A city boy, accustomed the shine and noise of his urban landscape, would probably feel a little off-balance crossing the county line on Highway 124. It's a dark place, void of streetlamps, often void of cars all together. The road winds its way along the Saluda River, skirting a local NASCAR-lite speedway, all of it promising it will eventually dump you somewhere in the middle of civilization. But anyone who has seen "Deliverance" and knows it was filmed about an hour and half from here knows that civilization is never quite close enough for the city-minded.
Then again, as I took the S-curves as quickly as I could in a big SUV, massaging the radio buttons, listening for something hard-driving and full of menace, I knew this for a fact: I'm a country boy a heart.
And I'm on my way to a poker game, which makes this drive even better.More in this Poker Blog! -->
At first, I thought I was going to be late. Start time was 8pm and I had forgotten if my shortcut through the county backroads actually worked. Whether my eagerness fueled the drive or my shortcut was actually effective, I made it on time--early even--and pulled into a dark parking lot. Cars lined the buildings and a fairly large crowd of people stood in small groups, talking quietly, smoking cigarettes, sizing each other up through the milky light of a nearby convenience store.
I found a parking spot in a dark corner of the parking lot and parked Emilio. Something was wrong with my nervous system. It had regressed back to the first times I played live cards. My leg was bouncing, my fingers were tapping, and I had a pleasant tightness in my chest. I remembered this feeling. Women do this to me. The first breath of casino air does this to me. It's fear wrapped in sex, wrapped in risk.
I walked through the darkness to an open door in the back of the building. At first I was taken aback by a lone ugly table in the entryway. This is what I showed up for? I'd heard this was supposed to be a nice room.
There was a line snaking out the door. I took a spot in it and craned my neck to try to see the host. He was sitting at the head of the line, marking names off the reservation list, taking cash as he went.
Eventually, the line led me into the main room, where I was pleased to see five beautiful, 10-seat tables, fantastically appointed, and beckoning me to sit down.
I made my way to the front of the line, pulled out my $80, and gave my name.
The host looked at me from his seat. "Otis? You were referred by BadBlood, right?"
"That's right," I said, spotting BadBlood across the room talking to Teddy Ballgame.
In a few short seconds, my money disappeared from my hand into some unseen recepticle.
"Thanks, Otis. We'll start in just a few minutes."
Fifty people signed up for the $75+$5 NLHE tournament. Forty-nine showed up. I drew Table 2, Seat 10. I sensed there might be an organizational problem when a discussion began about which seat was which. I sat down in the ten-seat and waited for someone to figure it out. There were some obviously casino veterans there, so I had a hard time believing when the table agreed to seat itself counter-clockwise. I thought for a moment about protesting, but I didn't want to walk straight into an unknown game and start playing table captain. So, I took the one-seat, which isn't the ten-seat, but apparently plays one on TV.
After a tiresome discussion about chip values, the host stood near the front of the room and addressed the players.
"Alright, if the cops show up, keep playing. There's no money this room. You're playing for points and pride."
From across the room, sosmeone asked, "So, what's our rally point if we have to bug out?"
Obviously, whoever it was didn't understand we wouldn't be "bugging out." I think he just wanted to say "rally point."
As the preliminaries continued, I sized up my table. It was a good mix: a couple young kids, the requisite talker, a couple of guys in their mid-40's (one of whom had driven almost four hours from the coast), a lady, the ubquitous Big Man, and a thirty-something goateed guy.
Several of them seemed like solid players and I wanted to play as best I could. I vowed to either raise or fold for the first two levels. No limping.
As it turned out, it wouldn't be a hard vow to keep.
The first hand at our table was quad sevens. I didn't feel good about my chances.
I developed a rockish reputation, but not of my own will. In the first three levels, the best hand I was dealt was AJo. That hand was a misdeal.
For three levels, I played no hands out of the blinds, raking just one pot when the J6 in my unraised BB flopped top pair and I bet out.
Midway through level two, the lady at the table turned to me and said, "Do you work for...." she finished the sentence with the name of my workplace.
"Yeah, that's me," I said. I was a little worried someone might recognize me and think I was...
"He's here doing an undercover investigation," someone joked.
Yeah that's what I was worried about.
Instead of protesting, I simply lifted my lapel and asked the four-seat to speak a little more clearly in my direction.
After three levels, I was up all of $3 from my original starting stack of $85. After racing off the whites, I had $90.
This was not going well
After a short break, we returned to play with the blinds at $5/$10 and threatening to go up at any moment. My stack looked flacid and small. The lady at the table was shortstacked and pushed in with jacks, getting two callers. Her hooks held up and she became the table bully.
After the guy to my right busted out, The Lady started trying to exploit my rockish-reputation. I had to play along. When she raised my BB from the SB, I had to fold my 95o (a hand I saw way too many times last night).
As it turned out, it might've been that hand that kept me in the game so long.
On the next orbit, the table folded around to us again and she raised my BB again. I peeked at my cards and saw Big Slick. As short as my stack was (about $65 now), I had no choice but to push in.
The Lady went in the tank, then began to consult with a lady friend who had sidled up and sat down at an open seat at the table. At first I thought about reminding them it was one player to a hand, but I discovered I could hear their conversation and they were having serious trouble deciding whether to call me. I decided I wanted the call.
When Team Estrogen finally decided they were calling, I figured I'd have two overs to a medium pair. Instead, The Lady turned over AJo. She was dominated.
The flop came QTx. The turn was an eight. Then the river...
I had actually turned my head to look at The Lady and had to whip my eyes around when the table erupted.
The river was a jack. At first, some of the players were cheering for The Lady's good fortune at hitting her jack. The Road Gambler at the table corrected them, so I didn't have to. The jack made my straight and I doubled up.
Two hands later I picked up TT in late position, raised the amount of the BB's short stack, and got no callers. I sat at about $140T when we re-drew seats.
Okay: Here's my petty short-stacker's complaint:
I believe in keeping even tables and consolidating tables as soon as you can. That wasn't happening nearly as much as I would like. I started to get a little hot when we were down to 16 players and we were still playing on three tables. The blinds were already going up every 20 minutes. Playing five and six-handed when we could've sat two tables of eight was just silly.
Okay...end complaining. After all, the tournament made up for in good, nice players and prize money what it lacked in a clear sense of a plan on how it would proceed. Maybe I'm just too much of a stickler for the details.
Eventually, we convinced the host to let us break to two tables. We sat eight at each. The blinds were up to $15/$30 and my stack was down to $90. I didn't have long. By the time I had a hand even close to playable, I was down to my last $30. I pushed it in with AQs. It held up and I took down the blinds.
I still didn't have long.
As the orbit came back around to me, I looked down and found KQo UTG. I pushed in again. Everybody folded around to the BB. The Road Gambler thought for about a minute before calling with J5s. He caught his jack on the turn. I caught my king on the river, but it happened to be the king of diamonds, filling in my opponent's flush.
I was out in 13th place, which somebody reminded me paid the same as 50th.
To whoever that was....up yours.
I wandered the room for a moment. There was a full $1/$2 NL game going and a full $2/$4 limit game running, as well. Rather than walk out a 13th place loser, I wanted to sit and win some of my entry fee back. With no seats available, I walked to the store next door, bought a beer, and walked back toward the games.
By the time I got back, the tournament had collapsed to one table and a seat had opened up at the $2/$4 table. I bought in for $50, sat down, and thought about how I played in the tournament.
In short, I decided that I played every good hand I was dealt the best I possibly could have. I laid down trash when it was dealt. The only regret was the memory of a hunch. I had 89s in middle positition and felt like I should limp in with it. My good sense got the better of me, though, and I laid it down. An eight and nine fell on the flop. Another nine fell on the river. Woulda, coulda, shoulda.
As I worked my way into the loosey-goosey $2/$4 game, I found myself sitting to the right of a psychiatrist. He was the tightest limit player I'd ever seen, but he talked a lot. Since he wouldn't play his cards, I decided to chat him up.
"I feel emotionally vulnerable right now," I said.
"My dad never took me to the circus," I continued.
"That can lead to a lot of problems," he said.
"I'm still scared of clowns," I said, tossing in a raise. "And every time I see a bear on a bicycle I fall crying into the fetal position."
That made him laugh and it made me remember that, at its roots, poker is a social game.
Within an hour, the story of the room was of another lady player who took her literal chip-and-a-chair status and turned it into enough chips to chop first place for a cool grand.
I rolled down the windows as I cut back coss the county line on Highway 124. I sucked down the autumn air as it filled up the cabin of my vehicle. My pocket was a little lighter, but I felt good about how I played. Consider it a lesson, I told myself.
Sometimes I feel like a more interesting personality when I'm driving alone at night. People who drive alone at night usually have somewhere mysterious and interesting to go.
This night, that feeling had actually been real.
And as I returned in the darkness (unscathed, to my wife's relief), I felt good.
And I didn't even if to call on BadBlood to save my life.<-- Hide More
I work in an industry that often receives promotional materials from companies across America. You'd be surprised what we get in our mailbox. Multi-colored duct tape, advance bottles of Vanilla Coke, and the ever-present and, frankly, spooky books from author, Nicholas Sparks. The latter wouldn't be nearly as spooky if it weren't for the fact that Sparks usually shows up in person with the books.
Eeeeesh.More in this Poker Blog! -->
It's the showing up in person thing that tends to be a little disconcerting. I've successfully avoided being in the same room with Sparks when he comes in. Still, I feel my masculinity draining out of me whenever he's in a 100-yard radius.
Perhaps the spookiest appearance, however, was when Chubby Checker showed up. He was playing the Frankie Avalon character in a traveling production of "Grease." Chubby was a trip. He wandered the office, grabbing employees like G-Rob and saying, 'Get your picture with me."
When he discovered a young red-headed co-worker who carries with her a couple of ample assets, Chubby spent an inordinate amount of time talking about himself and alluding to things you'd rather not think about involving Chubby. After he invited her to the after-show party, he signed her an autograph addressed to "My Red Velvet Lady."
Spooky, I say.
But today as I walked by the keeper of all things promotional, she called out "Otis!" I turned toward her and saw a WPT poker chip flipping toward me in the air.
Now that's a good piece of promotional material.
So, I've spent my day trying in vain to perfect the chip knuckle-roll.
This is what I do for a living.
In a few hours I'm going to hop in Emilio the SDV and head to a nearby suburbian office complex where 50 people are buying in for $75+$5 a piece in an unquestionably illegal poker tournament. I haven't played with these folks before and have no idea how good or bad they are. BadBlood has played in one of their games before, but got no cards that night.
I briefed Mrs. Otis on the tournament a week or so ago, so it came as no surprise to her this morning when I told her I'd just be stopping by home briefly before heading out to play tonight.
"Is G-Rob going with you?" she asked, still sleepy from a long night up with L'il Otis.
"No, he can't make it tonight."
G-Rob is running a 10K tomorrow and didn't feel like dropping $75 on an unknown game.
"So, you're going alone," she said. I knew what she was implying. I'm an average-sized guy with few muscles and a proven inability to defend myself in a fight. I'd explained to her previously that this game wasn't rough-and-tumble road gamblers, but a group of professionals from around the region who liked to play. Apparently she had forgotten that part.
To pacify her I said, "No, I won't be alone. BadBlood will be there."
This should've been enough for this very reason: A female friend of mine met BadBlood one night. A few weeks later I told her BadBlood was going to be at my homegame, and she responded, "BadBlood with the guns?"
To which I could only meekly look at my pathetic pythons and say, "Yes, BadBlood with the guns."
Where I am no sloth, I'm sadly unfit. The only exercise I get is curling my kid when he's in his car seat (and I'm getting some definition, bucko). So, after offering that BadBlood would have my back against a vicious group of accountants and doctors, I thought she would smile.
Instead, she shrugged as if to say, "Well, I wish G-Rob were going."
This is what's sort of funny about the situation. G-Rob is an exceptionally big guy (as he would say in a very public forum one day, "freakishly large in every way").
But, a few years ago if I had said I was going somewhere with G-Rob, my wife would've had a look of disdain and panic on her face. See, G-Rob and I tended to get in trouble together. While it was rarely more his fault than mine, Mrs. Otis' perception was that G-Rob was often responsible for leading me astray. Sure, it happened (I'm still pissed about a drink getting replaced with straight vodka and a literal body slam), but I was usually responsible for my own indiscretions.
For instance, late one night in an Atlanta, GA club, bohemoth G-Rob was making his way through a crowd of people when he accidentally bumped a 5'4" punk in a black leather jacket. The punk mouthed off to G-Rob who sized him up and summarily dismissed him. I was having none of it, though. I bellied up to punk and asked him what his problem was with G-Rob. Again, I'm a lover, not a fighter and I still don't know what led me to go all redneck on the guy. My fault. Had it not been for G-Rob, I probably would've ended up in the hospital.
However, in the past year, my wife has become G-Rob's biggest fan. I'm sure that's partly because our wild-night lifestyle has calmed down a little bit as he and I have tried to work our way into games all over town.
Still, it's funny that my wife thinks I need a bodyguard and she's chosen the one guy she wouldn't have picked a year ago.
But, she loves me and she has taken to encouraging my poker playing. For that, I can't complain at all.
Maybe if BadBlood comes over tonight before the tournament and does a few reps of bench presses, Mrs. Otis will feel better about me heading out into the unknown.<-- Hide More
Thanks to one of our favorite poker bloggers, Auntie Maudie from Poker Perspectives, we have a great new poker bloggers logo. You can see it over there to the left. If you'd like the logo for your own blog, simply go to Auntie Maudie's page and copy it (it's cleaner there than my slightly adjusted version). And then give her credit for doing all the hard work!
Now, we just have to find someone who can start getting these poker chips manufactured so we can use them in our home games...
It's been a busy week here at Up For Poker. The house is a damned mess. Chips are all over the house. Random wads of cash are sticking out of books and packages of macaroni. I'm pretty sure my kid's first words are going to be, "Okay, I fold."
Still, we need to take care of a few matters.More in this Poker Blog! -->
First, Big City-based poker news site operator, Jay G., just secured a kick-ass deal and I promised him I'd pass along the news and a request:
Jay over at PokerSavvy.com will soon be traveling all over America in search of the best and worst of poker games. He's secured a deal with a good publisher to write a book about his findings. According to the good boys over at Pokerati, the working title of Jay's book will be Hunting Fish: A Cross-Country Search for America's Worst Poker Players.
Jay asked that if you've got a good home game or an in with a good underground club, he'd love to hear from you. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Who knows? Your game may end up the stuff of literary legend.
Please note the post below this one regarding something that should make Southeastern poker players very, very happy.
In a recent post, DankHank posted a comment that led me to believe we may have crossed paths in an earlier life. I'd be interested in hearing from the mystery man if he cares to e-mail me.
You can reach me at: rapideyereality ---at-- bellsouth.net
My posts in the next few days may be a bit fewer and far between. But I do have an interesting game coming up this weekend. Hopefully, I can rebound from last weekend's poor performance and do L'il Otis proud.<-- Hide More
UPDATE: CONFIRMED My day job lends itself to confirming rumors. So, I did. For full details, you can click on over to Poker Papers.
...a beautiful rumor hit RGP today. If it is true, it will make me happier than just about any non-breathing thing can.
It relates to a so-called casino within a short drive of my house (and by short, I mean a couple of hours). To date the facility has been worthless. This, however, could change everything. Um, yeah. Everything.
As of today, Oct 24.
The tribe plans on opening the Poker room Jan 1,05 but due to Internal
controls for the Poker rules being delayed this might push the date back a
couple of weeks. The poker room will be housed in a tent like structure
located beside the pavilion, it will be smoke-free and consist of 24
table's with several of the most popular Poker games. On a funny side note
the tribe is actually going out of there way to find stand-up tables
straying from the traditional sit-down and deal tables,Of couse the
players will sit and the dealers will stand.
I can only say...ohboyohboyohboyohboyohboyohboyohboy
I stood in Otis' Secret Cubby, thumbing through the stack of bills, trying to hide the look of eager anticipation that always runs through my nervous system before I hit a homegame. I peeled $100 off the stack and pushed it into my back pocket. I needed to leave soon and my poker feet were already tapping on the hardwood.
"A hundred is more than enough," I said to myself. The max buy-in was only going to be $30. If history proved a good barometer of my monetary necessities, I would need no more than $60 to ride my way to a modest profit for the night.
That's when I heard it. The other voice, benevolent in its tenor, said, "Peel off another hundred. You know, just in case there are some gamblers there that want to play for some real money."
Bravado has never been one of my strong suits. Every time I try to play the confident, devil-may care road gambler, it looks silly on me.
Still, I listened, peeled off another hundred, stuffed it in my pocket with its friend from the secret cubby hole, and departed for BadBlood's.More in this Poker Blog! -->
After my last trip to The Mark had ended in booze-induced folly, I decided that virtual sobriety would better serve me on Saturday evening. Plus, I'd never been to Badblood's house, and I didn't want to scare the rest of the Blood clan.
With that in mind, I decided to pull a small bottle of Absolut off the liquor shelf. My last big win at The Mark had been fueled by a spiked Sonic Limeaide. I figured a Route 44 would serve me well, Plus, it would have a lid and if I turned clutzy, as is my wont, I wouldn't ruin BadBlood's new table.
But I mis-navigated my drive, bypassed Sonic entirely, and ended up picking up G-Rob without refreshment in tow. G-Rob just lives around the corner from BadBlood, and a convenience store sits in between, so we stopped and picked up some schwag beer, and made it to Blood's about five minutes early.
In retrospect, I think there may be some corrolation between schwag beer and poor poker performance on my part. While I barely drank at all at Blood's on Saturday night, I think the ghost of August A. Busch may have something against me.
A compromise may be in order. I'm thinking Guinness in a sippy cup may be the best idea.
But, really, this talk of alcohol, sippy cups, and August Busch is no more than a distraction from the real story, a digression from a place I just don't want to take this respectable blog.
But, if we must, I figure we should go there now.
As I walked into Blood's to a chorus of incredibly polite children, I made a note to title this post "GANT at BadBlood's." GANT (as in "Got A New Table") would be my whimsical way to approach a humble post about raking pot after pot on BadBlood's brand-spankin' new full-sized table.
Complete with a padded rail, cup-holders, and seating for ten, it was beauty in the form of furniture. Blood opted for the dark red (he would say, "plum") fabric for the table top. His new cards slid across the fabric with the ease of an air hockey puck.
I made the concious effort to find a seat to G-Rob's left. His aggressive playing style has been known to kill and tilt me in the past. I figured I could stem that tide early if I could keep an eye on him.
In the adjoining room, Game 1 of the World Series began. BadBlood, a BoSox fan, and I, a Missouri-native redbird fan, settled on a six-pack of good beer to the winning fan. I made a mental note to ask for Guinness when the Cardinals swept the Sox.
As the players pulled out their buy-ins, I sat quietly as G-Rob covered my first $30. I'd won a prop bet the previous weekend by failing to fall down in a drunken stupor more than 2.5 times. G-Rob, who had taken the over, owed me.
This, I thought, is going to be the best freeroll I've ever played.
The table consisted of accountants, engineers, a banker, and two TV personalities. The smart money would be on the numbers guys, but I planned to prove the smart money stupid.
Still, I bled off a few chips to begin, not necessarily sure how to handle the loose style of number-guy, Rank, and laying down top pair to an obvious flush on the turn.
Within two orbits, though, I played AQs (a hand that would get a bad name before the night was over) when two of my suit hit on the flop. I made my flush on the turn and played it slow. Mr. Matt and I got all in on the river, to which he said, "I straighted you."
Almost apologetically, I said, "I flushed" and raked the pot.
Ah, yes, I thought. This is how it will be all night. Be humble, Otis. You don't want these guys thinking you're a cocky bastard.
I'm not really sure what happened after that.
Okay, yes, I am, but I'll get to that in a little while.
After about a hour or so of play, a new player walked in wearing a Cardinals hat and University of Missouri shirt.
"You from Missouri?" I asked, sizing him up. He looked a little younger than me and initially bore the tells of a player new to the game (boy, I can form misimpressions really, really fast).
We chatted for a few minutes before discovering that not only had we gone to the same college, we grew up in the same city, and our high schools were in the same athletic conference. In fact, our high schools were arch rivals that shared the same mascot.
Missouri Josh, as I would take to thinking of him, should be my nemesis, I thought.
You wanna be a Tiger, buddy? Let's get to growlin'.
I'm so fucking stupid.
See, after a couple of days, I've discovered what happened.
After months of promoting the tight-aggressive style to burgeoning poker player, G-Rob, I found myself unwilling to play in that fashion. The table was as loose as the fabled mother-fucker. What's more, it was loose-aggressive. At first, $3 raises would be enough to scare almost any player off a pot. Within a few hours, $3 raises seemed like Post Oak bluffs. Any bet less than $10 was seen as weakness. Big, red-bird filled pots became the norm.
I thought I could portray myself as a loose player as well. I flopped a king-high flush draw and called for all my chips with two cards to come. No clubs, no money.
"Well, hell," I said, "I was on a freeroll anyway. Now it's time to play."
Two buy-ins later, I was on my heels, twice laying down the best hand in large pots when facing bets from ultra-aggressive G-Rob or Missouri Josh.
Before long, Josh and G-Rob had the largest stacks on the table.
BadBlood commented, "We're going to have to be careful the table doesn't tilt that way."
I could only respond from my spot on the other side of the table, "No worries. I have enough tilt for this entire side of the table."
It was shortly thereafter that most of the table called a $3 raise from Missouri Josh. It came around to me on the button, where I found AQo. After being on my heels and playing tight-passive for an hour or so, I figured I could steal the pot.
"All in," I said.
Everybody folded but Missouri Josh, who called with JTs.
Ordinarily, this is where I would begin lamenting the number of bad beats I faced or the impossible luck of my opponents. Unfortunately, I don't recall suffering any bad beats and--against me--my opponents didn't need to rely on luck.
BadBlood, Missouri Josh, and G-Rob dominated the table. They each had different stlyes. BadBlood played a good tight-aggressive game, was kaing professional reads on all of his opponetns, and only fell a couple of times when he got sucked out on. Missouri Josh played a spectacular loose-aggressive game that made him the biggest winner of the night. G-Rob played a hyper-aggressive game that suits his demeanor and style very well. He held a massive cheap lead for much of the night but suffered a massive beat when, in one hand, the river counterfeited his flush with a fourth spade, giving Missouri Josh another massive win.
In a fun moment later in the evening, G-Rob went to war with Josh, flopping the nut-straight and doubling up when Josh flopped a middle pair with a straight draw.
All the while, I sat with my elbows on the spectacularly padded rail of the table, wondering at what point in the night I became a fish.
I am no Tiger. I'm a fish.
Glub, glub, my good man.
I could go on like this for another thousand words or so, but I'll spare you any more verbosity. While there were some amazing hands played at that table, I didn't play any of them. My two chances to make any sort of big money fell apart when I overplayed Cowboys and forced out a guy with TPTK, and when everybody folded to a minimum raise when I held AA.
After finally peeling myself away from the table, more than $100 in the hole, I realized that I might as well have been playing with my cards face up. My opponents didn't need their cards to beat me.
I struggled for most of the next day, trying to figure out how I could be so successful online, but fail so miserably sitting at a cheap $30 max buy-in NL homegame table. It was, to date, my worst live performance ever.
I've come up with a few conclusions, and would appreciate any thoughts from people who play a good mix of online and live play.
1) No matter how good my hand, I mentally noted the nuts and convinced myself my opponent was holding it. When I believe my opponent is always holding the nuts, I can't convince myself to play my game. As such, as a matter of pride, I refused to show down my hand and cost myself money in the long run. That leads me to...
2) Pride cometh (or perhaps, goeth) before the fall. See, since I hadn't played at this game before, I wanted to look good. I wanted people to see me as I see myself: A solid poker player. Since I wanted show down amazing hands, I folded weak but winning hands. Unfortunately, my pride backfired on me. After initially representing myself as a solid rockish player, I became known as a passive player who would fold to bets on the river. The good players at the table picked up this tell very quickly and exploited it to their advantage.
3) After playing tens of thousands of hands online, I think I have forgotten the absolute necessity of maintaining--for need of a better term-- my poker face. After eighteen months of auto-posted blinds and the ability to cheer out loud when I hit my flush, my tells were so obvious that even I was picking up on them. By the end of the night, heads up with Missouri Josh, I caught myself picking up my cards to fold them before he even bet. That's just sad.
4) After losing two buy-ins, I became obsessed with the idea of getting back to even, forgetting that in a ring game you don't have to play your stack like one would in a tournament.
5) I'm not as good as I think I am. My B&M play has been basically limited to limit play (my strong suit). My homegame NL play has been limited to two games that I can beat with some regularity. This was a new NL game, however, against relative unknowns. Good players can adjust their style to fit the game. In an effort to do so, I adjusted improperly and lost several buy-ins as a result.
I made it home by about 2:30am and willed myself to go to bed instead of firing up Empire. By Sunday, I had recovered emotionally enough to get back to playing my regular online game. I played my limit ring game and SNG's all day long, cashing in 75% of the SNGs. I made back my losses from the previous night and woke up this morning feeling a little better about my game.
BadBlood is thinking about another game in a couple of weeks.
I think I'll title that post, "Fish, back in the water."<-- Hide More
That will be the title for an upcoming Up For Poker post. I thought I'd be ready to write it today, but my head needs a little more time to digest the depths of my sheer lack of poker prowess.
Suffice it to say, my catch-phrase of the night became, "You know, there's no shame in re-buying."
Until I find the cojones to be completely honest about my play, or at the very least, find a good excuse why I suck so impossibly bad, I'll leave you with this paraphrase of one of the best "Kids in the Hall" skits ever:
"I'm a bad poker player."
The shiny, tinkling noisemakers dangled from my fingers. The pads of my fingers barely grasped the red plastic that served as the handle. I set my eyes on an invisible point in mid-air, took a single breath, held it, pitched and released.
In this game, friends, the tension is so great, you can only hope exhaling will bring oxygen back to your brain. And if it doesn't, the best you can hope for is a quiet, easy death void of shame.More in this Poker Blog! -->
I barely missed my prediction that I would bust out in 91st place of the WPBT V tournament on Poker Stars. I lasted until 96th before going on a short-stacked blind steal with a weak ace. The small blind called with pocket nines and I didn't improve.
I told myself I was playnig to win and I needed to double up twice to be in contention. In my heart, though, I knew I had been outplayed by Doubleas on a hand two orbits ago. And I was despondent.
I started well, with my raises getting little respect pre-flop, but serious respect post-flop. I had built my stack up to a little more than average with a combination of strong starting hands and aggressive post-flop play. At one point, I limped in with A3 and caught two pair on the flop. I slowed played it until the river before finding myself in the unenviable position of having to call an all-in bet with it. After much hemming and hawing, I made the call, hoping my opponent had a big ace with an unpaired kicker. As it turned out, he, too, had A3.
My heart actually beat a little bit after that.
When you're standing at the end of a long hallway, your keys dangling from your hand, begging to be thrown on an arc of victory, your mind tends to go somewhere else. Before you stop breathing entirely, your lungs regulate the oxygen flow in a "just-so" manner that keeps you standing but calm.
Three bad things can happen:
You can mishandle your throw and risk termination for destroying company property.
You can impale someone in the temple (it's worse when it is the General Manager).
You can disqualify yourself and, as such, lose.
This, friends, is a game called Keyshoes.
The pentultimate hand of my demise in the WPBT V was against Doubleas.
He'd been playing fairly aggressively both pre and post-flop. Seeing any flop on the cheap was impossible if he was in the hand. Missing the flop was the worse possible thing that could happen. Whether he had it, whether he was in position, whether he had a read on you, you weren't going to win the hand without wanting to call your mommy first.
I had tangled with him on one previous hand in which I flopped trips with KT (KKQ on the flop). I slowed-played it. In retropect, it was a bad decision. When an A fell on the river (I forget the turn), Doubleas went all in. I had to call. He turned up K7 or K8. Had I pushed earlier, he probably would've called, but maybe not. Regardless, we split the pot.
I had chipped myself down on a couple of bad pre-flop calls, and sat just below my starting stack. I was angry, because in the minutes before I had been about 30th in chips out of 120-something.
As usual, Doubleas raised pre-flop, I re-raised with AKo. He called. The board had more rags in it than a Detroit Grease Monkey. It was eight-high as I recall.
He checked to me and I barely thought before firing off a near pot-sized bet. I was still tilting a little from the chopped pot ealier. And, after all, he had raised pre-flop, but only called my re-raise. I figured, at best he had AK or AQ, maybe a small pocket pair.
Doubleas broke my heart with an over-the-top all-in check-raise that would've put me out if I called.
I went in the tank.
Half of me still thought he had two overs, but that sinking "I want to keep playing" part of me feared he had 99, or worse had flopped a set of eights.
So, it was either hope he was aggressively playing overs (which is all I had), or hope he had 99 and hope I could catch one of my six remaining outs. Or, fold, and be left with around 900 chips.
And I still hate myself.
My co-workers and I created Keyshoes as a way to pass the time and add some spice to our relatively dull working lives.
The rules are fairly simple: Start at one end of the hallway, toss your car keys to the other end without hitting the ceiling or wall, closest to the door at the end--without hitting it--wins. Walk to the other end of the hallway, repeat. If the first winning player wins again, he wins the PM Magazine Coffee Cup trophy.
It is not a game without its dangers. There are many blind entrances to the hallway and anyone could walk into the line of fire at any moment. Managers roam the building at odd times and could end up with a house key stuck in their crotch. Exposed lighting is vulnerable to shattering on a mishandled throw. What's more, it's human nature to pick up keys you see left sitting unattended and many a Good Samaritan has come close to get clocked while trying to do a good deed.
Last night, I became a railbird much earlier than I hoped I would. The sheer humiliation of only being able to take part in the accompanying Yahoo! chat made me want to quit poker forev....well, at least for the night.
I went downstairs and watched the rest of the St. Louis game, returning to the computer between innnings to cheer on my fellow bloggers (Congrats to MtDewVirus and ToddCommissh for winning one for the bloggers).
I hate myself.
As I sit at work now, the PM Magazine Cup sits next to my computer screen, a token of my extreme superiority over my co-workers in a game of skill, chance, and danger.
At least I'm good at something.<-- Hide More
When I logged on to Stars this morning before work, I discovered that 74 people had already signed up for the World Poker Blogger Tour V tournament. That's the healthiest field yet.
With that in mind, I offer these predictions:More in this Poker Blog! -->
1) Austin Kearns will put his entire table on tilt, quintuple up before the first break, and then proceed to launch into a Andrew Dice Clay-ish chat-bar diatribe that will propel him to victory.
2) BadBlood, bouyed by his BoSox victory, will finally break out of his bubble slump and cash.
3) Star-gazing players, enamored with uber-blogger Wil Wheaton, will start chip-dumping to the famous guy just so they can say they got busted by somebody famous.
4) Al Can't Hang will play his maniac image to his advantage, pretend to be sober, and make the final table.
5) Iggy will win. Again.
Now, the top five reasons I won't make it to the final table:
1) How could any Missouri native in his right mind concentrate on poker when the St. Louis Cardinals are facing the Rocket in Game 7 of the NLCS?
2) I will be one of the people chip-dumping to Wheaton so I can say I lost to a famous guy.
3) CJ's brother, Lefty, has signed up and tends to put me on tilt any time we're together. One of our meetings ended up with me hiding under a sweetgum tree near my home. After a search party launched itself and circled the neighborhood, a friend eventually found me and reported that I would only say of my disappearance, "I was on the property. I was on the property."
4) I've been thinking about going to Vegas so much that I'm not sleeping well. When I do sleep, I'm dreaming about losing to one-outers on the river. Restless, I am.
5) The Otis Choke
Nevertheless, I'll sit down at 9pm tonight on Poker Stars, arrange necessities around me, and bannish all other Mt. Otis denizens to other rooms.
Sign-ups are available until right before the tournament under the private tournament tab.
Head over to Guinness and Poker for details and the tournament password.<-- Hide More
I've made it back from the head-clearing trip to the mountains. Unfortunately, the trip also muddles my noodle for a few days, so I need some rest before I get back to regular writing. A non-poker trip report will eventually be up over at my primary blog.
Still, I would be remiss if I didn't point everyone to Guinness and Poker where the Blogfather has an announcement that will make every wannabe pro giddy. We're about to have us a hero.
Lastly, thanks to everyone who commented or sent e-mails about my last post. After a cold weekend in the mountains, the comments were more than heart-warming.
According to Poker Tracker, in my limited 1000 hand sample, my most profitable hand is... (drum roll please)... the HAMMER.
Sounds improbable, right? Sure, Rockets, Big Slick, and the Hilton Sisters have made me some good money as well, but nothing, so far, tops 7-2 offsuit.
How could that be?
It's actually rather simple.More in this Poker Blog! -->
How many times do you actually end up showing down with American Airlines? As much as we'd like to carry this hand out to the showdown for maximum profit, more often than not, we force the other players to get out of the hand (unless we're cracked, but that's a whole other story).
I've decided to start playing the HAMMER like it's the nuts every time. I do my standard pre-flop raise, then I ram the hell out of the pot. I've held the hand 12 times and won it six. Sometimes, someone else bets out big in front of me, or comes back over the top. That's a pretty good sign I won't be able to bet them out, so I get out. I've never shown the HAMMER as a loser.
So what's my point?
I've never been an effective bluffer. I tend to rely on semi-bluffs that often just lose me money. But sometimes it pays to do a stone-cold bluff with a guaranteed loser. Even if you get caught, you're helping establish your table image, and it could mean someone chases you when you really have the nuts.
And every time I scare people out with the HAMMER, I show it (with the appropriate chat). It proves to people that I don't play just premium hands. And that's a good thing.<-- Hide More
The chatter of a foreign language zipped around the table. Tall beers, mexican food, and a flurry of waiters busboys, and latin hostesses filled the room. L'il Otis slept through it all as I sat with Mrs. Otis and two smiling people.
Amazing, I thought.
About 18 years ago, my dad taught me to play poker with plastic chips and an old deck of cards. Over the years, he'd sit in on games with my high school friends, schooling us on when to draw and when not to draw.
Years later, he'd take me on my first trip to Vegas. I was too young to play at the time, occasionally slipping next to a slot machine for a few pulls or up to a roulette table for a few spins of the wheel. My dad would be sitting in a poker room, raking chips, hitting bad beat jackpots, and staying up much later than he ever did in life around the house.
At the time, I remember longing to be sitting there with him, slinging chips, playing the old father and son games that we did in the years before.More in this Poker Blog! -->
In April of 2003, I won an award for a project I completed in my day job. It was fairly prestigious and was presented to me in Atlantic City in front of my wife and parents. Afterwards, Dad and I headed to a poker room and sat up until 4am coffeehousing with the locals and fufilling my dream of playing as father and son.
As we got ready to part the next morning, Dad cornered me by the elevators and slipped a roll of cash into my hand. He knew I was pretty poor and didn't have much of a bankroll to play. "I didn't lose as much as thought I would on this trip. Take it and do whatever you want with it," he said.
The summer passed and I had done little with the money. I'd played in a few home games with it and built it up a little. I took it to Vegas and played with it there, raking pots and thanking Dad for it all along. It's good to have a backer, I thought.
By October of 2003 I was playing better and winning more. I'd gone on a weekend trip to a semi-annual music festival I use to get my head straight. That October trip had been fun, but busted in the waning moments when the social dynamic of a long-time group of friends was ripped apart by the indiscretions of one of my buddies. The thoughts were weighing on my mind as I drove home from the mountains.
I picked up my dog from the kennel and was five minutes from home when my brother called on my cell phone.
"Dad is in the hospital," he said.
My brother, the doctor, went on to explain as best he could in layperson's terms what had happened. An aneurysm had ruptured behind my dad's left eye, forming a huge clot in his brain. The chances of him living were slim. If he managed to pull through, the chances of him living any normal sort of life were almost none. The best-case scenarios in discussion were life in a wheelchair that would probably have to be attended to my a fulltime nurse.
Barely showered from my camping trip, I hopped on a plane with my wife and flew home. Eight hours later I was looking at my dad, the gregarious, chip-slinging hero. He was full of tubes, unconcious, and looking worse than I'd ever seen him.
I tried to play the tough guy, the rock for the family. But as a card player I knew the odds were slim. The man had so few outs that if he'd been in a game he would've been walking away from the table before the river hit.
The doctors said they'd try to fix what was broken, but in trying to fix it, there was a better than 50% chance they would kill or paralyze him. If they didn't fix it, he would die pretty soon anyway.
We waited for three days before the first surgery before watching him get wheeled into the OR. Three hours later, the doctors emerged. "We didn't get it," they said.
Apparently, the surgery was all about "getting it" (fixing the rupture).
The surgery was a wash. We were back to square one.
Three days later, they tried again, but were largely unsuccessful. The dynamics of the surgery were changing. They'd removed the clot, but were unable to fix the rupture.
By this point, I'd done what my dad always told me to do if something were to happen to him. I'd gotten his attorney on the phone and started making arrangements to make sure my mom was set up.
I had lost my cool by that point, wandering the hospital grounds, breaking into racking crying fits that my wife tried desperately to control. I was lost.
It finally came down to a late-night discission in the Emergency Room parking lot with the chief neurosurgeon. We could leave things as they are. If we did, Dad had a 50/50 chance of living for another six months. After that, all bets were off. And even then, he likely would be wheelchair-bound and living no sort of real life.
Or, they could try one last, ultimately risky surgery.
I didn't have to think. Dad would want the surgery. He didn't want to cash. He wanted to win.
That afternoon, I stood at the OR bay doors and watched him get wheeled for a third time to what would almost certainly be the last gamble he'd ever take. It was the worst feeling I'd ever had.
An hour ticked by, then another. The waiting room phone rang and rang, but each time it was for another grieving family. About a dozen of my dad's family and friends sat thumbing through magazines, lying to themselves and each other about how they were sure everything was going to be okay.
As another hour passed I resigned myself to the inevitable. It had taken too long to be a success. I imagined my mother falling to the ground in a round of sobs and wails that I would never be able to get out of my head.
Again, the phone broke through the din. I stood and answered it, nodding as everyone watched.
I hung up and through a blur of tears announced to the room, "They got it."
That was almost a year ago, though it seems like last month. While they had "gotten it" the prognosis was still unclear. Dad had limited use of his right leg and he wasn't communicating well.
The story goes on and on in a blur of hospital rooms, rehab centers, and tears. it's a book, really. But, it culminated two months ago when my dad walked into my wife's hospital room and held his grandson for the first time.
"Look at all his hair," he said in the same voice I've been comforted by for 30 years.
Last night my parents came to town and joined my wife, son, and I for dinner. Over mexican food, Dad quizzed me about my poker playing, and sat wide-eyed as I explained my rise through the limits, my recent successes, and my struggles with maintaining discipline after big wins.
In his eyes, I saw pride and a longing to be right there at the table with me in two months when I go to Vegas.
His recovery has been amazing. He still has a good distance to travel before he'll feel like he's actually recovered enough to outsmart the sharks at the poker tables. I think he's already there, but he's a calculating sonofagun and wants to be at his prime when he sits back down again.
I'm ready for that day.
I'd intended for this to be a one-paragraph post, about how I want to see ALL my online and offline friends in Vegas (make it happen people), to be sure to sign up for the WPBT V on Poker Stars, and to let everyone know that I'm taking a long weekend in the mountains to listen to Billy Joe Shaver, Acoustic Syndicate, and whoever else tickles my fancy.
And then I remembered that it was on my way home from this trip last year that I heard my dad was about to die.
There's something beautifully cyclical about life. From a father's teachings to his son, to a son's love for his father, to a father becoming a grandfather and caring for his grandson for a weekend so his son can go away and find his head again.
This year when I drive back down the mountain, I know my father and son will be safe at home, which means I can sit by a lake for three days and think.
Poker is a game of skill, no doubt. But life can be a game of good fortune. And I am, perhaps, the most fortunate person I know.
Have a good weekend, all.<-- Hide More
I started off yesterday with a trite phrase. I wish I could do better today, but only one applies:
Ask and ye shall receive.More in this Poker Blog! -->
The Otisian Plea yesterday was for three things. Discipline, more home games, and any way to get to Vegas.
Last night, I sat down at my regular online game. I pled for discipline. In a short session, I took in about 15BB. That'll do, thank you. (Although, I did fail myself a bit with last-hand-before-the-blinds-come-around-itis).
I asked for more homegames and BadBlood set a tenative date for one later this month.
And...I asked for a way to get to Vegas.
Pardon me, I'm crying.
United Airlines will dump me in Vegas at 9:47am on December 10th. If everything works the way it is supposed to, I'll be hooking up with up-and-coming card shark, Marty, and some of the poker blogging world kings for five days of poker madness.
Now...if I can make this happen with my work schedule, anybody can.
So, who else is in?<-- Hide More
I've taken to using the trite old phrase, "It's not a sprint. It's a marathon." While I'm loathe to pick up hackneyed turns-of-phrase and use them into submission, I find myself using this one more and more when tutoring friends who are beginning to love the game.
Another phrase I like to use--after hearing someone say the same thing over and over again--is, "Who are you trying to convince?"
That is, if I hear someone protesting and protesting, and methinks they doth protest too much, perhaps they are trying to convince themselves and not me.
So, Otis, who are you trying to convince?More in this Poker Blog! -->
In short, I'm an undisciplined idiot, who, when on the cusp of greatness, always seems to find a way to impede my progress.
So, this afternoon, I'm a MWO ISO the following:
1) Discipline--After a very profitable weekend of play (up about 100 BB), I decided it was time to start pulling a little bit off the top for life, fun, and whatnot. I made a decision to play at my leisure, and cash out any amount over a predetermined mark in my bankroll. Sunday night I pulled about 25BB out of my Empire account and smiled. There. Now, that cash is safe.
All day Monday I planned for the Monday night attack. While I paid little mind to the fabled "cash out curse," it did hang out in the back of my noodle.
I sat down around 9pm last night and within a couple hours had worked my way up about 20BB. I thought for a moment about stopping for the night, but figured I'd play for another hour or so. Within that hour, I ended up at a loosey-goosey table or two and lost my mind. Within an hour, I was down 40BB. Part of me said, just quit. You know you're running bad, so quit. But I didn't. And within an hour and 15 minutes I was back up to even.
So, quit, right?
No, not this undisciplined Otis. I wanted to get back up by 20BB and make my nut for the night. I almost got there, before self-destructing and ending up back down 40BB.
What bothers me is that I recognized all of this as it was happening. It was not the cashout curse. It was undisciplined, goal-oriented, fatigued play. The six-hour session was demoralizing, at worst. At best, it was another in a series of wakeup calls that I am a good player if I just play my game. I allowed myself to get sucked into tables with impossibly loose players. What's worse, I allowed myself to loosen up with them in attempts to take advantage of their play.
If I remain my disciplined self, I honestly believe I can continue the success I've had this year.
Still, I think I may need some advice from some of my fellow bloggers who play the middle-high limits. Shorthanded tables with one or two ATC players. Whatta you do? Do you try to take advantage of them or do you play it safe?
2) More home games-- Just this past weekend, I threw my name in the hat for another home game. Just today I got a call about a game. It just happens to fall on the one night this month than I'm working a night shift. Talk about wanting to quit one's job.
3) Any way to get to Vegas-- There appears to be a burgeoning Blogger Con happening around my birthday. I missed my annual Vegas trip this year in lieu of L'il Otis' arrival. Now, there appears to be one hell of a trip forming in a couple months. It seems the only thing standing in my way is my job. Again, talk about wanting to quit.
In all honesty, I think I'm ISO several other things, but I'll save those for another day.
This feels like enough un-fun mental information for a guy who prefers just to tell little stories.
Sorry about that.<-- Hide More
We stepped out of Emilo the SDV and into the autumn night. We were four in number Friday night, meeting the crew at The Mark for an evening of freedom and poker play.
"Something's burning," I said, grabbing the 12-pack of schwag beer from the floor board. I didn't stop to think about the days five years ago when I steadfastly refused to drink a beer at a poker game. Then, I kept my vices seperate. Now, though, as parenthood creeps into my poker and drinking time, I find myself mixing the two more and more.
"Smells like the deck is on fire," I said. I could see little flickers of orange between the wooden slats of the back porch decking.
Then came the soft voice out of the orange light.
"Do you know my daddy?"
The red-headed little girl poked her head out.
"Did you come to see my daddy?"
"We did," I said. 'What's on fire?"
She pointed. The chiminea on the corner of the deck burned bright.
'We're toasting marshamallows," she said.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Normally, I don't drink alone (or drink with God, as we used to say in college), but this particular night I was in need of a drink or ten. Or twelve. And it didn't matter that most everybody else at the table was drinking water, soda, or sweet tea. I kicked it up a notch or two.
Back in the day, you would've known me by the two Diet Mountain Dews and two packs of Sweet Tarts (or Spree) that I brought to every game. Now, if I walk in without at least a sixpack, you should be surprised.
And so, the game begins, the toasted marshmallows on the outside, and the toasted Otis on the inside.
The tournament-format game opened wildly, with two players all-in preflop. One held the Hilton Sisters, the other Big Slick. Slick won the hand. I finished another beer.
I'd recount what happened for the rest of the game, but it's a bit blurry. Suffice it to say, I lost because of my inability to deal with a Cold Caller. He was new to the game and, perhaps, didn't recognize how good his hands were. Or, perhaps, he was paying me too much respect. Regardless, when he had position on me, he consistently failed to raise or re-raise with the best hand. By the time I figured this out, I was short-stacked and half-crocked.
There was a part of me that knew I should beg for someone, anyone, to save me from myself. But I didn't. Anytime someone went to the fridge, I ordered another drink.
Okay, here's a silly thing to say: I don't play that much worse when I'm drinking. In fact, I may play slightly better. I discovered this last year in Vegas.
Then, I'd been playing tight all day long. I'd had nothing to drink but Diet Cokes and nothing to eat at all. My stack had barely moved. By late afternoon, the fatigue and the caffeine were getting to me. My hands kept shaking when I'd try to squeeze my cards.
So, I ordered a beer to calm me down (and a Bloody Mary, so I could eat the olives--don't think I hadn't read my Tilt Boy lore before I went).
The olives and beer sustained me for a 13 hour-session in which I won more than any other session on the trip.
By the time I busted out of the first game (pushing in my shortstack with 73o, to the amusement of everybody there), I was lit up. And alone in my insobriety.
Then, perhaps in an act of mercy, The Host's Wife walked in to play in the second game, and thusly announced she, too, was drunk.
Perhaps it was being able to commiserate in our inebriation, or perhaps it was just my good senses coming back, but I started to play better.
The second tournament of the night sat eleven. I found myself between The Host and Brother Rick (his brother, not mine). We chatted throughout the night, when I heard Rick say the magic words.
"I'm just here for practice."
My spidey sense perked up. Those words were code for, "I play in a bigger game and I'm just here to tighten up my bolts."
Here's the thing: I've been dying to find the big games in town for about six months now. There's a lawyer's game here hosted by a guy who made a final table at the WSOP. There's the fabled "downtown" game. And now The Host and Brother Rick are talking about The Warehouse.
Actually, this is the thing: If I were ever able to work my way into one of these games, I would play sober. Yet, I tend to want to play in them more (that is, I have the balls) when I'm a little tipsy.
Is that gambler's irony or drinker's irony?
Eventually, Brother Rick busted out and went in search of greener pastures. The field of eleven worked its way down to four: The Host, Otis, the host's Wife, and G-Rob.
I was still smarting from doubling up The Host. He'd called my AQ all-in with his shorter stack A-rag. His rag hit, he doubled up, then played his stack masterfully to a sizable chip lead.
In the meantime, he and his wife were making last-longer bets for sexual favors.
I tried not to listen...sort of.
As the hour drew toward 2am, The Host leaned over to me and said quietly, "You sort of wind down as the night goes on, dont you?"
It is an embarassing possiblity in the Drinking Life of Otis. While not, I repeat, not an inevitability, there is always the chance Blow Dart will happen.
Okay, imagine a guy sitting at a poker table, hooping and hollering with his boys, all of them drinking themselves silly.
Now, imagine a tribal native popping up from behind the hedges with a blow dart gun and shooting a tranqulizer right in Otis' throat.
One second Otis is gregarious and silly, the next he's silent and immobile.
In my defense, I hadn't eaten dinner. I'd began preparing Ramen Noodles right before the game, but I used a new, slick pot holder to take them out of the microwave, and dropped the bowl all over the floor. The next day I was still finding dried noodles on the kitchen floor.
And so it was that I busted out on the bubble, again letting The Host's Wife best me and letting G-Rob outlast me. The Host eventually won the whole thing, whereupon I went home to explain to my wife that there is a method to my madness.
Fortunately, since I'm not exactly sure what that method is, Mrs. Otis was asleep.<-- Hide More
I don't get up early. I just don't. Mornings are for nuns and school children. Poker players play at night.
But here's something interesting:
If you go to bed and wake up in the morning, you catch the players who have been up all night, running bad, and trying to catch up before they hit the sack.
This morning was a good morning.More in this Poker Blog! -->
In an effort to spare you the bloody details, I played for one hour before I had to get ready for work. One hour.
In that one hour, I made nearly ten times what I'll earn at work today. Doing the math, I'm going to work all day today, all of next week, and half of the next week before I make as much as I did playing poker for one hour this morning.
As I showered, I asked myself, "How can that happen?"
One answer: Variance.
To wit: This would all be very good news if it weren't for the fact that this was my first winning session all week and all I did this morning was recoup my losses for the week.
Still, one hour.
I gotta find me a live home game for tonight.
Anyone?<-- Hide More
When the dust cleared, Otis had written a spectacular cover story on Ben Affleck and I threw in a little piece on the top poker rooms in Vegas.
I was giggling a little. The word "tricky" seemed a silly little word, and its alliterative symbiosis with the word "trail" had worked its way into my internal dialog. And since I was unable to keep my noodle's monologue inside my head, I kept muttering the word "tricky" and trying not to fall.
"Tricky," I said one more time, hoping the person behind me might take heed, take warning of the absolute trickiness of it all.
"Stands to reason that it's tricky, Otis," came the voice from behind me (or perhaps it was ahead of me). "This is, in fact, the Tricky Trail."
Indeed, it was.More in this Poker Blog! -->
The Tricky Trail is a winding, tree-root-ridden ascent from the shore of tiny Lake Eden to the side of a small mountain. On two weekends every year, a small clearing on the side of the mountain becomes a Lord of the Flies-ish beehive of bonfires, native drumming, and hippy-dance hoo-haw. It is, in short, a drum circle that passes the time between the close of the music festival festivities at Midnight and sun-up the the following day.
Getting there is a hike and half for those like me who camp at Lakeside. For days leading up to the festival, campers begin going on the record.
"This year," they'll say with all confidence, "I'm going to the drum circle." Then, after a moment of thought, and with no small amount of hubris, they'll add, "Both nights."
However, it often comes to pass that, after a day of general silliness, a night of music, and way too much booze throughout, many of the campers slip away into tents, hoping their absence won't be noted. From their tents, however, they'll hear the quiet chiding.
"He said 'both nights' didn't he? I think he said he was going both nights."
In short, there is no shame in not making it to the drum circle. It's a long and sometimes treacherous hike at one in the morning. Then there's the matter of getting back down the mountain and to your tent.
There is, however, shame in saying you're going to make the hike, then retiring early under the fatigue of 15 hours of straight partying.
On this particular night, I was making good on an arrogant moment earlier in the day when I said I was going. Definitely. By 11pm, I knew I was in no condition to make the hike safely. I should've just gone to bed.
Instead, I was giggling my way up the trail, keeping it between the little candles that line the 1.5 foot-wide path. I muttered "tricky" every few steps.
By the hand of something divine (or at least, the hands of Manos), I made it. Within a few minutes, I was surrounded in a musky, tribal swarm of unadulterated bacchanalia.
To be fair, the concept of the drum circle is greater than the drum circle itself. It is never a letdown, but at the same time, it is something that once done needn't be done again unless you just NEED an extra couple hours of release at the end of the day.
In fact, I've come to believe over five or six years of making the semi-annual climb, the purpose of the drum circle is, in fact, purpose. It is a goal to be achieved for the purpose of achievement.
Again, on this particular night, I needed only to be somewhere safe, if not in bed, at least safely tucked around the campfire where I could hurt no one, least of all myself. But for the purpose of achievement, and making good on my word that I'd go, I went.
After a couple of hours came the particularly trying task of making it back down Tricky Trail, which, in all fairness, is much more tricky on the way down than the way up.
"Tricky," I said to no one in particular.
Again, the hands of Manos took over and led me down the trail, around the lake, and back to Tent City where many of our crew had already bedded down for the night. I had a camping chair in sight where I would plop until I was sufficiently coherent to join Mrs. Otis in the tent. Only five feet separated me from my destination.
That's when, after a couple miles of walking the trickiest trail in all of Black Mountain, I tripped over a container full of pots and pans and spilled into a pile full of campling supplies. The noise woke most everybody up. From a tent, one quiet, mocking voice could be heard.
"Sounds like Otis made it back."
And, so, in the many months since that night, I've found myself deeply embroiled in the game of poker.
Those who know me know that when I started playing regularly, it was all for fun. If I was playing $3/$6, I felt like a high-roller, like I was riding the lightning, like a guy on the edge.
Then something happened. In real life, I work in an industry where people either "get it" or they don't. Sometime around last February, something clicked in my poker game. In short, "I got it."
My bankroll grew and I made the decision to start playing for real.
I bought Poker Tracker, I studied, and I won.
Then I went and did what I shouldn't do. I set a goal. I wanted to build my bankroll to the exact dollar amount at which, if I should so desire, I could buy directly into a fairly well-known poker championship.
And I've been really, really close.
Each time I come within a couple hundred dollars of my goal, I trip over my camping supplies, and land just short of where I want to be.
In all fairness to myself, my goal is an arbitrary one. It means nothing other than I reached a goal. In setting it, I have established a great white whale for myself.
Like my drum circle, getting to the goal is more the achievement than actually hitting the goal itself.
And here's the thing: I'm stuck. I don't know what to do with my game. At present, I'm about 90% of the way to my goal. I get close, I fall back, I get close, I fall back. I never lose much. I never win much.
After meeting my 300x BB bankroll requirement for limit play, I started dabbling in shorthanded play. I've been successful, but vulnerable to the inevitable variance.
I don't believe I'm dealing with a logistical poker issue. The strength of my game is as good as it has ever been (which still needs work, but that's a different topic). I'm dealing with something very ethereal, very mental, and sometimes bordering on emotional.
I need to turn some sort of mental corner. I need to understand myself and my motivation for playing. I sense that I have committed--at least internally--to playing for real (not professionally, mind, but for real....there's a difference, I think, that may need some further explanation in a future post). As such, like committing to making the hike up Tricky Trail, I feel committed to making good on my personal commitment to playing.
I just don't know what I'm going to do or how I'm going to go about it.
In less than two weeks, I'll be back up on the mountain, listening to Acoustic Syndicate, Billy Joe Shaver, and maybe Donna the Buffalo. I've decided that I will make no commitment to hiking Tricky Trail. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, you'll find me warmly nestled next to Mrs. Otis, listening to the drumbeats from the comfort of my sleeping bag.
Nevertheless, this semi-annual trip always does my mind well. I can think.
I have a lot to think about, both professionally, as well as what I'm going to do with my poker game.
So, if you need me, you'll find me at lakeside.
Chances are, I'll be the guy muttering "tricky" every few minutes and when asked if I'm going to the drum circle, declaring, "Definitely. Both nights."
That's just the sick kind of Otis I am.<-- Hide More
Okay... I've got a weekend under my belt and I'm up $100 overall (up about $200 on the ring games... damn those SNG's! I've sworn 'em off). I've also finally gotten myself PokerTracker. If I'm gonna play, I might as well be serious about it.
For my last two hands of the night, I dropped the HAMMER at two different tables. I shudder to think what PokerTracker thinks of that! Here they are...More in this Poker Blog! -->
Table chrlier angels (Real Money) -- Seat 4 is the button
Total number of players : 10
Seat 7: Up4Poker ( $42.80) DENALI03 posts small blind (0.25)
Sundance96 posts big blind (0.50)
** Dealing down cards **
Dealt to Up4Poker [ 7d, 2c ]
xBulletzx: mmmm crack
Up4Poker raises (1) to 1 xBulletzx folds.
boozeandlose calls (1)
JKisineffect calls (1)
sherrieee33 calls (1)
Sundance96 calls (0.50)
** Dealing Flop ** : [ 2h, 5c, 5s ]
Up4Poker bets (5) boozeandlose folds.
** Summary **
Main Pot: $10 | Rake: $0.25
Board: [ 2h 5c 5s ]
sherrieee33 balance $15.65, lost $1 (folded)
DENALI03 balance $17.30, lost $0.25 (folded)
Sundance96 balance $102.55, lost $1 (folded)
Up4Poker balance $46.80, bet $6, collected $10, net +$4 [ 7d 2c ] [ two pairs, fives and twos -- 7d,5c,5s,2c,2h ] boozeandlose balance $13.50, lost $1 (folded)
JKisineffect balance $20.29, lost $1 (folded)
Up4Poker: the HAMMER!!! Up4Poker: Now that's smokin' crack!
0/0 TexasHTGameTable (PL) - Mon Oct 04 00:51:15 EDT 2004
Table Buttered popcorn (Real Money) -- Seat 2 is the button
Total number of players : 9
Seat 10: Up4Poker ( $44) fukthatriver posts small blind (0.25)
DrunkenSushi posts big blind (0.50)
** Dealing down cards **
Dealt to Up4Poker [ 7s, 2h ] boozeandlose folds.
brogar3 calls (0.50)
Booktrek calls (0.50)
Up4Poker raises (1.50) to 1.50 RockPoker folds.
brogar3 calls (1)
Booktrek calls (1)
** Dealing Flop ** : [ Th, Qs, Ks ]
Up4Poker bets (5) brogar3 folds.
** Summary **
Main Pot: $10 | Rake: $0.25
Board: [ Th Qs Ks ]
fukthatriver balance $55.72, lost $0.25 (folded)
DrunkenSushi balance $24, lost $0.50 (folded)
brogar3 balance $18.95, lost $1.50 (folded)
Booktrek balance $19.32, lost $1.50 (folded)
Up4Poker balance $47.50, bet $6.50, collected $10, net +$3.50 [ 7s 2h ] [ high card king -- Ks,Qs,Th,7s,2h ]
A couple months ago, I emptied every online poker account I had going. I just wasn't playing often enough to make it worth while. I would log on every now and then and throw away 25 bucks without blinking. If I wasn't going to take this seriously, I shouldn't be wasting my time or money.
Tonight I reloaded in Empire. It's been awhile since I've played there, but Otis says there's no other place worth playing. I'm a little rusty, but I think I did okay for the first night back, and even pulled out the HAMMER!More in this Poker Blog! -->
The bad news is that I lost money.
I'm down $19 in 5 hours of play. Hardly stellar results, unless you consider I blew $33 on a limit SNG (I didn't realize it was limit), $55 on a NL SNG (my Big Slick all-in pre-flop got cracked by AQ when the Q fell on the flop... bastard) and $11 on a multi (I made a terrible call, ugh).
So throw out that $99 and I actually finished up $80 in my ring games. Here's just a few hands that remind me why I love fish... (all hands are at PLHE $25 max buy-in tables):
Hand 1 I'm in early position at a full table when I get dealt one of my favorite hands, pocket 10's (or jackpot, as I like to call it). I simply call the BB of $.50 and 6 of us see a flop of Kd, Kh, 4h. It's checked to me and I bet a dollar. I figured I'd test the water and see if there was a king out there.
I get 2 callers and the three of us see the magical Ts on the turn. We all check this time, I figure I'll slow play it. The river is the Qh. Great news for me because it puts both a flush and a straight on the board. As long as no one's holding a better boat, I'm golden.
This time the first guy leads out with $2. I raise it to $4 and the third guy calls. The original bettor re-raises to $6 and I figure it's time to go all in for my remaining $23. I've got them both covered and, amazingly, they both call with $14 and $13 respectively.
It's showdown time and a nut heart flush and trip K's both lose to my boat. The final pot is $69 for a tidy $39 profit.
Hand 2 This time I'm in the SB when I get dealt Jd, 9s. Five players limp in so I simply complete and the BB checks. Seven of us see a flop of 7h-Jh-Ts. Well, it's top pair and a gutshot straight draw. Not ideal, but not bad for my small blind hand. It's checked all the way around to the button who bets $2. I figure there's a strong chance of a steal here so I call. Three other players also call.
Five of us watch the Js come on the turn. I have to wonder at this point if my trip J's are really good. Anyone who limped in with 8-9 already has me beat. Not to mention A-J, K-J, Q-J, J-T, and J-7. I check and three players behind me all bet the minimum of $.50. I figure it's time to put them to the test, and I bet the pot of $15. I get one caller.
The turn is the 4h, putting a flush possibility on the board. I'm liking my hand less and less, but I figure there's no way I get called $15 on a flush draw, so I ignore that possibility. The straight and better kicker still scare me, but not enough, because I go all-in for my remaining $19 and get called.
This showdown was scary. I was really hoping not to get called, but the guy was pot committed. If he had anything, he had to call. When he shows Jc-8c, I quickly scan the board and realize I squeaked out a win. This $80 pot brought me another $43 profit.
Hand 3 We're down to just 8 players now and I'm the small blind again. That's when I look down at 2s-7h. It's The HAMMER! There's only one caller in front of me, so I complete and the BB checks.
The flop is Td-Qd-2d. Seems like a perfect bluff opportunity, right? And since I have a pair of deuces, I'll stretch, and call it a semi-bluff! Except for the fact that I was a wimp and checked. But so did the other players, so we see a turn for free.
It's the 3c. No more fooling around, I lead out with $1.50. I'm hoping the pot-sized bet will scare everyone away. It doesn't, and I get one caller.
The river is the 9h. Obviously, it doesn't help me. Very few cards in the deck could have helped me. That doesn't deter me however. I'm on a bluff with The HAMMER, and I will not be beaten! I bet the pot again and throw $4.30 in the pot. He must have sensed The HAMMER because he laid down his hand.
We'll never know what he had, but I did show the table my beautiful hand. It's only the second time I showed my hand all night (quad Q's earlier). There was no chat from the table either before or after I declared "The HAMMER!!!!" in the chat bar. These guys should start reading blogs!
The Multi I'm really pissed at myself for getting knocked out of the multi. I doubled up early, made it to the first break well above the average stack size and was playing pretty smart.
That's when I got into a stupid hand. I was dealt K-Q off. I hate KQ. It's one of the most overrated hands in poker. That's probably the wrong way to put that. It's one of the most overplayed hands in poker.
Pre-flop I raised 3x the BB. It's my standard "no information raise." The big stack raised me another 200 and I called. The flop is K-x-x. I go ahead and check, thinking I might pull a little check-raising.
The big stack leads out for a couple hundred and I figure he's just trying to push me around. I raise him another couple hundred and he re-raises me! That's when alarms went off in my head. I pictured Big Slick as vividly as if it were right in front of me.
I called. Why? Oh, I don't know... maybe I'll get a Q on the turn. Of course, the turn was a blank. I checked again and he bet about half of my remaining stack. I had about 800 left in front of me and I had already committed about 1000 to the pot. Inexplicably, I raised him all-in.
What the hell was I thinking!?!? I knew he had AK. He called as quickly as he could and flipped over exactly what I knew he held. Why did I play this hand so poorly?
It's simple. I got married to the hand. I bet it with one thought in mind, catch a K or Q on the flop and ram your top pair. But for some reason I ignored the pretty clear information in front of me. I was dominated, plain and simple. I've got to learn to lay it down more.
But that's why I'm getting back into the grind. I've got to eliminate these holes. I want to be a better player, and you can only get better by playing. See you at the tables! (By the way, look for me as Up4Poker.)<-- Hide More