The City Limit’s Fine: The February 2007 Poker Report

(Editor’s Note: This bastard only took me a week to post; at this rate, I'll be caught up by the end of the summer. I'm not making any promises, however, because there's a great chance that I'll only disappoint us both, and I'm tired of going around, disappointing people.)

2 February 2007

Life Lessons: During a partial meeting of the executive council (partial because my big bro had yet to arrive), Bert and I discussed the normal issues and concerns that might creep up in a long-standing venture such as ours.

It was during this discussion that Bert gently but forthrightly spoke on his feelings that KayJay's and my less-than-healthy relationship/interactions at the table, were marring his and others’ good times.

Great, I'm a prick. The truth is that KayJay's a shit-talker (as in one who talks a lot of shit), and I have all kinds of trouble with shit-talkers, shit-talkers, according to binomial nomenclature, being a subspecies of the ill-mannered/non-classy family.

I despise bad manners. I just think that if we all exhibited good manners, life would tend to be much more pleasant. Also, I'm from the Mike Ditka school of success: if you have a moment of great success, don't act you've just simultaneously cured cancer and won the lottery and got your checkbook to finally balance; act like you've done it before.

At first, I would just try to let KayJay's shtick slide, but, in defense of classiness, I started jawing right back. Language is my thing, so I'm pretty much guaranteed to win any verbal battle with KayJay, but this had no effect on him, which only upped the ante, if you will, on the back and forth.

And I guess that at some point it had gotten to be a problem for Bert, inventor of the Bert Light and the obtuse angle. I respect Bert, inventor of the Bert Death Spiral and the halogen lightbulb, so much that I immediately knew that he was speaking wisely. I apologized profusely and told him that, from that conversation on, I would work on being cool when KayJay was around, and that Bert would be proud of me.

I Bet You Felt Cheap and Dirty: Occasionally, there's another game that goes down on the same night as ours. We know a lot of their players and their players know a lot of ours. Some of our crew, Big Daddy included (I'm Big Daddy), have even played in their game, back before our game really got established and became a weekly event.

They're nice guys over there, but our game is perhaps a little tougher. At least, that's the word out on the street. (No, I'm not being an ass; people actually do talk about our game. Ask around if you don’t believe me.) Not that our game isn't a lot of fun.

In fact, it's probably that fun factor that keeps the core players (I would have said the Classic Five, but Ivan, poker player deluxe and designer/programmer/host of this here website, has taken an indefinite leave of absence because of one major issue: Love.

Great. Now, I've got nothing against love [I've been pro-love since the '80s, when other people were denouncing it as outdated and/or corny and/or hilarious], but can't a brother get a night off once every few months? That's all I'm saying. Unless he's in so deep that the chains feel like warm, velvety happiness, in which case he's doomed and all hope is lost.) together. You lose $100, but you laughed your ass off. Seems like a pretty decent deal.

(Editor’s Note: Wow, I just realized that in the above two paragraphs the adverb together drifted rather far from its verb keeps and has become almost impossible to read.

It’s a real problem that I have, embedding quite long parentheticals inside a sentence and also perhaps embedding a parenthetical within another parenthetical. Here’s that above-mentioned sentence, without all of that extra nonsense: In fact, it's probably that fun factor that keeps the core players together. Yeah, I did a real disservice to and/or committed great violence upon that sentence.)

One of those core players is Jesse, but I get an e-mail on Wednesday to inform me that he's got "something going on" on the night of our game and that he probably won't be able to play on Friday. Not a problem: people have stuff, so cool. Then my big bro lets us know that Jesse's probably at the other game. Damn him, and his betrayal. I'm wounded, sir.

I should let you know that I have self-esteem issues, and that I'm paralyzed by terrible feelings of inadequacy, which means only one thing: that Jesse's skipping our game for theirs makes me feel bad about myself, like, "What's wrong with us and our game?" Yeah, that's not healthy, but that boat sailed long ago.

But then I get a call on my mobile around midnight. It's Jesse. Are we still playing? Yes, I coolly inform him, maintaining epic levels of dignity and self-respect, we are still playing. When he arrives a short time later, KayJay's with him.

Here We Go: After the arrival of Jesse and KayJay, we had eight players. With eight players at the table and no backdown in anybody, I knew that it might get intense. We were also playing tons of Omaha High-Lo, so we were getting many big pots.

The biggest one, probably one of the biggest of all time, maybe even the biggest (I don't think any of us had ever thought to keep track), got up to an even $200, of which Jesse, with his 6-6-6-8-8 boat, took half. That's right, he got $100 from one pot.

Sadly, at the time he was down so much that that gigantic pot only took him a little bit over even. Even sadder, the low got chopped by two nut hands ("nut" meaning the best possible hand; no, I have no idea from where the expression comes [but I’m pretty sure that it’s vulgar]).

One has two options in this type of action game: get into a lot of pots and mix it up, or wait only for premium hands. There are plenty of players in our game who don’t mind putting a lot of chips in play, even when the situation isn't favorable. They’re called gamblers.

Seeing as I'm completely risk-averse, I went with the sensible approach and played only hands that were of a premium nature. Which meant that I mostly folded out for the last ninety minutes that I played, though I did manage to make around $20 in that time. Others made and lost way more than that.

So now you might be thinking, Wait a minute; I thought that poker is gambling. Well, if you're a sucker, it is.

I think of it as a game of mathematics and decision-making and risk management. I know, not very exciting, but I mostly just care about making the correct decisions—analyzing all available information and data and then acting upon that analysis—as much as I possibly can. I get more excited about being right tan I ever do about how many chips I've managed to accumulate.

Which is just a fancy way to say that I've managed to make playing poker as exciting or romantic as taking out a home loan.

The Math's Not Hard: Ice was "tripping out" that he had been dealt a four-flush in three different hands of Omaha, and he wondered aloud what the odds of being dealt a four flush were. I'm kind of a math nerd, so I quickly went to work on the problem in my head. The problem itself wasn't complicated but I was trying to multiply some pretty ugly fractions. That's when KayJay said that it was easy, all you had to do was multiply 1/4 times itself four times. Like this: 1/4*1/4*1/4*1/4, which would equal 1/256. That's a pretty rough estimate, and I said, "Well, that's not exactly it," at which point KayJay launched into a spirited/snotty defense of his calculations. I had been well behaved up until this point, but, come on, bro, this was really too much.

I then said that he needed to remove one card from his calculations every time he multiplied. That was also when I said, "The math's not hard," which, okay, was probably a little condescending, but, seriously, the math's not hard. That was when he allowed that I was correct, but again in a less than generous manner, which maybe, at this point, I had bought upon myself.

I turned to Bert, inventor of the Bert Classic and the shoelace, and said, Come on, Bert, you've got to give me that one, because I had let a lot of stuff slide up until that point. (KayJay would make some snarky/impolitic remark, and I wouldn't say a thing; instead, I would turn to Bert [who was seated to my immediate left] and say, See, Bert? I'm not saying a goddamn thing, and he would acknowledge my stern resolve in the face of KayJay's onslaught. I felt sort of proud of myself, and I'm usually not proud of anything, so it was a nice feeling.) Bert then looked upon me and, in his infinite wisdom, gave a blessing to my diss.

By the way if you, yourself, are curious about the exact odds, it goes like this: at first, to hold any card of one suit, your odds are 13 out of 52 (because there are a total of thirteen suited cards in a deck of fifty-two cards), which is from where KayJay got his initial "1/4". But here's where KayJay's numbers start to get off track. Now there are only 12 suited cards out of 51 remaining cards. You get that one, but now there are only 11 suited cards out of 50. Then there are only 10 out of 49. The true equation, then, looks like this: 13/52*12/51*11/50*10/49=X. The true odds, thus, are 1/378.63, which means that KayJays rather crudely calculated odds were off by a whopping 47.9%.

Part of his obnoxiousness about my questioning of his calculations had grown out of the fact that he had thought that I was being nit-picky, but his being off by nearly half is what he should have been in a snit about.

It Pays to Be Careful: I pulled $100.50 for evening, even though I tried my hardest to not get too involved in the bloodbath, which means that I managed to stop the losing streak at just one game.

9 February 2007

I Got Excited: As soon as we had enough players to get the game going, I kind of turned into a nitwit. In the first thirty minutes, I played two hands that I shouldn’t have played and another one that was iffy (at best), and I found myself down about $38. In the grand scheme of things (not that, as I’ve stated previously, I believe in a scheme; I’m betting the metaphorical house on there not being a scheme), not a lot, but our game is no joke, and every dollar that you bone away may not come back.

It’s the idea of maximizing value. You want to get as much value out of any particular hand in any particular situation, and you want to do the same with your chips. You get maximum value for your chips when you get them into a pot when there’s a positive expected value.

You also get maximum value for your chips by NOT throwing them into a pot that you have little to no chance of winning. But I found myself, without really thinking about what I was doing, putting chips into pots that I had no reasonable expectation that I should win.

So why did I do it? No clue. It’s almost like I leave my body or like I’m not taking the situation seriously/not giving the situation the respect that it deserves.

There’s a compound noun for what I’m talking about: a character defect. And I know that I have it, and I know that I need to stop it, and I also recognize that I have yet to do so completely or for very long.

The Return: We’re going seven-handed, which is pretty exciting, and we think that that’s as many players as we’re going to have. Then there’re headlights outside, and we start to wonder who it could be. Ivan hasn’t played in forever, but I can still recognize his ride, and this isn’t it. It couldn’t be Seann Gee because he rolls in a BMW. Ice’s doing his husbandly duties and is out. Surge has called to say that he’s a no-go for tonight. Then my big bro says that maybe Frosty’s coming tonight, but Frosty pulls serious money at his gig, and, upon closer inspection, the vehicle looks to be a truck, an older truck. No way could that be Frosty’s ride.

Nobody else recognizes the truck, so now I start to get a little worried. Maybe somebody’s come to look for payback, though I have no idea why or on whom. I’m just generally worried about people seeking payback because there’s a long list of people whom I’ve disappointed, and I figure that one day they are going to come in through a door to seek solace upon me.

But this is no payback seeker. It is Seann Gee.

Seann Gee hadn’t played in all of 2007. Hey, man, whatever. You roll how you roll. The funny thing is that when he first got into our game, it was 50-50 that I was going to have to hit him with my car.

He was (and is) that annoying, but I guess that I got used to him being around, sort of how I imagine that one could get used to going bone-on-bone in your knee. Painful like a mother, it’s only going to get worse, you might want to someday suck on the end of a shotgun over the misery that it causes you, but what are you going to do?

That’s Just Good Parenting: One of the players, who shall remain anonymous in order to protect his rep on the street and also to protect him from prosecution, left one of his kids at a pizza place so that he could come over and get in a “few hands.”

Christ, I thought, there’s an eight-year-old at a pizza joint, sitting at a table, eating pizza, wondering when her dad is coming back from the restroom. You got to admire that kind of dedication to irresponsibility and to wrecking your life, but it wasn’t an eight-year-old who had been abandoned; it was a high schooler who was with a bunch of her friends, so nothing too tragic could have happened.

Maybe the pizza could have been less than a delight, but that’s be the worst that probably could have gone down.

The New Me: After Bert spoke so wisely to me last week about not going back at KayJay when he acts foolish, I found that I could keep myself. But it’s hard because this guy, there’s no other way to say it, seems to lack manners.

On one hand, he played 8-5, even after I made it $8 to go pre-flop off of his $3 opening bet. The flop was all junk. And I was holding unsuited A-K. The flop missed us both, which means that he needed to pair his eight or his five to win the hand. Six outs, which made him roughly 24% to hit his hand by the end.

I lead out $5, and he calls. The turn is a four, another junk card for both of us, I bet the $5, and he calls. The river brings the ace for which I had been hoping, but I’m worried now about all of the bets that KayJay’s called. Maybe he’s a better poker player than I have ever given him credit for (which, roughly, is no credit at all), and he’s been slow-playing a monster hand, probably a set, and he’s let me hang myself. He’s been first to act the whole time, and when he checks this time, I decide to check behind him.

It’s a good thing that I did because he turns over his 8-5 and has made the five-high straight with runner-runner 4-A. That’s right, he bet and called with nothing (though, at the end, counting his outs for a pair with his open-ended straight draw that he picked up on the turn, he probably thought that he had fourteen outs, making him 30% to catch at the river), and when he finally made a hand, he didn’t bet it.

It’d be pretty hard to play this hand any worse than he did, but he still got me for $18. You’d have to be pretty ignorant to how poker is played to not know just how dumb he had been and how lucky he had gotten, but he still acted like a prick about it, saying, “Thanks for the help,” as if he had somehow suckered me.

The old me would have helpfully pointed out the moronic nature of his play and the unmannerly way in which he was comporting himself, in just that type of language (thus putting my language/writing skills to use in a way that might actually be utile). Conversely, I may have, to have kept it “real,” chosen instead to work coarser areas of the language for my cogent rejoinder.

Either way, KayJay would have been outgunned, but the new me dug deep and managed to fight off his natural inclination to denounce the ill mannered and badly raised. There’s some satisfaction to be derived from this, even if it is a quieter type of satisfaction. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself.

Clearly Not Satisfying: I lost $42.50, taking the YTD down to $373.75 and the overall to 4-2.

16 February 2007

Can’t a Brother Get a Call: So there I am at my big bro’s, getting the place set up and getting down on some fish sticks. (I love fish sticks, but this post isn’t about that, so let’s not get into it right now.) When I stop to check my mobile, I have a message from Bert, inventor of the Bert Classic and the metal, saying that he’s been in meetings all day and that he’s burned and that won’t be playing.

Bert’s so hardcore at his job that he’s being bought in to a place in order to hit them with the awesome power of his ideas. Respect to him, especially since, in contrast, nobody even cares for a second about my ideas (especially not me), but he is, next to me, the most reliable attendee at our game. In fact, I think of him and me as making up the Steering Committee for the Executive Council of our game, the two people who deal with whatever issues that may come up in the running and/or organization and/or maintenance of our game.

Bert’s not playing is a drag, but that’s how it goes. Then I get a call from Ice, telling me that he’s just talked to my big bro, who, being hardcore himself, was also at that meeting, who says that he, too, is cooked and may also not be playing. Art’s out of town, as is Seann Gee, Ivan is who-knows-where nowadays, Surge shows up when he shows up and can’t be counted on, so the only person besides me who is definitely playing is Jesse. Calls are made as I try to ascertain just what the hell has happened.

I drive in from out of town to set the game up, a forty-minute trip each way, and nobody’s more exhausted than I am by the time Friday evening comes around. If I had known that there was a possibility that the game was going to fall apart, then, yeah, it’s a drag, but I wouldn’t have driven in. During the calls I make an executive decision and decide to just call off the game.

Jesse’s the last guy that I call, and it turns out that he’s already on the way, and he doesn’t mind playing two- or three-handed (especially since he’s been ruling the table for most of the last year), so I call Ice back, but he’d already made other plans in the time between his calling me and my calling him back.

Tournament Style: Instead of playing a cash game with our usual limits, Jesse and I decide to play no-limit freeze-out, where you buy in for a set amount (in this case, $10 each) and play until one person has all the chips, at which point you take both buy-ins.

Jesse’s no joke at a poker table, and, to be honest, his is a scary game: aggressive, relentless, cruel. The thing is that I feel really comfortable playing heads-up, even against Jesse, so I think that I might be able to hold my own.

Jesse’s game can be turned against him because you can disguise your hands by checking and letting him lead the betting the entire way (which he loves to do), only to come out aggressively at the end or by check-raising early and putting him on the defensive.

At the end of our series of mini-tournaments, I’d made $45: four ten-dollar victories and, after Jesse requested that we lower the buy-in to $5, one five-dollar victory.

Overall, I went 8-3 against Jesse.

Poker Player Deluxe: Jesse and I have been engaged in our heads-up battle for about two hours when an unfamiliar car slows down, reverses, and pulls into the driveway. I’ve no clue, though I suspect that it might be Surge. Who else could it be? But Surge rolls in a big ride, and this vehicle is sportier in nature.

Who walks in through the door? It’s Ivan, poker player deluxe and designer/programmer/host of this here website. I hadn’t seen him since late-December, about seven weeks ago, and I hadn’t played poker with him in even longer than that.

He says that he’s only there to pick up some clothes. My thinking on it is that if of all of the days and times that he could have stopped in to pick up some clothes, he chooses to come at a time when he knows that there’s a poker game going on, then he perhaps might want to actually play some poker.

We get him to play, if only for an hour, yet he’s shown up empty-pocketed. Not a problem: I don’t roll without about a grand on me, you know, in case a poker game breaks out. I cut my Ivan a $50 loan, and, for the first time in three months and two weeks, Ivan's playing poker with the crew, even if there are only three of us playing.

Okay, I’m just going to say it: I think that Ivan was a little rusty. I say this not to be critical, but he did manage to burn through that $50 in the sixty minutes for which he played.

It was nice to see my homie again. Making it extra nice was the fact that he announced that he’d play again in two weeks. I think that we’re getting Ivan back now, much like a person can give up, say, the crack cocaine, live clean for a while, but, man, that crack cocaine sure went down smooth, and maybe, just maybe, a little taste wouldn’t kill you. Maybe you even owe it to yourself to test whether you really have it beat by partaking once again.

Not Great, but Certainly Not Bad: I made $34.50, taking the YTD up to $408.25 and the overall to 5-2.

18 February 2007

(Editor’s Note, 5 May 2008: I’ve no notes anywhere of what happened on this night, other than a one-line entry on my 2007 Poker Log. I've checked all of the computers on which I've ever worked on these Poker Reports, but I came up empty. There’s not a scrap of paper anywhere with any notes toward a future draft [though there must have been; how else would I have recorded exactly how much I lost and who had played?]. There’s been a breakdown in the system, obviously, but I don’t know what happened.

The only thing of which I am sure is that I got stomped [by Bert, Jesse, Arizona, and Seann Gee], losing $84.00 for the evening. I’m now 5-3 and have made $324.75 for the year.)

(Editor’s Note, 14 May 2008: Never mind. I found the rough draft, short though it is, on a document entitled Website Material, the document to which I had added all of the weekly rough drafts as I wrote them before I started saving each rough draft as a separate document.

Unfortunately, as I stated previously, the draft was really short and consists of only two mildly amusing bits for which the context is, alas, lost. And here they are.)

Steaks: I don’t know, call me crazy, but twenty-seven ounces of anything is too much. Twenty-seven ounces of steak is way too much. That’s not a meal, that’s a lifestyle commitment.

Not only did Jesse get down on the cow (for which he is to be commended), he also partook of beans, bread, and, in order to keep it healthy, a salad. That was when I asked if he’d also eaten the plate. I also asked if the meal came with the phone number of a good heart surgeon.

(Editor’s Note, 14 May 2008: You can tell that that bit was going to be hot if I only could have recalled the particulars.

Like, where does one acquire a steak of such awe-inspiring proportions? More importantly, what makes one decide that the acquisition of such a large percentage of a cow is actually a good idea? And, most importantly of all, how can one possibly survive that consumption.

Jesse’s a really educated guy and is quite successful in his chosen field, but I’m most impressed by the fact that he didn’t die after eating that steak.)

The $70 Burrito: Seann Gee hadn't played in a while, and he may have been a little rusty. Rusty to the point of bleeding out $70 in no time at all. He had gone all in, it hadn't worked out for him, so now he was just partaking of the ambiance.

I put out the standard poker snacks, but I always make sure to mention the fact that I've got fish sticks and chicken chunks and burritos in the freezer.

Seann Gee, having not much to do, heats one of those bastards up—he calls it a $70 burrito.

I tell him to put some salsa on that son of a bitch.

(Editor’s Note, 14 May 2008: And that’s all that I've got on the burrito stuff. I’m sure that more people got in on the bit and that we riffed away until we had completely worked the hell out of it. Everybody at the table is quite articulate and unafraid of going wherever the comedy takes them, but those jokes, however good they may have been, are lost to time.)

23 February 2007

I’m a Genius: Omaha’s a tricky game. You can make a powerful hand on the flop, but you may not know where you are.

With my A-4, I flop the 4-4-4-A-A boat. From here on out, it’s going to be hard to lose this hand, but it would be easy to not make any money off of it, either. Too strong a bet may only get folds.

I decide to check-raise, which would have worked great except for the fact that nobody actually bet behind me, not even Jesse, who will pretty much bet anything. He could have been dealt only three cards, and he would still come out betting.

An eight lands on the turn, what looks to be a pretty harmless card. I bet the $5, and Jesse immediately re-raises $5.

The board is 4-4-A-8 now, and I’m concerned that I’ve just slow-played my way into a big mess that it will be hard to get out of. (I apologize for ending the previous sentence with a preposition, but the alternative ending— into a big mess of which it will be hard to get out—would have sounded unpleasant.) Still, I’m getting just over three-to-one on a call for a hand that I might still be leading or for which I have a few outs.

I make the call, the river card misses me, as usual, but this time I check when it comes to me. Jesse, however bets the $5.

It’s hard to fold a flopped boat, so I call, putting me into the pot for about $15. That’s when Jesse turns over his pocket eights, a pair that gave him the 8-8-8-4-4 boat. He had had two outs in the entire deck, making him an 11-to-1 underdog to pass me.

Of course, it’s much easier to pass someone when he or she doesn’t bet his hand and lets you catch for free.

The Flu Was Helpful: KayJay’s a pain. There’s no way to get around that. That’s just how he rolls. Tonight, however, he was much more subdued. Part of that may have to do with the fact that I’m not going back at him like I used to, not since Bert yelled at me.

And it is kind of cool to see KayJay having a one-person fistfight with himself: comical and tragic at the same time (but mostly comical).

Maybe he’s figured out that he looks silly when he’s flailing away at himself. Could it be that KayJay’s growing up, that he’s looked inside of himself and has seen that, perhaps, just perhaps, there’s this better version of himself that’s waiting to be born?

No. He was sick. He showed up with his own box of facial tissue, a tin box of fancy throat lozenges, and a six-pack of Dasani to take care of his hydrational needs.

The Breathe Right Strips: But KayJay didn’t just show up with the above-mentioned items; he also showed up wearing one of these silly things on his nose. You’ve got to respect a man who would allow himself to be seen in such a state.

It looked like he was ready to go out for a pass. Or like somebody needed to hand him his inhaler and his sack lunch for day camp. Not manly, dude, not manly.

I haven't breathed well since the day I was born, having something to do with allergies, probably (though I’ll do nothing to find out what exactly the deal is because doctors scare me and because I’d just rather not know that it’s coming apart until it’s come apart), but I’d rather die than sport one of those embarrassments on my face.

Nothing, not even the sweet oxygen, is worth it.

He Is Merciful: And by He, I mean Surge.

He joined our game in 2006, and he only played four times—once each in June, July, September and October—but he’s already played three times in 2007.

In 2006, he paid out, but since he’s come back into our game, he’s taken our money like we owed it to him.

Part of the problem is that people aren’t giving him credit for having hands when he bets or calls, and he’s getting extra bets into pots that are going his way a good percentage of the time.

He’s become so hardcore that I have taken to making Biblical allusions during the game (because if any deity can be said to be anything, it would have to be hardcore; think about it: creating a universe [according to whatever creation myth to which you subscribe] is about as hardcore as it can get.).

If Surge lets a free card come off, instead of betting out like he usually does now, I’ll sometimes say, Surge has decided to show mercy upon us. It’s funny how there’s now a definite sense of anticipation/dread as we all wait to see what Surge is going to do.

The table hasn’t been this jumpy since Bert and Jesse were throwing their chips around back in early 2005 and scaring the hell out of the rest of us.

I, However, Am Not a Sucker: I don’t get mixed up in hands with Surge unless I’m nearly unbeatable. And, even then, I’m going to try to keep the post small and be satisfied if I win or lose only a small amount.

If I’m going to accumulate chips, I've decided that it will have to come from other players.

But Not Tonight: Because I lost $39.75. And because I went 2-3. and because I lost $31.25 for the month, taking the YTD to $284.50

And I had thought that I had gotten my game straightened out in January.

Damn it.

(Editor’s Note, 12 May 2008: The title of this particular Poker Report comes from a lovely song by The Radio Dept. The funny thing is that I purchased this song off of iTunes on 16 September 2006, which means that I had obviously liked the thirty-second sample that I had heard, but the song never got too deeply into the rotation. It's only in the past five or six weeks that I've really started listening to the song. It's wistful like Nick Drake, and it sounds a little like My Bloody Valentine, and I love Nick Drake and I love My Bloody Valentine. This song is full of longing, and it sounds so beautiful.)