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College-Level Poker

This weekend was my fraternity's 10 year anniversary. It was founded when I was but a sophomore in college, a way for 22 independent guys to meet impressionable sorority girls without first subjecting ourselves to 12 weeks of overtly homosexual activities to prove our mettle.

Ten years is a long time, so my return to Buffalo saw some significant changes. Technology, for one, has advanced at an alarming rate. Whereas me and my buddies had a crappy TV and crappier computer, and barely any cell phones until junior or senior years, the current crop of college students have huge flat screen TVs, high speed everythings, and cell phones that can do more than everything in my assorted college living quarters during my four year tenure. Things that haven't changed are the simple fact that college kids love drinking to excess, are willing to live in shit holes, and are relatively broke, their expensive technology notwithstanding.

A weekend up in Buffalo can be rather tight, if you do it right. I flew up Friday evening, arriving at about 10:30 pm. After dropping off our stuff at the fleabag motel ("Do you want the blood-soaked bed or the cum-soaked bed?"), my crew headed down to the South Campus fraternity house and then the bar scene. I eventually made it back to our motel at about 5am. Poker and fraternity events are the only things capable of keeping me up that late nowadays.

The next morning, as I awoke spooning a cockroach approximately the size of wifey Kim, I tried to plan my day. Another change in Buffalo over the last 10 years is the introduction of poker to the nearby Canadian casinos and the new American casino, also with poker. I had decided to make a trip there, but I also had a couple of other necessary errands.

First was Duff's, the best Buffalo wings in the city. Anchor Bar may claim the fame of being the inventor of Buffalo wings, but Duff's is the place responsible for perfecting the wings. Of course, greasy wings aren't the best breakfast after a night of drinking, but that didn't stop us.

After breakfast, my crew headed to the campus book store to buy some UB paraphenalia. Once that was done, it was already 2pm, and with a formal event scheduled to start at 6pm, the reality hit. There was no time for a casino run.

Figure the casino was 30 minutes away, give or take. Then, once arriving, I'd have to get on a list. It was not unthinkable that I'd have to wait at least 30 minutes if not an hour. I'd also need some time to get dressed for the 6pm event. Long story short, it just wasn't going to happen.

But that's not to say that I didn't play poker. I ended up heading down to the fraternity house, where a couple of college-kid degenerates were setting up a small stakes cash game. The trip was as much about hanging out as it was anything else, so I decided to join them.

The level of play was pretty aweful. Let's just get that out of the way. After all, these weren't card sharks. These were poor college kids, and poker was simply gambling to them. It was shorthanded, maybe 7 players at most, and players would routinely play bad hands and be shocked that their A6o didn't hit. One player called large raises with two over cards, KJ, on the flop and turn, folding on the river, justifying his play by stating that it was crazy that he didn't hit.

Of course, with a $20 buy-in and .25/.50 blinds, there wasn't much damage I could do. At one point, I was up well over a buy-in, but I ended up losing a chunk when I decide to bluff a hand in position after a preflop raise and got called down by a player who hit trips with on a 877 board with J7o in his hand. Lemon.

By the time the game was over, I was up $8, not too shabby for a $20 buy-in. Still, it was peanuts.

That night, the actual 10 year anniversary dinner was held, after which we all headed to a nearby bar, eventually returning back to one of the fraternity houses around 2am. A bunch of the guys were hanging out, and one in particular was looking to get a game of limit Omaha going. Naturally, I was game.

The main problem with the setup was that we were in a frat house, surrounded by over a dozen drunken college kids and alumni. That makes for a decent amount of noise and activity, but we cleared off a space at the kitchen table and began to work out the game. I was expecting to play heads up with the game's instigator, an ironically-named Romeo, an alumni grad student who now served as the fraternity's advisor. It was clear he was jonesing for a game and nothing but Omaha would do. I was okay with this, and I expected it to be just the two of us, but a fellow alumni, Maverick, and a visiting friend, Jeremy, decided to join us as well.

I had a bad feeling about this game, and it got worse and worse as the rules were established. All four of us had been drinking, so first off, it was going to be sloppy poker. Second, Mav and Jeremy had never played Omaha before, so I had to teach them the game. I hate playing against newbies like this because either you win and feel like you are fleecing them, or you lose and look the fool. Since the players were inexperienced, Hi/Lo was out of the question. I thought if it was heads-up with the poker-minded Romeo, we could play whatever we want and probably get decent stakes. But with the newbies, we agreed to limit, which can minimize the effect of mistakes. We also had to find our stakes. To make matters worse, we had all had a long day of spending money, and Mav only had $5 on him. I refused to play for penny stakes. Quite frankly, it just wouldn't be worth the time, since I would have just as much fun partying with the rest of the house. But alas, Mav was able to borrow $20 from someone and we settled on 1/2 limit.

Long story short, I was the first one to bust, and I was never happier to bust in my life. The game felt like work, not fun. I didn't care about winning and I couldn't get a handle on the newbies, who were still learning the game and playing poorly as a result. I remember when I busted, there wasn't a moment's hesitation. I just got up and walked away. No rebuying. Just walk.

A little while later, while hanging on the couch with other brothers, I heard my pal and fellow alumni Orko asking me to rejoin the game. They had since switched to Hold'em and Orko was hoping to play some with me. After all, he knew about my poker degeneracy, so I guess there is something novel to play with the poker freak. It didn't hurt that Orko grew up with my little brother Dave (genetic, not fraternity little brother) and we knew each other a long time. I'm sure that worked into the dynamic. Whatever the case, I surveyed the table and rejected the offer several times. "Come on, man," Orko was insistent. I leaned in close to him, "It just wouldn't be fun for me. Trust me, man. I'm not playing."

I didn't want to say it at the time, but the real tipping point, beyond the low stakes and distracted game, was the buy-in. A $20 buy-in is fine and good, but not when everyone is buying in with $20 bills and no one has change. Since it's a cash game, cashing out was going to be a real chore and I didn't want to play only to find out that we couldn't get paid out because of the lack of small bills. It was a deal breaker for me, but I refused to announce that reason to the table. After all, they were just looking to have fun, and I didn't want to be the guy to point out that the game was going to have problems when it was completed.

That was the entirety of poker on this trip. A small cash NLHE game in the afternoon and a couple of rounds of limit Omaha in the late evening. It was a far cry from my plans to hit the casinos and fleece some college kids and Canadians, but it had to do. I guess not every trip can be about the poker.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 12:27 PM,


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