Dead Money/ Cocktails!/Time for Some Action: A Three-in-One Poker Report


14 October 2005

The new guy is such a pain, and I’ve never been any good at tolerating people who are a pain. I tried to not let this dude get to me, but, come on, he showed up wearing a matching orange San Francisco Giants jersey and orange (orange!) baseball cap. What kind of person would wear a getup like that? Maybe a ten-year-old boy who’s been dressed by a psychotic dad who’s invested too much of his self-worth in the outcomes of sporting events, but certainly not an adult. I mean, style-wise, who would go around looking like a giant pumpkin? But that’s not the worst of it. The new guy’s cell phone case has a San Francisco Giants logo on it, too. I didn’t even know that people manufactured those things, much less purchased them, but I guess that they do. Wow. The world is full of infinite wonders.

But enough of that. How’d I do? I lost. Again. I hadn't lost two Fridays in a row since the first weekend in July, about ten weeks ago. I can’t tell you how upsetting this is to me. I thought that I had finally turned a corner and had improved my game in enough areas to go back to being a consistent, if small, winner. With my style, I’ll never have huge nights again, but neither will I have to absorb gigantic losses.

The one area in which I haven't improved: dealing with guys who are a pain. Some people can put up with anything, but I have never been able to do that. I lost a grand total of six dollars. If I had played one hand slightly better by, say, folding after a flop instead of hoping to catch on fourth or fifth (because the odds are strongly against that ever happening), then I would have broken even. If I’d played two hands slightly better, then I would have been up. Because we had played for about six hours at about twenty-five hands an hour (minimum), this means that I only had to play better just 1/75 of the time. These facts don’t make me feel better; they only make me feel worse.

21 October 2005

There was a time that I was so confident at our game that I would ante if the pot was short, even if I knew that I had already anted, if only to speed up the game. I figured that I’d be getting that extra ante back shortly, so it wasn’t a big deal. If you check my total for January and February, you’ll see that I did manage to get most of those extra antes back, along with almost seven-hundred dollars. I was running the table. It’s good to be king.

Those carefree days are gone. Everybody caught up to me, and then they went right by. Sure, there have been people who paid out way more than I did, but those guys didn’t last for more than a couple of games before they stopped coming back. In poker, there’s this thing called dead money. Dead money is what you call a player who is overmatched and who will pay out all night, who, in other words, has no chance of defending his money. There’s no dead money at our table. Every dollar you win, you take from a player who is bad-ass, who fought like a mother to keep it, who will, later, try to get it back from you, along with your delicate soul and every single chip in front of you.

Speaking of poker players leaving our game, it seems as if we’ve lost one of our core players to another Friday-night poker game that takes place in Madtown. That game isn’t…well, it’s not as hardcore as ours, and that may be why we’re losing this guy. An example: I have to fight like a dog just to try to stay even in our game, but I do pretty well every time that I go to Las Vegas. There’s a good chance, by the way, that I’ll be spending two weeks there in the summer; look for me at the Excalibur; we’ll hang, play a few hands, tell some jokes, no big deal.

Yeah, I hate the new guy. In the very first hand that he dealt, he accidentally revealed the bottom card of the deck. The very first hand. He was in the game for about forty seconds before he violated poker etiquette. In case you can’t tell, I’m all about etiquette and politeness and good manners. The world’s just cooler if we behave with class.

I have decided that, if he ever plays again, he no longer gets the free pass just because he’s connected. If he says stupid stuff, I’m going to call him on it. In fact, toward the end of the game, I called him a jerk. I was in the middle of trying to decide whether to call a fifth-street max raise from Bert, inventor of the Bert Classic and the suicide squeeze, while I was holding a decent-but-not-great hand when Pumpkin Boy started talking about the way the hand had played out and I had to tell him that it wasn’t fair for me to get to hear an analysis of Bert’s hand because I would then be getting extra help that Bert couldn't get. He stopped…for about fifteen seconds before he went back to the analysis. That was when I told him that he was being a jerk.

I know what you're thinking. Why do we keep letting him play? Because, damn it, he’s a good player, and he’s made money four out of the five times that he’s played (not always a lot of money, but winning is winning), and it would be weak to kick him out because it would seem cowardly and it would adversely affect the reputation (or rep as we say on the street) of our game. His skills have earned him a right to remain at the table, much as his presence annoys the hell out of me.

How’d it turn out, green-wise? I lost $33.50, which isn’t much, but losing meant that I had had three losing nights in a row, something that hadn't happened since early April, more than six months ago.

28 October 2005


When the poker game is at my big bro’s house, I’m usually the one who sets up. I go over early because I can work on my rig on something (a poem or a story or an e-mail or [mostly] this blog) while I await the arrival of the other players (all of whom seem to possess a very fluid sense of time; when did 7:30 become 8:15?). As soon as I hear tires on the gravel driveway, I’ll go out to see who’s arrived.

So, it’s this last Friday and I hear tires on the gravel. I go to and then open the front door, and I hear yelling. Something about fuck, homes, we’re the only fuckers here and there better be some motherfucking food here, bro. Then I see Ruben getting out of his beautiful German ride. Ruben had previously played with us on four different occasions. If you’re wondering how I can so authoritatively say that Ruben’s played exactly four times, it’s because I keep track in my Poker Journal of who’s played and when. Yeah, that’s right; I keep a poker journal; I’m nerdy that way.

Ruben’s got poker skills, so I’m happy to see him, but, since he’s not the yelling type, I know that he’s not the one doing the yelling. That would be the guy who had followed Ruben to my big bro’s house. This guy’s name is Joe, and he had gotten an invitation to the game from Ruben. We’re always looking for new players, so I was glad that Joe was going to play with us, but I’ll admit that I was nervous, especially since the last addition to our game had turned out to be such an orange-clad drag.

And I knew right away that Joe, who had bought with him a twelve-pack of Coronas (the Mexican version of Heineken), was going to be the type of guy that I would either hate (because I don’t like yellers/loud people [they make me nervous and uncomfortable]), or really, really like (because there was a chance that this guy would be funny [and I really, really like funny people]).

Joe and Ruben had been the first to arrive, so we were sitting around the poker table, talking while Ruben put the beers in my dope-ass ice chest. Shortly thereafter, Bert, inventor of the Bert Light and carbonation, arrived, and we had enough players to get the cards in the air.

It was then that I discovered that Joe had an interesting habit. Once in a while, he’d yell out “Cocktails!” for no discernable reason. The first time that he yelled out cocktails, I looked at the board to see if he was describing what he had seen. There are a ton of names for many of the possible card combinations that can be on the board at any one time, so I had thought that maybe “cocktails” was just a new one, or one that I hadn't yet heard. Later on, Joe yelled out “cocktails” again, and I still had no clue. By this time, all of the players had arrived (we ended up with eight players total, and a ton of money in chips on the table), there was a lot of action, and Joe was still yelling “cocktails.” Finally it came to light that Joe was yelling out “cocktails” every time that he had been screwed by the cards or that he knew his hand was no good. He said that that was what he did when he was in Las Vegas and he was getting killed, because he figured that he could at least recover some of his losses in free booze. How to acquire said booze? By yelling “cocktails” in order to get the attention of a cocktail waitress. That makes perfect sense to me.

So, the next time that I go to Las Vegas and am getting my ass kicked, I’m going to start shouting out “cocktails!” and load up on the free booze, even if I don’t drink (yeah, I’m one of those weirdoes who doesn’t drink [I can barely stand myself when I’m sober, so I’m pretty sure that if I were drunk I would have no choice but to hate myself]). Wait a minute, I know. I’ll yell “bottled water!” instead.

So, I ended up really liking Joe. He was funny. He cussed a lot (in that sense, we are very much alike ['cause I sure love to cuss]). He didn’t act like a jerk when he won, and he stayed cool when he lost, which he did a lot of on this, his first night at our game. Most new players bleed out the first time that they play at our game, that’s a given, but the true test is whether they come back. I have a very good feeling that Joe will be back. Cocktails!

It’s Time for Some Action

After the first two hours, I was up huge. I had bought in for $100, and I was at a little over $245. I was killing. I was attacking when I had good cards. I was attacking when my cards weren’t that strong but I had sensed that I was leading. I bet when I was holding rags, when I thought that I could drive people out of the pot. Best, of all, I called pre-showdown even when I didn’t have a premium hand. It felt just like the old days

But then the cards stopped coming. I’m not talking about premium starter hands; I’m not talking about decent hands; I’m not even talking about barely marginal hands. Nothing. I was getting nothing, so I was folding pre- or post-flop. Yes, I was making good plays, but I was also just sitting around, watching everybody else play, and I wanted some action. I was dying for it. I even turned to Bert, inventor of the Bert Death Spiral and nanotechnology, and complained that I wasn’t playing any hands and that I was jonesing for some action. Bert, said, wisely, that I was making good folds, and I knew that he was right.

It’s true that my folding my crummy hands was good poker, but damn it, I was tired of waiting on the sidelines. At this point I was still up about $130 dollars, so I had a lot of profit in front of me, and, after I had told Bert that I wanted to get back in the fray, into the fray I went. I couldn’t stop myself , and I ended up playing hands that I shouldn’t have played. I took two pretty big losses on back-to-back hands, and, in about five minutes, I was down to about an $80 profit. Fifty dollars gone, just like that.

I had fallen onto my usual pattern: build a nice stack with smart play, turn stupid because of all the free money in front of me, play worthless hands, give back all that I’ve won, hate myself for not being able to stop myself from turning stupid (because I do this every time), play a little bit better (but not enough to recoup the money that I’d given away), and then spend the rest of the week being eaten up by self-loathing.

So, after all that, how’d I do? I won $129, but about forty of that was on the last hand when I took down a decently sized pot; if I had lost at the showdown, I would only have won about $90. I broke the three-game losing streak and it was the most money I’d won since 25 February 2005, eight whole months ago. It was, in other words, a pretty great night. The question now becomes can I repeat that type of performance when Pumpkin Boy returns to the game. I can’t wait to find out.