The Candy-Colored Clown They Call the Sandman

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2004, 6:14 pm

Glad to see lots of folks read and enjoyed my Phil Hellmuth piece. Writing it, or at least not finishing it, was starting to haunt me. I felt guilty when I was playing instead of writing, reading instead of writing, eating instead of writing. I like to write and I write a lot (obviously), but it started to weigh on me. It definitely affected my play–more on that in a bit.

When I finally posted it I felt a lot better mentally, though physically things starting going downhill. I caught some kind of stomach bug, had the massive headache, the violently upset tummy. When I got home I crashed on my recliner for 2 hours, which isn’t like me. I awoke to find a kitten curled up on my chest (good) and the room spinning around me (bad). So of course I decided to play some poker.

A few days ago I posted that I lost $100 last weekend, which shook my confidence to the core. Well, I won about $85 in 2 hours playing that fevered night, though I can’t say it exactly set me bursting with pride. I played 2 of the absolute worst hands of my life that night, and it taught me something. Namely, everyone cries about their bad beat stories–but you don’t often hear people confess the bad beats they put on others. Well, forgive me father, for I have sinned.

I was dealt A-9 and called. The flop came A-7-8. There were four of us in the pot and, when the betting was checked around to me, I made a fairly big bet. Fold, fold…call. OK. The turn card was another 8, giving me top two pair. I bet big again–and had my opponent bet the pot. It would cost me $10 more to call. Now, it was obvious to me that the guy had an eight, at the least. I should have mucked and lived to fight another day. But my diseased brain told me that this guy had been playing fast and loose all night, and I thought maybe he had an ace as well. My attempt at logic was irrelevant–there was no way I should call this bet.

I did anyway. The other guy was all-in, so I waited for the river to fall and confirm my fate. An ace showed, giving me aces-full. I showed my cards, and he showed pocket 7s. He’d had a full-house himself and I killed him with a 2-outer. “Dude, I’m sorry”, I typed, to no response. Won about $20 in one hand that I had absolutely no business winning. Them’s the breaks, I guess.

But you have to make your own breaks sometimes, and on the other horror hand of the night I received a king-sized break and did absolutely nothing with it. I was dealt pocket sixes and had the flop come 6-6-3 with 2 diamonds. I’ve never flopped quads before, and I got a nice warm tingly feeling. I was first to act and I checked, a few other players checked, and the guy on the button bet $2. I smooth-called (ha!) and one other player stayed in. Junk on the turn and again we checked it around to the button man, who bet his $2. Me and my other pigeon called. Another diamond on the turn gave me hope that one of these guys hit his flush and would pay me off.

I checked. I checked. Read it again. I CHECKED. What the hell was I doing checking? From their timid betting it was possible they HADN’T hit their flushes and just wanted to get out on the cheap. I should’ve bet something, even a buck, just to maybe to lure them into raising me. I checked, the next guy checked, the third guy checked…and I won like $6 with my monster hand. I felt sicker than I already was. I felt sure these guys would’ve at least called a small bet, so I’d thrown away at least a few bucks by my oh-so-subtle play.

But I was still up about $50, and I decided to play a SNG to prevent my weakening spirit from pissing away too much of my profit. If you ask why I didn’t just go to sleep, the sad answer is that I was just too tired to go to bed. I was comfortable, I was warm, I had a cat to keep me company–might as well play.

I got some chips early, but everyone at the table seemed to have some semblence of sanity and there weren’t many insane all-ins like you usually see at Party/Empire. By the time the blinds got to 50-100 there were still 7 of us left, with one guy way ahead and the rest of us holding between 6-800. I caught a tough break when my pocket 9s were beaten by a jack on the river, and I was down to 300. But I went all in with KK, got 2 callers, and made trips on the flop. From there the action picked up and soon I was in the money and in 2nd chip position. Like Sean in the Grublog the bottom guy refused to go belly up, surviving a couple testing all-ins before I finally knocked him out when I held A-10 and paired up on the turn.

I definetely need to improve my heads-up play, my win in the Grublog Classic notwithstanding. Me and this guy went back and forth for about 30 hands, and I kept telling myself, “Attack, attack, attack”. This got my kitten’s attention and she went for my feet, but once I shooed her away I slowly built up chips until I was up 6-2 on the guy. Then I held Q-10, flopped a pair of ladies, and went all-in. He called and showed cowboys, and the worm had turned. I battled back to nearly, but not quite even, and when I held K-J and hit a jack on the flop to make top pair I went all-in again. He again turned over pocket kings and won the day. Oh well, I couldn’t complain about my luck that night. I did play much better heads-up than I had in the past, but I still don’t think I played aggressively enough. I went to bed going over hands in my head, critiquing my play as I slipped into unconsciousness.

I had one of those high-def, Dolby sound, Technicolor nightmares you often get when a bug has you. I was playing at the final table of the World Series of Poker…except that we weren’t sitting at a table. We were on stools around a long, rectangular bar, like the one they had on “Cheers”…but not that exact one, if you get my point. Instead of just 9 players there were 20 or 30 of us playing, and instead of the railbirds sitting at a comfortable distance they were RIGHT behind us, looking over our shoulders, elbowing in to get drinks, knocking over chips. I had a huge mountain of chips sitting in front of me–but it wasn’t a good thing, because I only had $1 and $2 chips, whereas everyone else had pink and orange $5000 and $1000 chips. Every time I tried to read my cards I was afraid I’d knock over a huge stack of my nearly-worthless chips and have to scrabble around on the ground for them.

It was brutally hot in the room, the situation made even more unbearable by the closeness of the spectators and the fact that I was wearing dress slacks, a dress shirt, and tie, the shirt and slacks both about 2 sizes too small. I went to the bathroom and saw in the mirror that I badly needed a haircut. My hair was nearly as long and peltish as Jesse May’s.

I was dealt pocket deuces, and as I looked down the bar I saw a malevolent Howard Lederer staring back at me. He stared a long, long time before tossing his cards onto the floor behind the bar. Another player moved all-in and I made a desperate call. He turned over A-2 and I won the hand, but he had such a small stack it hardly helped me. It suddenly occured to me that I was going to be on national television looking like a fat, sweaty, shaggy mess, and I woke up nearly screaming. I think it stands to reason that if you’re having fever dreams about Howard Lederer, it’s time to step away from the tables awhile, listen to some good music, eat some healthy food, and get some aerobic exercise.

Then again I’m working late tonight, and the new WPT show is on tonight. So, tonight might not be the night I take a pokerbreak.

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