This Is How It Ends: The December 2006 Poker Report

(Editor’s Note: This time, it only took me eleven days to post this latest Poker Report. I think that we're all proud of me.)


1 December 2006

Into the Red: It's been a harsh year, poker-wise. At the end of May, I was up over $600. Then June was a disaster, of disastrous proportions, and I've been having a hell of a time since. I've managed, somehow, to stay in the positive, even in the midst of some long losing streaks.

Last week, at Shawn Gee's, I was losing money, what a surprise, but it had occurred to me when I did a mid-game count of my chips that adding my then losses to the YTD total put me at almost even for the entire year. A year of poker, and I had about $3 in profit to show for it. Lose even one more hand, and I'd have been in the red again, and I hadn't been there since the end of January

That was a bit of a drag, but I made up those losses and even left with a tiny profit. At that point, I had known that it was going to be a battle for the rest of the year just to stay ahead. I had long ago let go of the dream that I could get to a $1,000 in profit for the year, which is my usual goal.

I’m Telling Mom: That battle to stay ahead did not get off to a great start. I had put about $28 into a three-way pot involving Bert, my big bro, and myself. I had made a top set of queens on a rainbow flop of Q-7-3, so I had known that I was ahead at that point. I had bet $2, to get some action, maybe even a re-raise; Bert had re-raised $5, just as I had hoped; I raised another $5 when it came back to me; and Bert made the last bet of $1 to close off any potential re-raise from my brother, who had merely called all previous action.

The turn is a "10," but it's a card that doesn't scare me; yes, there are now all kinds of straight draws on the board (an ace, a king, a jack, a nine, an eight, and a six), but I can't imagine that anybody's playing a draw after all of the post-flop action; I think that we're made hand against made hand. I'm pretty sure that Bert has the middle set (sevens), and that maybe my big bro has two pairs. I bet the $5, and Bert comes right back for another $5, my big bro calls, and so do I. We're each now in for $23, and I' still know that I'm in the lead.

What lands on the river? A six. Now there's a chance that somebody could have made a straight from the ten to the six.

The thing about Omaha is that you can be made hand against made hand with your two best cards but then you or somebody else ends up winning with what had initially been your weaker cards. I was worried that that had happened, so I check. Bert has the same concerns, so he also checks. When it gets to my big bro, the player who had only called any action that came to him, bets the $5.

Counting my big bro's last bet, there's $74 in the pot. I might be beat (in fact, I was pretty sure that I had been rivered), but I was in up to my ass in this pot, and I couldn't fold. I call, and so does Bert. I turn over my top set that never got better, Bert turns over his middle set of sevens (I had been right about that, which was some solace for what happened next) that also never got better, and then my big bro turns over his 10-9-8-7-6 straight, which I had known that he had made on the last two cards, but then I saw that he had had exactly nothing until the last card.

He hadn't had the two pairs that I had put him on. He had had a pair of nines in his down cards, the flop had missed him entirely, and he had called $13 in bets with what he had to have known was a last-place hand. He had called another $10 in bets on an open-ended draw, and he had sucked out. Bert didn't feel too bad because he had been in second-place the whole way. I, on the other hand, was incredulous.

I don't mind losing a hand when I've been out-played or gone made-hand against made-hand and lost it on the turn of a card. In fact, it's sort of funny. But, dude, this was harsh.

After this hand, and one in which I flopped both a straight and two pair and raised Bert's $4 bet to $9 and Bert called and Bert turned what had been a nothing hand (not even a pair) after the flop into a flush and I called every single one of his bets from that point on, I was down almost $70 and had to go for another $100 in chips.

This was not pleasant, man. Yes, I had been paying out, but it was a slow bleed: nothing dramatic or overly tragic. Just $45 here, maybe $60 there, nothing to jump out a window about. But it had seemed like I had re-entered the dark days of June, when I was dropping $190 or even $270 in a night.

I Really Feel Like I’m Starting to Grow Up: I don't know if I ever wrote about this, but I had this summer lowered my $300 maximum nightly buy-in total to $200.

Why? Because the rest of the poker crew had only ever bought in for a total of maybe $150. Ice did but in for a total of nearly $300 the first time that he played, but he may have gotten caught up in the excitement of playing in our game for the first time and partially lost his mind.

Another reason that I dropped down to $200 is that I’m trying really hard, finally, to grow up. I mean, what kind of person potentially puts so much money on the line every single week? What is wrong with me?

At Least I Didn’t Lose: By the end of the evening, I somehow managed to make a small profit: $49.00. As I didn’t think to try to memorize a single hand, I have no idea how I pulled it off.

8 December 2006

(Editor’s Note, 15 April 2008: I have no idea what’s going on. In theory, there should have been a game on 8 December 2006, our usual Friday game, but I have no record of it, either a rough draft on some computer somewhere or some scribbled sentences on one of the notepads on which I write immediately after the game or on one of the logs on which I track wins and losses and locations and players. All of which means that there may not have been a game, but it’s hard to believe that we couldn’t gather enough players to have a game. I don’t know of any holidays that land on the 8th of December, so I’m completely stuck.)

(Editor’s Note on the Above Editor’s Note, 17 April 2008: Yeah, I remembered today that the reason that I don’t have any notes/records for a game on 8 December 2006 is that I had a really important set of exams that I had to take beginning early the next day, and I didn’t think that it would be sensible to be up really late playing poker [Yes, I’ve been working on learning how to act more responsibly; thank you for noticing.] when I needed to pass these exams for the sake of my crummy job.

And the game had been moved from its usual location [my big bro’s house, where I spend most weekends] to Bert’s so that I could have a quiet place to study. So I’m pulling up to my big bro’s when I get a call on my mobile from Bert: the game’s been moved back to my big bro’s and Bert wants to know if I want to play.

I have an impossible time saying no to people [Go ahead, ask me for anything if you don’t believe me.] and I like hanging out with my buddies and I like poker, so I can feel that my resolve is starting to slip, but I’m trying to be mature nowadays. [Wow, I’ve got a lot of coordinating conjunctions happening in that previous sentence.]

I guess that Bert can hear in my voice that I’m conflicted, and, before I can really think seriously about caving, he lets me off of the hook and says that he was joking, that he had just called to wish me good luck on my exams.

There were three different exams, and I had only taken courses to prepare for the first and the third ones, so I just freestyled the middle one. The exams were multiple choice and structured response, and I killed all three of them. That’s how we De Lunas do it.

I can’t believe that I had forgotten all of this.)

15 December 2006

I Don't Want to Get All Political: We're playing at Bert's tonight, and he's got the Lakers-Rockets game on in the background. This is the week of the Allen Iverson situation (he's benched and on the verge of being traded), and I voiced my less-than-favorable opinion of him as a player and as a teammate.

This led to a larger discussion about the status of the NBA. It was generally agreed that 1) I hate the Lakers now, 2) Yao Ming's got a lovely turnaround, and 3) the new ball looks kind of stupid.

Then I got militant. It's hard to say that NBA players can be mistreated, what with all of the money and adulation that they get. Also, the ladies. Well, it's not hard to say if you think that it's true; it's just hard to get anybody to take you seriously or to even care when you say that they are still workers.

Still, I'm a leftist from back in the day, and so I must stand with the workers. First, they can't dress how they want to dress. Yeah, some of what players wear nowadays is not pleasing to the eye (some of it actually looks rather silly), but when hasn't that been the case?

The young dress in a manner that appalls the old, the old complain about and attack the youngsters, the youngsters ignore them, and then one day the youngsters become the old and then they finally get it (God, we DID look like nitwits), but it's too late, and everything is right and just and the world continues to spin on its axis.

I'm not pro-bling. As an anti-materialist/anti-accumulationist/anti-consumerist, I think that the purchase of the bling and bling-related products (bling cleaner?) is bad, dude, just really, really bad.

A world free of the bling (and not just for NBAers, but for every single person on earth), would be a much better world, but I just can't get over the feeling that this is the aspect of the new dress code that reveals that there is a racial component to these new rules. I don't think that a player wearing an iced-out chain, if you will, outside of his suit is that big a deal.

The players, by the way, had no input on these new rules; the news came down from on high in a memo, and all of the players had to comply.

Then there's the thing where the league's cracked down on players complaining about bad calls. If you feel that the refs have screwed you, then you should be able to voice that opinion, and if you feel that you've been especially screwed, you might, in the contemporary style, get a little loud. God bless America.

And what the hell is up with the new ball? It's not any good, basketball-wise, but, beyond that, it's actually hurting the players' hands. The players, by the way, had no input on this decision, either; the news came down from on high again, from the guys in the plantation house. Yeah, I said it.

But KayJay didn’t agree with any of the above points. He just couldn’t get over the money thing, but I said that while players were compensated well, the owners were doing much better. Besides, would KayJay reduce the wages of the workers out of some empty-headed resentment if that meant that the money would stay in the pocket of the owners? Where’s the class-consciousness? I tell KayJay that, as workers, it's up to the players to stick it to the man for as much money as they can. See, the man tries to divide the workers along ethnic and income lines, but, dude, a worker is a worker is a worker, whether you make minimum wage or, uh, $20,000,000 a year.

Okay, I feel better now.

The Man Is Trying to Keep Me Down: I'm rolling out from Bert's at around 1:40 a.m., and as soon as I get to the first intersection, I spot a cop come up behind me.

I've been hassled by the man a couple of times, so I know how this game goes. Once, driving from Seattle back to California (on the 4th of July, by the way; no, I’m not making that up), I got pulled over in Stockton for no reason. I was asked almost immediately by the cop if I had any outstanding warrants and then if he could search the car with his dope-sniffing dog.

What the hell? I'm the nerdiest of dudes, but I guess that I looked hardcore to him. I guess that it was a compliment, in an ignorant/racisty way. Surely this Mexicano in this car has to have a car full of meth.

Now, I've been fighting against the man since I was a kid, so I know that I can tell him that, no goddamn way, he can't search the car.

But I also knew that he could find a way to search the car if he had really wanted to.

I thought that that scrap of paper was, as they say, a "doobie."

Your shorts speak to me of immorality and a long life of crime.

I had a mystical vision that there was a grenade launcher under the passenger seat.

So I punked and let the copper search the ride. No, I didn’t feel good about it, but I had envisioned a long afternoon spent on the side of the road while my family waited for me so that I could be there for our annual fireworks fest.

And I knew that there was nothing to find.

Or did I? The car was used, so maybe the previous owner or the one before that or the one before that had been a serious duster? Maybe there was enough tranq in the car to get half of Alabama lit?

Well, Fido didn’t find anything, so the chota had no reason to hold, and I came back to my hometown with a story.

Truthfully, though, that whole incident bothered me for a long time: I knew that I wasn’t the only Mexicano getting hassled that day and that some of the people getting hassled would probably have felt scared and many also would have felt powerless.

But I digress. That sheriff who pulled in right behind me? Because I had spotted him early in his move, I locked in my speed at a legal pace and I was solid on the wheel. After a while, he came off, and I made more effective use of my accelerator.

Pizza Time: Well, except for the fact that it was almost two in the morning, which means that it was impossible to actually get a real pizza. What I mean is that I had won enough money to buy, if I had wanted to, a large pizza: $22.00.

22 December 2006

It's Like Crack, But In a Good Way: Norman and Ruben have barely ever played Omaha, and had never played Omaha High-Low. It's a tricky game, and you can lose a boatload of money on it, but you can also win big pots if you play it smartly.

I'm pretty good at conveying information and/or teaching a craft, so I gave them a mini-lesson in which I dealt everybody a dead hand and talked them through the various situations in which they would find themselves and the multiple decisions that they would have to make.

At first, they were a little nervous to play, so we gave them dummy cards off of the bottom of the deck while we played a live hand, just so that they could have some no-stress practice.

Norman was the first one to get up his courage, and he played the next hand. Ruben shortly followed suit, and though you could tell that they were still a little overwhelmed, they got in there and mixed it up with the rest of us. In fact, in no time, there they were, dealing out high-low themselves.

Goddamn, Dude: I've got A-6 clubs, so, after Jesse bets his standard $1, I make it $6 to go (I know that A-6 is not a hand to even call a bet with, but I was trying to randomize my game, so leave me alone,), and everybody folds except for Norman. The flop comes J-2-2, and I'm feeling pretty good. I figure that for $6, he's playing face cards, so I don't think that it's even remotely possible that he's holding a deuce. Because he may have called with two face cards, he may have a jack, but it's unlikely that he hit one of his three outs in the deck, a six-percent chance.

I bet the $5 to end it right there and not give him a chance to draw out on me. Instead, Norman makes it $10 to go. Now Norman's been playing a lot of pots when he was in on a bluff and had to turn over junk cards, so I'm not sure with what cards he's betting into me. Because I'm getting five-to-one, I call. The turn misses me, he bets the $5, and I call. The exact same thing happens on the river, and I'm into this pot for $26.

Since I called him, he turns over his cards: J-2 hearts. J-2 hearts? He had flopped a full house. Never could I have ever put him on that hand. It was a terrible call to make pre-flop (if he pairs his deuce, he's dead; pairing his jack with such a horrible kicker would also have been a disaster; chasing a flush pre-flop is a sure way to leave all of your money behind), but he had lucked into a monster hand.

Perhaps, after the flop, I should have checked. He would have bet his boat, and I could have tried to make a read on him then. It would have been much easier to get away from the hand then, and only for $6, but I handcuffed myself to the hand and dropped an extra $20.

(Editor’s Note, 17 April 2008: And the above hand became famous at our game. Now, holding J-2 means that you have the Norman. Every once in a while, somebody will mention that hand and then do an impression of Norman when he said, as he turned over his cards, “I got a boat.”

Out of all of the impressionists at our table, it is universally acknowledged that I do the best Norman, and that probably has to do with the fact that it was me who lost the hand.)

Time Gets Us All: One of my homies went in for some knee work; they were going to clean it out, as they say, and then work on the lack-of-cartilage issue. The clean-out went down, but the doctor had decided, after going in, that the cartilage issue couldn't be worked on.

My homie had to go back to talk to his doc about why. I found out at tonight's game that the why was because there was hardly any cartilage with which to work. In a few years, my homie will be bone-on-bone, and then, potentially (probably), knee-replacement down the line. For now and forever after: no hoops, no racquetball, no knee-stress-inducing sports in general. Damn.

I've also got knee issues, from years of wrestling and from the fact that there seem to have been many manufacturer's defects in my production (not that I believe in a Manufacturer; I’ve sort of bet the farm [not that I believe in ownership or even the idea of ownership {though, yes, I do own stuff, but not a whole lot, and at least I have the decency to not feel too good about the stuff that I do own}] that there isn't one): the right thumb (hasn't felt right since high school), the right shoulder (what's with the popping and lack of strength and the feeling that it’s never exactly in the socket like it’s supposed to be?), the left wrist (it hurts, dude, all of the time, and it can't take much weight), and the left ankle (tweaked that bastard a few years ago and in the morning it sounds like somebody's crumpling cellophane [with a hand that’s been pre-wrapped in some more cellophane]).

But I’m mostly worried about the knees. There's some weirdness going on in there and things feel much looser than they should and, also, there's the general achiness and the strange noises (clicks and pops and such). I had them checked out in college, and the doc gave me a photocopied set of exercises to do that would take as much stress off of the joints themselves as possible and transfer that stress to the theoretical muscles that I would theoretically develop.

Uh, I was an undergrad, bro, and I had a lot of stuff going on, and, pardon me, I lost that little photocopied sheet in about three days, give or take two days.

But my bud’s knee problems weren’t the only medical thing going down this week at our game. One of the other members of the poker crew had his tonsils out. He hadn't eaten anything of substance (or of deliciousness) in four days, and he looked half-dead and miserable.

On the upside, they had given him some Tylenol with codeine in order to ease his suffering. Combined with the fact that my just-operated-on homie has been taking post-surgery vicodin, this means that a nice chunk of the table was tweaking. Who am I to judge?

It Could Happen: I lost tonight, $61.00, which isn't much, but it’s enough, since my YTD was so low going in, to put me in real danger of actually losing money for the year. After tonight’s disaster, I’m ahead by $32, but all it takes is one moderately bad hand to lose $32.

29 December 2006

There Was Clarification: Last week there was drama about some of our practices and procedures, and that drama seemed to be present at the beginning of tonight’s game. Was no one going to broach the subject?

From the beginning of time, men have been great at pretending that there isn't a problem when there so clearly is. Yeah, we're screwed up, but what are you going to do?

Mature? Be a better person? Realize that you're marring your own sad little life by keeping everything inside until you choke on your despair and you find yourself mysteriously and quietly weeping while you're stopped in traffic (and you look out your window and everything looks as if it's been slightly washed out and is moving in slow motion) and then you finally find yourself praying for death's sweet embrace to release you from yourself?

No, because even that that would involve honesty and introspection, and we're dudes and, thus (sorry, baby), we're mostly incapable. Yeah, I know.

But broached the subject was. I, as a founding member of the game (one of the Classic Five), unofficial co-host, and official game runner, felt that, even though, I'm no good at conflict (my heart goes hummingbird and my already less-than-deep voice goes up an octave; it's not pretty), I had to try to make sure that all issues and concerns at hand were addressed.

And we seemed to get most everything settled in a way that we could all live with, and whatever lingering tensions remained were assuaged by the fellowship of a bunch of guys sitting around making dumb jokes and taking each other's money.

Of His Own Volition: It's the Friday after Christmas and before New Year's, and there were a few absences from tonight's game, so Ice ended up being the only white dude at the game.

I'm sure that he was a little scared and was looking for an inconspicuous way to get his wallet into his shoe. (My own rule is that if I'm in a room with more than three Chicanos, I go and hide my money in my car. No, I’m joking. As soon as I see the aforementioned three+ Chicanos, I just hand over my wallet so that they don't have to kill me for it.) Nah

Joking again: Ice is cool and he actually married into the Raza, so he's now an honorary member.

Even though people had said that they weren't coming, we were still hopeful that they'd show up late, which sometimes happens; we even had one dude, who shall remain nameless so that he doesn't end up having to put in couch time, leave the birthday party of one of his children to come to the game. I’ve got nothing but respect for this guy now.

In fact, we had two teases that people were arriving: one car slowed down, turned into my big bro's driveway, but he or she was only using the driveway to flip a uey. And then another car did the exact same thing a little while later.

My big bro then busted a joke about how the cops had seen Ice in a room full of Mexicans and were coming to save him and arrest the rest of us. Well done, big bro, well done. Shameless person that I am, I piggybacked off of his bit and pretended to tell the cops, as if they were storming in, SWAT-style, to save Ice, "He's not a hostage! He's here of his own free will."

What the Hell Is This Thing? My life's changed. Where before I exclusively got down on junk food at the game, I've tried to give that shit up.

Instead, I eat Fruit Medley, this dried-fruit stuff that you can buy at Costco. It does contain various nuts, so it should properly be called Fruit and Nut Medley, but whatever.

I usually pour that crap into a bowl and eat it with a spoon. And tonight, I found myself eating that stuff and washing it down with bottled water. Bottled water and dried fruit. I looked down at what had become my semi-regular poker snack, and a wave of tragedy washed over me. This is my life? What the hell happened?

I look deeply into the bowl for an answer, but there was none to be found. Then I saw that there were bits of fruit that I could in no way identify. I spooned up a particularly mysterious bit of fruit that was of a dark-orange hue and I asked Bert, who was sitting to my left, if he had any idea what kind of fruit it was. He also had no idea.

Then the tragedy gained in strength as I said, Who ever gave a goddamn about fruit, man? I can identify any type of Dorito—Oh, that's that new Ranchero flavor. That one's that Salsa Verde thing that they've got going.— but I have no goddamn idea what the hell this is.

Why would I have cared? But look at what I'm eating now. My life makes no sense to me at all. The poker crew laughed, but I was in deep existential crisis.

I'm Kind of Harsh: I've never been the encouraging type. Well, that's not exactly right. What I mean is that I've never been falsely encouraging. You know: one of those people who will find the one good thing that you did out of the twenty things that you utterly botched.

I am reminded now of Sensei Imamura, my judo teacher from when I was in college. Somebody in class would attempt a throw that looked more like an all-over muscle spasm after a night of smoking crack and drinking lighter fluid, and all Sensei would say (even though he took second at the World University Games and was utterly badass) was, Good idea.

See, now that's world-class encouragement, and I understood then and understand now, where he's coming from.

I'm more the kind of person who can see you do something and get nineteen out of twenty things right and only want to talk about the one thing that needed improvement. I've never been the type of person who needed to be encouraged or hear what I was doing right. I always saw it as a waste of time because I would rather have been talking about what I needed to fix.

But, over time, I've tried to be more encouraging, even if I have to make stuff up or out-and-out lie.

Ice was up huge for the early part of the game, which was nice. Since joining our game a few weeks ago, he'd been giving it up real sweet, but it looked like he had finally figured out how to hang in our game. Then it started to go south for him. At one point he was back to even, and then he was actually down a noticeable amount.

Keeping in mind that I'm trying to be encouraging nowadays, I said, You're probably still up a little bit (which, in this case, qualifies this as an "out-and-out lie"), but he said, Are you kidding? I'm down a lot.

I countered by saying, Yeah, I know. I was just trying to be encouraging.

Screw it, man, that's what I get for trying.

Two-Years Strong: Tonight's game was the last one of 2006, which was a little sad, at least for me. I'm one of those sentimental nitwits who's always missing stuff even as he's in the middle of it.

You know, This thing is great...but , one day, it will be over...then it will be in the past and alive only in my memory...and then, little by little, my memory will fail, will betray me...and then the thing will be gone...and that loss will feel like a little death...and that little death will remind me that all things—not just myself, but all things—end...and none of this, not one little bit of this, matters.

Sorry about that. I got a little carried away there for a second. The whole point of this section is that, counting tonight's game, we will have played once every week for at least two years straight. We had played prior to that, but historical records prior to 2005 are sketchy. I'm pretty sure (but can offer no proof) that we played on a weekly basis for at least December of 2004, maybe even a little bit into November.

This Is How It Ends: Coming into tonight's game, I was only up $32.00, so there had been a chance that I was actually going to lose money for the year.

(How come I can play in an a 900-person online tournament and finish seventeenth and in an 1,800-person online tournament and finish eleventh but I'm barely ahead of even when I play with my buddies?

It's easy: my boys are hardcore to the end, and none of them have fear in their hearts at a poker table. Nor do any of them have a reverse gear: they will come at you and come at you and test your nerve and your character until you are so unsure of yourself that you start to make bad decision after bad decision and find yourself pouring chips into their stacks.)

I started losing money early and was actually down at one point by about $28, which meant that I was only ahead for the year by a grand total of $4, which meant that I was one hand away from running a deficit for 2006. Then I had money in a pot that, if I lost the hand, would have put me in the red.

I won that hand, then a few more, and, soon, I was up around $75 for the night, which was a great relief. Then I started to give that money right back, once when I placed $30 into a pot with a set of nines, only to be behind to Ice’s set of aces, but to then have both of us eventually losing to my big bro's fifth-street nut straight. Nasty business, that.

I did go on a bit of a rush at the end of the game, and ended up making $65.75, which means that I don't have to hang myself for dishonoring the family name.

So, for the year how did I do, what was the 2006 Grand Total?

I finished with a record of 29-25 and made $95.75.

What does that mean? That I made an average of $1.77 per game. That there's a -$712.50 difference between 2005 and 2006. That there’s no other way to think about it other than that everybody in my game improved a lot more over the course of the year than I did. That they are leaving me behind.

I hope that 2007 is better.