Tenderized and Terrorized

Ours is a tough game. Some new players have come for some action and then have lasted for only one game; they come in, buy in for forty dollars, quickly get down to felt (run out of chips), get this shocked look on their faces—What the hell just happened?—and then never come back. There was this one guy, we’ll call him Nowitzki, whom we had played with at another game. You could tell that he thought highly of his poker skills, and he did semi-bluff me on the last hand of that night with his rags, something like an eight and a four, but that was only because I also had rags, but mine were worse, and I didn’t want to bet on the come (betting without a made hand). It was a bad play on his part, though, because even if I’d only had a single nine, I would have been a huge favorite. He left that game with a profit, but that wasn’t the toughest table to make money on; most of our crew also got paid off that night, but we didn’t act like it was a big deal, like we’d just taken green from Cloutier (his Championship No-Limit and Pot-Limit Hold ‘Em is a must-read) or Ferguson, or Johnny Chan. Nowitzki, though, sure was loving himself when he showed me his 8-4 with a smug little smile on his face.

Flash forward to about a month later, to when Nowitzki comes to our game and brings along his roommate, whom we’ll call Finley. They got to the game a little after it had started and they bought in for forty apiece. They both looked like they thought they were going to run the table and chop into our stacks all night. They took beating after beating after beating and they were both tapped out in about half an hour. Bert, who had paid a little to Nowitzki at the previous game, sought justice and/or redress (i.e. payback), and took just about all of Nowitzki’s money himself. After they left, I joked that they could have saved all of us some time, and themselves some grief, by just driving by and throwing eighty dollars at the house, for all the chance that they had of actually defending it at the table. Nowitzki and Finley have not been back.

But back to the difficulty of our game. While it is tough, the players are all tough in their own ways. When the opportunity presents itself, Ozzy, Ivan, and I will cut you open and take your money, but the surgery is done with super-sharp scalpels and it’s efficient and clean and quick and you won’t believe that it actually happened until after it’s over. Wait a minute, where the hell did my lungs go? Also, didn’t I have a pancreas when I got here? Bert and Jesse, on the other hand, prefer to crack you open by beating you repeatedly against the wall until you're tenderized and terrorized and you just want the whole thing to be over and so you pray for death’s sweet and loving embrace. The aggression is just constant and they put pressure on you the whole night to make good decisions. Last night, it was Jesse who was Boss Hogg. He left with over a hundred dollars in profit, which is the first triple-digit night at our game in over two months. I give Jesse much respect (or props, if you will) because he paid out and paid out for his first two-and-a-half months at our game (at least a couple of hundred dollars, probably closer to three), but he kept coming back, and now he plays a truly brutal game.

Bad Beat of the Night: We’re playing Omaha, I’m just to the left of the dealer (making me first to act), and I have unsuited Big Slick. I make the max first-round bet, and Jesse goes right with me. We’re heads up, and I put him on a high pair or two high singles. If the flop misses me, I will check to him and hope for a free card, or fold if he bets it up. The flop comes A-6-K rainbow, the six being a diamond, giving me top two pair. This would be a nice place to slow play my monster hand (because only a set [a pocket pair made into three-of-a-kind with one of the board cards] could be leading me at this point), and have Jesse bet it for me, but against aggressive players like him, sometimes you want to put the pressure on early, thinking that he’ll call or even raise, even if you come out strong. Jesse calls. The next card is a diamond deuce. No help to him unless he’s now got a gutshot straight draw, which, if he is, is great for me because gutshots are sucker hands. I bet the max and he stays in the hand. The next card is a nine of diamonds. There’s no straight to be made, but there is now a diamond flush, but there’s no way Jesse was on a flush draw, especially not when only one diamond landed on the flop and I made him pay to catch the whole way. I had put Jesse on two pair, either A-6 or K-6. I decide now to slow play and represent that I missed my hand, or that it isn’t that strong, hoping Jesse will bet so that I can come in over the top. Jesse makes the max bet, but I can tell by the way that he moved his chips in that he’s holding something real pretty, something that he is sure is unbeatable, or nearly so. I stare and stare at the board. Was he betting a set the whole way? Maybe, but the only set he could have reasonably had was to the six, and he has to know that there are a number of ways that the low set gets cracked, especially since it didn’t get any help on fourth or fifth. How about middle or top set? Maybe, but, instead of calling, he probably would have re-raised me the whole way. Finally, by his demeanor and his bets, I guess that he’s playing a big slick of his own, in which case we’ll just chop the pot if I stay in. I call, and he does turn over big slick, but it’s suited big slick, and he hit runner runner for the nut diamond flush.

It was the one thing I hadn't accounted for. I never could have chased him out because he had the same draw to a monster boat that I did. Neither of us hit the boat, but it turned out that after the second diamond came on fourth, he had nine more outs than I did, and the four outs that we shared would have led to a split pot. I’m actually lucky that I didn’t bet on fifth (strategically, I could only have bet the max), even though I did pay him off big on the hand. Read last week’s post; you’ll notice that I’ve been getting blasted nearly every time that I have top two pair.

Poker Problem: Why is there so much loneliness in the world?