I sat on stage with a group of guinea pigs. The small-stage-college-crowd hypnotist worked us like a pro. Maybe it was the beer, maybe it was something supernatural, but I found myself slipping into a state of euphoria that made me want to do whatever the guy said. Act like Batman? I'll act like Batman. Why not?
The crowd ate up the silliness like the peanuts on their bar tables. Their cheers and laughs fed my euphoria. I was 22, having a fine time and willing to play the fool. Hypnotized? I dunno.
Before too long, I found myself ripping off my shirt and dancing to some cheap techno music. The crowd cheered, I danced, and followed the suggestions of the short man with the deep eyes.
The din of the crowd became a roar and I found my hands slipping to my pants, popping the button, unzipping the zipper. The hypnotist had made no such suggestion. It simply seemed like the right thing to do.
As I turned to face the crowd and reveal what I had to offer, I felt a hand on my arm, a grip that was much too tight, fingers sinking into my flesh, and the decidely unsupernatural breath of the hypnotist. His breath was in my ear and the calm, soothing hynotizing voice was gone. I heard pure anger. Each word was articulated, a slap against my swimmy head.
"Keep. Your. Fucking. Pants. On"
My near-nude experience signalled the end of the act. The crowd's applause led me out of the comedy club and into an adjacent dance club where my friends were waiting for me.
My synapses were in the middle of an epic battle. The beer and euphoria were throwing haymakers. The echo of the hypnotist's final words to me were fighting back. Something inside my head was, in a word, off.
I tried to shake the hypnotist's unmistakable anger, the moment of fear he mainlined into my psyche. There was a part of me that knew that if the hypnotist had the chance, he would've sliced my throat and watched me bleed out on the stage.
The club hopped, bumped, yay, grinded in time with pre-produced college dance music. I downed drink after drink, trying to forget the angry eyes and sick breath in my ear. I found myself dancing, hip-to-hip with some girl, side-by-side with my buddy, Joey Two-Hands. I was starting to feel better, starting to feel like the hypnotist wasn't actually waiting for me in the john, a sharp knife in his hands.
Who was this guy? This redneck with no shirt elbowing me in my side, pushing me inch-by-inch away from the girl who had chosen to dance with me? What the fuck is on his mind?
My beer goggles became blinders. I didn't see what was coming. I scooted over, dancing the girl with me, never the one interested in throwing down and getting bloody.
The guy was back, elbowing, pushing.
Was this the hypnotist, somehow immediately reincarnated into a 6'3" redneck with beer-breath and blurry eyes?
I turned away from the girl and my vision tunnelled to the redneck.
I only said, "What?"
He must've learned his lines from his collection of redneck beer-drinking fight videos.
"You want some? Outside?"
I offered, "I'm not going outside."
He smiled and said, "Take one step forward."
And I did.
His first punch hit me square in the mouth. My friends would tell me later they saw my right hand cock back at the same moment the redneck and his two friends jumped on me.
Joey Two-Hands jumped in just as one of the rednecks threw a bar table. It caught Joey right in eye, cutting him open, dropping his blood on the dance floor.
As the bouncers chased the rednecks into the street, my friends pulled me up. My face was starting to swell, but Two-Hands had suffered the worst of it. He needed stitches and an apology. The hospital gave him the former, I offered the latter later that night.
It wasn't until many days later I stopped asking, "What the hell happened?"
Last night, after watching the World Poker Tour's Aruba episode, I decided to play a few rounds. When I got bounced from a $30+$3 NL Sit-N-Go on Empire on the second hand, I should've gone to bed. When I bought back into a second like tourney and got bounced on the first hand, I should've gone to a bar. When I switched sites and went over to True Poker and my trips got beat by a hidden boat, bouncing me in 27th out of 35, I should've decided not to play poker for three days.
But I didn't.
I did exactly what I've always said I had the discipline not to do. I went up in limits. Something in my head was, in a word, off.
I sat at a $5/$10 ring game on True. I noticed that a guy two to my left, vietguy, was playing loose. Beyond loose. He was capping nearly every bet. He played every hand and rarely folded before the flop. I was sure, with the right discipline, I could take his $250 buy-in.
The game moved slowly for half an hour or so. Vietguy's buy-in trickled to nothing and he bought back in, still slinging chips, capping pots. That's when it happened.
My pocket aces got cracked by two running diamonds for a flush. Ten hands later, my pocket aces got cracked by two running hearts. Big Slick held up for a small pot. But then my pocket queens got cracked by vietguy's 6-4. He pulled a six on the turn and a four on the river.
Something in my head said at that moment, "This is not poker. It's slots. You're not playing against vietguy. He's not playing poker. He's throwing chips in, hoping to catch a big pot. This table is a slot machine and you're losing."
I didn't listen to myself.
I started trying to figure out if he was working with somebody at the table, building pots for their hands. I watched and watched but couldn't find the evidence to send to the host.
It was poker slots and I was losing.
I looked at my previously strong bankroll and noticed how bloody it was. He cracked my kings several hands later and I fell apart.
All poker sense I had slipped away. I can't account for about half an hour. All I know is that I had lost half my roll and I couldn't see or breathe anymore.
The last hand of the night for me was pocket jacks. We capped pre-flop. The flop brought me a jack and two rags.
We capped the flop. The turn brought another rag. We capped it, too.
The river came with an ace. We capped it.
Vietguy dragged a $257 pot with a set of aces.
I pushed back from the computer and stared at my bankroll. I said out loud, "What the hell happened?"
This morning, I still don't know for sure. I only know that I should've walked away four hours earlier. I should've quit. I never should've jumped up in limits. And I should've had a better understanding of variance before I tried to take on a guy who played poker slots.
I took some solace this morning in Hdouble's post on poker, why we play, and what it says about us as players. It helped me set my head straight, but I'm not sure I need to be playing for a while.
Before I went to bed, I took my bankroll at True and cashed out. My Empire bankroll is still intact. I'm not broke. I'm still way up from my fresh start last February. But as the song goes, I ain't broke, but I am badly bent.
I have a homegame this Saturday and then the World Poker Blogger Tour III on Sunday. Hopefully that kind of play, the fun kind, the kind that serves as the reason we play, will rejuvinate me.
But this morning, I feel a lot like I did the night of the hypnotized beat-down. And I'm still asking, "What the hell happened?"
You think there's any chance that vietguy was actually that hypnotist exacting revenge?