There were only two ways you would know I was sitting in a mexican eatery. First, there was a basket of corn chips and salsa sitting next to my monster beer. Second, two Hispanic guys sat behind the bar intently watching Univision on the big screen TV. With those two exceptions, the basement restaurant looked almost exactly like it did when it was an Italian spot a few years ago.
Olympic Boxing had been on TV when I came in. I found myself thinking that any sport broadcast in Spanish sounds like soccer if you're not watching the screen.
G-Rob was there waiting when I walked in. He'd already downed half his beer before I walked in six minutes late. We figured a big beer from The Cactus would do us well before we venutred across the street to what I'd started thinking of as The Quilt (QLHT--Questionably Legal Hotel Tourney) hosted by fellow poker blogger, BadBlood.
I'd been out of live poker commission for the two weeks since my kid had been born. I'd missed out on four games at The Mark (formerly known as The State Park game), a Greenwood tourney, and a trip to Tunica. I was stoked, rowdy, and a little nervous.
And I had to pee.
In the bathroom, one urinal had been ripped off the wall and there weren't any paper towels in the dispenser. The restaurant had certainly seen better days. Me? I'm trying to work up my confidence, holding my whang and going over hypothetical hands in my head.
When I came back to the bar, G-Rob was interested in the TV. Moreover, he was interested in the tanned, buxon women gyrating in bikinis.
"This is a good show," he said. We'd been talking about novelist Christopher Moore. G-Rob's remark reminded me of something Biff, or better yet, Coyote, would say.
One of the Hispanic guys said, "Caliente."
I don't know why I felt the need to translate, but I looked at G-Rob and said, "Hot."
He raised his eyebrows as if to say, "Indeed," and went back to watching. When the announcer's voice went through a machine gun rattle of words ending with "Caliente!" G-Rob looked suprised.
"Oh, the show is called Caliente?" He though the guy had just been commenting on the women.
My phone rang and I noticed it was BadBlood on the line. He was calling to give us the name of the suite where the tourney would be held.
G-Rob and I finished our beers, said "Gracias" to the guys at the bar, and headed for the door.
"Caliente," I said.
BadBlood had extended the invitation a couple of weeks before. I'd been dying to make it, but was unsure if I could due to baby-producing factors. When I finally got the all-clear, I mentally prepared for a good showing.
26 players in a hotel conference room.
$50 buy-in with no rebuy.
Four tables covered in Green table cloths.
A couple cases of beer
$100T in chips
50 minute levels beginning at $1/$2 with a ten minute break at each increase
Top five finishers get paid.
The room was largely full of unknowns to me. I knew Teddy "Tight" Ballgame, the Rankster, Emerald City Derrick, Greenwood Phil, Tatwood, G-Rob, and BadBlood. The other 18 players were wild cards. I sized them up one by one, judging each card-holding book by its cover.
I got set the Diamond Table with this motley crew:
Seat One: Brad A-hat (not short for asshat, by the way)
Seat Two: David the Mute
Seat Three: Danny C-Gar
Seat Four: Otis (Otis LOVES drawing this seat by the way)
Seat Five: G-Rob
Seat Six: Mr. I'm going to get creamed by BadBlood's quads so soon that I didn't have time to properly introduce myself.
Seat Seven: BadBlood
Seat Eight: Stevie Broomcorn
I already knew BadBlood was the table favorite. I knew G-Rob would be loose, even though I told him to play tight. I figured Brad A-Hat and David the Mute for solid players and the rest of the guys to be middle of the road to poor. My pre-game predictions had BadBloood, Brad A-Hat, and me leaving the table alive.
I was wrong.
Memorable Hand #1--
During the first level, I'd done my best to establish myself as a tight player. I'd done everything I could, including proclaiming "TIGHT!" every time I raised (times that were very few and far between). I was within seconds of breaking out the old "tight as a 16-year old cheerleader" line when I looked down and saw pocket jacks.
I barely had the words out of my mouth when G-Rob announced, "Raise."
Maybe he hadn't heard me. See, I had said, "Raise." By that I meant, "Get the hell out of my way, because I'm tight, see, and when I raise I have a hand that will make yours look like a kid who pissed his pants at recess. Move over."
Before I could get a read on G-Rob's re-raise, Brad A-Hat had called. I pondered the hand for a couple of seconds and simply called. I put G-Rob on a big ace (likely AK) and Brad A-Hat on tens.
The flop was as ugly as it could be. Three hearts (I didn't have a heart) and an ace. I thought for a moment about betting out and trying to scare off the competition, but it was early and I hated the hearts and an overcard.
I checked, G-Rob bet, A-hat called, I folded.
The turn was a blank and the river brought another heart.
G-Rob turned up A8o. A-hat turned up A9o. A-hat's nine was a heart and he raked the pot.
To review: G-Rob re-raised with a naked ace and A-Hat called a re-raise with a naked ace.
I thought about turning to G-Rob and asking him if he remembered me telling him to play tight, but decided to wait for another time.
Later, G-Rob forced David the Mute (a man who in an earlier hand didn't re-raise on the river with the stone cold nuts) to lay down a hand and later claimed to be holding 37o. I still don't believe it.
Memorable Hand #2--
One thing that's not all that fun is to establish yourself as a rock then immediately find pocket aces. That's what I did.
I wasn't entirely sure how to make the most of the hand and immediately cursed myself for a raise that seemed too small the minute my chips hit the felt. I double cursed myself when I got two callers, Brad A-Hat and Danny C-Gar.
The flop was ragged as hell and ten-high. I loved the flop until A-Hat announced he was all in. C-Gar folded and it was to me. If I called him and lost I would be nearly out of chips.
I went in the tank and thought. First, A-Hat established early on that he was happy to almost play Any Two Cards. It had served him well on a couple of hands but in recent minutes he'd been floundering and was running out of chips. Second, an all-in bet seemed a little excessive if he'd flopped a set of tens. That left two possible hands as far as I was concerned. I fgured he either had AT or had flopped a ragged two-pair.
I returned from the tank, counted out more than 2/3 of my stack and called.
A-Hat turned up K6o for a king-high stone-cold, risking his tourament life bluff that ran smack dab into my two aces...which held up beautifully.
BadBlood started laughing at me for taking so long to call with aces.
I reiterated, "Tight," but in my head I was thinking...caliente.
Memorable Hand #3--
I knew it would happen eventually, although I had been purposefully avoiding it. I got into a hand with BadBlood.
Not too long after my pocket aces, I found snowmen, 88, in middle position. I raised (altough not very big, as I recall) and BadBlood cold-called.
The flop: JJT.
I believe I checked the flop, fearing that BadBlood might've cold-called with AJ or AT on the button. He checked as well. The turn was a blank. The river, another jack.
At this point, I don't figure BB for a ten, jack, or big pair anymore. He woud've made me pay for that. So, there I sat with jacks full of eights. It's not a hand I'm willing to risk my tourney on, but I start to think it's good and bet it. BB called and turned over pocket nines, the only hand I didn't consider that could've beat me.
He said he'd put me on a big ace. I couldn't tell if my eights scared him or confirmed what he probably believed all along: I was playing too tight for my own good. If my preflop raise had been a little bigger and I had been aggressive on the flop, I think I could've won the hand.
With that, I went into the second break with nearly the same amount of starting chips I had to start the touramament.
The third level began with...
Memorable Hand #4--AKA, How I Own Super:System but apparently don't apply it in my play
By this point, Greenwood Phil had been moved to our table and to A-Hat's seat. Phil is a helluva player and one of few in the room I believed could tangle with BadBlood.
I was enjoying the tournament and while I wished I had doubled up by the third level, I figured I could make a move shortly as some stacks started to dwindle.
Enter...the Hilton Sisters.
I found them under the gun and raised. Looking back, I think my raises were much too small to garner any respect. Online, I always feel very comfortable with the size of my raises. With the blinds at $5/$10, I should've raised at least to $30, but if memory serves, I only bet $20.
Greenwood Phil called, which worried me a little. However, as he had only called , I figured him for jacks or perhaps a big ace. Danny C-Gar--without hestiation--re-raised.
For a moment, let's consider what Brunson has to say about pocket queens. First, while he groups AA, KK, and AK together for a chapter and other pairs together for another chapter, he talks about QQ on its own. Why?
"...because it's a particular hand that deserves sepcial treatment," he writes.
Here is the wisdom of Brunson: He'll raise from almost any position with QQ, because it is, in fact, a good hand. However, if he is re-raised he'll simply call. And if he has raised and someone wants to put him all-in, he likely won't do it unless it is an unusual situation.
Here's what he has to say about going all-in pre-flop with QQ:
"If you get called you'll usuallly be up against AA, KK, or AK...in which case you'll be a big dog or just a small favorite. You can pick a better spot than that to get all your money in." --Doyle Brunson
Most people see Brunson as a hyper-aggressive player with a hyper-aggressive strategy. However, the above statement is fairly conservative.
And so there I sat. Dannt C-Gar hadn't won a great many hands and those he had won hadn't been too spectacualr. When someone asked him why he had brought a cigar that sat near his chips, he'd seemingly been honest. "Just to look cool, I guess," he said.
At one point I had asked if he planned for it to be a victory cigar. He had said no.
Still, there I sat with my raise on the board, a call from a strong player, and a moderate re-raise.
Doyle would've cold-called amd hoped for the queen on a the flop. If it didn't come, he'd play conservatively until after the turn.
And what do do?
Of course. I did what any novice to intermediate player would do in such a situation.
"I'm all in," I said sounding as confident as I possibly could.
I figured Greenwood Phil would lay down his hand. He's smart enough to know that I rarely bluff and when I do, it's not going to be against a solid player like him. But Danny C-Gar, I was worried about.
C-Gar went in the tank. I immediately started wishing he'd just fold. Reality started to set in.
C-Gar awoke and announced, "Okay, I'll play."
Before he had a chance to turn over his hand, I said "I think we're going to be racing."
Sure enough, there it was: AK of diamonds.
BadBlood tired to offer some drama by becoming Mike Sexton and saying something about the classic race. But I knew before the flop hit that I was done.
The ace came off on the flop. An overkill king came on the turn. Neither of my two outs materialized and I was bounced.
And so there I was. Out in 17th place, way out of the money, and looking for some reassurance.
In my head I said, "That's poker. He gambled and won." I looked to BadBlood to tell me the same thing, but he didn't.
I rapped the table with my knuckles and stood up in search of a side game. I found one quickly and lost $20 in a titlting hurry to a guy who looked like Amir Vahedi.
I stumbled out into the lobby for some fresh air but didn't find any. I went back into the conference room and looked for someone to tell me I got unlucky. But no one did.
It was only on the way home that Brunson started ringing in the back of my head. What was that he said about Queens being a different kind of pair?
I barely had time to say hello to my wife and kid before running to pull Super:System off the nightstand.
Yep, there it is in black and white: Otis, you're a damned fool for playing your queens like that.
I laid awake most of the night, running the hand over and over again in my head. Had I simply called the raise, I would've folded when C-Gar bet the ace on the flop. I still would've lost but I would've not lost everything.
My poor play resulted in my buy-in becoming a $50 lesson in how to remember what I've read.
Now, I'm 45 minutes from beginning the Monty Memorial.
I'm hoping thic post served as some sort of catharsis and I can get back on the horse. Otherwise, I'm going to declare myself Poker Bitch and find some nice hiatus hole.