Sunday, April 30, 2006

A fun beat

There are days when you know it's going to be a tough day. Maybe you get QQ, your first hand after six orbits, and it runs into KK.
Saturday I knew was going to be tough, and it had nothing to do with poker. I was up at 3 a.m. and left my house at 3:45 a.m. to climb my first mountain of the year.
It was a beautiful night. The stars shone, and the forecast of less than 20 percent looked good.
And then I reached Copper Mountain, a few miles before my turnoff near Breckenridge, and it started to snow.
It was the same feeling I would get after getting that QQ. You gotta be kidding me. My first climb (my first hand) in a long time (in xxx orbits) and I run into snow (KK)?
The weather, however, cleared a little as I headed up the road that would lead to the trailhead. My partner greeted me and said the weather looked good, huh? I glanced up. Blue sky.
And then I saw the clouds racing across the sky like big, white, poofy aeroplanes.
Uh oh.
That means wind. Wind means ugh. Especially in winter, when a strong wind can turn a cold day into a frostbite-inducing terror.
I wanted to climb Peak 10 and Crystal Peak near Breckenridge. Many don’t chose to stop at Peak 10.
I didn’t really choose to stop there, either, but I did.
Saturday I attempted Crystal, a 13,852-foot peak, to try to knock off one of my Centennials, one of the top 100 peaks in Colorado. Now that I’ve finished all the 14ers, I’m going for those next, in the hopes of finishing them in the next 15 years.
I enjoy climbing in the winter. The mountains are even more beautiful, you don’t have to worry about thunderstorms or roasting in the heat, and the snow can be really fun, giving you chances to slide down some slopes and plunge step down others.
But, as Saturday showed, winter can also turn Colorado’s peaks into challenges worthy of any mountaineer.
Crystal, when hiked through the Spruce Creek Trailhead, isn’t much more than a difficult day hike in the summer, something you don’t want to take too lightly but well within the reach of anyone in good shape and some understanding of a peak’s potential dangers.
Saturday we faced steady, punishing winds of more than 30 mph, slapping the wind chill down to sub-zero temperatures, clouding our visibility and sending the snow pellets up to sting our faces. Our packs were loaded down with ice axes, snowshoes and extra clothing. And walking in snow is always harder than walking on bare ground, no matter how much more fun it is.
Hiking in the area would be fun regardless of the season, even if you don’t want to climb Peak 10 or Crystal. Once you take the Crystal Creek Road after traveling 300 yards on the Spruce Creek Road and make it just above treeline, you’ll run into Francie’s Cabin.
The area is beautiful, with outstanding views of Father Dyer, Mount Helen and a chance to visit Lower Crystal Lake, and the cabin gives you a place to stay for the night. For information on the cabin or to make a reservation, visit
If you want to continue, follow the Wheeler Trail, which is marked with large carins (we could see them even with all the snow). Continue up and soon you’ll see Peak 10’s summit.
The final ridge that leads to Peak 10 is an exciting walk but shouldn’t give anyone the willies. The summit is a quaint little spot, like a den with just enough room for a chair and a typewriter. I’m told skiiers like to get high there, but I was already feeling a little dizzy and chose my gatorade and my (ironically named) summer sausage and cheese instead. The views are inspiring enough.
If you want to continue to Crystal, head down to the saddle between the two peaks and climb the steep ridge to the summit. In the summer, it won’t be anything but a climb up talus, but in the winter, bring your ice axe and some confidence on steep snow.
Mistakes compound each other in the mountains. I didn’t get enough rest the week before, thanks to my infant son, Jayden, so leaving the house at 3:45 a.m. was especially painful. It was so cold my water bladder froze, which meant I didn’t hydrate enough, and I didn’t want to eat in the cold, but I didn’t eat enough breakfast to get away with that. And I didn’t bring goggles or enough face protection, so the snow stung my face and made it impossible to see.
I really thought training for my half marathon, something I’ll do next week, along with my previous experience, would make me strong enough to overcome any obstacles.
But what I needed to remember is that the mountains, sometimes, will win even when you’re at your best. On days like Saturday, they don’t need any help.
I didn't get to summit my main goal, but I did get to climb a peak.
It was a fun day and a tough beat. Sometimes the two do actually go hand in hand.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Can you smell what the rock is folding?

I folded it last night after the turn, when all I had was the pair, and the flop was 3,Q,J, and two guys called my first $3 bet.
The guy bet $5, or about a fifth of the buy-in and a quarter of his stack, after a K hit.
Not only do I not like that bet, I don't like the fact that I don't know what the other guy is gonna do.
This was not a tournament. It was a cash game.
So I folded.
I am much more aggressive in a tournament. That's not saying much, as I am still picky about my starting hands in a tournament.
But I sure am a rock in cash games.
I'm a successful cash game player, but lately, in these last couple of months, I'm probably break even. I seem to be treading water quite a bit. I've had far more losing sessions than I care to admit these last couple of months, but usually they amount to losing a couple bucks and no more.
It bothers me, but I don't know if I'll be able to ever really push, bluff and raise the way I do in a tournament. The losses hurt too much in a cash game. I'm never confident I'll be able to win it back, as I can in a cash game. And I rarely take chances because I don't have to: I haven't sucked out in a cash game in a long, long time, and that tells me I refuse to get my money in unless I know I have the best of it.
It's still not a bad way to play, at .25 NL, when there are so many bad players that patience will win you pots.
But it's also a tough way to play, as the levels are so erratic, I have a hard time knowing what the guy has. TPTK, especially, is a tough hand for me to play lately. I've pushed with it and lost, and I've also folded it many times, only to find out the guy thought his TPNK was golden or even his second pair was good.
And I usually get my best hands in the first 15 minutes, when I haven't really pegged the donkeys. By the time I do, others have already dragged them off to feed.
I know everyone, including me, loves to talk about how bad the players on the Internet are, but quite frankly, many aren't as bad as you think. Yes, there are many bad players, but there are also many decent ones who, yes, do have a hand when they push you.
Poker is about calculated risks. Maybe I need to take more risks and look for less sure things. It's called gambling for a reason.
Or I can just wait for AA again.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Change of season

Poker is a pastime, not a job.
Poker is a game, not an exercise.
Poker is a hobby, not work.
Poker is supposed to be fun.
The game, however, was not fun during March, my worst month, a month when I actually lost money, when suckouts were a plenty (and none for me) and card-dead sessions blossomed like tulips in a cemetary.
That's poker. That's the game. That's also what makes those sessions when you're on a rush so much more fun, you know, like Easter, a fun holiday that only happens a few times a year.
But March got to me a little bit too much. Restless nights. Occasional upset stomachs. Many, many pillows slammed on the floor.
I think I know why.
Two reasons.
The first, unfortunately, is that I'm uber competitive. I like to win. Don't worry: I'm not the guy who will scream at my kid's wiffle ball game when he gets old enough to play, or beat up his friends when we play tag (do kids play that anymore? They will at my house).
But I do like to win a little too much. I keep it under control for the most part because I'm aware of my need to win. However, it has caused a couple embarassing moments out on the softball diamond, for instance.
The second was a goal. I wanted, no, needed, to buy a new computer, and I planned to pay for it with poker money.
So even $50 lost for the week put me $50 away from my goal. I actually started saying scary things to the screen, like, "come on, I really need this pot." Like, if I don't win this $35 pot, the mob will break my 10-month-old's legs.
I am not a gambler. I am a poker player. Yes, there is a difference. But chasing that computer, I became a gambler, someone who "needed" to win all the time, someone who played just another hour, honey, and then I'll go to bed.
Well, it's April now, and my poker game is in a rebirth, much like our new season. After my incredible, fortunate takedown at the casino in Blackhawk, CO, and a nice tax refund (thank you, tax credit, I knew kids were good for something besides lots of love, lol), I had enough to pay for a new computer,
I purchased it on E-bay, and while I'm still waiting for it, a bit uneasily, I might add, the guy assured me he sent it Friday.
And I'm enjoying the game again.
If I lose, and I have, it's not a big deal. If I win, and I have, I get to keep playing. My bankroll is paltry after my huge cashouts, but that's OK, too.
I am up this month, by quite a bit, actually, thanks to some live home tournaments filled with fish. My ring game isn't kick ass, not like it was in February, but I'm not losing much on it, either. The small-stakes SnGs, as they always do, are going fine.
Most of all, I'm enjoying myself.
Poker is not a game. It is fun. Again.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

"High-Stakes Poker" high-class late-night TV

So Baby England, aka Mr. Spaz, decided that at 10:30 p.m., just as I was coming home from work, that he had had enough sleep for the night.
Ah. Nothing like a four-hour nap to make you feel refreshed. I think I'm gonna crawl around for a while.
I guess that was his thinking. So, as I finally decided to dig into a new X-Box game after a long day of work and watching Baby England before that, Mrs. England (Mrs. Pokerpeaker?) brings down an active boy and says, "Can you watch him?"
Inevitably, of course, that means no more X-Box, although he did sit with me so I could finish the first level. Thanks man. I brushed my teeth and went upstairs and flipped on the tube as he squirmed around Midnight.
Sweet. High Stakes Poker is on, Monday's last episode, I guess.
Boy, did that ease the pain.
This might be my favorite poker show, save for watching the World Series poker on ESPN. This is how these guys make their living, at these high stakes matches, so I felt like I really got an idea of their true lifestyles. Getting to watch Barry Greenstein and Sam Farah battle it out for $350,000 was awesome, even if it did make my $20 taken that day seem a little, well, puny.
Some observations:
• Watching Daniel Negreanu come back to almost even after losting nearly a $1 million is a great example of how Tilt shouldn't exist in your vocabulary. It's no excuse to blow half your bankroll because "you were on Tilt." Each hand is a new one, each game is a new one, and all you have to do is play every hand with exactly the same calm emotion as the one before it. There's a great lesson there. I hope I can follow it in the future.
• Phil Helmuth is a better player than I thought. I know the guy has won nine world championships, but his game seemed a little too predictable for me, especially in this age of poker, when he just bitched about guys playing K,J instead of adjusting his play to fit the new, wilder style.
Helmuth mixes it up as well as anyone and bluffs well. He got Jennifer Harman to call a big bet on the river with a pair of 9s. I know it was difficult for her to put him on small cards given his reputation, but he got the pot because he mixed it up. Lesson learned: Going against your reputation or table image is how you'll make the most money, as long as you do it well.
• I wonder how much these guys really make every year. $25,000 seems like nothing to them.
• I felt better about my own play after watching them. They make mistakes, too, and play hands like K,10 "just to see the flop." They get outkicked, flushed out and straighted just like the best of us. I beat myself up too much for making one bad call, and I shouldn't. Poker is not a perfect game.
The key is they don't do it very often. For every bad decision they make they probably make 10 good ones (even if it doesn't always work out for them). My ratio isn't that high, but it's probably higher than many Internet players (I'm a winning player, so I think this is true). Even so, try to work on upping that ratio but not destroying yourself when you do play a hand badly.
•  I do need to loosen up more at the tables, just a little more. Yes, chances are at a large table that someone has a good starting hand, but that doesn't mean they've got the nuts once the flop hits. Monsters were rare in that game.
Bring the show back for a new season, GSN. It's one of the best things on TV right now. Besides, I need something to watch late at night if Jayden decides to punch in another late-night session.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Playing with new players is confusing, frustrating but ultimately rewarding

So I played a private, home tournament Saturday night.
I didn't really know what to expect. The guy hosts card games every once in a while and wanted to host a hold 'em tournament.
The buy-in was $20, which was a teensy bit stiff for a guy with a baby and a reporter's and teacher's household income, but I thought I might be able to win it back, and I always enjoy playing with new people. Plus I can't resist live poker,and I haven't gotten to play it as much as I would like.
The first hand, I look at A,10. Eight of the nine players call, so I nervously call, too.
The flop comes A,10,3 rainbow.
I bet $300 into a $300 pot. Everyone looks at me and complains about the size of the bet, letting me know that the players may not be as good as I feared.
It's a stiff bet, but I want to pick up the pot and drive players out. And we only start with $200, with an aggressive, Internet-like blind structure (every orbit they double, I guess they don't want to be there all night), so I need to take advantage of the hands I have.
Five callers.
Uh oh.
A 5 comes on the turn, and two people call my $500 bet. It's another stiff bet, in the hopes of picking up the pot right there.
On the river comes a 2, and I wonder if they were chasing. I check, not ready to put all my money, and $20, into the pot just yet.
One flips over 5,5, and the other flips over the 4,6 for an impressive straight.
Wow. Ouch.
One called my huge bets with nothing, and the other had only a pair of 5s.
I'm here to have fun, so I don't bitch. Nice draw, I say (remember my new edict?).
What's a draw, they ask.
This is what it's like to play with new, beginning players. Donkeys, they were, but I don't want to be mean. Half of the table barely even knew how to play.
That, as I've shown up above, can be a great thing, but it can also be the most frustrating draw in poker, as you all know by playing with so many donkeys online.
You can't bet them off a hand. They won't raise themselves but they call all your raises, preflop, postflop and pre-post flop.
If they have a draw, they're chasing it, even if they have less than a 5 percent chance of making it. Then they say things like, "I knew that was coming." And so you never know where you are in a hand.
Of course, they will also call your A-high flushes with, well, nothing, just pretty face cards.
It works both ways.
Twice I had A-high, top two pair and lost both times to sets and flushes that shouldn't have been called. And twice I got lucky, once when my pair of 5s held up (my BB put me all in) and another time when a J appeared on the turn to help me through another all-in with the other guy holding A,Q.
I took second, gathered up my $60 and went home.
I promptly put it on a poker Web site.
After all, playing with bad players is frustrating, but, ultimately, it's rewarding as well.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


I've got it!
I've got a way to insult all those donkeys calling you with crap and getting rewarded for it.
I can't bring myself to say np or nh. I just can't do it. It was not a nh or a np. It was a bs play and you got lucky. Congratulations.
But I don't want to berate people either. I don't want to educate them. And I don't want to continue to hate poker at times, as I do now.
So here it is.
Instead of np or nh, say nice draw.
Nice Draw, sir.
I love it.
1) You've insulted them a little, essentially saying "Boy, that was a fucking stupid play, asshole, but, hey, you were able to draw out on me, and that's poker." Most donkeys, however, won't see the hidden meaning behind that statement, and they'll happily say to you, "ty." Or they'll tell you, yeah, sorry, AA versus KK is a coin flip anyway.
Um, actually, no, it's not, but keep thinking that, sir!
Nice Draw.
2) You've complemented them on their play, encouraging them to call you with shit again.
3) It prevents you from making a fool of yourself by whining about the suckout.
See, my SnGs are still riddled with suckouts lately. In fact, suckouts are the only way I've been getting knocked out lately. It's certainly not from my good opponents' good play. I looked over my notes last week during my disasterous run in SnGs, and all six knowckouts were from horrible suckouts.
Yeah, yeah, that's poker. I'm not complaing anymore. I've bought my brand new computer, mostly with online poker money, so now I can have fun again and not worry so much about trying to make a ton of money. And after Saturday night's successful run at the live casino, I don't think anyone wants to hear any whining. After my SnG last night, when I had A,10 shorthanded and the guy had Q,10 and flopped two Qs, I went to a ring game and quickly made $30.
So the losing streak appears to be over.
So instead of cursing, closing my eyes and hammering at my legs with my fist, I just grit my teeth and type it in the box.
Nice Draw, sir.
Nice Draw.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

My Casino cherry gets popped

My heart started thumping as I rode the elevator up to the poker room at the Lodge Casino in Black Hawk, Colorado.
I admit it. I was scared.
Life rarely scares me. If you can:
1) Walk along a ridge no wider than a staircase and stare at a 2,000 foot drop on either side and continue on, as I have many times in my mountain climbing adventures
2) Raise a 9-month old who loves to endanger his life about 20 times a day
3) Drive down Interstate 25 in Colorado,
well, then, you can do anything.
But walking into the pokerroom at the Lodge, with 15 tables, terrified me. The place was mouse-quiet, with the clinking of chips and an occasional groan the only sounds bouncing around. Cigarette smoke drifted to the ceiling.
I immeaditely assume most people are better than me at poker, even though, most of the time, I'm actually one of the better players. It's sort of a habit, actually, of mine to assume that most players are better than me at anything, softball, running, mountain climbing, when, again, usually, I'm one of the better ones.
I never have to prove that to others. I just need to prove it, over and over, to myself.
My $200 in my pocket already seemed gone. My worst month since I started playing for real money, in October, sure as hell didn't help boost my confidence.
A guy who looked 20 and had 80s, Anthony Michael Hall hair, sneered at my question, "So, um, what are the betting structures?" Normally, I could slip into Reporter Mode and tell Mr. Feathered to go F himself, but I meekly slinked away and stared at the 10-person tables.
My wife saw this, raised her eyebrow at my meek reaction to the jackass and came up to me.
"What the hell? You've been looking forward to this for weeks."
"Yeah, but..."
"And you do well at online play all the time."
"Yeah, but..."
"And you've read about 15 books and studied and you watch that damn poker all the time on TV."
"So get up there and sign up."
The poker manager, another guy with glasses, thin, wiry hair, and a Don Johnson beard, was much nicer and explained $2/5. There's only one blind, it's $2 to call, and you can bet $5 per round. Yes, you can raise, and the betting is capped at $30.
Or you can play 5/5, when it's $5 to call, you bet $5 every time, and if you're heads up against someone, the betting is unlimited.
"Well, I've never done this before," I said, gaining confidence, even though I have rarely played limit.
"OK, start with $2/5."
"Should I get my chips now?" I asked.
"Nah, have a seat. A table will open shortly."
Two minutes later, they put together a new table, and I was off.
I brought out my notepad to take a few hands down, but I was amazed at how fast everything seemed to be, as fast as online play. I made up some rules right then:
• Don't worry so much about pot odds. It's limit, so you'll have the odds to call if you want to.
• Play solid, not fancy, poker.
• Fold to most raises.
• Watch, watch and watch everyone there.
The last, of course is easier said than done, but as my wife said, "once you sit down, you'll realize it's just poker."
I watched how others bet by grabbing their chips and flipping them across the felt and tried to imitate them, with mixed results. My face probably went a little white when I realized that three at the table knew all the dealers and also knew each other. Shit.
But I soon realized how lucky I was. The table was chatty, not serious, and the guy on my right, a good, solid player, talked to me right away. OK, he was cool. And the guy to my left was from Weld County, my county, and he read my articles all the time and was very nice. A classy-looking woman, with a hairsprayed do and four buttons off her white shirt, smiled at me and said she was waiting for her boyfriend. An old guy with a Broncos hat, a mousey, stone-quiet woman with, I would later learn, an accent, puffed on her cigarettes called everything and Played. Very. Slowly. Even. When. It. Was. Time. To. Turn. The. Cards. Over.
• Then I'm dealt JJ in EP on my fourth hand, and I reach for my chips for the first time. My hands, strangely enough, were not shaking. The conversation calmed me.
"Raise," I say, throwing out another $5 in chips. It's $7 to call.
Six callers.
Of course, I had no idea that calls would mean nothing tonight. People were there to play, and play they did, even if that meant calling a raise with nothing. There were, on average, six or seven players in every hand. It was Saturday night, the feeling was right, and they were there to gamble, not play poker.
The cool guy to my right calls, too, and the flop comes trash, trash, trash, with no chances for a straight or a flush. I bet $5, everyone folds, which was a common theme: People wanted to see the flops, but they would fold to the first bet if they had nothing, unless they had draws (which we'll talk about later). Everyone except cool guy to the right, who I knew was good after scooping a $175 pot on the second hand of the night. The way he played his cards told me he knew what he was doing.
But then he opened his mouth.
"I think you've got pockets, and I think your pockets are higher than mine, but I"ll call you," he said.
Why would he say that? Is he fucking with me? I don't think he's fucking with me. He's a nice guy and doesn't believe, so far, anyway, that he needs to lie to me to win.
So he has either QQ or 10,10 or maybe 9,9. He doesn't have a set because he would have re-raised me. So I think I've got him beat.
My question is, in another theme for the night, why would he tell me what he had? Players, all night long, talked far too much. If a third card came down, they would say, "dammit, there's the straight." And if I had the straight, I knew I was good, and yet, they would continue to call my raises.
It blew me away. The play was worse than my home game Friday night. It was worse than online play, much worse, actually.
I was sitting on a gold mine.
Trash card, trash card, and I flip over my JJ and take my first pot of the night.
Now, suddenly, I have a lot of confidence.
I made beginners mistakes too. I tried to take that first pot myself, until the dealer, a cool one, said, "I know you do that at your home game, but let me push it over to you here."
I fiddled with the button until he told me that it could ruin the hand. I needed to be reminded to post my blind a couple times.
But I said, at the table, "This is my first time," and everyone was cool. If they thought I was dumb, all the better. When the hairspray woman said my nose twitched when I had a hand, I twitched it every time I had a hand extra hard, so she thought I was exaggerating. I had fun and started talking to any player, not just my two "friends" on my right and my left. I made jokes and people laughed.
• I'm dealt K,A sooted, and I raise to $7. A few callers, but they all fold to my $5 bet when an A flops. (By the way, I"m sorry I don't have more details on the hands. I tried to take notes but had trouble keeping up with them and observing the table as well).
Mousy woman with accent calls.
Nothing too worrisome on the turn or the flop, and I bet every time, the max.
I win another nice pot.
• I am dealt J,Q, I throw my $2 out there, and I see J,3,7, rainbow. I bet $5, MWWA calls again.
Same deal. Bet, bet, bet, call, sweet.
It was almost irritating, actually. I saw many suckouts that night - thankfully, I never had one against me - because most hang in there, hoping to catch their card. Fold, people.
I saw pocket AA six times and it didn't win the whole night. Too many callers. Guy on my left lost it two times in a row.
• I pitch 7,2 and two other 7s come down, with a fourth on the turn. I obviously don't berate myself for folding 7,2.
• My favorite hand of the night. I have K,K, I raise, hairspray calls. J,10,3 comes down. She bets, I raise, she calls. K on the turn. Sweet. No flush draw, and she bet on the flop, so I'm not that worried about the straight. She bets, I raise again, and she stares me down before calling.
K falls on the river.
I bet, hoping and praying she will raise me, but she just calls, and I flip over the cards to the oohs and aahs of the table.
Now I"m a badass.
• And then my only suckout of the night comes on the next hand. I have A,10 sooted and I raise. Hairspray lady, who lost her two pair to my quads, is wary but calls it. She would later get drunker and worse as the night went on.
The flop comes A,8,K, rainbow, so I bet $5 and she calls. I put her on a weak A.
3 falls, and she raises my bet. Did that two pair her? It may have, but there's enough money in the pot to call, and I'm on a roll.
The K falls on the turn, I bet, she just calls, and her two pair, A,3, is counterfeited.
I apologize. She accepts.
Then she says, "I'm coming after you now."
I smile.
"I thought you said this was your first time," she said.
"I said it was my first time playing in a casino. It wasn't my first time playing," I say.
"You're cute," she says.
I'm also doing much better than I ever thought I would.
• And just to prove it was my night, I play Q,5 sooted for the hell of it, just for fun, and I get a flush on the turn, and I take another guy who had a lower flush under me to the cleaners.
• I get QQ in the second hour and raise to $7. Everyone except one person folds.
"Well, at least you're paying attention," I say, making fun of my rock image.
I bet the hand when nothing threatening comes down, and the caller, another good player, folds.
My rock image, however, has me up by quite a bit. I don't realize by how much until I ask for the dealer to color me up, trade some chips in, and the floor manager racks up some chips and brings me back my $100 buy in.
I misplay two hands, but even then, I believe, the plays were justifiable.
• I have A,Q, and the guy to my right raises $5. I throw out my chips and notice that a red one is one top. The reds are $5. The whites are $1.
"Re-raise," the dealer says.
I pause and don't worry about protesting. I also curse myself and start digging out my red chips out of my white stack. Idiot.
The guy re-raises my raise.
Uh oh.
A,Q, at this point, looks weak. I fold. Everyone at the table seems stunned. The dealer says, "Wow." Yeah. Wow. I folded a good hand. Funny how that works, isn't it?
Guy shows me Q,Q.
Pretty good fold, I think, and maybe, down the line, that mistake re-raise saves me a lot of money.
• I have J,9 on my blind, and it's checked around to me (for some reason, the table stopped raising after the first hour, allowing me limp in with some marginal hands, which we'll see helped me later. I was card-dead for the second hour, mostly, so I didn't care about the lack of action).
J high again, so I bet, and the right to my right raises.
Hmmm. A good player. The flop doesn't look too bad but not too good either.
I fold. Two others call.
He eventually wins with J,3.
Now I did have top pair, and top pair was golden that night (I would win a big pot with K,9, of all things), but I also had a weak kicker. I make that fold again, no problem.
Things settle down a bit. I fold a lot. I have A,9 but fold it to a raise. I get lots of small pocket pairs but none of them flop a set and I pitch them when overcards appear, as they are sure to do.
• Near the end of the third hour, I get 8,9 diamonds, a perfect hand to limp on, and I do, even when I'm in EP, because I know no one will raise me out of it.
The flop? 10,J,7. Yeah, baby.
Two spades, so I bet the max, and a frequent caller to my right raises me.
My wife slinks up behind me. I don't know she is there.
I raise him back another max.
He raises again.
I look things over. I have the nuts so far, and the more times he raises, the more I"m not worried about the flush draw. He must have a set or two pair. I reraise. He looks me over and calls.
• An 8 falls on the turn. Well, Q,9 has me beat now, but I'm not worried about that, especially after this comment:
"Shit, there's the straight."
OK, now I KNOW I'm good, and I raise him to death, and he bets or calls regardless.
"Geez, that took guts," my wife says. "It was fun to watch that."
It was fun for me too.
• On the final hand, the dealer asks me, while I'm stacking chips, if I want to see the cards. Sure, why not? It's free.
I get J,10.
Worth a $2 call, I think.
Flop comes J high again, and I bet out and get a call.
We eventually split it, two pair. I shake hands with everyone, tip the dealer and leave $175 up for the night in three hours. I probably tipped the dealers $15 or $20 for the night.
They deserved it after giving me those sweet hands.
I did it. I proved I could play and win. Maybe not at 2 p.m. on a Tuesday, but on a Saturday night, filled with fish, I proved that I could be the shark.

Thanks go to
  • Trip Jax
  • for his continued encouragement on my blog and my play,
  • Poker Princess
  • for answering my questions on live casino play,
  • Will Wonka Poker
  • for just being encouraging as well,
  • Quest of a Closet Poker Player
  • for the encouragement on my blog the day before I left to play and
  • Low Limit Grinder
  • for yahooing me and reassuring me that, yes, I could do this.

    Yes, I got sweet hands throughout the night. But I still, in my mind, did many things right.
    Here they are:
    • I folded most of my hands. I didn't play crappy hands. I was lucky because many times the flop did hit my good hands, making it easier to fold mediocre hands later because I could be patient.
    • I rarely called. Instead, I raised or folded. I raised if I thought I had the best hand instead of calling. I folded if I wasn't sure if I had the best hand and a player bet at me. I did not lose one showdown that night. That's partly because of luck, of course, but it's also because if I took a hand to the river, I thought I had the best hand.
    • If I had a hand, I bet at it, instead of checking. The players checked far too often, letting people hit their draws or not getting value for their hands. People slowplayed AA, which is deadly in limit. No free cards.
    • If someone raised, I usually folded, even at that loose, wild table.
    • I did not chase.
    • I folded if the flop did not hit.
    • I was patient. I was so, so patient.
    • Finally, and this is important, I did not drink. I ran 11 miles earlier that day, farther than I've ever run before, and I knew I would be a little tired. So I did not drink anything except water.
    It helped. A lot.