Friday, December 30, 2011

The Poker Diaries: Two Hours To Idiocy

So, long story short: I gave up the budget dreams and played a tournament. Just one; just the 8:15 for $100, $85 going to the pot, $15 to the vig. Just under 45 players, since the Borgata controls half of the dwindling amount of poker played in the area, and a third of them female. Not to be sexist, but not the most daunting field I've ever faced. And for a while, it was going so well. But let's just give out the info now, for the benefit of tomorrow night's adversaries.

(Oh, and keeping up on the earlier theme of Don't Go To Harrah's? This poker room is demonstrably worse then mine. The chips have no denominations, the cards aren't as good, the tables don't have speed felt, there's a live band blaring away 100 feet away, and the poker software doesn't update very well at all. You can do better, at Steamboat and Borgata and Harrah's Chester and Delaware Park and Parx and most assuredly at my house, every third Friday, with no rake. Moving on.)

My starting table was as cherry as you could get; borderline drunk chatterbox from Queens, just a ticking time bomb of going to give his chips to somebody, on my right. Too-tight woman who has to tell me about folding her low pocket pair that hits on the river to my left. Guy at the end of the table who likes to expose his muck. Two loose young guys who raise and fold if challenged. And dealers that seem too bored by the whole thing to avoid exposing burn cards pretty routinely. Oh, and there's also lots of free information on flinching from overbets on value, then calling when you put in less. It Didn't Suck. Especially when I kept hitting flops and getting dealt big pairs.

The first hour gets me slowly but surely up to 18K as everyone plays little stack poker. I hit a boat on the river with K-Q as a baby flush holder failed to price me out, then paid me off on the river. A short stack shoved against my K-K big blind; his A-10 caught nothing. After the break, Drunk Guy called my re-raise with an open-ended straight draw, then went all-in as I hit on the turn. I was so sure we were chopping, I miscalled the outcome, only to be corrected by the table. Embarrassing, but cards speak better than idiot players, so. By the time the table broke, I was stealing blinds, still getting hands, and was the big stack at the table by a factor of 4 to 1.

But then... how many times has this happened to you, my poker brethren? Once the tables break, you find yourself surrounded by strangers who have no fear of your tight and right play, because, well, they've seen none of it. And you need to throttle down, and you go card-dead, and get antsy. I folded something like 20 hands with my stack, trying to remain patient and get information on the new and much harder table... when I get A-J offsuit in middle position. Blinds are 800-1600. The under the gun calls, and I make it 4800 to go, thinking that with the table playing this tight, I'm either going to get into no worse than a coin flip with a short stack... and then the next biggest stack, in the big blind, makes it 10K. Under the gun folds, and I'm so lost in thought about the play that I don't even realize it for a minute, or get corrected by anyone at the table. (Yes, dealers are very sharp here.) I'm putting the big blind on air, a dominated ace, or at worst, somewhere in the 7-7 to 10-10 family... in other words, something a good player folds when his tournament life is on the line. And I haven't played a hand in forever, and raised.

I think he'll cave. So I shove.

And for about two minutes, it seems like the right play. He's in agony over the move; he counts chips, looks at my stack, says nothing but thinks it over long enough to make me think that it's Hollywood, like he's just building drama over throwing away suited connectors or some lesser hand. I'm pretty I gave him no information, but you never know. And then he calls, and turns over the worst realistic hand for mine, and why he's been agonizing over it: a pair of jacks. They hold up, and I'm down to 11K. Seven big blinds, dead man betting. And everyone knows it.

Six hands later I see a playable hand again (Q-10 hearts) and get into a 3-way all-in that could triple me back to relevance. The others in the hand are a woman holding A-Q offsuit and the guy holding all of my chips with, yet again, J-J. The flop gives me nothing more than a runner-runner straight draw that whiffs, and that's that. From 34 big blinds with 3 tables left in period 7 to done in two hands, just the way you, well, aren't supposed to do it.

There's a special feeling of sick you get when you blow a tournament, really: just a stomach-churning aura of Dear God In Heaven, I Don't Think I'm Ever Going To Win Anything Ever Again. And honestly, such premature dreams; winning back a portion of the trip, having some confidence by cashing for the first time ever in a casino tournament, ending what has been a challenging and frequently disappointing vacation on a high note, having a Poker Diary entry that ended happy for the first time in too long. Instead, just another clear air turbulence moment of blow up, just another misread in a long, long line of them, just another case of the game you love being something that you really aren't very good at.

And, of course, had my tormentor thrown away his jacks the first time, or I caught an ace... well, who knows, really? That's poker. Horrible, maddening, should be outlawed poker. I'm so ready to host tonight's game.

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