Friday, January 02, 2015

Back to Valuetown

And what you wanted to be yours/
Has made it mine
 -"Fell on Black Days," Soundgarden
HOLLYWOOD, Fla. -- The older guy with the flannel shirt two to my left in the eight seat pushes the rest of his red chips in on the turn.

I call. When the river comes I flip my cards over and look away to my right, uninterested. I'd flopped Fuel 55, the nuts and crushed whatever overpair this guy had.

I don't say anything but am thinking damn. I was stuck for 16 hours and then I donned my Biscuits (18-3) shirt, which as best as I can tell has won 12 consecutive starts dating back to ought-eight. It insanely comes to the rescue when I get stuck.

I'm unstuck again. I've busted two people in two hands. I look down at my watch. Since I sat down at the Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood's NL $1/2 table, eight minutes have elapsed.

It's been nearly five years since I made my way over to this poker room during an insane long run in 2010, just a few weeks before I ran in my second marathon. I called it "valuetown" then.

It still is. The only thing that's different is I'm a much different player than I was then. Mainly I'm more patient with that thing called variance.

I wouldn't have even been in Florida if I hadn't been such a click monkey. Sometime in November I clicked on a Georgia Tech drawing to go to the Orange Bowl. A few weeks ago I got a call while I was running and I learned I'd won second prize in the sweepstakes.

So of course I called Sham and assembled probably the quickest road trip I've done for quite a while. It helped that Gnome happened to have a home game before the trip that featured Skiddoo and Surflexus that helped me brush off my skills.

After watching the Yellow Jackets win that New Year's Eve game, we came back to the Hard Rock. It was so crowded that you could barely walk through the atrium of shops that lies in between the casino and the parking deck.

The poker room was crowded too. I lost a few hands that got me stuck, JJ versus a shorter stack that had KK and A5s with top pair and a four flush against 77 that made a river gutshot straight.

But the game was good, filled with plenty of people playing any two cards. It had a lot of straddles, including the Mississippi straddle, in which the button can straddle, forcing the small blind to be the first preflop (instead of under the gun with a regular straddle). This room also allowed the cutoff to straddle if the button did not.

In the evening session, the game was much, much different. I got plenty of game winner cards (two sets with 55 in that four-hour session). But there were plenty of extremely passive players who would call raises and then fold to continuation bets.

I hope I remember this lesson from this trip, to keep focus when I'm down and to know that even the very next session can be very different.

Friday, February 15, 2013

All poker depends on it

You have to accept that the only hope you have is that you are already dead. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you'll be able to function the way a soldier is supposed to function: without mercy, without compassion, without remorse. All war depends on it. -Band of Brothers

OCEANSIDE, Calif. -- The big stack bets into me with a queen on the board. I have a gunshot draw but nothing else. My chips had been dwindling and I was down nearly a buy-in, having won not a single pot in more than two hours.

So what can I do? I fold.

He sighs and shows KTo. It's the same hand I raised with.

He gets up to leave and now it's four players. Nobody bats an eye but the scraggly Asian player in the one seat announces, "Four-handed. No chop, OK?"

Nobody says a word. I certainly don't. It's been more than a year since I've held live cards in a casino and I really haven't taken too many reps this year, only at the Gnome's poker games. Still, I am 0-fer this year in poker, a weird sight on my balance sheet.

I don't think I thought that would necessarily change by playing in a California poker room but still I was hopeful. Yet I already was behind for the trip, having already had AA cracked by 26o for two pair on the river in a previous session the day before (Banana Republic, 9-3).

But it probably wasn't the best time to return, although I'd (correctly) been envisioning juicy Friday night games President's Day weekend.

The difference between showing up Thursday night and Friday night at the poker room at Ocean's Eleven: The parking lot was packed and I couldn't even have parked where I had during the "weeknight" session since it now was a valet parking area.

Looking back, I probably was more than a little rusty those first six hours. When you lose chips, you start to play tight -- not tight as in hand ranges, but more as in worry over what's to come.

When the game is not easy for you -- no sets or gutshots to put all the chips in the middle, you have to improvise. And it's awful when you throw out more of your chips on a well-timed bluff, only to have the scraggly Asian dude check-raise you on the turn.

But amid that sensation of steadily draining wealth and exhaustion, something happened -- I didn't care if I lost my chips and just wanted to play.

I open raised with 75s, getting the scraggly Asian to call. An ace flopped on the board. He checked, I continuation bet, forcing him to sigh at the "tight player" and fold.

Next hand, he raises with what I'm sure are ATC. I look down and see TT. Obvious reraise and when he is studying his cards I am thinking that I am ready to put all of my chips in the middle. He folds. The spark of desperation breaks the game.

I don't say anything but when it turned three-handed, I finally felt ready to play, as if this is how it's supposed to be then I'm going to play. But instead I get moved to another table. I only have an hour left in my session but I decide that I'll just play the rest of it out, win or lose.

I actually start to get some playable holdings and my stack builds, just as my session is about to end. And then it comes down to a final hand, the board is 7T4, a person bets into me and then a second player late just cold calls the action.

When the turn comes 4, I actually know my hand has been strengthened against raggedy two-pairs I have seen this trip but the late player who spouts poker theory and claims to have gone to Harvard is just still overcalling, waiting for the end.

And when it's all over, with a lot of chips in the middle, I can't believe the hands. T3o by the early player betting into me. ATo for the woman in late.

I show the cowboys, obviously a monster pre flop hand but in many ways a questionable post flop holding against random cards in this kind of poker room.

I scoop up all of the chips and just like that, I have recovered for my loss and also will, bad beats willing in the last 12 minutes of my session, be able to log my first win (Biscuits, 17-3) for the year.

When I get up to leave half a round later, I know it looks like a hit-and-run but my 4 hours are up and I'm already exhausted from still being on East Coast time. I don't care what anyone will say, keeping with my recently developed mood at the tables.

It turns out nobody at the table cares either, and I leave with my rack of chips without having to say a word.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Nobody knows what's on the board?

OCEANSIDE, Calif. -- So we're all just sitting there, at a $2/3 NL table at Ocean's Eleven, with the dealer mucking the cards and everyone having a blank look on their faces.

Only thing is, two players are in the middle of being all-in.

In nearly 10 years of playing poker I have never seen this happen. We flew into San Diego for the funeral of my wife's grandmother and were staying up the road at Solana Beach. Equidistant between this poker room and San Diego's Palomar, the temptation was too great not to play in the evenings. Especially during President's Day weekend.

So anyway, the older blonde woman in the three seat goes all-in on the turn. The five seat folds. The guy in the Sham (9) seat starts thinking about it and while he's doing that, the dealer starts to flip over the board to muck it.

While the dealer is doing that, the dude in the Sham seat says, "all-in."

So everyone at the entire table is just staring blankly at the felt while the supervisor comes over.

The dealer explains what happened. But neither he nor anyone else seems to remember what was on the board -- including the people who decided to push all their chips on the middle BECAUSE OF THE CARDS ON THE BOARD.


Normally I won't say a word in this kind of situation, especially if I'm not in the middle of it. But the incredibleness of this is just too much to bear.

So I go, "Wasn't the board K,8,7?"

And then everyone says yes. The dealer starts to remember it. The players start to remember it. Then the dealer starts to flip over cards. A,A. A, T.

It's clear he is not sure where his mucked board is.

Um, it's over there, I point.

He flips it over. Sure enough, it's a K, 8, 7 flop.

The supervisor asks the two all-in players if they agree that's how the board is. They do.

Play ball.

A 4 comes on the turn with a blank on the river. The blonde shows AKo for top pair, top kicker. The Sham seat turns over 56o for a straight. The chips go to him and the universe seems to be righted again.

For jest, I say: "Who mucked their aces?" lololol

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Prelude to the New Year

Dec. 7, 2011, Paris, France.

I'm looking forward to 2012, but it will be hard to top this New Year, which was filled with milestones:

February: Trip to Dallas, PR in the Charles Harris 10K, Tucker, Ga.
March: Trip back to Chapel Hill, N.C.
April: Trip to Washington, D.C. (Cherry Blossom 10-miler)
May: Wedding in Maui, honeymoon in Australia
June: Trip to San Diego (Rock'n'Roll San Diego Half Marathon)
August: Announcement of baby on the way! Trips to Richmond, Va., Great Smoky Mountains National Park
September: Second trip to Washington, D.C.
October: Trips to Chicago and New York (and freak snowfall there)
December: Trip to London, Stonehenge, Paris. Second trip to Richmond, Va., Daily running streak marks five years.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The pull of the Mississippi

I was in London but stayed away from the Gutshot. I was in Paris but did not find my way to the Aviation Club.

But Tunica. I live nowhere near it -- 391 miles -- but it has to happen.

I was last there nearly four years ago. But it's still my home field for poker, where I've won the most money in live games outside of Vegas.

Rolling up along the flat Delta, jumping from one poker room to the next, the artificial facades, the buffets. Sitting down at a table to eke out the required five hours of play for a poker room-discounted rate room.

Can't wait.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Joey Chestnut and online loss leaders

Today is the Fourth of July and the grand day of the famous Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest.

I first started seeing lines for competitive eating contests in 2007 during the Krystal Square Off in Chattanooga, Tenn. There you had familiar characters, including the reigning hot dog champion, Joey Chestnut.

Basically in the world of competitive eating there is Joey Chestnut and Takeru Kobayashi. But Kobayashi has not competed in the last few years in the main competitive eating circuit.

So that leaves an eating giant and everyone else.

Although the lines that were out there weren't too generous (-500), they still amounted to an online loss leader since it was highly doubtful that anyone could break Joey's stride.

Recent news reports indicated that he was feeling fine and wanted to try to eat 75 hot dogs this year after only eating 59 last year.

My main interest was that he would win outright and not have to think about how many hot dogs he would eat to do so, since he really was ahead of the pack.

And late in the day he ended up doing so. Who knows if next year what kinds of challenges he'll face, either personally or via new eating competition. But this year at least, his dominance continues.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Going far, going light

Headed to San Diego for the weekend and it's the first time in a long while, including my honeymoon to Australia, that I won't be lugging my laptop around.

Why? Well I can do most everything I need from my iPad2. And thanks to Gnome, I can even access my computer at home to play some cards on Bocat.

The world keeps getting smaller and smaller. And lighter and lighter.