The shiny, tinkling noisemakers dangled from my fingers. The pads of my fingers barely grasped the red plastic that served as the handle. I set my eyes on an invisible point in mid-air, took a single breath, held it, pitched and released.
In this game, friends, the tension is so great, you can only hope exhaling will bring oxygen back to your brain. And if it doesn't, the best you can hope for is a quiet, easy death void of shame.
I barely missed my prediction that I would bust out in 91st place of the WPBT V tournament on Poker Stars. I lasted until 96th before going on a short-stacked blind steal with a weak ace. The small blind called with pocket nines and I didn't improve.
I told myself I was playnig to win and I needed to double up twice to be in contention. In my heart, though, I knew I had been outplayed by Doubleas on a hand two orbits ago. And I was despondent.
I started well, with my raises getting little respect pre-flop, but serious respect post-flop. I had built my stack up to a little more than average with a combination of strong starting hands and aggressive post-flop play. At one point, I limped in with A3 and caught two pair on the flop. I slowed played it until the river before finding myself in the unenviable position of having to call an all-in bet with it. After much hemming and hawing, I made the call, hoping my opponent had a big ace with an unpaired kicker. As it turned out, he, too, had A3.
My heart actually beat a little bit after that.
When you're standing at the end of a long hallway, your keys dangling from your hand, begging to be thrown on an arc of victory, your mind tends to go somewhere else. Before you stop breathing entirely, your lungs regulate the oxygen flow in a "just-so" manner that keeps you standing but calm.
Three bad things can happen:
You can mishandle your throw and risk termination for destroying company property.
You can impale someone in the temple (it's worse when it is the General Manager).
You can disqualify yourself and, as such, lose.
This, friends, is a game called Keyshoes.
The pentultimate hand of my demise in the WPBT V was against Doubleas.
He'd been playing fairly aggressively both pre and post-flop. Seeing any flop on the cheap was impossible if he was in the hand. Missing the flop was the worse possible thing that could happen. Whether he had it, whether he was in position, whether he had a read on you, you weren't going to win the hand without wanting to call your mommy first.
I had tangled with him on one previous hand in which I flopped trips with KT (KKQ on the flop). I slowed-played it. In retropect, it was a bad decision. When an A fell on the river (I forget the turn), Doubleas went all in. I had to call. He turned up K7 or K8. Had I pushed earlier, he probably would've called, but maybe not. Regardless, we split the pot.
I had chipped myself down on a couple of bad pre-flop calls, and sat just below my starting stack. I was angry, because in the minutes before I had been about 30th in chips out of 120-something.
As usual, Doubleas raised pre-flop, I re-raised with AKo. He called. The board had more rags in it than a Detroit Grease Monkey. It was eight-high as I recall.
He checked to me and I barely thought before firing off a near pot-sized bet. I was still tilting a little from the chopped pot ealier. And, after all, he had raised pre-flop, but only called my re-raise. I figured, at best he had AK or AQ, maybe a small pocket pair.
Doubleas broke my heart with an over-the-top all-in check-raise that would've put me out if I called.
I went in the tank.
Half of me still thought he had two overs, but that sinking "I want to keep playing" part of me feared he had 99, or worse had flopped a set of eights.
So, it was either hope he was aggressively playing overs (which is all I had), or hope he had 99 and hope I could catch one of my six remaining outs. Or, fold, and be left with around 900 chips.
And I still hate myself.
My co-workers and I created Keyshoes as a way to pass the time and add some spice to our relatively dull working lives.
The rules are fairly simple: Start at one end of the hallway, toss your car keys to the other end without hitting the ceiling or wall, closest to the door at the end--without hitting it--wins. Walk to the other end of the hallway, repeat. If the first winning player wins again, he wins the PM Magazine Coffee Cup trophy.
It is not a game without its dangers. There are many blind entrances to the hallway and anyone could walk into the line of fire at any moment. Managers roam the building at odd times and could end up with a house key stuck in their crotch. Exposed lighting is vulnerable to shattering on a mishandled throw. What's more, it's human nature to pick up keys you see left sitting unattended and many a Good Samaritan has come close to get clocked while trying to do a good deed.
Last night, I became a railbird much earlier than I hoped I would. The sheer humiliation of only being able to take part in the accompanying Yahoo! chat made me want to quit poker forev....well, at least for the night.
I went downstairs and watched the rest of the St. Louis game, returning to the computer between innnings to cheer on my fellow bloggers (Congrats to MtDewVirus and ToddCommissh for winning one for the bloggers).
I hate myself.
As I sit at work now, the PM Magazine Cup sits next to my computer screen, a token of my extreme superiority over my co-workers in a game of skill, chance, and danger.
At least I'm good at something.