The Lantern-Lit Semi-Darkness: The November 2007 Poker Report

(Editor's Note: This bitch is going live only five days after the last Poker Report. I should be cught up in no time, unless inspiration strikes and I actually start writing fiction again.)


2 November 2007

Let the Cruelty Begin: So Bert gets there a little late. He, Arizona, and I start talking about the Las Vegas trip that my big bro and I are taking in about two weeks. It’s going to be sweet. Sunday through Wednesday, back in time for Thanksgiving. A great week.

That’s when Bert says that he talked to my big bro and that my big bro told him that he’s not going.

I immediately stopped joking with my homies, and I guess that a shocked look came over my face. My big bro has a lot of stuff going on, much too much stuff, so lurking far back in my mind all along had been the idea that he might indeed have to bail. And I also wouldn’t have been surprised, since I very rarely see my brother during the week, if it had turned out that I was the last to know about just such a brutal change in plans.

Bert let me hang there in my shocked state for a few seconds before he said, “No, I’m just kidding.” That was when I jumped out of my chair and yelled, “Fuck, that’s cold-blooded, Bert,” and started hopping around at being relieved that my trip wasn’t wrecked, and at the quality of the burn that Bert had just applied to me.

The burn was of such a high quality that I fist-tapped Bert in acknowledgement of said high quality, even though I was still a bit freaked out.

Let’s talk about the quality of the burn, if we may. First, Bert had free-styled it. The bit had come to him, and he had let it flow, which is pretty damned impressive. And the burn had played upon so many of my fears, that a vacation to which I had been looking forward for months (because of a truly miserable time down at the factory) would come apart; that I was out of the information and decision-making loops, even in situations in which I should have been right in the middle of said loops; and that I would essentially be abandoned at the last minute. Ouch, on that last one.

Alternative Employment in Las Vegas: As discussions about Las Vegas tend to do, our discussion veered toward hookers. I don’t know of anybody who’s actually ever partaken of these naked services, and I don’t even think that I've ever seen a working whore (I’m sorry if my use of whore was a bit on the coarse side, especially when there are so many available synonyms for prostitute; it’s just that whore is a very cool sounding word. Say it aloud a few times, and you’ll know what I mean. Also, just for the sake of practice, try to work it into conversations. You’ll thank me later.), and Las Vegas is supposed to be lousy with them.

Perhaps I’m looking in the wrong places. Not that I’m looking. I’m always at a poker table or a casino-located restaurant when I’m awake, and then I go right to my room to sleep. It’s a monastic existence, if you think about it (and if you don’t find my use of monastic in reference to gambling and to Las Vegas improper). I just mean that I’m in Las Vegas strictly to work on my poker game. I like to study things and poker is merely another field of study in which I’m very interested.

This might sound strange, but I’m not at all into gambling. (Sure, I put about ten grand a year in play on various sporting contests, but who doesn’t? That’s just called being American.) Poker is a field of study in which your performance will tend to be reflective of your mastery of that field, and if you do it well, it’s almost like the opposite of gambling.

And I don’t care about the money, not even a little bit. One’s long-term aggregate chip stack (and it has to be long-term to be anything close to accurate), then, is merely a visual representation of how well one has mastered poker, and that’s as far as my interest in money goes.

But back to the hookers. Other than being in a casino, I’m in a cab from and to the airport, and I’ve neither seen a hooker in the airport, nor have I seen one in my cab, unless, I guess the hooker was a guy and that guy was driving the aforementioned cab.

And We Also Played Cards: Well, not me. All I did was give away money, as usual. The upside was that I didn’t give it away that much, just $23.50, head butting the YTD to +$169.25 and the overall to a mortifying 25-21.

(Editor’s Note: I don’t really bet on sports.)

9 November 2007

That’s Dedication: One of my poker homies went in for some work of a surgical nature this Tuesday. We all expected him to miss at least a few games, if he didn’t decide instead to take a long sabbatical.

(I mean, surgery is no joke, and it might lead to thoughts of mortality. And, let me tell you, having thoughts of mortality can be a real downer. For example, I can’t stop thinking of mortality [like, just about every waking minute], and it’s a real drag. There I’ll be, having fun, and then I’ll start thinking about death, and the fun just sort of ends. Yeah, life’s great.)

Nope. He did arrive with a big-ass bottle of pain pills (don’t worry: this player got a ride from my big bro), and he came to play.

This guy is a solid player, and aggressive as hell, and he usually pulls green, but not tonight. He burned through his bankroll, and then he borrowed from The Bank of De Luna (which is me). I’m going to ascribe his less-than-usual performance to the fact that he was 1) cut into on Tuesday and 2) that he was on some dynamite pills and was tweaked out of his gourd.

(Editor’s Note: I’m pretty sure that the above sentence contains the first time that I’ve used gourd to mean head. How’d it feel? Pretty great, actually.)

He Got Punked: And by he, I mean me.

I’m in the big blind with A-K off-suit. Sweet. If I get nothing but callers, I can make it $6 to go and hopefully steal whatever money got into the pre-flop pot. If I’m heads-up against the small blind, I can check and disguise my hand and hopefully hit on the flop and get paid at the end.

What I didn’t expect was that Arizona, sitting to my left in the under-the-gun position, would himself raise it to $6. An UTG bet usually means that the player making the bet has a huge hand, and this is especially true if it’s Arizona making that bet.

Everybody else folds, and it’s back to me. At this point, there’s no way to disguise my hand, even if I just call. I could raise it to $11, but I don’t really even have a made hand, and I will only be good if we both miss and Arizona isn’t holding a pair.

I decide to just call, which surprises Arizona. The flop lands 5-4-3 off-suit, giving me only a four-out gutshot straight draw. I check, but Arizona bets the $5. I don’t really think that Arizona’s made his hand, so I call to see what lands on the turn.

Which is more junk, an 8, if memory serves. I’m still nowhere, so I check. Arizona bets another $5, but I still have a sense that Arizona’s making a play, so I call.

The river is another brick, and I’ve got nothing. I could bet here as if I’d had a huge hand all along and was just letting Arizona hang himself, but I don’t want to invest any more in this pot than I have to, especially when I have no idea where I am.

I check again, and Arizona bets $5. There is now $37 in the pot, and I’m getting 7.4-to-1 to call, which is almost an automatic call because you want to keep your fellow players honest by making them turn over their cards. But Arizona’s not the type of player to bluff at the end, and not three times, so now I’m convinced that he’s had a made hand all along, maybe a pocket pair higher than the flop.

I don’t feel like I can do anything but fold here, which I do, but not without turning over my cards to show everybody what I had been holding.

Arizona then turns over his A-J. We had both missed, and I had led all along.

That shit hurt. I couldn’t stop thinking about if for the rest of the game. And I couldn’t stop thinking about it on the forty-minute drive home. And I couldn’t stop thinking about it when I got in bed. Neither could I stop thinking about it when I woke up.

What I kept thinking was this: I should have called at the end.

Still: I did manage to win $34.50, loving the YTD up to +$203.75 and the overall record to 26-21.

11 November 2007

Bonus Action: Today was Veterans Day, which meant that the following day, a Monday, was an off day for most of us. Any time that there’s an off day, we try to find a way to put a poker game together.

Why not? It beats the hell out of being home. What are you going to do at home? Exactly. The same lame crap that you do every other miserable day of your miserable life. We all know that life’s essentially a drag, a real soul-crushing drag, so we’ve got to find ways to distract ourselves. It’s either poker or it’s drugs, and drugs give me the heebie jeebies like you wouldn’t believe.

I Need a New Lifestyle: But, beyond poker, tonight was also the birthday parties of one of the kids of one of my sisters, and pizza had been ordered, as had been lasagna, as had been mozzarella sticks. To go with those Italian delights were two types of cake and two types of ice cream.

There was much celebration and eating and general goofing around, and it was great. What wasn’t great was how much food that I ate. There comes a time when you know that you’ve had enough, but the food is so good that you fight past that boundary to see how far you can really go.

It becomes a test, a challenge, and I met it head on. By the final bite of strawberry cake, I wasn’t doing too well.

I didn’t really feel any ill aftereffects at the party, or at that evening’s poker game, which I think is a testament to my character and stamina, but Monday morning was a whole other thing.

I felt horrible the whole day, so I slept through as much of it as I could, finally getting it together at around 5:00 p.m. and actually getting some work done.

The problem is, I think, that I eat badly all week (whatever I can get ready in five minutes; otherwise, I feel like I’m wasting my time), so when I get a chance to eat some food that I actually like, I go to town, as they say.

I go to town and I set up camp and I stay way past what most people would consider a reasonable time.

It’s Brutal: But before I spent my bonus day off in bed, praying for death’s sweet embrace, I did manage to have one of my best nights in a long time. I didn’t win a lot of money, only $39.75, but I felt like I didn’t make too many mistakes, like I made mostly, almost entirely, good decisions. I caressed the YTD to +$243.50, and the overall record continues its improvement, arriving at 27-21.

16 November 2007

In the Darkness: We were in the darkness, and I’m not being metaphorical here, though, metaphorically speaking, we are in the darkness.

So much of the world is a mystery to us. And when I say the world, I mean everything. The stuff and the people and the ideas.

And then most of us are utter mysteries even to ourselves. The big project is self-actualization (which is a way of saying that we try to become the best version of ourselves [and I think that that project starts with trying to become completely self-aware]), if my man, Maslow, is correct.

But most of us don’t get very far on that project. Hell, I spend nearly all of my time thinking (I actually can’t seem to stop; it seems like it might be a really big problem), and on a scale of zero to a hundred, with a zero being an utter lack of self-awareness and a hundred being perfect self-awareness, I’d give myself about an 87.875, but, see, I could be fooling myself completely.

Perhaps I’m only really at something like 28.125, but I lack the intelligence or the awareness to know that. Or, worst case, I’m actually already at 100, but it feels like I’m only at 87.875 because there’s not that much awareness about which to be aware, if that makes any sense.

See, darkness.

But I digress. (Though I can’t seem to help that, either, but we’ll get into all that at some future date, I’m sure.)

In the case of our game, when I say darkness, I mean that the power went out right in the middle of a hand. Almost immediately, my big bro guessed that somebody somewhere had driven his or her car into a utility pole.

What to do? We were in the middle of a hand, as I said, and there had to have been at least $500 in play on the table. We’re all highly educated and intelligent people and everybody except me is incredibly successful, so we reasoned through and problem solved, and the game was up in about a minute. This was the progression: flashlight to candle to lantern.

Never was the idea of quitting the game ever entertained. It wasn’t even mentioned. Certainly, most of us could have gone home and spent quality time with the people with whom we are supposed to. That’s what sensible and mature men would do. And, practically speaking, it’d be an easy way to score points with your family. Or we could go on playing in the lantern-lit semi-darkness.

Play on we did. Lovely life.

(Editor’s Note: Is it just Daddy, or does the phrase the lantern-lit semi-darkness sound incredibly beautiful? They just come to me, really, and I have no way to stop them. That’s what happens when you are open to receive.)

Three In a Row: Even though it was dark, I won again, if only for a small amount: $53.25. I tenderly got the YTD to +$296.75 and the overall record to 28-21. I’ll take it.

(Editor’s Note: And my big bro was correct about somebody smacking into a light pole. As I was driving to where my Saturday gig is, I drove past where the accident had happened. The light pole—surrounded by PG&E trucks and vans and by law enforcement vehicles, all of their various emergency lights reflecting off of each other and the slowly moving vehicles going carefully past—was completely snapped in two, staying partially upright only because of the electrical wires still attached to it.)

23 November 2007

Nothing to Report: At this point in the Poker Reports, I’ve been writing about our game for thirty-two months. I’ve pretty much covered it all. Unless there’s knife play or, I don’t know, a car drives through the front door, anything that could possibly happen has happened.

There’s only one thing to do, though it’s even less likely than stuff involving knives or cars: I can come up with some new material. You know: jokes, bits, riffs.

I might have to start treating our poker game as a comedy club and arrive on Friday with material that I’ve spent all week honing. I’ll see what gets laughs, chuck the rest, and come up with more material until I have a solid six-hour set.

Most comedians aren’t performing for more than a few minutes, so you can see that getting six hours of material is going to be hell, but that’s the business. But, luckily, there are other funny guys at our game, so I might not have to come up with six hours of solid material. Perhaps if I put some of the guys on the payroll, I can get them to either come up with their own acts or to feed me jokes over e-mail.

Alternatively, I could try to lead a more interesting life during the six days that I’m actually not at the poker table, but that’s going to be quite difficult when one takes into account the fact that every minute that I don’t spend on the factory floor is spent in front of my computer.

(Editor’s Note: Did the above paragraph have a vaguely British feel to it? I think that it was the alternatively and the quite and the one, though all of that is undercut by all of the contractions that I also managed to use.)

Remembrances of Poker Reports Past: Which leads to an interesting discussion. Ever since Ivan came back from his eight-month sabbatical, he’s always mentioning old Poker Reports, and he does so with great accuracy. I mean section titles, events, even whole sentences.

He must read those bastards carefully (or, much less likely, they are just memorably written), which means that in the last eight months, he’s spent more time reading about the games than actually playing in them.

This might be a terrible admission on my part, but it really makes me happy when Ivan quotes me at the table. I mean, at this point in the poetry biz, I don’t think that I've ever had somebody quote lines of my own poetry back to me, which is sort of sad, now that I think about it,

Great, I've managed to turn this section into a downer.

Here’s Some Uplift: I made $39.00, taking the YTD to a lovely +$335.75 and the overall to 29-21. This was also the fourth game in a row in which I made a profit, though, as usual, it wasn’t a big total.

30 November 2007

The Horrible Directions: Ice used to be in the writerly biz. He’s articulate like a mother. He was hosting this week’s game, the first time that his place had gotten into the rotation, and all that he really had to get accomplished was the composition of some sensible directions.

He botched it badly. There were poker players driving about in the general vicinity, so Ice’s directions weren’t all bad. But that was about as far as those directions were going to get you. There was a curvy street that changed names that wasn’t taken into account, and that’s where players got lost.

I don’t even know how I got there. Luck, more than anything, I guess. Perhaps it’s that I've spent so much of my wasted and borderline embarrassing life trying to extract meaning from some rather obscure poetry, and those skills (if I can call such a useless ability a skill) finally came in handy.

The Walls, Apparently, Are Made of Steel: Or whatever material it is that does a perfect jof of impeding mobile phone signals.

Because not all of us studied poetry or have the ability to read Ice’s mind, some of us tried to make calls in to Ice’s mobile, but Ice gets no bars in his own place. Ice did give out his landline number in the directions e-mail and did write that his mobile was a dud in his own house, but who the hell calls landlines anymore?

At this point my own landline phone is decorative more than it is functional. If it rings, I don’t answer it, my thinking being that if you and I are cool, then you’ve got my mobile. Which is a long way of saying that nobody wrote down Ice’s landline number, so when one player got lost, he was left to wander.

It Was Deeply Upsetting: Because it was my big bro out there, driving around, trying to find Ice’s place. It was more horrible because he kept trying Ice’s mobile, but, like I said, Ice’s walls are made of steel. It was even more horrible because my big bro kept trying my mobile, too, but I had somehow shut that bastard off.

Why’d I do that? I have no idea. Sometimes, I put it in silent mode when I’m on the factory floor, and perhaps I didn’t de-silent mode it when I left at the end of my shift.

All I know is that it was my big bro out there, and I could have guided him in. I let him down, and, after driving around for half an hour, trying to make sense of those less-than-stellar directions, he went home.

And my big bro had said that he was definitely going to come to the game, so we were all concerned at first as to why he hadn't shown up. It was around midnight when I checked my phone, saw that the reason that it hadn't been ringing was because it had been off, checked my call log, and then saw that my big bro had called me four times in the span of that aforementioned half hour.

I felt so bad, but it was too late to call. I really felt like I had failed to perform one of my main offices as a brother, to make sure that my big bro is never lost in the world.

Once I had figured out what had happened, I was worried for the rest of the game. I was upset on the drive home, and I was upset until I saw my brother and I could explain what had happened.

Not Pleasant: I was hoping that the new location might be the change of pace that propels me back to the type of triple-digit win nights that I used to have on a regular basis.

Instead, I didn’t even get to double digits. I made $1.25. That’s less than one round of blinds. And I played for about five hours. Twenty-five cents an hour. Now that’s damned impressive.

At least, it was a winning night, and I did manage to go 5-1 in November, taking the YTD to +$337.00 and the overall record to 30-21.

(Editor’s Note: I’m using offices in this Poker Report in the way that Robert Hayden used it in Those Winter Sundays, a poem that I read as an undergrad and that broke my heart and that maybe taught me a little bit how to live.

What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?

I read those lines and I was a different person and there was no going back.)