I'm in a big pot with Rick. I play a lot of big pots, of course, but this one is especially large for the stakes and this one hand will make or break the session for one of us.
I have pocket kings in late position in a straddled pot and there are a half dozen callers ahead of me when Rick calls to my right. I pop it to $30. Naturally, everyone at the table calls. Including Rick.
The flop comes 4d 8c 10c. There are checks around to me and I make it $100. Everyone folds except Rick who smooth calls. I'm just hoping the turn isn't a club.
It isn't. It's a 5d. And here's something that makes no sense: Rick leads out for $200. Why?
I suppose he may have a nervous set with 2 flush draws there, but is he putting ME on the draw? Probably not. Did he hit a gutshot? Again, probably not. He has to think I'm holding air.
He wants me to fold... so I push.
We have a pot of more than $1800.
And Rick shows Ac4c. And he wants to make a deal. Only a coward would take it.
Here's why I said "Yes."
2004 - I Join "Up For Poker"
I'm friends with Otis and Luckbox. They were going to Vegas for a big blogger gathering in December of '04. I wanted to play in their tournament and so I joined their blog. Oddly enough it was regular writing about poker that turned me from a casual player into a more serious enthusiast.
So it's fair to say I began my serious exploration of the game on or about that same time. It's is also fair to say that at about that time, I was a truly awful player.
2005 - I Start To Play More Often
By early in 2005 BadBlood and I had become much closer friends and we were playing together every other Thursday in something we half-jokingly called the "donkey game." It was more of the old kitchen table game... dealer's choice... lots of silly drawing games... more food and drinking than serious poker.
Meanwhile, Otis, Blood and I were talking more and more often about ways to refine our Texas Hold-Em game. First with a $30 max buyin game... that became a $50 max game... that by the end of the year was at $200 max. All three of us became regular winners both live and online (although I was always better live and Otis better online, Blood was good at both) and our play got even more serious by the day.
Then I my life changed and poker grew closer to the center of my life.
I went from working an early morning shift to working afternoons and weekends. I went from having one day a week to play cards... to now four and five days a week. I took advantage and my game started to grow.
I went to blogger gatherings in the summer and in December again. By December I could sit at any table in any casino and feel confident I was about to win big. For what it's worth, I did.
2006 - My Summer Of Love: We Discover The "Underground"
By the early part of '06 I was now a regular at a place we called the "Spring Hotel." WE found it via TheMark who took Otis there after a homegame at his place. Soon we were all hitting the place on Wednesday or Friday nights. Actually, I usually went on both.
I became so confident in my skills and my ability to read my opponents that I started playing with optimal aggession. I'd make a read and act. Simple as that. If I knew you were weak I'd dump a stack in the pot. Power Poker BABY. It worked better than I had any right to expect.
By the middle of the summer Otis was using this poker blog to discuss whether or not I was singlehandedly destroying the G-Vegas poker scene. I took 5 or more buyins on almost every session. I could fall behind by 5, 6, or 7 buyins and never bat an eye because I KNEW I'd have it back by the end of the night.
It was that summer when BadBlood and I hit the MGM Grand so hard that for the next month we both agreed (Seriously agreed as if there was no doubt in the world) that we could turn pro and play for a living anytime we made the decision.
That's when I was my best at poker. I was my most confident. In the summer of 2006 I would have never taken Rick's deal.
2007 - My Work Takes Me Away From The Felt.
I came back to the moring shift. I said goodbye to the "Underground." This was made easier by the fact that 2 of my favorite games were robbed at gunpoint and another was busted by the local Sheriff's Office.
My bankroll, which was swollen with success the year before, was starting to atrophy. I spent it. I bought stuff. We took trips. I thought a lot less about cards and found other ways to enjoy time with friends.
For a while, I convinced myself I didn't miss the game. I took it less seriously. I got worse at it too.
I started to lose. I started to doubt my ability. I started to think about my bankroll during important hands. I started to feel the fear.
2008 - I'm A Coward But At Least I'm Trying To Learn
I played at BadBlood's New Year's Tournament. I played too tight and got chipped down until I lost a big race and went home.
I played in New Orleans during CJ's bachelor party. I did well but only because the other players were obviously horrible and I KNEW I was better than them. I played with confidence and it worked.
Then, Monday, I played at Rick's. The players, most of them, were good. I knew they were better than me. I knew from the moment I sat down I'd need to catch cards to win.
That's where I was when Rick proposed the deal.
I knew I'd lose.
He was a 2-1 dog and I still was AFRAID to lose a stack I felt I'd been lucky to win thus far. Of course, that meant if I didn't lose it there, I'd lose it soon after.
I took the deal and chickened out.
It was dumb and my good friends were almost embarrased for me. I know BadBlood was.
That's where I am today.
I'm more experienced than ever, and I'm worse than I've ever been.
Welcome to 2004.
What I hope I've learned is to spend more time in study before and after the game. Again, I don't think it's a coincidence that just when I stopped WRITING about poker I stopped playing well. It's also important that I have regular time set aside for a game. We're trying to bring back a regular Friday night game... just among friends. The stakes don't matter. I just need to feel the cards in my hands.
When BadBlood asked me why I made the deal, he asked if I'd have done the same thing two years before. I said no. I also said, "I was better at poker then."
I have to get the swagger back.
And... For what it's worth... the river... was Kc.
I would have lost.