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Poker Blog established in 2003 as the first stop for poker news, poker stories, and bad poker advice.

November 22, 2004

Scenes from an Italian French Thanksgiving poker game

by Otis

G-Rob stood at the top of his driveway staring blankly into the darkness. I was late to pick him up, but he didn't seem as annoyed as he should've been. A pair of bright high-beams shot over the top of my SUV and lit up G-Rob's face. When he climbed in, he said, "I wasn't sure it was you until I saw the bread truck pull in behind you."

The bread truck was actually The Mark's black H2 Hummer, a rumbling mass of steel and poker prowess. When BadBlood began organizing the game, he thought we would be shorthanded, so I called The Mark and asked if he wanted to play. He did.

Like a short-handed homage to the movie "Swingers", our vehicles followed each other through the night as we strained to see the street signs and fingered the rolls in our pockets.

And somewhere in the air, I smelled pig.

I really, really like me some pig.

I was wrapped up in my own thoughts. The big life-change had finally come to pass and Mrs. Otis teetered on the brink of tears. It promised--and still promises--to be a good thing, but it was going to be tough on her nonetheless.

I had initially planned to skip the game, but after a good 36-hours of good wifey time and weighing the prospect of losing a significant chunk of my live poker-playing time, I decided to go.

We three were the last to arrive and find that the short-handed game had turned into a full table. We now had eleven to sit around BadBlood's finely-appointed table. I squeezed in between G-Rob and the only female player of the night, Robin.

Occasionally, the smell of ham caught the air. I couldn't help but be distracted. I'd eat a ham sandwich off the floor if I had to.

Something was up with my nose. I kept smelling the faintest hint of body odor, as well. I'd showered just an hour before going to the game, so I didn't think it was me. Still, I couldn't help stealing a few furtive sniffs of my pit.

I don't think anyone noticed.

***

As it turned out, the host--who's last name I thought to be Italian, but later found to be of French origin--had thrown a Thanksgiving open house that afternoon. Leftovers overflowed in the kitchen, including a giant honey ham.

The rest of the evening was a blur of cards, beer, and pig. As such (and as I took no notes), I'm stuck with just a few scenes in my head, only a few of which have to deal with poker.

***

I was about even for games on BadBlood's table. I've developed a bit of a tight reputation and thought to change gears a bit. That was going to be a little tough eleven handed, but I got a chance about a half-hour into the night.

In late position, I found KJ of diamonds. BadBlood put in a modest $3 raise from middle position, I called, as did The Mark from UTG. The flop came AQ9, the A and 9 both diamonds. BadBlood made it $6 to go. At first I put him on a big queen, maybe two pair with an AQ. I had quite a draw in front of me. Any diamond gave me the nut flush. Any ten gave me a broadway straight. I decided to raise to $12. I figured, if anything, I coulld push out The Mark and play heads up with BadBlood. To my surprise, The Mark called and BadBlood pushed all-in.

Now, I had no doubt that BadBlood had flopped a set, likely of queens, but maybe of aces. Anyone who looked closely at me could've seen me counting my outs out loud. Ten diamonds plus the three non-diamond tens. Thirteen outs. I only had around $13 left in front of me. Given that The Mark would likely now call--especially if I did--that meant I'd be putting $13 in to a pot that would be around $90.

After emerging from the tank, I groaned, "God, this is a loose call."

I called as did The Mark.

We flipped up our cards. BadBlood had, indeed, made his set of queens on the flop. The Mark had flopped two pair with an A9. As I recall, both BadBlood and The Mark had a diamond in their hand. The host and one other guy said they'd folded a diamond a piece.

The turn was the five of diamonds. BadBlood's face sank. I mistakenly said, "That's the nuts." Someone quickly corrected me, pointing out that if the board paired, BadBlood would make a boat. If it paired the ace, The Mark would make his boat.

Neither happened and I tripled up.

The host applauded me, "That wasn't a loose call. That was strong, man. Strong hand."

At the time, I didn't believe him. I felt like he either didn't know what he was talking about or was trying to get me to play the same way against him. Plus, BadBlood was now in the middle of a full-scale tilt-fest. He handled himself well, but every few minutes he would mumble something about the "fucking queens." One problem I'm trying desperately to overcome is feeling sympathy for my buddies when I lay a hard beat on them.

Looking back, I think my final call was well-justified by the pot odds. However, I'm still reviewing the $12 raise I put in post-flop. I think it was a good play on a few counts.

First, BadBlood could've missed his hand completely. He might've just been being aggressive after his pre-flop raise and my raise could've made him re-think his stature on the turn. That is, if my initial raise had pushed out The Mark and left me heads up with BadBlood, he would have had to make a hand on the turn or fold to my bet.

However, that's not being very honest on my part. While hard to figure out sometimes, BadBlood is not a reckless player. My initial read that he had a big hand was correct and I'd be lying if I said I didn't think I was on thin ice when raising him. Further, The Mark is a hard one to get to lay down a hand. I likely knew that I'd be called in both places. That meant, I had to hit my hand.

Second, though, that raise might've bought me some time. Had BadBlood been a little less aggressive, I might've been able to see the river for free. Had I missed my draw on the turn, The Mark and BadBlood might've checked to me.

So, in retrospect, I'm happy with my play post-flop. Calling the raise pre-flop with KJs may be another matter, but hey, I was vowing to loosen up a bit, right?

Oh, and BadBlood got me back later in the night. I flopped two pair to his flush and straight draw. He called my all-in bet and hit his flush on the turn.

So, we're even.

***

Daniel Negreanu makes no bones about the fact that he will base some of his decision-making regarding bets, calls, and folds based on the nationality of his opponent. For instance, he'll more readily call a northern European player than he would an American.

Me, I like to know what people do for a living.

For instance, engineers are very mathematical and know the odds very well. Attorneys are performers and prone to deception. Entrepreneurs are risk-takers.

As usual, much ado was made about the way G-Rob and I scrape together our mortgage payments. During that conversation, I discovered I had no idea what the host did for a living. So, finding the open door, I asked.

"I sell heating oil," he said.

Although I wasn't involved in a hand, I went in the tank. A heating oil salesmen? What the hell does that mean?

After being quiet for several minutes, I turned to discover the host had gone to the bathroom. I remarked, much-too-truthfully, "You know, I don't even know what heating oil is."

I should know. Much hay is made in my office this time of year about heating oil prices and how high they go.

Teddy Ballgame said, "It's like diesel fuel" which I found patently hard to believe. Why in the world would the public care if diesel rices skyrocketed in the winter.

No one else could help me out and I found myself in quite a quandry. I'm no expert on anything. However, I know a little about a lot of things. Heating oil is not one of those things.

According to one website, "of the 107 million households in the United States, approximately 8.1 million use heating oil as their main heating fuel. Residential space heating is the primary use for heating oil, making the demand highly seasonal."

I don't know if this means anything or not, but I do know that the host re-bought so many times he emptied his pockets and owed BadBlood $60 by the end of the night.

***

I had two nemeses at the table--G-Rob and Missouri Josh. I only counted MO-J as a nemesis because he busted me hard four weeks earlier. G-Rob, however, has his own brand of mischief.

His greatest trick is accomplished by one of two things: Either he's picked up a massive tell of mine or he knows the odds.

It goes like this: The action comes to me. One second later, G-Rob says, "Otis folds." One second later, I fold.

So, either he knows when I'm going to fold or he knows that I fold a lot more than I call.

His next trick is less of a trick and more of a way to show the table how much he dominates me mentally. I bet, he raises. No matter what. Of course, this only works when he fnds a seat to my left and is subject to backfire.

I sat steaming most of the night as I heard his two catch phrases over and over again: "Otis bets? I raise" and "Otis folds." It only gets worse when he uses the phrases back to back in the same hand.

I vowed to bust him before the end of the night. I thought I had my chance once when I flopped top pair. I pushed all in and ran into his aces.

Otis rebuys.

Later, though, I found a pair of fives. He raised me, I called. The flop came T5x. I bet out, he raised. I called. The turn was another ten. I checked, he pushed all in. I called with my boat and took most of his chips. He had QT.

In the longrun, I think G-Rob is still up on me by a good bit, but it was fun to see him nod--quietly--and push his chips over to me.

"G-rob rebuys."

***

When the evening ended after seven hours of poker, I found myself down only four dollars. G-Rob had dropped about $50. The Mark had raked in more than $200. It would've been more than that but he made a really loose call on the second to last hand of the night that cost him a lot of his chips.

Four bucks for an evening of entertainment?

Yeah, I'll take it.

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