I'm writing about this so the nightmares stop.
Why don't we touch the hot stove anymore? Is it because our parents told us not to? Of course not. It's because we touched the hot stove anyway and we got burned. Or, in terms some of you may understand better, why don't we sleep with the drunk, loose skank at the end of the bar? It's because we did it once and we'll never forget that burning feeling either.
Pain is the world's greatest teacher. Without pain, we learn nothing. The pain I felt yesterday will stick with me for a long time.
"Live straddle," the dealer called out.
As the cards went around the table, I was telling the story of the last time I straddled and how badly it went.
"As long as I don't get pocket Kings again, I should be okay," I told them. It was a good table. The people liked to talk, and since I really liked to talk, I fit right in.
"I'll raise." The old man to my left made it $20. It was a strange raise considering my straddle already made it $10. Two other players called before it got back around to me. I looked down at pocket Kings.
"Changing up your luck?" the player on my right asked me after I put out my straddle.
"Yeah." I had run my $300 stack up to near a thousand in about two hours but I was in a rut. And I don't like ruts.
"Little something to change things up. I'm pretty superstitious. Hell," I told him, "I have a box with 'Luck' written on it."
The new UTG player bought in short and talked a good game, but he had folded almost every hand. This time, he raised my straddle to $30. It was folded around to me and I looked down at two black Kings.
"Raise," I said, putting $70 in the pot. He didn't have much more than that and I figured there was a good chance it was going into the pot.
"I'm all-in." He pushed in his remaining $65. I nearly beat him there.
The dealer laid down the flop and there was a K in the door. When she finished sliding it out, the flop was K42 rainbow.
"I just need a 3 and a 5," he said. It was obvious he had an ace, but I liked my spot. I went from a 71% favorite to a 97% favorite, although I've never been that good playing from ahead.
The turn was a 3. The river was a 5. The straddle did not change my luck.
Poker players need short memories. Mine's not nearly short enough. There was $77 on the table when it got back to me and three other players in the pot. With pocket Kings, the play here should have been a raise. I merely called. I still don't know why.
The flop came down 963 rainbow. I could hardly complain about that flop. I checked. I tell myself now that it was because I was going to check-raise. There couldn't have been any other reason for a check, right?
The tight old man fired out $100 into an $87 pot. If he was playing on Full Tilt, he'd be an animated rock. He had amassed a stack nearly equal to mine after two people bet into his nut flush. Everyone else at the table knew what he had.
As quickly as the old man bet, the next guy in the pot pushed all in for $285. I hadn't really taken the time to assess why the old man made his bet before the push happened. Now I was processing the second move. All the while, I was thinking about my pocket Kings.
I started to tell myself, "You're either laying down right here or you're playing this hand for all your chips. You can not call and fold. It's not an option."
It didn't take long for the old man to go all in. He had about $950 in front of him. I had him slightly covered. If I was following my own advice, I was calling. But I stopped. I started to think about the laydown. Sometimes making the right laydown is as important as making the right call.
I hadn't been there long and I was faced with my first test. Holding the six and three of hearts, I limped from late position and called a min-raise from the small blind. The flop came down 5h2h5c. I flopped a gutshot straight flush draw. I didn't plan on laying this hand down.
With $50 in the pot, the SB fired out a pot-sized bet. Frankly, I didn't think there was much chance this flop hit him. He played a lot of hands, but when he did, they were usually big cards or pocket pairs. If he had pocket 5s or pocket 2s, I doubt he would have bet $50.
I called. The turn was a 3. It didn't fill my straight or my flush, but it did give me another way to win the hand. In fact, I thought there was a good chance I was ahead right there. He checked and I checked behind him.
The river was another 3. The small blind bet $200.
I was concerned. I played the hand back over in my head and tried to put the puzzle together. Did he have a 5? Was he playing something like A5s? It just didn't fit. Not with the pre-flop raise and not with the check on the turn.
"If you have the five, I'm beat," I said, pushing $200 into the pot.
"I don't have a five," he said, flipping over QJo. It was a good start to the day.
"Great call," I heard from a couple players at the table.
"Thanks," I said, "too often I make the wrong laydown. And I almost did it there."
There was now about $1600 in the pot and needed to call another $675. There was a strong possibility that my Kings were good. It was logical to think the original raiser held TT-QQ. The short stack may have had A9 or been on some kind of straight draw. I was getting better than 2-to-1 on my money.
All I saw in my mind were Aces. Hell, I figured the short stack had probably flopped a set. In my mind, I was beat two ways. I was seeing monsters. Something I thought I was over. It was fear. And poker players shouldn't be guided by fear. They should be guided by information.
I folded. I couldn't believe I was doing it as I was doing it. But it was done. The turn and the river were rags. The old man flipped over pocket jacks and the short stack angrily folded.
I was crushed. I touched the stove and it was hot. I slept with the skank. I'll never do it again.
"Next time take a chance," Lady Luck later told me. "After all, isn't it called gambling? You shouldn't be worried about losing."
At least I know I'm marrying the right girl.