Your Messed Up Life Still Thrills Me: The January 2008 Poker Report

(Editor's Note: This prat is going live almost two weeks after the last Poker Report. My only excuse is that I was traveling again. I would also try to blame a hot stretch of fiction writing for keeping me away from finishing this Poker Report, but I haven't written a word of fiction in weeks.)

4 January 2008

(Editor’s Note, 24 July 2008: Yeah, the factory was a real goddamn drag. It was weighing on me 24/7, and part of that weighing was my not taking very detailed notes immediately after the game or on the following morning. I did get some stuff down, but not as much as I had been previously.

The factory’s about to open up for the busy season, so we’ll see how it goes.)

Lovely: So I got crushed during this, the first poker game of the year. It was a drag in a multitude of ways. First, my nine-game winning streak was snapped. Of course, I knew that at some point I would have to lose; considering the fact that I play with some bad-ass guys, it’s actually surprising that I went so long without having lost.

Second, I’m running a deficit for the first time in a long time, since 27 January 2006, a little over twenty-three months ago. Not that the YTD was ever really big (sometimes, it was in the low double-digits), but I was always playing from in front, which is a great way to play; from that position, you’ll rarely have the thought that you’re putting money into a pot that will drive you further into a negative total.

And, third, there were a couple of hands where I got brutalized in a brutal manner.

On one particularly gnarly hand of Omaha High-Low, an ace hit on the river to give a player who chased a two-outer a better boat than the one that I had turned after I had flopped a set. And that accursed ace also made a low, which means that even if I would have won the pot, half of it would have gone to the low.

How much was in the pot? A little over $105, $35 of which I contributed.

Then Jesse rivered me for a roughly $40 dollar pot. Of course he did.

Loser: Also, I’m a loser. I’m 0-1, which means that I have a losing record. I’ve never had a losing record before. I’d always started each year with a victory and progressed from there. Sure, there were times when I got close—18-16, 25-24, 2-2, 5-5, 7-7—but I was never in Loserville, as I like to call it.

Well, I’m in Loserville now. It’s okay. There’s not much difference between Loserville and the rest of the world. Sure, it’s a little darker here, and everything seems just a little bit smaller than it should, and badly made. Also, you feel like maybe that you can’t breathe. And people walk around with their heads down, as if there is something deeply interesting about the pavement two feet in front of them.

Numerically Speaking: Like I said, I’m 0-1 on the year, and the YTD’s at -$92.25.

January 11 2008

The Reveal: I’m working more of a hustle nowadays. My relatively straightforward play had been figured out completely, and the only way that I was getting money into the pot was on check-raises. But check-raising is not the best way to maximize hand value if it’s the only thing that you’re doing. The people whom you are hoping will bet will instead check behind and get a free card.

And if I bet a hand, everybody was folding. It was almost an automatic. Again, no value.

So then I've got to start working bluffs, which is a way to maximize the value of an absolutely worthless hand. Even if you can squeeze out a few dollars out of a junk hand, that’s more dollars under your control and out of the hands of a player who might be able to utilize them later.

The other way to work worthless hands is to use them to set up later hands. If you make a bluff and take a pot and then reveal your cards, then other players may later give you calls that they ordinarily wouldn’t, thus getting value that you hadn’t been able to get before.

But hustles only work if they are revealed at your discretion. In one hand, I was working a hustle on Surge with K-9 off-suit. Normally this isn’t a hand with which I’ll lead or even call, but I thought that I could get Surge to fold his blind. Tragically, I bet and he called pre-flop, he called after I bet the flop that landed with an ace and a king, and then, when I checked the turn, he bet at me. I’ve got to fold because I’m pretty sure that he’s got me beat. It happens.

I turn over the king, just to let everybody know that I can make a good read and will fold a strong pair.

That was when one of our players reached into the muck and flipped over my other card, the nine. I wasn’t sure what had just happened, and then Artie, also confused, asked what had just happened. I said that I didn’t know.

I was going why my card had been turned over, but I’m not a confrontational guy, and I was sure that the whole situation could escalate and get really, really ugly in a really, really short amount of time. Also, as a poet, I’m at least 47.75% wuss.

But there was no masking the intent of this action. I had been burned. Someone wanted to see what hand I had been playing and had wanted everybody else to know what I had been playing so that everybody could make better plays against me.

It was absolutely uncool. Essentially, I was being cheated out of the ability to play hands as I had wanted to, which means that I was losing value, which means that I had lost money that I could have won, which means that I was robbed.

But let’s not get all carried away here. It happened, it kicked my ass, and, since life is essentially a 24/7 ass kicking, this event fit into the larger pattern of life.

But It All Works Out in the End: So I couldn’t utilize the newest weapon in my arsenal. I was also tilting. Well, no, not really; I didn’t tilt, but I had to fight so hard to not tilt that I know that I didn’t play as well as I could have. Which is a form of non-tilt tilting, if you can get your head around that.

But I did make a quarter. After being down to about my last $35 from my $100 buy-in, I fought back and made a quarter. Considering all that had happened at tonight’s game—the chicanery, my being forced into playing without all of the tools available to everybody else—I took it as a pretty good accomplishment.

The won-loss is now at 1-1, but the YTD is looking nasty at -$92.00.

January 18 2007

The Healing: After last week’s situation, I thought that we were surely heading to the splintering of our game. Either that, or acrimony for a little while, I’d say about seventeen years. It would have been tense, but at least we’d still be playing.

It would have been like one of those horrible marriages that was good, give or take, for about five months but that drags on for thirty or more years, until one of the people in the marriage goes in for the big sleep, either naturally (from either a perpetually broken heart or a popped aneurysm that floods you with a moment of brilliant mercy as you realize that, blessedly, the whole accursed thing [life, I mean] is finally at its end) or through artificial means: the classic boozing until the liver quits; the stepping into traffic; or, my favorite, eating really salty foods. That last one’s going to take a while, but at least you’ll get to eat some delicious food along the way.

But our game is full of great minds and incredible problem solvers. Before the game got rolling, we discussed what had gone down, with my getting my version of the story emphatically seconded. We talked about what the events in question meant to the interested parties. Then we shared feelings.

I’m no great sharer of feelings. If I were more pent up, I’d pop, probably. Sure, the poetry’s full of aching and such, and I’ve been told that it’s, you know, painful to read, but in terms of sharing with another person? Hell, no.

I was raised to keep that shit inside, where it can do the most damage. (Okay, we should add to the list of natural ways to attain the big sleep keeping the feelings inside, buried down deep, next to your hopes and/or your dreams, if you ever even managed to scrape together enough optimism about life to even try to come up with any; my current thinking is that one should try to have no hopes and/or dreams so that you won’t be disappointed when, inevitably, life turns out to be a major suckfest, if I may use a technical term like suckfest in what we can all acknowledge to be rather casually written prose.) But I understood that, for the sake of the game, we needed to be completely honest about what had happened and how we felt about it.

That’s when I used words like confused and hurt in reference to myself. In front of a bunch of dudes, hardcore heavy hitters ™ all. I’m quite sure that these were the least manly moments of my life. I’m also quite sure that these moments may have qualified as a breakthrough for Daddy, that, finally, I was ready to engage the world in a more open and meaningful and engaged manner.

(Editor’s Note, 25 July 2008: Nope. It never happened. It sure was nice, though, to be healthy for the few seconds that I managed to express myself.)

Then It Was Time: After the conclusion of the discussion, Ivan said that perhaps the involved parties should hug it out. Okay, I’m no sharer, but I’m especially not a hugger. It’s too much, and I feel way to vulnerable.

But I knew that Ivan was joking, so in order to work the bit, I turned to Jesse, who wasn’t at all involved in last week’s deal, and stretched out my arms and said, “Come here, Jesse,” but he rejected my overtures. That hurt.

See? I opened myself up, and the world served me up some pain.

Not Painful: I won again, getting the won-loss to 2-1, which, while not great, is decent. The YTD is still a negative number, -$19.75, but it’s within striking distance of being back to even, which at this point is the best that I can hope for for January, what with only one game to go.

January 25 2008

Dressy Ice: Ice is moving up in the biz. What biz? Why, the one in which he is currently employed.

Sorry about getting defensive. Usually, Ice shows up in some sort of Celtics-wear: the hat or the jersey, and I recall a bright green and very shiny jacket, but that may have been from some terrible nightmare. As I've made clear to him on a number of occasions, I despise the Celtics, so I've made sure, in my role as a dude, to make sport of his attire whenever I can think of something funny to say.

It’s all a part of my preparation for the big game. Set up the table and chips. Put out the snacks and make sure that there are enough cold drinks in the fridge. Think of funny/borderline mean things to say to my friends.

Tonight, however, there was no clothing of which to make fun. Ice was wearing a shirt and tie because he had been at the gig until just before game time. Now that’s dedication.

The only thing that I could have said about Ice’s attire was that his tie was perhaps a bit garish, but garish is not the type of word that you want to be using at a poker game.

As a Public Service:

Here’s a list of other words that you should perhaps avoid using at a poker game:

1. perhaps (too fancy)

2. fancy (way too fancy)

3. throbbing (easily misconstrued)

4. engorged (see #3)

5. consequentialist (because there might be a deontologist at the table, and a knife fight might break out)

As a bonus, here’s a list of sentences that you should perhaps never utter at a poker game:

1. At least I got a nice dinner out of it.

2. The Remains of the Day made me cry.

3. I knew, then, that I had pushed away every single person who had ever loved me and that I would always be alone.

4. I felt like, finally, my life was beginning.

5. And that’s when the swelling started.

You're welcome.

Kings: I’m to the left of Ivan. My big bro is across the table from me. I look down at pocket kings under the gun, which means that I am the first to act after the blinds.

Usually, I’d slow play these cards with so many players left to act behind me, knowing that somebody is bound to bet his hand at some point, even if he is just holding air, and I’ll be able to get in a check-raise, get more money into the pot, but still keep the hand to a minimum of players. But if somebody makes a small bet and gets some callers, then a check-raise won’t work and there might be too many players in the hand to make my kings as solid a hand as it should be.

I decide to bet out the max, $5, knowing that the fact that everybody knows that I’ve opened up my game will likely still get me a call or two. When it gets to my big bro, he makes it $11 to go.

Sweet. He is my big bro, but business is business, so I’m going to cap it for a straight $16. Before I can do that, however, Ivan, himself, takes it to the $16.

Okay, a max raise after a max raise after a max under-the-gun bet. Not pleasant, man, not pleasant at all. I’m not folding, of course, even though it is $10 back to me to call, because there’s only one hand that beats me pre-flop, and it would take a better man than me to let kings go.

I call, and then so does my big bro. The flop is 9-7-6- rainbow. I could check-call all the way to the end, but this flop is pretty good for me because it didn’t land ace-high. I bet the $5, my big bro calls, which leads me to believe that he also has a high pocket pair, but then Ivan takes it to $10.

That’s when I start to suspect that Ivan’s flopped a set, probably the nines because I can’t see anybody capping pre-flop bets with sixes or sevens. I resign myself to calling his bets all the way to the showdown. There are already $68 in the pot, so I’m getting almost 14-to-1 on a two outer, which means that I have about a 9% chance of winning, which means that I’m 11-to-1 to win, which means that I’m getting the right price to call, which I do. My big bro calls right behind, putting the pot at $78.

And, you never know; they could both still be on draws. The turn misses me, so I check, as does my big bro, but Ivan bets the $5. I call, as does my big bro, taking the pot to $93. The river is also cruel, everybody checks to Ivan, who bets the $5, which everybody then promptly calls. The pot is now at $108, which Ivan takes down with his flopped set of nines.

What did my big bro have? Pocket queens. My big bro and I got trapped in the hand because every card that landed was a nine or lower, so we had an overpair all the way to the showdown.

Ivan went from third place pre-flop to winning a pot that contained $72 in profit for him.

At the End: Even though the above hand was a complete boning, I still did rather well for the game, clearing a profit of $157.75, my best night since 13 July 2007, when I pulled slightly over $230. I got the won-loss to 3-1, a reasonably good record, and the YTD is now at +$138.00.


(Editor’s Note: The title of this first Poker Report of 2008 is from Slowdive’s song, Alison. The song is quite pretty and sad as all hell, which means that it meets one of my sets of requirements for being a song that I can potentially love, namely pretty and sad.

(There are many other sets of requirements, of course, but we’ll get to them later.)

Alison’s a song of the she’s-a-wreck-and-I-love-her rock subgroup, one of the great subgroups in the rock family. A closely related subgroup is the I’m-a-wreck-and-I-need-her-to-save-me subgroup, a subgroup to which I might be partial, mostly because I suspect that I’m a wreck and that I might need to be saved. Not that those she’s-a-wreck/I’m-a-wreck songs get a free pass; it’s just that if they are beautiful, they’re going to tend to be really beautiful because they’re going to be about love and loneliness (because there’s no way that loving a wreck isn't going to be lonely) and sadness (because the one you love is a wreck, which is already sad enough, and because you have to know that it’s just not going to work out) and yearning. Damn, the yearning.

And this song reminds me of another song, a song that I also love. We’ve got to go way back in time for this. How far back? To cassettes, my friend, to cassettes.

When I first started college I really got into Simon & Garfunkel. (Hey, don’t judge me. Simon & Garfunkel are pretty bad-ass. [And by bad-ass, I mean having the highest standards for what they do and living up to those standards a shockingly high percentage of the time.] Listen to The Boxer if you don’t believe me. You know that that song’s great because I've got covers of that song performed by both Emmylou Harris and Bob Dylan, and those two singers aren’t going to screw around and cover songs that aren’t brilliant.) So I bought a cassette of their greatest hits. I think that it was even called Simon & Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits, but that cassette is long gone. (Actually, knowing myself, I probably have that cassette saved somewhere because it meant so much to me, even after I wore it out by so often playing it. I’m deeply sentimental that way.)

But I've digressed, badly. What I was trying to get to was the fact that there are similar lines in Slowdive’s Alison and in Simon & Garfunkel’s America. In both, the beloved is directly addressed and then told of one’s sense of dislocation and confusion.

Here’s Slowdive: Alison, I’m lost.

Here’s Simon & Garfunkel: Kathy, I’m lost, I said, though I knew she was sleeping/
I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why

Okay, obviously, the Simon & Garfunkel lines are much better, but both groups know how not to overplay what could have been real momentum-killing/snicker-inducing lines.

Simon & Garfunkel get away with their I’m lost line by saving it until two-thirds of the song have passed and then by going to a strong image of cars and the New Jersey turnpike, thus getting away from their I’m lost line as quickly as possible. Still, they sang it, and it did its work: kicking your ass.

Slowdive pull it off, even though they do use their line twice, because the line is sung matter of factly both times. In fact, the singer rushes through the line, almost ignoring the natural pause that should come right after the direct address, when many other bands (the awful ones) would take their time with it. You know, Alison……………I’m lost. And, again, the line is just crushing.

Of the two songs, I prefer the Slowdive. The Simon & Garfunkel, now that I've listened to it a bunch of times while writing this section of the January Poker Report, isn't standing up as well as I thought that it would. There’s a flute thing happening, I think, and it’s displeasing me. And, unfortunately, the song may have strayed into precious territory a few times, though, thankfully, it didn’t settle in. It may have walked up and down the streets a few times, and it may even have stopped in somewhere for some dinner, but it didn’t buy property.

But how did this turn into a Slowdive vs. Simon & Garfunkel thing? I just wanted to note how well Slowdive got away with their I’m lost line, about the art and the craft that went into that getting away. The whole point was that only a band that aspires to making beautiful songs and that has the ambition and the skills to do that would be able to succeed.

Which is great, except that, sadly, when I started researching Slowdive for this section of the Poker Report, I found out that they didn’t even survive as a band through the mid-1990’s. The band’s been dead for almost thirteen years now, and the song that I just finished writing about was recorded fifteen years ago, when I was at the end of my time as an undergrad.

Now I’m wondering how I missed them, because I've always loved the rock, but I have no clue. Neither, incidentally, do I have a clue as to how they or their song came to my attention afterward.

So now I have to feel the loss of this band, but it’s not all bad news.

During the aforementioned research, I found out that some of the members of Slowdive went on to found Mojave3 and that the leader of both of those bands was/is Neil Halstead. And it turned out that I've been digging Mojave3 since 1 August 2004, when I downloaded their After All, which I've subsequently played 111 times. And I also have a song by Mr. Halstead, Sailing Man, that I downloaded 5 July 2006 and have sporadically played since.

I had had no idea at all that these performers were related, but, in total, I’ve played the five Slowdive/Mojave3/Neil Halstead songs that currently reside on my rig 329 times over the last few years because they are all beautiful. So, there’s been consolation.

Consolation. Another one of the things that art is for. Life can be so goddamn great.