Wednesday, September 8, 2004

Ode to the Queen of Clubs...

Tonight I went over to a friend of a friend's place in Virginia (a 10 minute drive from my home in NW DC), and took in a little home game action. Now this isn't any old home game -- this is a home game on steroids. Decent chips, and enough of them that eveyrone has a nice looking stack in front of them, even if they're low dollar wise. Felt covered tables. Cards from the Mirage. Two televisions hooked up to separate cable feeds. And plenty of players AND money. What's not to love? They're starting to take very modest bad beat drops, partially at my suggestion. Completely worth it, believe me.

Its worth noting that last time I played this game -- the first time I did so -- I walked out with an $80 profit just before going to Vegas. I caught huge cards that night, and was afraid I might not be invited back. Well, they were very cool about it... not even a whiff of resentment. Good people, and sensible card players.

For the second time, the game had two tables running for at least 5 hours. Most of the time we were 6 or 7 handed, though later on we were 5 handed at each table. Game was No Limit Hold 'Em, with a capped $20 buy-in, and unlimited re-buys/replinishments. I think about 16 players or so cycled through the game throughout the night, and all told about $475 or so was in play. I finished with nearly a quarter of it.

Players were competent for the most part, the host being one of the better players in the room. Most players in the game have some B&M experience, and about 1/4 play online to varying degrees. Nobody in the game (to my knowledge) sees anywhere near as many hands per week as I do, online or otherwise. Two or three guys were clearly less skilled than others, drinking more heavily and treating the game as a social affair. Fine with me. I genuinely feared the play of only one or two people in the game, and even these two were not unbeatable by any means. One guy, who I'll discuss later, really made playing worthwhile, as he was either very drunk or careless.

Hands worth mentioning: lost a large pot for about 1/2 my stack early when I turned two pair aces and sevens in a pot I raised to 2x the BB. The SB called flop (AKx) and turn, and checked the river (??), which I checked as well, to see her AKs. This kind of play was the extreme exception, and not the rule, and I bought an additional $10 in chips to keep my stack healthy. Pick up a few pots, including one with AA, and I'm near even when I get highcarded over to the other table as part of the regular rotation. This was a welcome change, as my table was stronger skill-wise.

Second table, 7 handed, and I switch gears from frequently raising PF to frequently limping with straight or flush cards (e.g 6d5h, 7s9s, etc.). This pays off when I make a few draws, and steal a few pots, moving me back just above even on the night. I also caught a few big starters here, and that helped keep people off my back when I did limp in. I get highcarded back to the other table an hour later, where its 6 handed and a little looser than before. Play stumbles along for a little while as people are distracted with WSOP coverage, etc., and I fold 90% of my hands for about an hour, hovering around even. Finally, my table breaks around midnight, and we consolidate to one 7 handed table.

The final table made my night. I stayed despite the late(r) hour because I had a decent stack, and believed the game was still good. That I was having a decent time sure played into it too. I made another limp-draw with 7cTc for a straight, and I was up to about $35. Then, the wild man came to play (the one I mentioned above). This guy was perfectly likeable, relatively soft spoken, but man did he have a propensity to gamboool. Of course, I didn't know this when he sat, but I figured it out quickly.

UTG I pick up AsKs, make it $1.25 to go (2.5x the BB) and see a raise two seats to my left by Gambooler, then two cold callers. I call, and the flop comes down KcQh8s. I lead out for $2, figuring I'll call a medium raise, and potentially re-raise a small raise. Gambooler raises to $4, one caller in LP, and I ask him some dumb question about having AA or KK or something. He doesn't give me any feedback of use. Turn comes Ad, giving me top two. Having no read on Gambooler, I have to worry about AA and KK, given his PF action and flop raise. I decide I want to show my hand down more or less no matter what, and bet $3 hoping to get my money in either right away or on 5th against a raise from Gambool. He makes it $6, LP folds, and I call with the intention of moving in next card, which is the beautiful Kh. Only AA can beat me now, and I don't think he has it. I check, he bets, I raise all in, and he calls. I table my boat, and he mucks... got his whole stack the first hand.

So what does a gambooler do when he busts right away? He re-buys. Two hands later, I pick up Jd8d in the BB, and call a one-BB raise to see the flop, which is 5dKhKd. The pair of kings concerns me, but I don't see anyone as a probable holder of K5. I value bet $1, which gets plenty of callers. Turn is a blank, maybe an offsuit 7, and I bet a measely quarter, hoping the passivity caused by the board KK would keep raises at bay... I wanted to see 5th street, and on the cheap. Called around again, and the river rolls off some random diamond, maybe the 3 or the 8. I bet $3, and to my surprise, Gambooler moves all in over the top. I'm not sure if my Jack flush is best or not, but figure I'm calling him with his money, so why not. I table my hand, he turns over 9d7s and says "flush," but clearly misread the board, or was too drunk to notice. I take down the large pot, and bust him for the second time.

Gambooler busts again a short while later, and buys $20 of my chips (ha!).

Of course, he re-buys, this time from my stack (again). He wins a pot, loses a pot, and plays pretty much every flop. With about $18 in chips he comes into the following hand (my stack was well in excess of $50 at this point, with $20 behind in the wallet). I look down in EP and find the black KK, and quickly make it 4x the BB to go. A few folds, raise from gambooler to 6x, I call, and we're heads up to the flop, which is Q36 rainbow. I bet $3, and he moves all in. I don't have a clue what he's thinking, but AA and QQ are a longshot possibility given his play pre-flop. I banter about AA and QQ, basically advertising to the world that I have KK. I push my stack in for a re-raise, and he calls. I was worried about AQ at least when he did this... only to find that he has A4o. Nice. Turn is a 7, and I notice he has a gutshot plus the ace draw for 7 outs. Of course, the river brings a 5 to give him the runner-runner straight. I pay him off and actually feel ok about it, knowing that if the game keeps going, I'd have a crack at getting those chips back.

A few hands go by, and we drop down to 4 handed, with one player busting. Bust guy moves in on a 995x board with KK, and JJ calls. River brings a J, and the place erupts momentarily. Gambooler wins a fortunate two pair vs. higher two pair hand, giving him a healthy stack of $40 or so, and we get to the final hand of the night. This was announced as the final hand before it was dealt, and I was going to see the flop for just about any prize, particularly since the hand before I had folded 74o pre-flop for $1, only to see 568 come down. The implied odds on most hands were huge given the game texture, etc.

Final hand, I get QcJd UTG, and call. One extra bet around, and all 4 see the flop, which is 5c9cAc. I call a modest bet from Gambooler, as does the host. Turn is the 2 of something, and I call another smallish bet looking to make my flush or hit a Q or J. I do not give Gambooler credit for the Ace. Heads up at the river, the Tc comes down. I got what I asked for, and amazingly enough, Gambooler starts counting off a bet, at first $3, then $5, then $9, and I say "just tell me what it is when you figure it out," he asks how much we can do, and I say "we're about equal, so you can move all in if you want." He complies, and I'm left with a binary decision: does he have the Kc? Its the only card in the deck that can beat me. I conclude that I got what I wanted, and I'd be a fool not to push/call (stacks were close to even, but it wasn't clear who was bigger), so I did.

He announces "I've got the flush," and rolls the JcTh. I erupt with joy, and let out a loud "YES" with fist pump that was a bit inappropriate for an apartment complex at 1:30AM. Turn over my QcJd, and those left in the room go nuts. Gambooler is gracious in defeat, and says it was fun playing with us -- out probably $100 or so, $60+ of which went to me. Had I lost that pot, my evening would have been slightly in the red, rather than seriously in the black. So consider this post my "Ode to the Queen of Clubs."

I ended up with $40 in cash (people buying my chips), and $66 in chips for a total of $106, or a $76 profit. Not bad for 5 and 1/2 hours of poker. It was an AMAZING feeling to finish the night on a big all-in victory. After reading HDouble's soul-searching post about running bad despite solid play, I couldn't help but think that its these moments -- the ones I'm experiencing right now -- that make it all worthwhile. I know I'm a better poker player than I was a few months (weeks!) ago, and I'm doing my best to store these memories away in the hope that they might save me when inevitably the reaper that is variance comes my way for a while.

Add to the mix my satellite success yesterday, and my confidence/enjoyment associated with poker is going through the roof. I only hope I can sustain the good side of this equation while avoiding the hubris and fall that come with unrealistic expectations and notions of invincibility.

VA home game: 2 nights, +$156, or 78BB's per visit. If I can maintain even 50% of this rate in the future, I'll be on cloud nine.

Content and reports on fellow bloggers later in the week. Its way past my bedtime.

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