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The Money Tree

Money doesn't grow on trees, but it does grow on Salami. I returned to my underground pokerroom of choice last night, due in large part to the bad taste left in my mouth from recent losses and the convenient fact that wifey Kim was visiting a friend's new apartment uptown. I battled with myself over whether to wear the usual Superman shirt (Green $ shirt), but ultimately recalled what one of the players said at the weekend homegame about my loss: "You don't have your shirt." I may not be one for superstitions, but I am one for hedging my bets.

When I arrived at the club (satiated by a peanutbutter and Nutella sandwich at Peanut Butter & Company), the place was dead quiet. I was a bit concerned that the mass of police and fireman activity outside of the building chased away my competition, but I decided to wait until 7:45 to see if the tournament was going to kick off. As I waited, I chatted lightly with one of the dealers, and then listened to Ron & Fez on my walkman. I also caught a bit of the King of Queens on one of the plaza tvs, and surprisingly, that show which has always been at the periphery of my tv view wasn't too bad.

By 7:45, there were maybe 5-6 players mulling around. I decided to wait until 8 before I left. By 7:55, "Chummy" (I think that's what I heard someone call him) decided to start the tournament, and we got started with 8 players.

As usual, Salami was running it as a re-register tournament, akin to a rebuy, but the rebuyer has to pay the fee as well (i.e., $50+10). It seemed early on that players were going to rely heavily on the re-register format. One guy on my immediate right looked like a thinner Matusow and acted like one too. It was kind of surprising, as, by appearance, I would have pegged him as a conservative player, but he made some crazy all-ins, seemingly out of desperation, and cursed the gods when the best hand (best by a margin of perhaps 3%) did not hold up. He noticeably did not complain when I re-raised him all-in from the SB with A5o and he called and won with Q8o. Granted, my play was shakey, but I knew that he was ready to call with any two, and his failure to push preflop told me that he did not have me beat. I also was having a little bit of fun mocking him with a big smile, the kind of mocking that puts a player like him on instant tilt but allows me the plausible deniability that I was just joking around and being friendly. I wasn't planning on tilting anyone, but he was doing such a good job on himself, I had to encourage his behavior.

At that point, I had actually chipped up a bit. In one hand, in EP/MP, I limped with A7h. This was not a particularly smart move, given the aggression of the table. By the time it got to the blinds, a player who looked like Turtle from Entourage raised it from 50 to 250. Mini-Matusow called and I decided to join them for the ride, as did a player on my left. The flop was 7 high, so I bet 600 when it checked to me and everyone folded. For some reason, I was getting a lot of respect at the table, and proceeded to win every hand I played (excluding A5 v. Q8) for the first hour at least.

To a large extent, my win was based on timing, reads and my ability to adjust to the table conditions. I was able to capitalize greatly on the table's aggressive nature. A ninth player registered for the tournament late. Although I do not know his name, I had played with him before, and he epitomizes the Salami player. He is an older (50s? 60s?) tall white man with slavic features and frost-white hair. He has a noticeable Eastern European accent and seems to hate money. He is a gambler, plain and simple, and busting him is only a matter of timing.

In one hand, I decided to limp in EP/MP with 67s and blinds of 75/150, not long after the re-register period ended. A player to my immediate left limped as well, although this put him all-in. It folded around to the Slav and he raised 300 on top. Turtle (another loose one) called, and I called as well. The flop was a beautiful 367, rainbow. The Slav checked in the SB. Turle checked in the BB. I could have just checked it down, which I had been doing in similar situations, but I decided to make an overbet (considering the situation) of 1000. The Slav now wakes up, as he is wont to do, and decides to push all-in for a measely 350 more. I have to call. He tables 58o, for an open-ended straight draw. I have my two pair. The all-in player has J9o. The turn is another 3, and the river is a J. The all-in player quadrupled up, but I won the larger side pot, knocking out the overaggressive Slav.

I took out another player too, a bit earlier in the game. I was in one of the blinds with A8o. One player pushes, from 100 to I think 400 or so, and two players called in MP/LP, including Turtle. I called in the BB and saw an Ace-high uncoordinated flop. With top-pair, I decided to check. All of the other players followed suit. On the next card, a Queen came out. I checked, as did one other player, but Turtle decided to bet 400. I decided to call. The river was a blank and we both checked. He showed a Queen (or less!). I showed my Ace and took down the pot. What a tool, betting into a dry side-pot. It's a good thing I was confident that he did not have an Ace. If he had it, there was no doubt he was betting the flop (as opposed to the turn).

I guess lesson was learned because I took out another short stack after checking it down the whole way with two other players in the hand. I held 73o and it took until the river for me to hit my inside straight draw. Since there was no betting, it was an easy freeroll and helped build my stack.

While all of this was going on, I just stacked my chips and remained relaxed. I had my iPod on, playing random tunes from Nirvana to the Miles Davis to random euro trance. I had my sunglasses on after the first orbit and my hat pulled down. I wasn't putting up an image; this is just how I am at the table. Take a look at any of the IHO pics with me in it and you'll see what I mean. Interestingly, however, there was no one else at the table with sunglasses on. This immediately casts me in the role of the over-dressed poker player, but I don't mind that look, especially at Salami. It's great to look like the goofy kid in the Superman shirt when you want to get action, but that was not going to be an issue at Salami. My whole goal was to be able to read my players and behind the sunglasses, I had an extra aire of proficiency and power...or at least that's how my opponents acted.

I took one hand in particular to try out some reading skills. I decided on that particular hand to just look at the players' lips. When a player pushes his lips out, like he is puckering for a kiss, he is confident. When his lips tighten up and thin out or disappear, he is not confident. Take a second and try it out yourself. Pout your lips and then pull them in. The difference is noticeable when you are concentrating, but a lot of players ignore their lips when they are trying to hold in tells. They are more concerned with their eyes or their hands. This is not always the case, but from one hand, I could just about predict that the player whose mouth widened was only checking to get in the check-raise. I was not 100% sure, until he did it and then showed his made straight. I noticed another player slightly frown (it is a micro movement) when the flop came. He then proceeded to fold.

While I was watching for tells, I noticed that Chummy, a broad, tatooed employee of the room (seemingly a manager of sorts) in his mid-20s and, allegedly, a law student (although I imagine having all of those tatoos from your neck to your hands will hinder employment), had a very noticeable tell. He shuffled his cards, something that I have discussed more than once here. If a player takes his cards and shuffles them/scissors them, one on top of the other back and forth, they hate their cards. Subconsciously, by "shuffling" them, they hope that the cards will change.
I have said here that I don't mind showing cards, if it can help me control my table image. Chummy, however, showed the perfect reason why he should not show. Chummy had been re-raising big on a couple of occassions, specifically against a loose player in his 40s with uncharacteristic Tom-Hanks-in-The-DaVinci-Code hair. I had a good feeling he was bluff-raising, a fairly intelligent move in his position. In one particular hand, he check-raised all-in. DaVinci groaned and folded, and then Chummy showed his useless open-ended straight draw (with only one card to go). DaVinci showed his middle pair first, so this may have been the impetus, but by showing, Chummy basically confirmed my read.

Notably, I had a read on DaVinci, too, based on the size of his bets. He was very aggressive, seemingly stealing blinds from the first level, not a bad move in this game where you start with 2k chips and blinds are 100/200 within an hour. His bets were often large, until he min-raised. He later showed AA in that hand. So, DaVinci, if you are betting small, I'm folding. If you are betting big, I'm re-raising you. Thanks!

I made a few bad plays. I raised from 150 to 450 with AJo. A tight Asian player two seats to my left called, as did a loose player who I had played with before, who I will refer to by his Grey snow hat. GreyHat was definitely a loose player, but seemed to have more control over his looseness compared to DaVinci and the Slav. He also wore his hat semi-rolled up, so that one ear was partially covered. I noticed this because this is something I do, too. In fact, I had my black Kangol cap covering one ear at that very moment, a sign that both he and I were a bit unorthodox in style and likely, play. One thing was for certain, he was dangerous, and I was fairly confident that he would go after orphaned pots whenever he could. Preflop, he calls, and the three of us see at KQx flop. I check, as does the Asian, and GreyHat bets 1000. I had probably 6-7k at this point, and decided to call, even though I have very little here. I don't know why I called, either. Part of it was because of who bet. Part of it was the though that if a Ten came, I was golden, and if an Ace came, I would probably still be good. In the end, I also thought that I was already ahead of GreyHat. What I didn't expect was when the Asian raised all-in for 750 more. GreyHat folded, surprisingly, but since I was fairly deep, I made the call. He showed KK, a masterful slowplay that worked, mostly because he checked and let the looser GreyHat bet for him. Unfortunately, the river was a Ten, making my straight and sending the slowplaying Asian to the rail. That was my one suckout.

A while later, I lured DaVinci into a trap. I had AA and Chummy and I had probably 12k or more, each, compared to DaVinci and GreyHat, the two other remaining players, who had 3.5k and 6.5k or so (34k in chips, total, after there were 17 buy-ins/re-registers). GreyHat, on my immediate left, folded, as did Chummy. DaVinci was now on his cell phone for the seeminly the 24th time since the tournament started. He was trying to get off of the phone to concentrate, and he absent-mindedly threw in 1200, raising the 200/400 blinds. I thought for a moment, but not too long, since I wanted to act while he was still distracted. He didn't have much more chips, so I wanted him to get all-in and he'd do it too, since all he was thinking about while on the phone was his cards, which were apparently good enough for an absent-minded raise. I raised 1000 on top and he pushed all-in within seconds. I called and flipped my cards face up. He showed A9h. He hit his first 9 on the turn, and the second on the river. That was the one time I was sucked out on.

I took a monster lead when Chummy started to get impatient. He was working that night, but was able to play to help fill the table. There were two other dealers, Marie, a black-haired genial women in her 50s who always seems to bring me luck at the table, and Mookie, a punk kid. The room was very dead, so I guess it wasn't a big deal to Chummy when Mookie decided to go home, claiming to feel sick. Ricardo, who apparently was higher up on the food chain, came by later and was watching over the place, but Ricardo does not deal. As a result, late in the tournament, we had the only two dealers at our table, Marie and Chummy. Chummy had to go to deal the cash game that was waiting for him, and when I raised in EP with AQc, he pushed all-in. We had almost even stacks, and I thought for a moment before calling. He had been pushing a lot with crap, from what I saw, and he was clearly in a rush. My AQc held up against his KJo, and I was a monster stack. I tightened up, but Chummy doubled through DaVinci (77 v. Ax). On the very next hand, I had A8 and Chummy pushed again. I assumed he was in a rush to lose, so I called. He had KK and tripled up when DaVinci also called with AQ. Suddenly, Chummy and I were even again. Oh well.

We eventually ended up with three players, me with about 14.5k, GreyHat with 5k and Chummy with 15k. GreyHat wanted to work on a save for third place, but that was against my policy. Simply put, I will not agree to a save for third place (or fourth, or whatever) unless there is a good chance that I am going out in that place. If we were all even, I might agree, but here, I felt confident that I could wait out GreyHat. I will, however, agree to a chop, as long as it is final. At first, I offered GreyHat his save, $60, and then offered to split the rest with Chummy. GreyHat balked, and he was right to, since he could still win $600 for first place (second was $250) if he got lucky. I then suggested $100 for him, and $375 for Chummy and me, since Chummy was in a rush and I was willing to lock in a nice win. GreyHat still hesitated and said, "Let's play it out." I finally came up with a last offer, $150 for GreyHat, and $350 for Chummy and me. GreyHat took his time and I told him that if I were in his shoes I'd take it, but otherwise, it is up to him. I also told him that if he didn't take it, I'd make sure we played it out, not to strongarm him, but just to let him know what his options were. He relented and took the payout and I won $350 for my troubles. I gave $20 to Marie for a tip and then headed out into the cold air.

It was then that I realized that I did not have my cell phone on me. I panicked before realizing that I hadn't made a call or checked my phone since leaving the apartment. I then sat back in the cab and thought of all the people I wanted to call to tell them of my win. Yes, I'm a braggart that way, but I like to share my joy.

For those counting, that's 5 wins out of 7 tournaments this year, with the two losers taking place at home games for $25 or less, and the wins taking place in underground card rooms and home games in games $30 and more. You know, for those keeping track.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 8:55 AM,


At 12:12 PM, Blogger Pokerwolf said...

Mookie, a punk kid.

That's a decent amount of blogger smack talk, bro. Now I know why you don't play online much anymore. :P

If I had more opportunities, I'd play live more than online. I'd have to work on not giving away tells though. Ugh.

At 1:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

--"Poker is what...."

Thats the title of my book I am publishing.

Actually its kind of a 'digital fingerprint' put into my RSS feed. Allows me to do a search for that exact phrase to see if anyone is stealing or copying content in some fashion. Not like I care if someone takes my content as long as they give me some kind of credit. For instance a quick search on google returned two sites.

But credit for that phrase came right from my pea sized brain. I hope.


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