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For the Love of the Game

I had an interesting experience this weekend. Wifey Kim had made plans to see one of her friends on Saturday night for a little chick bonding time, so I made my own plans to see good pal Dave Ruff for a rare Dave Ruff home game. The game was slated to kick off at 5:30 pm on Saturday night, .50/1 NLHE, after which, we would watch the UFC fights on PPV at 10pm.

Unfortunately, somewhere around noon, a severe thunderstorm warning was in effect for the NYC area, with threats of rain up to 2 inches per hour and wind up to 50 mph. All this was happening while I sat comfortably in my apartment, oblivious to the outside world. Wifey Kim, meanwhile, was off with her mom attending a baby naming or some such thing. She called me up at about 2pm to see if my plans had changed.

I thought it over for a tad and reconsidered the poker. Ruff lives in West New York, New Jersey. Just to keep it straight, that's a town called W.N.Y. in the state of N.J. His apartment is just over the water, and I could get there in a couple of ways. One involves multiple trains and takes over an hour. Another takes one subway and a ferry, but takes about 40 minutes, on paper at least.

Given the threats of monsoon-like weather, I considered canceling on Dave. I had received a call from my mom, semi-frantic. I could hear the radio on in the background. She was in the car with my father.

From the radio: "One to two inches of rain per hour."
Immediately after from my mom: "One to two inches of rain an hour!"
Radio: "40 to 50 mph winds"
Mom: "50 mph winds!"

I considered my travel options. There was no chance in hell I was taking the multiple train option, if for no other reason than the fact that it involved some complicated train lines. The ferry, meanwhile, meant being in the middle of the water in monsoon-like conditions. Maybe wifey Kim and my mom were right.

Me: "Okay mom, I won't go."
Mom: "You promise."
I thought it over for a second and answered: "Well, I can't promise. But I can tell you that I probably won't go and I'll be very safe." I guess on some level, I knew how this would end.

I then called Ruff to discuss the situation. The rain didn't seem hard from my window, but as my mom and wifey Kim told me, "It's coming in waves." Fine then. If the two most important females (hell, people) in my life were advising me to skip the game, how could I do any different. My conversation with Ruff:

Me: "Did anyone cancel yet?" I was scoping the scene to see if the game was going to break without my exit.
Ruff: "Yeah. One down. Only 6 left."
Me: "Am I counted in that 6."
Ruff: "Yeah. We need you."
Me: "Ok, then. I'm there."

There were two things in play. One, I had flaked on Ruff a couple of times in the past. My favorite instance was when I missed his birthday party because of a blogger freeroll. When I realized I had double-booked, I intentionally tried to bust in the freeroll, pushing recklessly for the first thirty minutes. The result was that I had a massive chip stack after a slew of suckouts, so I decided to stick out the game. At first, I texted Ruff that I would be late. Then later. Then not at all. I ended up taking 2nd for $450. I sent Ruff 20% or $90 as a birthday gift and a semi-apology. You can read about it in my post called The $450 Question. Basically, I didn't cancel out of loyalty to Ruff and his game. I owed him at least this much.

The second reason why I didn't cancel: poker. I haven't been playing as much live poker as I might like, and I had been looking forward to the game for days. How could I not go?

I packed my backpack with the usual items: a hoodie, baseball cap, ipod, sunglasses, and bandana. I added a few extra items because of the weather: an umbrella with a plastic bag so I could place it back in my bag wet, a change of socks and a change of pants. I figured I might get a little wet. I then headed out of the apartment. I took the subway to 42nd Street and 7th Avenue, a short walk from the ferry port on 39th Street and 11th Avenue. Or so I thought. It felt a lot longer and from Google Maps, I just learned that I walked .9 miles.

.9 miles is no big deal, particularly in the light drizzle. I called wifey Kim while walking. "This isn't that bad. I don't see what all the fuss is about." She reminded me of the fact that the rain would come in waves. I laughed it off and told her the waves would wait until I'm safely in the ferry. She also told me that my mom had called and sounded upset that I decided to go to the game. "I'll call he when I'm in the ferry terminal."

I kept walking in the light rain, passing by a teenage couple who seemed oblivious to the rain. They were on an abandoned street, him apparently pleading with her for forgiveness or something similar. I remember thinking it odd, since there was nothing around but a construction site. That, and they didn't seem to notice that it was raining. As I turned a corner, the wave hit. My mom and wife were right. The rain started changing from a drizzle to a patter to a deluge. I started to run, sensing the change in rain. I crossed the empty street to find a small alcove, the only protection from the rain. I considered calling Ruff and canceling again. My pants were already fairly wet. My body was covered in sweat. The backpack was starting to soak through too. It wasn't a pleasant feeling.

I waited in the alcove for a few minutes, hoping the rain would let up. It wasn't. I decided to just go for it. I could see the terminal in the distance. I timed out the lights and went for it. I was inside the terminal in a minute or two, but the damage was done. My umbrella did squat. I was soaked.

Once in the terminal, I bought my ticket and waited with the throngs of other daredevils, willing to ride a 10 minute ferry in the monsoon. I called my grandmother to wish her a happy birthday and then called my mom.

Mom: "What are you doing, Jordan?"
Me: "I made a commitment, mom. I have to be there. Besides, it's a ten minute ferry ride and I know how to swim. His apartment is just on the other side, and if the weather is bad, I'll stay at his place overnight."
Mom: "Let me put your father on the phone."
Dad: "Be careful Jordan."
Me: "Okay."
Click. My dad gets right to the point. After all, I'm an adult and it's rain. It's not like I'm a child and it's a tornado.

The ferry ride was easy, if a tad uncomfortable due to my wet clothes. By the time I arrived in NJ, the rain hadn't let up. I decided to wait at the exit until it died down. I saw two guys decide to run for it. About 30 feet from the exit, I saw one drop a gift-wrapped box. I called for them three times, but they couldn't hear me through the rain. I decided to run for it. Opening my umbrella, I tried to steady it against the wind and rain as I picked up the box. I chased after the guys some more until I finally got their attention. My plan to wait was ruined, so instead, I ran to a small tent set up probably for a ferry shuttle. I hid out there while I called Ruff.

Ruff: "I can see you from up here."
Me: "Yeah? I'm fucking soaking. I better win today. Do you have a shirt I can borrow?" It was the only piece of clothing I didn't bring a replacement for.
Ruff: "Sure. I already lent Bridge some shorts." Bridge is one of Ruff's buddies, a good poker player too.

I finally got up the courage to run for it. It didn't hurt that I was already saturated. Short of drowning, I couldn't get any wetter. I dodged some puddles and plodded through others. Finally, I was at Ruff's place, wet, but alive.

Ruff: "You don't look wet."
Me: "That's because I am so wet, you can't see the wet spots. It's all wet spots."

Upstairs, Ruff, Bridge and Al were hanging out. I hadn't seen Bridge or Al in years since the last Ruff home game. Both used to work with Ruff. I threw my clothes in Ruff's dryer and changed into my drier clothes. Drier, but still a tad wet throw my backpack.

After a while, high school bud Timmy Bones and Ruff's other former coworker and Crazian, Yen, showed up and we began our 6-handed .50/1 NLHE game, each with $100 stacks. Early on, Yen remembered me from the earlier games. "You're the crazy player!" I shrugged. Lately, I don't feel like the "crazy player." I feel more like the cautious player, a role that I don't enjoy or advocate. It may have been my tough first half of the year or my lack of live play recently, but hearing Yen's refrain got my juices pumping. At the very least, I could use the instant table image to my advantage.

Within two hands, I had almost felted Bridge, who was sitting exactly opposite me. He had raised preflop and I called with KQ. The flop was JTx, with two diamonds. He bet out and I called. The turn was an Ace of Diamonds. He bet and I raised. He called. The river was a blank. I didn't have him on the flush, so I felt confident I was ahead. I made a big bet, hoping to appear like a crazy gambler. It paid off when he called. He had two pair, and I took the pot.

I continued to play semi-aggressively, tangling with Bridge a few more times. Meanwhile, Al, on my immediate left, was accumulating chips by betting at just about every pot he was in. Al isn't a pro-level player but it was clear that no one had the goods to look him up, even if they were openly calling him a bullshitter. My stack dwindled until I was up only $30 or so, down from my high of about $70 or 80.

I didn't keep notes, so I won't go through many hands. However, I found myself down to about $45 profit when I decided to tangle with Yen, who embodies the Crazian gambler mentality. Yen had offered to drive me home, and since the weather was terrible, I decided to accept the offer. We were going to leave after the orbit, so I made a play for a pot and he called me down after flopping two pair with 83c. My single pair was no good, so I mucked and chided him for calling. I had worked out the math so that my unsuccessful betting left me up only $5. I announced it to the table and said that I had just enough for a few blinds.

The very next hand, I am dealt AKo, UTG. I raise $4 preflop, which was on the higher end of my preflop betting range. I was typically raising $3 or $3.50. It folded to Yen in the SB and he called. Ruff, in the BB, called as well. The flop came down, T3K. I was ecstatic about the King. It checked to me and I bet $10 or so. Yen folded and Ruff called. The turn was an Ace, giving me two pair. Ruff checked again, and I bet out $15 or $20. He raised. I stopped for a moment and looked at the board. I couldn't fathom a QJ, although it was possible. I didn't really know what he had, but I did know my loose image would affect his range. I still felt confident with my top two pair. I called.

On the river, Ruff bet out $40 or so. I decided to push all-in for another $25. After all, I was leaving soon and had announced it to the table. "I'm doubling up or going home." The river was a blank and at showdown, I showed my top two pair. Ruff showed KT, for flopped two pair. The turn was a suckout...sorta. At least, it was a suckout insomuch as the KTx flop was a suckout. It's all about perspective.

I may've won another hand or two after that. When we left, I was the big winner, up $136.50, $20 of which I gave to Ruff for food, beer and a donation to the UFC fight. Yen and I left before it started, but I was just glad to have an easy trip home.

When I got home, I called my mom first, to let her know I was safe. I mentioned how poker wasn't just a hobby, but a passion. I find I've been using that phrase a lot lately. My mom said that she was concerned for me. I tried to explain it to her by being honest with myself.

Me: "I'm not playing poker because of the money. I play because I love the game. It's not like I play for big money. I'm very responsible. It's just that, as an adult, you only have so many opportunities to play games of any sort, and poker is a respectable adult game because of the money. It's how I socialize. If Ruff wanted to meet at a bar to drink all night, I'd be less interested in going. It's boring. But add poker, and it's something fun to do."

In reality, that is poker for me. A game. Something I enjoy doing for the sake of the game itself. The money just legitimizes my pursuit as something for adults. The money also makes the game fall in most people's vice category. But I'm not most people.

Sometimes, when I play online poker, I feel myself getting bored with poker, or worse, disinterested altogether. I worry that the love affair is ending. Then I play live and I feel that pulse of adrenaline, when I get literally high on poker, and the love comes flooding back.

No live games on the horizon, but if I feel confident with my trial (coming up on Monday...and likely to settle on Monday as well), I may make a day trip to AC on Saturday. Wifey Kim has a baby shower or something.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 10:07 AM,


At 1:09 PM, Blogger NewinNov said...

when I get literally high on poker..Hey isn't that the name of your bl....never mind.

At 3:50 PM, Blogger StB said...

If Ruff wanted to meet at a bar to drink all night, I'd be less interested in going.

I am having a hard time understanding this comment. Does not compute.

At 7:13 PM, Blogger TripJax said...

Now it they just allowed poker in bars, I'd be lovin' it.

Great post, J.

At 10:40 PM, Blogger Heavy Critters said...

Gotta agree with Milwaukee Steve on this one. First time we've agreed in while. ;)

At 9:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Besides, it's a ten minute ferry ride and I know how to swim."

poker content aside, probably the best quote of the post.

At 9:36 AM, Blogger Lucypher said...

I agree. Playing online cannot compete with the fun of playing live.


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