Thursday, February 17, 2005

Prodigal Bankroll

Hello, old friend. I've missed you. The way you put a hop in my step, a gleeful tone in my voice, a rush of adrenaline in my bloodstream. It's been too damn long.

Yes, I booked a huge win at Party Poker last night. My biggest in two months. A rare positive session in six weeks of banging my head against the wall. But it didn't start out that way. Playing hard to get, I guess.

Sat down at a couple $25 PL tables. Dropped my first buy-in when I cleverly kept betting my pocket aces into flopped quad 9s. Dropped my second to a LAG who kept raising my TPTK until we were both all-in on the turn. I had him out-kicked. He rivered the fourth spade on the board for a flush. Not an auspiscious beginning.

I was holding my own on the other table. Flopped a couple big hands, but couldn't get paid off. Proceeded to steal a couple other small pots and was up a bit.

But the first table was where the money was going to come from. A lot of big pots. A lot of big stacks. A lot of folks chasing to the river and even calling with their ace high. Patience, my son. Patience.

I continued to make a slow steady climb on the other table, never getting myself into a compromising situation. I flopped the nut flush draw on one hand, but with a bet and a raise in front of me (and a pair on the board), I laid it down. Danger hand. I was right.

Back to the first table, things are wild and woolly. I am mostly a spectator for the better part of 45 minutes, but I doubled up once with a BB special (A5o and making a set of 5s). And I've put my eyeballs and remaining brain cells to work. I've got a good read on several players, chief among them a guy I'll call Big Wave Chaser. BWC played a lot of hands. He led out a lot on the flop and turn. He called an equal number of bets on those streets. He also folded quite often on the river. The few times he didn't, he made his hand and got paid off. So there he was, one among four players at the table, with stacks in or near triple digits. If only I could get at 'em.

Eventually, I completed with AJo in the SB. Anyone who recalls my Vegas trip report knows how much I love this hand. It's my "lucky" hand. It's The Boy's nickname (AJ). I know it's not an especially good hand, and can go south on you faster than Peyton Manning in Foxboro. But I'll almost always play it. Certainly for an extra two bits. Position be damned.

I'm not one to say I told you so, but the flop comes J J 7 with two hearts. I bet the pot, BB calls and (YES!) so does Big Wave Chaser. I put the former on the case jack and BWC on a flush or gunshot straight draw. The turn is a beautiful two of clubs. I again bet the pot. BB comes out firing and raises it all the way up. BWC calls it and I re-raise all-in. Both call. I have to say, at this point, I'm a little nervous. There could be a 77 out there. Or a J7. I'm even having a hard time believing Big Wave Chaser is on a draw at this point. That turn bet was $45 per person.

Whatever. I don't even have time to fully integrate all that when the river pops...AN ACE! It's OVAH! I rocket off the couch. The only thing I can see is the $152 pot being pushed to me. I break into song. Into dance. Just an unabashed expression of joy. Very professional of me. Very much keeping that emotional even keel that is so necessary in the game.

As my breathing becomes regulated, I am curious to see what I was up against. Did I need that ace? SB had QJ, so I had him the whole way. Big Wave Chaser? Pocket ducks. Ouch. A 3-outer on the river. And a few choice words from BWC in chat. I empathize. but I don't respond. Instead, I break into a familial conga line:

Daddy Caught a Three Out-Er
Daddy Caught a Three Out-Er
Daddy Caught a Three Out-Er
Daddy Caught a Three Out-Er

Big Wave Chaser lasts one more hand. Too bad. Because it's TWO hands later when I get dealt two red 10s. A minimum raise from UTG and several callers. I raise it the pot (around $6) and get 4(!) to come along to the flop. So much for table respect. The flop is an attractive 8 5 2 with two spades. UTG leads out with a weak $2 bet. I bump it up to $10. Button calls, as does UTG. I am officially worried about Button. Earlier, he slow-played pocket kings, taking out my TPTK. He's been fairly tight since, if a little passive (when last to act on the river with the KK, he checked). So he could very well have an overpair. The other, I like him for spades.

Turn is Kd and UTG bets $5. Still on that spade draw. I bump it to $15. Both call. Ugh. River--God Bless Party Poker--is the 10 of clubs. Is it possible I just hit a one-outer?!?!?! UTG checks (I knew that was coming) and I bet $30. Button calls. UTG folds. Pot is pushed to me, all $160 of it. The button? The cause of all my fear and loathing? A8o. Um, okay. I was good all along.

Now, Antonio Esfandiari can call me "retarded" all he wants, but it's now almost 11 p.m., I've just dragged over $300 in pots in the span of five minutes and my nervous system is in full spasm mode. I fold three more hands and get the hell out of Dodge with 12x--12x!--my buy-in.

Needless to say, I woke up in a very good mood this morning.


Reason #57692 to love Party Poker: Transferring your baseball fantasy keeper league fees to the commissioner's account, instead of writing a check and mailing it.


D'oh! Canada

So, hockey is cancelled. Nice work, fellas. You guys should work in government.

I have only recently become something of a hockey fan. I grew up in California, after all. Not a big market for professional winter sports. Until three years ago, I'd seen a single hockey game live and that was the California Golden Seals in the '70s. I followed the playoffs, even watched certain series that intrigued me, like when Gretzky came to LA and they made their run to the Cup Finals and the more recent Kings-Avalanche seven-game skirmishes. I was happy for Ray Bourque.

But I wouldn't have called myself a fan. More importantly, I didn't have a firm grasp on the game's strategy. That all changed about three years ago. My buddy Salk had caught the hockey bug from somewhere and goaded me into attending a Kings game at Staples. Wow. What a difference. The game just does not adequately transfer to the TV: the pace, the intricacies, the physicality. I found it a lot easier to assess the game live. I found it a lot easier to recognize the tactics, the developing patterns. It's a lot like soccer, in a way: triangle passing, moving to space, over-lapping. I was instantly hooked.

Part of it, to be sure, was the atmosphere. Hanging and drinking $10 Newcastles with Salk became one of my increasingly rare "Boys Nights Out." The crowd for Kings games is BY FAR the most entertaining of LA sports crowds, more passionate, more vocal, more "real" than any other.

But the game was important, too. This was the year with the LAPD line: Jason Allison, Adam Deadmarsh and Ziggy Palffy. I appreciated the team's blue collar style, if not necessarily their penchant for offensive defensemen. Just an entertaining team to watch. Until they all got injured and released, of course.

So, do I miss hockey? Not really. For one, poker takes up a lot of those hours I'd spend watching. For another, Salk moved away. I miss going to the games at Staples, but that ship had sailed already. I'm not sure what I'll do when (if?) they ever return. It's not like the baseball strike in '94 where I boycotted going to games for several years because it hurt me so bad. I'm not that deeply ingrained in hockey. So, I have fewer reservations about forgiveness. I'll watch. If it pulls me back in, so be it.

I would not mind having the whole lot of 'em rounded up and horse-whipped, however, just for being so stupid.


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