There are those moments in your life where you are faced with a decision. A decision that will decide your fate. Shrink from the moment and regret it forever. Rise to the occasion and your life will never be the same.
Last night, I moved all in.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Looking back on my life, I wonder where I'd be today had I made different decisions. My first job after college took me to Lincoln, Nebraska. At the time, I had a job offer to work for ESPN (yes, Pauly isn't the first to get the call from the Worldwide Leader!). It was a chance to get on the path to my dream job.
I turned it down.
For a time, I wondered if I had made the wrong decision. I put all I had on the line and moved halfway across the country to work an overnight shift in a town in which I knew absolutely no one. It was hard. But I got lucky. Perhaps I pulled a four-outer on the river. I was quickly promoted and got a nice raise.
When it was time to move on, I had two very tempting offers. One was in the Pacific Northwest, Spokane to be exact. The other was in a small South Carolina town that I didn't even know existed. The Spokane job offer was for more money, a better shift and a more prestigious position.
I turned it down.
I never looked back to wonder if I made the wrong decision. I landed in G-Vegas and made the best friends I've ever had. And I got lucky. Perhaps I drew out again. After less than two weeks on the job, I was promoted. I worked side-by-side with Mrs. Otis for three years. I never wanted to leave.
But I had to. And out of the blue, I got a call to move to Knox-Vegas. It was a huge opportunity for me. Lots more money and a chance to take a big step professionaly. I had to take it.
It wasn't all I had dreamed of, but I was still close enough to get back to G-Vegas regularly. And then I got lucky. This was more like hitting the one-outer for the straight flush to beat four of a kind. A station down in little Lafayette, Louisiana needed a news director and they wanted me.
I couldn't turn it down.
That was more than three years ago. For the first two and a half years, I focused on my job. I focused on my job to the exclusion of anything else. And I wasn't happy. Let me amend that... I wasn't depressed, but I wasn't exactly walking on air.
Then I got lucky. This was more like holding a losing hand but having your opponent accidentally muck. That's the kind of luck I'm talking about here. It's like hitting the bad beat jackpot.
With some encouragement from BG, I dove into the dating world. The first woman I met was Lady Luck. To say I was nervous would be an understatement. She was gorgeous and funny. She laughed at my jokes and loved baseball and movies.
I fell in love. And I never looked back.
Last night, I put all my chips in the middle. And I won.
Lady Luck will soon become Mrs. Luckbox. And I couldn't be happier.<-- Hide More
In case you don't have your cell phone programmed to ring and a messenger service on call as a back up to notify you every time Wicked Chops updates, you might have missed the annoucement that Rep. Barney Frank is going to introduce a bill to fully repeal last year's anti-online gaming legislation. I have mixed feelings about the current strategy, but at least it's a step in the right direction. A news conference is scheduled for tomorrow.
For more, check out the Politico.
If the UFP crew had to collectively select their favorite all-time band, I have little doubt that it would be Eddie From Ohio. After my last session at the Coushatta Casino, it was a little bit ironic that the song playing as I started my car was EFO's Bookends.
Between my first and my last hand, I racked up a cool $900 profit. The game is soft, as usual. But that doesn't mean there's no risk. The game is in the cards. And they don't always fall my way. I may be The Luckbox, but no one is always lucky. So why don't you tell me what you would have done?More in this Poker Blog! -->
First hand of the night... the very first hand... I look down at Cowboys.
"Alright," I thought, "nice way to get rolling."
I'm in the cutoff and, after one limper, I raise it from $5 to $20. I was more than disappointed to see the SB, the BB and the limper all call. I suppose it was the first hand, so I couldn't exactly expect respect just yet.
The flop comes down QJ8, two clubs. Not the greatest flop imaginable, but I had position, so I'd get to see how they all acted first.
The SB checked and the BB stacked $60 in the pot. It was a solid bet and I didn't know where to put the guy. What I didn't notice was that he only left himself $20 behind. The limper folded to me and I called. The SB also called. There was $320 in the pot.
The turn was the 10 of clubs. Like an amatuer, I had to peek at my cards. One of the Kings was a club. That meant I was open ended with the second nut flush draw. The SB immediately pushed for his last $120 and the BB wasted no time in callign for his last $20. With $440 in the pot, I needed to call $120 with no future risk to see the river.
Your thoughts? I'll get back to this hand in a moment.
My last hand of the night, I'm sitting in the BB when I look down at pocket 9s. UTG and UTG+1 both limp. The SB raises it to $30. He's relatively short. I call and both limpers call as well.
The flop is 679 rainbow. I've flopped top set.
The SB fires out $30 leaving him just about $50 behind. I raise to $75, hoping to isolate him, knowing he's likely just playing overcards and firing out a continuation bet.
"One seventy-five," UTG says.
That surprised me. Suddenly I have to decide what to do. He's got another $375 behind him. I've got him well covered. It's folded back around to me.
Your thoughts? I'll get back to this hand in a moment.
So it's $120 into a $440 pot. I could hardly fold at this point. I didn't figure I was ahead, but I had outs. I had to hope that any club was a win. It was a pretty long shot that an Ace or and 9 was a winner, too, but it was hard to count on that. If I was gonna be realistic, I had 7 outs, at most, and I might already be drawing dead.
I called and found out the BB was holding T9o and had flopped the mortal nuts. The SB was holding 76c and had turned the flush. I had my 7 outs, but none of them hit and I was down $200 to start the session.
My biggest mistake was, once again, not paying attention. Had I seen the BB had just $20 left, I likely would have raised at least another $60 and that may have pushed out the flush draw. It may not have, but after the turn, he wasn't going anywhere. That move may have saved me $100.
So I'm sitting on top set and facing a $100 re-re-raise to my $45 re-raise. With the pre-flop action, I had to figure I had the best hand at this point. Frankly, I wasn't sure how I was supposed to be afraid of 58 or T8.
I thought for a bit and put him on a range that included: 66, 77, 67s, 88 or A8s. With that in mind, there was only one choice. I put him all in.
He went in the tank.
"That's great news," I thought. There's no way he flopped a straight.
"Runner-runner spade?" he asked, "Will that do it for me?"
Huh? What the hell does that mean? It certainly eliminates 66, 77 and 88 from the conversation. I suppose he could have 67s, but I didn't think it as likely. I suppose that left just A8s. If that was the case, I really, really, really liked my chances.
Finally, he decided to flip his cards without mucking.
Let me interject here for a moment that I detest this move. It's angle shooting. Period. It's designed not only to get a reaction from the other player left in the hand, but it gives a player a chance to get some help from the rest of the table merely by looking at them. I guess I could have called for the floor, but they wouldn't have done anything about it. The damage was done.
But I digress...
He showed 85s. He flopped the straight. What the hell was the difficulty in calling? Apparently he thought I held T8.
He thought awhile longer before finally calling the clock on himself. All I could think was what a jackass he was. Obviously, he called. And the dealer failed to pair the board for me. I was out $580 on the hand.
It was a rough way to start and a rough way to end. Thank goodness things went so well in the middle. I'd take a $120 profit over a loss any day of the week.<-- Hide More
[Note: I considered telling a few stories about my last few games. That's really what this blog does well. You don't need much strategy advice. Still, sometimes just typing this stuff helps ME play better. And... this IS a blog.]
Ain't it funny how fast you can go from genius to moron and back again? Two months ago I thought I was on top of this game. I made this arrogant observation to Mr. Blood after Tunica, "I feel comfortable at any table. There's no game where I can't hold my own."
To be fair, I'm actually pretty arrogant.
Then I went on a month-long slide. Some pretty awful beats were part of the carnage, of course, but I was playing like crap. Here's what I learned:More in this Poker Blog! -->
I STOPPED HAVING FUN... AND PLAYED BAD POKER FOR THE SHEER THRILL
You've done it too, dear reader, I'm sure you have. Sometimes it's the "I'm having a bad night what the hell" variety. Sometimes it's the, "I've been treading water for about 3 hours and need to make something happen NOW!" disease. I was just looking for action. I started gambling.
Which is dumb.
I actually remember saying to Badblood, on the way to Gucci Rick's, that I'd figured out the reason for my slide. I can't play poker when I'm bored. I wonder if anyone can?
I remember why I enjoyed poker at first, I liked hanging out with my friends. That's the reason I still enjoy the game at Gucci Rick's. The EV is horrible there with me and Otis and Blood and theMark and Rick. It's a single table game and nobody wins big. But it's fun and I usually don't play badly.
I remember why I fell hard for the game a few years ago. Poker is hard. We joke, us G-Vegas types, about the clarity of vision we have when we're not involved in the hand. Somehow, after folding and watching the action UNFOLD, it's simple to figure out what everyone has. Hole cards are transparent. That kind of detective work is fun.
For a long time I thought it was important to watch those hands we fold if only because we'd learn some information that would be useful later: betting patterns, physical tells, who is loose and tight and whatnot. But there's another element I somehow forgot. Paying attention, and HAVING FUN with paying attention, is critical to avoiding the gamble monster later on.
If I'm having fun with the hands I'm NOT involved in, I won't get bored. If I don't get bored, I won't feel the need to make bad plays (bad calls for the most part) just to LIVEN THINGS UP!!!
STACK SIZE IN A CASH GAME IS A MISLEADING INDICATOR OF HOW "GOOD" A TABLE IS
I play for stacks and I like big pots. I doubt that's a unique trait. I must admit, my personal style of chasing impied odds and looking for stacking hands, left me looking for tables with tall stacks. Nothing said STAY AWAY like a $1/$2NL table with 9 stacks of $150.
But I forgot about the rebuy.
Some of my best nights of late have been at shorter stacked tables with people who brought $1000 and bought in 10 times. There's a reason some people don't have many chips. They keep giving them away.
Last night I cashed out for more that the value of the remaing chips on my table... combined.
SOME POTS AREN'T MEANT FOR YOU
Regular readers, and regular players, have just sighed a collective, "DUH!" but for some reason this is a lesson worth repeating. At least, it is for me. This is the donkey trait I know I can still fall into.
Why, when I've stabbed a good-sized bet on the turn, is it so hard to let go?
When I'm playing well, this is exactly the donkey mentality that pays off my big hands. This is why the check-raise is such a good play. It's also something that, when running bad, I can fall into. It's as if I DESERVE to win and I want to go ahead and lose just so everyone at the table can see what a bad position I'm in. How stupid is that? It happens. It shouldn't. But it does.
$100 UP IS STILL UP
Back when I was accustomed to winning several buyins each night I somehow convinced myself that finishing up just a few hundred dollars is A COLLOSAL WASTE OF TIME.
Granted, this is a further symptom of the "NOT HAVING FUN" rule, but it still creeps into my thinking. Why is it I can't be happy playing well for 5 hours and finishing up just a little?
I rarely am and this, again, invites the gamble monster into my thoughts.
A win is win, G-ROB you fool, learn to love it. The big wins will happen.
That's it for today's "Advice you don't need but I do" column.
Actual stories will resume forthwith.<-- Hide More
My photographer, Kebin, and I were sitting on a bench beside the new RiverPlace building downtown. Our last interview of the day was set for 1:15 outside the Starbucks and our previous shoot ended early. It was warm for the first time in days so we just reclined there and soaked up the sun, watching the business folks speed walk to whatever important meeting they had.
I told Kebin they always looked depressed. He said, "They're decision makers. Decisions are never fun, man."
Just before our guy was scheduled to arrive, this older guy leans in to ask a question.
"Did you hear what happened at Virginia Tech?"More in this Poker Blog! -->
That morning, when I left the newsroom, I saw the "AP URGENT" update on my computer. It said one person had been killed at the western Virginia school. Frankly, I ignored it.
Earlier that morning I'd chased down a police report on a murder down here. Some guy found dead near his apartment's front door. Someone shot him in the chest. It was newsworthy, but I focused most of my efforts on the big bus story. I felt it was more important to more people. As an added bonus, the bus story was a piece of cake to cover.
So when the older guy at Starbucks asked me about the Hokie shooting, I told him someone was shot.
"No," he said, "22 people were shot."
I called the newsroom. Of course, he was telling the truth. That said, Kebin and I shot our interview and then I went to lunch. Another station reporter, Erin H, was already headed to Blacksburg.
Just after I pulled away from the station, my assignment manager called, "Can you bang out this story for 6 and then go pack a bag?"
I had the story ready at 3. I drove to one of our bureaus and met another photographer, Scott, for the drive to Virginia. We were both energized by the assignment but, because we're men in the news business, we pretended to bitch about the workload. That's what we do.
We listened to CNN coverage on Scott's sat radio. There were now at least 30 dead, including the lunatic shooter.
Here's Scott on the drive to Virginia:
By the time we reached Tennessee were were both exhausted. I'd anchored the 11 O'Clock show on Sunday and been back at work by 9AM Monday. I'd been at work for 12 hours that day and our upcoming assignment was even worse.
Erin would report live from the campus at 11 that night. Scott and I would find the hotel, sleep, and take the early morning shift. Of course, by Tennessee, it was clear that we wouldn't get much sleep. It was 9PM. The Blacksburg police were having a news conference.
We blew past Blacksburg and drove another 20 minutes on I-81. The hotel was a filthy EconoLodge right near the highway. At mignight, I asked for a 3AM wake up call and tried to fall asleep. Meanwhile, 3 police cruisers sped into the hotel lot and pounded on one of the doors.
I was damn unhappy. I was awfully worried about what the Blacksburg massacre meant... to me. I'm awfully embarrased about that now.
BLEARY AND DUMB
At 3:30 Tuesday morning, the Satellite truck engineer joined Scott and I for the drive to campus. We stopped for coffee once and got to the school at 4:15. Here's the lot at daytime:
Those big dishes are from the sat trucks. There were hundreds of them. I assume every station on the East Coast had sent a truck. The networks rented theirs.
We were all in that one lot because it was the only place on campus still open. Everything else was still blocked off from the day before. The one building still open was home to all our press briefings and also the lone destination of hundreds of Tech parents.
Students were told to call home and tell their folks that they were OK. Of course, they weren't OK, but if they were calling... they were still alive.
We did sidebar stuff mostly. One of our Washington reporters was covrting the heavy stuff. Scott and I did 10 live reports between 5 and 8AM then took a quick nap.
By noon we were back in Blacksburg looking for stories. Almost nobody wanted to talk. The restaurants were all closed or about to lock up. Everything was decked out in Hokie colors and signs of sympathy. There was a woman in the middle of one street stopping traffic to tie black ribbon on car mirrors.
Inside one hair salon we found the women glued to coverage of an on-campus memorial service while the President gave his condolences. That's POTUS. Not the President of the school.
These ladies had made their own memorial ribbons and had some on the counter up front. They were cool and relaxed, and without a single customer, they were all lounging in the old leather covered chairs.
We pulled one aside and with a smile she told us about her day so far. The lack of business. The dullness of the afternoon. And, it turns out, the two customers who were murdered the day before. She said it as a matter of fact, nothing more.
For the first time, I was floored.
Everyone here knew something personal about those dead kids. Up until that moment, I'd handled it no differently than this hairdresser in Virginia. I was worried about my job. Until then, I had not interest in the ACTUAL STORY.
They'd just identified the shooter. Some insane 19 year old student.
Here I am with Erin, checking the mics for a live shot at 5:
I'M HOME TONIGHT
It's good to see the wife again and I missed the kids. I'm not playing poker tonight or likely again this week. I may play online a few times. You know, those parents sent their kids off to school and just trusted they'd come back a little older and a lot smarter.
Not dead for Christ's sake.
I still haven't slept.<-- Hide More
It wasn't a mutter that raised the eyebrows. It was spoken in full voice and with no small amount of disgust.
"What the fuck?"
For a moment, we bristled, looked at the six-seat, and waited for a reaction. There was none, because Vera, apparently, had heard it all before.
Someone said maybe we should tone it down out of respect for the lady. The gentlemen among us--myself not necessarily included--nodded. We weren't raised to use words like "fuck" and "douchebag" around ladies. Further, we weren't sure why we felt like the poker table gave us an excuse to break away from our manners.
As if to allay our concerns, Vera tittered. Yes, I'm sure it was a titter. And then she said, "In my life, I've heard it all."More in this Poker Blog! -->
The underground poker scene in G-Vegas is like any other city where back room poker thrives. The players are a microcosm of the world out on Haywood Rd. They are white, black, and Asian. They are rich, poor, righteous, and atheist. There are heterosexuals and homosexuals. There are straight-edge tee-totalers and people who play with substances even the wildest among us think are best left under the kitchen sink. Players range in age from 18 to 80. The only thing the local scene has really not seen much of is women in their golden years.
Until last night.
I got to the game just as it was starting. It was clear from the beginning that it was going to be a busy night. I saw several new faces. Among them was a diminutive lady. Respect dictated I shouldn't ask her age. Respect further dictates I shouldn't guess. I suppose it's best I describe her as "retirement age."
It is no surprise to see women like Vera in poker rooms, I suppose. Most of the time, however, the women are playing $1-$3 limit poker and passing the time until the early bird special at 4:30pm. This game, however, is not $1-$3 limit. To wit: When we sat down for this no-limit hold'em game, three out of ten players--this time, me included--bought in for 300 big blinds. At least a couple of the players seated at Table 1 were good, aggressive players who regularly post big wins. It was going to be a deep game with the swings you might expect.
So, why would a soft-spoken lady sit at this table? She looked like she might be more at home over a cup of tea and the Sunday crossword. As it happened, we picked seats right next to each other. And at first, I didn't think to ask. I didn't think to care. With the exception of a couple of tough spots, it was a pretty good table. It looked like I might have a rare profitable session. And really, what did I care if some lady was sitting in on a game where the next youngest woman in the room was likely 40 years her junior?
I think it was about the time the board showed JJ9-J and she called all-in against two other players (I peaked and saw her KK) that I started wondering how she ended up in an underground game in the middle of South Carolina. Her opponents were drawing dead and Vera raked in an impressive pot.
"How long have you been playing poker, Vera?" I asked
She rolled her eyes at me. I think she thought I was trying to get a read on her age. By that time, her age didn't matter to me. She was an anomaly in the game, and that was enough to pique my interest. At this point, anything that is even slightly different is reason to pay very close attention and figure out what one can.
"All my life, I guess," she said. "See, I'm Italian. In my family, we have a big meal and then sit down and play penny poker. I love poker."
Vera was pure Italian. She was from Long Island. "I made it my goal to go into Manhattan at least once a month," she said, and then confided in a curious conspiratorial whisper, "I just love Manahattan."
I tried to imagine this woman, all five-foot-one of her, stalking the streets of Manhattan all day before bellying up to a big Italian meal and a game of poker. She reminded me of my friend Chris. He died about a year ago, a Long Islander who had found a way to transform himself into a southern gentleman. Vera could've been his aunt.
And so, for the rest of the night, we boys tried to watch our tongues, but didn't feel too bad if we let loose a fuck, shit, or cocksucker. The hour grew later and later and Vera continued to sit, munching on rosemary potatoes left over from the catered meal.
"I just love potatoes," she said in the same tone. It gave me the impression that Vera was bit of a reserved heondist. She knows what she enjoys and is not entirely ashamed of treating herself to it.
Her hands look like they had molded a million meatballs as she peeled up the corners of her cards. She won and lost several hundred over the course of the night. When she left, she was either a slight loser or slight winner. It was hard to tell. Because unlike a lot of other players who sit for the first time in that game, she held her own for hour upon hour.
When she left, she inquired about the weekend hours of the room. When she heard there was a tournament, she nodded and seemed to consider whether she should play.
As she walked out, she said sotto voce, "I'll be early."
At first--especially the first time you walk into an underground room--it seems romantic, dangerous, and like you're skirting the edge of the law. After a while, though, it all becomes fairly commonplace. It's just the local card room, where eveyone does their thing and does their best to ignore the fact that their mere presence constitutes a breach of the law.
Vera, a savvy Italian from the old school, undoubtedly knows this. She knows that by going to do what she wants--what she surely feels she should have the right to legally do--she has become a witting criminal. One can't help but smile at the hypothetical mug shot and a prosecutor holding a news conference. "This," he would say, "is the face of immoral and illegal activity in your community."
It's then that you realize how ridiculous it all is--not just for the underground games, but the world at large. From the Dallas poker scene where the cops are busting up the Am Vets for penny-ante games or the poker world at large--where online companies have done more for the game than anybody since Johnny Moss and Benny Binion--that is under attack by misguided governments. Poker is an American mainstay that gives young people a way to succeed and gives retirees a reason to go out at night.
And as Vera walks out, that's when it hits me.
It's so easy to get beat down by the bad streaks, the cold decks, and the self doubt. It's so easy to wave the white flag at the government. We let it all build up and build up. It gets to the point that it's not even fun anymore. Tournament bubbles, payment processing silliness, and friends at each others throats over nothing but how the fuck you could call three bets with Q4 off. We all started playing because it was fun, because it was challenging, and because it let us win a little money while we played a game.
And so, if it's not those things, why bother playing? Well, because it can be. See, Vera loves playing so much, within two months of being a brand new state where she virtually knew no one, she had sought out an underground card room so she could play poker.
"I missed it," she said.
And we would, too. If we let someone take the game away from us, or we somehow destroy it for ourselves, we'll miss it. We live in an age where personal responsbility takes a backseat to a sense of entitlement. Sometimes it's hard to remember, it's up to us to keep the big game alive. And, something I'm still learning, it's up to us--me--to keep our personal games alive. If we take it so seriously that we can't have fun anymore, we'll lose the game.
I fell into a real rut over the last year. I let the big game problems depress me. I let my own personal game problems compound for too long. I'm not even sure I have got it completely figured out.
But I know this: When I'm Vera's age, I want to feel the drive to get out of the house and find the card room.
Because, just like Vera, I love poker.<-- Hide More
His name was John and he was perched in the ten seat with a couple hundred in chips in front of him. He was a regular, he knew our current dealer was slower than most. Another player told him he looked like a "Bohemian Chris Hansen." We all guessed he meant Gus.
The thing I remember most is that he enjoyed raising me.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Lady Luck and I decided to hit downtown New Orleans to watch Sharks 3D at the IMAX theatre. It'd been a long time since I'd seen a movie on a five story screen and these beasts of the sea were very impressive.
I couldn't help but think about poker as I watched the sharks.
When the movie was over we headed over to Harrah's New Orleans. We had parked in the Harrah's parking garage and it was going to cost us 20 bucks, unless I did a little gambling.
My first thought was to grind a half hour of blackjack and hope I didn't lose more than $20. Lady Luck had a different idea.
"You should play some poker," she said, "I've never gotten to watch you play."
That was all the encouragement I needed.
With a couple hundred dollars in my pocket, I got my name on the $1/$2 NL list. There was a $2/$5 seat open so I decided to sit there while I waited. I figured I wouldn't be playing long enough to make the $2/$5 table worth it. I only got one hand in there before my other seat came open.
("I had a feeling about that first table," Lady Luck would tell me later as we were leaving the casino. Looking back, I wish she would have said something before I moved.)
I took the 9 seat so Lady Luck could sit behind me. She's still learning the game so all she'd really be able to follow is whether or not I was winning or losing. A few hands in, I was up $50. Maybe I should have gotten up then.
Two players showed up shortly after I did and appeared to buy in short ($200 max, they each had $100). One of those players raised to $15, the other short buy-in called and I looked down at AQo on the button. I called as well.
The flop came down AJ9 rainbow. I liked my spot and thought I was probably ahead. The original raiser lead out for $50, leaving about $30 behind. The other player called, leaving about $25 behind. I figured I might as well get all their money in right now, so I raised to $100.
"I have another one hundred coming, right?" the original raiser asked the dealer.
I should have learned that lesson a long time ago. It's important to pay attention. I wasn't, and it cost me. He raised me another $80 and it was a tough spot to fold. At this point, I had to be worried about AK or AJ. I threw away 16 more red chips and saw AK. On top of that, we saw the third player in the hand had flopped a set of 9s.
Sorry, Lady Luck, I suck.
My first confrontation with John came a few hands later, after I bought in for another $200.
UTG, I decide to straddle to $4. John blind raises to $10. I can honestly say it's the first time a non-blogger has ever blind raised me at the poker table. And I thought this guy liked me!
A short, 20-something guy in late position called. I peeked down at T9o and decided to call as well. The flop came down 9-high with two clubs. I suppose I should have lead out. I was gun shy and I don't know why. I checked.
John bet $20. Shorty called. So did I.
The turn was a deuce of hearts. This is where I should have taken control of the hand. I didn't trust John had me beat at this point. I didn't, however, have any idea what Shorty had. I checked.
John checked and Shorty checked.
The river was the ten of clubs. I had two pair. But I hated the three clubs. I checked.
John bet $50. Shorty thought about it for a bit and called.
"You have the flush?" Shorty asked John. He began to table his hand.
"The action isn't over, sir," the dealer said, pointing to me.
It all happened so fast, I couldn't take it all in. Unfortunately, my attention was on the almost tabled hand and not on John because I didn't get to see his answer. After moving my $50 into the pot, I found out the answer was "Yes." The river brought the only card that both made my hand and gave someone else a better hand.
Inexplicably, Shorty was holding pocket Queens. And I thought I played the hand poorly.
Once again, it was about paying attention, and I wasn't. It cost me money. I was left with just $71.
"This is it, everyone," I announced to the table, holding up my chip stack, "Next hand I play, you can expect all of this to get in the middle."
That next hand would be AQo, a hand that had already cost me a lot of money. I raised to $10 from early position and got two callers. John and the same guy who dropped AK on me last time.
The flop was beautiful. Q74 rainbow. I checked hoping John would fire at my pot. He didn't but Mr. AK did, betting $35. I quickly pushed my final $61. John folded and Mr. AK reluctantly put in another $26 and flipped K6o.
Great! This will get me back up to $150 and leave me with at least a shred of dignity with Lady Luck watching.
The turn was a 3, giving him a gutshot to go along with his overcard. The river was a K.
It didn't register at first. I couldn't figure out why the dealer was pushing the pot away from me. When it finally sunk it, I was done. There was no more re-buying.
"Thanks everyone," I stood up and tapped the table. On the way out of the poker room, we got our parking validate. I guess we saved that 20 bucks. As we walked away, Lady Luck reminded me I didn't have my Luckbox with me.
Ah hah! So that was it.<-- Hide More
I gotta admit, for a guy who has been as fortunate as I have, I'm still a little more than jealous of Pauly nabbing the best gig in all of poker writing. As we end the week, I encourage you to head over to the Tao and give him a pat on the back. Lotta work went into getting there and I, despite my envy, am happy for the guy.More in this Poker Blog! -->
As you'll see on Pauly's blog, Mookie (which is a name I've taken to calling just about everybody) whipped up a nice ESPN cover to commemorate Pauly's rise to fame.
As the hour grows late, I've decided if Pauly is working for the Worldwide Leader, I may still have a chance for the Worldwide Peter acclaim.<-- Hide More
A couple years back when we started playing a lot more of the underground games in G-Vegas, Eddie the Dealer dropped a new hand nickname on me. He called 9-7 "The Trooper." It was a loose reference, near as I could tell, to an Iron Maiden song of the same name. I can't say I ever played the hand any more or any less because of the nickname, but I embraced The Trooper as the hand's name and addressed it as such.
Just before I left to go to Monte Carlo, I got caught up in a Trooper hand that taught me a lot of things. Most importantly, it taught me why I'll never be a good no-limit cash game player.More in this Poker Blog! -->
It was a new-to-me game on my side of town. I'd heard tale of the game several times. Badblood and G-Rob had become regulars, but because I try to play only once or twice a week, The Berry Eyuh Patch didn't fit my schedule. However, since I was due to leave town and was going to miss my regular trip to the Gaelic game, I chose to ride along with G-Rob.
It was a rather uneventful night for me. I'd been up and down most of the evening and had once reloaded my $300 buy-in up to $500. G-Rob, however, had been crushing the main table all night long. His expert get-in-behind tricks had been working very well (more than making up for his losses when he got in ahead). As midnight passed, he was up more than a dime, but seemed to be
running out of steam physically. He was ready to go home.
As a rule, I try never to carpool to games. I like the freedom to stay or the freedom to leave. This night, though, I'd ridden with G-Rob. So, when he announced he was ready to go, I accepted it. We agreed we would leave on his button. I was getting pretty tired and was stuck about $250 anyway. Over the course of the next few hands, I somehow managed to win about $150 and was getting back up close to my buy-in. I decided to be happy with that.
And, so, it's two hands to go before we leave and I'm barely paying attention. I'm paying so little attention that all I remember is that I'm in late position and flop a set of fives on a Q5x board. The Magician, one of the stronger players in town, bet into me and I simply called behind. The turn was a blank, but put a flush draw out. The Magician bet into me again, and this time I jammed. The Magician thought long and hard. He's pretty much figured out I have a set or nothing. Getting 2-1 with his KQ, he called and doubled me up.
Now I'm sitting on $800+ (a modest $300 win) and feeling content with the night. That said, now I had some chips. Worse, the last thing I want to do is hit and run. There are a couple of hit-and-run artists in town and they are the subject of much disdain. Still, I had an obligation to go with G-Rob.
Sensing my discomfort, G-Rob said he'd wait around while I played for another orbit. It wasn't much, but it was at least a gesture of good faith on my part.
It wasn't much of an orbit. Not one worth writing about, anyway. Until...The Hand.
Here's the scene: A waitress has just delivered me an un-needed beer. The room is getting a bit rowdy. G-Rob is hovering over my right shoulder. It's noisy. I get dealt The Trooper in clubs. And for some reason I decide to play it for a raise. Looking back, I could've justified it in a number of ways. Still, why is not so important as the fact that I did and the hand was off and running.
I hadn't paid much attention to the action. In fact, I don't even know where I am in the action. All I know is that the flop comes down...
Q86 with two clubs (note: I don't remember which were clubs...but I know the queen was one of them and I did not have the OESFD).
Rhodes bet $60. The Magician, having topped his stack off to around $800, raised to $225 or $250. I have my $800 in front of me and Rhodes has me covered by just a little.
Even novice poker players know I'm in a great situation here. My opponents already have lots of money in the pot. One has pretty much indicated he's ready to go the whole way with it. I have 15 twice, making me a slight favorite over most hands, given that one of the two players isn't holding the higher flush draw. I know that if I'm going to play the hand, I have to put every chip I have in the middle...right now. For the 15 twice to be a good bet, I have to be able to get as much money in the pot as I can with two still to come.
Wait! Did somebody say higher flush draw? What's that screeching? Is that tire rubber I smell?
Let me take you back to a game a few weeks before. This particualr night, I'd borrowed my Tesla-Claws (my kid's pronounciation of his man parts) from my wife and had come to play. I held K9 of spades on a 678 (two spades) board. I got in a raising and re-raising battle with another player. It ended with us each getting about $400 in the middle. As we fought to see who could get his money in first, I figured him for a set or two pair. Once the money was in the middle, I flipped my hand and said, "I have a thousand outs twice."
Not so much. My opponent flipped up AJ of spades for the gutshot and the higher flush draw.
Epilogue: Ace-high wins the pot.
At the time of that hand, I told myself I wouldn't have played it any differently and that given the same situation, I would do the exact same thing.
So, here I am at The Berry Eyuh Patch and I'm faced with a somewhat similiar situation. Only this time, I have two people in the pot and instead of $400 to push, I have $800+.
Should it have made a difference? Well, no, of course not.
My head started to swim. Push or fold. Push or fold. You're thinking too long, dummy. Push or fucking fold!
I have very vague recollection of peeling up my cards and showing them to G-Rob and Mr. Warner. I could see them convulse as they saw my hand. I think there may have been a point that G-Rob actually tried to push my chips in the middle.
And then I couldn't think about anything but The Previous Hand and my opponent shrugging as he raked in $900 with ace-high.
And that's when I broke BadBlood Rule #1: Never look at your session profit when making a decision.
I looked down at my modest profit and thought, "hey, a win is a win." I looked around the room for my balls and remembered I'd left them on my wife's nightstand at home.
My cards fell into the muck and I started making plans to hate myself for the next two months.
I didn't want to watch, but you know I did. I have to think it's a lot like walking in on your wife with another man just as they are about to climax. You want to turn around and walk out, but something inside you makes you stay.
So, the board is Q86 with two clubs. Rhodes and The Magician end up getting it all-in.
Rhodes shows QQ for a set of queens.
The Magician shows 88 for a set of eights.
The turn bricked.
The river...was the ten of clubs.
Looking back, if I had pushed, Rhodes calls for sure. The Magician might have gotten away from his set of eights, but based on the way his night had been going, I suspect he would've called as well. The pot would've been around $2,400.
My reputation around these parts is pretty poor. It's pretty common knowledge I'm not a strong cash game player. As this story spreads, I don't figure my reptutation changes much.
It's been more than two weeks since that hand and I still haven't gotten it out of my system. Apart from with a few close friends, I haven't spoken about it much. I hadn't quite found the strength of ego to put it here.
However, I guess the first step in growing a pair is digging up the ego, throwing it out, and planting some seeds of Tesla-Claws.
It just goes to show, a thousand books, a solid understanding of theory, 500,000 hands, and many years of playing mean nothing if I can't grow a pair and put the theory into practice.
So, there.<-- Hide More
The EPT Monte Carlo Grand Final was all but over. Nearly every table in the massive tournament room was empty. It was after midnight and the two final players, Marc Karam and Gavin Griffin, were heads up with nearly equal stacks. They were both 100 big blinds deep. The difference between first and second place was 800,000 euros.
And they got it all-in on a flop of...
2s-3c-4d.More in this Poker Blog! -->
I'm fascinated by this hand. I'm fascinated because I think both players played it very well and did what they had to do to win. Further, I'm fascinated because the players were able to make the moves they did with so much on the line. I was there for the beginning, middle, end, and epilogue. I heard no talk of any deal and honestly believe there was none.
And, so, this is how it played out.
It was the end of the 25,000/50,000/5,000 level. The players would go on break and play higher and later into the night.
Gavin made it 150,000 to go pre-flop and Marc re-raised to 400,000. Marc played a very aggressive game from the beginning of the tournament to the end. If he believed he was ahead or believed his opponent was weak, he would re-pop it. I'm not saying he was always right, but he was rarely afraid to make the moves.
Gavin called. And this didn't surprise me much. Gavin played great after the flop. He actually spent an entire day moving from 800,000 up to 2.6 million without ever busting a player. He was fantastic at using his table image to pick up pots post-flop.
And so the flop. It came out, as I wrote, 2s-3c-4d. To be fair, in this heads up battle, the flop could've hit or missed either of them. An amateur's read (mine), however, was that this flop was neither helpful to either of their hands, nor particular hurtful. I figured Marc for pocket eights or nines, and Gavin for a big/middle ace.
Marc pushed out a bet of 500,000. He seemed no more and no less confident than he always was. From my vantage point, I couldn't see Gavin's face. He always rested his chin on his left hand. He has been sick that day and was sniffling in between hands. He was starting to look tired. He didn't think especially long before announcing he was raising to two million.
The heads up battle had been going on for about two hours. There had been swings of a million here and there. Now, a hand that looked to get interesting. It's that moment when everyone watching moves from a slumped position to the front of their seat. All talking stops. It becomes absolutely quiet except for the sound of the cameras moving into position.
"All-in," Marc said and stood up.
Gavin had half his chips in the pot already. Everybody in the room knew, unless he had air, he was going to call. He had Marc covered by 500,000. It wan't really enough to play with, but, even so, I felt sure Gavin would call.
Gavin shook his head. "You have the best hand," he said.
"Air?" I thought. No, he was calling. He had to be.
"You're calling?" Marc asked. I wasn't sure if he was sitting in disbelief or if he was ecstatic.
"Yeah, I call," Gavin said.
"I have a pair of fours," Marc said, grabbed for his cards and slammed them on the table.
A pair of fours? Did he mean he had a set? No, I could see, he had a four and a ...seven? Yeah, he did. He had re-popped pre-flop, bet out and re-raised the flop, and he had top pair with a seven kicker. What's more, he was right. He was, if not statistically, at least in reality, ahead.
There was a moment during which we couldn't see Gavin's cards. The tournament director wanted to count up all the chips to see who covered whom. It took a good three minutes before he announced that Gavin held Kd-5c.
With two cards left to come, Gavin had 14 outs twice. Any ace, any six, any king, or any five would give Gavin the lead. For the moment, it was basically a coinflip.
The turn was a three of hearts. It changed nothing except the number of chances Gavin had left to hit one of his fourteen outs.
The river was the king.
Gavin Griffin had won it all.
To be sure, it takes intellect to play heads up poker. That said, I think it takes more balls than it does brains. That's one of the reasons I'm such a bad heads up player. I have no balls. I know for a fact, I could not have made either of the moves those players did on the flop. The only way I can make those moves is if the money truly doesn't matter. I'm fair--at best--at detaching myself from the money aspect when making moves, but I think if there were that much on the line, I'd be one boring and ineffective heads-up player.
Frankly, it has me questioning whether I ever stand to be good at this game. I've faced a lot more questions than answers recently. Watching that hand play out made me question even more.
Regardless, it was fairly exhilarating to watch. I've played against Gavin online and I've watched Marc play quite a bit live. There's no doubt in my mind, they were not thinking about the money.
I'm curious as to what you think. We all talk a really big game. We all talk about how we could make moves and not think about the money. However, with a million bucks difference at stake, could you push with a low top pair and no kicker. Could you raise for half your stack with what you believed was no more than 8 to 11 outs twice?<-- Hide More
The side benefit to my little workaday world is invitations and access that I normally wouldn't receive. Said invitations and access generally result in an increase in what I generally call The 80%.
Because of my responsibilities to my clients, I usually only blog about 20% of what I see and hear. The rest of it is off limits. Sure, I'll tell you about it over beers or something, but I can't risk pissing the wrong people off by revealing all the behind-the-scenes stuff in a public forum. So, The 80% is off-limits.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Last night, as I endured yet another day on the Cote d'Azur, our workday finished early (10:30pm as opposed to 4am). As such, there was a little more opportunity to delve into The 80%.
Maybe I'll write about it all some day, if it seems a good idea or a good story. Certainly, I'll have some stories when I get back home and have a little time to write.
--Well-known poker players in a nightclub bathroom playing a version of credit card roulette with hundred dollar bills for 500 euros a pop
--How one trip to the bar can cost the equivalent of $1,000 (no honey, this wasn't me).
--Americans searching for action on a city that closes at 2am (yes, honey, this was me).
--The return to McCarthy's and a full conversation with one guy who speaks only French and one guy who who speaks barely any
--Action starts at $25,000, sir.
And, for your interpretation, here's a mid-evening photo taken of me with Devilfish and my buddy Ed. He wasn't quite asleep yet.<-- Hide More