The Magic Plates: The October 2006 Poker Report

(Editor’s Note: Okay, so much for posting every two weeks until I got caught up. At least I have a partial excuse: I was on vacation for a few days. And, honestly, we all need a break once in a while.

Also, since Ivan, poker player deluxe and designer/programmer of this here website, has got me using a more recent version of Drupal, I'm trying to make use of some of its new features, such as using text that is in color.)


6 October 2006

To Recap: September was a disaster; I didn’t win once, and I lost a lot of cash. Hopefully, October will be better.

New Audience: At this point, we’ve been playing on a weekly basis for twenty-one months, which means that every single player at our game has heard every single one of my bits. I still get some laughs, but they may be more out of mercy than anything else. I’m not proud; I’ll take what I can get.

But tonight we had a new guy in the room. Not in the game, because he didn’t play, but in the room, watching. This guy, we’ll call him “Ninja,” arrived from who knows where and took a seat. (I’ll call this dude Ninja because he’s a highly trained martial who could probably kill us all with a flower petal or a speck of dust.) He is connected to many of the players in the game, and has been asked, when he’s made an appearance, if he wants to join in the game, but he was happy just to partake of the ambiance.

And I could have gone two ways with it: come up with some new stuff on the fly, or just use the old material. One way would require inventiveness, and the other none at all. One would require risk, and the other would require only complacency. One would be hard, and the other would be lazy. I went with the non-inventive, complacent, and lazy route.

Even then, I didn’t get much laughter out of him, which made me wonder just how bored the guys in the poker crew must be. They must be on polite laughter for at least a year at this point.

It’s Lonely: Without my two In-n-Out Double Doubles. Last week, on the way into the game, I was dying for something to eat. Sometimes, when I’m in Fresno and on the way toward my big bro’s, I’ll drive by In-n-Out and want to stop to get something to eat. But the line’s always much too long, and I hate wasting time just sitting in a car

The thing is, those burgers are just wonderful. I tend to run a cost-benefit analysis of every action that I do or don’t take. Those analyses had prevented me from stopping at In-n-Out in all of those times that I had driven by. Then, last week, after I had factored in how long I had gone without I had decided that the benefits had finally outweighed the costs.

And I killed those burgers. They were so good that my enjoyment of them verged on the metaphysical. That anything could be so good made me think that the world is not without hope, that there is some small shot at redemption and healing. They were ideal in their construction, which led to thoughts on the nature of aesthetics and beauty and on one of the first arts: cooking. Have you ever thought about how much goes into cooking or preparing anything?

(Like, who came up with oyster sauce? And then who thought that it would be good on beef? And then who thought that little baby corns would go great with the beef. And then who threw in the onions? All of that is art, and it is good.)

But that was last week. This week, having had In-n-Out the week before, the benefits didn’t outweigh the costs, so I didn’t stop.

I’ve made many crummy decisions in my life (If I ever stopped to think about them all, my heart would probably decide that the whole living deal wasn’t working out and that maybe it was time for it to go on a short vacation), and not stopping definitely has to be top three.

Instead of stopping, I partook of some Costco chicken chunks and fish sticks (a product that I have loved ever since I used to eat it as part of my grade school lunches). Yes, they were delightful, but they weren’t burgers, man, they just weren’t. The whole time that I was playing, I couldn’t stop thinking that I had really missed out.

(Editor’s Note, 14 March 2008: and I still haven't been back. Oh, the tragedy comes through in waves.

[And, by the way, I just ripped off most of that last sentence from a story that I started writing in 2002. That sentence, which is the first one in the story, goes “In the year of Our Lord, 2002, the tragedy came through in waves,” but I can’t exactly figure out how the rest of the story is going to go. That is one pretty cool sentence, though.])

That’s How You Do It: I got it together and finally won. It was a tough group—my big bro, Bert, Ivan, Surge, and Oscar—but daddy pulled $35.50. Not at all impressive, I know, but that’ll get me quite a few Double Doubles.

13 October 2006

Ninja-Style: A few weeks ago, there was a strange noise outside of my big bro's house during the poker game. As unofficial co-host of the game, one of my duties is to ensure the safety of the guests. To that end, I grabbed a couple of my big bro's escrima sticks to go handle business. I leaned out the door and called out to the possible thugs and/or invaders, "If you're coming on, come on," but it was probably just a kitty, or something, so I didn't have to apply the beatdown.

So tonight, when there was another mystery noise (living in the country, there are plenty), Arizona said that I should again grab my nunchuks (or, as they are more properly called, "nunchakus") to see what's up with the noise. First, dude, they're escrima sticks, not nunchuks, and, second, "nunchakus."

But that reminded me of the fact that there was a pair of practice foam-covered nunchakus in the Winter Poker Room. Back in the day, I was moderately badass with those things: behind the back, around the torso, between the legs, the whole schmear. And I could rock two pairs at the same time, one righty and one lefty. Imagine Bruce Lee. Now forget about him because you're being cruel to me with your unfair comparisons. I can't live up to that standard. What the hell is your problem?

Okay, let's try to put that unfortunate episode behind us. I go to get the nunchakus so that I can perform a little trick for the guys. I used to be able to flick a light switch on and off with nunchakus, but I hadn't practiced in about ten years. I'll probably whiff a few times or bounce the nunchakus off of my head.

Nope, on the very first swing, I hit the light switch for the entry lights. It was awesome, and I felt pretty proud of myself. Unfortunately, I also broke that little light switch right off and sent it flying.

Great. What would probably have been one of the highlights of my life (it's easy for something to be a highlight when your life is a complete joke) quickly moved to the painful embarrassments category.

But these nunchakus, again, were foam covered, and I don't think that I gave them much of a swing. Either I'm stronger than I imagined (highly unlikely, unless it's now possible to buff out simply by sitting as still as possible while daydreaming), or that light switch was a little old.

Love Has Bloomed: Back in the early nineties, I knew this cat named Andtobago. I had met him through my big bro (with whom he still remains great friends) and we had hung out many times. More than a decade ago, he moved to San Jose, and I've only seen him once in a great while since.

Tonight, though, Andtobago was making a special appearance at the poker game. He had called my big bro last week to tell him that he was at a jewelry store, buying a ring with which to propose to his special lady. Andtobago made his move this week, his special lady went with it, and now he was taking her around to meet his people, my big bro included.

When they arrived, we stopped the game to give them the congratulations that they, or anybody else who decides to marry, deserve; in a world of disappointment and heartbreak and incurable existential loneliness, it's really brave and lovely to say, "Screw it. I will fight on the side of hope against despair and fear and tragedy." Also, there was cake, delicious orange cake.

The Tournament: Now and again, when I'm writing, I'll play on-line poker in the background; it's easy: when it's your turn to make a play, the poker window moves to the front. You take your action and go back to whatever it was that you were doing. Since poker involves a lot of folding and waiting around anyway, it doesn't take any time away from whatever your central activity is.

For the past week, I've been playing in 45-person sit-and-go tournaments, basically mini-tournaments. These are great because they don't take more than a few hours, if you make it to the final table, and you can play them for not very much money, though that means that you won't make that much, either.

So far, in the twelve sit-and-go tournament that I've played, I've made five final nine-player tables, finishing seventh twice, and finishing first three times. I'm not writing the above to brag (really, I'm not). It's just the background for how tough I think our Friday game is.
Tonight, I got killed: I lost $86 and I was never up by more than a few dollars, and that was only early in the game. My big bro and my homies are hardcore. I can do moderately well online, but my people take all of my money.

Yes, it blows to lose, but it's still funny and cool how much talent there is at our game. Respect to the poker crew (even if it means that I'll probably never be able to quit my Saturday gig [where I'm typing up the rough draft of this Poker Report]). The money’s got to come from somewhere.

20 October 2006

Ladies: Where's Ivan? About a year ago, he got into a thing with a girl, and we lost him for a few months. Fortunately for us, like nearly all romances, it proved to be a bitter and heart-shattering experience, and he soon rejoined the game.

Ivan's an optimist about love, I guess, because now he's in another thing with a different girl, and he's starting to miss games again. We're all patiently waiting.

Surge works a swing shift at his gig, and he gets out at ten; that's usually when he heads out to our game, right from work. He can't even stop at home to get anything because, once he does, his special lady won't let him out of the house.

Somehow, though, Surge doesn't have a cell phone, which is amazing in these modern times.

Cell phones have essentially become like the tracking collars that they put on tranquilized bears in the forest: it's now nearly impossible for a man to do anything/go anywhere without his beloved's knowing about/pre-approving it.

In the good old pre-cell phone days, you had a shot. "I couldn't get to a phone." "I didn't have change." "I didn't have time to call." "I didn't know where you'd be to call you."

Now, we're basically stuck with "my battery died," which means that you have to find a way to actually kill the battery before your special lady inspects your phone, because she'll probably be inspecting it. One thing that you can do is to keep pressing buttons on your phone so that your little screen stays lit up, or, if you have the time, play whatever little games are on your phone. You can also go with "I couldn't get a signal," but good luck with that one because you can get a signal pretty much everywhere nowadays. She'll believe that one if she wants to believe that one. All of you guys out there know what I'm talking about.

But Surge doesn't have to have a cell phone. Good for him. Fight the power, brother. The problem for us, though, was that the game was at Bert's and Surge hadn't ever been. After work, he called from somewhere (who knows where?) and got directions to Bert's. We expected him in about thirty minutes, but he never made it. After about an hour, I started joking that he was probably halfway to Kentucky (one of the best states to use in a joke because of the "k" sound), toward the end of the evening I had switched it to Canada.

KayJay's problem is that he just became a daddy. His life is over. He'll never again get to truly enjoy the important things in life: sitting around with a bunch of dudes, eating junk food, and throwing your money away. He played for half an hour, dropped $40, and hauled ass back to the house.

Food: Yeah, since my decision to try to not die of a heart attack before I turn forty, I've been writing a lot about food stuff, mostly how horrible healthy eating is. The thing is the healthier you eat, the more you want to eat truly nasty stuff.

Nasty stuff such as a chip butty. I'd read earlier this week about this meal—french fries on heavily buttered bread—and it sounds both terrifying and delightful, which are the two adjectives that usually describe the best things in our lives: love, family, roller coasters, having hope.

So now I'm adding one item to my list of what I hope to accomplish in my life (currently the list has two items: the heart attack thing and dunking a basketball): eat and write about the experience of eating a chip butty.

(Editor's Note, 31 March 2008: I still haven't gotten anywhere near a chip butty. Since I'm terrified of flying across oceans [i can't stand the idea of being eaten by sharks in case the plane goes down], I might be out of luck on this dream of mine.)

Tasty Burgers: For tonight, though, I partook of other food products: three Cokes, three burgers, a not-too-hot-thank-Christ hot link, and, for health's sake, some trail mix and three pieces of pineapple. The pineapple and trail mix, in my mind, negate the ten-jillion calories of everything else that I ate. In fact, I probably should have had another hamburger because Bert can work a grill like a magician: them bad boys were perfectly done.

This Is About to Get Graphic: It’s Omaha, and I hit top two pair with an A-4-3 board. I’m also holding K-Q. I bet five, Jesse raises the five, I re-raise five, and Jesse just calls. After the turn, a ten, we're five each again. The river brings another ten, and Jesse bets it. My hand never improved—I'm still stuck on aces and fours—but I've already pumped a little over $20 into the pot and there's over $45 in there, so I'm getting nine-to-one on my money with a moderately decent hand. I call, and it turns out that Jesse had had the same hand—top two on the flop—and that we were headed toward a chopped pot.

Unfortunately, he also had a ten in his hand, so he hit runner runner trip tens to take the hand. Apart from the fact that I just lost $25 on a miracle card, the whole thing was kind of funny because I had K-Q to go along with my A-4, So I had been a huge pre-flop favorite.

So, in summary, I lost $37.00.

27 October 2006

Fear the Beanie: On the website where I play (Yes, I play online on occasion, but only in the background while I’m working on something else.), you can earn points for playing. If you play enough on-line poker, they’ll send you all kinds of free stuff. I don’t play all that much, just enough to have earned a free beanie with the company’s logo prominently stitched on the front.

I’m the least intimidating person that I know (because everybody knows that I’m a poet and nobody’s scared of a poet), so I don’t inspire fear in any of my fellow poker players. I figured that the beanie would help in this regard.

My friends would look at the beanie and think, “That beanie: it represents his poker-playing prowess. Also, it is black, which is scary in and of itself. Combined, they speak of a great power, and I am greatly afraid.”

At least, that was the plan. But nobody said even one word about it until I pointed it out, which was just sad, like a person fishing for compliments. All that I got were some half-mumbled acknowledgements that yes, in fact, what was on my head was indeed a beanie.

I’ll say it: I was hurt.

The Magic Plates: About a year ago, Ivan was in another thing with a different special lady. They were together through Christmas, which meant that they had to go through the tense/terrifying/politically delicate exchange of Christmas gifts.

As a guy, this is one thing that you just don’t want to screw up. You’ve got to get a pretty accurate gauge of where the relationship is (which is already a difficult enough task; most of the time, you can rely on your special lady to tell you [because she’s the one who gets to decide] but you're somehow supposed to magically figure it out on your own for Christmas and Valentine’s Day and her birthday), and then you’ve got to figure out how far you think that the thing is going to go.

You might be in three-fifths of the way, which is pretty far, but you know that it isn't going to go any deeper than that, so, in an effort to represent that knowledge, you actually have to dial it back and get her a gift that represents a depth of, at most, eight fifteenths. That’s just good, solid strategic thinking.

But then she buys you plates. Plates. I’m not talking about a couple of singles because she was at your place and saw that you were always running out. I mean a set of plates: the salad and the bread and the dinner and whatever other plates would come in the box. How would I know what kinds of plates come in the box? I’m a guy. In a pinch, I’ve microwaved burritos in a bowl and eaten oatmeal off of a plate. And the food was still delicious.

A set of plates means that she’s in about six fifths, which is another way of saying way, way too deep. If she’s thinking plates, she’s also thinking duvets, probably, and is stealthily planning a towel overthrow. Shortly, your lucky-but-broken-but-lucky boombox is going to be in a dumpster. Why? Because she’s thinking big thoughts and has started to think in both the nominative and the objective cases of the first-person plural pronoun. We and us.

If you're not there yet, then those plates act as a fire alarm: get out as quickly as possible because somebody’s getting cooked. That somebody is you, and you will come out of the whole deal crispy.

Ivan understood this perfectly. There you are, giving her a leather jacket, a gift perfectly calibrated to express care (but not too much care). It’s serious enough for expensive leather goods, but it doesn’t commit you to too much of anything. It’s just a leather jacket. There’s still an escape hatch.

That hatch slams shut when she hands you a big box and you open it and there be the plates. Damn. Now what? Your first instinct might be to cause a diversion and then jump out a window. Your second instinct closely resembles the first, but this time you fake a heart attack and wait for the paramedics to carry you out.

What you do instead is smile and pretend she hasn’t wildly overestimated the depth of your relationship and that everything is “cool.”

Then you go to the poker game and tell your friends all about it. And those friends, being the sensitive souls that they are, will laugh their asses off at your predicament.

Why Must God Destroy Everything That I Love?: I don’t really love much. And the stuff that I do love, I don’t love all of the time. Family members make impolitic remarks, true though they may be. Bands put out bad albums.

The only things that I love unconditionally are high pocket pairs. They’re beautiful, and they never lie and they try to do their best to take care of you

Once, I lost with pocket kings when Bert called my $5 re-raise of his $2 bet. The flop came J-X-X, so I had an overpair. I bet the $5, Bert called, and then a Q came on the turn. I bet the $5, Bert called, and then the river came, another junk card. This time, though, I checked it because I sensed that betting it up at this point wasn’t to my benefit; I wanted a free showdown, but Bert bet $5. At this point, I was in for $17 and there was already over $40 in the pot. I called, and Bert turned over J-Q for two pairs, which beat the hell out of my pocket kings.

Maybe Bert’s pre-flop call of my bet was a little bit iffy, especially since I’m not a player who’s going to lead out or check-raise without a pretty strong hand, but once he flopped top pair with a strong kicker, he wasn’t going anywhere. In fact, I sort of saved myself $5 by not betting on the river because he surely would have re-raised me.

But that wasn’t the worst beat of the night. I lost with American Airlines, twice, and I paid out on those hands, too. I probably blew $75 on my three best starter hands of the night, though there really isn’t much that I would have done differently.

For the evening, I did manage to win $28.50. For the month, though, I went 2-2 and lost a total of exactly $59.


Ha... I totally forgot about

Ha... I totally forgot about the "plates" story. Good stuff. - Arizona