Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Poker Diaries: Youth Will Be Calling

Rock On, Eldest
A few months back, when we had a last-minute empty spot for a one-table HORSE tournament game with my regulars, I gave my eldest daughter, who just turned 13, the opportunity to play. She lasted nearly three hours, had a blast, and busted the room maniac, mostly just through catching good cards and calling a lot. I enjoyed getting her into the game, and it was nice to have something new to share with her.

Tonight, I gave the opportunity to my regulars to try a limit hold'em tournament where everyone had the opportunity, for a $10 buy-in, to give their kid a game to remember, and we were able to basically teach the game in a low stakes environment where everyone understood that having a good time with our kids was going to take precedent over poker. And, well, that's exactly what happened, for a table of nine. And after three hours, she held all of the chips, and $60 of the cash, as the men wondered just what they'd done to offend the Poker Gods.

What happened was something I think every grinder has run into over the years; the new player who just wants to play, and defines that as playing the vast majority of hands and rarely folding. My daughter wound up sitting next to an 8-year-old girl who was ever more willing to call every bet than she was, and never raised. They wound up catching cards and hitting flops, to the point where they were the two chip leaders. And as the blinds got heavy, both kids started picking off the short stack grown ups. I could have predicted it before the game, but that didn't make it any less amazing to watch.

And this is, of course, the special joy and hell that is limit. If you are holding a pair against a flush or straight draw and want to end the hand, you pretty much can't, assuming the opponent isn't wiling to go anywhere. If you are playing people who aren't experienced enough to put you on a bluff, it's also impossible to buy a hand. And if you fold a few dozen hands, then come in strong, you re still not getting the benefit of the doubt, because, hey, I wanna play, call.

If you are patient, of course, the big hands come and you cash out. I had pocket 10s, hit trips on the flop, and bet every street to make up for hours of holds, but that was my only quality pair and flop. One hand, I folded 9-5 offsuit, only to see it turn into a boat on the river. The eldest stayed in every street on that one, and also turned over 9-5 off. That's how hot she was running.

Over the long run, of course, playing like that will make you lose all of your chips, because you are going to run into big hands and pay them off. But in the long run, we are all dead, and that happens a lot faster than we're ready to accept. Especially when you are watching someone for whom you can remember from their first moments on the planet scoop pot after pot, and have the deck do things like serve a two-pair flop to K-Q against A-Q. (That was the hand when she busted the bubble boy.)

Having been so encouraged, my kid wants to keep playing in my game, and once the deck turns against her, my regulars aren't going to object; the eldest is a charmer and funny, and they want to get their money back, since the numbers dictate that they will. But in the meantime, the kid and I took every dime of the buy-ins. I've had worse days, really...

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