Luckbox has been doing most of the heavy lifting in this fifth birthday of Up For Poker. I'm wrapped up in other activities right now, but couldn't let the time pass without a brief submission. Some of these are repeats, some are original, but all of them will stick in my memory as long as I'm playing.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Five most memorable hands against a poker blogger
5. vs. The Rooster, December 2007
It might have been my emergence from focus that ended up losing me the tournament. Still, a sense of understanding about what was happening around me was welcome. What had once been half a dozen people standing around and watching poker was suddenly a crowd of familiar faces. For the past several hours, I'd rather forgotten everything except trying to win. Now, I took half a second to relish the moment. I knew it wouldn't last long. Though the heads-up battle has been described as epic, I don't remember it as such. It seemed to be over as soon as it started.
I made a quick decision that I wasn't going to give The Rooster the opportunity to dictate the terms of the heads-up match. With the blinds as high as they were, there was very little opportunity for post-flop poker. My decisions were made before the match even began. It would be up to The Rooster to decide when he was calling and when he was folding.
If there was a surreal moment for me, it was the split second between the time I looked at my final hand and the time The Rooser announced, "Call!"
I peaked at K9o and said nothing. I simply put my hands around my chips and started to move them. They had barely moved an inch when The Rooster nearly jumped from his seat and said, "Call!"
Without going into it what was actually happening in my head at that second, that fraction of time defined who I was, who I am, who I hope to be forever.
Oh, and I was surpised to see I was ahead, too. The Rooster's snap-call didn't mean I was beat. It meant he was tired of my aggression. In this case, it also meant I was better than 60/40 to win. By the river, we had seen no kings, nines, queens, or eights. I had to dodge six cards when that final piece of plastic hung in the air.
It was what it was.
4. vs. ScottMc , December 2007
"There are softer spots in this room," I mumbled.
Over the course of the next couple of hours, I sat at the toughest cash table I'd face all weekend. I don't recall everyone in the game, but over the course of my time there, I saw Zeem, Chad, ScottMc, WeakPlayer, Miami Don and Blinders.
I stacked off to Chad once in a kicker battle, re-bought and told myself that if I couldn't start playing better, I was on my way out the door for a few hours by myself. That's when it happened--the most embarassing move I would make all weekend.
I had AK and came in for a raise. ScottMc popped me back and I pulled my "Oh, realllllllly?" maneuver. I don't think I've ever played with Scott before, so I kept his range exceptionally wide. I made the call out of position.
Why exactly I decided to check dark, I don't know. I only know I did. And I know I saw the flop come down AQx. Scott made another bet, and because I had checked dark, I had no way of knowing what the bet meant. It could mean as much as AA, as middling as AQ, or as little as some underpair. Hell, it could even be AK.
Now, I made what was the only smart move in the entire hand. I figured out where I was with a check-raise. Thing is, my chips hadn't hit the table before Scott cupped his hands around his mouth and said, "Allllllllllll innnnnnnnnnnn" in a deep voice.
That's pretty much where I went over the edge. After 22 hours of the worst beats ever, I was stuck bad and wrapped up in a hand with a player who is now wearing a sign that says, "You are beat, Otis!" around his neck. There is now no hand he can hold that I can conceivably beat. At best, he's holding AK and I know that's not the case. I might be lucky enough that he has AQ, but it's far more likely he has a set.
So, of course, I call.
Scott is a nice damned guy, which goes beyond and sometimes against his great abilities at the poker table. He wasted no time showing me his QQ for the flopped middle set. Knowing I need runners to win, I start planning a graceful exit and wondering where the solo rage will take me. I was at once a nihilist.
I'm still not sure the next ten seconds happened.
The groan and cheer rose up from the table as the board came runners to give me aces full. Having not yet revealed my hand, I fanned my AK to the table and buried my face in my other hand. The chips landed in front of me. Now, I could no longer hate my luck.
I could only hate myself.
Scott took it much better than he should've. For my penance, he only required I post this list:
1) That was the worst suck-out ever
2) Scott is a better player than Otis
3) I am a donkey
Or something like that. My notes don't make a lot of sense.
The only thing I remember with any clarity is Miami Don looking up from his vodka and remarking wryly, "Otis, I think your luck just changed."
3. vs. Absinthe, December 2006
I was angry. So angry.
There is a particular table at the MGM where I cannot win. Don't call it superstition, because if you do, I will soak your toothbrush in a jar of hot peppers. I can't win there. Ever.
I'd just called off several hundred dollars when people at the other end of the Strip in Caesars knew I was beat. It was so obvious that it was actually embarrassing to continuing breathing. Making it worse, the off-duty dealer to whom I'd stacked off berated me for losing. I wanted to crawl in a hole, stuff the rest of my cash in an uncomfortable place, and light it on fire. Due penance, I thought.
I'd had pocket kings. Not that it matters, but it mattered.
Absinthe sat on my right, quiet as always, and ostensibly targeting everybody at the table but me. We're friends. We've shared time. We've eaten at fancy restaurants. He wouldn't fuck with me.
I found pocket kings on the button a few hands later. I figured I'd get no action, because, hell, everybody knew I wasn't rebuying. I had to set my ass on fire in a few minutes.
Absinthe came in for a raise to around $20. I don't recall the size of my re-raise, but I think it was around $100. Absinthe did this thing he does. I can't explain it, and if I could, I wouldn't write about it, because we're friends. We don't fuck with each other. But he did this thing.
He quietly slid out a raise. I don't recall the exact amount, and it doesn't matter, because it was a giant, flashing sign that said, "Hey, bitch, I have aces. Get the hell out and get on with the ass-fire."
I gritted my teeth, I wondered whether I was going to use a lighter or a match, and mucked my hand.
A few minutes later, he raised his eyebrows.
"Kings," I said.
He shook his head. "What a cooler," he said.
"Aces," I nodded.
"Same hand," he said.
For a moment, I felt okay. It wasn't a lot of money and, you know, no flop, no drop.
Half an hour later as we headed to a fancy dinner, I brought up the cooler.
"I had ace-ten," he said and kept walking.
2. vs. Bill Rini, and I honestly don't remember the date
Okay, we were drunk. Let's get that out of the way. I'm pretty sure it was summer, I'm vaguely certain Spaceman and Pokerati Dan were there, and I know we are at the Excalibur. The size of the pot makes me believe Bill and I both had around $800 in front of us. Everything else is pretty much a blur.
I know I had pocket aces. I'm pretty sure one was black. Let's call it the ace of spades. It doesn't matter.
I raised and Bill re-raised me. I complained in a way guys with pocket aces do. Folded back to me and I decide to give the guy a break.
"All-in," I said. Because, in poker, that's how you give a guy a break.
Bill looked peeved, but only for a second. "I call," he said. Because, with AK, he didn't want a break. He wanted my $800. When he saw my aces, he was visibly agitated. I said something to the effect of, "I was trying to give you a break."
He said something to the effect of, "Fuck your mother." That's not an exact quote, but it's close I think.
Bill didn't win. He left.
To this day, I actually feel bad about that hand.
1. vs. Iggy , December 2004
I was still steaming from having my Hiltons cracked, and raised pre-flop with pocket sixes. Of course, Iggy called. The flop came down 589. Again, Iggy and I went to war.
Now, I know I'm not necessarily favored to win this hand. In fact, I should assume that Iggy is ahead. Maybe a set. More likely, A9 or A8. If he is ahead, I know that I only have six outs to catch up. Still, having played low-limit with him before, I know Iggy can sometimes be aggressive when he's way behind. I could only hope he was on a draw.
I think I maintained my poker face when the turn brought a seven, giving me the straight. I check-raised Iggy, who cold called and gave me a look.
The turn was a blank, as I recall. This time I bet into him and the sonofabitch raised me. I re-raised, and he capped.
But as he put in his final bet, he turned to the dealer and said, "You know, in a lot of cardrooms, when play gets to be heads up there's no limit on the number of raises."
It was at this moment that my heart sank and I picked up on Iggy's biggest tell: When he has the nuts, he'll turn to the dealer and ask for the game to be no-limit.
The dealer said we could do whatever we wanted, but I already knew what was about to happen. I put in my final crying call and watched Iggy turn up Vince Van Patton's favorite hand, JTo.
Iggy began raking the pot and eyed me from behind his locks, "Drawing at the dummy end of the straight," he said with a playful scoff.
In one moment I felt both chastened and so happy to be alive that I didn't mind losing another big pot to Iggy.<-- Hide More
I sat cross-legged in the hotel room. The carpet was new, clean, and better than what I had in my house. The balcony doors were open, letting in a wind and exposing a view you can't buy--it's only available for rent.
A few feet away from me sat more than $30,000 in cash. Most of it was wrapped in ten-grand bundles. A private dealer had been summoned to the room, a cache of one-of-a-kind chips littered the floor, and a setup of cards was being counted down. I speak of all of this in passive voice because, while I was there, I was--at least for the moment--a spectator. It was not my money. They were not my chips. I hadn't touched the cards. I was sitting in the middle of something that was simultaneously meaningless and exceedingly important. More to the point, I was caught up in a salt-washed epiphany.More in this Poker Blog! -->
When I wrote The End, there was a pretty serious part of me that believed it would be the last thing I wrote on the Up For Poker blog. After four years of finding nuances of the game and inspiration in the romantic turn of a card, I had given up. It had been a losing year--my first-- and I barely knew why. Poker had become more of an addiction than a hobby. It wasn't as if I was blowing through wads of cash and endangering my family. I was not playing above my roll or on borrowed cash. In fact, a nice-sized chunk of my bankroll sat in the bank untouched.
No, it was not your typical sweating, tweaking addiction. I only defined it as such because I was playing, but didn't know why. I wasn't playing for profit. I wasn't playing for fun. I was playing because, in short, that's what I do. I play cards. It was still better than drinking myself into barstool grandeur or experimenting with firearms, but it was not serving a purpose. I found no spiritual or financial profit in the game. Even if I kept playing--which I knew I would--I didn't see reason to write about it anymore. I write about things in which I find beauty and passion. Even if it's beautiful tragedy or hilarious passion, it's worth a word or two. There is only so much one can write about autotonomous raising and folding, and even less when the lifeless time at the table is the means to an unprofitable and unhappy end.
What's more, the G-Vegas underground games had become no man's land for me. After two violent robberies and one unfortunate bust, I made a promise to my wife that I was finished. No amount of entertainment or writing fodder was worth her worrying about whether I was spending my night looking down the barrel of a cheap .380. The games died off for a couple of months and then started their comeback. I did not come back with them. Despite pleas and protestations from my poker friends, I stayed away. Those long, hyper-caffeinated nights in smoky underground rooms were now just a thing about which I could wax nostalgic.
Indeed, I had all but given up on the idea of writing about the game that played such a large role in my life since 2003. When people asked what I do, I stopped saying "I write about poker." Instead I muttered something along the lines of, "It's sort of a long story."
A few nights before the mini-epiphany, I was half-crocked and sitting in a hotel lobby bar with a semi-motley crew of people. I gave a fellow writer 10-1 odds on his $50 that he could not blow up a deflated soccer ball using only his mouth. He pondered it for several minutes before declining the bet. Half an hour later, he inflated he ball anyway, just to see if he could do it. I thumbed the $500 in my pocket and wondered how I had dodged losing it. On any other night, with any other person, I would've lost the bet, lost the money, and lost a little more of my mind.
I was in a pretty dark place. No matter what I did, it didn't feel right. Privately, I think of it as One-Pip Syndrome. It's that time at the table and in life where you can make the decisions that feel almost certainly right and turn out to be just one pip from success. Eights versus nines, AQ vs AK, it doesn't matter. It's either a winner or a loser and when you're one pip off, you might as well be drawing dead.
The night that I ended up in the hotel room, I let go. I stood outside and let the wind smack me in the face. Whatever it was--the booze, the breeze, the bravado--everything seemed more clear. I made one decision that wasn't even officially mine yet to make. Everything inside my head settled, sediment at the bottom of a river that had been running too fast for too long. I ate dinner with my wife and friends. I laughed, indulged, and let go of whatever it was that I thought had tied me up. We walked outside after dinner and did something those afflicted with good sense don't do. No sense in describing it either, because it was certainly more important in my head than in reality. Regardless, it was 15 minutes of pure and simple abandon. No matter the consequences, I was free.
Later that night in the hotel room, I sat across from the friend who had just won the $30,000 in a poker tournament. He was happy, but no happier than I'd seen him when he was badly stuck. As the room filled in and we settled on a private HORSE SNG, we worked out the stakes. I can't remember how much it was per person, but it was $100 or less. A few of us did a last longer that was the same as the buy-in. We would do another game for similar stakes a few hours later.
I looked around and realized that it was not the money that mattered. I was sitting with a guy who had casually won more than my car was worth. I was sitting with people who had enjoyed the glamour of playing on TV. I was sitting with people who are big players in the business. The money was incidental. Not only that, almost all of it was incidental. All that mattered was I was playing with friends who appreciated the game as much as I did. I was sitting with people who took poker--for any amount of money--seriously, and at the same time, could laugh, cut up, and enjoy the time they had to play.
I admitted to myself that, for whatever reason, I am not as good a poker player as I used to be. I admitted to myself that I probably am not as good a writer as I used to be. Neither realization meant, however, that I had to quit. Even now as I struggle to figure out where my game fell apart and my words became trite, I am, in a word, okay.
Though I found it hard to believe, I was actually having fun again.
The room we called The Gaelic Game ran out of a fireworks warehouse on one of the oldest and most traveled highways in G-Vegas. It was not prophecy, but The Last Poker Game told the story of the joint pretty well. I spent many a night there, albeit few of them big winners. Still, before The Depot opened, it was my house of choice and I went there as often as I could.
At the end of the summer in 2007, the local Sheriff's office raided the Gaelic Game, effectively shutting it down, at least in that location. It was the second to last straw in the my little pig's collapsing poker house. When the game disappeared, with it went the rest of my poker year.
The other day, I was driving down the same road and, as always, stole a look at the place that had been my poker home away from home. The giant, red "FIREWORKS" sign had fallen on hard times. The letters that remained: REWORK.
I'm not much of a believer in omens, but sometimes you just have to read the writing on the warehouse.
Play pool table poker with us, and you're bound to hear the host exclaim, "F$@# the river!!!" He tends to believe that fifth card is more unfair to him than anyone else. I've been known to suck out on him once or twice, but, as we know, that doesn't make him special.
With that in mind, we decided it might be a little more fair to him if we switched things up a bit. And with that, a new game was born:
F@#$ the RiverMore in this Poker Blog! -->
It's very simple. It's played exactly like Texas Hold 'Em except for one very large difference: it's dealt backwards.
After two cards are dealt, the flop is one card, the turn is one card and the river is three cards. Let's just say that significantly changes the way the game is played.
I won the first hand when I flopped top pair (okay, flopped the only pair). I won the second hand when I rivered two pair (I was on, um, the two pair draw I guess since I had nothing after the turn). I was knocked out on the next hand when my opponent rivered the nut flush (I turned top pair with my J8, but there were two diamonds on the board and his AQd was a favorite... I think).
The hand of the night came when three players went all in preflop. It was ATo vs. KQ vs. JT. The flop was an Ace. The turn was a K. The river was Q-x-x. The ATo went from way ahead to out when both of his opponents caught the same card to beat him.
I think the game was a raging success, but it could use some improvements. I'm thinking maybe we should deal three cards instead of two, but only allow two cards to be used after the river. It might actually create more action on the flop or turn. It's a work in progress, but I think it's destined to be a classic. Take that, Py-nizzle!<-- Hide More
Well, a bitch of a storm named Rita kept me busy for yet another weekend. Come Friday, I'll have worked 31 out of 33 days. I don't think that's healthy, but that's the job, so I really shouldn't complain.
Hopefully, there won't be another hurricane any time soon and I can actually get this tournament started! So far we have 8 confirmed teams:
1) Heather/CJ 2) Drizz/BG 3) Matt from Austin/Megan from Austin (Readers and ringers?)
4) The Donkey Feltchers: Maudie/Daddy 5) GRob/Uncle Ted from G-Vegas
6) Jim/Bob from Detroit (Reader)
7) Patrick/Danny (Reader)
8) Lefty/Jason (Ringer)
If you want to get on board and need a partner, check the comments on this post. Then email me with your partner at Euchre -@- upforanything.net.
For complete rules, see below:More in this Poker Blog! -->
1) Initial tournament will be restricted to 16 teams (32 players) or just 8 teams if that's all we can round up.
2) Teams will sign up as pairs, and to sign up, you email me at Euchre -@- UpForAnything.net. If you do not have a partner, and wish to play, drop your name in the comments and find one that way. You CAN NOT sign up as a team through the comments. You must email me.
3) All games will be played on Yahoo! Games.
4) Initial rounds will be best of 3 games, semi-finals will be best of 5 games and finals will be best of 7 games.
5) Once the tournament kicks off, teams will have one week to finish their round. Results can be posted in comments here or emailed to me at the address above.
6) There is no prize beyond pride in knowing who the best team is. If teams wish to wager amongst themselves, that's their choice.
7) All decisions of the Touranment Commissioner (me) are final.<-- Hide More
A couple of house-cleaning announcements...
First, see the post below for exciting news about Tri-Clops!
Second, stay tuned for official notice of the first (and last?) WPBT Euchre tourney. Start finding your partner now, you'll sign up in teams of two.
Last, but not least... why I'm so tired.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Those blogger tables can be hell. Of course, I lived up to my new nickname, "Only Monsters," and took my fellow bloggers for about $15. And it's always fun to sit down with wil. I do feel bad about cracking Iggy's hammer with cowboys, but that's life at the blogger table. Let's just get started a little earlier so we're not all dragging at work the next day!<-- Hide More
Near the press entrance, there are two elevators at Turner Field. The first is for fans who are too old or fat for stairs. The second is called the "press express," a two stop shuttle from the press box to the field. On Tuesday night I spent nearly 4 hours bouncing back and forth, meeting both shifts of elevator attendants, while my temper rose like the counterweight on every passing floor.
The lower level, down in the industrial core of the stadium, looks like the boiler room of every large building you've ever seen, except there are security guards every 15 feet. It's odd to walk past doors marked "Visitors bullpen" and "Braves Clubhouse" after decades of staring down at them from nosebleed seats. The corridor to the field itself is along the first base line, and we were allowed to cruise on out, as long as we stuck to the warning track.
The best part of the press box, is the lounge outside. There are hot dogs, chips, pizza and cokes served gratis for the writers. My photographer had 3 dogs, I had four, with chili. John Miller, the ESPN announcer was there, wearing too tight navy shorts and a hawaiian print shirt, shoving some sort of yellow pasta into his mouth. Skip Caray was there too, seated with 4 friends in the media lounge and clearly not enjoying his sandwich.More in this Poker Blog! -->
We'd gone, Mark and I, for a story about the man throwing the ceremonial first pitch, but the subject balked. We waited for him to meet us at the pre-determined spot from 3:15 until just one hour before the 7:35 start. We spent that last bit on the field. Our guy never showed up. The opening lob came from some woman, on behalf of the Georgia lottery. The story was a failure and I was not amused.
Luckily Mark is a hardcore Braves fan so HIS mood never changed. He was just happy to say he'd been THIS close to Wilson Betemint. In fact, between bites of mustard soaked meat, he was even more excited about seeing Skip Carey.
While we stood at the press entrance, Mark saw Skip sneak through the police door, "There's Skip!" He actually giggled.
It was the same in the canteen. Mark was excited and Skip was nonplussed. It's odd to see two people in roughly the same line of work, in exactly the same situation, have such different reactions.
About 5 hours away...
My family was still in Charleston, I'd left there at 7:00AM. We headed TO the beachhouse on Saturday morning and met up with mom, dad, sister, brother, and assorted signifigant others. My brother, after reading this MEGA-BLOG, had been hounding me for a poker game, and I'm always game. His e-mails went like this :
August 1, 2005
FROM : YOUNGER D
Hey! Bring your chips to the beach so I can school you at some poker.
August 2, 2005
TO : G-Rob
FROM : YOUNGER D
I was serious about that last e-mail, in case you were wondering.
Needless to say, I brought my chips.
In the Box
It was obvious Carey and Miller knew of each other. Most likely, they know each other's work quite well. Here they are, two of a very limited number of men who follow the sport they love from city to city, describing what they see. There are as many as 1,585,243 people who would consider that the coolest job in the world.
When Miller sat down to devour his food, I noticed Skip gave hime that "Hey there" handshake we give to old coworkers we haven't seen in awhile, but were never close with. Within seconds of the greeting, Skip sat back at his table of youngsters while Miller's fork picked up the pace.
Neither of them was outwardly excited by the press box decor. In fact neiter of them was eating a free dog. ASTOUNDING! Who passes a free ballpark dog? Not me, that's for damn sure.
SO WE TOOK $50 IN CHIPS
That's 3 stacks of 8.
8 $5 Reds
8 $1 White
8 $.25 Black
In the first game my brother smoked me like a 6'5" bong.
We played again.
This time he didn't even choke on the toke. Smoked again.
We played again.
I had a 98-2 chip advantage, and he still beat me. I was getting bored.
By now my mother was curious. She'd never played before, and I'm fairly certain my cursory explaination sounded like the Far Side, "What dogs hear." My pops played too. 4-HANDED... WOOO HOO!
This time its 8 chips a piece, with only one blind of a single chip.
She called every bet, and won every hand. Total Domination.
The only thing more obvious than Skip's lack of interest in ESPN'S John Miller, was his lack of interest in me and Mark. Our press badges have the words "NO AUTOGRAPHS" in big white letters on the front, and a million letters in tiny print on the back make it clear any unsolicited interaction with people off the field or out of the interview room could get us killed. Mark was frothing, and I'm sure it wasn't the chili.
Instead, Skip wasn't talking about baseball or how cool the view is up here. He was bitching up a firestorm about whatever it was that happened at WORK that day. It was the same droll watercooler crap that Jane from accounting prattles on about while waiting to send a fax. Nothing to see here folks, just a man at work.
The next night, my mom was really eager to play poker again but, believe it or not, I had no interest at all. I take poker seriously, and for some reason this family game felt nothing like the game I loved. I would have happily played checkers or Scatergories, or what-the-hell-ever, but POKER is not a family fun night game anymore. Sometimes it feels like work. But, so far, I still love this job.<-- Hide More
"No face eating tonight."
My chip stack had been hovering around even since we'd started the game. I was just about to get involved in a hand when The Mark's host looked across the table and said it:
"No face eating tonight."
At first I didn't get it. Face-eating? I peered at my hole cards, looking for paint, wondering if the last time I'd been there I had gotten drunk and eaten a face card or two. Just as I was about to ask him to repeat himself, I figured it out.
I'd written about The Mark before. And I'd written about the host's wife before.
I didn't peel my cards off the table again, preferring instead to eat her face with my eyes. Her cheeks pulled in as she drew in on the cigar. She pulled her cards off the felt one more time. I couldn't read her as well as I wanted. Remember, her beauty put me on tilt the moment she'd climbed out of the H2-Hummer. When she lit the cigar and bathed the table in a sexual wash of smoke and casual good humor, I decided there was no way I could play the game of poker ever again..
I said the only thing I could in response.
"Uh, I don't know what you're talking about. Surely."
Then I mucked my hand.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Friday night I headed back to The Mark, thinking it would be another rowdy night of ruckus. Instead, it was rather calm, just a few guys and The Host's wife.
I could turn this into a long post about how I again fell victim to the lady mentioned the in above paragraphs, but I fear my substandard prose would turn out a lot like it did before.
(Suffice it to say, she slowplayed a pair of queens against me in a NL Hold'em tourney, shortly after making two terrific calls against other players, and busted me out).
Instead, this is just a short post to look back on when I start telling myself that poker isn't fun anymore
In recent weeks, I've found myself analyzing every play I make, down to when I fold my small blind in an unraised pot. I haven't been having fun. Though I have an interest in running my poker play like small business, I'm not so interested that I want to allow the fun to drain out of the game. I don't want to hate myself when I lose or feel like I've failed when I start running exceptionally bad (read: now).
When I headed out to The Mark two nights ago, I was at first obsessed with how I would beat the Friday night game. It is often full of loose, card-maniac players who are more content to go broke quickly than fold. I had not been faring well there. My normally tight-agressive style falls apart in that environment and I was expecting another night of poker-based frustration.
When I got there, however, I realized that most of the broke-or-bust players had stayed home. The game was left with some of the tougher, more experienced players. I stopped concentrating on how to alter my game to beat the loose players and focused more on...just playing.
It felt good. It felt like poker is supopsed to. Winning, losing, all-in catching of a miracle two-outer in a cash game of NL Omaha Hi-Lo. It was poker and it felt great again.
In fact, when I counted my roll at the end of the night, I was actually down about $19 and I didn't care.
See, as much as I love winning big and studying the game, I don't want that kind of success at the expense of the game's beauty.
After all, that's why we play...the beauty of the game.
I figure that's why I was so enamored with getting beat to hell by The Host's wife.
Incidentally, after we all tacitly admitted knowing what the "face-eating" comment was all about, the young lady to my right leaned over and said of my first write-up, "I e-mailed it to my dad."
I hope he enjoyed it.<-- Hide More
The bad guys had a man on third and he looked surly. He looked jumpy. The scoredboard had a giant zero in the "outs" column and the baserunner on the hot corner looked ready to exploit someone.
When the ball exploded off the bat in a parabola of sure doom, the baserunner saw what I didn't. He knew the ball wouldn't make it over the fence. The bad guy slipped back onto the bag and waited. This is where he would exploit someone. He'd exploit the centerfielder's weak arm.
From our spot behind home, we couldn't hear the ball hit the leather glove in centerfield, but we did hear the slight huff of the baserunner's breath as he broke from his spot on third base.
I watched as the centerfielder summoned some sort of masculinity from his jock strap and put the ball on a frozen-rope bee-line for home plate.
As the ball crossed over the second baseman's head, I screamed, "He's got'em!"
I stood, nearly spilling my beer, and waited for the inevitability.
The bad guy slid into the catchers glove, the same glove that held the ball that milliseconds before had been more than 300 feet away.
"Hwah!" I joined the small crowd in cheering the first exciting thing that had happened in four innings. Then I looked down at my sleeping kid. He didn't stir from his kid-coma.
"That's alright, kid," I thought. "I'll tell ya about it someday."More in this Poker Blog! -->
A few days ago, I took my kid to his first ball game. It was minor league ball. It was a team that is leaving town to go to, of all places, Mississippi. But it was a ballgame.
What's more, it was a moment. And I like moments. I live for them, for, often, they teach me more than full scale experiences.
As such, I'm learning.
I'm learning slowly that life as a father is a practice in accepting chopped pots. Sometimes you get the whole thing, sometimes you lose it all, and sometimes you chop and should be happy about it.
But, it's hard to remember that sometimes. When you're 30 years old and have spent three decadeson a self-important, egocentric, me-me-me kick, the transition to being the only way a kid will stay alive is a tough proposition. Deep down, there's a part of you that remembers the old days, those days when you could stand up, walk out of the house, and go wherever you want; the days that the only bad thing about getting drunk was a hangover and disapproving look from the wife; the days when as long as you gave the wife a kiss once a day, you were doing your job.
And now, every priority is different.
But, then, you fathers know that, don't you?
"He's got the hammer."
The words popped up in the chat bar, an ethereal nod to the poker world I know. It was a friendly screen name in a pond of anonymous sharks. I'd slayed these sharks many times before, but in recent days I'd felt like chum.
A defense mechanism I keep in in a pocket change purse had been humming a mantra, "It's variance, Otis. It's variance." But I knew it wasn't true. Variance doesn't turn good players into chum.
It left me with two options:
1) Something had happened to my game.
2) I've been very lucky in the past year.
It was about that time the room, for a few seconds blessedly silent, erupted into a scream.
Just as I had bought into the SNG, the new addition to Mt. Otis had started to cry. I thought he'd be alseep for the hour and fifteen minutes it would take me to play the ten-person tourney. As I have been many times in the past three weeks, I was wrong.
When I set out to write this post, I thought I was ready to quit the game. Fatherhood and mid-level poker play just don't mix.
However, I'm not sure that's the answer.
And, frankly, though I usually am fairly sure of myself, I'm at a loss for whether I can be a good dad and and poker player at the same time.
And as much as I want to write about this subject, I just can't get past the idea that even considering a corolation between fatherhood and poker amounts to me being a poor father. That is, a good father just would stop playing for the next 20 years.
And, frankly, I just don't want to be introspective about my qualifications as a father. That may cut a little deep.
Frankly, I'm not doing much of anything very well. My multitasking skills have fallen apart. It's resulted in no small amount of paranoia. For instance, take this snippet from a recent entry in my other blog
Buzzwords are the bastard sons of the catch phrase.
Perhaps if it weren't for the invention of the computer, we'd have never heard the word "multitasking." That is, after all, what computers do. They multitask.
But, sometime in the last ten years, some marketing genius decided it might be fun to assign "multitasking" to human processes. Screw that guy.Methinks there was a larger Dr. Phil-ish conspiracy afoot. That is, if we can convince people they should be able to act like computers, then we can sell them more books teaching them how to act like computers. Then, when they fail at that task (one of several the multitasking propoganda machine prescribes), we can sell them books on how to overcome the depression of failing to multitask. Then when they fail at overcoming their depression we can sell them prescription drugs that make them forget about how they couldn't multitask. Then once they get addicted to those drugs we can sell them books on overcoming addiction. Once they overcome addiction, they'll realize they should be multitasking and buy a book on how to do it more effectively.
The fact that I'm suffering at work, suffering at play, and suffering at poker at the same time lead me to believe that Mt. Willis is in a transition phase. During that phase, I should likely protect myself and my bankroll and play less frequently and only at times when I'm sure I won't be interupted.
I need a plan. And since I rarely stick to plans if I'm the only one that knows about them, I'm going to lay out a few guidelines for poker play for the next thirty days.
1) No tournaments unless I am guaranteed the ability to play the full tourney without distraction (that is, the house is empty except for me, the dog, and cold drink).
2) Ring games will be allowed, but only during times when Mrs. Otis has banished me from the room for some Otis Time and won't need my help (we've been sharing kid duty and occasionally banish each other when it looks like it's necessary).
3) Stop believing that I have to play every day to stay fresh.
4) Use Otis Time to find some real humans who want to play cards. I think I may venture back toward The Mark soon. I need interaction that involves more than chatbars.
So, that's the 30-day plan. We'll re-evaluate on October 8th.
A thought for the day: If rocket scientisits can plan for months and months to collect space atoms in a funky space fridge, employ Hollywood stuntmen in helicopters to snag it from its space fall, then watch the fridge crash into the desert at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars that we'll never get back, should I really be too upset for myself for misplaying the Hilton Sisters a few weeks ago?<-- Hide More
There were gummy bears, Jolly Ranchers, jelly beans and plenty of other sweets to satisfy all players. But it wasn't the candy everyone wanted, it was the chips.
Four men and four women sat down for an evening of No Limit Texas Hold 'Em. All players knew the game of poker, but this classic variety was relatively new to about half the table.
I spent about 20 minutes before the party running down some basics with Memphis. I figured maybe we could finish first and second. By the end of the night, there was a first place finish, but it's not quite what I expected.More in this Poker Blog! -->
First out was Wilted Lily's husband. He played rather aggresively, and lost some big pots early. He made an ill-fated all-in stone cold bluff when two aces hit the flop. Memphis called and showed A-Q. One down.
Next to go was Chaz. Like Wilted Lily's husband, I know he had higher hopes than an early bust out. I frankly don't remember how, but I think it was Memphis again. She was on a roll.
I had played very few hands at this point. I caught pocket jacks once, but the flop was A-9-2 of diamonds. There were two big bettors in front of me and I folded. Turned out it was the right call. One guy had Q-J of diamonds and the other had A-2.
I made my first all-in move with K-J of diamonds. I didn't want anyone to call and no one did. That got me back to about 650 of the 750 I started with. One hand later, I got A-Q off and thought I'd go all-in again. Figured a few more blinds would help.
This time I got called. It was Chaz's wife. She was a good player from what I could tell, so I was a bit worried. Until she flipped 8-9 of spades. I was about a 58% favorite. The flop came A-8-3, no spades. Suddenly I'm an 82% favorite and feeling pretty good. The turn was a 6 (89% favorite). And the river... well, the river hurt. It was a 9, and I was down to just a few chips.
A few hands later I got K-6 suited and I moved in. Wilted Lily called me with A-x. The flop brought me two of the three spades I needed, but the third one never came, and I was done.
The first three out were all men, and all men who I'm sure figured they'd do better than 8th, 7th and 6th!
At this point, I was rooting for Memphis. She had a pretty good stack, but was probably in 3rd or 4th out of the five left.
Next to go was our host, the Mizzou Grad. I'm not sure she got many cards all night. Like me, she was rarely in a pot, and when she finally made a move, she was knocked out. I think it may have been her husband that did it.
We're down to four and the top 3 pay. The alcohol had been flowing at this point, and I got the feeling tha Mizzou Grad was trying to get everyone but her husband really drunk. He was quickly building a stack and becoming a bully.
Next out was Wilted Lily. She made a risky all-in with marginal cards and Mizzou Grad's husband added her chips to his already imposing stack.
We were down to three. Memphis and Chaz's wife were in the pot when the flop came K-10-5 rainbow. Chaz's wife moved all-in in front of Memphis.
I may have folded in that spot, but Memphis called and flipped Q-J for an open ended straight draw. I figured Chaz's wife for a K, but she flipped a pair of 4's. To my surprise, Memphis was actually a 54% favorite at this point. And when the 9 came on the turn, it was all over for Chaz's wife.
Suddenly, we're heads up. It's Memphis vs. Mizzou Grad's husband. Memphis was behind, but it wasn't an overwhelming margin to make up. In fact, it really only took a couple of big hands, both were bouts of bad luck for Mizzou Grad's husband.
First, we found two K's on the flop. You'd figure any K at this point would be the winner. Memphis kept checking and Mizzou Grad's husband kept pushing the pot. He never moved all-in, but I think he was trying to pull as much out of Memphis as he could. When the showdown came, Mizzou Grad's husband smoothly flipped his K... ready to take his pot. Memphis flipped her K-Q and her full boat brought her a monster pot.
Next, the flop came Q-5-3. This time, Memphis started the betting, and Mizzou Grad's husband called. The turn was a blank, and Memphis checked. Mizzou Grad's husband started pressing again, and did the same after the river brought another blank. This time, Mizzou Grad's husband had K-Q. His kicker certainly dominated Memphis' kicker, but her kicker paired, and Q-3 was the two pair needed to take another huge pot.
A few hands later, Mizzou Grad's husband was forced to make an all-in bet with 3-5 suited and he got no help at all. It was over.
Memphis had the cards and played them strong all night long. Congratulations!! Her take was $70. Mizzou Grad's husband walked away with $35 and Chaz's wife won $15. For me, it was a few gummi bears and a great night of poker.<-- Hide More
Tomorrow evening, I'll be
teaching poker to playing poker with some No Limit Texas Hold 'Em novices. They've gotten the bug thanks to Celebrity Poker and the like.
It's mostly co-workers (Wilted Lily, Memphis, and others), so I think I should take it easy on them.
In fact, I think playing with as many unknown quantities as I'm likely to face will actually make things more difficult. They won't be playing by the book, in fact, they don't even know what the book says.
I suppose that means I should play the premium hands even harder and figure out who I can buy out of a pot pretty early on.
It will be 8-people at $15 a piece with the top 3 places paying. I'm sure it will be a lot of fun, and I'm guessing most of them will be hooked after one night at the table. Look for an update some time this weekend... unless it's too embarrassing!
They couldn't contain themselves. Not nearly drunk enough to merit their giggles, they tittered and ticked as they listened to the rules of the game. Their sideways glances and self-concious fingering of chips were enough to give away their uneasiness. I started to deal, explaining the rules as I went.
"It's a new game for a new year," I explained.
And then some smartass said, "Just so we know what we don't want you to call again, does this game have a name?"
I dealt the first up card, looked up with a glance of sheer malice and growled, "Timebomb."More in this Poker Blog! -->
Now, keep in mind, dear reader, this was a semi-bi-monthly poker game among friends. It was the semi-bi-monthly game where we played games like Seven Card No-Peak; Up and Down the River; The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly; and for the love of all that's holy, Trees (Deal five, bet once, then trade with the table at large until you get the hand you want, then bet until your stack is shorter than your manhood). I was not dealing'em up with a group of poker purists. I was in the middle of silly-game-poker-rabble, I'd invented a game on the fly, and they were laughing.
I had already shuffled, let the guy on my left cut, then removed the top card in the deck. I put it underneath an artfully arranged stack of the antes.
"We're playing regular Seven Stud, gentlemen. Play it out as you normally would. Should the game come to a showdown, the timebomb will go off."
They looked at me blankly, like the beer fumes from the table felt had somehow seeped into their blood stream.
I nodded toward the card under the antes. "The timebomb."
The assembled malcontents harumphed and harumphed as if I had just ruined the game of poker for them. Like I had taken the cards in the bathroom and wet on them. Like I had said No Limit Hold'em was for nuns and school children. A couple of guys--bidding to break the tension, or wind, whichever came first--started stacking chips on their hole cards like I had done with the antes.
"Look, I've got a timebomb, too!" Snicker. Hardy. And har har.
"The timebomb," I said, again nodding toward the card under the antes, "will only appear if this hand comes to a showdown. If it should explode, any card like it in any remaining hand becomes wild."
Harumph. Harumph. Chip-stacking, etc.
The betting began, the dealing continued, and we reached the final card. Two men remained, two solid players, two men who hate to lose. They bet, they called. And then they stared in fear...at the Timebomb.
The exact details of the hand escape me at the moment, but suffice it to say, the Timebomb could've really messed up one hand. The tension was fantastic. In the end, the better hand won, and chance played no role in the game.
I wanted to stand, take out my manhood, throw it on the table, and scream, "Now, that's better than half the worthless games we played tonight." But I didn't. I was overwhelmed by the mocking. I was drowned out by the noise of players stacking their chips as I had artfully done with the antes.
And so the night and the mocking continued. I maintain the game was not as bad as it seemed. Any player fearing the rath of the Timebomb could try to bet his opponent out of the game. Any player getting committed to hand could pray for the unlikely event the Timebomb would kill his opponent (odds guys, what are the odds of that happening?). There's little difference in that than waiting for the Dirty Bitch to arrive, or fearing the Ugly.
And though the mocking was enough to make a gamesmith's manhood shrink in shame, justice always finds its way home.
When I left at the end of the night, my Hold'em win stack stood above the shame.
And it stood high.<-- Hide More
In my mind, there is no poker game more pure than No Limit Texas Hold 'Em. If I'm going to put big money on the line, that's definitely the game I'm going to play.
However, when it's six buddies around a poker table in someone's living room, that's a different story. Here are some of the more interesting games I like to play:More in this Poker Blog! -->
Anaconda High-Low This has to be my personal favorite. You deal seven cards to each player and have a betting round. Each player then passes three cards to the left, and then discards two of the seven in their hand. The remaining five cards hand are laid out face down in front of each player and cards are revealed one at a time with a betting round after each card. The best high and low hands split the pot.
Ten Card Poker This is a game we invented one night, although I'm sure there are variations out there that existed long before we started playing it. This is a game that can only be played with 5 or fewer players. Each player is dealt 10 cards. The 10-card hand is then split into two five card hands and laid out face down. Each player flips a card from each had before each betting round. The best high and low hands split the pot.
Low Hole, Roll Your Own This is a variation of seven card stud. Each player is dealt three cards face down, one of which must be flipped face up. The rest of the hand is dealt like normal seven card stud. For each player, the lowest card in the hole and each one like it is wild.
That's it for me. What are your favorites?<-- Hide More
It's impossible to say what time it was. Every hour seemed to morph into the next. I'd been playing for several hours and seen dozens of different players. When the river hit and the two players in the game flipped over their hole cards, the dealer called the player to my right a winner.
As the chips started to make their way across the felt, I saw what would very soon be a problem. The pot should be chopped. As I struggled with whether I should speak up, the British woman across the table made the decision for me. Who would've thought a little woman who looked like Mrs. Doubtfire could've caused such pandamonium.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Doubtfire had just bought into the $2/$4 game for $100. She hadn't played a hand when the dealer mis-called the winner. I, however, had been sitting at the table since 1:30. My mind was working better than my eyes, so once my peepers registered the cards, I was actually playing pretty well. Still, I wasn't sure if I should talk.
Doubtfire started yelling immediately. She wasn't in the game, but she saw injustice for the young asian man.
Her accent was thick as she pointed out the split pot. The dealer agreed. It could've ended there. But Doubtfire wouldn't shut up.
"You need to wake up and smell the coffee!" she yelled, pointing in the direction of the young asian man who was not raking his half of the pot.
"Play your own hand," Nick, now half a pot lighter, muttered through an unfiltered cigarette.
"You're no gentleman!" Doubtfire was on her feet, pointing and poking in Nick's direction. She accused him of trying to steal the whole pot.
Richie the Dealer was getting visibly upset. He should've noticed the chop-chop and now his table was out of control.
Nick was about to get fired up. "I've never run an angle in my whole life, lady."
Doubtfire repeated herself with greater vehemence. "YOU'RE NO GENTLEMAN!"
That's when Nick lost control. In his best--and probably the worst I've ever heard--Irish accent he screamed across my forehead, "Well, why don't you go back to Ireland then?"
Doubtfire stood, grabbed her chips, annd racked them. Each of her next words might as well have had the last letter snipped off. "I'm not from Ireland."
She stood, wheeled around on her therapeutic shoes, and cashed in without ever playing a hand.
Over the course of the last ten hours we've watched his stack grow when the tourists get brushed in by the floorman. Each time the tourists fall for the line, "Come on in, it's just like you've seen on TV?" the young man's stack grows.
But then, each time guys with names like Charlie, Jerry, Bob, and Walt hit the table, this young man slips into painfully conservative play. He waits and waits for the nuts and only finds it once ever hour or so. But he doesn't get up. This kid just sits here and plays and plays and plays.
That kid is Otis and he's about to go on the rush of his young life.
The game had gotten very, very loose. The table consisted of Joey, Nick, Otis, Chris, Cassie, Miss Mary, and a couple of players whose name I don't remember. I had almost made the decision to get up and walk to a Pai Gow table when I peeked at my hole cards. Big Slick (A-K to poker newbies). How nice.
A raise pushed everyone but Cassie out of the pot. She re-raised and I immediately put her on a high pocket pair. It was only two bucks to call (low-limit poker can be sort of silly sometimes), so I made it six and we saw the flop.
The flop showed us a rainbow, two blanks and a queen. I bet, hoping she had jacks and will believe I have queens. Cassie raised. Yep, gotta be pocket queens. I'm screwed, but I called anyway. Cassie wasn't a great player and I was hoping she was running a very good bluff. The turn is another blank. I checked. Cassie bet. I called, pushing good money after bad and vowing to get up after the hand and call it a night with a small win.
The river came with a king. That gave me a pair, ace high. I bet, hoping again that she didn't have pocket queens and I just outdrew her.
I would've just forgotten it, but the pot was big enough to justify another four bucks. Call.
I looked at her and called her hand before she turned it over. "Pocket queens," I said, my face as dejected as it should've been.
"Yep," she said and turned them over.
I was a half-second from mucking my hand when my body rebelled and flipped over my cards.
The table exploded.
I felt the conditioned air whoosh out of the building. Cheers and screams erupted around me. I sat in a vacuum as my vision tunneled to my cards.
Sitting at a strange angle, one on top of the other, sat two kings.
It's been a few days since that happened and I still think I was holding and ace and king instead of the pocket cowboys. Some sort of poker god changed my cards at the last second.
As the table died down, my embarassment picked up. I apologized, threw a couple bucks to the dealer, and returned Cassie's last raise to her. Guilt kills me.
That hand kicked off a fantastic rush that covered all of my other gambling losses for the weekend. I played for another two hours before getting up to find my first meal of the day.
Poker was good to me during Otis' Vegas Adventure. Oddly enough, so was the rest of Vegas.
Coming up...Otis in Vegas Pt. 3...hookers, a shoe shine, and finding good karma in pai gow poker.<-- Hide More