Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Not The Poker Police

Bob Munro: Whenever a big white man picks up a banjo, my cheeks tighten.

Anyone who can't laugh at that movie is no friend of mine. We saw it on an early Sunday morning screening – I'm sorry, an early Sunday morning free screening. Full of kids. And in roll sin myself and 6 other 20 something's, surely to be the only people in the cinema over 10 years old that have not procreated. Strangely though, even that part of this movie going experience was enjoyable, as this 4 year old behind us was pretty much telling his dad what was happening on the screen 3 seconds after it happened. While some may find it annoying, for some reason it made me laugh.

By legal requirement, I must talk some poker here.

A Friday night home game had to be cancelled this week due to too many cancellations, and those that could attend had to leave early anyways. So instead one of the keener gamblers and myself headed into the city for the regular Friday night game.

A few familiar faces and some new ones graced us. One new face in particular proved to be most amusing to me, and not by his intention. I have noticed something very weird about certain poker players. I am reminded of an interstitial that Daniel Negreanu did at the World Series or WPT once, about here he is this little guy who is able to bully around all these other men at a poker table. One look at Daniel and you could probably guess there is a little payback going on there from his younger days. The point is poker gives those who were unable to do so become a sporting jock. It is a rigorous competition that requires no physical rigor, and can actually give the geeks a chance to bully around the…well, the bully.

But the sporting jocks of yesteryear could be seen under those Friday night lights, performing for a crowd, and read about in the newspaper the following morning. The new poker playing jocks however, have no such fan fare (except for on the grandest stage, which most Friday night home games are not). The Poker Playing Jock needs to be their own PR machine, and some take to this role with much zeal.

During one of the pub tournaments I was running, the pub had employed some cocktail waitresses to give drink service to the poker players. You know, the typical promo models that are employed at pubs and that audition for Big Brother. They were attractive, but no more than window dressing (on a side note, the Distraction is becoming more and more curious as to this here site.). The other guy I was working with that night couldn't help letting the ladies know how good his poker skills are. But how does one convey poker skills to the un-initiated? Well, you can't very well show how good you are, you just have to tell them.

But back to the story at hand, on this Friday past, the new Poker Playing Jock was a semi-pro online player. I know because he told us. He is used to playing 8-tables online. I know because he told us. He has 2 screens set up to play his 8 tables at once. I know because he told us. He told us all of this at least 5 times before he left, about an hour after we started.

Why did he leave so early? Because he was busted out of this cash game. Oh, and he loved to commentate during the hands, even if he wasn't involved.

But that little distraction aside, the rest of the table was the usual mix of guys, all agreeable and decent enough players. I know this because I saw it with my own eyes, not because they told me every two minutes.

I am usually an absolute rock at these games, so I decided to mix it up a little bit. My first buy in lasted a lot longer that the Poker Playing Jock, but it did not last. Early I had an open ended straight flush draw that did not come to fruition, and I tried a bluff on the river to a very tight player, who called with second pair. I guess my read on him was way off, and he had me down to a tea.

After 4 hours of play, I had won 3 pots – and one of those was just the blinds. Stealing the blinds in a cash game isn't really such a big thing, especially when you are playing $1/$1 blinds. Especially when you have pocket Kings.

I was playing poorly, and was getting cards to match with flops that didn't. After those four hours and a little way into my second buy in, the best hand I had hit all night was two pair. Things were not going my way, to say the least.

I managed to gain back some of the losses as the night went on. One player made an absolutely horrible call for all his chips. With 5 diamonds on the board, he decided to call without holding a diamond against a player who had bet all the way and then put him all in on the river. The other player had pocket Kings, and the ace of diamonds on the river gave him the nuts. Man, I wish I had him calling when I had a hand…

About 5 minutes later, I have an open ended straight draw and a flush draw with one over card, and I call to see the river. The river brings the straight and I have the nuts. First to act, I checked very quickly to the same player spoken about above. He put out a modest bet, to which I said "It's only tilt, you don't have it – all-in". As one of the more experienced players at the table later said, I pretty much gave away my hand there, and I have to agree. But the tilting player was not open to such verbal suggestions at this stage.

He hemmed and hawed looking at his cards. He then started reading out possible hands that could beat his…man, there were a lot. I thought he might have had a set or maybe two pair, but it seemed even these hands would have been good enough to beat what he was holding. Feeling a little sorry for him for loosing his stack on the previous poor call, one of the other players looked at his cards and advised him against calling. Another suggested that he would need something decent to call as I probably have a hand. A third player, who did say "I think this is a bit unfair to Heath, us all helping him make the decision. Having said that, fold that shit".

At one stage, the player actually did say call, but he took it back and reconsidered. Eventually he folded, and I thought that I should show him I had the nuts.

Now I'm sure many players would have been disgusted by the actions of others at the table, one person to a hand and all. When he was considering his horrible call before, I never said a word. To note, the winner in that hand also never spoke during the current assembly. All the while when the other players are mentoring him on his latest actions, I'm just praying that he calls. When he did, I tried to confirm it so that everyone could hear, but he took it back. I know if the rules were applied to the hand that would constitute a call in any casino in the world, but this is a home game.

So what did I do? I let him muck his cards (TPTK) and then mucked mine face up, and moved on. There is no need to become the poker police in a home game against a relatively inexperienced player who is on tilt. I felted him last time he was here too, with flush over flush, so I know he'll be back anyways. It was a friendly game, and I decided to leave it at that without further incident. He left the table for a few minutes to go outside and have a cigarette, which I thought was the wisest poker decision he had made for the night.

In the car on the way home, I was recounting the night's events and realised if he made that call (or should I say, if we allowed that call to stand) I would have broke even for the night. Alas, he did not, and I did not.

I managed to get back most of my original buy in by felting the host twice, both when he was short stacked unfortunately. He is an aggressive player, who loves to bet on position and put people to a decision. I know for a fact that these home games are considered small for his bank roll and financial position, and he plays that way at times.

Anyway, on the fist hand I call his all in with just over cards on a very innocent looking flop. He had hit second pair, a six I think, and so he was ahead. Neither of my over cards came by the river, so I was ready to turn my cards back to face down (they had been exposed for the all-in) and back into the muck, when someone said I had a flush. Huh? How did I miss that – my hand wasn't suited? It appeared to be that the turn and river were dealt out in an unusual fashion, that being not right next to the flop cards and I didn't notice the four clubs on the board to go with my ace. After confirming that I didn't muck my cards (they were still in my hands at the time, but even so I had showed them and "the cards speak").

After he thought about it for a minute, he bought back in short and sat to my left. In one hand he made a pre-flop raise UTG and I was the lone caller, just because I had a naked ace. The flop was ace high, and as we were already heads up I checked. He pushed all-in for his last $20 or so.

"Ah, now I have to call."

"You have an ace?" He said, as he showed his second pair.

"Yeah, you mean you don't?"

"You checked your ace?"

He couldn't believe that I would check my ace to him in that position. In hindsight, maybe I can put that down to tilt, but can my action here be faulted? I even asked him what would have happened if I bet? He would fold of course.

So here is the situation, I'm first to act heads up against a short stack – very aggressive player who raised pre-flop. The flop brings an ace. Why bet here? The only way I am getting called is if he has an ace, and my nine kicker would be in trouble. I let the aggressive player do the betting for me, and even if he had a better ace (or two) I was prepared to pay him off since he was on the small stack. I'm open to anybody who can tell me how this play was wrong, but I would do the same thing in that situation every time.

Anyways, as I said I left the game down about a third of a buy in which was disappointing but it could have been a lot worse.

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