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Twilight Zone

Sometimes, poker is just weird. I went to the Extra Big Bet Club tonight with the intention of playing and winning the Team Poker tournament with my all-star team of me, Mikey Aps and Matty Ebs. When I arrived, the rain was pouring heavily, and Mikey Aps had called to let me know he was running late. Our plan was to arrive an hour before the tournament, since only ten teams could play, but since Aps was running late, I went inside and prepped for some poker.

I had changed into my poker gear at the office. I'm sure the Second in Command around here must've thought it odd when I was dashing around the office last minute in a $uperman t-shirt and grey cargo track pants, but I have little shame. When I arrived at the club, Ebs was already at a 1/2 NL table. I was watching the table and got a good feel from the players almost instantly. Yesteday, I watched a You Tube clip that was supposed to be an FBI interrogator talking about reads and how they apply to poker. It was a waste of time for the most part, but he did offer one piece of advice. Don't watch the lips. Don't watch the eyes. Watch everything. I like to focus on particular tells, but sometimes if you can open your eyes to everything in front of you, you can "sense" what the person is thinking. I liken it to the concepts in the HoP-highly-recommended book Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. The idea is that your subconscious is putting together all of these subconscious clues and hints, and that "hunch" you have is actually your brain processing information that you can't readily perceive on your own. For instance, I think I mentioned micro-expressions here. I did a You Tube search of that as well, and when I was watching one video, it would show people alternatively lying and telling the truth, and it would name the micro-expression in text when it showed. I found myself watching the mouth and then seeing the text say "Rapid Blinking." I didn't notice, because I was so damned focused on the mouth. So, basically, I was getting reads on players and noticing specific things like how one player shuffled his cards or how another threw his bet in forcefully, but I was also soaking in the totality of their demeanor.

Damn chain-of-consciousness posts! I didn't expect to get into that today at all.

Moving on, as I waited for Aps to arrive, I noticed it was sweltering in the room. The EBB Club is seemingly always packed, and when you have a small-ish room with so many people and little ventilation, the place just turns into a furnace. I have two pants that I like to use for poker. The first are army green cargo pants with a shit-load of pockets, most with zippers. This allows me to carry everything, and the material is fairly breathable. The other pair is a grey pair of convertible cargo pants. Aside from the usual pockets, the grey pair only has two velcro pockets right above the knees, sufficient to hold my money and other trinkets. The real benefit to the grey pair, however, is the fact that they are convertibles. For you uninitiated, that means that I can unzip the pant legs and make them into shorts. I love this in a poker room, because I hate to be at the whim of the room's temperature. Either its too hot or too cold, and often both, alternating, so I like to have a hooded sweatshirt and pants I can roll up or turn into shorts. In a way, I follow the boy scouts motto of always being prepared. I suppose it may seem anal, but to me, its just smart. Take care of all of the things you can control for optimal conditions, like climate in this case, and just concentrate on the game.

So, I unzipped my pant legs and waited for Mikey. There was a chance the tournament was not going to happen, so when Mikey arrived, we joined Ebs at the same 1/2 NL table. After about 45 minutes of play, we had to get up for the tournament, but during that 1/2 NL session, I lost $11 and experienced a very interesting situation.

This hand could only happen in the Twilight Zone. I had 45s and was UTG, so I limped, hoping it would limp around. The flop, if recollection is correct, was J88 with two spades. It was actually a fairly tight table, so I bet out $12, about pot, and got two callers. The first caller was a small Asian kid with messed up teeth and a round head on a skinny neck and body. He was super shortstacked with just $30 or so before the hand, and now he had only $16 left after calling me. I think the other player, who may've been Ebs, folded. The turn was an offsuit 3, doing absolutely nothing for me. I checked, he pushed all-in for $16 into a $36 pot, and I called. The river was an offsuit 2. I had the worst possible hand! WORST! Obviously, there was no more betting since my opponent was all-in. We stared at each other for a few seconds and he said, "You have the full house?" I mumbled my reply as my headphones played quietly in my ears, "I'm not showing first. I called you." Remember, this is one of my key points of advice. If he is the last aggressor, make him show first. I don't know what he thought he heard, but after I said it, he mucked his hand. The pot was pushed to me, and once it was all within my hands, I asked the dealer, "The pot is mine? He mucked." "Yes." Once I had confirmation, I flipped my cards face-up. I don't think the guy even realized that he mucked the winning hand until another player asked him what he had. "High-card King." "You had the winning hand, man!" I'm glad that guy pointed it out. I showed merely because I was trying to get the round-faced Asian to tilt some more.

We were called for the tournament, and we all took our seats. The tournament consisted of ten teams with three players each, paying $330 total, $300 into the pot and $30 to the house. Three single table tournaments took place simultaneously. 10th place at each table got 10 pts, 9th got 20, and so forth, until first got 100 pts. If you won your table, you also got $200, which Aps, Ebs and I agreed to split $100 to the winner, and $50 to each of the teammates. The single team with the most points at the end of the three SNGs would win the rest of the prizepool.

I'll start with this. We didn't win. In fact, I think it is safe to say that we lost...BIG. When the tournament began, someone busted on the first hand at Table 2. That person was Mikey Aps, and this is his hand: Aps has AQ in late position. Everyone started with 5k in chips, with 25/50 blinds. He raised to 300 preflop after a limper or two. There were only two callers, both acting before Aps. The flop was AJ3. It checked to Aps and he bet 650 into the pot. He only got one caller. The turn was a Q, giving Aps top two pair. The player, out of position, bets 1000 for the first time in the hand. Mikey decided to push with top two pair and was called by KT, for a turned straight. Discussing it with Mikey, I told him that it wasn't really his fault. That was a tough hand, and he had a lot of reason to think that pushing was the optimal play. I know I probably would've done the same.

This is a TEAM event, so most players are playing tighter because lasting from 10th to 9th is worth as many points as lasting from 3rd to 2nd (10 pt increments throughout) AND you have other people relying on you. For that reason, there is no reason to think that someone is calling you preflop out of position with KT, and then calling another bet out of position with an inside straight draw and no overcards to the Ace-high board. I really can't blame Mikey for not putting him on KT. The only things that Mikey should've been scared of was a set, but even that seems unlikely. Mikey has an Ace and Queen, so AA and QQ would require the other guy to have a the case cards. He could have JJ or 33, but that was the only real threat from how I saw it. Still, he lost the hand, and left fairly quickly once he was out. I felt a bit bad. It was his first time in an underground casino, so I think that may have thrown him off a bit too.

Good news, though. Mikey was not alone. I also went out in 10th! In my first hand, I held QQ. A chick in EP raised to 200 and I absentmindedly threw out a 500 chip. When you throw out a single chip, it is considered a call unless you announce otherwise before you toss in the chip. I meant to raise, but whatever! There was another caller behind me. The flop was Ace-high and after the chick bet out, I folded. She showed AK. At least I saved myself some dough.

I went on to see 99 twice and 66 once, and AQ or something like that too. This was all within very few hands, and I either kept missing the flop or it was readily apparent that other people hit the overcards or Aces that seemed to always flop. Mikey busted and everyone knew we were teammates, so people joked about how I needed to win it. I sincerely believed that philosophy too, so I began to look to how I could win 1st place at my table and take the $200 prize at the least.

My bets stopped getting respect after someone mentioned that I raised every hand. I was dealt 99 again and there were three limpers before me in MP. I raised to 300 total to try to take the hand down, but a guy in the SB raised to 1000 total. He was a tall, gaunt skin-head looking guy, sorta like Vinne Jones from the Guy Ritchie movies and Juggernaut from the X-men movies. These guys tend to play aggressive and stupid poker, so I decided to double-up or go home. I pushed all-in expecting him to have AQ or something. When he called, he showed 77. The flop had a 7 and I was out. I didn't really mind losing since I played the hand perfectly. You can't win them all. I told Ebs, who now had to win his entire table just to earn something back.

I was considering leaving, but it was barely 9pm and I knew wifey Kim wouldn't be home yet from her America's Next Top Model gathering with her friends. I went to the cage to get $300 in chips for a 1/2 table. When I was there, Ron, the tournament director, was panickingly looking for a AAA battery for the tournament clock, which just died. I had my old FM walkman on me, and I pulled out the battery. "I have one." He looked shocked and extremely pleased. "Free half-hour on the house!" Sweet! At these games, instead of rake, each player pays $5 each half hour to the new dealer who sits. Free $5!

I sat at the table I left earlier because I had a read on one kid who barely looked 19. Most of the table had changed and it took a while before I noticed that I was the oldest one there. The rest were these skinny little kids, dressed tough in their Abercrombie. Honestly, they looked like HS seniors, or college sophmores at most. Most of them looked like they didn't need to shave, and while they acted tough and cool, I could see right through them. A lot of them were also sporting the shortstacks, which I just love. I guess it makes sense, since these kids probably were spending their textbook money at the cardroom.

I stayed quiet, trying to build an image. I finally decided to bet out from the button with K5o. I bet $12 and surprisingly got three callers, including the round-faced Asian who mucked the winning hand earlier. The flop was AJx. When it checked to me, I fired out a bet of $20, hoping to take it down right there. To my surprise, the round-faced Asian moved all-in for $43 total, a mere $23 on top. To a greater surprise, the tall skinny Asian guy on my right called the all-in. I would've folded, but the tall Asian was a smart player and I knew he would check it down. With his money in the pot, the odds were right to call with any two, even though I had crap. I called and the turn was a Q. The tall Asian checked and I checked behind. The river was a T, giving me a straight! Twilight Zone, baby! He checked, I bet $15, and he folded. We showed my straight. One of the hairless boys said nice hand. He looked impressed. I played it down. "Sometimes it just falls in your lap."

When I left the game after my free half-hour, I was up $95. Overall, I lost $35 on the night, including the $10 bet that Ebs, Aps and I agreed to. Ebs was still playing and eventually busted in 2nd place. The winning team had two 1st place finishes and a 3rd place finish, beating my guess that the winner would have a 1st and a 2nd.

I discussed the children at the NL table with Ebs over the phone after he lost the tournament. "Wait until the summer," he added. "All the kids will be back from school with nothing to do. That room is going to be filled with fish."

I prefer NiceLook for the class and space, but EBB has something more important: crappy players. Thank the lord for options.

I'll be at Salami tonight playing the 7:30pm $60 tournament with 23Skidoo. If you'd like to join, hit me up with an email or leave your email in a comment.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 10:19 PM,


At 10:41 PM, Blogger MHG said...

And I'm a bit jealous of your daily shady underground poker trips.

Are you going to the WPBT in Vegas in early June? I'm seriously considering it because I think my poker-playing buddy from back home will be playing in quite a few WSOP events. And it is only an 8 hour drive from Tahoe.

At 10:28 AM, Blogger StB said...

I find it amazing how many people call a river or all in bet and flip their cards up right away. I always make the aggressor show, mainly because I want the info. When you get someone folding because they because of it, that is like a cherry on top.


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