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All American Poker

Last night, I played at Matty's refugee game, a homegame/cardroom hybrid. The game originally started in midtown Manhattan several months ago, but when the landlord learned that the apartment was being used for something other than a domiciliary, his game had to find a new home. It ended up in someone's apartment, and hence, the weird mix of a homegame/cardroom atmosphere.

I arrived a tad early and was greeted by the guy who lives in the apartment, Eric the dealer, and ASG, a reader and pal who I had originally introduced to Matty's game when it was still in midtown. The apartment was fairly empty, so after a while, I made a call to bro-in-law Marc. Marc is a cash game guy and when I play in the city, I'm usually playing tournaments, so its rare that I can actually convince him to join me. But the 1/2 game at Matty's was right in Marc's wheelhouse, so I made the call and he agreed to join.

Eventually, Jeff and Sean showed up. The four of us (me, ASG, Jeff and Sean) started four-handed with no rake. I love shorthanded, and it didn't hurt that I was hitting flops and dragging pots. I had played with all of these guys before, and I had played with Sean a bunch of times, so I already had a fair impression of each of their games. That certainly helped a bit, but probably not as much as the flopped full house (Q5 on a Q55 flop, where I was able to get decent value from Jeff's Q9), flopped two pair (with QJ after which Sean hit his lesser two pair with QT on the turn) and a set (55 on a 579 board). It wasn't just flopping hands, although that helped. The key was extracting value; my reputation helps that a tad and it helped me build some breathing room before the table filled up.

One of the oddest things about the homegame were the slew of kids who joined us in hour 2. They were all Indian (curry, not feather). I hadn't played at Matty's game for a while, but from the conversations both before the Injins arrived and while they were around, it was clear that this poker terror cell had become not only regulars, but the highlights of the game. And for the record, I realize that Indian and Injin and the Arabic implication involved in the term "terror cell" are all different people, but I couldn't help but feel when playing with the group that they really felt like a terror cell. I mean, Jesus H. Christmas, a bunch of young, dark skinned males with a questionable source of money, ethnic appearances (American clothes, but somehow off-kilter), speaking in foreign tongues. I couldn't help but feel after losing a hand that I may be funding the next attack; of course, on the other hand, every pot I won, I won for America (Fuck Yeah!).

Overall, the Terror Cell wasn't that bad. They were a ragtag group, and even though they were of a different stripe, it didn't take long to see that they individually fell into the same archetype as would any other group of 20-something guys. One guy was the uber-serious nerd, skinny with floppy hair, glasses, wearing headphones, with a constant slacked-jaw. Another was the maniac, with a pile of dark hair on his head like the Indian-haired version of a high flattop. He was a bit pudgy, and the nerd would goad him on after making a stupid call (which, more often than not, the maniac won). The kid on my immediate left was a tall, broad guy, almost like the meathead or jock of the group. He was quiet and based on his play, didn't come off as too intelligent. Another was the suave guy, better looking and dressed than the rest. There were probably another 2 or 3 others, but you get the point.

Apparently, there were some issues about language. Basically, in previous games, the Cell would all chat in Indian at the table until someone finally said something. They were admonished, but according to the guys who had played with them before, even after being instructed to speak English only, they tended to speak Indian here and there. I can understand how that might occur accidentally, since it was clear English was not their first language. In fact, there were a couple of times that I was going to say something before I realized that they were actually speaking English through their thick accents. When they did revert to their native tongue, the other regulars, Jeff and Sean mostly, would say something. "ENGLISH ONLY!"

My most bad-ass hand of the night came fairly late. I held A9o and decided to limp from EP/MP. It was a limp-heavy table so I was willing to see a cheap flop. Right here is where I will state that A9 is not a good hand to play in these situations, since it is easy to be dominated if you hit your Ace. But, it was cheap and I was already up at least $200 on my initial $200 buy-in, so I called the $2. There were probably four other callers preflop and we saw a AQJ flop with two spades. It checked to me and here I can't remember if I bet or checked. I think I checked and another player, a white guy with a bald head and a sports coat and blazer, bet out. It folded to me and I called. Something told me that this guy was not particularly strong, but another part of me feared the AJ (flopped two pair).

The turn was a 9 of spades, completing a flush draw. My opponent bet again and I called again, relatively quickly this time. I still feared AJ but my spider-sense was tingling and something about my opponents demeanor made me more confident in my two pair, Aces and 9s.

The river was an 8 of spades, making a four-flush. My opponent had $53 left and I think the pot was probably closer to $60 or more. I checked for the last time and my opponent moved in. Then he stood up, climbed on top of the table, and screamed in my direction: "YOU HAVE ME BEAT!" Okay. Not really. But he may as well have done that. Even though there was a four flush and a four-card straight (a Ten made a straight) and two over-cards to my second pair, something told me that I had this guy. That something was the stare-down. While I tried to make my decision, this guy stared at me dead on, trying to burn a hole through my head. This is a classic Caro poker tell: strong means weak. He tried to look strong by looking at me dead in the eye, but it only showed me how weak he was. My read was aided by his silence. He seemed very conscious of his movements and lack thereof. It was clear he was uncomfortable.

From that tell alone, I was fairly confident that he did not have the flush; the other possibility was that he had a tiny flush, but I didn't think that likely given how the hand played out. Even so, I still took my time looking over the board. Even though I pegged him as missing the flush, I still feared AJ or AQ, two hands that could scare my opponent into putting on the strong-means-weak even though he was actually ahead.

By this point in the game, I was up about $200 (holding steady from before). Time for audience participation: Should having a big stack or a decent amount of profit in a cash game dictate one's calls? In my heart of hearts, the answer is likely no. After all, you should be making decisions based on the hand and the info available, and I don't consider my own profit to really be a factor in that math. But in reality, I often allow it to help make decisions. It's a lot easier to make a hero call with profit than with my initial buy-in.

Make the call I did, and my opponent announced, "Two pair." He then flipped over A8. My A9 took down the pot, and my new Terror Cell friends were surprised. "There were four flush cards out there!"

When 10:50 rolled around, I announced loudly to the table, "This is my last orbit." A moment before, Sean and the table were chatting about a new phrase he made up, "orbited." It's used when someone decides to play "one more orbit" and gets felted for their efforts. Hearing this right before my announcement, more than a few people commented about how I was about to get orbited. But that didn't stop me much.

I made some big hands of the evening playing suited gappers, so with maybe 5 hands left to play, I played 68h in MP for a limp. There were probably 5 other callers preflop. The flop was a glorious 579 with two diamonds, giving me, much like the cupless hockey goalie, with very vulnerable nuts. I bet out $11 in EP, hoping to get some action. As soon as the bet left my hand though, I started to regret it. It was too low. Bro-in-law Marc called and to my delight, the nerdy Indian raised to $60. It folded around to me. At this point, I was up maybe $250, for a $450 stack. Aside from the manic Indian, I was easily the chipleader. I decided to push. I wanted to either win the pot outright or give him the wrong odds to call with a flush draw.

Marc was still in the hand and took his time. He looked like he was having a hard time and eventually called all-in for his last $100 or so. I was hoping that would scare off the nerdy Indian, but he called too for another $160 or so.

I showed my cards almost instantly, but since its a cash game, this wasn't required. Neither of my opponents showed their cards, but I was fairly confident that someone was on the nut flush draw. There was some light chatter about doing business (running the cards two or three times and splitting the pot two or three ways, depending on the various boards that develop), but Marc doesn't "do business" and I don't usually either. I was anxious about the flush draw, so I finally said, "Just deal it!" The turn was a 3 of diamonds. The flush draw hit. Fuck. The river was a blank.

"Okay, who has the flush draw?" I asked, expecting either my bro-in-law or the nerdy Indian to flip their cards. Nothing. Neither was on that draw. I took down the pot, played three hands and cashed out, up $630. Thank god I announced at the beginning of my last orbit that I was calling it a night. Otherwise, I would've felt like an ass felting two players and leaving.

I'm tempted to return there tonight. Time will tell if that happens. I have Sunday free, but I'm considering doing something other than poker. Then again, the Tuna Club Sunday tournament is always juicy, and I won my last three Sunday tourneys there, so I'd love to build off of that streak.

It was a bit odd playing with some people who actually read this blog. Jeff made a couple of references, like saying "Until next time, make mine poker," when I won a big pot. The guys at this game are a fun crowd, particularly that guys who know of the site (Matty, Jeff, Sean, ASG, etc.). I'm just glad that I still have some anonymity at Tuna Club (or so I hope).

I am now less than $200 from my annual goal with two months to go, a trip to New Orleans in Nov., and trips to AC and Vegas in December. It's poker season!

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 8:10 AM,

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