Advanced Bertian Theory

I’m deeply wounded. About an hour into Friday’s game, we stopped for a food break—I had bought stuff for sandwiches and Ivan had bought some tasty-ass posole that his mother’s friend had made—and I turn on my iBook to show the guys the latest entry on my poker blog. Bert starts reading said blog, and he starts laughing like he’s really picking up what I am putting down. After he finishes reading the post, he says, “This is actually pretty good,” which sounds like a complement when you first hear it. We go back to playing, and I start thinking about the actually, like it’s a goddamn miracle that I can put a sentence together. Finally, in mock-despair, I tell him, “Bert, you sound surprised that my blog didn’t kill you. Dude, I am a professional writer.” Okay, considering that I’m a poet, saying that I’m a professional writer is a pretty huge stretch because it would be impossible to make less money at writing than a poet does.

Really, though, Bert’s surprise that my blog didn’t induce soul-destroying pain or profound sleepiness isn’t that hard to understand. The fact that I’m a writer doesn’t really get mentioned at the game, mostly because it’s hard to instill fear and/or respect in other poker players when the fact that you’re a poet comes up. Who’s scared of a poet? Only a smaller poet, or a  really young child.

But let’s talk about the game. The truth: I didn’t want to admit this, but I think my game’s been figured out. I don’t win the big pots anymore (and I used to win some really big ones) and when I do have winning nights, it’s not for a lot of money. There was a five-week period when I was top dog, but those days aren’t coming back anytime soon. I play a pretty mathematical/strategic game that’s pretty much aggression-free, and it worked fine for a while. It is vulnerable, though, to aggression, and aggression is what’s been kicking my ass. First, Bert began to come at us with the Bert Classic, the Bert Light, and the Bert Death Spiral—his devastatingly devastating poker techniques that I’ve taken to calling Advanced Bertian Theory—started scaring the hell out of everybody, and ran the show for a while. Then Jesse adopted some of these techniques, became a stone killer at the table, and he started taking my money. Then last night, Ivan, who designed this website, started using Advanced Bertian Theory and he was pulling green from everybody for a few hours. Ozzy, my big bro, also incorporates some ABT into his game, but he wasn’t there last night. I’m the only one left playing a conservative style, and it will never get me paid off big again.

I did make money last night—actually my best night in months—but it was luck more than anything else. Most of the quan came on a hand of Omaha High-Low. I made the nut straight to my king on the flop, but I was vulnerable to a flush and to a higher straight if a king came down. I checked, somebody bet a dollar, and I, hoping to drive out some players and represent my monster hand, check-raised it to three, but all four of us stayed in. Fourth didn’t hurt me, I bet the max, but everybody stayed in. What comes down on fifth? A king, opening me up to get cracked with an ace-high straight. I check it when it comes to me, but Jesse isn’t having it. He bets the four, Ivan calls, and it comes to me. This one’s a thinker. There’s only one hand that beats me for the high, so it would be hard for anybody to lay down my hand. And one or both of the players still in could be going for the low, but what will Bert do when it comes to him? I’ve got to call because I’d rather lose an additional four than punk out right before the showdown. With three of us already in, maybe Bert will fold, making my hand much, much stronger. Bert calls, and it’s time to declare. To declare, you take one, two, or three chips in your clenched hand and open your hand on the count of three. If you’re holding one chip, you’re in for the low. Two chips: you’re after the high. Three: going both ways. On three, we all open our hands and all of us are going high. I’m sure that I've been caught up to on fifth, even though I had bet it up the whole way. In the micro-seconds before we turn over our cards, I try to get myself spiritually prepared for the brutal ass-kicking that I’m sure is on the way. I say that I’ve got the straight to the king and ask if it held up, pretty sure that, with three other players also after the high, there’s no way that it could have. Everybody else mucks their hands, and I take the pot. How did this happen? Everybody thought that everybody was going for the low, so they all went high, thinking that two pair or three of a kind would be good for the high.

Poker Problem: Death. What is that about?