The best tonic for what ails you is to get stuck in.
Occassionally, I'll have some nerves before a big soccer game. Spastic energy, butterflies, whatever. The surest way to make it go away is to get into that first tackle. Seek some contact, feel the hit. And poof. Nervousness gone and instinct takes over.
I had gotten stuck in with my AJ (it only occurred to me recently that I broke my Vegas hold 'em cherry with a hand that, when written, is the initials/nickname of my son. To which I reply, "Fucking cool."). I started to settle in. We were only 7-handed at the table. Unusual for a Friday night, I thought. I continued to assess the players. I've already described two, and don't think my selection of the 8s was an accident. With four available spots, I quickly scanned chip sizes and demeanor, almost immediately choosing to sit to the left of the rock and to the right of grumbling Nick/Kevin, who obsessively fingered his (mostly empty) rack of chips.
The one, two and 10 seat were open. The balding--make that bald--gent in the 3s you know already. To his left was 'Nawlins, a 50-ish guy with a Bayou accent. He didn't claim Louisiana as home, but he'd spent a lot of time there. Next came Big Ben, an elderly fella in a Steelers foam hat. New, that hat. Bill wasn't even shaped yet. In the 6, an overweight Asian dude from Gen Y.
From what I'd seen, the crew was mainly loose/passive. With the exception of The Rock and 'Nawlins, they all saw a large percentage of flops. If they missed, they'd fold. Nick/Kevin was an exception and he showed down some skeevy hands in the first couple orbits, like an unpaired K9o. A calling station of the first order. A drunk guy, happy to bet, but seemingly unhappy to be playing. He would continually chastise other plays/players, especially those first to bet after a flop. "It's so OB-vious," he'd say. "You need to learn how to slow-play." But he'd go on ahead and call them anyway.
I sat with that same group for about 45 minutes. Not a lot of table chatter. Not a lot of exciting showdowns. And then, the party showed up.
Action J seized the 10s. The Groom took the one. Just rolled into town for a bachelor party. The former was a big fella, with an equally out-sized sense of humor. I liked him immediately. Not 90 seconds into his arrival, we started jawing. Both from LA...here for a bachelor party...here for a soccer tournament...soccer?...yeah, soccer..don't get soccer...a lot don't...it's boring...is baseball boring?...no, baseball's the shit...well, soccer is like baseball, if you understand it past the basic level, to its fundamental bones, to it SUBTEXT! how every pitch alters the direction of the strategy...WHOA!...
Suffice to say, Action J had found in me a kindred baseball geek.
The Groom, for his part, didn't come all this way to fold. Nosiree.
Soon, I found a pair of 8s in LP. Three limpers, including 'Nawlins. Well, let's see what we can do around here, methinks and I raise it the max, up to $8. Nick/Kevin calls. Action J calls. The Groom calls. Baldy calls. 'Nawlins calls. Big Ben calls.
What. The. !@#$!!$#^#^#?
Pocket 8s not so good in a 6-way pot.
Unless flop comes 832, which it does. It's checked to me and I want to check, but there are two diamonds so...no free cards. I bet $6 and all fold. Loose-passive. I throw up my 8s and say, "I only bet with the nuts." Action J is the only one who laughs.
I'll not go through the rest of my hands. To sum everything up, I didn't really play a whole lot of them. But nearly every flop I saw hit me, sometimes ridiculously so. I flopped a set of aces twice (once with AQo, once with A9s). I caught a set of 10s with A10. I limped with cowboys and got three callers to the river, once of whom registered a comical look of shock at showdown. When I held AQ, the flop came Q-high. When I held KJ, it came Jack high. In 6 hours, I went to showdown 9 times and lost once. And that was only because Action J was goading me.
And I got to see some truly awful poker playing. A studious-looking young man had assumed the 7s after The Rock left. I heard him muttering to himself several times, "Chasing too much...too loose," a little pep talk. He wasn't catching much, but when he did, you knew it. He raised Baldy's $6 bet after a 789 flop. Raised him on the turn. raised him on the river. Baldy kept calling, adding at the last, "Do you have the straight?" Action J answered:
"OF COURSE HE DOES!!!!!!!"
Baldy also paid me off another time with top pair, no kicker, a look of disgust registering at showdown. Action J commented:
"I'd be disgusted too if I was playing jack-duece."
We were having a blast. I'm nice and lubed up by now. Nick/Kevin had gone away some time earlier and finally, a 20-something Asian lass assumed the 9 seat. Briefly. She played a single hand before looking at me, then at J and demanding, "Can one of you change seats with me. You talking back and forth is giving me a headache!"
Well, that kinda attitude does not sit well with me. But you know what? Good times. We're here to have good times. Fine, bitch. Take my seat. I resolve to get my revenge with the chips.
So I move. And Action J and I continue our running commentary, most often aimed at The Groom, who's a good guy with a rapidly diminishing stack of chips. J himself appears to be a solid player and he's doubled up at this point. Though, the Jack Daniels would get to him later--he'd even toss his chips in the pot with an announcement: "Loose call! This is a loose call!"--and by the time I left for the evening, he was stuck about $60.
Where was I? Oh yeah, so, what do I get my first hand in the 9s? Pocket 10s. I raise the max, resisting the strong urge to shout, "Six dolla make you holla!". Five callers, including Asian Headache Chick. Flop comes nine-high and only one caller to my bet: Asian Headache Chick. "I sure am glad I switched seats," I say. "If I was still in my old seat, I might be chasing this pot against a made hand." J is kicking me under the table.
Turn is a rag and I bet after she checks. She tosses me a look of pure hatred and folds.
"I LOVE the 9 seat!" I exclaim.
It is soon the witching hour and the promise I made to myself is broken. I was going to go to bed at midnight. Early kickoff, needed rest, sleep it off. But there's no way I can leave the table. No. Way. So, I make what was perhaps my finest play of the evening:
"Waitress? Can I get a water?"
The primary result of this move is me sobering up as the table degenerates further into drunkeness. At least three players are completely off their shit. Others are still just bad.
A Powers Boothe look-alike has assumed the 4s from 'Nawlins and immediately takes on the role of Whipping Boy. He plays too many hands, to be sure, but he also takes three brutal beats, including losing on the river with the Hiltons and pockets Js, the latter of those a two-pair suckout than can only happen in your nightmares: Asian Headache Chick holding 107o and calls with her second-pair all the way and catches a five-outer. Whipping Boy takes it all pretty well, though I swear I can see steam coming off his head.
Amidst this ever downward spiral of sobriety and poker acumen, I find myself holding rockets in LP. My max raise has no effect and we have seven players see the flop. Ace and two spades. Only The Artist Formerly Known as Asian Headache Girl Whom I Am Currently Calling The Suckout Queen in the 8s calls my bet. No spade on the turn and she folds it. "Too bad," I say, flipping up my cards. "I wanted to hit my quads and spin the wheel." She still doesn't like me very much, a fact I enjoy. She's taken to bantering back and forth with Mr. Studious in the 7s and J accuses them several times of "working together." After one such playful accusation, I add, "Yeah, together they're going to see every single flop."
It is soon two and I grudglingly head to bed with 3+ racks of chips.
I could have danced all night.
Before I go, I have a question for the poker literati regarding tipping. Everyone I played with over the entire weekend tipped a buck (if they tipped anything), no matter the pot size. Me? Well, I'm a loose tipper, especially when gambling (and winning) and alcohol are involved. Can't hurt to have the dealer (and kamra) on your side, can it? I try to tip in accordance with the pot size and toked as high as $4 this weekend. The question is, am I a sucker? Am I giving away too much hard-earned profit? What are the general guidelines, if any?