Stumbling To Glory

Saturday, December 1st, 2007, 2:25 am

It’s called a "hero call", that’s when you face a decision for a ton of your chips and you only have a middling (or worse) hand. It’s possible the other guy is bluffing…actually, for you to make the call and win, he HAS to be bluffing. Because you got bupkis, or close to it. The thing is, maybe your lousy hand is actually best. And when you make a hero call, and you’re good, and the dealer pushes the pot your way, that’s the ultimate poker thrill. To bluff is human, but to pick off a bluff…divine.

I won just such a hand tonight during my six-hour session at Mountaineer Race Track’s new poker room. And while the other guy said "Nice call" when I morosely pushed forward the last of my chips, it was not, in fact, a nice call. In fact I butchered the hand from start to finish, and the real reason that I called off the rest of my stack was so I could get up from the table, bid everyone good night, and sit in my car for 20 minutes looking in the rearview mirror and telling that jerk what I really think of him.

Up to that point I hadn’t had a whole lotta luck. I was playing $1/2 No-Limit, bought in for $200, and went to war with a table populated with the usual type of insane gambloors. One guy did lots of raising, lots of calling, and kept hitting weird hands. He ended up leaving with around $1,500, though none of that was my money, as two of the hands I won came at his expense. But after going up around fifty bucks at one point I was down to around $140 when the hand in question went down.

The action was folded around to me one off the button and I had pocket Sevens. Normally I’d just limp with a medium pair, but I had position and hadn’t been raising much, so I decided to raise it up a bit.To twelve bucks. Which was the standard raise at the time. Both the small and big blind called.

The flop comes J-8-5 rainbow. Not the best flop for my walking sticks, but no Ace or King, and after the blinds checked I bet $25, about 2/3 or the pot. Small blind folds, big blind calls. Crap. My opponent was a older gentleman with a Greek accent who’d been playing very fast and very loose. He called off around a hundred bucks on a Q-9-2-9-8 board and couldn’t beat Q-10. So it was possible he had nothing but air. Possible.

The turn was a six, giving me an open-ended straight draw as well as my pair. "Uh-oh," I thought, knowing that I might get in trouble here. I should’ve checked in the hopes of getting a free (or cheap) card. Instead I bet like $40…and he raised me $40 more.

Great. Awesome. Well done, Geno. I had ten outs (maybe), I might have the best hand, I might be utterly crushed…I thought about folding, I thought about pushing, and instead I just called, as usual the worst option. I only had about 25 bucks left and when an Ace hit on the river, the other guy looked right at me and said, "I set you all-in".

I shook my head and stacked and re-stacked my chips. Normally I make my decisions and act quickly, but on this one I took a minute or so. On the one hand, if I really thought i was beat there was no reason to piss away $25. And I remembered a passage from Andy Bellin’s book Poker Nation, where he talks about a hand where he had a full house and only realized that his opponent had quads when he had just a hundred bucks left in front of him. He should’ve folded, but he tilted so bad that he put the money in the pot just so he could get up and leave. That thought went through my head–just because you put in 85% of your stack like an idiot doesn’t mean you have to piss away the last fifteen. Then again, I didn’t want to rebuy, and I didn’t want to play with a microstack.

And it was entirely possible that he was on a stone-cold bluff. I’d been playing very tight since he sat down, and maybe he thought he could push me off the hand and get his night back on track. Maybe he had 9-10 and flopped an open-ender. Maybe he had 6-7 and made a pair on the turn to go with a straight draw. Would he have called a raise with those hands. Sure. I don’t recall exactly what odds the pot was laying me, but when I counted up the pot and compared it to the paltry collection of chips in front of me, folding seemed even stupider than the raises and calls that had led me to this point. "All right, I call" I said in a dead voice, sliding my stack forward.

"Good call," he said, which didn’t exactly fill my heart with joy. "We’ll see about that," I said as I flipped over my Sevens. He nodded and tabled…9-10. I managed to avoid throwing up on the felt as the dealer pushed me a massive pot. One that, truth be told, I in no way deserved. People around the table were congratulating me on the hand and I wanted to put a bag over my head.

That double-up got me comfortably in the black, and a few hands later I won a nice pot with AK against KQ when we both made trip Kings. When I decided to call it a night at 10pm I racked up and found that I had exactly $450. A nice round number. Of course, zero is a nice round number, and that’s very nearly what I ended up with. Well, sometimes a blind squirrel finds a nut. And that nut still tastes pretty good.

A few quick words about Mountaineer. The dealers have markedly improved since I was there last. More hands dealt, fewer mistakes, they were very good. The men’s room just past the rail is woefully inadequate, so they’ve posted signs leading players to another restroom down by the racing simulcast area. You have to go out some doors to a litle patio that’s just above a small circular track where they walk horses that are warming up (or cooling off) after a race. So you can peer down and admire the ponies, if you’re into that. Of course, that means the bathroom and surrounding area has a decidedly horsey smell, but considering what you’re there for, who cares?

The biggest, and most noticable, improvement is that they’ve made the entire poker room non-smoking. Before you couldn’t smoke around the tables, but on the other side of the rail you’d find dozens of people furiously puffing away. And a four-foot-high wooden rail did not do much to keep the smoke from drifting over. That’s a thing of the past now, smokers either have to walk all the way down to the simulcast area, or walk outside to the terrace next to the poker room. Kudos to management, it makes a big difference.

All in all, a succesful trip. Wanted to get a few hands under my belt before Vegas. And from the way I played tonight, I may stick to the slots.

Permanent link to this post.

One Response to “Stumbling To Glory”

  1. Gydyon Says:

    I wish I had known! I was there all afternoon and into the night, and would have come over and said hi.

Leave a Reply