Every word of this is true.More in this Poker Blog! -->
The parabolas north and south met in the middle over Greenville, South Carolina. One began over the northern states and drooped down across the Mason Dixon line. The other crept up from the Gulf of Mexico. Even with the television sound muted, it was clear the weatherman was telling us to expect something akin to apocalypse. Then he shrugged his shoulders, as if to say, "But hey, whatta I know, right?"
As the bread and milk aisles filled up in the grocery store, scientists from around the world prepared to release their report on global warming. The predictions told us that billions of people would suffer from water shortages while my son is still alive. Chaos and disaster, man-made, but wrought by nature, they will say.
The smiling man in the expensive suit says my town will freeze over before Thursday. The wild-haired scientists say my world will fall into global warming chaos shortly after I die.
I'm going to go to a poker game.
My head was numb and it took me three trips to the car and back into the house to get everything I needed to take with me. The air was frigid--cold enough to keep the drinks in the garage cool and cold enough to remind me that I'd forgotten my jacket. I didn't go back, instead choosing to shiver my way down the dark highway, hitting every red light as I sped--late--toward the underground room.
Three hours after the room got rolling, I didn't expect to find a seat when I was buzzed in. The parking lot was full and the room was loud. I was surprised to find the two seat at the second table open. I slid my money to the dealer and pushed myself down on an uncomfortable chair.
The atmosphere was unremarkable, at first. Even when I called a short-stack's all in and hit runner-runner to bust his made under-boat, I found no pleasure in it. My opponent, however, looked pained, as if the small amount of money he lost would somehow change his future.
Future, I thought. Which future is that?
The door at this game is held tight behind a deadbolt. The windows are covered in black plastic and the parking lot is dark. It's both a bunker and a shelter. It protects the players from eyes that shouldn't see, and it is a place to hide from the other world--the world where real jobs, real families, and real friends reside. Someone has to recognize your face to let you in. When you go out, the door locks behind you.
Though the room is big, it suddenly seemed full.
A cheer erupted from the table closest to the door and somebody yelled, "Jackpot!" The man in the one-seat held a suited 6-9 and made his ten-high straight flush to win the high-hand jackpot. The man who runs the game announced how much the one-seat had won. Everyone applauded and cursed their bad luck.
I was getting no action. I was bored. Something in my head pushed $25 into the pot, an open raise in a straddled pot with the hammer, both cards red. The flop came 77Q. We went check, check. The turn was an ace. My opponent led, I raised. He called. The river was a seven. My opponent put out a blocking bet, I raised anyway, he called reluctantly. I didn't wait for him to table his hand. I turned over the hammer, shrugged as if to say, "Whatta I know, right?" and silently stacked my chips in concert with the table's tribal chant of "Ham-mer, ha-mer, ham-mer!"
By the time I left the room, I would have forgotten this even happened.
The Jester spoke through a mouth of rocks. Though always talking, he might as well have been speaking in tongues, a devotee of August Busch and whatever other assorted manufactured pharmaceuticals he'd found that day.
Though it was below freezing outside, he wore flip-flops, baggy shorts, a wrinkled shirt, and an ear-flapped hunter's cap. He danced with the music, played air guitar with ping-pong paddles, and spoke in his own language--one I've come to call Boomhauer.
I could not understand a word he said. Even if he was standing five feet away and speaking slowly, he was as incomprehensible in speech as the action at the table was in terms of real poker. But every once in a while, he would get up from the table, go over to the side of the room, and start playing guitar. His voice was strong and, suddenly, like Mel Tillis' transformation from stuttering doofus to country crooner, The Jester was an artist, a bard, a minstrel.
Out of the more than 30 people playing and milling around the room, only one of them was a woman. Blonde-haired and beautiful, her innocent face belied her body's frame. Every male eye followed the cocktail waitress as she moved from player to player, checking on drinks, and giving the players whatever they needed to ply their spirits.
Whether it was the woman in the green tank top, the game of poker itself, or the bunker mentality, the lady's movements seemed to be the only thing binding the players to their seats. Would but that she could stay, the eight-way pots in hands that have been raised and re-raised to 20 times the big blind might just stay in a locale we could call sane and real.
She sat down quietly next to the game's owner. Though she'd been working her ass off for the past eight hours, her face still looked clean and serene, if only a little troubled. It was as if she knew what would happen if she left, but she knew she had to go.
She tapped her watch and said, just barely loud enough for me to hear it, "Looks like it's about that time."
Tuesday had turned into Wednesday. There are those who believe the sun and moon were created on Wednesday. Mickey Mouse told us, "Wednesday is Anything Can Happen Day." To me, it still felt like Tuesday.
My table was the boring one, the one where the jackpots weren't getting hit, the one where the inability to combat the turn and river made all post-flop play tiresome.
The Jester's table was different. There was life, hope, and laughter. The jackpot had given the table a different spirit. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw nearly everybody at The Jester's table stand up at once. Not involved in a hand, I stood and went to take a look.
The chips in the middle of the table sat in piles of green and red, an extraordinarily big pot, making up much of the wealth at the table. The flop was all middle cards with two clubs. Two players were already all-in and Mr. Jackpot was thinking. Finally, he called, making the single pot bigger than his jackpot winnings for the night.
He tabled 56 of clubs, for an open ended straight draw and low club draw. One opponent turned over pocket kings. The Jester did not reveal his cards, but I saw them as he peeled them up. He held A7 of clubs for the nut flush draw.
The drama was over quickly. A red four on the turn and no club on the river pushed the entire pot to Mr. Jackpot.
That did it. Like the breaking of the seventh seal, like Richie Valens' plane going down, like that late night phone call to tell you somebody is dead, a line had been crossed. Nothing would be the same, even if we couldn't immediately figure out the difference.
Although there were thousands upon thousands of dollars on the table, nothing seemed to matter much to the players anymore. Raises of any size were called in seven or eight spots. Pot-sized bets were called with abandon. Chips moved back and forth, formed into huge towers, and collapsed just as fast. Sodom, Gomorrah, and Skull Island had nothing on the chaos inside that little room.
"Who has a dick so short they can't hit the fucking toilet?"
The scream came across the room, a crude but seemingly appropriate reprimand to whoever pissed all over the ladies room floor. I'm not sure why we'd all been using the ladies room, but we had, and it was a mess. The floor was a puddle and littered with paper towels. A sign hung above the open tank: "Please don't put paper towels in the toliet (sic). Thanks, The Management."
While somewhat interested myself, I was more caught up watching the beginning of a discussion between Mr. Jackpot and The Jester. Though they were being quiet, I could tell by the looks on their faces, the closeness of their chests, and the rapid movements of their hands, something wasn't right.
I looked back to see my first ace-paint in an hour. Because I've been made to understand AJo is gold, I raised the straddle to $20. The player to my left min-raised. The player in the ten-seat who had proven himself willing to play any two cards to a re-raise, called. I, knowing full well I was behind, but hoping in one hand and puking in the other, tossed out my call, as well.
That's when the screaming started.
Half the room followed the yelling and ran for the front door.
"Should we pause the action?" asked the re-raiser. I agreed we should, but said I wasn't moving from my seat. One thing I like about this particular room is that the dealers are top notch. They are always calm, smart, and on top of things. I'm never worried about the game going astray. The dealer this night was no different. He paused the action, but kept his seat to keep an eye on the money and cards.
It was apparent that the discussion between Mr. Jackpot and The Jester had evolved into something more than a little dispute. I didn't go watch. This would be the third time I've been witness to violence or near-violence in a poker room and I know the number one rule: Protect your chips.
Like most disputes, this one was finished almost as soon as it started. Mr. Jackpot, still steaming, walked back into the poker area. The Jester was apparently gone. And, frankly, that had me worried.
When the ten-seat made two little pair to beat my top pair, I didn't even care. I don't like people leaving an underground game angry, The Jester had apparently done so, and I said as much to the people around me.
"All it takes is one phone call," I said, assuming everyone knew what I meant.
I'm not sure anybody heard me, because, again, something in the room had shifted. The testosterone-level was at its peak. In what is often a reserved poker room, players were battling in any way they could. Players with crazed looks and maniacal screams were clashing in a wild dance of doubles ping-pong, slashing the air with their paddles, dancing with each point, cursing at each loss. At some point, a free-weight bench had been put on the other side of the room and grown men were betting on how many times they could bench press 150 pounds. Now no longer in use as a poker table, the empty felt behind us became an arm-wrestling mat and players were testing their strength with the right and left arms.
"I can lift that weight with my dick!" came a scream from across the room.
People had formed a seated gallery around the ping-pong table and were keeping score for the insanity. The Rolling Stones pounded through the speakers, booze was pooling on the floor, beer cans and empty plastic shot glasses littered the carpet.
Every ounce of instinct told me to leave. Poker is a beautifully structured game, but there was nothing in the foundation of this room that made me feel calm. It was a wave of adrenalized war that bore no resemblance to anything I'd seen. The poker game had degenerated into something ugly, full of animosity, resignation, and acquiescence. Now, having bore witness to the good fortune of others who had done the same, no one would fold. Every pot, no matter how high it was raised, was a family endeavor. Players were purposefully ignoring rules of poker etiquette. They willfully mis-called their hands. They slow-rolled their winners, malice in their eyes with every flip of the cards. Players would verbally agree to check it down against an all-in opponent. Poker is not a friendly game, by nature. This one, however, was mean.
I should leave, I kept telling myself. Still, I couldn't stand. Though I was having no fun, I felt like I was bearing witness to something resembling the last poker game on Earth. This must be what it will be like, I thought. When the bombs are dropping or the disease is spreading, this is how people will play cards. They will throw chips at each other with abandon, fight for no reason, and parcel out their worldly hatred on whoever is closest to them.
Curses and cheers were louder than the music. Money, chips, buy-ins, set-ups, and tips went back and forth with scowls and sighs. There were those fighting against the end and those driving the bus toward oblivion.
And then a voice. An impossible to understand voice.
The Jester was back.
He sat in the ping pong gallery and put his fingers on the guitar strings. And then everything that came out of his mouth was clear, perfect, and beautiful.
He sang Amazing Grace.
When I walked back to my car at 3:30am, the amount of money in my pocket didn't matter. How I played didn't matter. The fact that I was going to be tired today didn't matter. Those are always the things I think about when I leave a game. This night, I only noticed the cold.
My jacket, still at home, would have done little to shield me from the frigid air. In my car, I turned the radio to the first station I could find and pulled out of the dark parking lot. In my mind, I've built poker up to be a personal test of discipline, will, and intelligence. I knew from the past seven hours, I had exhibited none of those traits.
The roads were deserted. I wondered as I drove through green light after green light, if in fact that had been the last poker game, why any of it would have mattered. There are two kinds of poker players. There are those who play for the money and there are those who play to feel what it's like to win and crush the other guy.
If it were the last game on Earth, the money wouldn't matter. And that made me wonder if there is some spiritual or atavistic need in man to win in the end. Do we believe, even if we don't consciously recognize it, that we will be rewarded on the other side if we can prove our worth, prove our ability to come out a winner?
Because that's the thing. In the end, we can't take the money with us. And if the sky is falling, why do we even bother to play?
After four consecutive green lights, I finally saw a red one in front of me. I moved my foot to the brake, but before I could press down, the light changed to a flashing yellow. Confused, I looked to the left and realized I was passing by a train crossing. The tracks ran parallel to my highway, so I didn't have to stop. I continued to drive toward home. When I looked back up, I saw the light of the freight train coming down the tracks in my direction, and I could only think, "How appropriate."
The horn wailed with the hard rock on the radio and I went home, wondering when I would sit down at a poker table again.<-- Hide More
Nate Bell was a good kid. He was good looking, a charmer, and Eddie Haskel to my Wally Cleaver. He never actually commented on what a lovely dress my mother was wearing, but he might as well have. My Dad, while appreciating Nate's scheming ways and general sense for mischeif, never really felt all that good when I left the house to hang out with the kid from Nixa.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Dad was pretty justified in his worry. Trouble followed Nate like we poker players follow tilting players from online table to online table. On one particular night, we were just out from a midnight showing of The Shining at the theater on Battlefield. After leaving, we ran through a Hardees drive-through. My buddy Brad was driving, I was in the passenger seat (having mastered the art of Shotgun), and Nate was in the back (with a girl, as I recall, making me believe that maybe I wasn't as good at Shotgun as I thought).
I can't recall why, whether it was provoked, or the exact circumstances of Nate's middle finger extending from his hand. Nor can I recall how long it took the car load full of wrestlers from Glendale High to exit their car and make it to ours. All I know is that there was a building on our left, a row of hedges on our right, a car behind us, and the wrestlers in front. I also know I had to explain a rather bloody face to my dad the next day.
Nate was one of the nicest guys I've ever known, but trouble followed him everywhere.
That was a long preamble to a story about The Mark. Our travel woes getting to Tuinca have already been documented. I have not, nor will I, mention in any detail how we had not been in town for an hour before Mark was in a verbal altercation with another poker player. Nor will I list in any detail times past that have led me to believe the following:
The Mark is my new Nate Bell.
The Mark is a man of almost constant good intentions, and yet, like Nate, wherever Mark goes, trouble ain't far behind. In this particular case, trouble was trailing by about 15 minutes.
There was a lot of talk about dinner. Dinner, especially a sit-down meal, is always a priority with The Mark. He has a hard time eating alone and feels personally offended if you won't take a break to go have supper with him. This particular night, most of the blogger-types were looking to go out together. At first, I considered going. I was later told they were going to some cafe, and I became less interested. My game was pretty good and after about eight hours of play, I'd developed enough reads to make a little money.
All of that said, it was taking the bloggers a while to get rolling and The Mark was impatient. Noting an open seat at my table, he sat down to play for the 15 minutes he had to kill before he went to eat.
We played a few hands together before an old man, with whom I'd been sitting all day, returned from a walk.
"That's my seat," he said to The Mark.
When Mark sat down, there had been two empty seats at the table with about $250 in chips sitting in between the two empties. I knew the old man had been sitting in the two seat all day long. Mark sat in the three seat.
The Mark apologized in his own special way. Just when it appeared the situation was going to be resolved, the old man said, "And I had some hundreds sitting there."
The guy was, in essence, accusing Mark (who had $1000 on the table and much more in his pocket) of snatching a couple hundred bucks in paper.
"Man, I don't need your money," The Mark said.
"Floor!" the dealer yelled.
Now it was a sideshow. The old man was insisting he had left paper on the table. Mark was rolling his eyes and edging up to verbally combative. A crowd was forming, including G-Rob who called, "You going to ban this guy from the casino for shooting an angle?"
G-Rob had put just about as fine a point on it as was necessary.
I, too, recalled the old dude having some bills on the table after winning a hand about half an hour earlier. What I didn't see for sure was whether he ratholed the money when he went walking. What I did see for sure was Mark sit down, never touch the old dude's chips, and start playing as if the $250 in redbirds didn't exist.
Let's go to the tape.
Oh, yes. Now a floorman, his supervisor, and security were involved.
"I'm going to eat," Mark said, not surprisingly. "I'll leave you my name and phone number if you need to talk to me later."
The floor's silence indicated that would not be necessary. And Mark was gone.
A part of me wanted to go with them. Another part wanted to stick around and see how the silliness ended. And that's what I did.
"I can't play while this is hanging over me," the old man said, ever the victim. He stood on tthe rail and waited for 15 minutes while the floor talked to his supervisor. A few minutes later, the floor introduced the old dude to the suspervisor. They talked for ten minutes before the old guy, came back to stand and wait again. He told us they were still checking the tapes. Fifteen minutes later, the old dude sat down.
"So, what happened?" I said, knowing the answer already.
"What?" he said, a bit of his spirit gone.
"Did the cameras see who took your money?" I said, knowing the answer already.
"They didn't see nothin'," the old man said. Then he refused to post his dead blind and another fight began.
This one, thankfully, didn't involve The Mark.<-- Hide More
For some strange reason, we each traveled hundreds of miles to sit down at the same poker table. I drove 8 hours. Bad Blood and G-Rob drove 2 hours and flew a couple hours and Otis and TheMark spent 12 hours in travel hell. And yet, there we were, all at the same damn poker table. Five of us out of the 8-10 players seated at a time.
It was stupid, if I could be so bold.
And yet, when the night was over we all walked away with a little more money in our pocket. And it was all thanks to the furry coat.
Yes, the furry coat.More in this Poker Blog! -->
It started so well...
I collect my $600 in chips and sit down to G-Rob's right. Frankly, I didn't want to sit that close to him. But there I was, nonetheless. My first hand, I squeeze AsJs, and raise four limpers up to $20. G-Rob calls, of course, and so do the other limpers. Guess respect is earned at this table.
The flop comes A-x-x rainbow. It's checked to me, I bet $100, and take it down. I'm up $100 after my first hand. This rooooolz.
I lose for the next two hours. That doesn't rule. And I moved seats.
"Hi, Jacqueline. I haven't won a pot in hours, can you help me?"
"I don't know," she tells me.
"Well, let's make a deal. I'm going to tip you 10% of my next pot."
She laughed, "Well..." she trailed off. Then she leaned over to G-Rob, who was in the 10 seat, but decided not to say what she wanted to.
On the very next hand, I look down at 6c4c. It's not the kind of hand I'd normally play, but it was limped to me and I tossed my $5 chip into the pot. Of course, it's raised behind me and I end up calling another $15. Well, maybe I'll get lucky.
Jacqueline burns a card and slides out a flop of 7c8cKc. I flopped a flush. It's checked around. The turn is the 9 of diamonds. This time a kid in the SB leads out for $25. I smooth call and am delighted to see the furry coat behind me raise to $75. When the kid calls, I decide to just call, hoping to get even more in on the river.
The river is the J of hearts. The kid checks and I bet $100. Furry coat raises to $200. The kid calls the $200 and I push for the rest of my money. If my flush is beat, I'm going broke. But I'm 99.9% sure it's good.
The furry coat squeezes his hand up for the rest of the table to see. He's struggling with his decision. I figure he's got a T and doesn't want to be pushed off the straight. I'm not worried when he calls because, frankly, he's terrible. He's already donated more than a grand to the G-Vegas crew.
When the kid agonizes over his decision, I know my flush is good. I'm positive he's holding a T and he doesn't want to lay it down. He calls as well.
I flip over my flush and four of the players at the table are shocked. The G-Vegas crew had no doubt. The kid flips over AcTd. He was open-ended and on the nut flush draw on the turn. I can't blame him for seeing the river. And I can't blame him for making the last call since he wasn't sure I had the flush. He hit his card and there was a ton of money in the pot.
The furry coat flipped his cards over too. He was almost proud of his hand, yet disappointed it didn't hold up. Any guesses? Try the 6h5c. Yeah, he turned the 9-high straight. That's why he raised me on the turn. When the J likely counterfeited his hand, he wasn't ready to lay it down.
After the cards were shown, Jacqueline looked at me and smiled, pointing to G-Rob, she said, "I was going to tell him that after the deal there was no way I was going to push you a pot."
"Don't worry, I'm The Luckbox," I told her, holding up my Luckbox.
She pushed the massive pot my way.
"Let me count this up and see what I owe you."
When the chips were counted, the pot came up to $1170. It's one of the biggest live pots I've ever won. I slid a $100 stack Jacqueline's way and tossed her another 17 bucks. She earned it.<-- Hide More
It was late and I'd just mucked an $800 full house. I'll save that story for another time.
I cashed out my now narrow profit and took the escalator downstairs to play the -EV games I love. Otis and Luckbox were playing Pai Gow.
Here's what happened....More in this Poker Blog! -->
I bought in for $300 I think. It's hard to remember because I was also ordering two drinks, a shot and a beer, at a time. Actually, a lot of that night is hard to remember. I do know Otis and I were following the time honored tradition of betting $75-$100 per Pai Gow hand and getting blasted all the while.
For many of the hands we'd put a good $5 chip out for the dealer, "Michael", to win. Each Pai Gow he dealt himself was worth a good $30 for him.
Meanwhile, at the next table, (I remember it as a blackjack table and Otis says it was 3 card poker) there was a woman with her back to us who'd scream with every good hand. It was a wall rattling shriek. Truly impressive.
We decided that the next time Micheal threw himself a Pai Gow, we'd ask her to shreik for us.
Sure enough, the Pai Gow came.
I tapped her on the shoulder and said, "Excuse me. We were admiring your shreik and our talbe just won too. Could you give us a shriek?"
Later, while I wasn't watching, this woman cashed out and another woman sat down.
Again our table won on a Michael Pai Gow.
I turned to the new woman and tapped her on the back.
"Pardon me," I said, "the woman who was here before had a truly great shreik. I was wondering...could you shreik for us too?"
Then the unexpected...
The woman rose from her seat and crowded my shoulder.
"I'll do you one better," she stammered, "I'll show you my tits!"
The woman had her shirt and bra completely over her head exposing some of the longest, deepest and darkest stretch marks in recorded history to our stunned table...and at least 500 cameras.
Then she started molesting me.
Soon her slightly less drunk friend appeared and whisked her to her room.
I bet $200 on the next Pai Gow hand.<-- Hide More
It was Sunday afternoon and the NFC playoffs were on TV. The poker room was made up of the people who didn't have the cash to make it into the World Poker Open main event. Everybody looked a little tired, unshaven, and ready to be somewhere--anywhere--else.
I'd gone out to go to the bathroom. On my way back, I saw a guy bust out of the main event after only a couple of hours. His girlfriend stood outside the door with him and only said, "Now we can go home."
We, a conspicuous group of poker players from a place we would often describe as "All Over," were about to go home, as well. We were in the waning hours of a four-day trip to Tunica, Mississippi. We planned to leave for the airport at 5pm. It was just after 4pm when I walked back into the poker room and The Mark was standing up.More in this Poker Blog! -->
If you haven't been to the Gold Strike in Tunica during a January tournament season, you're missing out on a fairly unique experience. I liken it to a weekend high school lock-in. Hundreds of people, by choice or by circumstance are forced together into a place they normally wouldn't be. In Tunica, the choices are slim. You can play poker or you can gamble.
The Mark was facing people who wanted to do both.
Though we didn't know it until we'd been in town for a few days, there was many a discussion had about the five of us. G-Rob, Luckbox, BadBlood, Mark, and I had been in town since Thursday, and apart from a few hours on Thursday, had made it a point to avoid having the lot of us seated at one table. Still, people were talking--more than I thought. In fact, there was one group of players that apparently sat down and had lengthy discussions about us, our individual styles, etc. On this final day, however, it was of no matter. We were just killing time until it was time to leave.
Mark and I were playing in a $2/$5 game with no max on the buy-in. Over the course of a few hours, I'd worked my $1,000 up to around $1,500. Mark had been doing a bit better and had around $1,800 in front of him.
We were all tired. Me, I had slept around ten hours out of the last 85. That kind of fatigue can actually focus a player if he works at it. Still, it required a constant infusion of caffeine and I was running to the bathroom at the end of every dealer's down. I was in no hurry to get back...until I saw Mark standing with a familiar look on his face. He had a decision to make.
I picked up my pace and made it to the table in time to see the hand of the weekend.
I had missed the pre-flop and flop action, but here is what happened before I got there:
Several people had limped for $5 to Mark in the cutoff. With a pair of jacks, Mark made it $20 to play. He got calls in the big blind (a loose, semi-aggressive older guy) and a player in middle position (a 30-something bundle of grumbles and tilt).
The flop came out QJ4 rainbow.
The big blind had already proven himself unbluffable and willing to go to war with top pair. No surprise, he fired $100 into the pot. Mr. Middle Position mulled his situation before flat calling. Mark raised to $300, making it $200 more to play for the other players.
"Well, son, I'm all-in," the big blind drawled. He matched Mark's $300 and put $900 more in front of him.
Mr. Middle Position called for less and now it was up to Mark.
I didn't know what to do. At this point, I'd seen nothing of the hand. Mark was still standing and had a hand on the back of my chair. I couldn't sit down. I tried to lean back on the counter behind me, but the Popcorn Girl kept nudging me out of the way. And Mark was pretty deep in the tank.
Noting that I had returned, he peeled up his cards and showed me.
The son of a bitch had middle set. I wasn't sure what was taking him so long and could only guess he was trying to figure out if the Big Blind had a set of queens.
After what seemed like longer than it was, Mark said, "I call," and tabled his jacks.
This ain't tournament poker. We don't get to see all the hands at showdown. But I knew from looking at the big blind's face, he was so beat.
Until the dealer peeled a queen off the deck and laid it down on the table.
At the very same moment, Mr. Big Blind and Mr. Middle Position jumped out of their chairs and slammed their cards on the table. I wanted to puke on the Popcorn Girl.
Big Blind: Q4
Middle Position: QJ
Now, wrap your head around that for a second. Just let it sink in. Think about it. Count how many outs Mark had to dodge to win the $3000 pot.
The was one card in the deck that would beat Mark in the three-way all-in.
If that doesn't help you, let's put it in terms of percentages.
Pre-flop, Mark was more than 65% to win the hand. That's not bad by itself. With that percentage, Mark had only put $20 in the pot. What were the percentages when it came time to put $1,200 in?
Big Blind (the pusher): .11%
Middle Position: 4.65%
Yeah, that's right. The guy who pushed had less than 1% chance of winning (he needed running fours to win the whole pot). The guy who called in the middle (who made the worst decision out of the three by calling with top two with that kind of action) was less than 5% to win.
I think the kids call it...sick.
Mark had a moment of denial. It's understandable. He kept picking up his cards and trying to find a way they made him a winner. After ten seconds or so of him saying, "Wait, I've got...," I leaned over and said quietly, "Mark, you lost."
He knew it, but couldn't accept it. It wasn't the money. Mark has had a good year and the pot didn't even make his Tunica trip unprofitable. That said, a one-outer is, in short, a bitch.
Mark was quickly himself again. He reached in his pocket, pulled out an oversized $1,000 chip and tossed it at the big blind. He went and saw Spaceman. Five minutes later, Mark was back in his seat.
I took three pretty bad beats this weekend (river three-outer for $1,200 pot, river eight-outer for $600 pot, river four outer for $500 pot). You will not read about any of those stories here. One, I don't like to relate bad beats. Two, nothing I faced this weekend, nor anything I expect to face anytime soon will compare to what happened to Mark.
This was a trip that began with a lot of airline beats and included a lot of tremedous stories, some of which we'll likely relate here over the next few days. Or maybe not.
All I know is that traveling with the G-Vegas boys is about as fun as it gets. Bad beats or not.<-- Hide More
The biggest middleman in all of online poker payment processing has caved under the pressure of the U.S. government's continued jackbooting. Following the arrest of NETELLER's founders, John David Lefebvre and Stephen Eric Lawrence, the publicly traded NETELLER decided to pull the plug on its American business.
Regarding the arrests, NETELLER issued a press release in an attempt to calm shareholders. It read in part, "Other than as shareholders, neither Mr Lawrence nor Mr Lefebvre has any current position with or connection to NETELLER."
Less than 48 hours passed before the other shoe fell and American customers were left barefoot. Just hours ago, NETELLER updated its website to read (our emphasis):
"The US government has recently introduced new legislation in the form of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. To best protect the interests of NETELLER members, employees, shareholders and business partners, NETELLER will no longer provide service to US members to transfer funds to and from online gambling merchants."More in this Poker Blog! -->
The full text of the NETeller Frequently Asked Questions for U.S. members can be read here.
Here are the lowlights. The following is the actual language from the NETELLER site. We make no claims about its veracity.
Can I still use my NETELLER account?
Yes. All US members and non-US members will continue to be able to use their NETELLER e-wallet account for safe online transfers to and from non-gambling merchants, secure peer-to-peer transfers and NETELLER Card withdrawals at ATMs around the world.
Does this change affect withdrawals with NETELLER?
US members who currently have funds in their e-wallet account may keep their funds safe in their account or are free to make withdrawals at any time they choose with a NETELLER Card. US members are not required to withdraw their funds from their NETELLER account.
Whatâ€™s the quickest and most convenient way to withdraw funds from my NETELLER account?
The NETELLER Card is the quickest and most convenient withdrawal option. When you transfer funds from your NETELLER e-wallet account to your NETELLER Card, you can withdraw those funds from any ATM cash machine on the Cirrus/Maestro network and Pulse Star network, depending on your country of residence. You will have to pay a nominal fee for NETELLER Card withdrawals, but your funds will be available from 15 minutes to an hour after they are transferred to your card.
Is my money safe in my NETELLER account?
Yes, your money is safe with NETELLER. All members can hold their funds safely in their NETELLER accounts until such time as they decide to move the funds. The changes in gambling merchant transfers do not affect the ability of US member to maintain funds in their NETELER e-wallet accounts.
NETELLER protects all membersâ€™ funds (all deposited, in-transit and un-cleared funds) by holding the value in independent trust accounts. As the largest independent online money transfer business in the world, we maintain our head office in Europe and are a publicly quoted company on the AIM market of the London Stock Exchange. NETELLER UK Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority.
Am I required to withdraw my money from NETELLER?
No, there is no requirement for US members to withdraw their funds from their e-wallet accounts. US members will still be able to use their NETELLER e-wallet accounts for safe online transactions to non-gambling merchants, secure peer-to-peer transfers and instant payouts with the NETELLER Card.
Does this change affect non-US members?
No, NETELLER customers with registered addresses outside of the US will not be affected by these changes. The company will continue to operate its non-US business as normal, maintaining all existing products, services, customer and merchant support across all the other countries it currently serves.
How can US members find out about changes to their NETELLER services?
NETELLER will continue to notify you of any pertinent changes to your service. All members will continue to have access to this FAQ site for answers to the most commonly asked questions, but members can also register to receive all NETELLER press releases, by signing up for our e-news alert service.
I am a US resident. Can I still become a NETELLER member?
No. We have temporarily suspended the ability for US residents to create a NETELLER e-wallet account.
Why were the founders of your company arrested?
Although we can confirm that Steve Lawrence and John Lefebvre were detained separately while in the United States, we do not know the details surrounding the detention and cannot provide more clarification. We can confirm that both individuals are no longer employees or board members of NETELLER and have not been involved in the day-to-day running of the company for a number of years.<-- Hide More
This is what you're missing:
Roshamboozled by Otis
In the pit with Otis and the Luckbox by Otis
How to waste $1000 by Otis
Waiting for Monsters by Luckbox
The Poker People You Meet by Otis
Derailing the Express by Luckbox
Otis' Final Prelude by Otis
Tunica by way of Ego Road by Otis
The Comeback by G-Rob
If that won't make you jealous you're not there... nothing will!
Originally posted at Rapid Eye Reality. Then I realized it really belonged here. Because my wife told me it did.
The game began after two people had already lost. Though this pair of card players is willing to risk several hundred dollars on the turn of the card, the two ninnies weren't patient enough to wait for flight prices to level off. Rather than play the waiting game, they booked $270 flights out of a city more than an hour away. My friend Toenails and I knew we could do better.More in this Poker Blog! -->
A day or so after Christmas, while I was away visiting family, Toenails called, e-mailed, instant-messaged, and sent smoke signals. Our horse had come in. The flight was from our home airport, a direct trip that would be less than two hours door-to-door, and a mere $220. Within ten minutes, I'd booked both our flights and sent e-mails to the other players. Gloating, while not something I do often, is a lot of fun when you've cut several hours and a long drive out of a trip and done it for $50 a person cheaper.
After gloating for a few days, something poked at my noodle. Wait? How does Toenails spell his name again?
That's the thing about this guy. No one is sure how to say his surname. I've heard it pronounced everyway from Toenails to Thelonious. I'd spelled it semi-phoenetically when I booked the tickets. And, as it turns out, I was wrong. Instead of Toenails, his name was actually spelled something like Toennailss.
I don't worry about many things, but when it comes to making sure this gate-to-gate gloating goes off well, the last thing I want to worry over is some overzealous gate agent giving us the business about a couple misplaced letters.
So, I called Expedia and waited on hold for 20 minutes before giving up and calling Northwest Airlines directly. After going through a five-minute automated process that promised to get me to an agent, a recording came on and said, "Due to high call volume, we are not able to answer your call at this time. Please try again later. And up yours, sir."
While bothersome, it was not the end of the world. I figured I'd try e-mailing customer support. And so I did, to both Expedia.com and NWA. The return e-mails were not a lot of help (emphasis is mine).
Thank you for contacting Expedia.com about changing the name on your ticket.
Without exception, tickets, whether issued on paper or as e-tickets, are not
transferable. This means that the name that appears on the ticket cannot be
changed nor can it be transferred to another traveler. For this reason, Expedia.
com urges customers to make sure the name matches the traveler's passport or
driver's licenses to avoid travel delays.
These rules emerge partly from increased security following world events over
the past few years, and also the fact that a complete name change would be seen
by airlines as a cancellation.
Thank you for contacting nwa.com Customer Service.
Brad, I apologize but we are unable to make a name change as this
reservation was booked on December 27, 2007. A name change may be able
to made within 72 hours of the initial booking.
You may contact Expedia for further assistance. The number is
I trust this information will assist you with your inquiry. Enjoy your
Thank you for choosing Northwest Airlines. We value your patronage and
consider it a privilege to serve your travel needs.
Obviously, I'd been unclear. I didn't want to make a complete name change. I just wanted to move a couple of letters around. While Toenails could talk his way off of death row, I didn't want to leave anything to chance.
So, back to the phone. This time, I waited on hold for 27 minutes before the Expedia.com agent answered. It soon became clear that there is a template response for queries like mine. It goes like this, "Let me check. Ah, yes, I see it right here, sir. Fuck your mother."
The longer version was a recitation of the e-mail. Once the ticket was booked, there was nothing Expedia could do. The dude made a show of calling the airline and then coming back to discuss the various ways he'd like to violate my mother and wife. Finally, he said there was one way he could help me. He could cancel my existing reservation and re-book us. I said, "That'd be great." He said, "Oh, but I get to fuck your mother first. And charge you another $200 or so."
Unacceptable. An extra $200 tacked on to the price would get us dangerously close to not being able to gloat over our friends who were going to be getting up earlier, driving out of state, and then flying to arrive at our ultimate destination even later than we were.
I explained to the bumbling Expedia rep that I wasn't at all interested, but that I'd been with his mom the night before and she could use a day at the spa. "Try the wax," I muttered.
So, on to Northwest Airlines, where I got the same screwjob as I has before: automated responses promising the end of the rainbow and then a premature disconnect. I thought for a moment, and then realized during the automated responses, I'd indicated I was interested in talking about an existing reservation as opposed to interest in a new reservation. I wondered...
Three minutes later, after unabashedly lying to the machine, I was directly connected with a woman who had obviously just finished her chicken fried steak and gravy. The tone in her voice was clear: You just fucked with the system, mister, and now I'm going to fuck you...and your mother.
I explained my problem and the lady, none too politely, said, "You booked this online. I can't touch this ticket."
And so here we were at an impasse. Expedia says Northwest won't let it touch the ticket unless I cancel and rebook for more. Northwest says it can't touch the ticket because I bought it from Expedia.
I called my mom and told her to lock herself in a room with a can of mace and a machete.
While I appreciate airline security to the point that it attempts to keep known terrorists from riding first class, I've recently become disenchanted with the system. What we were dealing with here was not airline security. It was a couple of misplaced letters in my buddy's Toenails' name. In the name of security, Expedia was attempting to extract another $200 from me. And the lady at Northwest had a chicken bone stuck in her throat and a lamp up her ass.
Obviously, my incredulity and refusal to back down forced the piece of fatback on the other end of the line to give in--to a degree. She still refused to correct the spelling, but she promised to put a notice in the remarks on the ticket account. That notice will likely amount to, "Make sure you fuck this guy's mother," but at least it is something.
Now, any fellow gamblers are welcome to set the over/under on the number of times we encounter an issue related to this problem.
Now, time to make sure my mom is doing okay. It's been a long week.<-- Hide More
Welcome to the big leagues, kid.
On the very first hand of the new season of High Stakes Poker, Jamie Gold decided to show a little muscle.
With a board showing 6s-Kd-Jd-Ts, Gold faced an $8,000 bet from Doyle Brunson. Gold was holding QhTh and figured it was worth more.
"I raise... I make it 20," Gold said.
"This is real money here, Jamie," Doyle told him.
"I know, I might be out soon," Jamie responded.
"That's the good news, you're never out," Daniel Negreanu added.
"How much did you start with?" Doyle asked Jamie.
"See what I have here, I forgot," Doyle says, peeking down at his AhQs, the absolute nuts. "Okay, let's go."
Two $50,000 bricks go into the pot.
"How much?" Jamie asks.
"$100,000," the table responds.
After a moment's hesitation, the cards go into the muck, "I'm not ready for that."
You're damn right, Jamie. You're not. Watching him try to bust the best poker player ever while he's holding the nuts was pure television gold (excuse the pun). And watching this douche bust over and over will be the best thing to ever happen to High Stakes Poker.
Update: Here now is the video from YouTube.
For all of our South Carolina readers (including the new readers we apparently have from local environs--hi, folks), you can feel secure that at least one of your lawmakers has his head screwed on straight (or at least somewhat straight).
Rep. William Scarborough is trying to get home poker games legalized in South Carolina. Bob Pajich over at CardPlayer has actually done the grunt work for us. As it's not a typical "pay for coverage" piece, it actually contains some valuable information and seems to be about what I would've written, had I had the time, energy, or belief this bill had any chance.
You can read Bob's story by clicking here.
I clearly would have been the overall winner last year had I been able to play more events. The Luckbox was in full effect when I was around. This year, I hope to avoid missing them, and you should avoid missing them, too. Because I need your money. Consider it a donation to The Luckbox WSOP Fund. Thanks in advance!
The 46 event schedule at the 2006 World Series of Poker was long... but not varied. Despite the wise addition of a $50,000 HORSE event (which was, unfortunatley, too compacted), the Series was loaded with too many Hold 'Em events, especially NLHE events.
It seems the people running the whole shebang got the message.
There are 55 different events this year. Prior to the Main Event, there are 12 standard NLHE events with open fields (there's also a Casino Employees event and a Women's event). There are also three 6-handed NLHE events, two NLHE Re-Buy events, one NLHE Shootout, one NLHE Heads-up and one Mixed HE event (limit and no limit). Both the Heads-up and Mixed HE events are brand new this year.
The fun part this year seems to be the variety. In addition to the return of the wildly popular $50,000 HORSE event (which is now five days instead of three) we get a more reasonably priced $5000 HORSE event. Event #5 is an interesting $2500 O8/Stud 8 mixed game. There's also a 2-7 Triple Draw Lowball Rebuy event that sounds like fun... for those who actually play the game.
The other addition this year will be space for about 80 more tables giving the Harrah's folks up to 300 tables and seats for up to 3300 at a time (if they choose to start events 11-handed). With that in mind, there are only three Day 1s and only one Day 2. Last year, there were four Day 1s, two Day 2s and an off day before Day 3 even started.
I guess I could take more time and compare this year's schedule more closely to last year's... but I'm a journalist in real life and don't feel like playing one at home. Look for smarter people to bring you more in depth analysis. In the meantime, here's a link to the World Series of Poker 2007 Schedule.
In place of the post I plan to write later this week, a question.
Who is coming to Tunica?
Time is running out.
If you're a poker player and a parent, I have to think you have made this connection. And if you haven't, well, I'm going in-fricking-sane, because I'm fairly convinced Captain Feathersword and Mike Matusow are the same person.
Weak evidence after the jump.
That's all I've got. For those of you headed to the Bahamas this week, I'll see you there.<-- Hide More