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Fresh Salami

I'm fairly sure I mentioned it here at some point, but the Salami Club, long my first and favorite underground poker room, closed probably over a year ago, one of the final clubs to be shut down in the run up to some sorta election or another. For the sake of ease, I'll just let down the fascade of the "Salami" name. Now that the room has been closed for a long time, anonymity is moot. The Salami Club was actually called the Genoa Club (or the Genoa Football Club, as per the YellowPages).

By the time the Genoa Club was shut down, I had stopped frequenting the club because the stakes had been raised as other clubs closed and Salami's ranks swelled. This was an undoubtedly bad thing, because the games with the action junkies at Genoa were already playing well above their blinds (1/2 NLHE played like 5/10 NLHE and when the games went up to 2/5 NLHE minimum, I can only guess the way the action junkies played) and I was looking for some more reasonable stakes. More importantly, though, once the stakes raise, the profile of a room raises. Genoa felt safe when they were running a $60 tourney, but not so safe when there would be tens of thousands of dollars floating around the room at any given time. That sorta money attracts the Yin/Yang of bad news for underground poker: robberies and police raids.

Once Genoa was closed down, I assumed my career in underground NYC poker was closed, too. After a guy was killed during a room robbery (an accidental killing, not that it makes a difference), I considered it game over.

Until this weekend, that is. W, one of the regulars at the Wall Street Game, had begun working for a room in mid-town. Since she was involved in the room and a bunch of the WSG crew played there semi-regularly, I decided to give it a shot this weekend. It didn't hurt that they were spreading a rare live HORSE tourney on Saturday with a $120 buy-in.

I got to the room at about 2:50, with the tourney slated to kick off at 3. When I walked up to the building, it took me a while to figure out its location. The door lacked any address number, but using my keen mathematical skills, I was able to find the door by looking for the other numbers on the street. Even so, I waited outside the door for a minute or two while I fumbled for W's phone number. Just when I found it, a nerdy-looking black guy walked up to the door and rang upstairs. I asked, "Going to..." oh, I forgot to name the new club. Let's go with Tuna. So, I asked, "You going to Tuna Club?" "Yep." And so, I followed.

After walking up the several flights of stairs, we were buzzed into a small room with two doorways. Once the door was closed behind us, we were buzzed into the main room.

The Tuna Club is essentially a converted apartment. Once you enter, there is a long hallway with bathroom and numerous closets, and a big open room with a kitchen setup against one wall. There is another room that appeared to be storage and/or an office. Otherwise, there was just the big open main room, with two poker tables set up.

A variety of players were waiting around, from guys in their mid-20s to guys who were probably in their 60s or thereabouts. Races were mixed, too, with Asians, blacks, whites and probably a Hispanic (although none I remember specifically) ready to play poker in a rainbow of racial harmony. W was setting everything up, and I took a seat toward the back of the room where I could relax for a bit.

I should probably mention that I've been fighting a bitch of a cold since Thursday, and Saturday was no exception. My nose was runny and stuffed at the same time. I had no taste buds. I was simultaneously hungry and yet full. In short, I was miserable, but for poker, I would suffer.

Along with my usual poker gear (say it with me: $uperman shirt, buddha card caps [Green Traveling Buddha has been my favorite for a while, but I brought Gold Traveling Buddha in case], iPod, sunglasses, cargo pants, hoodie), I had a full box of tissues (with lotion), a plastic bag as a makeshift snot-rag garbage bag, and some meds in my backpack. I also brought hand sanitizer to keep my hands as clean as possible to avoid spreading my germs.

I sat in the back of the room and made some small talk, but mostly kept to myself. As I looked around the room in between articles in my Entertainment Weekly (don't you judge), I noticed some familiar faces. They were the Genoa Club refugees, players I saw many times in the past. One was a dentist whose name I forgot and who essentially ignored me anyway. Another was Guy, a guy who literally moneyed or bubbled every time I moneyed/bubbled at the old Genoa tourneys. There were others, too, and when I saw a look of acknowledgement, I nodded my head, but as is my way, I didn't go out of my way to meet anyone. Big Paul from the WSG also arrived so there was another familiar face and eventually, the tourney got under way.

Well, there's more to it than that. This was their first live HORSE tourney, so there were a lot of issues about how things would work. At first, each game would rotate every 8 hands. The only problem was that we had 10 players on the table and we expected two late players at which point we'd switch to two tables. You have to have a minimum of 10 hands per round with 10 players per table because position is very important in games like Hold'em and Omaha; hence, every player should get a chance to be the Button once per round. Then, once you switch to two tables, you cannot change games based on hands played UNLESS you coordinate each hand. Otherwise, one table could play fast and end up playing Stud Hi/Lo (E) while the other table is still working through the Razz round (R). That just doesn't fly.

Thankfully, W knew that this was a work in progress and we agreed to change it so that the games and blinds changed according to timed out levels, something you all are used to from any NLHE tournament. One other odd hitch was that W was using some odd WSOP structure that didn't raise the blinds between the flop games (H and O) or between the stud games (R, S, and E). That meant that with the 15 min levels between games, we actually had some blind levels last for 30 minutes (across H and O) and others for 45 minutes (R, S, and E). The end result was that after our first run through the games, we skipped two blind levels, moving from 50/100 to 150/300.

Overall, though, with these hiccups aside, the tournament went fairly well. By the time we reached the first break, I was sitting pretty, probably the chip leader (by a small margin) at our 6-handed table. By the time we combined into one table (at 8 players), though, I had taken some hits and was now more a middle stack.

Details elude me on most of the hands, but one stood out. It was Stud Hi (or maybe Hi/Lo), and I started the hand with a straight flush draw, 5678, all of diamonds. I bet the entire way, having hit an offsuit 4 on 6th street for a straight, and missing the flush the entire way. On the river, though, my opponent, who had KKQJ showing on his board, finally bet out. I decided to raise, assuming that my straight was good against his two pair or set. He looked miserable and mucked his hand. Just then, he paused. "Aw. I misread my hand. Can I take it back?" His hand was fairly visible, not entirely in the muck. At most, maybe one card touched the muck, but was clearly distinguishable.

Now, where I'm from, any forward motion with your cards is an unequivocal fold. There are no second chances in poker. I was 1000% for this rule when my opponent said, "I didn't realize I hit Broadyway on the river." For those non-poker players, "Broadway" is an Ace-high straight, and beat my lesser straight. The floor came over and decided that the hand was mucked. Being the nice guy I am, I turned to my opponent, mucked my cards and said, "If it makes you feel any better, I had a flush." Yep, I lied.

Lying didn't do too much for me, because by the time we were down to 5 players (3 payout spots), I was in desperate shape. When I was the chip leader, I only had the bring-in (a forced bet in Stud games) once, but when I was the shorty, I went on a tear, "earning" the bring-in a good 40% of the time for a good stretch. With blinds escalating like they tend to do in these HORSE tourneys, I eventually pushed all-in with three crap cards in Stud 8, hoping to hit a low to take half the pot, since there were another 3 people in the pot with me. By 5th street, I had a flush draw and a low draw, but I bricked from there on out, ending up with jack shit except for my walking papers.

Overall, it was a good tourney. So, when wifey Kim found out that one of her friends needed some face time to discuss family issues, I decided to return to the scene of the crime, the very next day.

This time, the tourney was set for 2pm, and the tournament director was none other than Matty Ebs. I arrived to find the entire Ebs clan, Matty, his father, and his two brothers. I used to babysit for the Ebs family (Matty is friends with my little brother), so it was a real trip to see all three brothers together, each taller than the next. It also made the entire game take on a more relaxed feel for me. Big Paul from the WSG also was around for the second day in the row. The day before, he was kicking ass in the HORSE tourney, going on a crazy run during Stud, shortly after I went from big stack to middle stack. It seemed like he was hitting every hand and players just couldn't accept his luck, tilting at windmills as they called him down with two-pairs on his flush-heavy boards.

Once the game started, I was right in my element. The game reminded me of the Genoa tourneys of yesteryears. I felt in tune with the table, making buddies with my neighbor on my right, a fat Caucasian guy with a crazy eye (literally one eye was all milky white and looked disengaged), disheveled clothing, and prickly hairs jutting from his multiple chins. I don't know how he and I got to chatting, but I put on my usual shtick as a wiseguy jokester, which went over well with Crazy Eye and most of the table. It's a lot of self-deprecation mixed with absurdist puffery, so its hard for people to take it seriously. Thank god, too, because I'm just looking to have fun.

I was at the same table as Ebs' father and middle brother, Johnny. It was interesting playing with people from my past. For what its worth, Ebs' father was unpredictable, but failed to raise preflop in a couple of situations where I feel its a necessity. In one hand, he was in early position with QQ, limped, and I limped in LP with 44. I hit my 4 on the flop, and slowplayed it for most of his stack. If he raised preflop, though, I'm out of there.

Johnny on the other hand had some great momentum going for him. He was also playing well, clearly influenced by Matty's fearless style of poker, something that is fairly close to my style. For instance, in one hand, when Johnny was the chip leader, he re-raised all-in for a substantial amount to push out the preflop raiser (who also made a substantial post-flop raise) and Crazy Eye, who had called the pre- and post-flop raise. Both players folded to Johnny who showed his open-ended straight draw, a gutsy move on a KQ7 flop with two clubs. He saw opportunity, though, and took it.

After showing his cards, Matty and him discussed whether its good or not to show cards. I added my two cents: "As long as you know what information is out there and act accordingly, there's no harm in showing. You just have to manage the flow of information." In other words, if he was going to show and create a pushmonkey image, he better start pushing with his premium hands (and otherwise tighten up) to catch someone offguard. Matty chimed in: "Jordan's just saying that because he likes to show." "Hey, I just like validation!"

As the tourney wore on, Johnny continued to accumulate chips in big bits and spurts, eventually knocking out two players at once to bring us to the final table. I was probably among the three shortstacks when down to 9 players, but I just kept my head about me and played shortstack poker like only a shortstack specialist can.

I was able to scrape by long enough to make it into the top 5, and eventually into the top 4, where Johnny still had a commanding lead and the two other players had stacks that were esesntially neck-and-neck with me because of the really high blinds. I suggested a save for 4th place, $50 from each place to give him his money back ($150). Once secured, another player busted in 4th and I was officially making a profit.

I continued making gutsy plays, pushing with weak hands and making odd bets when necessary to keep my head above water. Unfortunately, that play works every time but once, and when that one time happens, well, you're out. That's what happened to me. I pushed with a weak hand from the SB against the non-Johnny player in the BB, who woke up with a small pair, 55. I didn't hit my one over and busted from the tourney.

Over the two tourneys, I made $120. It's not a huge sum, but in both instances, I went deep. It looks like Tuna is the new Salami, so I expect to be back early and often.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 12:09 PM,


At 3:34 PM, Blogger Riggstad said...

Club bumblebee? Starkist? Parcells??? :)

Good write up


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