…and it’s better to be hated with $650 in your pocket then loved and broke.
So… let’s talk poker. I learned poker from Mike, Rosy, Matty, Ben, Zack, really a little from everyone. We get together every few months for a “Friendly” game. The stakes are low ($20 typically lasts the whole night) but the game is deadly serious. All these guys like poker, and they like to win, and more importantly, they don’t like to lose to their friends.
I’ve played at a casino a few times. Casino games are fast and furious. Even at a $1-3 table (more on that in a minute) the cash starts flying. No one is amused if the action is on you and you’re chatting up a friend about the last movie you saw. No one wants go get you a beer. I remember the summer of ’05, when Mike, Rosy, Ash, and I took Rosy to Vegas for his birthday. I was baptized by fire in that poker room. I won more then I lost, and I played for several hours on end. It was a blast.
So… we’re in San Diego, right? Erica’s folks live out here in beautiful Alpine, CA, a very quiet community where the Coyotes have as much night life action as the humans. After spending the day with the kids, doing dinner and the whole she-bang. Erica went to hang out with her friend from high school days.
“Do you want me to come,” I asked.
“Not really.” She’s honest. I love that.
So I was fine with the idea of putting the kids down, and getting cozy with the in-laws. I mean… they have Rocky 1-5 on Tivo, what more can a guy ask for on a friday night?
Then I remembered… wait a second… Viejas is two exits up the freeway. What’s more… I have cash already on me as I cashed a gig check to pay for our weekend (thanks Stick!). And… I mean… my lovely wife is going out with her girlfriend… and I have built in child care! This is the part where my start twiddling my mustache and fingers like an evil genius. It’s a poker night if there ever was one.
Now, before I get any further, let’s just deal with one thing: some Christians really hate gambling, and some of you reading this are wondering what in the world I think I’m doing going to a casino on a friday night. A den of iniquity! A veritable lair of wickedness!
I see your point. I really do. Here’s my thing, and although I’m not going to get into a theological argument, but I think it’s pretty much supported in Christ’s teachings, if you’re an alcoholic, you can’t go to a bar. If you’re a sex addict, you can’t have the interwebs. If you’re a food addict, don’t go to fast food restaurants. Everyone has their weaknesses, and part of being a grown up (of any creed) is owning your demons and knowing which limbs to cut off.
I have many weaknesses. Gambling’s just not one of them. It’s entertainment for me. I put a dollar value on how much I think the fun time is worth, and that’s it. There are no sweaty runs to the ATM after a big loss. There are no three day sessions. There are no lost weekends. It’s just not my thing.
Ok… so with that said, I sat down at a $1-3 no limit hold-em table. As I said, I had gig money already in my hot little hand. I took a look at what the other guys were playing with stack-wise, and then made a choice to put $200 on the table. Now… that’s quite a bit more then I usually feel comfortable gambling with, to be completely honest. $200 is a gig. It represents anywhere between 1-4 hours of my time, depending on the gig. I don’t throw that kind of cash around. However, I can tell you that at a poker table, the dude who sits down and plunks a $20 down when everyone else has a few hundred is just screaming, “I PLAY ONLINE!!!!!!!!!!! PLEASE TAKE MY MONEY!!!!”
$200. I can live with that. Perhaps it was because I got a fun phone call earlier that day booking a vocal session for both Erica and myself for Tuesday. I don’t know. I was just feeling… lucky.
So… I can still hold my own at a casino table, even though I had to go through my usual early heart palpitations. It’s strange to see people toss $20 around like it’s nothing, and I’m still not used to it. I play it cool, and slow. I took a pot early on with cards that deserved to win, and that felt good. I spent about an hour after that watching lousy cards come my way, and tossing them for free. I pay my blinds, hoping to get lucky, make friends (later to be lost) and do my best to observe the table.
Down at the other end is a college guy with a half gotee (chin fuzz, no stache). He’s swinging hard, bullying people. He likes poker slang. He’s got plenty of drunk friends coming by and saying hi, it’s clear that he plays there a lot. He’s got either the 2nd or 3rd highest stack on the table, looks like about $350.
We change dealers at the same time as we get a new player, a married guy, really funny and nice, about my age. Just as he’s sitting, the dealer looks over to college gotee man and says, “Hey! You look like that guy from American Idol!” Funny married guy looks at him and says the funniest thing of the night, “Oh yeah… what’s his name? Sunspot Sandalface?” I erupted with peals of laughter. For some reason, I just got tickled.
Ok, so about three hands later it becomes clear that Funny Married Guy is just killing time trying to get to another table. A hand comes down and I have 7-5 of clubs and I’m on the big blind, meaning that I have to ante no matter what. I kind of like my hand, so I call the raise and I’m in for $6 at this point. The flop comes, and it’s 6,8,A, and I think the Ace and the 8 were clubs, so all of a sudden I’m on a flush draw, and a straight draw where I have all kinds of cards to choose from. Someone bets $10 or so, 3-4 people call, and I stay in. The next card is a 5, so I have a pair and I’ve still got a bunch of outs. Funny married guy sees a possible straight draw, doesn’t like it, and bets about 30. This clears everyone out and I don’t know why, but I just get… The Feeling. I know he’s got 2 pair, but I’ve got about 14 ways out there to beat him, and all of a sudden this is looking like a $75 pot. I need to see if he’s really got 2 pair… “Raise.”
$60. I remember the first time Ben bet $2 against me and I though he had lost his mind. I just put $60 on the table against a made hand.
He calls. Another 5 falls. He assumes (correctly) that I didn’t make my straight. He doesn’t know that I didn’t make my flush either, and he really doesn’t see that I’ve made trips. Hehe.
At just that moment, the pit boss calls his name. His seat is open at the other table with his friends, and he wants to be a big man when he gets there. Poor sucker. “All in.”
It’s now a $150 pot, and it’s mine. He’s not pleased. I’d rather not win on a draw on the river… but a win’s a win.
So, now I’m playing with other people’s money. I like playing with other people’s money. You start feeling manly. You start tossing out $20 bets with more authority. You don’t hesitate to make bigger calls. It’s scary to other players, upsets their statistics and strategies. I only have one piece of poker advice, and it’s this: don’t care about the money. Decide what you’re willing to lose, and play. Most people are there trying to prove something, and they assume you do as well. I’m not dangerous because I’m a great poker player. I’m dangerous because I don’t care about the money.
Of course… that is… until I go on a run. I took two big pots in a about 10 minutes from Sunspot Sandalface, and he was not a happy camper. I outplayed him on the first one, and that frustrated him. By this point, I was up about $300 and really swinging like a fool. I had already decided that $200 was a great take for the night, and I was gonna play fast and loose with the other $100.
So… I get Ace two suited. Not a lot of action before the flop, and the flop comes and it’s queen, nine, ace. I think the nine was spade which I had. So, I’ve got top pair, and an outside shot at a flush. Sandalface likes the flop a lot, bet’s $50, clearing out the field.
Now…. I read him on either 2 pair or an ace with a decent kicker. Either way, he’s got me, and I shouldn’t call. But… it’s just… not my money… see… and… CALL!
He’s pissed. He’s seen me on a run.
Seven falls, spade. I have top pair and I’m one step closer to my flush. Sandalface takes one of his two large stacks and pushes it in. “$140″, the dealer says. Don’t call, Chad. He’s got you. But he’s kind of a jerk! He’ll be a jerk with your money, don’t call. He’s got hubris… CALL!
River comes, it’s another 7. I have 2 pair, and I don’t think he has the ace. He pushes his other stack in, clearly angry with me and pretty much screaming “I’m BUYING THIS POT.”
“$140 more,” the dealer says. I look at my stack and the decision is made. I have about $140 in chips before I get back to my original $200 that I put in.
He turns over Queen Nine. He has two pair, and mine are better. There was only two cards on the river that could have helped me, and I got one of them.
He was not pleased.
I asked the pit boss for larger chips, as at this point my chip stack was literally too large for my place at the table. Sandalface got up, literally yelling the whole time, to get more cash. By the time he had returned, he was still yelling at me, “Enjoy that luck money you…@@##$%^%” and the pit boss had brought me $500 in $25 dollar chips.
Remember how I said not to care about the money? Forget it. I started casually checking my stacks and realizing that I had upwards of $900 on the table. It was approaching midnight, I had been playing for four hours, I was tired, and I had just funded our entire weekend plus some. I stayed for about a half hour more, sipping Dr. Pepper, and purposefully losing about $50, some back to Sandalface, who was still breaking down the hand with the two guys next to him at the end of the table.
I walked with $650 in profit. I’m not a very good poker player, really. I don’t do stats. I have a lousy poker face. My hands shake when I win a big pot. I have but one advantage:
I don’t care about the money.
Stay in school, kids!