Fact: I may be a compulsive gambler.
Fact: I don't deal well with peer pressure.
What do fact 1 and fact 2 mean? It means I'll be landing in Las Vegas at about 7:10pm on Friday December 10th. See ya at the tables!
It's about time for a G-Rob posting. I feel like Dean Moriarty in an Otis travelogue, and aren't we a merry bunch?
The first time I played no limit hold-em was barely a year ago and, of course, it was Otis who brought me along. He has a tendency to yammer forever about the things he loves (Just ask him about YAHOO Launch Cast sometime) and for the moment he really loved poker.More in this Poker Blog! -->
We played a 20 dollar tournament on his kitchen table with the old poker regulars he always kept around, like his own Lenny and Karl. Out of 6 players...I finished 2nd. Whoop-di-do you say? Well stop! That's an annoying noise.
Next up, a giant tournament, again at the house of the Dart. This time I finshed 2nd out of about 35 entrants. I felt like a champ and was payed like part of the champ's posse. Not bad, but it took me a whole year to wear the crown.
Saturday night was something special. It was like that first feel of breast underneath a bra you still can't unlatch. 450 people bought into a tournament on Ultimate Bet and the payout for first place was 700 LARGE!......dollars.
But it felt pretty LARGE dammit!
I'd like to regale you with a blow-by-blow but, frankly, I didn't expect to write it up. I'll take notes in the future. But, because it was my first big win, I do remember the final hand.
I was up 2 to 1 in stack after only 5 minutes of re-raising nearly every blind. I have an image to maintain. Then after my standard pre-flop re-raise, he doubled it, and I called...with QQ.
Flop shows Js, 9s, 5h...and he pushed all in. Smelled..from a mile away like a fush draw and.....c'est la vie...I'm going to Vegas.
I love poker. I'll take better notes next time. And if I have to be Moriarty, I'm drinking like him next week. Beware the binge of G-Rob. You've been warned.<-- Hide More
It was much too late for G-Rob to be calling. In the old days (read: a couple of years ago), it would've meant nothing for him to call at 11:30pm. However, these days, a call at 11:30 meant one of a couple things: Somebody was dead or it was time to put one of our buddies in a mental institution.
At the moment, I didn't feel much like dealing with either.More in this Poker Blog! -->
I picked my cell off the coffee table and flipped it open.
It wasn't the kindest response, but the kid was asleep, the wife was eying me warily (as she does when I get late calls), and I had been getting killed at an online table (KK cracked three times in one day, twice by the Hilton Sisters, once by a runner-runner straight).
"Ask me what I just did," he commanded. There was a sound in his voice that I know. That lilt just behind the uvula is specific to one kind of news. I already knew what it was going to be.
But I humored him.
"You know those huge multi-table tournaments?"
"I just took first place."
I offered my sincerest of congratulations. In my whole poker life, I've only taken first place in tournaments with five tables or less. G-Rob had outlasted several hundred people and nailed first place with no less than the Hilton sisters on the final hand.
I waited as long as I could before I said the obvious. "You know what this means."
He knew what it meant.
G-Rob hasn't been to Vegas since HeCon: Vegas in 2001 (another story for another day). It was there he discovered the beauty of Raging Solo (all rights reserved). His record was an 18-hour solo rage that took him to nearly every hotel on the strip.
When the WPBT convention started growing and I discovered I could make it, I nearly begged G-Rob to go with me. As my poker wingman (and occasional bodyguard), he makes frequent appearances here on Up For Poker. Beyond that, he and Pauly would get along very well.
We'd broached the subject with his wife back in October. I'd tried to bring it up in casual conversation and was met with an immediate icy stare. Her response was something like, "Well, I guess the kids could do without Christmas presents this year."
That was sarcasm. I recognize that.
So, we let it die. G-Rob would have to wait.
But, wait! His bankroll was now flush with unexpected cash. It seemed a sure thing.
All day on Sunday, I checked flight prices, finding interesting possibililties. It looked like he could make it happen.
I got up this morning, anticipation bubbling in my empty stomach. I hurried into work. I was a couple minutes late for our morning meeting. I sat down next to him. He didn't look at me.
I knew what that meant.
"Pssssst." He finally turned around. I mouthed the word: Vegas.
The look on his face told the whole story.
After our meeting was over, he related the tale: The night that he'd won the tournament, the energy in his body was a great as it had been in recent memory (with the exception of what were surely some great sexual experienes with his wife). His wife shared in his giddiness.
But Sunday, he broached the subject of Vegas and was met with the same icy stare.
The ensuing conversation made G-Rob review his hand. A newly flush bankroll clearly translated into the nut flush in the game of going to Vegas. There was little chance his wife could beat it. However, he was playing the game of life.
In the game of life, even your nut flush gets beat by a pair of kids with a wife kicker.
G-Rob sulked around work for a while. It was sad to watch him. He's a big guy--some say freakishly large--and watching a guy like that in a sullen mood is enough to make even the most optimistic of souls turn fatalistic.
So, I sat down to write G-Rob's lament.
I'm actually quite lucky, really. Not only am I going to meet the bloggers I've always wanted to meet, not only am I traveling with elite blogger BadBlood, but some of my best friends in the world are meeting me there. Marty was the first to sign on, and started blogging to qualify himself for the blogger tournament. Then McCown, Cappy, Brother McCown, and Joey Two-Hands.
A down-on-his-luck Otis couldn't ask for much more.
My phone rang a few minutes ago. The caller ID indicated the call was coming from inside the building. So, I was surprised when semi-automated voice on the other end said, "Please stand-by for an update on Las Vegas."
Two minutes later, G-Rob was standing beside me. Actually he was hopping up and down beside me (which is quite a trick for a guy who is 6'5").
He'd called his wife and pretended to be a representative of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Bureau. The LVCVB really, really wanted to meet G-Rob.
With a sigh, his wife said, "Does G-Rob want anything else for Christmas?"
The giddiness started to well-up. "Um...no."
With that, Wife of G-Rob relented. Minutes later, he'd secured the days off from work. Seconds later, he was kissing me on the cheek (I sort of wish he hadn't done that).
As I speak, our in-house travel agent is booking G-Rob's flight.
And now, my poker wingman and occasional body guard is walking around the office staring at his flight itinerery and giggling.
Now begins the work to see if the Sam's Town tourney will have space for him at the WPBT Holiday Classic.
And the wait. The eleven-day wait.<-- Hide More
Thanksgiving is the time of year to take a look back at what you're thankful for. So in looking back at my time at the tables, I've decided that I'm thankful for...
...the bad beat jackpot. There's nothing like losing a hand and walking away with $1600.
...playing poker with Dad. Last time I was home, my Dad ran a little tourney at his favorite watering hole (he's like Norm there... really!). I finished up for the night and so did he. I think I impressed him. This also gives me a chance to remind you of the best post ever on Up For Poker where Otis talks about his Dad.More in this Poker Blog! -->
...playing poker with my brother. I think most people grow up to realize that their siblings are some of their closest friends, even if they fought every day growing up. Anyone who is a twin knows that bond can be even tighter. My brother and I sling chips any chance we get. This also gives me a chance to point out some of the funniest posts ever written for Up For Poker.
...playing poker with my sister and brother-in-law. My parents apparently did a good job of raising a bunch of gambling degenerates. And my sister has even gotten my brother-in-law in on the action. In just a few months I'll be an uncle and I'll work on turning my nephew J.P. into the next great poker champ!
...playing poker with Mom. See, everyone in the family is ready to throw down. Of course, with Mom involved, we're only supposed to play for pride. The money games wait until she's in bed!
...my Greenville poker buddies. Everytime I return to G-Vegas, I can count on some good poker. First there was Bradoween then there was the Garage Poker. And if I make it there for New Year's Eve... I have a feeling there will be a little poker then, too!
...poker bloggers. What an amazing little community we've built. We have had several online tourneys and soon, our first live event (if there's a miracle, I'll be there). And now we have a logo and T-shirts. Look out WPT, the WPBT is coming!
...fish. Does that need any explanation?
...flopping a flush.
...filling a boat on the river.
...Up For Poker readers. I'd probably write even if no one was reading, but hundreds of you stop by every day to see what Otis and I are up to. I'm really thankful for Otis, because his writing making this web site what it is. And it's you readers who make us keep doing it!<-- Hide More
"Look at that boy, Martha. He looks like a superball, what with all his bouncing around."--Imaginary Otis-watchers in Vegas, 2003
The last time I was in Vegas, I couldn't control my anticipation. I elbowed a woman in the chest in an effort to get my bags off the luggage carousel. With no casino host to meet me (I was sure Olaf would show up one lat time), I found msyelf without a pre-arranged ride. Since I like to walk and a like to chat up cab drivers, I hadn't rented a car.
I was less than a mile from my hotel, but one doesn't walk from the airport in Vegas. I spied the cab line. It seemed to be more than a hour long. The shuttles in Vegas are terminally slow.
As I bounced from the cab side to the shuttle side, my face must have become a mask of frustration usually only seen on the faces of horny high school guys who can't convince their girlfriends that they really, really do love them.
Then, a lot like the drug pedlers in Dead show parking lots, a guy sidled up next to me and whispered something.More in this Poker Blog! -->
"Huh?" I said. I was getting ready to hire someone to pretend I was rich and ferry me to my hotel in an Escalade or something.
"You want a cab fast, man?" He had a south of the border accent and a look in his eye that he knew how to work the system.
I reached in my pocket, mentally doing the math on how to tip an unknown guy for an unknown service that may or may not be legit. I decided to try ten bucks.
I slipped it in his hand and he grabbed my bags. I followed him out a side door where I saw the cab line had grown exponentially. He threw up his hand and a cab zipped to the curb. The guy gave me a nod, I hopped in the cab, and directed the driver to the MGM.
As he pulled away, I stole a look at the curb where a blue sign hung on a sign. On it was the universal symbol of a handicapped person.
Somehow, within 30 minutes of de-planing, I had unwittingly been reduced to pretending to be handicapped in order to get to the casino faster.
I silently vowed to never tell anyone how much of a degenerate I had become. I also silently noted the quickest way to get a cab in Vegas and planned to try it again someday.
When I returned from Vegas, I left that part of the story out. I picked up my write-up after I had dropped my bags at the MGM and scampered across the elevated walkway, through Ney York/New York, mistakenly walking down to street level, climbing a fence, dodging traffic, and somehow finding my way onto the motorized walkway at Excalibur.
"You want us to move over?"
The guy must have sensed my impatience. He and his wife's ass were blocking the moving walkway leading into the Excalibur hotel. I needed to get through there and to the Luxor in time to sign up for the noon no-limit tourney.
"No, that's okay," I said as I placed my hands on the rubber handrail and jumped over to stable ground. "This will work better."
As I strode confidently toward my destiny, the guy yelled at my back.
"In a hurry to lose that $300, buddy?"
It was Sunday morning, 11:15am. I'd already been awake for nine hours and my poker jones was about to eat my liver (something I was sure I'd need later on in the day).
In the end, my anticiaption, while warranted, was unnecessary. The structure of the Luxor tournament was silly. Still, I continued to play there for reasons I still don't fully understand.
Why do I bring it all up again? Because in less than three weeks, I'll be back on the Strip, back at the tables, and undoubtedly back into a sublime level of frustration of not being able to get out of the airport fast enough.
Despite my spontaneous nature, I tend to plan trips to a silly extent. Two years ago, I organized a Vegas trip for 23 guys. It went off flawlessly.
For the upcoming trip, I didn't plan at all. I got permission from Mrs. Otis, I got permission from my boss, I booked my flight. I recruited a friend to accompany me. He booked a cheap room at the WPBT convention hotel which we planned to share.
Almost all of us are poker players to one degree or another. Marty and McCown have fallen in love with the game in the past year. Everyone already knows BadBlood. Two-Hands is a math genius and a champion drinker. The last time we were in Vegas together, he kept referring to a bald, tough-guy, poker player named Nick as Pauly. After repeateded insistance on my part that Joey stop calling Nick by the wrong name, Joey finally shut up. Until about ten minutes later when he looked the guy in the face and said, "Pauly, I love you."
So, after all the recruiting, I was fairly happy with the crew that would go to meet the rest of the poker blogging elite. But it seemed like I was forgetting something.
Oh, yeah...we only booked one room.
When Marty booked the room, it averaged $60 a night, a steal on a weekend when many of the Vegas rooms are going to be filled with cowboys from the National Finals Rodeo. So, when I decided we needed a second room, I hopped online to find the rooms had tripled in price.
This leaves our little crew with some decisions to make.
I'm fairly married to the idea of staying at the same hotel as the other WPBT conventioneers. Sure, when it comes down to it, we're not going to be in the room that much and by the time it comes to bed down, it's not like any hotel is that far away. Still, I don't want to deviate from the home base. I'm like that.
So, while I'm not so hot on spending triple what the rooms were going for three weeks ago, I'm probably going to book another room for at least a portion of the trip. I may end up spending a few hours in the hotel's poker room to try to get the poker rate while I'm there.
Looking back, it seems pretty silly. Here we are, all adults making a decent living, likely to gamble several times more than we're going to pay for rooms, and here I am obsessing about a little hotel room. But, that's what I do.
Frankly, I think some enterprising Vegas entrepreneur should hit up the hotels to endeavor in a venture in which they offer personal sleeping pods for gamblers of our ilk. The room is only a place to keep our changes in underwear and shower once every 36-48 hours. If we sleep, it's rare and doesn't usually last for very long. A little pod big enough for my luggage and a cot would be all I would need.
So, here I sit, one day before Thanksgiving, considering a trip that is still 16 days away. In between now and then I have to contend with the in-laws, work two weeks, and recover from what is sure to be a painful birthday celebration on December 4th.
With work moving slowly, I'm toying with an agenda for the weekend (incidentally, I never follow my agenda and only compose them as an exercise that allows me to think about Vegas in what I convince myself is a productive manner).
Friday, December 10th
8:00am--Board plane, go to sleep, wake up in midflight, watch some DVD on my laptop after learning I can't get high-speed access on a bankrupt airline.
9:30am--Land in Vegas, try to remember whether I packed and if I did, whether I checked my luggage or carried it on.
10:45am--Check into hotel and check to see if anyone else from the WPBT has arrived
11:00am-Buy my first rack of chips and start playing
Noon-8:30pm--Gray area that will likely involve a lot of cards and a few drinks
10:00pm--Greet the rest of my crew as they arrive and get them sat down at a poker table
Saturday, December 11th
2:30am--Find a pai gow table.
7:30am--Go to sleep for a few hours before the first ever WPBT event
10:00am--Cab it to Sam's Town for the breakfast and meet and greet with the WPBT players and pros. Somehow I figure I'll end up playing there as I wait for the tournament to start.
1:00pm--Start playing in the WPBT Holiday Classic
1:09pm--Bust out of the WPBT Holiday Classic and meet Al Can't Hang at the bar for a shot or five.
From there, even in my exercised mind, it gets a little gray (charcoal). I'd be happy to take suggestions, because I've still got three more days to go after that.
God bless that God forsaken town.<-- Hide More
G-Rob stood at the top of his driveway staring blankly into the darkness. I was late to pick him up, but he didn't seem as annoyed as he should've been. A pair of bright high-beams shot over the top of my SUV and lit up G-Rob's face. When he climbed in, he said, "I wasn't sure it was you until I saw the bread truck pull in behind you."
The bread truck was actually The Mark's black H2 Hummer, a rumbling mass of steel and poker prowess. When BadBlood began organizing the game, he thought we would be shorthanded, so I called The Mark and asked if he wanted to play. He did.
Like a short-handed homage to the movie "Swingers", our vehicles followed each other through the night as we strained to see the street signs and fingered the rolls in our pockets.
And somewhere in the air, I smelled pig.
I really, really like me some pig.More in this Poker Blog! -->
I was wrapped up in my own thoughts. The big life-change had finally come to pass and Mrs. Otis teetered on the brink of tears. It promised--and still promises--to be a good thing, but it was going to be tough on her nonetheless.
I had initially planned to skip the game, but after a good 36-hours of good wifey time and weighing the prospect of losing a significant chunk of my live poker-playing time, I decided to go.
We three were the last to arrive and find that the short-handed game had turned into a full table. We now had eleven to sit around BadBlood's finely-appointed table. I squeezed in between G-Rob and the only female player of the night, Robin.
Occasionally, the smell of ham caught the air. I couldn't help but be distracted. I'd eat a ham sandwich off the floor if I had to.
Something was up with my nose. I kept smelling the faintest hint of body odor, as well. I'd showered just an hour before going to the game, so I didn't think it was me. Still, I couldn't help stealing a few furtive sniffs of my pit.
I don't think anyone noticed.
As it turned out, the host--who's last name I thought to be Italian, but later found to be of French origin--had thrown a Thanksgiving open house that afternoon. Leftovers overflowed in the kitchen, including a giant honey ham.
The rest of the evening was a blur of cards, beer, and pig. As such (and as I took no notes), I'm stuck with just a few scenes in my head, only a few of which have to deal with poker.
I was about even for games on BadBlood's table. I've developed a bit of a tight reputation and thought to change gears a bit. That was going to be a little tough eleven handed, but I got a chance about a half-hour into the night.
In late position, I found KJ of diamonds. BadBlood put in a modest $3 raise from middle position, I called, as did The Mark from UTG. The flop came AQ9, the A and 9 both diamonds. BadBlood made it $6 to go. At first I put him on a big queen, maybe two pair with an AQ. I had quite a draw in front of me. Any diamond gave me the nut flush. Any ten gave me a broadway straight. I decided to raise to $12. I figured, if anything, I coulld push out The Mark and play heads up with BadBlood. To my surprise, The Mark called and BadBlood pushed all-in.
Now, I had no doubt that BadBlood had flopped a set, likely of queens, but maybe of aces. Anyone who looked closely at me could've seen me counting my outs out loud. Ten diamonds plus the three non-diamond tens. Thirteen outs. I only had around $13 left in front of me. Given that The Mark would likely now call--especially if I did--that meant I'd be putting $13 in to a pot that would be around $90.
After emerging from the tank, I groaned, "God, this is a loose call."
I called as did The Mark.
We flipped up our cards. BadBlood had, indeed, made his set of queens on the flop. The Mark had flopped two pair with an A9. As I recall, both BadBlood and The Mark had a diamond in their hand. The host and one other guy said they'd folded a diamond a piece.
The turn was the five of diamonds. BadBlood's face sank. I mistakenly said, "That's the nuts." Someone quickly corrected me, pointing out that if the board paired, BadBlood would make a boat. If it paired the ace, The Mark would make his boat.
Neither happened and I tripled up.
The host applauded me, "That wasn't a loose call. That was strong, man. Strong hand."
At the time, I didn't believe him. I felt like he either didn't know what he was talking about or was trying to get me to play the same way against him. Plus, BadBlood was now in the middle of a full-scale tilt-fest. He handled himself well, but every few minutes he would mumble something about the "fucking queens." One problem I'm trying desperately to overcome is feeling sympathy for my buddies when I lay a hard beat on them.
Looking back, I think my final call was well-justified by the pot odds. However, I'm still reviewing the $12 raise I put in post-flop. I think it was a good play on a few counts.
First, BadBlood could've missed his hand completely. He might've just been being aggressive after his pre-flop raise and my raise could've made him re-think his stature on the turn. That is, if my initial raise had pushed out The Mark and left me heads up with BadBlood, he would have had to make a hand on the turn or fold to my bet.
However, that's not being very honest on my part. While hard to figure out sometimes, BadBlood is not a reckless player. My initial read that he had a big hand was correct and I'd be lying if I said I didn't think I was on thin ice when raising him. Further, The Mark is a hard one to get to lay down a hand. I likely knew that I'd be called in both places. That meant, I had to hit my hand.
Second, though, that raise might've bought me some time. Had BadBlood been a little less aggressive, I might've been able to see the river for free. Had I missed my draw on the turn, The Mark and BadBlood might've checked to me.
So, in retrospect, I'm happy with my play post-flop. Calling the raise pre-flop with KJs may be another matter, but hey, I was vowing to loosen up a bit, right?
Oh, and BadBlood got me back later in the night. I flopped two pair to his flush and straight draw. He called my all-in bet and hit his flush on the turn.
So, we're even.
Daniel Negreanu makes no bones about the fact that he will base some of his decision-making regarding bets, calls, and folds based on the nationality of his opponent. For instance, he'll more readily call a northern European player than he would an American.
Me, I like to know what people do for a living.
For instance, engineers are very mathematical and know the odds very well. Attorneys are performers and prone to deception. Entrepreneurs are risk-takers.
As usual, much ado was made about the way G-Rob and I scrape together our mortgage payments. During that conversation, I discovered I had no idea what the host did for a living. So, finding the open door, I asked.
"I sell heating oil," he said.
Although I wasn't involved in a hand, I went in the tank. A heating oil salesmen? What the hell does that mean?
After being quiet for several minutes, I turned to discover the host had gone to the bathroom. I remarked, much-too-truthfully, "You know, I don't even know what heating oil is."
I should know. Much hay is made in my office this time of year about heating oil prices and how high they go.
Teddy Ballgame said, "It's like diesel fuel" which I found patently hard to believe. Why in the world would the public care if diesel rices skyrocketed in the winter.
No one else could help me out and I found myself in quite a quandry. I'm no expert on anything. However, I know a little about a lot of things. Heating oil is not one of those things.
According to one website, "of the 107 million households in the United States, approximately 8.1 million use heating oil as their main heating fuel. Residential space heating is the primary use for heating oil, making the demand highly seasonal."
I don't know if this means anything or not, but I do know that the host re-bought so many times he emptied his pockets and owed BadBlood $60 by the end of the night.
I had two nemeses at the table--G-Rob and Missouri Josh. I only counted MO-J as a nemesis because he busted me hard four weeks earlier. G-Rob, however, has his own brand of mischief.
His greatest trick is accomplished by one of two things: Either he's picked up a massive tell of mine or he knows the odds.
It goes like this: The action comes to me. One second later, G-Rob says, "Otis folds." One second later, I fold.
So, either he knows when I'm going to fold or he knows that I fold a lot more than I call.
His next trick is less of a trick and more of a way to show the table how much he dominates me mentally. I bet, he raises. No matter what. Of course, this only works when he fnds a seat to my left and is subject to backfire.
I sat steaming most of the night as I heard his two catch phrases over and over again: "Otis bets? I raise" and "Otis folds." It only gets worse when he uses the phrases back to back in the same hand.
I vowed to bust him before the end of the night. I thought I had my chance once when I flopped top pair. I pushed all in and ran into his aces.
Later, though, I found a pair of fives. He raised me, I called. The flop came T5x. I bet out, he raised. I called. The turn was another ten. I checked, he pushed all in. I called with my boat and took most of his chips. He had QT.
In the longrun, I think G-Rob is still up on me by a good bit, but it was fun to see him nod--quietly--and push his chips over to me.
When the evening ended after seven hours of poker, I found myself down only four dollars. G-Rob had dropped about $50. The Mark had raked in more than $200. It would've been more than that but he made a really loose call on the second to last hand of the night that cost him a lot of his chips.
Four bucks for an evening of entertainment?
Yeah, I'll take it.<-- Hide More
Another UPDATE: It's over, and the poll disappeared. I think Beth came up a few votes short. They cheated. The vote disappeared late last night before I could launch my final assault. Cheaters...
UPDATE!!!! We're still behind, but you can revote today. Apparently the ISP's reset each day. Vote today and vote tomorrow and tell your friends.
This is not poker-related, but important nonetheless. Otis and I would like all of our loyal readers to go to this website and vote for Beth Brotherton as Hottest News Girl.
Any help you can provide, and networking you can do to help swing this vote would be greatly appreciated. Beth must win! It's important to the poker bloggers of G-Vegas and one of our poker buddies (Beth's husband).
He sat in the wooden chair looking out across the room at people who hate him. I watched him shift in his seat, the prostate cancer obviously causing him some problems. The knot on his tie was exceptionally big. Old men tie their ties big, I thought.
He'd lost weight in the past year. Living through 18 months of pure hatred and cancer will do that to you. His once well-tailored suits hung on him when he shuffled in and out of the courthouse. His wife would walk beside him. His ex-wife would follow behind. The dynamic of the relationship was lost on me.
But that's not really what I was thinking about. That's just where I was at the moment.More in this Poker Blog! -->
My phone rang. Some insistant person on the other end of the line (like there really are phone lines anymore) wanted something and I promised they'd have it. Experience told me, though, that they didn't really want it as much as they thought they wanted it. They weren't really thinking about me at the moment. I wouldn't expect them to, anyway.
About fifteen miles north of us, in a grand gap between two small mountains, search teams had just found a body. They'd been looking for a hiker for three days. He was a 75-year-old man who had turned back from what had turned out to be an unexpectedly tough trek through the gap. He was supposed to wait for his party at the parking lot at the foot of the mountain. While an experienced hiker, he apparently got lost.
The tale seemed fairly familiar. In my reading of A Walk in the Woods, I remembered another experienced hiker who got lost, got hypothermia, and inexplicably jumped in a cold mountain stream. And died, of course.
And as sad as the story was and continued to be, that's not really what I was thinking about either.
Thinking back to my declaration that I was taking a live poker break, I keep finding myself repeating "Looks like I picked the right time to quit sniffing glue."
Almost upon making the declaration, life at Mt. Otis slipped into an unfamiliar land of turmoil. It was nothing serious like death, cancer, or man-on-beast adultery. But it was enough to make me glad I didn't have three poker games a week on my schedule.
Still, I dabbled online. I cashed in a big Party tournament. I watched my ring-game bankroll go up and down like a piston on some ancient pseudo-medical sex machine. I fell to sleep on many a night dreaming of the four nights I'll be spending in Vegas with the denizens of the internet poker writing elite. One fantasy finds me in a poker room where the bloggers have all taken seats at different tables. Every few minutes a blogger will stand up, scream "Hammer time!" and rake a massive pot to the disgust of the other tourists and locals at the table. Before the fantasy ends, the poker room manager has quietly offered us a $1000 freeroll tournament if we'll just stop pestering the other players with our 72offsuit.
Somehow the spirit of the trip has spilled over into my regular life. Where my traveling companions once thought one room would be too big to hold the small traveling party, we now probably don't have enough space to hold everyone. The room rates have skyrocketed in the past two weeks. I'm vowing to do my part by not sleeping for the first two nights, and if I do, I'll sleep in the bathrub, surrounded by empty cans of beer and spent cigarette butts.
But, those fantasies are future fodder and only what I can think about to get my mind off real life.
The past two weeks have forced the keepers of the Mt. Willis bankroll to make some major decisions. While nothing is official for the moment, the decision is imminent. The likely outcome will mean a lot of things, both good and bad. First, it will allow me to play more poker and do more writing. Second, it will cut into my poker and writing time.
Yeah, it's been that kind of month.
While I hate to be such a teasing vauge-abond, discretion requires I keep silent for the next couple of days. Bear with me.
Anyone who plays live knows that dealers have to contend with walkers, those people who hold their seats with chips but spend an indornaite amount of time walking around the casino. One night when I was playing in Atlantic City, a guy took the eight-seat to my left, put down his chips and bourbon, and left. I sat there for a full hour before he came back, played three hands, then left again.
That's sort of where I am right now. My chips are on the table, my drink is ready to be consumed, but I can't sit down quite yet.
In the meantime, BadBlood is organizing his bi-weekly homegame and tempting me to come off my break a week early. Frankly, it hasn't been much of a break to begin with. G-Rob is already pestering me to just admit that it hasn't been a break at all. We'll have to see what Mrs. Otis thinks about that.
In the meantime, I'm going to be staring at the cancer-ridden, much-hated, big-knotted man in the chair and wondering what will become of him in the coming days. Sadly, I already know what's happened to the man on the mountain.
I can only hope my fate will be better than theirs.
Oh, and it will be, by the way.<-- Hide More
He probably hit his pop-culture high when he cut off a police officer's ear in one of the most gruesome scenes in film history. Of course, just this year, he was burying Uma Thurman alive.
And in the fine tradition of "The Professor," "Fossilman" and "Devilfish," Madsen will be playing Don "The Matador" Everest. Hmmm... not the best poker nickname I've ever heard...More in this Poker Blog! -->
Madsen joins Chris Bauer who was great in season #2 of HBO's The Wire. But it doesn't bode well that Bauer's next role is "White Cop #1" in an upcoming TV movie called The Exonerated.
Also in the cast is Eddie Cibrian. This guy I couldn't pick out of a line up. He's apparently best known for his role in Third Watch, but I never watched the show so I couldn't tell you if he's any good.
The show debuts January 13th at 9 PM ET. The pilot was written and directed by the two men who wrote Rounders, so it's got that going for it.
Will it be any good? Who knows. I think many of us have become concerned that the avalanche of poker on television could actually hurt the game. I know those who are making money off of televised poker are concerned about that avalanche. In fact, the people behind the World Poker Tour sent warning letters to affiliates who were considering showing the syndicated series Ultimate Poker Challenge. (I guess it's that whole, "You stole my idea" thing.)
And now we have poker's answer to Playmakers. Perhaps you remember the ESPN series that showed the darker side of professional football. The NFL was so upset about its portrayal that it basically bullied ESPN into dropping the series. That's despite it's strong performance in the ratings.
Now ESPN wants to give us an inside look at the fast-paced, high-stakes world of poker. Will Tilt also bring us the struggle of a gay poker player or efforts to beat a drug test? Okay, probably not... but I'm sure the fine folks at ESPN are coming up with wonderful storylines that are destined to make us groan.<-- Hide More
My life has a soundtrack.
When Dad and Uncle Darrell shot pool, I rested my chin on the table, and tapped my foot to the Beach Boys' "Endless Summer." Uncle Randy liked the J. Giles Band and Kiss, but he didn't hang out with his brother very much.
A few years later, Dad would drive fast in his black Monte Carlo, The Eagles putting an absolute hurt on the stock stero speakers. I'd sit unbuckled in the back seat, watching the Missouri countryside blur against the speed.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Sean sang the Marshall Tucker Band around the campfire and made me wish I had black hair and a voice that made women tremble. The music of "The Big Chill" and Aretha Franklin make me think of sweaty sex. Ska makes me think of The Blue Note, drunk, stupid, and happy to go through life that way.
My life, friends, has a soundtrack that drives almost everything I do.
I've recently discovered that one poker blogger is a big fan of a band from my hometown that I like very much. Late last year I discovered that another popular poker blogger really likes of one of my most favorite bands of all time.
This means what? I dunno.
But, it must mean something.
When I discvered Yahoo! Launchcast, I discovered that I now have a soundtrack for online poker play (my user name is otisbdart for those wanting a taste of the good life). When the cards aren't going right (as they haven't been for some time), I click over to LaunchCast and slip into the amber world that used to keep me so happy in years past
I sat down to write, hoping a few words on the screen might bring me out of a misty funk I've been wading through for a couple of weeks. So far, the words aren't helping, but Leo Kotke and Guy Clark are a little bit.
Maybe I'll just sit back and listen to some Uncle Tupelo and wonder who else is fnding comfort in the acoustic guitars tonight.<-- Hide More
It was just too hot outside to be the first November night of 2004. Decorative lights--almost Christmasy--hung haphazard-but-stylish in the trees that lined the street. Parking, as always, was at a premium in this particular part of town, so I considered myself lucky to find a spot just a block from the evening's tournament.
The tournament, reportedly for charity (but I figured otherwise) was to take place in a familiar watering hole. I scanned the street for the beat cops and found none. It was a Monday night and there wasn't much need for the cops to keep the weekend drunks in line.
As I stepped onto the sidewalk, arranging my cell phone and bankroll in my pocket, I sensed evil in the air. Okay, it wasn't really evil, but it was something at least a little menacing. Something akin to a three-year-old kicking me in the shins while calling me a doodie-head.
That sounds about right.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Ten dollars bought me all the beer and bar food I could consume. Though I had skipped dinner, I wasn't hungry. I ordered a beer and sat at a bar table, waiting until I could spot the tournament organizer in the growing crowd of increasingly drunk middle-aged men. A few young college hipsters lined the bar. I could tell that they weren't part of the charity crowd either. They were there to play poker.
Eventually, one guy's voice seemed to rise out of the crowd and I pegged him for the man I needed to talk to.
I walked up to him and said, "I got an e-mail from X."
"You're not a member of the local police department, are you?" he said, not joking.
This could've been construed as a joke. Just a few months ago, several local police officers had been caught playing poker on duty, much to the dismay of the people who lived in the neighborhoods on the cops' beat.
"No, I'm not." I thought maybe I could joke with the guy, but in this situation, I figured it would be similar to saying the word "bomb" while in line at the airport. It probably wouldn't get me thrown out, but it certainly would cause enough problems to make my evening difficult.
He told me to grab another beer and some food and we'd get started in a few minutes.
I sat back and watched the crowd mill through the tight space. Flat screen TVs were showing previews of the Monday Night Football game and an interview with Terrell Owens. T.O. makes my eye twitch. I turned away and watched the scantily-clad waitstaff make its way through the Grecian Formula and leers of the over-40 set.
The tournament was supposed to start at 8:30, but since the organizers were still setting up the tables, I figured it was going to take a little longer. I passed the time reading the graffiti on the walls and indulging a new player in a conversation about cold-callers.
"What's a cold call?" he asked.
"Doesn't matter," I said.
I told myself that if the tournament didn't start by 9:15 that I was going to have another beer to get my money's worth and go home to my wife and kid (where I should've been anyway). Then a little person walked through the bar and I couldn't help but think it was some sort of omen.
By 9:10 the organizers had figured out what they were doing and started sitting players at the tables. Twenty-seven people bought in. I drew the seat directly to the left of the guy who asked if I was a cop.
"At least I have you on my right," I said. He didn't respond.
We started with a rather arbitrary $4000T in chips and the blinds at $25/$50. I started in the small blind. Within minutes it was evident that several players at the table were very, very bad. A couple appeared to be pretty good. On the second orbit, I raised pre-flop with AQs and got four callers. The flop was rags and I folded to a sizable bet. My ace-high would've split the pot.
So, I sat back. It was only a matter of time before I got a good hand and could double up. That's all it took in this game. One good hand--played well--doubled up every time.
And so it came in the third level. I found 99 in the small blind. Four people called the big blind. I knew a raise form the small blind would drive out no one, so I called and waited for the flop. The big blind knocked the table and we saw the flop. It was gorgeous.
This was it. I checked, knowing someone would bet out, even if they weren't holding the queen. The BB bet $200T and got three callers.
"I raise," I said, calming slipping $1000T into the pot.
"You're raising?" The BB seemed incredulous.
I only responded, "Yep."
I had played very few hands, established myself as a rock, and had just raised the bet by 5x. I expected to pick up the pot right there and if not, well, that's all the better.
The BB called and the rest of the field folded. I put him on KQ, but was ever-so-slightly worried he was holding TJ and was holding out for his straight-draw (it would've been a horrible call, but the table was making a lot of marginal plays).
In my mind I was repeating over and over, "Pair the board, pair the board, pair the board."
A queen fell on the turn and I couldn't have been happier. I was so happy, in fact, I checked again.
"All in," the BB said.
I thought for all of two seconds. I was sure of my KQ read now. He'd just made trips with a good kicker and figured to double through me.
"I call," I said and flipped over my boat.
"Good hand," he said and flipped over Q-7 offsuit.
I was taken aback. He called my check-raise on the flop with top pair and a seven kicker?
Before I could think, the dealer burned and turned the river.
Let me make one thing very clear: I don't like angry players. Emotional, screaming, cry-baby players make my balls itch.
But when I looked at the river and saw the fucking red seven sitting there, I found myself screaming, "Son of a bitch!"
I'm not sure what happened next. I sat stunned for sixty seconds. I know Q-7 shook my hand. I know that when I looked down at my chips I discovered that he had me covered. My mind wouldn't process how the guy called my check-raise on the flop then caught perfect on the turn and river. Only four cards could've saved him on the river and one came off.
It looked like a cash game was about to get started, but I still couldn't see straight. I found myself walking directly out of the bar, into the street, and to my vehicle. I don't remember the drive home.
When I got there, my wife was sitting on the couch playing solitaire with a deck I brought back from my last trip to Vegas. The TV played quietly in the background. My kid was already in his crib asleep.
At one point in the evening, one of the players spied my wedding ring and said, "Your wife must be really understanding."
"You don't know the half of it," I said.
As I plopped down on the couch and related the bad-beat story to my wife, I realized she was actually listening, actually caring about how it had ripped out my medula oblongata.
It was then I decided that it was time for a break.
Here's why: If my wife didn't understand, if she didn't care so much about how much I care about poker, then I might find a spiteful molecule in my body that could cancel out the guilt I'm starting to feel for leaving her alone so much.
But she does understand. She sees the absolute joy poker brings me and she shares in it. She's always been one to see potential where even I couldn't see it. She knows that, even as a hobby, poker is an important part of my life. She wants me to succeed.
That, friends, is love.
So, with little deliberation, I made a decision. After BadBlood's homegame on Saturday night, I'm going on a break. It will serve many a purpose. First, I've been running bad (I tend to slump in autumn, I've found). Second, I have a few writing projects that require more focus than I've been giving them. But foremost, I need to show my wife I love her as much as I do and as much as she's shown me that she loves me for who I am: A degenerate, poker-playing writer.
So, as of Sunday morning (about 2am, I figure), I'm hiding the bankroll and am not going to play live again for a month. I may dabble online from time to time, but my nightly three-hour sessions will not be a regular occurence.
On December 5th (after I wake up from what is sure to be a wicked birthday hangover), I'll re-begin my efforts to be a solid poker player in advance of the next weekend's blogger extravaganza in Vegas. With this break comes the danger that my game will be rusty when I reach Sin City.
However, I think the overall benefit of a mind-clearing, family-focused break will do everybody at Mt. Otis well.
Here's to hoping it helps.<-- Hide More
When the cops come knocking at the door, that's when it's time to run. Eight men in Lafayette, LA (my home town) learned that the hard way this weekend.
The Lafayette PD raided a bar named Shannon's early Friday morning and arrested the men on a charge of gambling. It's the first such bust in South Louisiana since I got here.
It's a bust that really caught my attention because Texas Hold 'Em has become increasingly popular across Lousiana. Here in Lafayette, I can probably find a handful of bars every night that are offering tournaments of some kind.More in this Poker Blog! -->
The catch is that these bars weren't taking a cut of the money, nor were they providing dealers or materials. The bars, themselves, stayed out of it, allowing the players to bring their own materials and shuffle up and deal.
Apparently, the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control feels as though the increased business alone from the additional patrons drawn by poker makes each game a gambling enterprise.
The commissioner of the ATC sent a release saying cease and desist orders would go out to bars starting on November 1st (that's today). Of course, these LPD cops busted into the bar on October 29th, days before any orders went out.
In the cops mind, this crossed the lines because the dealers (who weren't playing) were making a profit. When someone won a pot, they tipped the dealer. And really, the cops were right. If a dealer is brought in and receives any kind of compensation, the enterprise suddenly becomes illegal.
Through some investigation of my own, I've uncovered some good news. These eight guys likely won't suffer any consequences. A highly placed source tells me these charges won't go anywhere. Apparently the cops were just a little overzealous.
Bottom line, I suppose this means I'll be staying out of bars and sticking to the legal poker in casinos and the likely illegal online poker. Any kind of arrest on my record could hasten my move to poker professional... and that's not a good thing.<-- Hide More
As the World Poker Blogger Association picks up steam with a newly designed logo from Maudie (see left), Dr. Pauly has gone the extra mile with the Poker Prof to organize the first live WPBT event in Las Vegas.
Make your seat reservations now. I've already made mine.