets that way sometimes, too. Although, she rarely gets the tell-tale 100-yard stare.
And that's about how it goes. I paralyze myself in an empty stare as my mind works like one of those rock polishers you had when you were a kid.
You know the ones. You find an old rock in the yard, put it in the tumbler for an inordinate amount of time, and it comes out looking like something you might buy at a hippy bead shop.
Something in my head tells me that I'm on the cusp of actually polishing a rock or two. I have some unexplianable sense of optimism. It may just be because life couldn't be much more confusing, so optimism seems to be the best course of action. Regardless, I have some faith that everything is going to turn out okay.
However, with that in mind, I'm developing that empty look more and more these days. I'm rock-polishing like nobody's business.
That's probably the reason for the infrequent posts here. I'm not really focused on the mundane, and everyone has tired of my noodling on the indecision of 30-somethingness.
That all said, I'm about to take a brief hiatus from writing, both here and on my main blog Rapid Eye Reality.
My to-do list has grown massive and I have more than a lot to do in the next two weeks in preparation for kid stuff, Bradoween, the Bradoween Open, current work stuff, possibly future work stuff, and a sideline writing project.
I'll be back in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, feel free to assault me with comments in the comments section. It lets me know you're all still out there while I'm staring at the menu and wondering whether I want the hot roast beef or a club sandwich.<-- Hide More
As I stretched out on my couch after the drive home, I closed my eyes and could still hear the casino in my head. The sounds are addictive. I wanted to jump in my car and drive back to The Paragon. Instead, I reminisced about Mrs. Beautiful.
Lunch was good. Not as good as the lobster tail dinner, but good enough to get me itching to gamble again. I headed back to the casino floor with a purpose. Apparently, the casino didn't understand my purpose because things quickly went awry...More in this Poker Blog! -->
I know how to play Blackjack. I know the game. I've played it and played it well. It's not that hard. There are times when you hit and times when you stand. Sometimes you split, other times you double down. And every now and then, you're supposed to get Blackjack.
Apparently the Blackjack gods hate me. I never saw a Blackjack. Every time I doubled down, the dealer managed four and five card 20's and 21's.
It was time to swear off Blackjack.
Instead, I was lured to the fool's gold of a Three Card Poker table. I had my initial $80 profit running through my head, while conveniently forgetting I had given it all back.
I sat down with what seemed like a Shriner's convention, and plunked a hundred dollar bill on the felt.
It wasn't a blur this time. I remember it all happening. It was like slow motion. A brutal slow motion, like when Rocky punched Drago in slow motion and sent him to the mat. I was Drago.
I didn't see a single pair or better. One guy at the table got dealt three flushes in a row. I wish I had been in his seat. Instead, my $100 was gone in just minutes. I ran from the table.
Apparently the tables just weren't going to work for me, so I headed back to the nickel slots. At least I had won money there.
I sought out that crazy Pyramid game again hoping to see the same luck as last time. I slid two $20 bills into the slot and started playing my 800 credits. 785... 770... 755... 400... 385... 370... 100... 85...
It didn't take long before it was gone. The funky pyramids didn't show up this time and I was becoming rather deflated. This trip to the casino was turning out a lot worse than I had envisioned.
I slid over to the next nickel slot machine and put another $40 inside. It was some kind of spelling bee game. I remembered that I hate bees soon after that $40 was gone.
Why do I even play slots? I've said countless times that I hate slots. In just 10 minutes or so, I had given back everything I made at the slots the day before, and then some.
I didn't really come to lose my $500. The only reason I brought that much was so I could take a legitimate bankroll to the poker table. Since the poker room was closed, I was stuck giving my money away to the casino.
I had already lost $300 and figured I should probably just head home.
Then I saw her.
She was stunning.
I was drawn to her, and that led me to the Roulette wheel. Her shimmering smile and bottomless blue eyes helped me forget the huge house edge I was facing.
I bought in for $100 and hoped for the best. I apparently wasn't the only man drawn to the roulette table, but most others merely stopped at the other end from Mrs. Beautiful and stared. Her plunging neckline made for an inviting sight every time she stretched to bet on the number 10.
I began my routine, playing the number 17 and surrounding it. That was a $9 bet every time the wheel spun, and a total of 11 spins if the numbers 13-21 failed to hit.
For awhile that looked to be the case. Even Mrs. Beautiful was having a rough time of it. She busted out and for a moment, I feared she was going to leave. Instead she pulled out another $20 and started again. It was a good thing she did because Mrs. Beautiful suddenly turned into Lady Luck.
It didn't take long before Mrs. Beautiful had every baby blue chip in front of her. The luck didn't spread to me, however, and I was getting close to busting out.
Then it happened. Mrs. Beautiful stretched across the table and placed one of her chips on 17. I laid out my 9 chips and decided to put an extra chip on top of 17. I knew, I just knew my luck was about to change.
The little white ball began it's trip around the wheel and started bouncing from number to number before finally settling in a spot it hadn't settled in since I sat down... 17 black.
"It's about time!" I said, then I turned to Mrs. Beautiful, "Thanks for changing my luck."
"Oh, you're welcome. I'm just glad you finally hit," she smiled.
The wheel man slid me 100 orange roulette chips and then 70 in casino chips.
I slid a $5 chip down to Mrs. Beautiful, "I figure I wouldn't have hit that without your bet."
"Thanks!" she was surprised. I'm not sure how often people tip other players at the table.
Things just got better from there. A few spins later, 17 hit again, this time for a haul of 135. Unfortunately, Mrs. Beautiful had to go and when she left the table, I stopped hitting. In fact, when she left the table, everyone stopped hitting.
I walked away from the wheel with a $50 profit. That's not much in the grand scheme, but I was down to almost nothing when I made my comeback, and I have Mrs. Beautiful to thank for that!
Half my money was gone. But I was actually feeling a lot better after my turn on the wheel. It made sense to walk away at this point. If I stopped anywhere else and lost, I'd feel terrible.
As I headed toward the exit, I had to pass the Craps table. The Wizard of Odds says, "Craps can be an intimidating game for the beginner." That's why I've never actually played. I know how to play (thanks to Hoyle Casino), but I've always been intimidated by the pace of play. Craps is fast.
As I stopped to watch, a player told me, "If you're walking into a casino, you're playing craps, or you might as well go home." He's right. No game in a casino has a lower house edge than craps.
In fact, the Paragon features 10X odds, and that means the house edge is just 0.184%. I hadn't cashed in my $150 in chips from roulette and thought, "What the hell?"
I took my chips and got ready to play.
The Wizard of Odds also gives this advice, "If you are playing for the first time don't announce this if you are male. Male virgins to the game are said to be unlucky, and the opposite for females. This is evidently because virginity is despised in men and valued in women." I made no such announcement and placed my $5 chip on the pass line.
It was a blur. But this is one of the greatest blurs I've ever been a part of. I was betting the pass and the come and playing 4, 5, 6, sometimes 10 times odds.
They were throwing red and green chips at me faster than I could put them in my tray. I love craps!!!
Before I knew it, I had more than $400 in chips in front of me, and combined with the five $20 bills in my pocket, I was actually up for the trip.
As the dice turned cold, I got myself back down to $300 in chips and knew it was time to walk away. Less than an hour earlier, I was two roulette spins from walking away with just $100. Now I was walking out of there with $400.
It's one of those trips where you lose money but walk away feeling like a winner. In fact, combined with the free room ($65), free dinner ($50), and free breakfast and lunch buffets ($20), I actually came out ahead.
I can't wait to get back to the Paragon to experience their poker room for the first time and to throw those dice again.
As I left the casino, I took a deep breath and smiled. I love to gamble.<-- Hide More
As I drove home, I wondered how it all had happened. I had a plan when I left early Tuesday morning. Swirl was in a kennel, I didn't have to think about work for two days, and my $500 already felt like it wanted to be $1000. The best laid plans...?
I didn't watch much of the news. In fact, I watched more ESPN than anything else. I was restless. I kept going over in my head how I had lost $100 without even trying. I started gambling at about 12:30 and after just 2 1/2 hours, I was wondering if I should turn around and go home.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Then my stomach growled and I remembered I had a free dinner at 7pm. I had about an hour to kill and took the long walk back to the casino.
First stop, the Slot Machines.
I once saw my Mom hit a jackpot on a "Wheel of Fortune" machine, and my brother's favorite casino sound is when that particluar slot spins the big wheel. I sat down and slid a $20 bill into the slot. I had 80 credits and a pocket full of hope.
Have I ever told you I don't like slots? I just don't get them. What's the appeal? I kept betting 3 credits and watched my total quickly diminish. I was barely catching anything to keep me alive. Then it happened...
A smile crept slowly across my face. My first smile of the trip, I think. I slowly pushed the "Spin" button and watched the wheel go round and round. Hmmm... looks like it's headed right for that 1000 credit spot. That would sure help the bankroll! Click... click... click... stop. Hmmm... right beside that 1000 credit spot, for a measly 25 credits. That's $6.25. I was rich.
It didn't take long for it all to disappear. I think I'll leave Wheel of Fortune to the rest of the family.
I checked my pockets to see if there were any holes. As quickly as I showed my $20 bill to the casino, it disappeared into their ever-growing coffers.
I figured the nickel slots might at least slow the pace. I picked one with mummies and pyramids all over it. I'm not sure what it was called, and frankly, I'm not sure what I needed to get to win. At this point, none of that mattered.
I pumped in another 20 bucks and played 5 of the 10 lines at 3 credits each (you could play up to 10 credits). After a few spins, I was actually up a hundred or so credits. Then I hit some kind of special spin. Weird sounds and funky animation led to 18 free spins. And anything I won on this spins was multiplied by 10. I don't know what came up, but suddently, my 400 credits zoomed past 2400.
I played a little while longer until I got back down to 2000 and cashed out my $100.
I was back close to even, and feeling pretty good about that. It pained me that the only thing I could win on so far was the nickel slots, but a win's a win, I guess.
It was getting close to my 7pm dinner reservation, but on the way to the steak house, I noticed the Pai Gow Poker table had finally opened up. I have many, many, many fine memories from the Pai Gow tables at the Barbary Coast, and just couldn't pass this up.
Even with Dott dealing, I plunked down $60. I didn't have time to spend $60 before dinner, but it feels good to have that many chips in my hand. 15 minutes later, I was still even and it was dinner time. I told Dott I'd be back. She didn't laugh maniacally this time.
Dinner was comped, and it was spectacular. Lobster tail and filet mignon with garlic mashed potatoes and bread pudding for dessert. Two complimentary drinks from the bar were just icing on the cake. It's the first time I've ever had lobster, and it was great. When they brought the $50 check, I handed over a litle "free dinner" ticket and left a tip.
With my stomach full, I made my way back to the Pai Gow table to find my favorite dealer slinging cards.
I pulled out five $20 bills, "You gonna treat me right again?" I asked Natasha.
"I'll do my best," she responded with a smile. I don't think she actually remembered me, but that's okay.
I was soon joined at the table by three women (two of whom had never played before) and a chubby man with thinning white hair. Chubby was accompanied by a man we'll call "The Cooler."
Things were going as poorly here as they had gone everywhere else so I decided to change my luck by being the "Bank." That meant everyone else at the table was playing against me. The hand ended up being a wash (I paid 50 cents commission), but it worked.
The run had started and I was suddenly up. It's the first time I topped $500 since the gambling began. I felt bad for Chubby, however, because his stack was quickly disappearing. It's remarkable, really, because Pai Gow is a game in which it usually takes awhile to lose money.
Chubby finally convinced his friend to take a walk around the casino to see if that would change his luck. He promptly won the next 10 hands. It's one of the most amazing things I've seen. "The Cooler" should offer his services to the casino because he's just bad luck.
It was approaching midnight and I had to be at a "media celebration" event at 9 the next morning. I wanted to keep gambling, but I also needed some sleep (am I getting old?).
I was sitting at $110 in chips with a couple of quarters in front of me. I decided to play one more hand and make a bet for Natasha.
"Do you want me to bet it on my hand or bet on this empty hand," I asked her.
She paused, "Well, if you bet the extra hand, you'll have to pay the commission on it. For a dealer bet, there's no commission."
So I put both bets on my hand. That was a bad idea. I got Pai Gow and the empty hand was dealt three pairs (Natasha peeked). Thankfully, a straight in the dealer's hand forced her to put 10-3 in her second hand and I pushed.
"Okay, Natasha, one more try. My hand or the empty hand?"
She paused again, "Well... it's your decision," she said coyly, then added, "But I'm feeling that empty hand."
That was good news for her, because I got dealt another terrible hand, and she got Aces and Jacks. The dealer hand couldn't match that so Natasha pulled in her 10$ tip and I tossed in the quarter commission. She smiled and thanked me and I wished the rest of the table luck and headed to bed.
The next morning featured team competitions for the media members in attendance. There was a three hole mini-putt competition set up on the practice green at the casino's gorgeous golf course (I got a 12, it was ugly).
Next was a slots tournament. We got 7 minutes to hit that spin button as many times as we could. My arm quickly tired, but at the end my 4810 credits were enough to win a nice Paragon Casino golf shirt.
Finally, we had a five hand blackjack tournament. We started with 100T and could bet a maximum of 20T per hand. I finished with 60T. The three other players at my table finished at 100T, 80T and 0T. The other table fared much better with two players topping 200T.
I was hoping that was it so I could get back to real gambling, but there was a tour of the reservation and RV park that just about put me to sleep and then the "awards" ceremony. When it was all mercifully over, I headed to the buffet for my complimentary lunch.
Then it was back to the tables with my $480 just waiting to turn into hundreds more!<-- Hide More
As I left the casino, I took a deep breath. It felt like I had just gotten there, yet I was exhuasted. And if I waited any longer to leave, I'm sure I would fall asleep at the wheel... and it's a drive you don't want to fall asleep on...
The drive was relatively short, just over an hour, but it winded through some small Louisiana towns I've never seen before and wouldn't be comfortable stopping in. Soon enough, the flashing sign welcomed me to the Paragon Casino.
It was my "free" casino holiday visit, and I was planning to make the most of it. I had a $500 bankroll in my pocket and visions of check-raises dancing in my head.More in this Poker Blog! -->
I checked into my complimentary hotel room (remember, it was Media Celebration time), and found it to be a little too far from the elevator. Of course, I wouldn't be spending much time in the room unless things went very poorly.
There was a press conference at 2:00 and a quick check of the cell phone told me I had an hour and a half to gamble before then. I took a quick tour of the casino floor and caught a glimpse of the poker room, the modest table games section and countless slot machines ranging from $.02 to $5.
I sat down at the first $5 Blackjack table I could find and laid out five crisp $20 bills. With a stack of red chips in my hand, I was ready to make a quick profit.
It was a blur. I can't really remember what happened, but minutes later, I was already down $100.
I stood up from the table and staggered. I was wounded. There was probably a cut above my left eye because my vision was blurry. I wasn't sure if I needed a stiff drink or an ice pack.
I still had plenty of time until the press conference and 20 more $20 bills that obviously wanted to be with their recently departed friends. This led me to the Three Card Poker table. I know, "Three Card Poker!?!?!?!?!?" you ask. I'm sorry, but I didn't have complete control of my faculties at this point.
I laid out another five $20 bills and got my second stack of red chips. I opened my betting by playing like it was Let It Ride, laying out three chips.
"You wanna play blind," the pretty young dealer asked.
"Um..." I looked at her name tag, "Natasha, I don't think I want to play blind."
"Then save that third bet until you see your hand."
Ah... it was starting to come back to me. Now that I was sitting, the blood was flowing back to my brain... or maybe it was just my face due to the embarrassment.
"That's okay," the cowboy two seats to my left said, "it don't matter how you play, she's killer with the cards." It was just Tex and I at the table, and I thanked him for the warning.
The first hand was bad, maybe a 10 high, and I just threw it away. In Three Card Poker, you bet an optional "Pair Plus" and the "Ante." If you want to play against the dealer after seeing your hand, you bet the "Play."
The second hand, I decided not to bet "Pair Plus," figuring I was just throwing money away at this table anyway.
"You sure you don't wanna bet that, hun?" Natasha asked.
Hmmmm, I love being called "hun." But I still couldn't quite remember this game, "Nah, I think I'll ease into it."
The three cards were just as bad and I threw them away again. Tex caught a three card flush, however, and I realized why you bet that "Pair Plus," it's the only way to make real money. The flush paid off 4-1.
Soon I caught a pair, then a flush a few hands later. I decided to press the "Pair Plus" bet up to $10 and I caught a straight (paying off 6-1). Things were suddenly looking up, and I found myself back to even. When things turned cold again I decided it was time to take a break. I was still smarting from that Blackjack run, so I tossed Natasha a $5 chip and a "Thanks," and found myself down just $20 overall.
Then I began the long trip back to the hotel room. Something didn't fell right, and I didn't want to lose my stash before I even had a chance to settle in. I watched a little French Open coverage and then headed to the news conference.
Long story short, the Paragon wants to build a water park, blah, blah, blah.
One hour later, I wanted to gamble again. I did just enough glad-handing that I can probably stay free there anytime I want (sometimes it's good to be a news director).
I thought, "How 'bout that Three Card Poker?" When I got back to the table, Tex and Natasha were both gone (I doubt they left together), and a stout woman named Dott was dealing to a few men worn with time.
I pulled out the $80 in chips from my pocket and got back to work.
It was a blur. I vaguely remember saying, "Shouldn't I at least get a pair just once?" To which Dott laughed... slightly maniacally and I, for a moment, imagined her with green skin and a big wart on her nose... "I'll get you my pretty and your little chips, too!"
I couldn't take it on the floor anymore. As I got up, I asked Dott when the poker room opens. Her answer tore my heart out. Then she stepped on my heart and poured some acid over it for good measure. "It's closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays because those are our slowest days," she said.
Great. I'm here for two days, and those are the only two days the poker room is closed. I remembered I'm a really bad gambler when the house has the edge, and that's every game in the house.
I limped back to my hotel room. Literally. It was a long walk, and my shoes were digging into my right heel. This was the second walk. [Flashback: I wrote, "I checked into my complimentary hotel room, and found it to be a little too far from the elevator. Of course, I wouldn't be spending much time in the room unless things went very poorly.]
I decided I'd catch the news and lick my wounds before trying a little more gambling before dinner. My only comfort to this point is the fact my room was free ($75 value) and I had a free dinner ahead of me. But why couldn't the poker room be open?!?
Stay tuned for Pt. 2 of Cold Cards, Hot Dice and Mrs. Beautiful<-- Hide More
"Otis, have you ever had one of those ideas that the moment it pops in your head, you know it is the best idea you've had all day long?"
That was the way G-Rob began the conversation.
"Sure," I said, "but not recently."
"What say you and I go downtown and drink five or seven beers?" he said.
In short, we were bored. Everybody else was wrapped up in family stuff and we had nothing--nothing--to do.
I told him that sounded like a better idea than any I had and I'd call him back in 30 minutes.
When I got off the phone, it sounded like less of a good idea. Bored drinking, especially the kind that begins with the idea that we'll drink five (or seven), often results in us drinking fifteen (or seventeen) then popping for a cab to get home.
That's when I remembered.
The State Park Game.
I'd heard about it from a guy who came to my home game several months before. He'd left his cell phone number somewhere among my poker chips. It took me two minutes to find it. I made the call and asked if G-Rob and I could play.
I heard the voice on the end of the line scream, "Hey, bud! Two more?"
In the background, I heard the affirmative response. The State Park game would accept two new players, relative unknowns, into the weekly tournment action.
I called G-Rob back.
"G-Rob, have you ever had one of those ideas that the moment it pops in your head, you know it is the best idea you've had all day long?"More in this Poker Blog! -->
If you ride down the two-lane highway long enough--but not too long--you'll find the game down a long driveway in a small scattering of buildings made up of a ranch style house, two small apartments, and a large workshop with an office.
I pulled in with a cold 12-pack of cheap beer on the console and an increasingly nervous G-Rob in the passenger seat. I could tell this was not exactly what he expected.
"The code word is 'Jerry'." I said. "If we need to get out, we're going to see Jerry."
G-Rob is a bit of a Dead Head.
"Jerry's been dead for a while," he said.
We stepped into the gravel drive and heard the yell from a nearby apartment.
"Ya'll here for poker, right?"
I looked at G-Rob, looked at my 12-pack, looked at the yeller. I shrugged my shoulders and said, "Yep."
It's a weekly game that gets played any number of places on the property. Sometimes it's in the ranch. Sometimes in an apartment. Sometimes in the shop. This night, as the flood of cars started pulling in the driveway and a decidedly motley crew started to emerge, the host decided we'd play outside. However, an impending rain pushed the game into a small office inside the shop.
The room was small, 14 feet by 14 feet, with a fridge, a sofa, and two poker tables. Monogrammed chips lined the tables. Someone was tossing a pint of booze back and forth across the tables. Someone brought in a giant bottle of Seagrams. Two coolers full of beer sat against the walls. Someone dropped a half-dozen cigars on the felt.
"How's Jerry?" G-Rob said.
I looked around, fingered the roll in my pocket, and made the decision.
"Jerry's been dead for a while, man. Let's let him rest for a little longer."
Fourteen people bought in for $20 a piece. The host said he'd pay the top two finishers. Second place would get $40. The winner would get the rest. The blinds would increase every 15 minutes.
Top-heavy payout, quick blinds, and a room full of people I didn't know. I didn't feel good about my chances.
I folded through the first level, watching all-in bet after all-in bet. We lost a player before level two and I saw several less-than-premium hands winning. I made the decision to loosen up.
In the big blind, I saw KJ of diamonds and checked to play with two other people already in the pot.
The flop brought 457 with two diamonds. Player one checked. The small blind bet twice the big blind. Having seen the weak hands already in play during level one, I raised, pushing out the first player, and getting a call from the SB.
The turn was a blank. SB checked, I bet big. He thought and called.
I didn't really want to see that. It seemed obvious that we were both on a draw. However, since I had only seen him play a couple of weak hands, I was having a hard time putting him on a hand. If he was playing overcards or an overpair, it was looking rough for me. If he was on the straight draw, I might be okay. If he had two diamonds and one of them was an ace, I was in trouble.
The turn was the 8 of diamonds.
SB pushed all-in.
I thought for two seconds and called. He turned over a six for the straight. I raked the pot with my king-high flush.
I could only think, "So, that's how we're playing this game."
I didn't get another hand until we were down to five players. I found AA in the BB. I raised it up and only got one caller, who folded to a small raise after the flop. No money.
I couldn't make myself play any game other than tight-aggressive. It was to my own peril. I couldn't find a decent starting hand and when I did, my raises got a lot of respect. That's no way to win this kind of tournament.
I finally got blinded down to the point that I hand to push in with KQo pre-flop. The chip leader called me with jack-high and paired up. I got bounced in fourth place and way out of the money.
Once the tables had consolidated to one, the second table became a a sidegame. I noticed that G-Rob had already won back his tournament buy-in plus about $30. I decided it would be best to sit down.
It was structured $1/$2 betting, dealers choice, but no draw games allowed.
The table was loose and two guys who were already sitting were already re-buying.
"Alright," said the host. "Simpsonville."
In the minutes before, a new player had walked in with a chilled bottle of Sake. The host was loosening up and novelty games were becoming the norm.
Simpsonville was three-card Hold'em. Use any, all, or none of your three cards. Dacusville was Simpsonville, but you discard one of your three cards into a pile, then draw out a new (or possibly the same) card from that pile.
Then there was Crossroads, the reason why I barely lost any money that night.
Four cards in your hand (like Omaha), a pre-dealt five card flop, face down on the board. The flop is arranged like a cross. The four outside cards are turned up one at a time, with a round of betting after each. The card in the middle and any like it on the board or in your hand are wild. You play either the vertical line of three cards, or the horizotal line of three cards on the board with two from your hand.
I wasn't even going to play the hand, because novelty games give me the red ass. But I looked down at my four cards and saw two aces, a king, and an 8.
While I had no idea what was a good starting hand in Crossroads, I decided my AAK8 couldn't be all that bad, so I raised it up and got two callers.
As the board started to open up, the dealer revealed two fours, then two eights. Then he flipped the middle wild card. Another four. That meant anyone with an eight in their hand had quad eights. Anyone with a four in their hand had quads of the highest card in their hand. I made a crying call on the final bet.
The first guy flipped up his four and a king high for quad kings. The second guy (G-Rob incidentally) sighed and flipped over his eight. I got ready to muck, but flipped over my cards. The dealer read them, even surprising me. My two aces with the two fours on the horiztonal part of the cross made quad aces.
I hate novelty games, but for some reason didn't mind raking the massive pot.
G-Rob called Jerry as the tournament wrapped up and I watched the guy who put me out rake a $240 win.
I looked down at my chip-stack and realized I was up for the evening.
"Come on, man," I said. "Let Jerry rest."
As he relented, the host's wife walked in and sat down for the second tourament of the night.
A random draw sat her two to my right. She added something intangible to the room. Moreover, she put me on tilt the moment she sat down with a glass of wine and shoved a cigar in her mouth. She'd actually put me on tilt hours earlier when she stepped out of a giant SUV.
I was the big blind in the second hand of the game. G-Rob was in, as was the guy who had initially gave us the thumbs up to play for the night. I held T4o and was able to check to see the flop.
The flop came down QTT.
I was ready to double up for the first time and maybe ride to the money.
I checked, G-Rob bet out and got a call from the other guy. I pushed all in.
I wasn't suprised to see G-Rob fold, but I was when the other guy called.
"You have a ten?" I said.
"Well, I hope your kicker is worse than mine," I said, flipping over my T4.
"Not quite," he said. And flipped over T5.
I only needed any of the next two cards to be bigger than a five. The turn did me well, coming with another Q to give us both tens full of queens. I think if G-Rob had called, he would've taken as both out with queens full of tens.
We chopped and moved on.
Later, I found myself in a hand with K2o with the lovely cigar lady (Note: I honestly don't remember how I ended up in the hand). The board came with three diamonds, one of them a two. She checked.
I had a flush draw (my king was a diamond), and I bet my pair of twos. She called.
The flop was a blank.
I didn't peel my cards off the table again, preferring instead to eat her face with my eyes. Her cheeks pulled in as she drew in on the cigar. She pulled her cards off the felt one more time. I couldn't read her as well as I wanted. Remember, her beauty put me on tilt the moment she'd climbed out of the H2-Hummer. When she lit the cigar and bathed the table in a sexual wash of smoke and casual good humor, I decided there was no way I could play the game of poker ever again.
I stared at her, watching her cheeks suck in and blow out. A firefighter sitting across the table said, "The boy could win a staring contest if he wanted, too."
I didn't respond. I just sat there and stared into her face while she looked up at me and said, "All in."
It was the longest I took to make a decision all night long. I looked at her again and decided there was no way I could call. Low pair with a flush draw, early in the tournament. I couldn't do it.
I pushed my cards into the muck and watched her face for a reaction. Nothing.
The dealer flipped the river...just to see. It was another two. Of course.
I eventually made it to the final table again, but just long enough to be on the short stack. I raised big UTG with AJ.
There she was again, pushing me all in. This time I called to see her KK. It held up and I bounced in 7th.
Later, her set of aces crushed G-Rob's set of kings.
She stood up, shook his hand like a man, and said, "Good game."
It had been about seven hours since I had convinced G-Rob that I had developed the best idea of the day. Somehow, we both left $7 down and suffering massive smoke-induced headaches.
When I got home, I couldn't sleep. My head was buzzing on playing out of my element for the first time in ages. Unlike my home game, it was all new players. Unlike a casino, there was an element of something on the edge of dangerous in the room. (Gordon would recall later that my running joke of the night was putting someone on tilt then saying, "If you don't like that, just take me outside and knife me, then.")
We left with an open invitation to play again anytime.
I'm still trying to decide if I want to go back.<-- Hide More