Friday, February 3, 2012

We Play Poker At Parx Because It Feels So Very, Very Good When We Stop

"To quite an extent, gambling is a tax on ignor- ance. I find it socially revolting when the govern- ment preys on the ignorance of its citizenry. When the government makes it easy for people to take their Social Security checks and pull [slot machine] handles, it relieves taxes on those who don't fall for it. It's not government at its best."

-- Warren Buffett
Tonight, two of my better friends and regulars at my game took the ride with me over to Parx, the closest casino poker room to the Man Cave. It's a big room, and the action is constant, with a $100 + $20 tournament that attracts over 140 players for a 7pm start. And the only real problem is that... well, I just hate the place. It's filled with hyper-aggro players with deep, deep stacks that will play any cards and call any raise, and you'd think that would make for a lucrative fish pond. But you'd be wrong. Very, very wrong.

There is a subset of Poker Lifer that you only see in rooms like Parx; people for whom folding seems like an insult to their livelihood and/or manhood, and dear God in Heaven, do they catch cards. Since I'm not playing for crazy money, I'm constantly the short stack in cash games to start, and $20 pre-flop raises were just rife with multiple callers. I'd hate to see what the big money games look like, really. So after 90 minutes in the tournament and 40-odd guys outlasted, it was off to the unhappy hunting grounds for me, for five straight hands of 8-3 offsuit. It's like a poker version of "The Matrix", or your worst nightmare; all around you, guys are are pulling down big pots as lunatics bet dogmeat hands, and you sit and sit and sit and sit for unplayable hand after unplayable hand.

But I'm not here to complain for myself, since nothing that happened to me tonight at Parx is new, or unique, or novel. Parx does as little as possible for players with amenity service and fees, and the crazy aggro nature of the place has helped to keep attendance at my home game high. No, I'm serious.

Instead, I'm going to relate what happened to my poor fellow degenerate, who had managed to catch and get paid to the point of doubling his stack as I folded it all away. He gets A-K in the big blind, and rather than bet it, he just checks to try and trap. And hey presto, he gets an ace on the flop with two other crap cards. He bets it... and gets the old guy who has been calling everything, and hitting, to make the bet. My man puts him on middle pair, and it goes to the turn.

Another big bet, 2X the size of the last one, and another call. The river is another blank; no flush, no straight, no paired board, and a freaking three on the river. My man goes all in... and gets called. By, and I am not making this up, 9-3 off suit, played from early position, and it takes every last one of his chips from getting paid off on the river to become two pair.

No, seriously.

The table reacts as if an atrocity has happened, which, of course, it has. The "winning" player tells my man that he's won, because he's probably too old or senile or completely beyond the bend enough to have forgotten the cards he's played. And my man gets to stalk off, not with a huge and well-earned payday for a perfect read and trap, but with a big freaking hole where his wallet out to have been.

And yes, I get that's why they call it poker and gambling and all, and I get that people who pay through the nose for the privilege to be drawing to five outs on the river will eventually give you all of their money. Just not tonight, and just not ever at Parx.

And I ran the math tonight: I've been there now on seven different occasions over the past 14 months. Had I never entered the room, my overall poker winnings over the past three years would be up something like, um, 400%.

Which means it's due to pay me off, along with my AK friend, big next time. Right, Mr. Buffett?

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