You Can’t Catch Fish Without Bait

Saturday, June 5th, 2004, 1:09 am

First of all, thanks to everyone who offered commiserations for my recent job loss. I’m taking the attitude that just about everyone recommended–this is the best thing that could have happened to me. The more I think about my previous job, the more I wondered why I wasn’t already busting my tail looking for a new one. Well, I know the answer to that-I was so exhausted mentally and physically by the time I got home that I just wanted to veg in front of the TV and play poker. I was stuck in a rut worn six feet deep. I left the job before this one because I hated it, was lousy at it, and had no chance of ever getting a better position. I wasn’t bad at this job, but it had gotten to the point that I hated it, had no chance of getting a better position, etc etc. Its bad enough when you have a job with no future–but when it also doesn’t have a present, screwed ye be.

So I’m looking for a job that I might actually be good at and enjoy a bit. I could probably go out and get a job similar to the one I just left, and if things get sketchy I’ll do just that, but I have some time to get my act together and find that “real” job I’ve been looking for since I graduated from college. I’m turning the blog that used to be my Presidential home page into a “Hire Mean Gene” site. So I may not be posting here quite as much, at least until I’m gainfully employed again.

Not that I’ll fall totally silent, mind you. I haven’t been playing much poker at all since I got sacked, but I played a little tonight, and a recurring theme imposed itself once again.

Let me tell you a quick story: When I was a kid, my dad and brother and occasionally my cousin Terry would go up to Lake Arthur (north of Pittsburgh) to do some fishing. We’d get up around 5AM, stop somewhere for a big breakfast, and get our lines in the water just after the dawn. Mostly we caught panfish–bluegill and perch and the occasional scrawny bass. Good times.

We rarely caught anything sizable, but one memory sticks in my mind. We were standing on the shore and the water was oddly clear for some reason. The sun was behind some fluffy cumulous clouds and you could see the bottom of the lake about 30 feet offshore. We didn’t have any lines in the water yet, and as we affixed worms to hooks my dad said, “Look at that!”

Cruising along the shore was a long, nasty looking fish. I think my dad identified it as a walleye. I’d never seen a walleye before (nor have I caught one to this day), but no matter what it was, it was much, much bigger than any fish I’d caught before. He was gliding along slowly, to my mind looking for an easy breakfast, and with a worm at the ready I gingerly tossed in my line about 15 feet in front of him. Wanted to entice, not spook.

The walleye cruised by and ignored my worm. If I recall my dad had a little jig on his line and tossed it in. Nothing. I recast again, with the same result. Our trophy fish swam away without giving us so much as a dirty look.

The last few days at Party/Empire I’ve had the same feeling as I did on that shoreline 25 years ago. Fish are teeming, but I don’t have the right bait to land them. By bait, I mean cards, of course, but you figured that out. When you’re playing against folks who haven’t a friggin’ clue, you usually have to show down the best hand. The good thing is that when you DO have a big hand your fishy foe will call you all the way holding second pair. The bad thing is, if you can’t get a big hand, if you go 60-70 hands holding nothing but toilet paper, you can’t get those fish in the boat.

And that’s been my lot lately. The last six or seven sessions I’ve played the deck has been immersed in liquid nitrogen. It’s hard to play this game if you’re dealt monsters like J-6, 10-3, 9-4. Even if they’re suited. Especially if they’re suited.

It’s frustrating watching guys win $30 pots with top pair and a 5 kicker, not because they won that particular hand but because you can’t get anything going to seize all that ill-gotten loot. As I’ve said before, it isn’t like I’m getting dealt kings when another guy has aces. I can’t get so much as ace-high. And flopping an ace? Please.

My cards have been so bad that I haven’t LOST that much either. I have few bad-beat stories to lament because I get to the river about as often your typical Pittsburgh boat owner (sort of a inside Burgh joke there, and not an especially good one either). Playing poker can be an emotional roller-coaster, with soaring highs and desperate lows. I’ve been riding the merry-go-round, I pay a buck to go around one more time and, when the calliope falls silent, I pay another buck to ride again. It makes for a rather dull time.

I did have one hand that got my blood pumping, thought if of course ended badly. I’ve been playing pot-limit again (it’s the game I’ve done best at), and for some reason the last few times I’ve played no one ever raises preflop. With anything. OK, you might see a raise up to a buck, but no big raises to chase people out. When you see a guy turn over AA when the pot wasn’t raised before the flop, and then see other massive pairs played like sketchy draws, it makes you nervous even if you hold a massive hand.

As I did during this one hand. I had pocket nines and bet the pot in middle position. Three callers, and the flop comes 9-Q-J, the last 2 cards hearts. With two to a flush out there I decided to bet it hard and heavy, and I bet the pot. Another guy calls. A third guy bets the pot AGAIN, making it $20 for me to call. The play at the table has been loosey-goosey, and I can’t imagine either guy has pocket queens or jacks. Should I toss the hand in? Crap, I gotta have the best hand. I call.

A king on the turn and the same guy bets the rest of his money, only about $5. I’m committed now, of course, so I call, and so does the other guy. A blank on the river, I bet my remaining $5, and so does the other guy. There’s like $80 in this pot. If I win, Nirvana.

But of course I don’t win. The guy who made the massive bets turns over 10-8 to make the straight. The other guy mucks, giving me the side pot at least. So I only lost $18 or so. The guy called a $2 preflop raise holding 10-8? The other guy called all the way to the river and he couldn’t beat a straight or the 4th-best set? Deciding who played this hand the worst could be a pretty good conversation.

I guess someday this streak of freon cards will lift, and I’ll flop the occasional top pair, maybe hit a flush before Christmas. My overall luck hasn’t been too good lately, but maybe if I ride out this current trough in my fortunes I’ll soon be riding a tidal wave of good fortune. Cowabunga, dude.

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3 Responses to “You Can’t Catch Fish Without Bait”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Look for a streak of overall luck lasting approx. 2005-2010 — and capitalize on it, but save up for some lean years in 2010-2017.

  2. oy Says:

    I now have upped my expectations to daily blog reporting. That is, unless you are buying me the beers at JD’s.

  3. lee Says:

    want to get on it

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