Sunday, 21 February 2010

Sleeping in

The guy in seat one is seemingly asleep at the table, a mound of chips in front of him. When it is his turn to act the dealer hits his hand on the felt to rouse the snoozer from his slumber. He will then play his hand and promptly doze off again.

The snoozer played the 30/60 game all night and it seems he did pretty decently. When the 15/30 game began at noon he dropped down in stakes and dropped off to sleep. It’s a mystery to me why he doesn’t go home, but occasionally I do wonder if some of these sick gamblers have homes to go to.

When I open raise from middle position and the snoozer rouses himself to unceremoniously three bet me, it brings a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘he woke up with a big hand’.

Meanwhile, in seats six and seven, two elderly Greek guys have got a bet on the Milan v Man Utd game. Never mind the rudimentary understanding of the rules of ‘soccer’, nor which team is which, there’s a match on the TV and it can be wagered upon! I try to get in on the action but sadly they won’t take my bet. I’m doubly disappointed about this as it is now Friday and the game took place three days earlier on Tuesday.

Elsewhere at the table, a guy who looks like David Blaine has drank six cartons of milk in the past half hour, leaving the scattered containers all over the table.

Next to him is the one man whirlwind called Cincinnati. Now Cincinnati refers to himself in the third person at all times and gives a running commentary on the hand when he is in it. At one point after laying out a river bet, he breaks into song, prompting the floorman to quip that he’s going to be kicked out if he continues as the casino doesn’t have a cabaret licence. The following day in the same game, Cincinnati will be seated next to a studious guy in horn-rimmed spectacles called Cleveland. I believe Columbus was on the waiting list at the time.

Meanwhile the action on the TV has switched to an old black and white rerun of a Man United vs Milan match from the 60s. As George Best rampages down the wing, I turn to the Greek guys and ask them who they have their money on in this one.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Big Charlie RIP

Guy in Seat Ten: Have you seen Charlie lately?

Floorman: Charlie...?

Seat Ten: You know... Charlie... Big Charlie...

Floorman: Oh, Big Charlie...

Seat Ten: Is he still alive?

: Nooooo, he died a long time ago. Let me see. I won that tournament in Hayward in 87 and he died a little bit after that. Probably before this kid (gestures to me) was born.

Me: Well I think I can safely say I didn't play against him.

Seat Ten: ...(pause for contemplation) Do you remember his wife?

Floorman: Oh his wife! She was a real piece of work.

Seat Ten: Small but vicious.

Floorman: You're telling me... She had a problem with the drink.

Seat Ten: *nods*

Floorman: We had to bar her in the end. One time she got so crazy at a Blackjack table that we had to move the whole table to carry on the game. She was just screaming and wouldn't leave her seat. We let her back in eventually though of course, though I think we barred her a second time. If I recall correctly, she attacked a dealer.

Seat Ten: *laughs* Doesn't surprise me.

Floorman: She was really something.

Seat Ten: Yeah. (wistful expression) Well I guess I knew I hadn't seen Charlie in a while. 23 years... Hell of a player.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

World in motion

The Greek guy in seat three resembles former England goalkeeper Peter Shilton after the 1990 World Cup Semi Final - chubby, sweaty and with the haunted look of defeat in his eyes.

Greek Peter Shilton thinks I am from Denmark, as only a 'Denmarker' would play in the fashion I am playing.

Greek Peter Shilton is buying another rack of $5 chips. I am pleased about this as he is providing much of my daily wages.

Greek Peter Shilton is not a very good poker player.

The 15/30 at The Oaks is not too different to the 6/12 game. The players are a bit better. They think they are a lot better. And you get half price food. It's possible for a good player to make a lot more money at this game as they rake is a lot smaller proportion of the pot, so the house makes less of a percentage from each hand, taking less out of the game.

Today I have been playing for a few hours and running very well. I have a large stack of chips in front of me.

Greek Peter Shilton open limps from middle position, as he is prone to do. The guy in the next seat is shaven headed Asian businessman with a Blackberry. I've got him marked as a good player, one of the best at the table. He only plays here on a Saturday as his wife likes to play the 3/6. For a once a week player he's quite solid and perceptive and has the 'Jesus seat' on Shilton's left, already taking the opportunity to raise his limps a couple of times to try and get everyone else to fold and take a flop with him heads up in position.

It folds to me on the button and I look down at Jack Ten of hearts. The suited Jack Ten is one of my favourite hands as it offers so many straight and flush possibilities. Knowing that Blackberry could be raising Shilton's limp with a less than premium hand, I three bet to $45 hoping to get rid of the blinds and preferably Shilton too, playing Blackberry heads up with position myself. This is somewhat advanced play for this particular game.

The blinds fold, but Shilton with that desperate look in his eye of a man chasing his losses cannot find the fold, calling two bets cold. Blackberry also calls, leaving three of us to go to the flop.

The flop comes Queen, Eight, Two with two diamonds. It's a relatively dry flop giving me just a gutshot straight draw, but it may well have missed everyone else too. When Shilton and Blackberry check to me, I have to bet. There is $156 in the pot (45+45+45+15+10 -4 in rake), so a bet of $15 only needs to work one in eleven times to make it profitable. I continuation bet, Shilton folds disgustedly and after a second or two of thought, Blackberry calls. It's hard for me to put him on a hand here. Some kind of pair is possible, as are a lot of no pair hands and draws. He might have chosen to check raise with a Q or a flush draw, thought he may have also lead out with both of these. However, I didn't sense any hesitation in him so I downgrade the possibility of these.

The turn is the Ace of diamonds which is a very interesting card. The board now reads Qd, 8x 2d, Ad. With three diamonds on the board and an ace now on the board it could be the ultimate scare card. Or it could have it him smack in the face. I now have a 'double bellybuster straight draw' and any 9 or K will give me a straight. The diamonds are a problem though and my hand could well not be good if it is the K or 8 of diamonds. When blackberry checks to me I HAVE to bet. Again I am getting a great price to take it down if he doesn't have an ace or a reasonably sized diamond. Mentally I also say to myself that barring any reads, I will probably three barrel and bet the river too, whether I hit my hand or not. So I bet out again and Blackberry calls after a few seconds. I am not thrilled about this as I have now built a big pot with jack high.

The river is a beautiful black king giving me a broadway straight. My hand is not the nuts as of course there are three diamonds out there meaning a possible flush. But I'm highly confident my hand is good here. Interestingly on the board of Q82AK, Blackberry decides to lead out and bet on the river. This is very interesting play. I don't see there is any way that he can be bluffing here, although who knows? He must be betting for value. His most likely hand seems KQ, although Aces up is also possible. He could have also hit a set on the flop and got scared on the turn. He could of course have the same hand as me or have me beat with a flush but I have to raise him. He gives me the look that says "really?" but of course has to call.

As I turn over my JT, he does my favourite thing ever for an opponent to do at a poker table - which is stare at his hand for about five seconds, shaking his head and muttering before mucking it to the dealer and I scoop a big pot.

As I'm stacking my chips, the young internet type kid to my left says "Wow that was an interesting move there raising from the button with the jack ten, did you get that from the Sklansky book?"

"The Skalinski book?" I reply, feigning ignorance. "I haven't read that, I guess it must be American?" (I had of course already alerted the table to my novelty English boy status)

"No. Sklan-sky", he repeats "In the book he talks about three betting from the button with suited connectors to try and play heads up in position against the raiser"

I try to work on my confused face before I look at him and it obviously works because he kind of cracks a smile and says "Or I guess you were just feeling it, huh?

"I guess" I reply with mock relief, before adding "The book I read was the Phil Hellmuth one, about the animals. I always wanted to play poker like the lion you know? Better than being a donkey, right?

"Right!" he snorts back at me.

"What was that book though? Skalinski?"

"Sklansky" he tells me again, now probably regretting starting this conversation with someone he thought was his equal. "Theory of Poker. It has a yellow cover."

"Sklan-sky" I repeat slowly, taking care to enunciate each syllable and tapping my head. "Yellow cover, right. The yellow one, I'll check that out" I add, mentally picturing the book sitting on the shelf in my bedroom in Great Barr.

Although of course, I've never actually bloody read it.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Under the gun

6/12 Limit Hold’em at Oaks Cardroom in Emeryville, CA.

It has been described as ‘the most ghetto cardroom in North America’ and I can see why. One of the first times I was there, a guy on an adjacent table flashed a gun and was swiftly pounced on by six security guys. That was at a No Limit table though. There is no such drama in the Limit section - after the gun incident, the middle aged lady next to me soon went back to her sudoko in between hands.

Today the game is pretty average and I’m killing time whilst waiting for my seat at the 15/30 table. The lineup is something like this:

-Your hero

-Jovial middle aged white guy who looks slightly uneasy in casual clothing. I christen him ‘Mr Friday Night Poker’ He’s the home game with business buddies kind of guy. He watches the World Poker Tour and dreams of being Phil Hellmuth. He can’t beat 3/6 but insists on playing 6/12 'to beat the rake'. I get double pleasure from taking money from this guy.

-An elderly black man (EBM) who knows how to mix it up. He probably has too much gamble in him to make him a long term winner but he’s hitting a few hands and getting paid. Mr Friday Night Poker is of the opinion that this EBM is playing too many hands from early position. He lets him know that he would not be choosing to play some of those hands, implying he is a better player. This is highly debatable.

-A couple of SAGs (sick Asian gamblers) these guys like to play hands and are looking for any excuse to get into the pot, they are the kind of guys who feel ill if they aren’t gambling on something. After a while, one of them is away from the table for about twenty minutes. When the dealer queries this with the floorman they put a call out for him and he soon comes back from playing the machines in the bar. The two SAGs know each other and if they are the only two left in the hand they ‘softplay’ by turning their hands face up and just checking it down to the river. This really fucking annoys me but there is nothing I can do about it.

-An old lady who is the most loose-passive player I’ve ever seen. She goes call, call, call and fold on the river pretty much every hand. When she does actually hit her hand she does this thing where she tilts her head to the side and then smiles a little. However this tell is completely unnecessary because you know when she does something other than call or fold then she’s hit her hand anyway. She is playing most hands so quickly goes through sixty bucks and then buys in for another sixty and then repeats this ad naseum.

Soon after I sit down at the table Mr Friday Night Poker gives her sixty bucks and I assume they know each other. Maybe she is his mum? However after several wisecracks about trying to win back his money it is clear that this is not the case. Mr Friday Night Poker has given a degenerate gambling old lady sixty bucks for no reason.

Mr Friday Night Poker is a dick.

There is another guy who I can’t get a read on. He’s a nondescript middle-aged white guy wearing a T-Shirt with a strange slogan and a trucker cap. He doesn’t seem to be playing too many hands or doing anything stupid. In this game that makes him very +ev. After a while we finally play a hand together and on the flop I notice him looking at me to try and get a read from my reaction. In the 6/12 game at The Oaks this is VERY ADVANCED PLAY! I meet his glare and try to convey with my facial expression the following information –

‘OK, I know you are good in this game and so am I, so why don’t we just stay out the way of each other and carve up all this dead money sitting here at the table and both make a small but tidy profit. Look at that guy drooling in seat three, wouldn’t you rather be playing pots with him than me? Seriously. PS I like your T-Shirt’.

It probably just looked like I had something in my eye.

Soon I get the call to go to the 15/30 game. I rack my chips and move across the room. As I take my seat I tell the dealer I don’t want to ‘post’ and survey the lineup as I wait for my first hand. These are the men that I will be trying to make money from over the next few hours. I must destroy them.