Fish and chips

Saturday, March 6th, 2004, 6:06 pm

For the last 3 or 4 days I’ve come home hoping a package would be waiting by the door. The chips I won in the Grublog Poker Classic had not yet arrived, and though I expected it would take 2 weeks or so I was starting to get itchy. The chips would be the pieces des resistances of my win, and anyway I was anxious to get a look at them.

A watched pot never boils, and I was disappointed every day this week–until last night. Last night I pulled into the driveway in the dark and looked at the front door for any suspicious packages, and saw nada. But I turned my attentions forward and voila! Leaning against the garage door, a big brown rectangle, and I knew it could be just one thing. I parked and hustled my booty inside like a kid on Christmas. Opening the package and assembling the chips was a bit of a problem because I have 3 cats and, as any cat owner knows, a box is the feline equivalent of an amusement park. “Ernie, get outta there!” I yelled as I pulled out a heavy white envelope sealed with a triple layer of tape. The box was filled with shredded newspaper and our kitten went catshit, leaping in and trying to make confetti with her claws. I extricated her only to find Bert, my other big cat, hungrily dragging an envelope filled with chips across the floor, doubtless with the idea of disembowling it and eating whatever goodness lay inside.

Once I dealt with the cats and looked over my prize, I was grinning ear to ear. The chips are muy sweet. My brother gave me some chips from his set to fiddle with, and they’re very nice, but these fancy-schmancy chips are the bomb, as the kids would say. You drop them on the table and they sound like they’re made of porcelein. They have a nice heft to them, and when you toss them in the pot (as I practiced doing) they make a most satisfying, and very solid, sound.

The set also came with a dealer button, which is very cool, since last year when we played we used an empty card pack as the button. And the 2 decks of cards that came with the set are really, really nice. I’ve always played with Bicycle cards, but if you read the Pokersavvy article about home games they talk about what a difference quality cards make, and I can attest to that. When you bend the cards up to check them they snap straight back, they don’t get bowed in the middle or easily creased. And they slide across the table during the deal so smooth you’d think they were on rails.

Thanks again to PokerGrub for setting up the tournament and kicking in the chips. They will definetely get a workout.

That was the good part of the night. The bad was getting killed by the fish at Empire. Once again I got killed for my entire stack early on, and that sets a bad tone for the rest of the night. I was dealt pocket 10s (the Mean Gene, as I call that hand now) and hit trips on the flop, the other two cards a scary 8-9. There was about $5 in the pot so I bet that amount, hoping no one made their straight yet and happy to win it right there. Only 1 called, and when an ace hit the turn I bet the pot again. He called, and a Jack on the flop didn’t trouble me much. I went all-in, he called…and turned over K-Q. He made his straight going runner-runner after I bet the pot on the flop and the turn.

I typed something like, “That was brutal” and he replied “I had too many outs to fold, I didn’t put you on trips”. Too many outs? There was a possible made straight on the board, did he think a K or Q was going to save him? This is a guy I’ve played against before and he’s just smart enough to be dangerous to himself. I reloaded and vowed revenge. We were soon playing shorthanded, just 3 of us at the table, but I was never able to properly crush the guy. I made up about $5 of the $25 I lost and switched tables.

I made all my losses back in one hand. I was dealt AA and raised the pot, and when only one guy came along I figured I’d win a little pot and be happy with that. The flop came K-5-5 and he made a big bet. I put him on KQ or something similar and called. Junk on the turn, I bet and he called, but when a Q came on the turn he bet everything he had. It meant me putting in like $15 and I was afraid he’d been slow-playing a 5 or maybe he had QQ. I nearly folded, but I felt there was no way he would’ve played a 5 or QQ that slow so I called. He turned over KQ, giving him two pair but not better than my aces & fives. Maybe all that Phil Hellmuth study rubbed off a bit.

If only I’d gotten up at that point. I was up $5, even after my disasterous start, and I was tired. But I played on–and dropped $50. Had a guy hit trip 9s when I had trip 8s, and then I had QQ and another guy had KK and I bet my stack thinking that, since he didn’t raise the flop, I had top pair. Nope. In two hands I dropped about $40, and I couldn’t connnect the rest of the night. I watched my brother play a little $25 no-limit and hit the hay.

My brother will shortly appearing as a guest on this blog, he’s written something called “Confessions of a Dangerous Fish” and I’ll force him to post this. He’s forte is talking trash to his opponents, getting them royally pissed off, and then chopping them off at the knees. He’s a creative, merciless, and profane talker of trash, the kind of guy who tilts you so bad you want to strangle him until his eyes pop and his tongue turns blue. He’s skilled.

My own skills need some sharpening. Need to re-read my Lee Jones, need to really go over the Brunson, need to find a copy of Gary Carson’s book. I’ve been taking notes while I play, things I need to do, things I need to stop doing. Playing pot-limit has made me lazy, I see too many flops hoping for a miracle and then bet when I get clobbered over the head. I think one reason that I’ve had bigger wins and losses lately is my attempts to force the action a bit more, to feel like I’m playing poker as opposed to waiting for lucky hands. My goal is to refine that aggression so that I’m more a danger to the other players than myself. I think that, since I started playing in October, I am a much, much, MUCH better player than I was. But I certainly don’t think I’m close to becoming a “great” player. I think I’ve eliminated many mistakes from my play, cleaned up some obvious holes, but there’s a long way to go before I feel like I know what I’m doing. Ah well, it’s only been five months.

Coming soon–a review of the WPT season opener, an essay on poker jumping the shark, and I’m also working on a poker short story I hope to post soon. Maybe Pauly can find some room for it?

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