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Dumbing Down

I had the pleasure of exploring a new live poker option in my neighborhood yesterday. Sometime early last week, I got an email from Roose about a game played in the backroom of a local bar. He got the invite from one of his wife's co-workers and passed it along to me.

I'm always glad to try out a new venue. You never know when the environment will suit you, and it takes little to convince me to play. That said, there is also a certain amount of risk to any new game. Will the game start on time? Is the game going to be tough to beat? Are the rules the same as what you are used to? These are the questions that must be answered; unfortunately, they can rarely be answered before you arrive.

I stopped off at my apartment before heading over the the bar to meet Roose. I met him in the back room, where three dingy plastic folding tables were set up and sparsely populated with all sorts of misfits and their starting stack of chips. One of the three tables stood starkly empty. Two other tables (five total) were pushed together to form a rough square. Players sat around the circle participating in what could only be a closed cash game. Judging from their stacks, the action must've been ferocious, as were the stakes. Judging by their appearance, more likely than not the group came from one of the nearby Wall Street financial companies. I could smell the douschebaggery from across the room.

I saw Roose and grabbed a seat by him. He showed me where I had to pay and I walked over and paid my $30 buy-in. The email said that it was a $30 but didn't make reference to the amount that was buy-in vs. fee. In fact, the email should've tipped me off a lot about this game.

First and foremost, the email lacked any real details. Shit, it didn't even specifically state that it was a tournament, instead just mentioning a $30 buy-in and $25 rebuys. No mention was made of the format of the tournament, but I found out that night that it was 20 minute blinds, 500 chip starting stacks, and 5/10 starting blinds. While I didn't need this info to decide whether I wanted to play, the lack of information was a definite red flag. This was clearly not a professionally run game.

The other aspect of the email that intrigued me was the late fee. If you showed up after 6:30, there was an extra $5 surcharge.

On its face, its a nice idea. It allows players to buy in late without holding up the game. The reality was that I literally ran from my apartment to the game, hoping to arrive on time. I succeeded...but not everyone else did. We'll get to that in a minute.

After sitting with Roose, we made small talk to the other guys sitting down. As I waited for the game to start, I began asking questions of my table mates. We were a ragtag bunch, 5 in total. The other occupied tournament table had every seat full and a guy was sitting in the middle seat shuffling two decks of cards. I asked the guy sitting to my right, "Do we self deal here?" The answer: "Yes."

WHAT? I'm paying a fee to self deal!? Mutha fucka!

Okay, so let's accept the fact that we were self-dealing. In reality, my neighbor to the right, we'll just call him Righty, planned on dealing for the entire game anyway. I didn't argue. He called over for a deck of cards and began shuffling. We waited around anxious to play poker. In the meanwhile, I ordered a half-and-half and a burger from the waitress (for those who don't know, a half-and-half is half Guinness, half Harp, similar to a black and tan, which is half Guinness, half Bass or a similar beer). The waitress service, particularly the hot little blondie, was one of the few positives of the game.

I wondered aloud about why we were waiting and then overheard the answer. The tournament "directors" were waiting for two people. WHAT?! I RAN HERE TO AVOID A LATE FEE AND WE ARE STILL WAITING FOR LATE PLAYERS! WTF! Just let them buy in late. Lord knows we had enough people to start.

While waiting, I began to look at the other tables: one packed, one empty. I asked Righty, who had played there before, "Is this the seating arrangements? We just sit wherever?" He asked the "floor." The answer was yes, you choose your seat. WHAT THE WTF! I MEAN REALLY!? IS IT SO HARD TO SET UP RANDOM SEATING!

Then I did the math. "Wait, they are not going to even out the tables?" Righty asked and the response was odd. There were two tournament "directors." One of them responded, "Don't worry. [Other "TD"] and me will take the empty table and when X, Y, and Z arrive, they'll sit with us." As far as the "TD" was concerned, that was a serviceable answer. Thankfully, Righty wasn't retarded and pointed out the unevenness. That's how we got Leftie added to the table, appropriately sitting on my left between Roose and I.

After the Johnny Come Latelies arrived, the tournament started. The play at our table was embarassing. People stayed in the hand with any pair. This, naturally, meant that I should play tight. Yeah, but that's not the title of the post. The title is Dumbing Down, because that is exactly what Roose and I did. We dumbed down our own games.

Case in point, I got stacked when I played 89o in the BB. Roose was in EP and came in for a limp. The flop was 667. I bet out and Roose raised. I called, joking that he couldn't have a 6. The turn was a Ten, giving me the straight. I played smart, checking to Roose, who bet out. I pushed all-in over the top with my turned straight. He called and showed K6o. He played K6o from EP, mostly because it was a good hand compared to the Any Two our opponents were playing. I opined, "You need a King, 7 or Ten for a full house." Righty, dealing, added, "Or a 6." He then dealt a 6 for rivered Quads.

"REBUY!" I yelled and then looked over to the "TDs." One of them hesitantly got up. Whatever!

I got to the front and tried to pay the $25. "Do you have change for $100?" I assumed they must. Just count the amount of players. "No. You don't have change?" FUCKING A! WHAT CARD ROOM AVOIDS BUYING BACK $100 BILLS?! IT MAKES NO SENSE! I asked the patrons and one guy had change. He gave me five $20s and I handed two to the TD. "I don't have $15. I owe ya." I thought for a moment and then said internally, "Fuck it. I'll get it later." Ten minutes later, I paid for another beer and got change from the waitress. You best believe I immediatley got my $15 back.

Back at the tournament, Roose busted on some crappy hand. He decided not to rebuy since the game was ridiculous. After he left, a petite Hispanic girl took his seat. I lost my buy-in to her several minutes later.

I decided to tighten up since it was clear I would get paid off. Unfortunately, the blinds were up to 30/60 and we were 6-handed, so my 500 stack quickly faded to 320. It was with this in mind that I decided to take a shot. Everyone limped into a hand, which meant they all had...well, two cards. Any two, really.

When it got to me, I had Q6o. There was 180 in the pot, so I pushed all-in. I counted out 320 and then pretended like I didn't realize how much I was raising. I didn't want my all-in push for 260 on top to be too obvious of a steal. It didn't make a difference. The Hispanic chick took 2 minutes before calling in a resigned way. Everyone else folded. She showed JJ. What a fucking retard!?

I said, "This game is stupid! I'm going home!" For the first time, I really meant it.

Sometimes, the wrong environment can elicit weaker play. Roose and I dumbed down our play to match the monkeys around us. It was obviously a losing strategy.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 4:51 PM,


At 10:02 PM, Blogger toolowbrow said...

"That said, there is also a certain amount of risk to any new game. Will the game start on time? Is the game going to be tough to beat? Are the rules the same as what you are used to?"

as not the biggest poker guy, are these games legal? isn't that the risk?

and also.. i thought when you wrote half and half, that you meant a lemonade and iced tea.


At 9:28 AM, Blogger Jordan said...

Good question, Shay. The setup was definitely illegal, but for the most part, if a place gets busted, its the owners/dealers who are in trouble. The players rarely get any punishment, other than losing whatever money they had in play.

Even so, it's definitely a risk.


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