Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Return Of The Vacation Hand

Poker Diary Time. This weekend, I went back to the Casino of Doom, aka Parx, the big poker room that's far too close by, and usually filled with weekend maniacs that has made me, on several occasions, reconsider life as a poker player. And in the upset of the year... it didn't suck!

The table, for once, was to my liking -- tight, with relatively few crazy pre-flop raises, and little in the way of maniacal behavior. I got to see a lot of flops without putting too much of my stack at risk, and after a half hour of minimal play and losses, I finally started to catch hands and flops. A pair of queens got called for a pre-flop raised; the flop was rags, and my continuation bet took it down. A big blind middle pair flop got called all the way to the river, but the other guy was chasing a flush and whiffed, which got me back above my starting stack. Ace-3 suited flopped a house that I checked to the river, but no one else caught much of anything, so I took a pretty minimum pot. In about two hours, I had added about 50% to my stack... and that's when the table changed with a maniac taking the seat to the left of me.

How maniacal? Into a table where the pre-flop raises hadn't gone much past $10, he's going to $25 on the first hand, then shoving all-in after the flop, showing pocket kings. It's white-knuckle time and I get the sense that things are going to change hard, one way or the other. And well, that's what happened, thanks to the return of my favorite hand.. King Jack.

I know, intellectually, that this isn't a great hand, especially when it's off suit. But like many not particularly great hands, it can pay off big when it hits, especially if you call a pre-flop raise with it. That's exactly what happened as the flop came down K-5-5. With a pot of $50, I bet $25, and get just the maniac calling. A turn low spade puts a runner-runner flush on the board, and I put another $25 out to a call, dreading that I'm just paying off trips. Another call. The river fills the runner-runner club flush chance, and I just want things to end, so I put out $20, hoping that the under bet will confuse. Instead, he comes over the top for another $55. I go into the tank for a good couple of minutes, watch his hands for any chance of a tell, and think it out. The runner-runner flush doesn't enter my consideration, there's no straight chance, and I'm obviously beating any other pair but aces. So it really comes down to trips or nothing, and he's obviously aggressive enough to try to bet me off it... and well, the amount, and the way he's touching his chips, just make me think my kings are good. I called it, and he throws his cards into the muck; just one of the better moments of my life as a player, really.

My last win is another pre-limp raise called with K-J against several callers, including my ride, who goes all-in for his last $25 on a night when he's just running bad. Flush with chips and priced with late position, I call and catch a really nice flop, with the straight filling on the turn, and this time, my under-bet $20 on the hit knocks out the other callers; probably my worst play of the night, in that a check might have brought some more chips my way. So after about three hours of work, I'm up to 2.5 times my chip stack, with the two big wins coming down from K-J, and I can't tell you how useful the cash was. It's especially true now, since I'm dreaming of getting out of credit card debt for once and for all, and the house needed groceries. Plus, the room doesn't scare me any more. So that's a... win? Probably. Knock wood.

And if you are playing against me, and not thinking that I'd stay in a hand with K-J? Well, you must not be reading the diaries...

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