"The game's the same. Just got more fierce."
-Slim Charles, The Wire
"Not to be too honest here, but one of these stacks is heavy." It never even occurred to me not to say something. Does that make me a good person, a bad poker player, or both?
So here's what happened. They're trying to get a 2nd game of 5-10 running at the Bellagio when I arrive at around 3pm, after a fantastic breakfast/lunch/whatever at the (world famous!) Buffet. I went for pasta, it was delicious. I buy in for $1k and the three other players at the table are deciding if we want to play short-handed. Nobody's particularly excited about it, but we'd like to get the game going, so we're getting ready to put some cards in the air. There are chips at the table and I'm handed a full rack of orange. Immediately upon adjusting them to the correct positions, something's a little off. One chip is sliding around on the top of the top surface, not content to stay in its cylinder. I cut that stack in half - or try to and can't, because it's an odd number. Count them out. Sure enough, there's an extra $10 in the stack, an errant orange that fit its way into the rack. And before I even think about it, I'm mentioning it to the floor.
They thank me profusely, of course, and the other players seem impressed with my honesty. I shrug. I make a joke about karma, thinking to myself that the opportunity to seem magnanimous is probably tangibly long-term +EV anyway, in the CGT sense. I don't know it yet, of course, but in a few hours I'm going to be verbally assaulted in one of the more impressive strings of f-bombs ever uttered from a human mouth; a guy's seriously going to Mel Gibson out on me and truly believe that I'm the biggest idiot, biggest donkey, worst human being on the face of the earth. He's going to be calling up his friends and telling them about this complete ****ing donkey. I'm going to be the topic of conversation, and in an unpleasant way, amongst a small circle of (I gather) not-particularly-close friends who are going to be talking about me as though I'm the anti-Christ. But would the anti-Christ give back the $10 gift that found its way into his starting stack? I think not!
We'll get to that in a bit. The effort to start the game never really pans out, and I'm stuck about $200 for my troubles, having opened the button with Q9, flopped a queen, and eventually folded when my opponent donk-bet the ace turn and led out again on the river in what looked like a pure value play. A couple more minor losses in inconsequential pots and I'm slightly off on the wrong foot. One of the four of us has to leave for lunch with friends and the other gets must-moved to the main table, so I just sit and wait. I'm told by the floor that they found the missing $10 in the cage and am profusely thanked, once again. Eventually a seat opens and I take it.
An early string of playable hands and non-showdown pots has me even again, and I feel like my timing is perfect when I pick up two beautiful black queens UTG. I raise to $30, there are three callers, and the SB, a young kid, makes it $160 to go. It's too obvious a squeeze spot for me to be the least bit concerned, and I hem and haw for a few moments while deciding on a number. $520, I say. It's folded back to the SB who insta-ships. "I don't like the sound of that," I say, "but I have to call." We agree to run it twice, I announce my queens, he announces ace-king. Flipping for $1k, for fun and profit. Whee!
The first run there's ace-king on the flop, and I tell the dealer that now would be a fantastic time for a queen. He doesn't oblige, it's a couple of bricks, and the first half goes to my opponent. "At least we ate up two of them," I just barely have time to say before the dealer reveals the ace in the door of the second flop. **** me. I again brick on any queens and confirm that my opponent has me covered. He does, only just, and the stack gets shipped his way. Into the wallet we go, for another $1000.
I complain for a couple of minutes, but it's light-hearted and of course I'm not really upset. I wouldn't be playing this high if I hadn't ever lost a flip. Losing it twice is painful, but the hand was completely forced and boring from a strategy standpoint.
The next four hours are mind-numbingly dull. My rebuy never drops below $900, never ventures north of $1100. The table includes a couple of familiar faces from the previous day, including the Hungarian and the wild guy from the previous day, both of whom say hi, and an older guy that looks a hell of a lot like Jack Nicholson, who on first glance seems pretty aggro and good. All are on my left. There's a sea of stubble and fauxhawk to my right, as well as the extremely classy-looking woman on my right, who - and I so called this!
- indeed has a matching turquoise purse to go with her turquoise shirt (yesterday's purse was red, if you recall), complimented with an abundance of, well, actual turquoises laced throught her jewelry. Once again her ensemble looks like it would cover every chip in play at the table. I learn a bit more about her: she and her husband recently moved to Vegas from Florida, and I guess she isn't much more than she seems. A woman with enough money to piddle around at 5-10 in her free time. She's far from horrible, but very tight and predictable, and the closest thing to a spot at this frankly pretty awful ****ing table.
Still, I'm here, and I didn't come to Vegas to Not Play Poker, so I search for spots and do my best to pick up on tendencies. The rhythms are falling a bit into place here; the play at this table is actually extremely tough, and it's not the sort of thing that you can just pick apart even if you really are world-class, and of course I'm a long ways from world-class. I feel like the most likely profit will again come from the wild man two seats to my left, who is just way too aggro. I also am fully aware of the swings that come in dealing with a player like that, and the dollar values that he and the Hungarian are flinging around make my head spin. It's one thing to watch a pro just punt away a half million on HSP or some other poker show, another thing to try and force the unbidden thoughts of what you could buy with this money. There's a computer. There's a new living room set. That's the down payment on a decent used car. Shut up
I feel like I'm playing well, though, and am pumped up to $1500 or so, halfway back to even, when all hell breaks loose.
A new guy had joined the table. Old school, likes to play higher from what I hear, extremely hostile to the newfangled Internet poker nonsense. The sort of guy that you can tell just by looking at him is just a piece of dog ****, has probably spent more than a month on the inside of a jail cell, and whose money he's gambling with may or may not have been obtained through legal means. The half-overheard phone conversation seems to suggest a drama surplus in his life. Despite all this he seemed pretty tight pre-flop, and wasn't that hard to read.
He's raised from EP and after two callers, I call from the button with A
. Four-handed we see a flop of 3
. He bets $80 into $160 and I'm the only caller.
The turn is the 8
, and this time he bombs $200. Under ordinary circumstances this is where an ordinary player throws in the towel. Big percentage of the pot, a paired board meaning minimal IO and possible RIO. And yet ... the stack sizes were a little too juicy, and his hand was so incredibly face up. TT, JJ, QQ, KK, AA, with the occasional spattering of air and lower flush draws. No way does he go to the felt with those hands
. So I convince myself that I'm holding 55, or A3, or any of the other hands that crush him, think for a moment, and min-raise to $400, which leaves me with about $1000 behind.
Doubt crept across his face, as if the min-raise was in Japanese and he doesn't speak that Crazy Moon Language. Completely unable to hide what he's thinking, he calls. Possibly better than a fold
, I think to myself. For a moment, I realize, the reality of what I know I'm planning to do, to shove a cool ****ing thousand in the middle with ace ****ing high, with the intent of pushing an ape off an overpair when the river inevitably bricks out. I feel completely and utterly calm about it, oddly enough.
I don't get my chance, though, because the river is the K
. Plan B in effect
. Mr. Ape leads out, $250. It's not a horrible blocking bet, truth be told, but exactly the sort of thing I'd have hoped and prayed for had a non-diamond come on the river. The 10% or so chance that he has kings far supercedes the maybe 5% chance he is calling a raise here, although in retrospect I probably should have just min-raised again. Instead I just call. He trepidatiously tables his jacks. I show the flush.
To describe what happens next as a "blow-up" would be like calling World War II a "slight disagreement."
It's Hellmuthian. Actually it puts Hellmuth to shame. If bleeped for TV, the rant that streams out of his mouth would be a test pattern. Amidst a flurry of f-bombs I'm assaulted with am impressive array of perjoratives - impressive for their fury, I should say, more than little disappointing on the creativity side. Points for execution, but none for Artistic Impression. I have witnessed this poor man's full catalogue of insults, and I have walked away most unimpressed.
That would have been that, except the dude just didn't stop
. I don't bother to engage, focusing on the hands that are coming my way, focusing on playing good poker. "Are you a genius?" he asks me. "Did you know the diamond was coming?" Sir, I am reasonably certain that knowing what card was coming next would make me a psychic, not a genius
. "No," I say, bored. "What the **** were you thinking?" he keeps asking me. Sir, I believe that attempting to cram my thought process into your pea-brain would cause something to rupture. Can't teach calculus to a chimpanzee.
"Repping a full house, I guess."
And it still doesn't stop. Finally, about ten minutes in to his rant, he has an epiphany. "I guess that move does make some sense if you were planning to just shove the river. Where you planning to shove the river?" Of course I was planning to shove the river, you ****ing babboon.
"Hadn't decided yet." "****ing idiot piece of **** gets lucky as ****. Are you a genius? Did you know the diamond was coming?" Sir, I believe the statute of limitations regarding whining about an 11-outer in a pot that you were quite unlikely to win to begin with ended roughly twelve minutes ago. I'd tell you to go kill yourself and stop using up my oxygen, but that would be minus EV.
"No, I didn't know the diamond was coming." "**** is ****ing bull****. Like it's ****ing Internet poker."
The wild guy two seats to my left was actually trying to explain my play to the guy, saying "It makes perfect sense against a smart player. He's repping a three and giving himself another way to win." In one ear, out the other - or perhaps not even in the ear to begin with, blocked by the steam that is blasting out of both ears, full force. Eventually the guy storms off, and I think he wanted to sit 10-20 - because clearly, nothing could possibly go wrong there.
The instant he's out of earshot, the whole table is chuckling. "Wow," I say. "You know, my raise might even have been spew. I'm not sure. Maybe he's never folding an overpair. But damn, that was worth it anyway." Someone else notes my stoic dismissal of his non-stop insults, saying they'd have told him to shut up a long time ago. "Entertainment value. I've been called worse."
Back to the poker, I note that the $1500 pot has put me right back around even. Better than even, actually, and I wonder if it's a good time to pack up and leave. Deep stack, not a fish in sight. Hell with it, I decide, I didn't come here to not play poker, and I feel like I'm playing pretty well.
So the stack stays about even, the table stays bad, and I open 3
from the button. The wild player in the BB calls. The flop comes 5
. I cbet $40 and he just calls. Turn: 7
. Double Yahtzee
. But wild man bets $120 into me, and we're quite deep, with him covering me. There's definitely the possibility of a higher flush. Besides, the raise here is super obvious and this player is wild, meaning he'll bluff off on a large number of rivers as well, and probably level himself into the occasional value-own spot. I resolve that I'm calling down any non-diamond river, and that that's my best overall play.
That is, until the river comes the 5
, giving me the straight flush, and I'm bet into for $250.
At this point my brain pretty much shuts off. I try to calculate what's in the pot. Two-fifty plus what-was-the-turn-bet-again-times-two, let's see, I raised pre to 30 and cbet to 40, so that's, wait, that's a 250 bet, right? ****, lost count. Okay, 250 plus **** it
"I'm all in."
Wild man hems and haws for over a minute. Oh, **** me, he just has the nut flush
, I'm thinking. Stupid stupid stupid, going for glory over maximizing your EV. Praying he has the boat. Quad fives, one time!
It's like $1600 to the man and I've over-raised huge. "I wish you were a reg," he tells me. "If you were I'd call you instantly. But I just don't know if you've got that move in you." He's right, I realize, I probably don't have that move in me, not on this board because it's basically ****ing suicide. I'm hoping that my insecurity about my move is interpreted as weakness, though, since I really am feeling like I'm about to puke. How many Benjamins did you just light on fire?
He's still thinking it over out loud (inadvertantly, I think, insulting my game a little along the way), and goes so far as to call the clock on himself, but then call it off. He eventually folds. ******************************!!!
I sheepishly show the straight flush. At first he thinks I put a move on him. "Oh my god," he says, "I didn't even see the straight flush. If I have a boat there, you get everything." I congratulate him on a good laydown and try to wipe it from my memory, noting it's still a pretty damn big pot and I'm now well in the black.
We tangled one last time.
, in the cutoff. I open to $30 and wild man makes it $100. We're deep, so maybe I call anyway, but the BB makes it easy, cold-calling. $300 in the pot. I barely register the flop: Q
. Act like you've been there before
. Wild man and cold caller check the flop to me. I can bet here, but I really think wild man just has some high card so I'd prefer that he spiked something. "Check's good."
The turn is an awful card, the 6
. I can't sustain a trap for any longer, but wild man is perhaps thinking the same thing. He bets $180. Cold-caller folds and it's on me. I count out the $180. "Raise," I announce. I make it $540. Sensible amount
. Wild man acts like he's about to puke.
He's going to think he goaded me into a bluffraise by saying I didn't have any game
, I realize, wishing that it was part of the plan but glad it's working out that way. Sure enough, he doesn't take much time. "I'm all in," he declares.
A brief moment of panic. You do realize that that's exactly how he would play QQ, right?
I ask how much it is. I see what's maybe $1500. "Actually, I don't care. I call." I mean, my name for the guy in my posts is "wild man", I'm never actually folding a set here, and this is certainly a heart draw a substantial percentage of the time. His sigh tells me I'm way ahead. We run it twice, he announces that he has kings, and I breathe a sigh of relief. Both rivers brick for him and suddenly I'm having a huge pot shipped my way.
How big? I honestly can't tell. I had him covered significantly, and he's done for the day, pissed at himself for what was, ultimately, spew. I stack the chips, and there are a lot of them. Black chips, bills, a sea of orange. I don't even count the stack right away. "Biggest pot ever?" someone asks me. "Yeah," I admit, to which there seems to be a little surprise. "New to 5-10", I admit, a little sheepishly. I toss the dealer $20. "Biggest tip ever?" "Yup."
I'm not 100% on what happened next. A combination of fatigue, hunger, adrenaline, and the fact that I don't think my brain really restarted correctly after the straight flush hand, are really setting in. I don't want to be the hit-and-run *******, but I know I'm wildly -EV right now. There's one bad player at the table, on my left, but he's short and his stack won't last much longer. I lose close to $400, a lot of it in a spot where I tried to run over the very good woman player at the table (well-known to the others, obviously a reg) and got spanked with a flop CR. Eventually I tell the dealer to deal me out.
All told, it was obviously a very good session, although apart from the huge hands I was down where before I had been up: the small pots, the non-showdown pots, were not really going my way. I should have quit earlier, though obviously it worked out for me that I didn't. This is the same game that I'm used to, but harder, faster, less forgiving, more ruthless. My margin for bad play is too slim to be sitting when I'm not feeling my best, and poker is that weird sort of game that can reward that sort of mistake. That's what happened today. I'm grateful that I've gotten spanked by the deck for the duration of the trip, but I'm also well aware that I didn't play close to my best.
Day 5 Total: +$2021
Trip Total: +$4658