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Concussed Poker

First off, I need to injure myself more often. The last post about my potential concussion got way more interest than the hand analysis post just before it. So, from now on, I am committing myself to injuring myself at least once per week. I'll take suggestions on which body part to injure next...and for the record, I'm saving my junk* for the big New Year's Diagnose Jordan Spectacular, so you can save all of those requests.

Even with my would-be concussion, I decided that I ought to play some live poker last night. Jamie had arranged a two-table tournament ($35 buy-in) at the Wall Street Game and after a seat openned up, I hopped on the opportunity.

I strolled home from work at about 7pm. The game was scheduled to kick off at 7:15, and it was a mere 5 minutes away, but I still had to change and take come of some things around the apartment, so I texted Jamie to blind me off, as needed.

My head was still not 100% yesterday evening. The back of my skull had a developing bump, albeit a lot smaller (and more painful) than the type of bump you get on the top of your head. I guess because it was at the base of my skull at my neck, the injury affected my neck as well. Even right now, I feel a tightness in my shoulders and upper back that can only be explained by the sudden impact from two nights ago. Last night, though, I also felt a cloudy head. I felt waves of delirium and my ability to focus was weak. I don't mean that things seemed blurry. Everything was visibly acute, but I just couldn't concentrate on things, seemingly.

When I arrived at the game, I took my seat at Jamie's newer, nicer table. I set up my dinner, a turkey sandwich from a local deli, on a nearby stool and sat down to play some poker. The table was mostly familiar faces. Cheryl was on my immediate right, which is a pleasure, as I tend to have trouble dealing with her unreadable play. I announced to the table that I was probably playing concussed, to jokingly warn them about my upcoming terrible play. In reality, I was having trouble concentrating, but I still wasn't sure if it was all psychosematic.

I started out tight, due in large part to my lack of cards. Eventually, I was moved to the other table, and when I headed over, I had chipped up slightly thanks to my aggressive play. There were at least two hands at that first table where I made light calls preflop and then took the pot with a simple river bet after confirming that no one wanted a part of the hand. In one particular hand, I had some crap cards and we saw a KQT flop. I don't remember what I had, but I checked, the guy on my left checked and the player with position bet. I decided to float a bet to see if I could take it away late. Surprisingly, the other checker, who didn't look confident in the hand or at a poker table generally, called as well. I figured I was done with the hand, so I checked the turn, as did the other checker. Amazingly, the flop bettor checked as well, indicating that his BS flop position bet was just that, BS. The river was a Jack, creating a four card straight for anyone with a 9 or Ace. I considered just checking again, but I decided to bet out instead, about 1000 into the several thousand dollar pot. Fold, fold. It was a gutsy play on my part, but I was pretty much betting that neither player had an Ace or Nine. If they had it, so be it. I liked the odds that they didn't though, mostly based on their seeming disinterest in the hand, particularly after the river. I won another hand in a similar way and yet another hand by calling light out of position after I limped with J8h, flopping a J66 board, getting called on my flop bet, checking the turn, and betting the Jack river. Easy moneys.

So, after all of this, I'm moved to the other table with a slightly above average chip stack. Immediately, I announce my concussed state, once again as a joking precautionary word to my adversaries.

After looking around the table, it was pretty clear that this table was slightly softer. It wasn't that the players were bad or inexperienced. I just think that they were better suited to my style of game. There were a couple of guys who knew how to fold, and once I established that, I started to loosen up my play. Of course, before that happened, I showed a flopped set after my preflop raise with 66 was called in a few spots but my post-flop bet was folded to around the table. The guy to my left, Ben, said offhand that I could take down the pot with my continuation bluff, so I showed my hands and chastised him jokingly about manipulating me to show. I knew what I was doing the whole time, getting in some advertising for when the blinds would go up. I took down another hand on the flop with a continuation bet after raising preflop with the hammer. I showed that too, but by then, I was actually hoping to induce more action. Showing cards is rarely a good idea...unless you have a goal in mind. This is another reocurring theme at High on Poker: "Controlling the flow of information can be more effective than creating an absence of information if you know what you are doing." I need to work on that saying a tad.

We ended up down to the final table of 11 after I busted Ben. I had a crappy hand, but pot odds to call preflop after he pushed on top of my steal bet. He showed AK and I had Q5 or maybe J5. I hit one of my cards and that was all she wrote. Meanwhile, I was the table chip leader and close to the tourney chip leader. I also had a lucky image, literally an image that I was merely getting lucky. Ben complained about his lack of cards, or the fact that he got no action on his big cards. I responded, "I've been doing so poorly in these games, I guess I'm just due for some good luck." I hoped that everyone heard that one. A lucky player is scarier than a skilled one in a tournament (maybe not so much in a cash game, though).

At the final table, I was reunited with the players I left behind during my table change. I took the 6 seat, and a player in the 9 seat or 10 seat, Vitaly, looked like the second chip leader, after me. I was watching Vitaly earlier, and it was clear that he was playing solid poker. He was from the Ukraine, and those former Soviets don't mind gambling. I reckon it probably is related to my own love of gambling, since I have Eastern European and Russian roots. Whatever the case, I could tell in a pretty short time that he was my major competition.

I went from big stack to HUGE stack with one monster hand. Roger was the first to act and raised the 400 big blind to 1200. I had noticed that Roger was a bit of a calling station, correctly calling down a player with Ace-high, Ten kicker, earlier in the night. He had played at the WSG before, and this was nothing new. His raise from UTG threw me off for a bit, and it took me a while to decide what to do as I looked at my QQ. A re-raise could be in order, but I had the suspicion that Roger could've been ahead with KK or AA. In any event, I decided to just flat call, since I didn't see him making too many preflop raises and I wanted to see how the hand developed before I gave away too many chips. To my surprise, Jamie, on the button, decided to push all-in for his remaining 1,500. To make matters worse, another player, I think Dave, called from one of the blinds. Roger called and I confirmed that I could not re-raise because the all-in raise was less than a complete bet. Once confirmed, I announced, "Good, because I was just asking hypothetically. I didn't really want to raise anyway," an absurd lie that I didn't think anyone would take seriously.

The flop came down T-high. I think there may've been two diamonds. If memory serves correct, Roger bet out 1600 or so and I called. Dave then pushed all-in over the top for less than a complete raise, and after Roger called, I double-checked again that I couldn't re-raise. I thought the rule was that the all-in push had to be at least half of a full bet to re-raise and there was definitely a raise of more than 1/2 of a complete bet, but Jamie once again said that no re-raises were allowed and I once again said, "Good, because I still don't want to raise."

The turn was a Queen. If there weren't already two diamonds out, the Queen brought the second one. If there were already two diamonds, the Queen was not a diamond. Whatever the case, I hit my unlikely set. I think it checked to me and I bet out 3000 or so. It was only me and Roger still with chips in the hand, so I was trying to build a second side pot. If he folded, though, I would be happy. The pot was main and first side pot were big enough. He called.

The river was a Ten of diamonds, filling the diamond flush and giving me a full house. Truth be told, I didn't even notice the flush. I guess the Queen of diamonds actually did come on the turn, because if a flush draw flopped, I think I would've noticed it. But as it were, it wasn't even on my radar. I think it checked to me and I pushed all-in. Roger called. He showed KJd for the second nut flush. I showed my full house. Everyone else mucked. Jamie later admitted to having 55, but given his tiny stack, his play made perfect sense, even if he was drawing dead in no time.

With a huge stack, I sat back for a bit until blinds got higher and I started stealing. I noticed that Vitaly was continually playing well. In light conversation, I figured out that he was friends or at least acquaintances with November Nine player Ylon Schwartz. Wendy had met Vitaly (and Ylon, incidentally) in Vegas randomly. Vitaly had seen her and recognized her from NY or AC poker rooms. They got to chatting and a friendship was formed. I joked that it was pretty obvious that they met at a poker table...everyone at the game met Wendy at a poker table. That girl loves her poker.

Since Vitaly knew Ylon and was playing well, I had to assume that he was no shlub himself. His stack was continually growing as he continued an aggressive game. I identified him as by biggest competition at the table. The other players had lesser stacks. We were down to five, the bubble, and aside from Vitaly and me, the other three players were looking pretty short. To my immediate left was John, who admitted that he was playing poorly even though he made it so deep. He seemed uncertain about his game, which was all the encouragement I needed. To John's left was Vitaly. To his left was Paul-in-the-Hamily. I've played with Paul enough to get a feel for his game, and while he is no softie, his short stack made him less threatening. To his left was Drew, who I had played with once before. Last time, he was complaining about being card dead and played very tight. This time, he seemed to be mixing it up a bit more, but he also had a defeated aire about him. I was to his left, making the circle complete.

Wendy was dealing, but wanted to hit the gym. I lent her my iPod, and as she left (while I was still massive chip leader) she said something akin to, "Don't bust out 5th...I want to use your iPod." Fucking jinx!**

And then, well, I gifted most of my stack. Here's how it went down.

I was in the BB, and Vitaly raised preflop. I called with a couple of napkins (rags, whatever you want to call crappy cards). The flop was T36 or so, rainbow, and I checked. Vitaly bet, and I check-raised. I hadn't been doing it a lot and I wanted to force him out of the pot. The way I saw it, he was raising preflop a lot and probably just wanted the blinds. After the flop, he might think I'm playing any two cards and luckily hit, thus explaining my check-raise. I figured he would give it up unless he had a really good hand like an over pair. But he called. The turn was a blank, so I bet out again, probably 4500 or so, about a third of his remaining stack. He agonized and called again. The river was an Ace and I got concerned. It wasn't beyond him to be playing AQ or AK, so that Ace really could've been a problem. By the same token, I thought that if he had a hand like KK-JJ, that Ace may be enough to get him to finally fold. I asked for a count and he had 8900 left. I took my time but eventually pushed. I had him covered by more than 10k, which was no small feat, considering starting stacks were 3.5k. He took his time and I tried to play it cool. I didn't want to go into complete lockdown mode, since that in and of itself is a tell. I just tried to act casual and slightly impatient, as one would no matter what cards he held in this situation. Finally, he called and I announced, "Good call." He showed AT and it became clear I was not going to shake him off of his hand. FUCK!, I thought inwardly. I knew I had hung myself, but there was a specific reason why I played this hand so hard. I saw Vitaly as my only real competition at this point, and I felt that getting him down to a more reasonable stack (like 8,900) would essentially allow me to run away with the tourney. As it were, instead, I fucked myself and found that I was damn near push or fold poker.

Drew busted in 5th on the bubble a little while later. He pushed with QJ and I called with KJ. We both ended up with three Jacks, so he would've been all-in eventually anyway, if that were any consolation. At five people, Pauly had suggested a chop: everyone gets $100 and I get the rest, $260. I was okay with it, since I was still the huge stack and $260 was almost first place money ($330). Everyone else consented, but Vitaly looked unhappy. "I guess if everyone else wants to, but playing is more fun." Even though it was a great deal for me, I interjected: "Vitaly, this is a game for money. No one is going to give you shit if you want to play it out. It's your money." We decided to play it out. In hindsight, I shouldn't have been so reasonable. I say this in jest, though. Unless I'm in a desperate spot, I never want anyone to make a deal with me unless they are certain that they want to do it.

Pauly was out in fourth and it was John, Vitaly and me. John went out next, even though he still had me slightly outchipped. Vitaly basically made a pot-odds call preflop with ATC and ended up with two live cards, 45o, against John's two overs. The five hit the river and I was heads-up for the big money.

I was still using push-fold strategy and chipped up a little bit, but Vitaly had a massive stack. We finally saw a flop when I had 95o. The flop was T9x and I pushed. He took a while and called with T4o. I don't know why he took so long, although I can't blame him.

Playing with Vitaly was actually a pleasure. You can tell when someone really gets the game. He wasn't playing like a nit, but also had control over his play. Most importantly, he took my ribbing and nonsense light heartedly. When he wanted to look at my Golden Buddha card cap, I said, "Sure." As he looked at it, he said, "I wasn't sure if you'd mind. Some people think its bad luck." I replied, "I don't mind," as I pulled out my Red Elephant card cap, "You are bad luck, but that's why I brought this." I love that stupid gimmick shit. It just lightens the mood. He cracked up and said that I had a line for everything. I responded: "Not really. The third time I see you, when I say the exact same lines, you'll already be bored of it."

After the game, Wendy came back down and handed me my iPod, complete with sweaty ear buds. Actually, they were quite dry, but how could I not picture them all sweated up. No offense to Wendy, though. I don't think I would want anyone to use my headphones at the gym, so even though the idea skeeved me out, I hope she takes it as a compliment or at least a sign of our friendship that, aside from joking around, I lent them to her with little protest. I need to pick up new buds anyway as my current set are pretty decrepit from overuse.

I fucking love poker. Plain and simple. It was sweet to finally cash in a tournament at the WSG, as it has been a while (largely because I tend to focus on cash games there). Jamie, once again, ran a great event, as he does several times a week.

I returned home to find wifey Kim already asleep in bed. She looked so peaceful, but I couldn't help but kiss her on the head as I emptied my pockets in the bedroom. She woke up briefly and then rolled over and went back to bed. I then spent the next two hours trying to come down off of the poker high. It's the #1 reason why I play the game.

I ought not play tonight, but the Mookie is damn tempting.

Until next time, make mine poker!



*Junk includes testicles.
** I don't really believe in jinxes or lucky charms, or so I say. But this is coming from a guy who brings two card caps with him in case one of them is unlucky. I can't help myself.

posted by Jordan @ 12:45 PM,

1 Comments:

At 2:39 PM, Blogger Walnuts said...

It was a good deal for all. It was your concussion talking that didn't shame Vitaly into accepting!

 

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