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The Wall Street Game

I've probably played in a dozen homegame venues in the last year. I've lamented about the problems of homegames before, but it bears repeating. Jordan's top five pitfalls of homegames:

1. The players show up late, delaying the start time. This is probably the most nefarious, because it builds upon itself. A new game can have a 7pm start time and the last of the late players will arrive by 7:30. Next time, though, the earlier late players (the 7:15 guys) realize that the game doesn't start until 7:30, so they show up at 7:45. Now the 7:30 guy thinks the game doesn't start until 7:45, so they show up at 8. I am always 5 minutes early, largely because I'm an action junkie and I'm ready for poker. See the problem?

2. The game moves slow. Homegames often involve booze or other substances. Players get chatty or get up to grab a snack or hit the bathroom. In a casino, a dealer helps move the action along, signaling to each player that it is his or her turn, and automatically folding the hands of players who have left for a piss. In homegames, often the dealer is one of the distracted, and/or people are squeamish about auto-folding their buddy's cards because he is 10 feet away at the bar mixing a rum and coke.

3. The game dries up. Eventually, the routine of going to Joe Schmo's house every Tuesday becomes tedious. You are always playing against the same guys in the same environment. It might be great for 6 mos. or even a year, but eventually, players get bored or go broke and the game dries up. I've seen multiple homegames end this way.

4. Traveling in the City can be tough. I don't have a car because of the joys of NYC mass transit. However, any game out of the city requires a bit more creativity, and even worse, dependence on others. I can go to a Roose homegame every Wednesday, but I need to depend on one of the degenerates (a term of affection) to be sober enough to drive me to the train, which only leaves every hour. Then I need to catch a subway, making it a, expensive and long trip. This kills my weekday play.

5. The environment has to be comfortable and friendly. If I wanted to deal with combative tension, I'd head to a casino or club. If I wanted to sit on a crappy stool, I'd head to the bar. If I'm playing poker at a homegame, I want to be in a comfortable place, with good people. I want to play with decent chips and good cards. Sure, the throw-together game works with an old bent Bicycle deck and ripped up paper as chips if I'm playing for $5 per tournament on a whim, but if I'm traveling to a game, I want to be comfortable and I want the right supplies available.

And so, with the happy residue of the $3k win behind me and the remaining cold/allergy thing still running rampant through my system, I headed to the Wall Street Game this Friday to play with a new group of players in a new environment.

I was originally invited to the game by host Jamie at an I Had Outs tournament. I had heard Dawn mention the Wall Street game before, and the fact that Wall Street is three short blocks from my apartment was not lost on me at the time. When host Jamie attended an IHO tournament and mentioned an upcoming Wall Street Game, I politely interjected myself in the conversation: "If you ever need any more players, I live right by there!" Yes, I'm a whore for homegames, and the fact that Jamie was friendly with the IHO girls was a ringing endorsement. Fortunately for me, Jamie was very open to having me attend. We swapped email addresses and I got placed on his list.

Over the next four weeks, I probably got 12 Evites regarding a variety of games. Cash games, tournaments, whatever. Unfortunately, I was always busy. When I got the most recent Evite, a game for this past Friday, I forwarded it to wifey Kim along with this message, "Do you have plans Friday night?" This was my kind way of telling her to get plans, and since wifey Kim is the social butterfly of this odd couple, it took her all of 20 minutes before making plans to hang out with one of her friends uptown. Score!

I arrived at the game 5 minutes late, only because I had to return home to grab my forgotten cell phone. I brought my backpack with me, complete with a full sized tissue box, lest my sickness make me unpleasant to be around. I wore my convertible pants in case the apartment was hotter than expected (it was, and I switched to shorts once the game was underway).

Upon my arrival, I noted the only other person earlier than me, Alceste, a regular from the IHO crew. I sat on the couch and shot the shit with Alceste and Jamie. Jamie's apartment was actually fairly similar to my own. The Wall Street area used to be the center of business in NYC, and for that matter, the world. It still is, but after the events of September 11th, a lot of the businesses moved east to nearby Jersey City, where rent was cheaper and space was readily available. Empty office space, therefore, became abundant in the Wall Street/Financial District area, and the building owners found a way around this oversupplied market by converting former office buildings into coops and rental apartments. Some of the forerunners to the shift toward residential housing started converting buildings about eight years ago. These converted offices sport individually laid out apartments and beautifully high ceilings, realities that came about from the conversion of oddly spaced offices and the removal of dropped ceilings common in most offices. It also meant that all of these apartments were relatively new, including their fixtures. Even today, you can find some of the nicest apartments at the best prices in this area of NYC still thought of as an office-only environment.

This is all to say that he had a very nice apartment with high ceilings, new fixtures, and a good amount of space. After walking down the main hall, the apartment opened into the kitchen and living room. A long, professional-looking poker table was set up with stacks of personalized Wall Street Poker chips. The table had a leather rail, green felt (or was it red?) and a dealer's spot, complete with chip tray. When I commented on it later, Jamie mentioned that in hindsight it was a bad idea. Most often, there isn't a designated dealer, so someone is stuck sitting behind the tray. Alas, I still thought it was a nice touch.

The players arrived in bits and spurts over the next 20 minutes. I wasn't really watching the clock, so I'm not sure when it was that we all sat down. Earlier that day, Jamie was looking at just enough players to play, but by the evening, the johnny RSVP'ed latelies had called up, and he was looking at a complete 10 person table, NOT including our host. Amazingly, Jamie went through the stress and effort of throwing a homegame and was willing to forego playing for dealing. I was surprised and a bit amazed, but I just kept my mouth shut. After all, I had better things to worry about, namely relieving my opponents of their chips.

Before poker started, Johnny Darko (a player who I had met at Salami and again at the IHO games), Matt and me played Pai Gow against Jamie, playing as the house. He forewent the house's 5% commission on each winning hand, but after about 8 hands, I still was down $2. By then, everyone was there, so we sat down for the 1/2 NL, 100-200 buy-in homegame. For sure, it was higher than most homegames I play at, but with my recent 3k win and my comfort at the 1/2 level, I was ready and excited to play.

As the first hand was dealt, Alceste on my immediate left told me that one player couldn't fold a pocket pair. In that same hand, Darko tried pushing said player off of her pocket 5s, as he valiantly (and, in hindsight, foolishly) bet the whole way with his unimproved AK on a board ripe with overcards to 55. Alceste's read was 100% spot on, and I decided to pay close attention to the donators at the table.

One such player limped or min-raised preflop with AT, only to get about 4 other limpers before a player raised. When it got back to the AT player, he re-raised. I remembered thinking that it was a weird play, to be so passive and then re-raise so aggressively. When he ultimately showed his AT (I believe he won the hand) I decided he, too, would be a source of funds.

A little while later, after playing mostly tight and remaining about even at $200, I put in my first preflop raise with QQ. Another player, the 5s lady, had raised to $7 or maybe $10, so I wanted to thin the limping herd. One of those limpers was the AT player, and when the action got to him, he raised to $50 total. Everyone else folded, and I took a moment to think the hand through. Ultimately, I decided to merely call, rather than re-raise, mostly because I feared an Ace on the flop, since I knew my man just loved those Ace-X hands. Really, though, I suppose I could've raised him off of the hand, but I was also a bit cautious that he might have actually held something.

The flop was a beautiful Q52. I checked and he bet out $30 or $35. I flat called, hoping to get more money in on the turn. The turn was a 4, and I checked again. This time, he bet $35, and I min-raised him to $70. He called. As the river was being dealt, I pushed all-in for my last $52. I should've waited, but I got fancy. The river was a 3. If he had an Ace, he went runner runner wheel. He actually though hard about calling, but ultimately called...with AT. Fungool! With knowledge of the results, I probably could have protected my hand better. But this was a cash game, and I was merely trying to get all of his chips. It would've worked too, if it wasn't for that pesky river!

With that, I reloaded another $100, all I had left in my poker wallet. I have other funds, surely, but they are either still in the bank or coming via mail from Full Tilt. With the $100, I immediately got into two hands. The first was KQ, where I raised to $10 preflop and got a few callers who thought I was on tilt. The flop was AKK, and I got one caller for my $20. The turn was a blank, but my caller folded to my all-in bet of $70. By then, that was about pot-sized, but she correctly reasoned that I must have a King or a higher Ace-kicker.

In the very next hand, I was dealt AKs and raised to $10 preflop. The flop was Ace-high, and my competition folded to a $20 bet. It was a nice way to start recovering from the QQ v. AT hand.

Ultimately, two hands helped me recover most of my losses. The first was 57d from UTG+2. I limped and by the time it got back around to me, it was raised in MP by Matt and raised by Wendy, a knowledgeable and talkative player on my immediate right. Wendy's chatter had tipped me off that she was the type of player to get tricky. I had the distinct feeling several times that night that she was betting and raising for reasons aside from her hand strength. Specifically, I could see her raising to isolate against Matt, who had been playing a wide range of hands, even to raises. 57d was nothing to write home about, but the right flop could do me wonders. I called, as did Matt. The flop was a beautiful 36X, with two diamonds, giving me a baby flush draw and an inside straight draw. It surely didn't hit either Matt or Wendy's cards, so I checked and let Matt do the betting. To my surprise, Wendy folded and I called. The turn was a blank, and Matt bet out again, only to be called by me. The river was a 4, giving me the well-hidden straight. Matt bet out again, pushing all-in and I called. As it turned out, Matt had KK, and I had cracked him on the river.

A little while later, I played KJs in a hand against Matt hit a 9TX flop with two spades. Once again, I was playing the flush draw and inside straight draw. Matt had been making some oddly timed bets against me throughout the game. On at least one occassion, he admitted that he was trying to bet me off a hand, after he showed his less-than-optimal cards. I knew he was capable of such a move if given the right bait. I checked, he bet, and I called. The turn was a Queen, giving me an inside straight. I checked, he pushed all-in and I called. He never showed his cards once he saw that I held the nuts.

At around 11:30, I had to leave the game. By then, most of the fishier players had busted or left the game. Dawn and Karol were on their way, but an unexpected family issue needed my attention, and I left the game after saying my goodbyes. I was down $96, but if it wasn't for that QQ v AT pot, it'd be more like up $300+. But that's poker, and it didn't concern me one bit.

This was by far the best-run homegame I have ever attended. If Roose reads this, he'll groan, but its just the bare facts. Where else would the host go through all the trouble just to deal to his guests. In future games, I hope to bring some of my poker playing buddies into the Wall Street game fray. After all, starting next month, its a new "season" at the Wall Street game, where $2 from every tournament entry is put aside to build a pot for the player with the best standings after three months. Its a noble idea for a homegame, and one I hope to take in the near future.

Until then, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 11:30 AM,


At 11:09 AM, Blogger Jordan said...

PS- Another $5 coming from MeanHappy in our Prop Bet, now that Phil Ivey final tabled Event #26.

At 12:11 PM, Blogger Iakaris aka I.A.K. said...


sorry this is late in coming but CONGRATS!!! on the 8.5k Guaranteed.

nice nice work.

At 2:52 PM, Blogger Matt said...

Man, your analysis of home games is spot on. I've been to home games that are supposed to start at 10pm, don't start to midnight, and by 3:30am, you've only down to 4 people, two of which are passed out at the table. Nothing more frustrating than that.

At 5:50 PM, Blogger Karol said...

FYI, Jamie has a blog:

Wish I could've made it.


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