I remember the long nights my father spent at the office, his tired face, and his hours of undone work that we helped him do in the middle of our living room floor. I remember the business trips, the budgets, and the work ethic. Most of all, I remember what he said when I questioned why he worked so hard.
"Making money takes hard work, son. No one can become a millionaire overnight."
Dad was wrong.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Vina del Mar, Chile is not the kind of place an American can get by with just a smile and the word cerveza. The resort communities in Central America have a ready staff of English speakers ready to help fleece American tourists of every dollar they have. Admittedly, the Hotel Del Mar in Vina is a resort just the same, but it's not a resort for Americans. It's where the elite of South America--the Brazilians, the Argentineans, the Colombians--come to relax and play. There's not much call for speaking English. To get by in Vina, I depended on my limited Spanish, the few people I found who spoke enough English to understand me, and, most importantly, a group of friends who are fluent.
Vina is a wondrous place. The Hotel Del Mar, despite being a 5-star resort, refuses to look over its nose at typical Americans like me. As I wrote to my wife upon my arrival, "It's a lot like the place in Monte Carlo without all the pretentious French bullshit."
As a stupid American, I neglected to bring a power adapter for the plugs in Chile. I walked down to the front desk to find a place I could buy one. They told me to go back up to my room. I barely had time to get back to room and close the door before a sweet young Chilean lady was standing there with a free adapter. Later in the week, a restaurant waiter went out of of his way to carry my leftover food back to my room for me. When my key card didn't work, he stood sentry by my sandwich while I went to the front desk and got a new key. It's the little things, you know?
It's the type of thing that can lull a guy--a stupid American with a less-than-stellar grasp on the exchange rate--into a sense of complacency. Add a couple of the local Cristal beers, and it becomes more a sense of "Well, when's the next time I'm going to be in Chile?"
That's how I ended up in the biggest cash game the casino had running.
I'd been trying out a new character in 2009. After several years of playing the tight-aggressive too-serious guy at the table, I'd grown bored and--let's be honest-- unprofitable. Around the underground games, at the friendly home games, and even on the road, I was seen as the guy who took himself too seriously, who took the game too seriously, and who was afraid to play anything but the nuts. It had grown old. I'd experimented with who I'd eventually start calling "Chile Otis" long before I got to Chile, but he was really born that night in Vina del Mar.
I was playing in a no-limit game. The poker room was packed. Only one table was unoccupied and the rest were teeming with crazy, drunk South Americans. We were playing in Chilean pesos, and I hadn't been on the ground long enough to fully understand how much I was playing for. It didn't matter. Based on the people in the game, I knew I wasn't going to get hurt too badly.
That's when a friend appeared over my shoulder.
"We're thinking about getting a bigger game going. You wanna play?" he asked.
Old Otis would've said, "Nah, it's late" and turned back to the table. Old Otis would've asked who was playing, what the stakes were, and whether the buy-in was capped. Chile Otis didn't care about any of these things. Chile Otis is a yes-man. Chile Otis was up and digging in his pockets before the dealer of the new game had even slid into the box.
I started pulling out American hundreds and counting out how much I had. I'd only bought a few hundred bucks worth of pesos when I arrived at the airport.
"No, no," someone said. "You're going to have to go get pesos."
An Aussie friend of mine who had also decided to join the game was in the same situation. He led me to an ATM where I blindly punched numbers until the machine spit out a bunch of bills. I thought I had a decent idea of how much I'd withdrawn, but I didn't take a lot of time to do the math. The game was about to go off and I wanted my seat.
I slid into the four-seat and realized the game was full. I looked around and recognized many of the faces. I slipped into character and slipped half of my pesos to the dealer.
If you've not yet met Chile Otis, you should know he is irresponsible. He raises light more than he should. He three-bets even lighter. He calls re-raises with impunity. He is the very definition of loose-aggressive. In short, he is a donkey. He is the player you are hoping to find at your cash game table at all times. His only redeeming quality is that he is generally a nice guy. For the people who know Old Otis, Chile Otis is frightening. It's as if someone tinkered with my frontal lobe and turned me into something frighteningly stupid and correspondingly dangerous. That is, I could be re-raising you on the river with the nuts or I could be three-barreling with air. Suffice to say, it's always a good idea to call me.
I was setting up the character when I looked two seats to my left.
I could only think, "What is Alex Brenes doing at this table?"
It took all of two orbits to establish myself as the "crazy one." I couldn't raise enough. I couldn't stop betting. I couldn't stop making loose calls. Before I knew it, the entire table was looking at me. Old Otis would've been exceptionally uncomfortable. Chile Otis was eating it up.
Despite it all, it was not lost on me that I was playing in a game in which I was blissfully unaware of the stakes. That I didn't know exactly how much I could be winning or losing was actually helping me play the LAG, a Brenes at the table or not.
After a bit, the dealer stopped pushing me chips and started pushing me what you see below.
The numbers were irrelevant. The fact that I was about to be riffling plaques was not.
After a bit, players started playing back at me and it got a bit tough. I was up so much, though, I was content continuing in the role.
When I came in for a raise with 2d-5d, I expected nothing out of the ordinary to happen. When Brenes re-raised me a fair amount, I didn't think twice about calling. When the flop came K-K-2, I felt like I'd struck gold. Don't ask why, because outside the fog of that room, it doesn't make sense. I just knew I had to bet into him. I did, and he raised all-in. I had him covered, but his stack wasn't insignificant.
I won't try to make this sound like more than it was. I won't try to say I spent five minutes analyzing the hand and pinpointing his range. I won't try to make myself sound like a good player, because I think we all know how quickly such an assertion could be defeated. Simply put, I felt like I was good.
"I call," I said and flipped over my little 2-5. Brenes smiled widely and said something in Spanish. He turned over A-Q off. No pair. He missed his outs and stood up. He turned to me, offered his fist for a bump, and walked out of the room.
I've always thought the Johnny Chan scene in Rounders represented less than the movie suggested. Mike McD bluffing the Orient Express in one hand was more indicative of ridiculous hubris than it was stellar poker play. As Brenes walked out of the room with a wave, I felt like I'd experienced something similar. The moment meant nothing.
And still, I smiled.
The last hand of the night is one I'm not proud of. I came in for a raise with pocket deuces. A frustrated player who had just about enough of Chile Otis' shit pushed all-in. Then my friend in the nine seat called all-in for less. I justified it several different ways in my head and then did what was expected. I called. My deuces were up against the re-raiser's pocket eight's and my friend's pocket sevens.
Deuce on the river.
The game broke, I carried my plaques to the cage, and went to bed.
When I got up the next morning, everybody I knew was ready to talk about the night.
"You!" they said. "I heard about you last night. Pocket deuces! Suck-out artist!"
It went on for the better part of four hours. I knew I had a giant wad of pesos in my pocket, but I had no idea how much it was worth. Out of an abundance of caution, I checked my bank account to see how many dollars I had pulled out the night before.
Five minutes later, I was on the line to my wife explaining that there would be a larger than usual withdrawal from our checking account (I never pull out house money to play). Good thing I did, because the bank called her later to ask what in the hell I was doing making that kind of run on the ATM in a foreign country.
I ran into a corner of the room and started counting my pesos. There were too many to count with any accuracy. Later, I went to my room and laid them all out on my bed. The final count...1.2 million.
I was a millionaire--in Chilean pesos.
Later that night, I actually did the math and realized that being a millionaire in Chile is the equivalent of being able to afford to eat in America. It took a bit of the luster off the giant wad in my pocket. In all, I had cashed out for around $2,000 American. The biggest game in the room in Chile was somewhere between 1/3 and 2/5.
That is, I'd just played the same game I'd play in a Vegas casino, but I'd done it in pesos.
I sort of miss Chile Otis. He's a fun cat, but he gets me in way too much trouble. I still let him poke his head out from time to time, but he has no place in my life. Then again, if you were to look in my pocket right now, you would find something wrapped around my American dollars.
It's a 1,000 peso note.
That, friends, is how a Chilean millionaire rolls.<-- Hide More
Legal, live poker just got about four or five hours closer to G-Vegas.
Last night, the Harrah's in Cherokee, NC opened up a brand new poker room.
But, wait! There's more. Because of the vagaries of North Carolina law, the room has no live dealers. All the games are played PokerTek automated tables. Of course, in an ideal world, live poker would be live poker, but after not having a legal room here forever, this will do for now.
Word on the street says the room currently has five tables with room for more. Early reports indicate low limit hold'em games running and 1/2 and 2/5 no-limit also going.
Current news can be found below.
Cherokee is a little more than two hours from Greenville, SC, if my memory serves me. Feel confident the G-Vegas boys will be making a run up there soon to check it out.
Now, if South Carolina could just get its head...
The poker room of the Fiesta Casino in the Ramada Herradura just outside of San Jose, Costa Rica is a six or seven table area that is just big enough to fit the players, a couple of aimless cocktail waitresses, and Humberto Brenes.
When the men get massages, they do it with their shirts off and buxom, camel-toed therapists kneading away elbow-deep at their fat-backs. Out of simplicity and in the face of a 540-1 colones to dollar exchange rate, the poker games are played with dollar-value chips. Against all better judgment, the first seat I took in the room was at a 5/10 half No-Limit Hold'em and half Pot-Limit Omaha game.More in this Poker Blog! -->
There is no excuse for a person with $2,000 in his pocket to sit down in this game. The game was populated with locals, two of which were Scandinavian transplants with a fluent grasp on the Spanish language and an apparent intimate knowledge of everyone in the room. There is no excuse for a guy who spends more time playing Razz than Hold'em or Omaha to sit in a game in which most pots were $300 pre-flop and any play after the flop would result in his stack being in the middle. I discovered, however, there was one excuse.
It was the only game in the room.
"Let's just take it easy," a local named Alex said in English. "In eight hours we'll be playing 25/50 with $25,000 in front of us."
It seemed like hubris, but the way the game was going, the guy could've been right. Three or four of the players at the table were fairly good. Everyone else was dreadful and bordering on clueless. I, admittedly, was underfunded. It only took me two hours of seeing no hand past the flop to realize this. I catch on as quick as most husbands my age.
I turned to an American pro you know, but whose name I've forgotten how to spell and said, "Take this seat. I'm wasting it." He took the seat and didn't say, "Yeah, you are."
I took my chips to the cage where the cashier paid me in $50 bills. It wasn't dinner time yet.
It's hard being in a poker country and not being able to find a game I'm properly-funded to play. Sure, I could've sat there and played nut-only poker, but that is just about as boring as not playing at all. For the two hours I sat, I felt like a guy in the G-Vegas underground named Whitey. He plays in all the games, folds 99% of his hands, and only plays the nuts on the river. Someone once asked, "Whitey, do you enjoy playing poker?" He answered with one word.
"No," he said, and then probably folded.
I took a walk, went back to my room, and then realized I was hungry. Room service seemed like a cop-out, so I went out in search of food. There are three restaurants in this hotel. Nearly every one was empty. I went to the sushi place last. It was barren and didn't have a visible bar.
"Buenos noches, senor!" said the guy at the door.
"Just looking around," I said. Not that it mattered.
I finally wandered back to the Fiesta bar and ordered an Imperial. The Texas game was on and they were losing. Two elderly Americans sat at the other end of the bar drinking Jim Beam on the rocks. Another American, one who had announced in the elevator earlier in the day that he had gas, showed up for a second. As he walked away from the bar, he told the bartender to give me another Imperial.
"For earlier in the elevator," he said, and then walked away.
As the bartender sat my second beer on the bar, I wandered over to the poker room and saw another game getting set up.
"Dos-Cinco," the dealer said.
I laid $500 in front of the two-seat and went to retrieve my beer.
This all looks like a set-up for a story in which I won several thousand dollars, got jumped on my way back to my room, and have a black eye to show for it. That's actually what I was thinking about as I ran my $500 up to $900 in about 30 minutes. I hit a gutty, played two pair to perfection on a flushed board, and called down a bluff with third pair. The players weren't very good and I saw myself winning a ton of money and then getting killed for it.
That's not what happened, nor what this story is about.
In fact, I sat for about five hours in total. I realized half the people at the table were playing with a percent of each other. I also realized that, even if they were soft-playing each other, most of them were bad enough that it didn't matter. If I hadn't missed fourteen outs in one hand and had my kings cracked all-in against a flush draw, I probably would've hit my $2,000 goal for the night. Instead, I finished with a one dollar profit. I saved the chip to remind me of the time I won one dollar.
In fact, this story is about what happened a couple hours into my session. In a scene that smacked of Vito Corleone walking down the street and picking up some oranges, Humberto Brenes walked into the room with two sons in tow. The room got quiet for just one moment, and then half of the people stood up to kiss his ring. Or something like that.
It was hard to say how many of the people in the room respected Brenes or all he has meant to poker in this country. He is, by far, the best known Tico in the poker world and his emergence into the small poker room made it clear that everyone knew that. It was something between Norm walking into Cheers and Doyle Brunson walking into the low-limit section at Bellagio. Everyone knew him, everyone wanted him to know they knew him, and everybody played their part. Still I couldn't figure out if he was Don Corleone or Doyle to the Costa Rican poker players. I don't suppose it matters. The effect is largely the same.
In an odd coincidence, Brenes took the very seat I had abandoned earlier. He alternated between playing pots and stepping to an adjacent table to watch his sons play. I could only think, for better or worse, I am not Humberto Brenes, Godfather of Costa Rican poker.
Sometime after midnight (although I thought it was just after 11pm), I went to the cage to cash out my initial buy-in (she gave me $100 bills this time). As I stood in line, I saw a cross between bingo, the lottery, and roulette. That is to say, it was a typical roulette felt, but instead of a wheel, there was a giant spherical bird cage full of numbered balls. After spinning the thing for five minutes, the dealer let one ball fall out (black ten) and paid it off. I couldn't decide it it was more, less, or just as random as a ball on a wheel.
And again, I'm not sure it mattered.
That was all less than 24 hours ago. In about an hour, I'll venture back into the fray. If all I've been told is true about the level of play here, I should make money in the short time I have to play. And if not, for a final time, I'm not sure it matters.<-- Hide More
Lucky in love, unlucky in cards.
I've heard it quite a few times since I've found Lady Luck. Many a blogger have mentioned that my luckboxing abilities have likely diminished or disappeared since I've found love. I don't believe it, but my experience Saturday night didn't exactly assuage my fears.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Cliche #1: The Smoke-filled Poker Room
Okay, so it wasn't quite that bad. But as I entered Casino Aztar for the first time, I did have to push the smoke out of my way just so I could find the stairs to the lower level. That's where I found the poker room.
Well, actually, that's where I found a lot more slot machines, but tucked away in the corner, I eventually came upon what resembled a poker room. To be honest, it was quite a disappointment compared to the relative luxury provided by the Coushatta.
Of course, there were tables, dealers, players and chips, so I'm not sure what else I really needed. I saw they were dealing $1/$3 NL at two tables, so I got my name on the list. I also put my name ont he $2/$5 NL interest list. The woman charged with typing letters in a computer told me they would soon be opening a $1/$3 NL table. I figured i wouldn't have to wait long. (Foreshadowing...)
Cliche #2: The Local Rocks
After waiting around an hour, the new table finally opened. I grabbed the 7 seat and when we were all gathered, I counted at least three of them. Three old men with souvenir ball caps that were never in style. Each knew the dealers by name and shared an inside joke or two with the floor man.
For about the first hour, the rest of the table wasn't much more interesting than these three. Most of it was ABC poker, but I didn't have the cards to play much and I was too out of practice to start running any complicated plays. I stole where I could and took a few small pots with winners. That was it.
Cliche #3: The Calling Station
He had just sat down but it only took one hand to figure out what kind of player this guy would be.
The elderly woman to my right raises it up to $12 from early position. I look down at Big Slick (unsuited) and briefly consider a reraise. Instead, I merely call. The new guy to my left also calls as does a player on the other side of the table.
The flop comes K-8-4. I like it. No flush draw, a gutshot draw at best. It's checked to me and I lead out for $25, about half the pot. The new guy quickly calls and the other two players get out of the hand.
The turn hits the gutter, but doesn't open a flush draw. I bet $60 into a pot of just about $100. The new guy had only bought in for $200. Calling this will put him in for about half his buy-in.
He hemmed and hawed and hemmed and hawed. He counted his chips. He banged his fist against the table once or twice. And then he did exactly what calling stations do.
The river was a beautiful K. For a brief moment, I considered the new guy had only been putting on an act on the turn. Perhaps he had magically hit his gutshot straight draw with 57 and was trying to act as conflicted as possible as he made his call. It didn't take long for me to dismiss that thought.
I put him all in for his last $100. He almost immediately called but as he did so, said rather dejectedly, "Ace king?"
I nodded and flipped my cards.
"Damn," he said, "I thought you woulda reraised with that." He showed KJ. I was up to about $500.
Cliche #3: The Cold Deck
That was my high point. I spent the next couple of hours giving my profit away. Not in a single hand, but as a slow bleed.
It started with Cowboys. I raised it up to $12 UTG and got two callers. The elderly woman from before and her husband. I jokingly suggested they were teaming up on me. Apparently, the were in cahoots with the dealer, too, because the flop came down A-x-x.
The old bag checks and I toss out $20. The old man calls and the old bag raises to $50. I got all the information I needed. I throw my cards into the muck and so does her husband. The table goads her into showing AK. KK cracked by AK. That's about right.
A few hands later I waste a few bucks chasing an open-ender against a Croatian transplant donkey with a Longhorns cap and a solid Asian kid. The Asian kid hit his gutter on the turn and took a huge pot off the donkey and his two pair.
The end of the downfall was when I flopped a flush. Yep, from the big blind, I flopped a heart flush with 82. I coyly check and a pretty good player in the 9s bets $20. I smooth call, because I'm really tricky.
A 4 falls on the turn, pairing the board of A24. I check again, in the most cunning manner possible. My opponent bets $50 and I raise to $100.
I'm not even sure I finished saying raise. That's how fast it happened. And then everything stopped. I had to play it all in my head. This guy hadn't made a play at anyone all night. Would he do it to me?
What could he be holding? It's possible he has the higher flush? I suppose, but two flushes aren't all that common. Of course, he could have boated on the turn. It's reasonable he would have limped with A4, 45, 44 or 55.
"I have outs," I declared, hoping to get a read. He wasn't giving me any, so I wasn't all that worried about saying, "Well, I suppose I should say, 'I have out.'" He still didn't give anything away.
At that point, a great piece of advice ran through my head, "Never go broke on an unraised pot." Frankly, I think this advice applies to tournaments, but since our chip stacks were about the same, I was going broke if I called and was wrong.
I folded. And he showed 96h.
I suppose the original Luckbox would have called and then hit the three of hearts. I wasn't sure if I still was the original Luckbox.
Cliche #4: The Suckout
This may suggest I'm on way back. It's from the $3/$6 limit tables and it was a $169 pot.<-- Hide More
Saturday afternoon, I'm heading to the "World-Class" Casino Aztar for my first foray into E-Vegas' only legal poker room. And I need your help to decide just who I'm going to be when I sit down.
Here are my options:More in this Poker Blog! -->
The Online Poker Jopker
I'll break out my Full Tilt Poker hat and my PokerStars T-shirt. I'll take my Check 'N Raise poker card capper (yeah, that's real old school). I'll talk about playing thousands of hours multi-tabling SNG's and how I can't find any real action at a live table. I'll say "lol" a lot and call my opponents donkeys.
The Sharp-Dressed Man
Think Marcel Luske. I'll probably break out my Playboy Mansion outfit. I'll be quiet and respectful, congratulating people when they win a pot. I'll be generous with my tips.
The Pro in His Own Mind
We all know this guy. Sunglasses and an I-Pod. Maybe I'll even take Lady Luck along and have her sit behind me so I can impress her with my awesome play. Despite having music in my ears, I'll still analyze every hand out loud after the cards hit the muck.
It's just me. I'll break out the official Luckbox and get my money in when I'm behind. I'll chat it up because that's what I do.
<-- Hide More
So those are the best I've been able to come up with. Add your vote in the comments or feel free to leave your own suggestion!
I'm writing about this so the nightmares stop.
Why don't we touch the hot stove anymore? Is it because our parents told us not to? Of course not. It's because we touched the hot stove anyway and we got burned. Or, in terms some of you may understand better, why don't we sleep with the drunk, loose skank at the end of the bar? It's because we did it once and we'll never forget that burning feeling either.
Pain is the world's greatest teacher. Without pain, we learn nothing. The pain I felt yesterday will stick with me for a long time.More in this Poker Blog! -->
"Live straddle," the dealer called out.
As the cards went around the table, I was telling the story of the last time I straddled and how badly it went.
"As long as I don't get pocket Kings again, I should be okay," I told them. It was a good table. The people liked to talk, and since I really liked to talk, I fit right in.
"I'll raise." The old man to my left made it $20. It was a strange raise considering my straddle already made it $10. Two other players called before it got back around to me. I looked down at pocket Kings.
"Changing up your luck?" the player on my right asked me after I put out my straddle.
"Yeah." I had run my $300 stack up to near a thousand in about two hours but I was in a rut. And I don't like ruts.
"Little something to change things up. I'm pretty superstitious. Hell," I told him, "I have a box with 'Luck' written on it."
The new UTG player bought in short and talked a good game, but he had folded almost every hand. This time, he raised my straddle to $30. It was folded around to me and I looked down at two black Kings.
"Raise," I said, putting $70 in the pot. He didn't have much more than that and I figured there was a good chance it was going into the pot.
"I'm all-in." He pushed in his remaining $65. I nearly beat him there.
The dealer laid down the flop and there was a K in the door. When she finished sliding it out, the flop was K42 rainbow.
"I just need a 3 and a 5," he said. It was obvious he had an ace, but I liked my spot. I went from a 71% favorite to a 97% favorite, although I've never been that good playing from ahead.
The turn was a 3. The river was a 5. The straddle did not change my luck.
Poker players need short memories. Mine's not nearly short enough. There was $77 on the table when it got back to me and three other players in the pot. With pocket Kings, the play here should have been a raise. I merely called. I still don't know why.
The flop came down 963 rainbow. I could hardly complain about that flop. I checked. I tell myself now that it was because I was going to check-raise. There couldn't have been any other reason for a check, right?
The tight old man fired out $100 into an $87 pot. If he was playing on Full Tilt, he'd be an animated rock. He had amassed a stack nearly equal to mine after two people bet into his nut flush. Everyone else at the table knew what he had.
As quickly as the old man bet, the next guy in the pot pushed all in for $285. I hadn't really taken the time to assess why the old man made his bet before the push happened. Now I was processing the second move. All the while, I was thinking about my pocket Kings.
I started to tell myself, "You're either laying down right here or you're playing this hand for all your chips. You can not call and fold. It's not an option."
It didn't take long for the old man to go all in. He had about $950 in front of him. I had him slightly covered. If I was following my own advice, I was calling. But I stopped. I started to think about the laydown. Sometimes making the right laydown is as important as making the right call.
I hadn't been there long and I was faced with my first test. Holding the six and three of hearts, I limped from late position and called a min-raise from the small blind. The flop came down 5h2h5c. I flopped a gutshot straight flush draw. I didn't plan on laying this hand down.
With $50 in the pot, the SB fired out a pot-sized bet. Frankly, I didn't think there was much chance this flop hit him. He played a lot of hands, but when he did, they were usually big cards or pocket pairs. If he had pocket 5s or pocket 2s, I doubt he would have bet $50.
I called. The turn was a 3. It didn't fill my straight or my flush, but it did give me another way to win the hand. In fact, I thought there was a good chance I was ahead right there. He checked and I checked behind him.
The river was another 3. The small blind bet $200.
I was concerned. I played the hand back over in my head and tried to put the puzzle together. Did he have a 5? Was he playing something like A5s? It just didn't fit. Not with the pre-flop raise and not with the check on the turn.
"If you have the five, I'm beat," I said, pushing $200 into the pot.
"I don't have a five," he said, flipping over QJo. It was a good start to the day.
"Great call," I heard from a couple players at the table.
"Thanks," I said, "too often I make the wrong laydown. And I almost did it there."
There was now about $1600 in the pot and needed to call another $675. There was a strong possibility that my Kings were good. It was logical to think the original raiser held TT-QQ. The short stack may have had A9 or been on some kind of straight draw. I was getting better than 2-to-1 on my money.
All I saw in my mind were Aces. Hell, I figured the short stack had probably flopped a set. In my mind, I was beat two ways. I was seeing monsters. Something I thought I was over. It was fear. And poker players shouldn't be guided by fear. They should be guided by information.
I folded. I couldn't believe I was doing it as I was doing it. But it was done. The turn and the river were rags. The old man flipped over pocket jacks and the short stack angrily folded.
I was crushed. I touched the stove and it was hot. I slept with the skank. I'll never do it again.
"Next time take a chance," Lady Luck later told me. "After all, isn't it called gambling? You shouldn't be worried about losing."
At least I know I'm marrying the right girl.<-- Hide More
Danny looked like the type of man who could fight 50 years ago. His face was the hard kind, the kind that you see in old black and white family photos, the kind that survived the depression, survived the war, and came out the other side.More in this Poker Blog! -->
It was midnight at Harrah's outside of St. Louis. Danny was old and his fighter-face of the 1950s sat underneath a bald, liverspotted head. His muscles had atrophied and his skin hung like parchment paper from a deadwood frame.
Every time he folded, he said the same thing.
It was like he'd been saying it in poker games for the past 60 years and couldn't help himself. He sat on my left and waited for my mucking motion. As soon as he saw it, he said, "I'm out."
He played tight. Too tight, even. If he was in a pot, I was out.
At one point, Danny stood up. Two minutes later, I smelled it coming half a second before I felt it. It was coffee with cream. It was hot. And it was all over me.
Danny stood--rickety--above me.
"I'm so sorry," he said. Fifty years ago, he would've said something else and maybe challenged me to a fight. Now, he was just hoping I didn't say something to embarass him.
"We need a towel," the dealer said.
I broke the tension. "And a shower!" I yelled.
We got everything cleaned up. I sort of liked Danny. Depsite being clumsy and scalding me with coffee, he was a nice guy.
Something happened after that. He couldn't fold draws. He had to see rivers.
I flopped my top pair on a board with two hearts and knew what he had before he called my first bet and my all-in on the turn. He showed it to me on the river and I took all Danny's chips when he missed the flush.
"I'm out," he said. This time, he really meant it. He stood up and walked out without saying anything more.
The stains came out of my shirt and pants. The smell is gone. I have Danny's money in my pocket right now.
For some reason, despite feeling like I came out on the winning side of that fight, I almost wish none of it had ever happened. I sort of wish Danny hadn't been there, hadn't been embarassed, and hadn't lost. I want to take most people's money. Even people who spill coffee on me. Danny, however, sort of made me sad.
When I'm 75 years old, I don't want to be Danny. What's worse is that sometimes I feel like I'm a lot closer than I think.<-- Hide More
Imagine spending an entire live session in which your biggest Ace is AQs and your biggest pair is pocket 8s. In each case, I found the hand in a blind.
Not exactly the recipe for a big session... unless your name is G-Rob. And, well, mine isn't. This may be a newsflash to some of you, but when I'm playing cash games, I actually prefer to have the best hand and then have it hold up. I save the Luckboxing for tournaments.
So sitting at that table at the New Orleans Harrah's, I had to reach into my bad of tricks for something with which I'm a little uncomfortable. The bluff.More in this Poker Blog! -->
"You want me to throw this away?" I asked, as incredulously as I could. We were cleaning out my
junk storage room and things I've carried with me from L-town to G-Vegas to Knox-Vegas to Leezy-anna were being put into a trash pile.
In this particular case, I was holding a sleek Sporting News thermos that I had never used.
"But what if I need it?" I continued, "It's actually pretty nice."
Lady Luck took it out of my hands and looked at it, "What-ever," she said, with her trademark giggle and she threw it in the trash box.
I didn't want to keep it. I didn't need it. I was running a small stakes bluff just to see how she reacted. I got the information I needed.
He seemed like a calling station. And he had been talking about how this was his last hand for the last 45 minutes. But since I'd been playing with him for the last couple hours, I knew both were an act. He was only a calling station until he sensed weakness, then he pounced.
I'm sitting in the big blind and the action is folded all the way around to him in the small blind. He reminded me of Ed McMahon, without the deep voice. I was about to suggest a chop, but he threw his $5 chip in the middle.
"Fine," I thought, and I rapped the table before peeking at my hand. Pocket 8s. My biggest pocket pair of the session.
The flop came down 753, two spades. I didn't have a spade, but there was no doubt my hand was best.
"I think that hit me good," he said, throwing $20 into the $10 pot. He was quite the talker.
"I think it hit me better," I said, raising to $40. I wasn't shocked when he called. He'd often called raises with a plan to move at the pot later in the hand.
The turn was a Jack. Obviously, I hated seeing an overcard, but I had to hope it missed him.
"Sixty," he said, confidently. He practically slammed the chips on the table. I think I saw a copy of Mike Caro's Book of Tells fall out of his sleeve.
"I call," I said, just as quickly. I considered raising there and winning the pot. I was fairly confident he didn't have a hand, but I could have been wrong. I also thought the quick call might allow me to feign a draw in case a scare card comes on the river.
The river was the deuce of spades. That opened up all kinds of craziness. Three spades and another straight possibility. If he bet, I was ready to bluff. I'm not sure I had effectively set it up, but the way my session was going, I wanted this pot.
Thankfully, he checked. Betting would have been stupid because I was likely only going to get called by a better hand. I tabled my snowmen and he mucked.
"Wow," I said. "You really know how to rip a guy's heart out," I told her, acting as wounded as possible. She knew it was an act and laughed. But I filed this away. It would take a different tact to keep something I really wanted.
It didn't take long for her to come across a couple of old sports books of mine that were gathering dust in boxes. She started moving those toward the trash pile.
"Wait, wait, wait," I said, more seriousness in my tone this time. "I've been holding on to those until I had a place to show them off. They're actually great coffee table books for the right room."
That was my first bullet.
"So where is that?" She asked. She had a point, dammit.
"Well... you're decorating the guest room. What about our second living area? It certainly needs some character."
Bullet number two. That turn card didn't scare me.
"Hmmm..." she said, clearly considering it. I had my opening and I wasn't going to miss it.
"Besides, I've got my chess sets and my poker stuff. We could come up with a cool sports and game room," I thought I overplayed my hand. There was a moments hesitation from her. I held nothing and I thought she was calling for sure.
"Okay." She folded. Ship it!
It was my last hand of the night. Lady Luck was on her way over to pick me up. I didn't mind, the session had been incredibly slow. I can hardly remember being so card dead. I was sitting a little up, but wanted more. When I looked down at A3s from early position, I figured the best I could hope for was a flush. I limped from the SB.
Three more players limped before a woman on the button raised to $25. She looked as though she likely played on the LPGA tour at one time (and I'm not talking about Natalie Gulbis here, think late 80s LPGA). She raised on the button almost every time and she followed up every one of her raises with a continuation bet. I immediately decided a bluff might be in order.
The BB and SB folded, but I called, as did the other three limpers. There was already $125 in the pot. The flop came down 963 rainbow. I was first to act.
I fired out $75. I frankly can't remember the last time I made a bet like that with bottom pair and 5 players in the pot. I wasn't sure I had the best hand, but I was willing to represent it. I'm not a skilled bluffer, so I knew there was a risk.
Everyone folded except for Nancy Lopez. She hesitated, practically staring me down, before calling. I immediately put her on over cards. I think she had a plan that included either catching her overcard on the turn or bluffing if I checked the turn.
The dealer pulled off a deuce. I looked at the board, looked up at her, looked down at my stack and said, "$165." To be honest, I didn't want a call. There was a chance, a good chance, that I was ahead. On the other hand, she could have easily been holding a 6 or a 9... or even pocket 7s or 8s. This may have been a case of bluffing with the best hand, but even then, I was out of my element.
She thought for what felt like an enternity. My phone buzzed in my pocket, but I ignored it. At the time, I though Lady Luck was calling to say she was waiting out front, but it was actually the alarm I had set to remind to get up. I wanted to seem calm, but not unnaturally sure of myself.
She threw her cards into the muck. The dealer pushed the chips my way and I talbed my bottom pair.
"I think that was good," I said. A couple players at my end of the table laughed. I'm not sure they thought it was. I don't normally show my hands, but I was leaving anyway. It felt good... even if it wasn't really a bluff. It helped me finish up a couple hundred bucks. I'll take it.
My session in the
junk storage room didn't finish nearly as well. I finished down. Waaaaaay down. I was left with my baseball card collection and one and a half small boxes. There was so much thrown away that we travelled to two different dumpsters to get rid of it.
Lady Luck 1, The Luckbox 0.<-- Hide More
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
I have mirrors on my wall.
This made not sound strange to most readers, but most of you have never seen the inside of anywhere I've ever lived. Mirrors on my wall is a big deal. It's part of the home makeover master-minded by Lady Luck. And it's only the beginning.
Now, as I sit in my living room, on my couch, writing this, I can see light and images bouncing around the room.
Reflecting is good.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Looking back, I could have saved myself some money. Perhaps my instincts aren't as sharp as they should be. That will come with time. Reflecting on this moment, however, is not pleasant.
It had already been an up and down night. I was sitting on a stack of about $550, which was about $150 more than I had bought in for. I was feeling good about my game. I felted one surly old man twice in about 4 hands. That's what he gets for buying in short and gambling.
Things got ugly when he changed seats, sitting suddenly on my right. It's not like he started giving me any trouble, it's just that the table dynamic changed. And The Luckbox wasn't feeling so lucky.
Upon reflection, he was my cooler.
I've actually purchased 8 mirrors now. Seven hang in my living room. Six of them are just 6 inches by 6 inches. The last mirror is for the bedroom. It's not for above the bed. At least, I don't think that's where she wants to hang it.
I peeled back my cards and saw two black Kings. I raised to $25 and got two callers before it got around to the white-haired man wearing the "Guinness" cap. If he were a little taller, I would have thought it was Iggy travelling back from the future to take my money.
Future Iggy immediately made it $60 out of the small blind. My instinct was to re-re-raise. For an instant, I thought about pushing. I glanced at the other two players in the hand, and it was obvious they were folding no matter what I did. One had already given an audible sigh at the re-raise and the other had his cards in his hand ready to toss them.
"I call," I said, adding $35 to the pot. I'll lay this down if an Ace comes, I thought to myself.
The dealer spread out the cards, Ace-rag-rag, two diamonds.
Future Iggy rapped the table. Why? Would he check Big Slick? Not likely. If he had a big Ace, he would have bet it. That either means I'm drawing practically dead or he's crushed. I suppose I should bet to find out.
"Seventy-five." I slid my chips across the line and watched my opponent. He waited a moment and then just called. Why? He could be on a diamond draw, but the Ace of diamonds was on the board and he wouldn't have re-raised me with just diamonds.
The turn was a blank. Future Iggy knocked the table again. Why? If his hand was that big, why not try to get more money out of me? He must have figured I would fire another bullet.
The river was another blank. There was no flush. Future Iggy grabbed a stack of red chips and slid them forward. He bet $100 into a $325 pot. Let's reflect.
It was a preflop re-raise. A post-flop check-call. A turn check. And a river value bet. There was only one possibility. He had Aces. I could almost justify the $75 I bet after the flop. At least I could see where I stood.
Reflecting back on that moment, I'm not sure why I called.
Mirrors aren't the only thing we're buying for my home. The house I'm renting has an unfortunate tile floor. It was likely once white. It's now an unintended beige color with a strange intentional brown pattern. Lady Luck wants a couple of rugs, one for the kitchen area, one for the living room and one for the hallway. We have a lot to cover.
He had me covered now. I was down to about $300. After two limpers, I raised to $25 with AJs. Four of us saw a flop of Ace-Ten-Ace. All of us checked, ruining my plan to check-raise.
The turn was a deuce. Future Iggy lead out for $50. I raised to $150, about half my stack. I was sure I had the best hand. I doubted Future Iggy held an Ace, and even if he did, it wasn't bigger than mine.
The other two players in the hand folded. Future Iggy wasted little time in going all in.
I had about $150 left in front of me. I had already ruled out AK or AQ. He would have played it differently. Was he slow playing AT? Wow, what a cooler. The only other hands he could have that beat me are TT and 22 and A2. Was I that unlucky again?
He had me covered. I was going to go broke here. Do I really save $150 when I think I might have the best hand? Then again, why would he push if he wasn't sure. I wish I had folded. But I didn't. And he flipped pocket tens.
Hanging in front of the windows throughout my house are horizontal blinds. They're ugly and not always functional. Lady Luck wants to replace them and I can hardly disagree. We're going to have to buy curtains.
It should have been curtains for me after that hand. With luck like that, why keep playing? Instead, I bought back in and decided I'd win some of my money back.
And I did. From down $500 I made $300 of that back. I knew I could beat this game. And I knew I could beat this table. My mantra was win big pots and lose small ones. I had called off $250 in river bets on hands that I could have folded.
Shortly before my night was over, I was dealt pocket Kings again. With four limpers, I raised to $20 out of the SB. I got two callers.
The flop came down J97. It was time to check-raise. I had wanted to do it all night but hadn't had a chance. I knew the next guy to act was going to bet. He was aggressive and talkative. He was the one I talked about in the preview post.
"Check," I said.
"Let's just make it 100," he announced moving a stack of reds into the pot.
Perfect, I thought, ready to move all in behind him.
I heard it, but I wasn't sure where it had come from. I knew I hadn't said it. The old guy in the 9 seat was moving chips into the middle. I was confused. Could I be that unlucky again?
It's back to me. There's no way I'm calling. The way my night was going I was probably facing T8 and JJ. And even if they both didn't have me beat, I know one of them did.
By the end of the hand, the loud one was all in and the 9 seat had called. The board never improved my hand and when the loud one flipped his Rockets, I couldn't believe how simultaneously unlucky and lucky I was. When the 9 seat disgustedly mucked, I couldn't believe how stupid he was. I guess I had him beat.
For the second time in the night, I was dealt KK while someone else was dealt AA. The first time, it cost me big. It could have cost me everything, but the Ace on the flop actually saved me money. The second time, it only cost me $20. It could have cost me everything, but the jackass in the 9 seat must have thought his top pair was good.
With the $400 left in front of me, I knew it was time to go. I kept telling myself I was unlucky, and I suppose I was. KK into AA twice and flopping trip Aces against a boat. That's not a good way to make money. But I got up knowing it could have been a lot worse.
Besides, I still had money left for curtains and rugs.<-- Hide More
It was back to the Coushatta for a little poker action last night. Here's a taste:
"Watch out, I'm trouble," she said moments after sitting down to my right and stacking her chips on the table.
"Oh.. is that right," the slightly inebriated player to her right responded, "Well, I'd like to be in trouble."
I'll give you a moment to let that crude joke settle in.
What might have been funny was actually a little creepy. He seemed like a nice enough guy,but since he got back from dinner, his shirt was unbuttoned down to the last button. I didn't really need to know that he waxed his chest.
More to come!
I really just wanted to touch her again.
She looked amazing. Her blouse was cut tantalizingly low, but I couldn't allow my eyes to wander. It was a first date. And I was a gentleman.
But I really just wanted to touch her again.
When I saw her for the first time, I was stunned. She walked out of her house and towards me. I stood there, trying to decide if I should shake her hand.
"Well..." she said, "Aren't you going to give me a hug?"
First impressions are important. I wonder what impression I gave.More in this Poker Blog! -->
I stood there behind the 5 seat as the players gathered. I didn't have sunglasses or an iPod. I was dressed casually with only my 6'5" frame and my black walking-cast boot to draw any attention. And once I sat down, I was rather inconspicuous.
Anyone who sits down at a live table without sizing up their opponents is wasting their time. They may as well sit behind a computer. Live poker is as much about the people as it is the cards.
I wasn't familiar with anyone at my table. To my right was Bobby Brown. Not the I'm-too-broke-to-get-out-of-jail Bobby Brown. No, he was more like the first-reunion-of-New-Edition Bobby Brown. You could tell there was just enough craziness under the surface. To my left was a jovial old man who gave notice on the first two hands that he would move chips around.
When I found myself UTG, I decided to straddle. I'll often do that early in a session to give the impression that I like to gamble. Besides, Bobby Brown was in the SB and had bought in for just $100 instead of the $300 max. He was already down to just $35 and I thought I might get the rest of it this hand.
Two players called before Bobby moved all-in. I peeked down at J9s and figured that was good enough for me. After all, if I don't defend my straddle, it won't do me much good later. Surprisingly, two other players also called. Four of us saw the QTx flop.
I checked and the only woman at the table pushed for $70. The other player folded leaving me with a tough choice. She bet $70 into a $140 pot. I was getting 3-to-1 on my money and had an OESD. Do I make the call?
I've never been one to gamble.
The choices I've made in life have often fallen in the safe category. When it comes to my personal life, I don't take chances. Do you know how many people saw the inside of my apartment when I lived in G-Vegas? The total can be counted on one hand.
Lafayette hasn't been much different. And now, there was someone new in my life and she actually wanted to spend a weekend with me. In my house. I wasn't sure it was the right play. I didn't want to make the call.
But I called.
She flipped over JTo. She had just middle pair. Bobby Brown flipped over pocket K's. I guess he was legit after all. I was disappointed to see two of my outs were dead.
The dealer pulled off another Q on the turn. Great. There go two more of my outs. If I was going to win this hand, I'd have to get lucky.
"8," I said. And that's all I said.
And I got lucky.
She was laying there in my arms, and I could hardly believe how lucky I was. We were watching a movie. If it was one of hers, there's a good chance it was starring either Hugh Grant or Colin Firth or both. If it was one of mine, something was blowing up and she was only moderately interested.
Things just seem too perfect. Except for the fact that women are expensive. Well, maybe that's not the best way to put it. Relationships are expensive. Especially if Lady Luck is to one day become Mrs. Luckbox. I think BG is already laying odds on that.
With that in mind, she told me maybe I should start playing poker again. Of course, she was under the impression that I could stop at the casino for an hour and win a couple thousand dollars. It wasn't quite that easy.
Boy this was easy.
When I turned the flush, I had a good feeling my hand was good. Especially when Bobby Brown hit the table like Whitney had just talked back to him. My flush was only 10-high, but Bobby had obviously laid down two clubs.
There was a good sized bet and a call in front of me. I really wanted to raise, but one thing stopped me. The guy across the table, who loved to talk, had just said to Bobby, "Boy, I hope you had the Ace of clubs!" If that doesn't scream, "I have the Ace of clubs!!!!", nothing does. So instead, I just called, figuring I'd face a tough choice if a club fell on the river.
It didn't. It's checked to me and I pushed. The other player in the hand only had ten dollars left so he obviously called. The Ace of Clubs guy folded face up. He also had middle pair, but he wasn't going to pay me off. I showed my flush and the all-in guy mucked.
I'd been playing No Limit for about two and a half hours and I had turned $300 into $1000.
A half hour later, I turned the second nut flush and cagily checked to the same guy I busted earlier. He had rebought and decided to push $315 into an $80 pot.
"If you've got the nuts, I'm dead," I told him. "I call."
I flipped my cards and the river was a blank. He mucked, shaking his head.
"Even when I get a good hand, I can't beat you," he said.
I stacked up my chips, now sitting at $1300.
"I'm pretty lucky," I replied.
NL cash games at the Coushatta.
I am pretty lucky.<-- Hide More
The stretch of two-lane highway rambled through a desolate part of Mississippi. Six months earlier, the road tar bubbled and the summer heat shimmered over the asphalt. On this day, though, it was a mere 70 degrees in late November and the roadside Native American child in her diaper wasn't at all cold.
This was Choctaw country, the road into Philadelphia, the highway through Neshoba County. For the past forty years, this county was famous for the civil rights era deaths of three social workers. You know about it because of Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe or the countless other movies made about the bad old days in Mississippi.
Now, the Choctaw run the show an the Klan is nowhere to be seen.
"You'll see it when we get over this hill," my father-in-law said. Before the hill's crest, I found it hard to believe what I'd been told about a Vegas-style casino in the middle of this Deep South state. I looked to my left and there was, quite literally, a half naked man on the front porch of his single-wide trailer. He was tossing out what very well coud've been the bathwater.
Mississippi is the joke-state of the nation. It's a symbol of backward attitudes, racism, and poor education. In some cases, it's an unfair representation. There are some very good and reasonable people who live there. However, there are places in the state where every one of the blue state jokes are 100% correct. I thought about all of this as we tore through the poverty on our way to play poker at a place called the Golden Moon.
The Golden Moon, I thought, sounded more like a massage parlor than a casino. I'd been to Philadephia ten years earlier during a 18-month sentence in the Magnolia State. Back then, the only Indian casino in town was the SilverStar and there was no poker room. Philadelphia was not a destination location. Back then, if you lived in the state capital, Jackson, it was preferable to go to Vicksburg to gamble. It was 45 minutes closer and the riverboat casinos were better. Now, I was told, the Golden Moon had the best poker room within a 90-minute drive from Jackson.
That morning, the day after Thanksgiving, my wife said, "My Dad and brother were thinking about going to play poker today. Do you want to go?" Inside, I laughed. She knew the answer to the question before she even thought it. I answered as clearly as I knew how: "I will never answer no to that question." Half an hour later, I was riding through the center of the state and wondering what could possibly be at the end of the ride.
We crested the hill and I started looking for the casino. It was still daylight, so looking for lights was no good. I tried to imagine what is was like in the early days of Las Vegas and trying to find the gambling outpost from a distance during the daytime. I scanned the horizon and saw nothing. I squinted just as the road started to smooth out and widen.
"The Choctaw paid for all of this," my father-in-law said, gesturing to the brand new section of highway. I looked up from the road and saw the strangest building I've seen in a very long time.
The Golden Moon casino sat across the highway from the old SilverStar Casino I remembered from the late 1990s. The SilverStar was still a dated, white, sprawling building that looked like what it was--a hastily put-up structure that required little thought in the race to build casinos in the mid-nineties. The Golden Moon--despite being connected by a catwalk to the SilverStar--was something entirely different. The main section of building looked like the remainder of the cloth after you cut out a Nike swoosh. The shimmering gold building climbed up in a dangerous parabola and licked at the Mississippi sky.
The reverse-arc was not what impressed me, though. It was the giant sphere that some casino god balanced precipitously on the top of the building. What looked to be some joke of engineering was apparently an actual functioning restaurant and nightclub. I would never see it, though, as I was there to play poker.
When the poker boom boomed, it appears the Golden Moon (part of the Choctaw Nation's Philadelphia, Neshoba County, Mississippi Pearl River Resort) did what most casinos failed to do. It actually put some thought into where it would locate its room. What was once the Sports Ticker Sports Bar is now the Sports Ticker Poker Room. (Full disclosure: I have no idea if the above is actually true. I'm just making an asusmption based on the fact that naming a poker room The Sports Ticker is pretty silly unless it was already a sports bar). The result is actually a pretty interesting room. One wall is filled with giant television screens and a room-length bar. The back corner of the room was host to a snack bar (that, oddly, didn't open until 4pm). The rest of the room was full of smaller TVs and poker tables.
The Golden Moon Sports Ticker poker room has 13 tables and spreads an impressive variety of games. On the day I was there, the room was spreading $3/$6 and $6/$12 limit hold'em, $2/$5 no-limit hold'em (with an interest list for $5/$10 no-limit), $2-$6 seven-card stud, and $10/$20/$30 Omaha.
The Golden Moon staff generally had its stuff together. Their wait lists were digital and the brush was efficient. Players who didn't want to sweat the tables could wander the casino while waiting for their table and listen for their open seat over their PA system announcements. Three floor people worked the room during a period when eleven tables were running. The wait staff was generally pleasant (if a little thick in the midddle).
The bad beat jackpots were huge. Quads beat opened the door to a $88,000 jackpot. The stud and Omaha games also had sizable jackpots. None of them were hit while I was there, despite a level of play that made it clear people were playing for the big one.
If you're the type of person who doesn't like playing against locals, the Golden Moon is not for you. While I was there, the dealers knew the first names of half the people playing in the $2/$5 NL game. That said, the play was not so localized that ABC poker doesn't earn you a profit. As I was with other folks, I only played for about five hours. I walked away with a profit after playing a fairly standard tight-aggressive game. Had I not laid down pocket aces on the flop on my last hand of the afternoon, I might have walked away with a huge payday (or, more likely, broke). Nonetheless, I'd happily play at the Golden Moon again.
I've now been to casinos in four different regions of Mississippi. The coast is still rebuilding from Hurricane Katrina. Vicksburg never really got going. Tunica is the place to be (in terms of southern poker, anyway). With all that in mind, the Golden Moon is still the best poker room in Mississippi right now. If it weren't in the middle of nowhere, it could teach Tunica a thing or two.<-- Hide More
I played in a $170 live underground event in G-Vegas yesterday and finished a disappointing 13th out of 51. It was an afternoon of poker not to be remembered. However, as I looked around the room at the wide variety of players from all different walks of life, I realized that the poker community in my neck of the woods is pretty active. In fact, just before the tournament started, the organizer took the time to recognize three people in the room who had done very well in recent major events, including one guy who had just won about $100,000 in a WSOP circuit event.More in this Poker Blog! -->
While I folded my way to a non-cash, I couldn't help but wonder if the rest of the U.S. is like this. I know the bigger cities have thriving communities--Dallas and New York are two that come to mind. However, I don't hear much about the medium-sized cities and if their poker community is as vibrant.
For instance, I don't make the rounds like most people around here. My head is not in the game and if I want to stay married, I need to stay home a lot more (the two not being mutually exclusive, by the way). However, if my wife were to run off with Derek Jeter and I didn't up and moving to some place where poker is legal, I could play just about every night of the week if I wanted to. There are at least five card room operators within driving distance. There are more games popping up every day. There are two or three tournaments a week in which you can spend as little as $30 and as much as $700 for a single event. And if all else fails, there are more home games than you'll ever want.
There was a time a few years ago in which home games were about our only choice. We played for small stakes and treated it as a social event, like going out to play golf or pick up women. Now, those of us who have been playing together for a while have gotten to the point to which it is undoubtedly -EV to be hosting or visiting each other's home games. We don't dial down the stakes and, recently, it's not been uncommon to see players win and lose six buy-ins in one night of poker. While I still enjoy the company, it's wild to play against people you know so well.
(The following section is really Inside G-Vegas Baseball and isn't really important to the discussion here. Read it if you want, but otherwise move on to the end)
For instance, I hadn't planned on playing Friday night, but it was G-Rob's birthday and The Mark put together a game that was half social and half bloodbath. And speaking of Blood, the guy ran over all of us. In one memorable hand, Blood came in for a raise from the cutoff. G-Rob called in the small blind and I called in the big blind with a weak jack. The flop game jack high with two clubs. I made a decision to win the pot before another card came, but I knew it wouldn't be as easy as just betting out. G-Rob was on tilt and calling all bets. Blood had killed off half the game and was sitting behind the amount of money that I spent on my laptop and big TV combined. G-Rob checked, I checked, and Blood bet out. I read the bet as a desire to win the pot right there. Blood didn't want action. G-Rob called. That night, calling was not uncommon for him and I figured him for clubs. My problem was, I was weak. I had top pair no kicker. I put in a fairly substantial raise. In retrospect, it committed me and I failed to realize it. Before I had time to think about it, Blood had re-raised enough to put me all in. G-Rob folded. Doing the math later, I think I had to call. Nonetheless, after a lot of thought, I re-evaluated the hand, put Blood on an overpair, and mucked.
Blood said a few minuted later that he had pocket tens. That is, I had him beat. "I put you on putting me on missing the flop, so I represented the overpair," he said.
Now, given, we are no poker geniuses and this is the kind of play that takes place everywhere in America. Still, Blood put a Level 3 move on me that he would only put on me and a couple of other people. He knew how I had read him and he twisted my mind to believe what he wanted me to believe. Looking back, I think he was getting me back for making him lay down an overpair two nights earlier when I had ace-high. Regardless, when you're consistently playing with people who know you well enough to know what you're thinking most of the time, it's just not a recipe for making money. It's stimulating and it makes you a better player, but it doesn't make you a lot of money. Unless you're Blood, who is currently enjoying the heater we all pass around (I want it back).
With that kind of thing in mind, we're all sort of re-evaluating whether we want to keep playing with each other. One of us has explicitly said he won't do it ever again. Me, I'm torn. I know I can win more money in the underground games, but I also play to be able to see my buddies.
But, the reason I started this post in the first place was to ask...what is your city like? Do you have a vibrant underground scene full of characters, criminals, and geniuses? Because we in G-Vegas do.
So...what say you?<-- Hide More
I'd like to say I was distracted by the blonde in the white tank top with the great breasts, but she wouldn't show up three tables over until later. No, I'm fresh out of excuses. I got my money in the worst of it and, well, you know what happened.
I'd recount the betting action for you except for the fact that 1) it's all a bit of a blur and, 2) it's boring. Suffice to say, I held pocket 10s, the board read Q72, and I was about to put not one, but two other players all in. These are two players that had either raised my post-flop feeler bet or called said raise.
But maybe I should back up a moment...More in this Poker Blog! -->
Don was having the worst luck I'd seen in a long time. I sometimes get the feeling I'm like a black hole of luck... so massive that I suck in the luck from everyone else. Don was sitting on my right, rather close to the event horizon.
I got the sense he owned a bait store. Maybe it was the worn jeans and the flannel shirt... or the old-man-and-the-sea beard... or the bait-store-owner-like demeanor. Of course, it could be his hat that said "Don's Bait Store."
Don had an uncanny ability to get dealt a deuce in the big blind. It happened just about every orbit and became a running joke. If you think the naked ace is a bad hand, imagine getting naked deuce after naked deuce.
I never got the other's guy name. Maybe it's for the best. Do you really want to get the name of the guy who's soul you're going to crush?
This guy was wearing a Houston Astros jersey, suggesting serious judgement issues, but I digress (if it had been a David Carr jersey, I'd have known he lacked basic common sense). Just 10 minutes earlier, I watched a donkey felt the Astros fan with a brutal two outer on the river. It was sick.
Which brings us back to where I started. My pocket 10s. I was raised and that raise was called. I had about $900 in front of me, which was more than double what I bought in for. To put them both all-in, it would cost me another $120.
But surely I was behind, right? Surely I had the worst hand, right? There is NO WAY this was a good play. And yet, I made it. And they both called. The pot was now about $600.
The Astros fan showed KQ. Of course he did. Don didn't want to show. I was so ashamed I didn't want to show either.
"Well, I laid down Queen-Ten," the 5 seat said. Yeah... thanks a lot, pal, that's exactly what I wanted to hear. There was no sense in hiding my cards any longer. Dejected, I flipped up my hand and dropped my head.
I guessed from the collective "Ohhhhhhhh!" from the table and other players who gathered exactly what had happened. The dealer pulled the only card in the deck that could win me the hand. I wanted to feel bad... Don was hemorrhaging money and Astros fan had just lost to a two-outer.
But I didn't. It was $600. I got lucky. It's what I do.<-- Hide More
"If that's true, yer dead to me." --Iggy, upon being informed of another one of my undeserved poker experiences.
"That's not Bach. That's Vivaldi."
The man was balding, ever smiling, and using a marble-sized opal to cap his cards.
"It's 'The Four Seasons'," he said. Though genial and probably not as drunk as he was letting on, his British tenor, good humor, and slightly slurred words channeled Dudley Moore as "Arthur."More in this Poker Blog! -->
We were in what could only be described as a back room. A giant mural--full of sprites with naked breasts--covered one of the walls. Several hundred euros were stuffed in the dealers tray of this, the only poker table in the room. The floors were hard wood and the room echoed when we laughed. We were a motley and drinking six-handed poker game. Cigarette smoke hung above the table and the four Brits, the Irishman, and the American were defending their blinds with patritotic fervor.
"This," the Authur-esque character proclaimed, "is the only smoking poker room in the city!" He lit another cigarette and laughed.
As he was about Vivaldi, he was right about the legalities (or illegalities) of the game. The poker room was only 30 yards away. This room had been set up for overflow before it was realized that no overflow area would be needed. Now, the room was being used for storage and a 4am poker game, where six euro beers were being purchased six at a time, and--if only to keep the game going--rebuys were instituted after the first hand had been dealt and the older Brit had cracked pocket kings with QT offsuit. This game wasn't on the tournament schedule, but, for the moment anyway, it was The Big Deal.
I don't get much chance to play poker when I'm on the road in Europe. Many of the places where we hold tournaments aren't familiar with poker and hence don't spread cash games. More often than not, the only available games are single-table tournaments, usually starting at 100 euros (about $122).
My first night in Monte Carlo, after getting stuck on my hotel room's balcony, I had played two of these 100 euro games, busting out in fourth in the first one and chopping the second one two ways for an even split. In that game, I'd gotten heads-up with a Nordic player and felt lucky to walk away with any money. I had badly misplayed pocket queens three-handed and the Nordic's sweater (one of these guys), let me know about it. He wasn't mean about it. He just pointed out the painfully obvious. Still, I managed to overcome the chips I lost on that hand and, I must say, artfully played myself back into the money.
And so I had a little more than 400 euros in my pocket and set about a week of work. Over the course of the next week, I would curse myself several times for not exchanging more of my dollars for euros. By the penultimate night of the trip, I had $1500 in unspendable American currency and 270 euros in my pocket. And I had a poker jones like I can't explain.
The poker room was hopping. Every list, from the 100 to the 1000 Sit and Go tables, was ten deep. I had heard my colleagues were drinking in the bar with a well-known author, but I wanted to play. I found the floorman and before I thought about it too much said, "Put me on the list for the 100 and the 250 euro tables."
I stood waiting for five minutes when my name came through the PA system. I'd drawn a 250 seat.
Now, I've played just about every level of single-table tournament from $5 to $1000. What's more, I've won at just about every level of single-table tournament from $5-$1000. Finally, the $300+ buy-in to this table didn't mean a great deal in the grand scheme of my bankroll. However, there was one consideration that set me on my heels. I only had 270 euros in my pocket. That is, if I didn't cash, I would have 20 euros in my pocket and in need of an ATM (which, oddly, had been invisible since my arrival).
I took the three-seat (my second-favorite seat at any table) and waited. I felt good that the 250 game was one of the lowest games in the rooms. The pros, I told myself, would be in the 500 or 1000 games. I'd be with the journalists, the drunks, or the stuck pros.
"It's just a fucking SNG," I told myself.
"It's just a fucking SNG," I told myself...again.
And so I played it like any other SNG. Down to six handed, I picked up with worst hand in all of poker, AQ suited spades (see previous entries for my trouble with this hand). Folded to me on the button, I made a standard raise and a loose Frechman called in the small blind. Short-stacked, the Nord pushed from the big blind. Hoping we were racing, I pushed to isolate, but the small blind called.
In short, I got lucky. A queen flopped and I took both the main and side pots. The Nord walked away and before I knew it, I was three handed. First place paid 1700 euros. Second paid 600 euros. Third place paid nothing.
There's a rule most everybody knows. It's almost universal in major tournaments. English-only during a hand. My two French opponents knew and adhered to the rule. Thing was, after every hand, they would break into full French conversation. I'd been in a similiar situation at the WSOP, up against three French-Canadian friends. In that game, I'd finished fourth.
I sat, annoyed at my inability to call the guys on a rules violation. After a few hands, I took a different tack. I started listening. It became quite clear that they were telling each other what hands they had been holding. While irrelevant after the fact, I still found it annoying. And so, I did all I could. I listened. And then, when they did it again, I responded. In kind. And in French.
Looking a bit surprised, the two Frenchmen then seemed to focus more on winning and less on beating me. When a gorgeous Danish dealer sat down, one of the guy's attention turned more to flirting and before he knew what was happening, he had given all his chips away.
Based on our even chip-stacks (in fact, he had me outchipped by a a couple of blinds), I proposed an even chop. The loose Frenchman said, "I make you a deal."
I expected him to say he would take 1300 and give me 1000, which I had already decided I wasn't going to take. It would've been a decent chop for me, but I thought, despite my inability to play heads-up poker, I had a skill edge on the guy and deserved an even-chop.
"I take 1000," he said, "you take 1000, and we play for the rest."
I didn't think long before accepting the deal. We played two hands. I folded to his raise on the first hand. On the second hand, I found AJ suited in diamonds. He came over the top all-in and I called in a shot. He turned over A6o. He flopped a six, the Danish dame gave me my 1000 euros, I tipped her and walked away.
The poker room was on the verge of closing down. No more SNGs were opening. I went to the bar and bought a 6 euro Monaco-brand beer and looked around for anyone I knew. Nobody.
Funny thing about winning. It's a lot like losing. I want to keep playing. Suddenly, I was an action junkie where the action had dried up. I asked around about any off-the-books games.
One young lady did me the biggest favor of the trip. "Look down that hallway," she said.
The guy on my left had just won about $30,000 in the main event. He had a lucky rock that his dad had found on the beach. I worked with three of the guys at the table. They were all nice enough fellows. But the reason I was there, the reason I had dropped 100 euros into a tournament that had already started, the reason I refused to leave even if I busted out, was the older man in the three seat.
Later in the night, after we had laughed and joked for a couple of hours, before I had gotten heads up and the man had offered me his lucky opal to cap my cards, before I got in ahead and came out behind, we had this exchange.
"So, Tony," I said, "did you go out and look for someone to publish your new book or did the publisher come to you?"
"It was quite a funny story," he said. "The publisher called and suggested the new book. At first I laughed and said, 'What should we call it? The Bigger Deal?'"
Indeed, that is what they should call it.
It's funny, you know. I'm now a little more than a year into this new gig. I've met just about everybody who is anybody in the poker playing world. Oddly, I don't get star-struck very often. Except when it comes to poker narrative authors. There, I get sort school-girly.
In the past year, I've met Jim McManus. I've discussed writing with Jesse May. I played a drunken and rocking $2-$6 spread game with Michael Craig (who, it should be pointed out, didn't drink a drop). And now...well, now I can say I've drank and played poker with Anthony Holden.
If somebody could find me Al Alverez, I might be able to feel complete.<-- Hide More
Up For Poker is taking a road trip. Okay, so Otis is actually flying. But the rest of G-Vegas is jumping in their cars and driving to Tunica for the weekend.
Sometime tomorrow evening, Otis, GRob, and I will be joined by the one and only Bad Blood at the Grand Casino. There are rumors a certain vertically-challenged blogger extraordinaire may even make an appearance.
At least Otis and I plan to play in Saturday's $1000 NLHE WSOP Circuit Event. Of course, I'd like to thank my Luckcrew for their support (Change100, Maudie, Boy Genius, Gracie, Falstaff, Biggestron, Performify, Slayre, Donkey Hunter and Jen Leo). Here's hoping I can make you all a little money!
The site will likely be mostly quiet between now and next week unless we scare up a way (and some time and a desire) to blog in between our sessions at the table. Wish us luck!
I like the Coushatta Casino poker room. In fact, I like it even more now that they have their $200 NL tourney every Saturday. It's T8000, 25/50 starting blinds and 20 minute levels. Not ideal, but with
40xBB 160xBB to start, there's time to play poker. Unfortunately, you have to make moves in the later levels to survive.
I played well in the tourney, but it went horribly downhill after when I stepped up to the $5/$10 half NLHE, half PLO, no max buy-in game. That was a first for me, and I learned a valuable (er... expensive) lesson.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Meet the Luckbox
I played pretty solid poker, I thought, in the tourney, except for one or two bad plays. I was around average stack for most of the day before making a big late move.
It really started when I made a move with A3 from the SB after an Ace hit the flop. Unfortunately, UTG had A8. I wasn't too worried, though, because I figured at worse, I was getting a chop. The chop card never fell, but the 3 on the river doubled me up.
The very next hand, I got in cheap from the button with 78s. I flopped open ended and it was checked to the river where I caught my straight. I bet the minimum and the guy I just bad beated pushed all in. I called. He hit a pair on the river and was going home.
The table considered me pretty lucky at that point.
The Big Stack Arrives
Suddenly I had a really nice stack, until a bigger stack sat at my table. She was a 20-something woman who I would later learn had amassed that huge stack by playing almost every hand and catching. It didn't take me long to guess that on my own based on her play. She would be the one I played against from there on out.
The first time we tangled, I had A4s in LP and a short stack was in the SB. I raised enough to put him all in. He called and then the big stack woman also called. Okay, I guess she'd help me put him out. The flop was A4J. Bingo. She lead out. Wha?
It was a dry side pot and she lead out. Guess I needed to find out if she had AJ, so I raised her. She thought forever before saying, "Do you have an Ace?" What the f$%#? She bet into a dry side pot without an Ace? I immediately marked her as an idiot. She folded, my hand stood up.
Awhile later, I get K9s in late position and I raise it up. The big stack woman calls me again from the BB. She could literally have anything. The flop is Q22 and she checks. I pushed all in. She thought and thought and thought. I considered calling a clock and decided her best nickname was Tiffany Williamson.
She eventually folded 55 face up. I flipped up my K9s and the table reacted. The guy to my left (a nice guy named Cesaer) said, "Hey, the ladies game is down the street," an apparent tip of the cap to Mike Matusow and his kiddie games.
That was the last good play I made.
Tiffany min-raises from UTG and it's folded to me. I have her slightly outstacked and I looked down at 88. The blinds were 3000/6000 and I had 52000. Despite being the table's big stack, my M was just 6 (M=number of orbits you can survive the blinds).
I had a couple of choices: first, I could fold (although I didn't believe her), second, I could just call and see a flop (although I'm commiting a quarter of my stack to a call and leaving myself with an M of 4 and the blinds approaching) or third, I could re-raise all in.
I elected to re-raise all in. I knew no one else would get involved and I figured I was likely ahead. If her hand was marginal enough, she'd lay it down. This time, there was no Tiffany action, she insta-called with AKo. A king on the flop knocked me down to just T12000.
The next hand, I'm dealt Big Slick suited. Here's the irony. No matter what I had done on the previous hand, I would have been eliminated on this one. Here's why...
UTG pushed all in with his short stack. I would have re-raised all in to isolate with my AKs. There were another two shortstacks that called behind me and then Tiffany called us all. The hands (pre-flop odds):
UTG: 88 (15%)
Hero: AK spades (22%)
Shorty 1: KJ hearts (19%)
Shorty 2: A5 diamonds (13%)
Tiffany: TT (28%)
Guess who finished last? KJ flopped and turned Jacks and the A5 rivered the wheel. The board was 2J4J3, no spades. And I was out. Perhaps I should have played the 88 differently, but I'm not sure the outcome would have been any different. I figured I was ahead, and was willing to race. Chips were at a premium and you have to win races to win tournaments. I lost.
The Big Game
After the tourney, I figured I could win my buy-in back and then some at the soft NL games. But this time, I was intrigued by an interest list for a 5/10 NLHE/PLO $500 min buy in game. I had the bankroll to take a shot and wanted to see what my game was like.
When we finally got a full table, I bought in for $700 with $300 on the table behind it. No one bought in for more than a grand. The game would switch each time the button got back to the 10 seat.
I did pretty well early, chipping up to more than $900 in chips, mostly winning with PLO. I flopped Broadway once and rivered quads once. I guess it doesn't take much skill to win those kinds of hands.
Everything went down hill when I bet right into the immortal nuts. That's not good poker strategy. I'm sitting in the SB with QTs when there's one limper to me. I complete and the BB checks. The flop is Q66. Both blinds check and the limper bets half the pot. I call and the BB folds.
The turn is a 6. I figure that's a good card for me, right? It's gotta be, right? How many hands beat me at this point? I can eliminate AA, KK and QQ because he would have raised with that. Is he holding a 6? Could he really be holding a six? How bad is my luck that the case 6 would hit the turn?
I lead out this time and he cold calls me. The river is a T. That doesn't scare me at all. I suppose an Ace or a King would have saved me money. I'm guessing he's got a Q or maybe a small pair. I really didn't consider a 6.
I lead out for $75 again and this time he raises me $300. There's now $660 in the pot and it costs me $300 more to find out how unlucky I am.
"Wow, if I'm beat, that's really unlucky," I say. And decide to push my $300.
"That's really unlucky," he responds and flips 56s.
I was pretty stunned at that point. I lost more than half my stack on that hand and I didn't like it. Should I have folded? The guy was pretty aggressive and had pushed a number of bad players off pots. I had also seen him show down some pretty bad hands. I think I made the right play.
I went to my favorite cafe there and ordered my regular: Open Faced Hot Roast Beef Sandwich on Texas Toast with Mashed Red Potatoes. Mmmmmmmmm...
I wondered if I should go home. I had made some chips while there were some small stack bad players at the table. Suddenly, I was one of the small stacks and starting to believe I might be one of the bad players. I took most of dinner convicing myself that wasn't the case. I was going to go back and beat this game.
I played for a few more hours and gave away the rest of my chips. Thankfully, I kept my cash out of it. I know why I lost. I was scared.
Every time I got into a pot with someone and they raised, I imagined the nuts in their hand. Every PLO hand, I imagined the turn gave them the nut flush or the nut straight or a full house. When I didn't have the nuts, I laid my hand down.
It was a combination of the limit (which I had little experience with), good players (the bad ones busted quickly) and the quad 6's that scared the hell out of me. I wish I had gone home after dinner, but I didn't. My live bankroll took a big hit, but now I must use what I learned, and build it back up.
I can play poker. And I can beat the Coushatta. Of that, I am sure.<-- Hide More
"Come on... we've got poker to play. CLOCK!!" He was bald with a half fu-man-chu, so some other strange facial hair combination. He had donked his way into a pretty big stack, but had just taken a bad beat. Now he's calling for the clock.
"Are you f----- kiddin' me?!?!" I thought, but decided not to say.
I had flopped two pair with K6s. I bet out and got called by a pretty tight player. The turn gave me a flush draw, too. I bet and got raised. The raise wasn't big enough, however, with the outs I had. The river missed me completely. I checked and he pushed for another $250. Time to think.
"Clock! Get the floor."More in this Poker Blog! -->
I checked on the river, I think because I knew I was beat. This guy was tight and hadn't made a move on anyone in the 6 hours I sat beside him. I wanted, however, to think it through just in case.
But the clock? Really? This guy must have watched one too many episodes of the WSOP. I've played in a dozen casinos over the past three or four years and I have never once heard a player call for the clock in a cash game. Hell, I'd never it heard in a tourney either!
The floor came over and the dealer told him what just happened. I think he was as surprised as me.
"How much time do I have?"
"One minute and 10 seconds."
"Really? How'd you come up with that?"
"I don't know, but your time is counting."
"When do I get a verbal countdown, and since there's no clock in a casino, how are you timing it?"
"I've got a pretty good sense of time."
By now, I had already decided to fold. I suppose given more time I might have talked myself into a call, but I had to lay it down. Two pair couldn't be good. That didn't mean I wouldn't milk it.
"But it's such a tough decision," I said as dramatically as I could. I don't think Mr. Bald was amused.
The next hand I'm in the BB with 85o and it's limped around. The flop comes down 5-6-7, rainbow. I've got bottom pair and an OESD. It's checked around to Mr. Bald who $20. I call. We're heads up. The turn is a Q. I check. He bets $40. I call. Maybe I don't have odds, but I'm not sure he's got it either.
The river is a 5. I check, he bets $100. I really should have raised him here, but I just call. I flip my hand and say wryly, "I don't think my hand is good." He stops in midflip, clearly upset... and mucks, silently. He didn't last at the table much longer.
I hadn't been to the Coushatta in months, since before the hurricanes hit. I had forgotten how much I missed slinging real chips with real people. And I didn't go to play in a ring game, I went to play in a tournament.
It was a $210 + 20 buy in for T8000. Blinds started at 25/50 and levels last 20 minutes. It was not an ideal set up, but not bad. Unfortunately, I played just two hands.
We lost 5 minutes of the first level when a Jackass at our table called for the floor. That's right, I met the floor twice in a day.
Jackass raised from T50 to T300. A player behind him raised to T550. Jackass blew up.
"He can't do that, he has to double the bet. He has to raise to T600."
"No he doesn't, we've been over this before."
"Yes he does, dammit. This isn't limit. Get the floor!"
As we all know, the floor came over and confirmed that the dealer was right. You don't have to double the bet, you only have to double the raise. Of course, that didn't stop Jackass from talking about it for the next 20 minutes. And dammit if he didn't double through Pocket Rockets the next hand when his Cowboys caught a K on the flop.
My first hand didn't come until the second level. I'm in the BB when I look down at my first realy hand, AKo. It was raised to 600 from a guy in LP who played almost every hand. Amazingly, he still had chips.
I re-raised to T1500 and, to my dismay, it was called by the BB. The original raiser called as well, but he didn't worry me. I really wanted to hit this flop.
K-x-x. Jackpot! I bet T5000. And BB immediately went all lin for T375 more. The other guy got out of the way mumbling about needing one more card. I certainly couldn't lay down my hand to just 375 more. I called and he flipped KK. My Big Slick in the SB ran into Cowboys in the BB and the flop came down with the case K.
Someone tell me how I should play that better next time. I keep telling myself it was just bad luck, but maybe I could have done it differently. I guess I had to put him on a big hand when he called my raise, but should I have put him on the that? Ugh.
I was crippled and down to T900. I was out a few hands later.
I almost left right there. I had only been there an hour. And, for some reason, I thought Pauly's tourney started at 2pm and I could just about get home in time to play it. I was wrong about that, so I'm glad I decided to stay and play a little No Limit.
I bought in for $300 and sat right down. It's a good game. Blinds are $2/$5 and buy in is $100/$300.
It's always nice to win the first hand you play (foreshadowing). You start up and maybe, just maybe, you never have to drop below your starting stack (not foreshadowing).
I limp with K8s from MP. There's a few callers and the BB min-raises to 10. I have to call, as do 5 others. Six of us see a flop of A-8-2, two clubs. I've got the nut flush draw and middle pair. The BB leads out with 20 and I'm the only caller. The turn is a blank. The BB bets 20 again and I call. The river is another blank. The BB bets 20 once again and I think for a bit before calling. He flips KQo and I begin the day up. I guess he thought I could be pushed around by $20.
I got knocked back down after my pocket T's ran into a nut flush on the flop. I didn't lose too much, but I also wasn't seeing much in the way of cards.
When I finally got my first HAMMER, I raised it up to 25 preflop and got two callers. When the flop came 2-3-5, I bet 50 and they all folded.
"HAMMER!" I said, flipping my hand. I'm not sure they were impressed.
Things got better from there. Pocket 4's tripped up, I'm up 100. AQs caught a Q high flop, I'm up 170. Snowmen catch a straight on the turn, I'm up 275.
Then I see my nemesis hand. Big Slick.
I raise to 25 UTG and get two callers. The flop is K-T-x. I bet 50 and get one caller. The turn is a 9. The SB checks, I bet 100 and he goes all in for 65 more. Ugh. I call and, of course, he has QJ for the nut straight. I'm back down to just +25. Did I play it wrong again? Should I have recognized the straight?
AQo wins on another Q high flop for me and I'm back up 140. K9s rivers a flush and I'm now up 370. Then I donked off a bunch of chips playing 62o out of the BB. The flop was 9-6-x and I never gave the guy credit for the 9. Which, of course, he had. I know what I did wrong on that one.
Then it's Big Slick again. I think I should have just floded it pre-flop.
Instead I rasie to 20 and get two callers. The flop is 4-2-2, two clubs. I have the nut flush draw. I bet 40 and it's raised another 100. Is this where I'm supposed to lay it down? Someone tell me. I call. The turn is another 4. We both check. The river is a Q. I check and he pushes for 200. I fold and I'm up just 50 now.
Thinking back, I think he was trying to make me believe he had a 2 on the flop when he really didn't. He didn't think I would call. That may mean my AK was good at the river. Maybe good enough for at least a chop. I suppose discretion was the better part of valor?
A few hands later I played AA out of the SB and ran into a set of 3's. I'm now down 45 for the day. Boy, that was fast.
But here's the beatuy of NL. I limp with Q8s and the flop is 9-T-J. Nice. It's checked to me and I bet 15 and get one caller. The turn is a 7. He checks, I bet 20 and he calls. The river is an A. He bets 100, I raise to 200 (no way he has QK), he calls, and my straight takes it down. I'm back up 220.
Of course, I donk half of that away playing T9 out of the SB when I flop middle pair and an OESD. Two pair took me down. I'm up just 110.
My first look at the Hiltons wins me a nice pot despite the A on the flop. And on the next hand, AQo wins me a big pot when the flop comes down A-high and I get a Q on the river. I'm back up 350.
Later, Rockets hold up for me and I'm up 405. By 10pm, I'm up 500, my high water mark at that point.
I actually played for a few more hours after that, but didn't take any notes. I doubt many of you made it this far anyway, so I figured I wouldn't bore you with much more. Eventually, I was up to about $875 in front of me, but I gave 75 back and walked away with 800 in my racks.
With the $40 I won at blackjack waiting for the tourney to start that meant I finished up $300 for the day. Not bad at all considering my tournament performance was so pathetic.
It's a NL game I love, and I'll definitely be back.<-- Hide More
I was back at the Coushatta Casino today for a little No Limit Hold 'Em. Once again, I tried to get there in time for the noon tourney, but travelling the wrong way on I-10 for 20 minutes put me there as the tournament director was getting things started.
So I got my name on the NL list ($100-$200 buy-in, $1/$3 blinds), and sat down at the 3/6/12 table in the meantime. After giving up $40 there in about 45 minutes, they opened a new NL table and I took my seat.
When the day ended, I walked away with absolutely nothing. It was a losing session at a table I know I can beat. A table I've beaten before. But it came down to just 4 hands.More in this Poker Blog! -->
1. Pocket Aces, don't they always lose (when played poorly)?
I'm in late position when I look down at Rockets. Up until this point, I'd seen pocket T's, J's and Q's. The premium pairs were coming my way, and the first three were big winners. I had turned $200 into more than $400, and it was early. I figured the A's would just keep me rolling.
I raised to $10 out of early position. Looking back, this was mistake #1. It's that fine line between getting some money in the pot while not scaring everyone away. I got three callers.
The first card I see off the flop is the Ace of spades. Fireworks are going off in my head. that's until I see the ten of spades and the two of spades to follow. It's checked to me and I bet $20. I get one caller.
I think his name was Terry. He's in the 9 seat, wearing a terrible toupee. He's also got 9 gaudy rings on his 8 fingers (no thumb rings). He's wearing an 80's style windbreaker with a "shirt" of a similar material underneath. Both the jacket and "shirt" are zipped halfway down.
The previous hand, Terry had American Airlines himself. He was so excited by his cards that his hand shook like a washing machine as he moved his chips into the pot. I guess you could say he had a tell.
The turn is the 7 of diamonds. In my mind, I'm just begging for the board to pair, but I wasn't going to assume I was beat. I've often felt that's a problem I have, assuming everyone else has the nuts. He checks and I bet $30 this time, and he called again.
What should that have told me? Was he on a four-card flush draw? Did he already have it, and was slow playing me? Did he have a piece of the flop, but not enough to raise?
The river is another blank. Dammit. I'd like to think my trip A's are good, but I'm not sure. Terry checks again. I pause. I should check here, right? If I'm beat, that means I won't lose any more money. If he's beat, he'll fold to a big bet anyway, right? Or I could be just enough to get him to call, right??? Right???
Wrong. I throw $50 out this time. He immediately check-raises me for another $100, his hand frantically shaking the whole time. He's got the flush. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind. If I had just check, I'd have saved myself $50. Of course, I shouldn't compound my mistake by calling, right? Right???
There was $230 in the pot, and Terry's $100 made it $330. That means I was calling another $100 to win that $330. It was a stupid call. But I made it anyway. He flipped over K5 of spades.
It was an extra $150 I just threw away on the river. I spent the next 10 minutes beating myself up over my stupidity.
2. The Stone-Cold Bluff
I'm dealt AJo, and I raise to $10. A couple of people call me. The flop is A-6-3, two clubs. I'm in early position and I bet $20 with two callers. I'm not sure why I bet so little. The pot was about $40 and I had top pair with a good kicker. I'm pretty sure I was ahead at this point.
The turn was another A. Great! Now I know I'm holding a winner. I bet another $40. A young heavy-set guy at the other end of the table smooth calls. He hadn't played many hands, so I didn't have any kind of read on him.
The river is the third club. It's exactly what I didn't want to see. Suddenly, visions of that spade flush from earlier flashed through my head. And that's when I made my big mistake.
Could there have been a greater invitation to buy the pot? The heavyset kid quickly grabs a stack of twenty $5 chips and pushes it past the line. He was telling me he had a flush. I had to decide if he was telling the truth.
Had I bet into the pot, I think he still might have thrown out a significant raise. I should have bet bigger before the river, but I didn't. He bet $100 into a $180 pot and I had to decide whether it was worth another $100. Last time I made this choice, it was the wrong one. But I knew I was beat in that case.
This time, I wasn't sure, but I laid it down anyway. He flipped over 45o. It was a stone-cold bluff. And his flip wasn't apologetic or jovial, it was cocky. He was saying, "Ha, I outplayed you, you fish." I guess he was right.
Intermission: The Rush
At that point, I was getting close to about $50 and I bought another $50 in chips. For the day, that put me in for $290. I was kicking myself for those two hands, but I vowed to put them behind me.
It's Cowboys and I win a pot. Then it's J9o from the BB and I win some more. My AQo outflops AKs and it's another nice pot. I get pocket A's again and this time it never makes it to the showdown. I'm up to $340.
I get my first Big Slick, in clubs and I raise to $15 with a couple of callers. The flop is Jc-Tc-x. I bet $25 and another guy pushes all in for $111. It's gonna cost me $86 on a complete draw. I know I have some outs, but I'm not sure how many.
Best case, he's got top pair or an overpair of Q's. If that's the case, I could have as many as 9 clubs, three K's, three A's and two or four Q's. That's 17 or 19 outs twice. That means I'm actually a favorite. I call and he flips pocket Q's, including one club. That makes me a 55% favorite. Without doing the actual math in my head, I make the call. The A on the turn puts my stack at $501.
AQo, K6o and KQo all also win me pots and I'm now at $750. It's probably time to leave, right?
3. It's Ace-rag, and I hate Ace-rag
I'm in the SB when I see A6o. There are 5 pre-flop callers so I toss in two more bucks and the BB checks. The flop is A-J-7. I suspect I may have the only Ace, since no one raised pre-flop, but I check, and so does everyone else.
The turn is another Ace. I think I've been here before, but this time there's no flush draw on the board. I bet $25 and the BB is the only one who calls me. The river is a 9. I bet $50 and he pushes for about $150 more.
Ugh. What have I gotten myself into? Am I being played again?
If I look back over the betting, it doesn't make sense. I lose to AK, AQ, AJ, AT, A9 or A7, or pocket 7's, 9's, or J's. As I look at that list of hands, I just couldn't imagine the BB checking. He had generally raised preflop with those holdings. I guess pocket 7's or A7 or A9 might have been checking hands. If he's got an A with a bad kicker, we'd split. Was he trying to buy my half of the pot?
He flipped AJ. Once again, I called someone holding the nuts. I'm a genius.
4. Snowmen, now I remember why I hate snow
It's the very next hand. That means about 10 minutes ago, I had about $700. Soon, it would all be gone.
I look down at pocket 8's and I raise to 15 pre-flop. I get a couple of callers. The flop is T-7-3. It's not great, but it could be a lot worse. I bet out $20 and get one caller. The turn is another T. Okay, maybe my 8's are good.
I check and it's bet $50. Does he really have a ten? I elect to call. Maybe I was steaming. I thought my hand might be good, but maybe I was just fooling myself.
The river is an 8!!!!! Jackpot!!!! That's great! Even if I made the bad call against the T, my hand is now good. Well, I suppose he could be holding pocket T's (very unlikely) or T8, T7 or T3 (but who would call a $15 raise with that?).
I bet $100. My opponent immediately pushes all in for about another $140 and I beat him into the pot with my call. I had him outchipped by $81. I proudly flip my 8's and he shows me the T7.
It wasn't the nuts, but it was damn near close, and for the third time, I got my money into the pot when I was dead or way, way behind. How did it happen? What did I do wrong?
And it was all gone
It was only a few hands later when I officially busted out. I was dealt AJo and I raised to $15 from early position. I got two callers.
The flop wa K-Q-T, two spades. I flopped the nut straight, but don't be fooled by that description.
I pushed for $30 and the next guy raised to isolate me. I showed my hand, but the other guy held onto his cards. Slow-rolling is a serious problem at this casino. No one seems to want to show their cards, but I digress...
The turn is a J, meaning any A split my pot, dammit. And the river was a Q. He flipped over KQ, meaning the river filled him and my day was done.
For the almost 7 hour session, I felt I played pretty well. If I check with my Aces, that's $150 I would have saved. If I call with my trip aces, I would have taken in another $280. If I lay down my A6, that's another at least $150. And if I lay down my pocket 8's, that's another about $300. The KQ on the last hand was the only suckout but that was a $105 pot. In all, we're talking $985.
In fact, if I somehow win those pots instead of losing, we're talking a total of about $1650 instead of walking out of the casino down $290.
But it all happened, and that's poker. In NL, your sessions are often predicated on just a few big hands, and my biggest hands were all losers. In all four cases, I completely mis-read my opponents. Three times they were holding monsters and I couldn't see them. The fourth time, it was a stone-cold bluff and I imagined the nuts.
So someone tell me how else I went wrong...<-- Hide More
Where did I go wrong?
I suppose it started with my overly arrogant "How to Win at Craps" post. I forgot rule number one about casino gambling. It doesn't matter what the system is, the house still has the edge.
Then I played in a FTP $100 tourney last night with Erick Lindgren and some guy nicknamed GambleAB (whoever that is). I nearly knocked both of them out at different times (each had a $100 bounty). Erick folded like a little girl with just T680 when I check-raised him on the river. Punk. I was among the top 5 in chips all tourney and in 3rd place when we reached the final table. Top 6 played. Anyone wanna guess where I finished?
So I went back to the Coushatta and dropped $150 waiting for a poker table. I got there too late for the tourney again, another bad sign. And after dropping that cash and waiting for a table, I decided to grab some food... and missed hearing my name get called. So I had to get back on the list, and wait some more.
Things weren't going well...More in this Poker Blog! -->
I finally got called as they started a new NLHE table (remember, it's $1/$3 blinds and a buy in of $100 min/$200 max). I had $300 left and bought in for $200. It was 3:00 pm.
A few hands in, I'm dealt AQ of clubs in the BB. There are 4 limpers in front of me and I raise to $15. Three of the four call me. The flop comes down Q-x-x. I bet $25 and I get called by the player to my left (your typical grizzled regular in a trucker hat, but not for the style points). The turn pairs the 3 on the board. I bet $30 and he calls again. The river is a harmless J and I bet $30 again. He quickly folds. Just like that I'm up to $295.
That was the only significant hand I played my first hour and at about 4:00 pm, I'm moved to another NL table.
The first hand I played there was pocket 6's, UTG. I think Bad Blood will be proud.
The flop comes A-J-6, all clubs. I love the set and hate the flush draw. The BB checks and I bet $15. It's raised to $30, the BB calls and I call.
The turn is another J... as in Jackpot!!!! BB checks, I check and it's bet $30, as I expected. BB calls and I raise to $100. The orginal bettor goes all in for his $81. The BB thinks for awhile before folding. He was either flushed or on the nut flush draw. I'm sure I could have gotten more out of him. The river is a blank and I never see what the other guy had. I'm up to $428 and just like that I've doubled up. This game is easy!
That was the last meaningful hand I won. One time, I flopped a K-flush, but the only other guy in the hand was the SB, and he probably would have folded to anything pre-flop. The hand won me virtually nothing.
I decide to play QTo out of the BB even though it was raised to $10 in front of me. There are 2 other callers so four of us see the flop. It comes T-8-8. The SB checks, I bet $20, it's folded back to the SB and he raises all in. Check-raise? Is he just making a move on me? It's actually the second time he pulled that move on me (the other time, I was hammered). I fold and I'm down to $364.
It's 69s in the big blind. Six players ahead of me limp so I complete hoping for a good flop. It comes A-A-6. That's not a good flop, but I decided to see where I was at. I check, it's bet $10 and I raise to $30. He pushes for $45 more. Ugh. Is this another move? Am I giving off the impression that I'm easy to push around? I look him up. I'm thinking if he had an ace, he wouldn't have limped preflop. Bad theory, because he's holding A2, and fills his boat on the turn. I'm at $260.
I'm dealt AJo and I raise to 10. The BB re-raises to 20 and I call. The flop is A-x-x. Here's what I have to decide. Did he re-raise with AK or AQ... or did he re-raise with a high pocket pair like J's or Q's? He checks (big pocket pair??) and I bet 25. He check-raises me to 50 (hmm... AK?). I call.
The turn is a blank. He checks and I check (big pocket pair?? the re-raise was to see if I really had an ace??). The river is a blank. He bets 100. Ugh... now I think he's buying the pot with pocket Q's. I call, and, of course, he flips AK. I'm down to about $100 and I buy for another $100.
I'm dealt 56s in the BB. It was raised to 10 in front of me and I call with 2 others. It's not a hand I should be playing with a raise the way my day has been going, but I'm stupid, remember.
The flop is K-5-6. Okay, I'm smarter than I thought! I've got people betting into me, so I just call. The turn is a 4. It's bet ahead of me and I call again, planning for a big move at the river. The river is a 7, and it's bet big in front of me. I give a crying call and he flips an 8. I'm an idiot, and I'm down to $115.
My day came to the end with a couple Big Slicks. The first time, I raise out to $25 and get a couple of callers. The flop is 8-8-5. I check, it's bet $50 and another guy goes all in for $179. I obviously fold. The original bettor thinks for awhile before throwing away pocket 5's. He said he figured the other guy for quad 8s, but the other guy showed a J before mucking (I figure the other card was an 8). I can't believe he mucked a boat!
A few hands later, I see AKs again. It's raised in front of me to $10 and there are 3 callers. I raise all-in to $43 and get two callers. My hand never improves and I lose to pocket J's.
It's about 6:15pm now, and my Syracuse Orange tip off for the Big East title at 7pm. I thought about buying back in, but it just didn't' seem to be my day, so I hopped in my car and headed home, down $450 for the day. It hurt, but I learned some lessons. First, don't waste money at the craps table (I wasn't even following the rules I set out below, I was betting way too aggressively). Second, don't play stupid cards. Pretty easy rules to follow, huh?<-- Hide More
So I couldn't resist the draw of the Coushatta poker room after having such a successful session last weekend. This time, I decided to try the Sunday afternoon crowd.
The first thing I noticed when I arrived is that the Sunday crowd is much, much smaller. I figured that meant fewer fish and maybe things would be a little tougher this time. I got my name on the NL list and headed to the craps table.
When I heard my name called for a new NL table at 3:00pm, I had $45 left from my $140 in the rack in front of me, and $120 on the table waiting for a 7. It came on the next roll and I finished up about $85. It was a good start... but not necessarily a sign of things to come.More in this Poker Blog! -->
The Quick Slide Down
First hand I'm dealt pocket 10's, I raise it up and everyone folds. Second hand I'm dealt A2 of diamonds, flop comes A-x-x, I bet out and everyone folds. I'm up $8. Let's just say up $8 would sound really, really good in about an hour and a half.
A few hands later, I'm dealt ATo on the button. I raise to $10 (remember, blinds in this NL game are $1/$3, and the buy in is $100 min/$200 max), and I get called by the BB. I measured my opponent. He was a player, clearly. He had the chip tricks down, he knew all the dealers. He bet confidently and created an image of a good player. That doesn't mean he was, but that's the image he gave off. I'm not sure what image I give off... but I digress.
The flop comes K-Q-9, two clubs, no help for me. But since I raised out and he called from the BB, I figured I'd take a stab at the pot. He checked, I bet $20 and he cold called immediately. I thought maybe clubs. The turn paired my T. He checked again and I bet $40. He raised to $80.
Okay, now what. Did he make the call on the flop figuring to make a move on me on the turn no matter what fell? Did he have a K, a Q or a did he have a J and now has his straight. Really, what possible hands could he have that I actually beat? A-rag? Instead of rationally thinking through all that, I call. The river is a blank, he pushes all in and I fold. Could I have played the hand more poorly? I'm down to $87.
A few hands later, it's J5s in the SB. I complete. The flop brings two diamonds, including the A. I'm on the draw. I check and it's bet $20. I call with one other. The turn is a blank, but it does give me a gut shot draw. I check, it's bet $25 and I'm the only caller. The river is a blank. I check, he cheks and shows A5 for two pair. I'm down under $50. RE-BUY!
JTs and Rockets both net me small pots, but not as much as I'd hope to get out of them.
Then I'm looking at AJo when the flop comes A-x-x, all spades. I check raise from $25 to $75 to see where I'm at. Yeah, I know, it sounds pretty dumb to me when I read it, too. I get two callers. The turn is a fourth spade and I have to fold. The showdown ended up being AQ (spade) vs. K (spade) Q. Let's just say I was way behind the whole way. I'm down again to $120.
So there it is. Just an hour and a half into the session, I'm down $280 and playing really stupid poker. Maybe I should get out and cut my losses.
With A8 of hearts, I check from the BB. I was getting pretty gun shy at that point and I think it was obviously hurting my play. The flop is Q-x-x, two hearts. I check and it's checked around. Maybe a bet there at least wins me the blinds or makes my flush draw more valuable, but I'd been hurting.
The turn is my heart and I'm looking at the nuts. I check and it's bet 10 in front of me, I just call. I want value on the river. Right play? I don't know. The river is a K, putting a possible straight on the board. Maybe I slow played it enough for him to catch a hand?
I bet out 20 and he quickly raises to 40. If he wanted to buy it, he'd have pushed. He must have a hand because he's begging for a call. I push for my final $96. He waits a bit and then calls. I flip the nuts, he flips a small flush. The table commends me for my check on the turn. It worked, for once.
I'm now at about $300, down $100 for the session. And at 5:15pm, I get moved to the main table. I'm now at a bit of a disadvantage because I don't know the players, and many of them have much bigger stacks than me.
How a Rock Tightens Up
Apparently the message at this table was "No Limping Allowed." With my relatively meager stack, and considering my poor play thus far, I wasn't planning to make any moves unless I had the cards.
It wasn't long before I looked down at Cowboys in the BB. It was raised to 15 in front of me by a pretty aggressive player on the button. I put him on a steal and I re-raised to 55. He called pretty quickly. I put him on an Ace and hoped it didn't hit the flop.
The dealer flips K-T-3, rainbow. I've got bells and whistles going off in my head. I check and he checks. Yeah, I know, I tend to slow play. Remember that when Vegas rolls around. The turn is a 7, the second spade. I bet 40 and he cold calls. Is he on a straight draw (QJ)? Is he now on a flush draw?
The river is a 9 of spades. Dammit. That's the straight or the flush. Did I just slow play this into second best? I bet 50 and pushes all in for another $135. That would leave me $7 if I lose and would send me home. I pull out the chips and think about it.
"Tony, I'll need to rebuy," he says as he reaches in his pocket and pulls out $200.
"What?" I ask, not sure I heard him.
"Well, if you're calling, I'm beat, so I'll need to rebuy," he tells me.
What the hell does that mean? I fight with this in my head wondering if he's trying to induce a call or not. I have to call. What hands could I put him on that he's calling my $55 re-raise? Whatever it is, my trip K's beat it. I call. He shows just the 3 of hearts while mucking his other card. I'm up to $542.
A few hands later, it's AQo. I just check from the BB. I guess I should have raised, but I thought maybe I'd disguise the strength of my hand in case an A fell. It did, A-8-7. It's checked all the way around. Yep, there's that slowplaying again. It will kill me eventually.
The turn is a blank. It's bet $30 from the guy in the SB. He's wearing a stain Coushatta Casino jacket and a felt hat of some kind (I wish I knew what kind so I could describe it better). I raise to $60 and he calls. The river is a 5. He bets out $100.
Damn, did he catch his straight? Or was he playing A-rag and hit two pair. That's what I actually imagined in his hand. But it's the hand I wanted and if I played it into a loser than I've learned a lesson. I call and he flips 56. He had a straight draw and caught a pair on the river. Apparently the table thought I could be run over because that's twice they've thrown big money into a pot with a marginal hand. I'm up to $680. And things are looking up!
Get the Manager Over Here!
It's the Hilton Sisters. They always get me in trouble. So I raise to $15 and get two callers. The flop comes T-9-x. I bet $40 into a guy with just $118 in front of him and he hems and haws before pushing all-in. I call quickly and flip up my Q's.
For some reason, my opponent didn't flip his cards. The turn is a blank and the river is another T. Before I know it, his cards are in the muck and he's screaming for them back. It happened so fast, I didn't even see it. Apparently, he attempted the most dramatic flip possible and his cards landed face down beside the muck, touching dead cards.
He starts screaming something about 9's full of T's and asks the dealer for his cards back. The dealer rightly informs him that mucked cards are dead and that the player is responsible for taking care of his own cards. You know, like when I calmly flipped my cards directly in front of me.
The manager comes over, hears the story and helps the dealer pull out the two 9's and flips them. It wasn't hard to figure out which two cards were his. That wasn't the point. He had the hand. That wasn't the point. Unfortunately for me, the manager decided to ressurrect his hand, with a stern warning and never asked for my opinion.
I suppose I could have put up a fight. I didn't. I suppose he had me beat, and he did flop the set, but the pot should have been mine. That was his mistake. I didn't fight it and merely hoped karma would bring it back to me. I was at $565 now.
But Where Are the Four Hookers!?!?!?!?
If you've gotten this far, you must think the title is just a big lie. Okay, I'm getting to it... bear with me.
Let's just say my donation to karma made a big difference. That would be the last big pot I would lose. The rush was on.
J8s brought me a flush that took me to $610.
KT flopped two pair beating the Hilton Sisters. I'm at $750.
I flopped a set of 9's and had the guy in the satin jacket betting into me. I'm up to $865.
I've got Big Slick with an A on the flop and an A on the river. My opponent calls me the whole way before saying at the river, "I can't beat Big Slick." He flips AQ and I'm at $1150.
Pocket A's hold up and take me to $1250.
And then it happened.
I look down at two black jacks. Some people call 'em Fish Hooks, I prefer to call them Hookers. And, yes, I've got just two of them.
I raise to $15 and get just one caller. The dealer flips the flop cards and I see a red J. Great! Then I see him slide out an A. Even better! And finally, another red J. I just flopped quads.
I've never flopped quads in my life. I'd like to see the security camera video of it to see just how I reacted. I think I hid it extremely well!
Naturally, I check. If I'm willing to slow play top pair, I'm damn well gonna slow play quads! He bets $20 and I cold call. My plan was to make sure I get every chip in front of him.
The turn is a T. I check. He bets $40. I cold call again. The river is a K. I check. He bets $50 and I raise to $100, putting him all in. He was pot commited at this point and I knew he would call. The check on the river was dangerous because he could have gotten away from the hand without losing any more, but I knew he would bet.
He looks at me and says, "You have pocket A's don't you?" That's when I perhaps let a little disappointment show. I was praying he had pocket A's because then we would have qualified for the $28,000 bad beat jackpot. He reluctantly calls and flips Big Slick. I show my quads and the table erupts. I'm up to $1500.
I peek at a few more pots over the next 45 minutes and at 9:30pm, I stand up with my $1400 and leave the casino. My best session ever.
By the way, I promised I'd also include this...
The guy who pushed me off my first pot is named Todd. He seems like a pretty solid player although he didn't have his best session Sunday. He's also starting a new poker room with his brother, and I'll hopefully have more information on that for you, too.
Oh, and a really attractive dealer named Leah gave Todd a pretty hard time. You gotta watch what you say to her, she'll come right back over the top of you and you'll fold. I promise!<-- Hide More
It was a $30+$10 tourney at the Coushatta with a $30 rebuy and a $30 add on. Basically, it was a $100+$10 tourney because you only got T1000 for your entry fee, but the rebuy and add on were each T2000. The tourney started at noon and I hit the road at about 10am so I'd be there about a half hour early. It was a limit tourney, but I want some more B&M tourney experience so I was willing to give it a shot.
When I got there, I was shocked to learn the tourney was full and there was an alternate list 14 people long. I wasn't playing in this tournament and it's the best thing that could have happened to me. I got my name on the 3/6/12 and the NL lists which were both at least 15 deep. I figured I'd get to play eventually.More in this Poker Blog! -->
To kill time, I made my way to the craps table. I know, I know... bad idea. I decided to play rather conservatively and so I just played wrong and took modest odds. Thankfully, the shooters were generally cold and my strategy paid off. When they finally called my name, I was up $50. No complaints here.
When I made it back to the poker room, I was pleased to learn they were opening a new NLHE table. The buy in was $100 min/$200 max. No one at the talbe would start with more than me. Players at the main NLHE table had stacks and stacks of red in front of them. That wouldn't be a problem where I was sitting.
The tables held 9 seats each and I settled into seat 7. I had my pad and pen ready to take notes for the tourney, but instead, I'd just document my NL play. I had a bad NL experience at the Aladdin in January and I was hoping to redeem myself. Or this would be another short poker trip.
Looking back, I wrote down 30 significant hands in the 10 hours I played. I don't think I'll write about them all now, but here are just some of the hands that helped me walk out of The Coushatta way, way up.
Losing With the Nuts
It's the first significant hand I play. I'm dealt KQo and I limp in for a family pot. Blinds are just $1/$3. The flop comes J-T-9 rainbow. Well, hard to get a better flop than that. An elderly black gentleman named Arthur, with the most charming disposition, goes all-in in front of me for $65. I call, figuring it will be just he and I, but it's called twice behind me.
The turn is a 5 of spades, the second spade on the board. It's bet 25 in front of me, and I raise to 125. Another short stack calls me for his last 38 and the original bettor folds. The hands are flipped, and I'm up against J8o and T9. Before I can even calculate their outs, the dealer flips a T. Arthur just caught a 4 outer to take down a $290 pot. Thankfully, with the side pot, I won about $10. I thought maybe this would be a sign of bad things to come.
Last Hand Before Dinner
A couple of hands (AJo and ATo) helped push me up about $100. That's when I'm dealt A6o on the button. There are a bunch of limpers so I call as well. The flop is A-T-2, rainbow. It's checked to me and I bet 30, getting two callers. The turn pairs the deuce, the second club. I bet another 50 and get one caller. He's wearing an Air Jordan hat and looks like MJ might look if he had let himself go a bit.
The river is the third club and Jordan bets all in for his final 25. Dammit. He stuck around for runner-runner clubs? I have to call and he shows Q8. Q8?? How did he call the bet on the flop? Oh well. It's dinner break time and I'm up $22.
Limping Is the Rule
I'd say it's not your typical NL table because limping is running rampant. I'm dealt JTo and I limp with the entire table. The flop is K-J-T, two diamonds. It's bet 10 and called three times. I raise another 50 and get one caller.
The turn is another diamond. Ugh. It's checked and I bet another 50 and get called again. Ugh. The river is a 9 putting four to the straight on the board. Ugh. He checks and so do I.
"Do you have the queen?" I ask. He just shakes his head and I take down the pot with two pair. Over the next half hour or so, I win another three hands with no showdowns (AJs, pocket 10's and 97s) and now I'm up to $376.
Doug Brien Is My Kicker
In case you don't know, Doug Brien missed two field goals in the final two minutes of a playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He's the only kicker in NFL history to pull off that dubious feat. So when my hand catches a big pair, but my kicker is a little weak, I call it the Doug Brien.
In the course of just a few hands, I watched my KT go down to KQ, my AQo lose to AKs, and another KT lose to KJ. Poorly played on all streets every time. I'm back down to $237.
The Open Road and Poker Tables
Late in the afternoon, Ed sat down to my left. Ed is living a life I slightly envy. He's a trucker who spends his free time hitting casino poker rooms across the country as he goes from job to job. He had just finished playing in Oklahoma before hitting Louisiana. He seemed like a really nice guy, but I got the sense he also enjoyed exaggerating a bit, but who doesn't, right?
The first hand we get invovled in, I'm dealt AJs and I raise to 10 and get three callers. The flop is J-9-6, two hearts. I bet 30 and Ed calls me. The turn is a third heart and I'm a little worried. I bet 25 to see where he is and I get called again. The river pairs the 6, but it's not another heart. I reach for chips and Ed mucks, claiming QT and a straight draw. I'm up to $296.
Just a few hands later, my A5 of spades catch a flush on the turn and I'm up to $340.
Am I Really That Stupid?
For some reason, I played Q4s and the flop comes Q-3-5. I lead out and get called by a newcomer to the table. I certainly don't have a read on him. All I know is that he looks a lot like Billy Dee Williams. The turn is a deuce and I bet out again and get called. The river is a blank and Billy Dee bets out strong in front of me.
Okay, what hands can I put him on that I actually win? The answer: A stone cold bluff. If he's got a Q, I'm either outkicked or he's got two pair. There are only two kickers worse than my 4... and the three and the two are both on the board. Of course, I don't think this through before I call. I guess I thought he was just trying to push me off the pot, maybe he missed a draw or something.
He flips 64 for the nut straight. He didn't miss his draw. I'm back down to $203. I'm sooooo stupid.
I've been playing for at least 6 hours by now when I finally see Cowboys. I'd seen the Hiltons once today, but had to fold to an Ace on the flop and 3 bettors. Other than that, my premium hands were few and far between.
I raise to 10 from the small blind and Ed the truck driver, in the BB, raises to 43. I call. The flop is J-x-x. I check hoping he's going to bet, but he checks too. The turn is a blank. I put him all in for 84 and he calls, flipping AQo. The river is another J and I win the pot. Curious call by him.
Next hand my suited Jack Hammer on the button wins a modest pot and suddenly I'm up to $430.
And the Rush Begins
Pocket J's in the BB. It's raised to 15 in front of me, I re-raise to 45 and get two callers. The flop is K-x-x. I bet 50 and they all fold. $510.
Pocket J's again. I raise to 15 and get two callers. The flop is A-J-x. I love it and check, but so do they. Dammit. The turn is a blank. I throw a little 15 out there and they fold. Dammit.
Pocket 8's. Four are in with my $15 bet. Flop is 9-7-7. I bet 50, get called. Turn is a blank. I bet 50 and he folds.
I limp with A6 of hearts. The flop is 7-6-2 of hearts. I bet 15 and get two callers. The turn is an Ace. I check, it's bet 60 by Billy Dee and I raise to 200. He folds. $610.
Playing It Blind
I call 7 limpers from the SB without looking. The flop is 5-x-x, all spades. Seat 9 bets 50 forcing me to look at my hand. I look down at the K of spades and a 5. For some reason, I decide to call even though I know he has the spades. I have outs, I guess. The turn is the A of spades. I couldn't have asked for a better caard.
I bet 100 and he thinks for awhile before calling. The turn pairs the board and I get scared. I don't know why. I'm sure he would have called another bet and he didn't have the boat. We both check and he flips 23 of spades for the loser. How does he call 100 knowing that any spade I hold beats him? No complaints here.
Beating Billy Dee Again
Ever since my stupid Q4 vs. 64, I've wanted to get my money back from Billy Dee. I get AQo and Billy Dee raises to 15 in front of me. I re-raise to 40 and he calls.
The flop is Q-J-2. I bet 50 and get called. The turn is a deuce. I bet 50 again and he calls again. The river is another Q. I push all-in and he angrily folds mumbling about the damn river. I think I should have checked, or bet less, and I'm sure I couldn't have gotten more out of him. I'm up to $715.
So That's What $1000 in Chips Looks Like!
It's Paris and Nicky, for the second time today. I hate these women, they've cost me a lot of money.
I raise to 15 and get 4 callers. The flop is K-8-2. I hate the Hilton Sisters.
It's bet 25 in front of me and there's a caller before I have to make a decision. I throw 25 more out.
The turn is a Q!!!! I love Paris! I love Nicky! The Hilton Sisters are my favorites!
It's bet 20 and called. I raise to 60 and a new players to my left pushes all in. I have to call and he flips over a set of 2's. I'm at $1000!!!!!
It Should Have Been Time To Leave
I wish I had gotten up then. An $800 profit (plus another $50 at the craps table) and it's my most successful session ever. It's almost midnight so I should really be getting home.
But you don't leave in the middle of a rush, right?
I'm dealt A9o and it's raised to 15 in front of me. I call and the flop is A-K-Q rainbow. It's bet 15 and I raise to 50 to see where I am. He calls. The turn is a blank. He checks and I bet 50 again. He calls. That's when I think I might be ahead in the hand. Maybe he's KJ or something like that.
The river is another K. Ouch. I guess if he's holding AJ or AT, my medium kicker won't matter. He bets out 100. I have to stop and think. Does he have an A? I'd hate to fold knowing I could have split. But maybe I should remember my first instinct. He checked the turn and bet the river. It has to be a K, right? I fold and he flips KQ. I was behind the whole way.
I'm down to $750 at this point and figure it's time to go. The rush is obviously over. I thank the table and make my way to the cage. I'm walking out of the casino with a $600 profit. That's hard to beat.
I think I'll be back for that NL game very, very soon.<-- Hide More