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In Love Again

I returned to the Tuna Club last night for my third visit, following up the two tourneys I played last weekend. The club is a new underground poker room hosted by W, a Wall Street Game regular with many of the same cast of characters I used to see at the ole Genoa Club, which closed probably well over a year ago.

Wednesday night, the Tuna Club hosts a 5/10 Limit Omaha 8 game. LO8 is easily my favorite limit game and probably my favorite or second-favorite (to N0 Limit Hold'em) cash game. With four cards and a high and low hand, there is so many opportunities to play hands, and the difference between skilled and unskilled players is much wider than NLHE. Perhaps that is because there is so much more to watch and winning hands are so much higher than in NLHE. For a Hold'em player, the transition can be difficult at first. For the most stubborn (or bad) Hold'em players, the transition is also very long before LO8 competence starts to sink in.

The game was called for 6:30pm, so naturally, I was mildly annoyed when I arrived at 7pm and the game wasn't near starting. I think there were four players looking for the game, but at least two of them, Matty Ebs and his friend, were sitting at the 2/5 NLHE table. I had brought only $600 with me, so sitting at the 2/5 table didn't really appeal to me. I figured like most NYC underground games, the 2/5 NLHE game would play a lot higher, akin to a 5/10 game if not more. I didn't necessarily see that, but I did see some bold betting at times, and rather than enter the game as scared money (or marked by the other players as scared money, since they had seen my hesitance to jump into the game at first), I figured I was better off waiting for the 5/10 LO8 game.

And wait, I did. Man, I hate waiting. It doesn't help that I am a generally antsy guy, always on the move. Plus, all the anticipation usually makes me feel like when the game starts, I HAVE TO WIN RIGHT AWAY! And what does that lead to? Overplaying hands, something that can be fatal in a no limit game, but fortunately only wounding in a limit game.

By 7:45pm, I told the room that I was going to head home. I had a set time limit on the game; I promised wifey Kim that I would be home by 10pm to watch Lost. When some of the guys in the room heard, they all had the same reaction: "Got to get home if you want to stay married, huh?" Well, not quite. The reality, which I think I mentioned all of once and then just gave up and said, "Yep, gotta get home to stay married!" was that I really wanted to see Lost and that I love spending time with wifey Kim. Of course, a room full of degenerate gamblers who either have harpey wives/girlfriends or none at all wouldn't understand that, and in any event, I would sound defensive, so I just played along. "Yep, she's got me by the balls." Sure.

Once I said I was heading home, things actually started to fall into place. Another player or two arrived, including Asa, one of the guys with whom I played in the HORSE tourney. It's interesting who you can meet at a poker table. Apparently, Asa, an older gentlemen, used to play chess professionally (i.e., hustling in the NYC parks). He even had a character modeled after him in Being Bobby Fischer. The rest of the table was a motley crew, Ebs and his friend, a black guy named Keith who had played in the HORSE tourney and bought into the LO8 game short, and a couple of Asian players. It was a generally friendly game, and I got off to a good start with some strong hands, bringing me a quick jump on the action.

One of the biggest hurdles in my LO8 game is determining the level of skill and hand ranges of my opponents. This is WAY more important in LO8 than in NLHE. Perhaps "important" isn't the right word. I suppose what I really mean is that there is a lot more variability from player to player. In NLHE, hand ranges tend to make some sorta sense once you peg a player as loose or tight. In LO8, you can have loose players who play any 4 cards, loose players that play any four low cards, loose players who chase any low, loose players who always think their draws are live (i.e, when they are drawing for a high, they think you have a low; when they are drawing for a low, they think you are playing for the high), loose players who play the second nuts like they are the nuts, etc. There is a lot of variety in the defects of a bad LO8 player, and each one requires slightly different strategies and expectations. It is way to easy to throw away a second nut low when two players are betting back and forth at each other and you are squeezed in the middle, but if you know those players overvalue crappy lows its a lot easier to stay in the hand or even toss in an unexpected raise.

Over the course of the game, I started with an early lead with about a $70 profit. That started to dwindle until I was about even, or so I thought. Nothing is more annoying than having three $100 stacks for the entire game and then realizing once you are "back to even" that at some point you messed up your stacks and the $100 stacks are now actually $90 stacks, so you have to restack them and suddenly you are down $30 or whatever. Has this happened to you ever? For some reason, it's like a dual kick to the junk. The first kick is when you realize that you are down more than you expected, followed swiftly by the next kick when you realize that your break-even play can now be labeled losing play. Lemon!

All the while, we were waiting for dinner to arrive. A lot of NYC clubs bring in food to bring in the players, and Tuna is no exception. The menu was Italian and based on how long it took for W to get the grub, it must have come all the way from Italy. Regardless of the wait time, the food was very good and consisted of a great salad, a platter of chicken parmesian and a bunch of rolls (of which, mine was stale). Along with the free grub, I enjoyed a couple of bottles of water from the fridge. It's not much, but I like freebies.

By the time 9pm rolled around, I announced to the table my intention to leave. I got the usual statements about being pussy-whipped, although not in those terms, and played along. Whatever. Then I went on a tear. Right about that time, Big Paul showed up, a regular in the WSG and the winner (well, he actually chopped, but he was chip leader at the time) of Tuna Club's inaugural HORSE tourney. We chatted briefly as I took a pot or two off of them, and then it was finally time to leave. I was up $77, which is by no means a great amount, but not too shabby for an hour and a half of stress-free, fun poker.

I cashed out and hit the road, deciding to walk to a far away subway station merely to avoid the annoyance of transferring. Plus, I could've used the walk to clear my head and enjoy the crisp early-spring air.

I'm falling in love with the Tuna Club. They spread a nice variety of games, the patrons seem like good people, the hosts are definitely good people, and free grub is always nice. Even moreso, though, I'm falling back in love with live poker. I guess there is something about being in a card room that excites me even more than a home game. I am sure part of it is the feeling that I am there to play, rather than socialize. I also like the constant influx of new people. Most of all, I love the game. I love the mental agility; I love the process of working through your opponents' actions to determine what they have; I love the freedom of poker.

Of course, that's all nothing new, but it's always nice to be reminded of why you love something so much.

And for what its worth, I also loved watching Lost and spending time with wifey Kim, even if I sometimes pretend that its something I have to do, rather than want to do.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 11:01 AM,


At 1:54 PM, Blogger BWoP said...

Great point about the thousands of ways that one can be a "bad" O-8 player. I had never really thought about it that way (categorically) before.


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