Sunday, January 02, 2005

Parched in the Desert

The conversation began brightly enough:

We’re going to play poker on New Year’s Eve.

Awesome. My mom was hosting the game. A dozen of my extended family would be coming. It would hardly be a collection of sharks, but, based on past experience, much fun would ensue. The last five years or so, my dear and patient wife and I have taken a decidedly low-key approach to New Year’s Eve. Too much trouble, too much danger and a lack of enticing opportunities. So, this seemed like a godsend. Close to home, people I like hanging out with and gambling. Then, the bombshell:

There’s not going to be any drinking, though.


The rest of the conversation went like this:

Me: But it’s New Year’s Eve! And we’re going to be gambling!
Mom: What? You can’t enjoy yourself without drinking?

Check mate, Mom. There is really no acceptable response to that accusation/question. Not one that wouldn’t diminish whatever standing I have in this family. Sigh. Okay.

See, we have a couple no-longer-drinking members of the family. And we have a mother who is, to varying degrees, a practicing Southern Baptist. To varying degrees, as in she DID just buy a nice clay chip set and is hosting a poker game. Nevertheless, in the interest of harmony and sobriety, it would be a dry holiday. On the surface.

My cousin brought beer, which we stashed on the side of the house. My dear and patient wife brought three airplane bottles of cognac, with which she spiked her diet cokes. I prepared with a few beers before heading over. My aunt passed off some pre-mixed margaritas as Squirt. This could be a sign of a problem. Or gross inconsiderateness. Judge us as you will. In practice, none of us could really pull off a significant buzz under the watchful eyes of Big Mother. Ultimately, the alcohol didn’t really factor.

The poker was a bigger presence. The very first deal–five card draw, jacks or better–set a tone. The showdown hands were Aces and Queens for my Mom’s boyfriend, trip Kings for my dear and patient wife and quad treys for my brother. Real life Party Poker.

We didn’t play much Hold ‘Em, only a couple of us being familiar with the structure. My brother was the early shark, taking the whole pot in Chicago with a flush and the Ace of spades. Played three or four orbits of standard poker, standard variations on poker, until my mom’s boyfriend spoke up:

The game is Guts.

To those of you unfamiliar with this particular gamb0000ling exercise, everybody gets two cards and there is one community. You either “pass” or “guts.” In the event of a “guts,” everyone has a chance to call you. The winner of the hand, gets the pot (we began with .25 ante, so it was $2.50 at the first level.), the losers–there can be more than one–match the pot, which becomes the new pot. Then you ante again. As you can see, the pot can build fast. When someone calls “guts” and gets no callers, he gets the pot and the game ends. Only this game never really ended, because we played Guts for 95% of the rest of the evening. Let the record show that it was 11:09 p.m. when the first losing bet was paid off out of somebody’s wallet (congratulations to my cousin, who paired the community card, but was out-kicked for $20). Let the record also show that the first run to the ATM was 11 minutes later. Let the record further show that by midnight, my dear and patient wife had a wad of bills in her pocket. This after whispering to me early on, “Position is important in this game.”

The Mrs was, in fact, the big winner on the evening, tripling up her $20 buy-in. I doubled mine, enabling the good guys to start the year off with a couple new DVDs . My uncle was a significant donator, at one point demanding we play low-ball so he’d have some cards to play. So I called low-ball for him. And, I kid you not, he made a wheel. It was the only pot he pulled all night.

We broke up about one, The Boy still wide awake (let’s see, so far I’m insensitive to recovering alcoholics AND a bad parent). We made the short trip home--my cousin and his girlfriend in tow--to drink beer with impunity, which we managed for a couple hours. Happy New Year.

We woke late, headed out to a leisurely freeroll breakfast (the best omelettes are those paid for by poker winnings) and returned home with the aforementioned DVDs (“Anchorman” and “Napolean Dynamite”) a bottle of vodka and some Bloody Mary fixins. We had felt somewhat cheated out of a good drunk the night before, so we decided to make up for it. What transpired over the next 8 hours, I can not relate with absolute certainty. I know my dear and patient wife was in bed by 9, as she had to work today. I know I switched to beer at some point. I know I play poker pretty poorly when I’m wasted. Though I played pretty well when I was just drunk. I can reconstruct the poker portion of it thanks to the hand histories.

After I won a $20 SnG during the Rose Bowl (great expletive game), my dear and patient wife, buzz starting to kick in, wanted another shot at a tourney. She wiped the floor with the field, though, much to my surprise, the table was well-populated with relatively good players (for the level). I helped her, of course, but less than half. The crucial hand was all her decision:

Level 2 in the CO, nine players still in. She gets jacks and, first in the pot, raises 5x. Small blind is the only caller. Flop comes Kc, 10h, 4c. SB leads out for 70. “Raise,” I say. “Let him know you’re serious.” SB comes back over the top.

“Should I call?” the dear and patient wife asks. “No,” I say. “Raise or fold. Make your read and raise or fold.”

She raises all-in. SB calls and flips 9s. Nevermind that a jack came on the turn and another 10 on the river for the boat. The SB played the hand well. The dear and patient wife played it better.

From there, she played it tight, chipping up nicely an orbit later when she flopped a set of 9s and got called all the way down. On top of that, she had respect, which delighted her to no end. The whole group was folding to her pre-flop raises. Her chip count remained stable though, because she couldn’t get any action and went to the final 3 with the slight small stack (the donator who finished 4th went from chip leader to out in 5 hands, none of which The Mrs was able to get in on).

The third-place finisher went out in short order, complaining about losing two straight all-ins, despite the fact he had the worse hand both times. Maybe he didn’t think it was fair someone would get dealt AQ when he got dealt A5 (his exact, edited, chat was “expletive this game”). My dear and patient wife collected her first title with Big Slick overcoming J9s. She’s still giddy about it 20 hours later.

She then moved up to the $10 level to get away from the 20% rake and chalked up a second and fourth. Pretty good run

I went two-for-five in the money yesterday at the $20 tables, but both were wins for a solid day. I am having an excellent week, with 11 in the money finishes out of 19 tourneys (4, 4, 3). The second win came while wasted. To say my game loosened up would be the understatement of the new year. Hit two nut flushes on the river to crack AA. The first could hardly be considered my fault since the unfortunate holder of the rockets slow played them to an extreme, even with an all heart flop (I held the Ace). The second, well, I called the all-in pre-flop and hit four spades, causing the dear and patient wife to remark, “You’re the worst player at the table and you have a huge chip lead.” Suitably chastened, I finished it off with a bit more focus.

As promised, I held out the rest of today (Sunday). My bankroll sits at an all-time high and I’m content with it sitting there looking pretty for another day. That this run of good results for me coincides with the beginning of this blog is no coincidence. Writing these posts about my play, even considering various plays for publication, compels me to think even deeper about how to react to the various situations. It can do nothing but help. Going back over the hands, recalling my thinking, RE-analyzing them outside the heat of battle...all good. The same goes for the occasional comments I get here and killing workplace productivity by navigating around to the other blogs. Which begs the question, what took me so long? Ah well, the web is stuck with me now.

Here’s to a great year of more poker and blogger tomfoolery.


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