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High On Poker

Oldie By Goody

March 6th, 2017

This weekend, I returned to the Sands with three of my usual degenerates, Dave Roose, Bro-in-Law Marc, and Robbie Hole, to do that poker thing I used to do so frequently. The day pass from the wife was easy to get; she’s a reasonable one. I just tend not to ask.

As per usual, the ostensible reason for the trip ended up falling by the way side. I decided around two months in advance that I wanted to play at the Sands on Saturday for a special tournament that they were throwing, a $400 total buy-in, black chip bounty, $30,000-guarantee. The tournament started at 11 am, so the plan was to arrive nice and early, by 10 am, and settle in for a long day of poker. As the day approached, though, reality set in. The tournament itself would attract at least 100 entrants and likely quite a bit more. Given the start time, I figured the tournament could end in the wee hours of Sunday morning. To a young stud like me…five years ago…that would be doable. To the exhausted father of two I am today, that was untenable. Not only would that mean driving home when I would be completely exhausted (with two bio alarm clocks, aka kids, demanding that I awake at the crack of dawn), but it would also mean that I likely play sub-par late due to exhaustion and anxiety about going home so late, AND my friends would have to wait around. Perhaps even worse, I could bust early and have to wait for my friends!

Roose had picked me up at 8am and we met Marc 15 minutes later before heading out to PA. On the drive, I called to confirm that the tournament allowed re-entries until 1pm before deciding that it was definitely going to be a day of cash games.

By the time the three of us arrived, Robbie Hole had already found himself a black jack table and was embracing the grind. The three of us headed to put our names on the 1/2 list, which was already 10 names deep. We then met up with Rob. I left him shortly after seeing him lose on a double down and then immediately lose to the dealer’s blackjack. I don’t believe in jinxes, but I sure as shit was not going to tempt fate.

Eventually, Marc and I were called for the same 1/2 table. I took the 9 seat (the tables are now 9-handed) and he took the 5 seat. To his immediate left was an older gentleman, followed by the man’s 30-something son Moe, and an Asian guy on my immediate right named Che. All three played fairly well, with the Asian gentleman particularly skilled. The 1 seat was similarly skilled. The 2 seat and 3 seat rotated a bit. The 4 seat was a black gentleman, likely in his 30s, wearing an extremely oversized black leather jacket and a black ball cap that read “KING” pulled low, practically over his eyes. He looked like a thug, like something out of The Wire.

I admit, at first, my play was sub-par. I lost around $150 or so playing passively, calling a bit too much only to fold shortly thereafter. I lost an early hand with pocket 10s, and then had to let go KK against an Ace-high flop with lots of action. If I were watching me, I would identify myself as a mark. Fortunately, King, the would-be thug in the four-seat, seemed to have had the same read. I noticed in particular that he was playing back at me, as well as he should have, given how I was playing.

When I arrived at the table, King had a large stack, probably north of $800. He had lost some and I had reloaded $100, so when the hand in question began, I had probably around $250 or so. I was dealt AKs.

I had noticed that the table was playing somewhat aggressively, so I opted for what seemed to be a common bet, $20. I think King was the only one who called. The flop had two spades, giving me a flush draw. The cards themselves were all relatively low (8 or lower). I bet $40 and King called. The turn was a blank. Here, I think I cannot exactly recall the action. I may have bet $60 or so, or, quite frankly, I may’ve checked. All I know is that if I bet, he called, because we both saw the river – a 9 of spades – giving me the nut flush.

I thought for a moment and then pushed my entire stack into the middle. I wanted a call – desperately – so as he took his time, I thought about how I could get him to call given the rivered flush card. If he had the flush, he probably would have called by now. If he did not have the flush, would he fear that I had it? I knew from experience that when a player is taking a long time and you think he is going to fold, its best to do something – anything – to induce the call. So, I put on my acting hat and decided to look scared as shit.

I’ve seen scared players before, usually young kids playing with money that actually matters to them. I did my best to impersonate them, going into a weak version of tell lockdown. In case you have not heard me mention this before, some people who are bluffing are so scared of giving off tells that will induce a call that they completely hide, going into tell lockdown. Usually, this very move is the tell. It’s definitely gotten me paid before. So, I opted to imitate tell lockdown, but do so in a manner that clearly showed fear. I pressed my chin against my chest so that my hat brim covered my eyes. I took scared sips of my drink, making sure that my hand was NOT shaking (shaking hands usually means a player is on an adrenaline rush from having a strong hand). I tilted my head every once in a while to glance at his hands, moreso so that he was thinking that I was looking at his hands less than an actual desire to see what he was doing.

He eventually called and showed A9, for rivered top pair. He had been calling me the whole way with air, presumably to try to take it away from me. After all, I was playing weakly. Instead, I had caught my fish.

The two players to my immediate right, Che and Moe quietly mentioned that they thought I was bluffing. “You looked so scared,” Che added. In my head, I said, “Well, that move is burned for the day.” The next thought was, “Unless I reverse it and do the scared act the next time I’m actually bluffing.” Layers, folks. The game has layers.

I continued to press ahead until I found myself in a hand with Marc. I had JJ preflop and raised, receiving two callers, Marc and some other guy. The flop came out AcJc7c, and Marc led out with a bet. I had some concerns about a flopped flush, but I had the redraw to a full house and there was a possibility someone was playing a strong Ace or had a strong club in their hand for a flush draw. I flat called, hoping to keep the other player in the pot. He called as well.

The turn was another Ace, giving me a full house. Marc led out again, for a larger sum. Once again, I wanted the other guy in the pot, so I just flat called. The other guy, however, decided to fold.

The river was a 2c. Marc led out for $100. He had probably another $120 behind. I considered pushing to get the rest of his chips, but ultimately opted to flat call. For some reason, I had feared a better full house, like A7 or AJ. He had bet enough to make the pot sizeable. There was no need to gild the lilly. I called. He showed a flopped flush and I took down the pot.

At this point, I was up a decent sum, but the story continues.

In the next major hand (but not the actual next hand), I had AA. An unexceptional player raised pre-flop to $12. By the time it got to me, there were a couple of callers, so I reraised to $37 ($25 on top) and got two callers, including the initial raiser. The flop was 237 rainbow, which was about as ideal as I could have hoped. I was first to act, so I bet $100. I had to assume I had the best hand. 22, 33, and even 77 seemed unlikely to call a $25 re-raise pre-flop, since preflop re-raises were not common at this table and the action had considerably died down. A bet of $100 may look like I was trying to buy the pot, or so I hoped. The original raiser was next to act and thought for a bit. As he labored over his decision, I remember thinking, “guys who take a long time and then push are usually just acting.” Sure enough, he did push. The other player in the hand folded. I asked for a count of the all-in. It was $208. I considered my opponent’s possible holdings once again and confidently removed 22 and 33 given his play thus far. I also could not envision 77, although there was a slight possibility. I called. He showed QQ immediately, so as a courtesy, I showed my AA. The turn was a 6. The river was a Queen. SHIT!

Inside, I was a bubbling cauldron of rage. On the outside, I was very calm about it. My neighbors, Moe and Che, commented about how well I took the beat. “It happens. If you want to know everything, go play chess.” I went from up to down. Ugh.

Hole had played in the tournament, but busted out in the third level when his full house lost to a straight flush. By the time I lost that big pot, it was 12:45 or so. Roose texted about lunch at the Carnegie Deli inside the casino. We agreed to go at 1pm. Marc, ultimately, decided to keep playing poker, hoping to grind back his losses.

Lunch was great, but ultimately VERY heavy. I’m starting to realize that the food that I enjoy is only enjoyable on the way down. It was nothing crazy. A grilled cheese with bacon and an order of fries for the three of us to share. Grilled cheese has always been the official casino food of High on Poker, if only for its comfort and simplicity. There’s was great, a double-decker (nothing is small at Carnegie). But after finishing, I felt a coating of grease on my insides and outsides.

I returned to the table around 2pm and got back to the grind. I won back all of my money, and even worked my way up to a small profit before the final major hand of the day for me.

I had TT in the BB. It was practically a family pot of limpers by the time it got to me, so I raised to $22. Everyone folded except for Moe.

The flop was King high with two low cards. I bet $40 and Moe called. The turn was a blank. I checked and he checked. The river was a 6. He bet $100. I thought for a moment and decided he did not have the King. I called and was correct. He did not have the King. He had 66. His dad, or at least the guy who I pegged as his dad based on their appearance and the fact that they both spoke the same foreign language, said, “If you bet that turn, he probably folds.” By this time, our side of the table was friendly and chatting, so I did not mind discussing the hand. “True, but he was drawing to two outs. Most of the time, that check is harmless.” I didn’t add, “and I get paid off on the river by looking weak on the turn.” But I thought it, and I mostly think I’m right. Then again, the pot was already over $100 on the turn, so $100 in the hand is worth more than paying off an additional $100 on the river.

I should mention that some time before this hand, Marc sent out a group text asking us all if we wanted to go in on a black jack syndicate, where we pool our money, play at the same table, and chop the results. I decided to pass, happy to play poker. Roose joined him. Rob was playing table games too, but I am not sure if he was part of their team, so to speak.

The syndicate did not work out this time, though. Around 3:45, the group was texting about an exit strategy. In our younger days, we could play poker for days. Not so much anymore. I decided to go with the flow and pack up. I was down around $60, but in the grand scheme of things, that was okay. My cohorts were down considerably more, but I do not know the actual figures.

On the way back to NY, we stopped at Wegman’s, a supermarket chain that does not exist in NY. We loaded up on their subs and I grabbed four of their cookies, the best cookies available in my estimation. The drive home was bearable, but just barely. On the way to the Sands, with Dave driving, Marc and I played Chinese poker the entire way. I lost $5. On the way back, we played some more, and I lost another $15. Que sera.

We dropped off Marc and then headed to my place. Roose and I opted to see Logan – making the most of the day pass we received from our respective families. The movie was amazing.

I returned home to find wifey Kim passed out on the couch, my son passed out in my bed, and my daughter passed out in my son’s room. All was well with the world, and I was only $60 lighter than when the day started.

I cannot wait to plan my next poker trip. But I imagine its another long time coming.

Until next time, make mine poker!

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