Friday, 2 April 2010

Two World Wars and One World Cup

“Go back home Englander”

I am sitting in a 2/2 no limit hold’em game in a Berlin casino and am not getting a warm welcome from a few of my hosts. The guy on my left is the businessman type, he’s drinking one of those overly large German glasses of beer and generally being an idiot. Being a dick is clearly something that transcends international boundaries.

So he’s insulting me in German, mocking me for being unable to speak the language and deliberately using oversized chips to bet -saying the number in German. A couple of players laugh along with him – I notice they have both had to rebuy in the hour I’ve been at the table. Clearly my businessman friend wants to be ‘the man’.

He tries to taunt me by repeatedly asking me what the score was in the Bayern Munich v Manchester United match that took place earlier in the week.

Eventually respond by telling him the game is delicately poised for the second leg, as United have the away goal and although the Bavarians are now favourites as Rooney is injured, if Bayern’s Dutch injury prone superstar Arjen Robben doesn’t return for the match at Old Trafford and with their suspect central defenders, I see the tie going either way and is probably 50/50.

And besides, I support Birmingham.

I’ve done nothing to annoy him so far apart from being a solid and aggressive poker player, but when he acts out of turn and raises when I am still deliberating my action with pocket tens, I decide to provide him with some ammunition.

Much to the consternation of several people at table, in English I seek a rules clarification from the dealer. She confirms to me that if I just call, then the raise from the businessman plays and he can’t take it back. So that’s just what I do and when the action returns to me, with a Turkish guy is caught in the sandwich, I stick in a nice healthy re- raise. This causes three people to simultaneously start gesticulating and shouting at me in German. When things calm down, the businessman folds and the Turk calls. He’s been standing up to my aggression with mixed results so far, but he is clearly after me. The hand plays out and after checking through the flop, I end up calling a bet from him on the turn and river. After my river call he disgustedly throws his cards into the muck and I don’t even have to show my cards to claim the 200+ euro pot.

Now it’s on and I have two players at the table steaming. When the businessman loses the rest of his stack against a confused old man who keeps string betting, he proceeds to fake spit at the female dealer before throwing his cards at her. The fact that he is tilting is beautiful to me but I feel sorry for the dealer, so I tell him he is being an idiot, has no class and the dealer has actually been helping him by enforcing the string bets. He now refuses to interact with me and simply keeps repeating “GO HOME” and GO AWAY” in a very loud voice.

I blow what remains of my image by running an audacious bluff with 7 high against the confused old man and proudly showing it when he folds. From then on I lock it up and play super tight for the next 45 minutes until I leave at midnight.

I leave just over 250 euros in profit which is nice win considering the high rake in the game, and which coincidently, is the exact amount of my three week sublet here in Berlin.

Maybe next time I visit the casino I can do my bit to repair Anglo-German poker relations.

Gung Hay Fat Choy

It’s the evening of Chinese New Year and I’m taking my chances in a shorthanded 30/60 game at the Oaks Club. The only reason I’m in this game is the middle aged Chinese megafish to my right and the fact there is no 15/30 game running tonight. The rest of the table seems pretty solid, though not without leaks.

To celebrate Chinese New Year the card room is running an all you can eat Chinese buffet and the line snakes around the lobby. It’s unclear to me how one goes about getting a ticket for the buffet, but they are hot property and are being traded around the poker floor like cigarettes in a prison.

A man painted orange and with loads of orange balloons attached to him ambles around the room, not sure of what he is expected to do. I assume he is supposed to be a tiger, as this is the year of the tiger, but to me he looks like a man painted orange who is waiting for his shift to finish. A little later he accidently pops one of his balloons, causing the old man on the next table to me to almost have a heart attack.

As I take an open seat at the 30/60 table I realise that getting my chips tonight could be a slow process even though it isn’t a busy night.

The job of the chip runner is to take the money from the player at the table and exchange it for chips as quickly as possible. Different games require different denominations and combinations of chips and it is important for them to do the job fast so the action is not held up at the tables whilst players are waiting.

Tonight the chip runner is a lady wearing dark classes and it immediately becomes clear to me that she has some degree of colour blindness. I’m not one to discriminate but I would suggest that a job involving different colours of chips is not the ideal one for someone who is colour blind. She does her job correctly, though slowly and to my surprise the players generally give her a break and don’t moan about waiting for their chips.

Back at the table I go on an insane run and am up almost $3,000 within 90 minutes. Inevitably things turn around and I proceed to lose most of this over the next several hours. I feel like I played ok but for sure made some mistakes and had better ways I could have played certain hands. Such is the nature of poker.

At the table the discussion turns to poker and relationships. A hipster looking guy who is a good player says he keeps meticulous records of all his profits and losses so he can show his wife. Another guy says he doesn’t tell his wife about his wins or his losses at all.

As the conversation continues, the first guy confesses to having some troubles in his marriage of late that have coincided with his recent good run at the poker table. “But I thought your marriage was going well?” enquires someone across the table, “so did I!” he replies. It should also be worth pointing out that tonight is February 14th as this year Chinese New Year coincides with Valentine’s Day.

Meanwhile there is controversy brewing over at the buffet, where it emerges that one guy has been stacking his plate with food and taking it out to his waiting wife in the car park. It’s unclear how many plates he’s taken, but he clearly been able to outwit the Oaks’ security staff and smuggle out a significant quantity of spring rolls in the process.

So that concludes my time at The Oaks. My only regret is that I didn’t cash out when I was $3,000 up. Maybe then there would also have been some food left when I finally got to the buffet.