"Sir, you should know, the heads have to be cleaned every six months."
Who is this guy?
That's what I was thinking. Who is this 22 year-old guy trying to sell me an extended warranty on a video camera? I didn't buy an extended warranty on my car.
Who is this guy?
"You'll be replacing this battery every year, and the warranty covers battery replacement." The sales pitch was sad in its relentlessness.
"You can stop," I said. "Just give me what I want."
The Best Buy kid walked away, dejected, collecting the firewire, digital video camera, and tapes. I felt the slightest taste of victory in watching him work.
And then it hit me like a drunk's suckerpunch.
Just look at yourself, Otis. Look what you've become.
It was like I was watching myself through one of the store's security cameras. Or better yet, one of those films they used to show in high school. This one was titled, "The Anthropology of the Man Nearing Fatherhood."
However, to me, I saw it as a Animal Plant show, like the "Alligator Hunter."
Painfully Austrailian voice track: "Crikee, mates, we've found one. Look down there in the video cameras. That's his natural habitat. See, that round woman beside him. She's carrying his young . Crikee! Looks like it could come out any day, doesn't it? Now, watch as he spends way too much money on a piece of electronic equipment that he'll only use use to shoot video of a baby that only the grandparents will want to see! If you keep a close eye on him, you'll see him asking another more experienced man to help him put in a thing called a "child safety seat." That SUV doesn't look so manly now, does it, mates?"
And that was the first half of my day.
I was on my way to get a haircut, hopefully the result of which would be two-fold. First, after a day of looking like the American prototype for the "Almost Dad", I needed a fresh look. Maybe all those people who saw me wouldn't recognize me as the guy that just dropped $700 on a piece of video equipment. Secondly, while the last two weeks have been very kind to me online, the last couple of days had not and Mene Gene has some interesting ideas about the success of poker players relative to their haircut. It was worth a try.
However, much like Mean Gene's plight, the girl who guts my hair was busy and I was left with a free afternoon.
That's when the voice in my head started again.
"Hey, Otis, check your voicemail, man."
Sure enough, there it was. An invitation to a $100 buy-in tourney at the State Park Game, now known simply as The Mark.
We should begin with an admission here.
I am not a wealthy man.
I should not be spending hundreds of dollars on a video camera. What's more, I shouldn't be buying into $100 tournaments at The Mark right now. My online bankroll is up several thousand dollars, but my home bankroll had sunk below $800.
But Mrs. Otis, on the edge of labor, had some things to do and I had some time to kill.
Of course, you know what I did...
When I arrived at The Mark, only a few others had shown up. This was not like the Friday night games I've written about in the past, where the booze fuels all-in bets and you can never be sure if your opponent has low pair or a royal.
Saturday, the boys were drinking iced tea (one and half cups of sugar per pitcher, according to the host's wife). The cars in the drive were Hummers and Corvettes. This was not a night of drinking, crapshoot cards. This was going to be an afternoon of serious poker.
Flush Eddie was jonesing to play. "How about some $4/$8 until everybody gets here?"
It was a five-handed game. We each bought in for $40. My AQ helded up for a boat against Mark's trip Queens. AK paired an ace on the board to snuff Flush Eddie's pocket jacks. Within 40 minutes I had won my buy-in to the tourney, plus enough to buy dinner later that night.
It was then I decided the title to this post: Freerolling at The Mark.
Since I was playing for free, I relaxed a little. The double-shot of Absolut I had poured into my limeade soothed the nerves a little more. I felt my game coming on.
Mark surprised me by setting up the tourney the way I like them. Unlike Friday night games where each chip is valued the same, players pick their own seats, and the blinds are run off an egg-timer, Mark had gone the extra yard and set up the tourney as follows:
A $100 buy in gets you $3000 in tournament chips. Levels begain at $10/$20 and increase every 20 minutes as monitored by his freshly downloaded Poker Clock (incidentally, I was introduced to Poker Clock by the Greenwood Crew, and if you have't used it for your home tourneys yet, you are really missing out). Rebuys are $100 and will get you $2500T if you bust out in the first four levels. Payout: 80% to first place, 20% to second (again, a little top-heavy for my taste, but that's the way the majority ruled).
We had nine players around Mark's nice new table. $900 sat in the pot. I looked around the table to my left.
1) Flush Eddie, the red-Hummer driving niceguy who suggested the $4/$8 game
2) The Captain, the Captain Morgan fan who I'd never seen before.
3) Mark, the black-Hummer driving host of the game.
4) Brian, an easily-respected visor-wearing player who plays at almost every game at The Mark, big or small.
5) I'll call this guy Not-Gary, becuase he reminded me a lot of one of my best friends from Missouri, but that wasn't his name
6) Chuck Sneer. I dubbed him, at first, The Sneer, because he can look downright menacing behind a set of shades. Later, I learned his name was Chuck and decided he was too nice of a guy to only call him The Sneer.
7) Juan Corona, the Corona-sharing stickler for detail
8) Nick, the tanning business operator
My first four hands should've indicated to me that I should run to my car, grab a notebook, and start taking notes. In four hands, I was dealt 66, 77, and TT, all of which made sets on the flop. I don't think anyone called any of these to the river, but I raked a healthy amount of chips nonetheless.
In the first two levels, I never fell below my original $3000T. The table had started to joke, because my Queens were holidng up almost every time I had them. If I held a Queen in my hand, no matter how small the kicker, it held up.
As a result, I got cocky.
I limped in with Q5o in late position and a Q came on the flop with no overcards. I bet out and Chuck Sneer cold called. Curious. The turn was a blank, I bet out, he cold-called again. Very curious. I put him on a Q with a weak kicker. There wasn't much of a draw on the board. The river spiked what I figured was the case queen. I put out a large bet, expecting Chuck Sneer to fold. He did me one better and put in a huge raise.
That was when The Sneer came into play. I tried to look into him. I wanted to see his kicker. After a couple of minutes of serious thought, I mucked my hand, turning up the queen. The table couldn't believe I had laid it down. At the time, I felt okay about the laydown, and was only mad at myself for playing Q5o in the first place. Later, though, as I started watching how Chuck played, I realized that river raise was only a playing device for him. Eventually, someone he put on a weak flush called one of the river raises with a big flush. It was then I realized Chuck probably didn't have the fourth Queen and had bluffed me something fierce.
While demoralizing, it was not a huge defeat for me. I had developed a certain amount of respect at the table and was using it to my advantage. I worried, though, that the weakness I showed with my queen trips would start to hurt me.
That's when it happened...
One hand before the rebuy period was over, I found KK in the big blind. Brian came in for a big raise and got called by Not-Gary. I raise, Brian went all in, Not-Gary called his all-in and went all in himself.
And there sat my pocket cowboys looking back at me with a look of terror, truly unbefitting of their name. Couple of complete wussies, if you ask me.
They actually looked up at me from their spot on the felt and said, "Fold us. We're weak. One of those two guys has aces and we'll lose. It's SAD for cowboys to lose."
I actually thought about Hellmuth for a second, when he called the ESPN crew over during the WSOP and told them how monumental it was that he folded his KK. I looked around for someone to brag to that I was about to lay down pocket kings pre-flop.
Then one of the kings looked up at me and winked. "Just kiddin', bud. Call their asses."
I called, but still not sure of myself completely, told the two other players, 'Show me your aces."
And they did. Unfortunately for them, they needed to combine their hands to have pocket aces. Both of them showed AJ. Both of them.
The flop came all little cards.
"No aces..." I muttered.
Nick looked up at me and said, "I folded one of them."
After the turn came with another blank, that meant there was one card left in the deck that could beat me.
And it didn't come.
The cowboys held up and my stack sat at ~$14,000T going into the first break.
The first break also indicated the end of the rebuy period. Mark, Brian, and Not-Gary had rebought, Nick had busted out and decided he was finished.
That put the total prize pool at $1200.
I called Mrs. Otis to make sure she wasn't in labor. She asked how I was doing, and I said well, as long as the baby doesn't come while I'm playing.
After the break, even with the rebuys, it started to go quickly. I busted out a couple of players, so did Flush Eddie.
Before long, we were down to four: Otis, Flush Eddie, Not-Gary, and Chuck Sneer.
I found AQ in late position, and felt ever-so-slightly uncomfortable calling Chuck's raise. I felt my hand was good, but when he bet out after an ace came on the flop, I started to feel like he might have AK. I raised to see where I was in the hand and Chuck re-raised all in.
I thought for about 30 seconds. I felt like he likely had AK, but if he didn't, I could bust him and get it down to three players.
I called and Chuck turned up a familiar hand. AJ, the same hand I had busted Brian and Not-Gary on. He didn't improve, shook my hand, and took off.
I was pretty close to Flush Eddie in chip position, but I sort of felt like he was a little ahead. Not-Gary was not quite short-stacked, but he was obviously in third place.
He played a good tight-aggressive game throughout thetournament and it served him well, even when we got shorthanded. He even started to build his stack a little bit. That's when my money-clip started talking.
"Just say the word, 'deal', man. They'll take it. Nobody is here for the glory. Split it three ways."
But I couldn't make myself do it. Even though I was playing for free, even though busting out on the bubble would kill my faith in the game of poker, I couldn't make myself offer a deal with three players left.
We played three-handed for about 30 minutes. Everybody played tight, not wanting to give up too much.
"The big hand is coming," Not-Gary said.
He was right.
I was in the small blind and hadn't yet looked at my cards when Not-Gary, from the button raised the amount of the pot. I started to mutter something about him being a thief, but chose to look at my cards instead.
The boys were back.
"Hey, Otis," the cowboys waved. "Feel like folding us this time, pussy?"
I looked at Not-Gary, "How much do you have left?"
He counted it out confidently , "About $4500T."
If I lost, I would be the table's shortstack and in danger of the bubble. If I won, I was in the money. I still had Flush Eddie behind me, but didn't think for more than a couple of seconds before announcing I was all in.
Eddie folded immediately and Not-Gary called, flipping up A3 of hearts.
The cowboys looked proud.
To make them prouder, one of their buddies came on the flop and Not-Gary was, in essence, drawing dead the rest of the way.
We were down to two.
I started trying to count Flush Eddie's chips and noticed he was doing the same thing to me. We both came to the same conclusion about the same time, but Eddie was first to speak: "Mark, how much is in the pot?"
Mark was at the end of the table experiementing with Poker Clock.
"Want to chop it?" Eddie asked.
I did the math in my head and realized that with my win in $4/$8 before the game and half the $1200 pot, I had just paid for my new video camera.
I only had to say, "Yep" and Mark put $600 in my hand.
Eddie and I counted out our chips just for the fun of it. I had him outchipped by about $3000T, which once heads up play begins is not a significant margin. I could've played for several more hours and lost. I'd take my share of first... in a second.
You know, I try to play it cool when I win. No jumping around, fist-pumping, point and poke maneuvers for me. Still, winning makes my balls feel like they are the size of honeydew melons. Winning makes me feel like I could impregnate a new woman every day. Winning makes my shoulders huge and my head clear. The endorphins and adrenaline that course through the bloodstream have to be equivalent to some sort of drug.
While I have been occasionally posting $1000 days on Empire, I rarely return from home games with a significant roll of cash.
So, it was hard to play it too cool when I got home and Mrs. Otis asked how I did. I just tossed her the roll and told her to count it.
She obliged me and played the role of the impressed wife very well.
Today, my back is a little sore from sitting at the table for hours yesterday. My new video camera is charged up and ready to play with. And the lawn needs to be mowed.
Cue the Austrailian guy again: "There he is again, mates. Back in his den. Look how big his testicles have grown in the last 24 hours! Crikee! But don't get too used to that, mates. As soon as he starts mowing the yard, he'll be all normal again."