The halls surrounding the WSOP Amazon Ballroom were teeming with so many bad beat stories, if each one of the story tellers had paid his dollar, I could've bought my way into the main event. I tried not to stay in the hallways for too long, lest I start believing that poker was just a game that required not getting beat badly.
But I had to pee, and I had yet to find a private bathroom where bad beat stories weren't allowed.
That's when I ran into a flushed-faced Jay Greenspan.
When he started telling his story, I drifted off into the place in my mind I go when bad beat stories get started. It's a happy place, full of virgins and cheap beer. I would've stayed there, but I realized Greenspan was telling a story about a Pot Limit Omaha hand. Frankly, I rarely get to hear bad beat stories that involve Omaha hands, so I started listening again .
When I rejoined the convesation, Jay was telling me that by the turn, he had the nut straight with a flush re-draw on an un-paired board. In short, he had a pretty damned good hand. What's more, he was in the pot with two other players and suddenly all of them had all of their money in the middle. This was no small game. It was a $2/$5 Pot-Limit game, but it was playing much bigger.
For half a second, I tried to figure out two things. First, I wondered how three people could get all their money in with one card to come. Second, I wondered what horrible fate was going to befall one of my favorite people in the poker writing world.
Jay didn't make me wait long to answer the first question. As it turned out, all three players held the nut straight. However, where Jay held the re-draw to the flush, one of his opponents held a re-draw to a higher straight. What's more, the other opponent also had a set, so if the board paired, he would make a full house or quads. Suddenly, the answer to the second question was a lot more clear. There were several ways Jay was going to lose the pot.
Jay looked at me with that look people always offer before they give you the kicker on their bad beat tale, and then said, "Queen of hearts on the river."
Wait! My mind raced. I hadn't been listening to the first part of the story. Did the queen pair the board? Did it make the other dude a higher straight? What happened?!!
Just as the word "river" came out of his mouth, Jay reached in his pocket and whipped out...more than $6,000.
Indeed, that heart made Jay's flush. It hadn't been a bad beat story at all.
So, that story is one of the reasons I like Jay. He's pretty good at the cliffhanger.
But that's not the only reason. Early on in the 2006 WSOP, Jay gave me an advance copy of his book, Hunting Fish: A Cross-Country Search for America's Worst Poker Players. In the few down hours I had during the WSOP, I read the book from cover to cover.
The title spells out the basic premise: Jay spends three months driving across America looking for good games full of bad players. Beyond that, Jay is trying to build a bankroll big enough to play the big no-limit games in L.A. That's a mid-five-figures roll, for those of you who aren't familiar.
I'm not going to give away anything about the book, but I want to tell you why I liked it. These are things I meant to discuss with Jay before the end of the WSOP, but by the end of the tournament, I just wanted to go home.
Unlike a lot of other poker books out there, Jay makes no attempt to make the poker world seem romantic. Jay's age puts him in the perfect place. He's not a middle-aged guy seeking to reclaim his lost youth. He's also not a guy who is new to the scene and thinks everything is dangerous, romantic, and gonzo. Much like Jay, the poker scene is what it is.
Jay's book is a good and easy read and I recommend it to anyone who is trying to build a bankroll or considering going pro. It's a sobering read that, hopefully, will make you think.
I have a couple of future posts planned based on some things I took from Jay's book. Those will come a little later.
Until then, have a good weekend. And keep your fucking bad beat stories to yourself, three-outer or not.
 Note: I don't have any notes on this conversation and I'm recalling it more than a month after it happened. However, I think I'm pretty close in my recollection. I'm sure Jay will tell me if I'm not.