Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Lyndsey and the Fortune Cookie Slot Machine

I was getting ready to take a boy’s trip with a couple of the tribe members, but before I went I wanted to spend a little extra time with my girls. We were running around and decided to end our day by going out to dinner. It was their day so where we eat was up to them. I asked them where they wanted to eat and, if you have girls, you know what kind of answers I got, “I don’t care”, “Whatever.” You also know if you have girls that this couldn’t be further from the truth. I proceeded with my usual, “Ok, Waffle House it is then!” The immediate chorus of “Yuck, gross, never” rang out and I said, “If you don’t want to eat somewhere gross then speak up.” They decided that P.F. Chang's China Bistro would be good and not “gross”.

We had a very nice meal and, again, if you don’t have girls I will define “meal”: they each ordered an item off the appetizer menu and finished about half of it before they were full. The joke in our house suggests meals of that size are “fun size.” If you try feeding Big Papa something that small and call it a meal, he will be frustrated- just like those stupid “fun size” candy bars. There is nothing fun about a candy bar that is the size of a pencil eraser! The girls, however, like that size. I suspect because they are all fun size also; even my big girls are small except for their attitude and ambition. They were opening their fortune cookies when my oldest Lyndsey says, “Hey, I accidentally got your fortune cookie by mistake,” as she handed me the white slip with red type declaring:

"Soon you will be part of a profitable transaction"

She told me to keep that with me for luck, and I thought it was sweet of her so I slipped into the window slot of my wallet in front of my driver’s license. I am really not too much on the luck thing as far as a trip to Las Vegas goes. It is akin to asking God for something, and I really don’t think God has time to worry about whether or not I hit a number is a casino. I also don’t gamble much. Now, before you laugh, poker is a game of skill that has a luck component which is entirely defeated over time by proper play and reading skills. I always say that I don’t gamble, “Now those people that are playing poker with me, those folks are gambling!” All the luck I ever needed was already given to me in the form of my wonderful girls. Add all the great friends I have that are like real brothers to me, and, of course, my Lucy. Put that together with all of the wonderful things that have happened for me so far in life. Well, luck and I are more than even, but it was neat that Sissy was ready to give her lucky ticket to me. See what I mean about the luck thing?

We finished up our meal and headed home; I needed to pack. Honestly, this was a little more than just a boy’s weekend to me, and I wasn’t really letting anyone know but I was scared. I have a lot of history of heart disease in my family and my dad died from a bypass procedure. I take medication for high blood pressure and try to work out and stay healthy, but when I hit 45 I decided that I would go and get a heart image scan, just to make sure.

I went to the Colorado Heart Center because of my risk factors a couple of months ago, and paid them out of my own pocket to have a calcium heart scan done. This is an MRI type of deal that does an x-ray like scan of your heart and arteries to show the plaque that has built up in your arteries. This is where the road got rough. They showed me the scan of my heart and one of my arteries showed a 90% build up for my age. The paper said risk for massive coronary episode was high (the highest number they had), and told me to go see my doctor today. I asked the tech, “You are talking like I might do down in the parking lot,” and laughed. She didn’t laugh, “Go see your doctor.”

I went to see my doctor. She immediately set me up with a heart specialist and he said that I need to have a nuclear stress test. The scan showed the whole descending aorta covered in plaque. How thick it was, we couldn’t know without a test. The next option was angioplasty, and then heart bypass, depending on the blockage. I told myself I would just soldier through all this crap and I was sure I would be fine, but if God wanted me he would take me and there was nothing I could do about. There was a risk that I was going to get my ticket punched if this kept going the wrong way.

I know this sounds a little morbid but I really wanted to roll in Vegas just one more time “Just in Case.” Now, I really did know that things were probably going to be fine, no matter what I needed to do, but, being honest, I have to tell you that is where some of my thinking was. I was happy to just go and have fun and then deal with it when I got back. I was pretty successful in putting all that on the back burner, too. I mean, it was going to be whatever it was, so, “Let’s go play some cards!”

I met John Galt at the airport. I offered to pick him up but he is more stubborn than a mule at the edge of the canyon, so I gave up on the car pool idea. We met Coldiron there and raged war in the poker room. We played in the big 10/20 game at the Bellagio and I have several great stories posted about those games, with more to come, but this isn’t really a story about poker. What I will say is that after two nights, I was up large.

As I said before, I don’t make it a practice to gamble much in the casino, but hey, when you are in Vegas, you ride some of the rides. I am really a hit and go type guy. I will put some money in a machine while we are waiting for dinner or play a little roulette just for fun. I just don’t like to spend hours grinding away at things when I know I don’t have the best of it. I know that it’s a gamble and I am not expecting to make any money; I just want to have fun.

Jason and I are coming down from our rooms around 4:00 in the afternoon on our third day there. We were heading for the poker room to say hi to our friend Poker Pete and then grab some food. On our way to the poker room we walked by the high limit slot salon and I said, “Hey, let’s go in here!” Jason said, “No Way!” and kept walking. Jason and I have a history in the high limit room. To hear him tell it, he ALWAYS loses and I ALWAYS win. He is not a fan of the high limit slot area. There was a chubby hostess beckoning for us to come in and play and I said what the heck. I’m up, why not?

I was wondering around inside when Jason walked in and was tapping his foot as if to say, “I’m not doing this. If you are, hurry up!” I was looking for a $5.00 triple play video poker machine; playing max credits on three lines was $75.00 a spin. I would play it once and see what happens. You can see what kind of a high roller slot player I am. I found the $5.00 poker machine but it was an odd mix of video poker and a slot spin combination. I didn’t understand it and I was not ready to blow $75.00 on something I didn’t understand, so I turned around and said, “I don’t feel it, let’s get out of here.”

Jason and I were walking out when I turned and pointed to a $25.00 Top Dollar slot machine and said, “That is the one, that machine is ready to pay off!” Jason responded with the usual retort, “Come on, let’s go, you are just retarded!” Ok, now my mental acuity was in question, so there was only one thing to do, something really stupid. I pulled out my roll and peeled off a $100.00 and slipped it in the slot. Ding 4 credits. I looked at the button and it said “Play 2 Credits,” perfect. I have never played a slot machine for $50.00 a pull. I hit the button and it came: cherry, blank, bar. I hit the button a second time and it came: Blank, Bar. I was walking away thinking, what a dumb ass I just wasted a $100 bucks, when the thing when “BONG!” I was ten feet away and turned around to see, I hit the top dollar symbol!

I turned to Jason and said, “This is going to be sweet!” For those of you who are not familiar with this machine, when you hit that symbol you get to play a “let’s make a deal” type game with the machine. There are several stacks of money painted on the front and it goes into this “FIRST OFFER” thing and it lit up two of the $125 stacks of money and one of the $250.00 stacks of money and said, “You have won $500.00!” There are two buttons on the front, one says “Take Offer” and the other one says “Try Again.” I looked at Jason and said “what do you think?” He shot back one of those, I can’t friggin believe we are doing this looks, and said, “Man, there are a lot bigger stacks of money up there, how many tries do we get?” I told him I wasn’t sure but I thought we got four. I decided that I would hit “Try Again” and, depending on the offer, we could call Alain, he would know what to do. I hit “Try Again” and it started in with “SECOND OFFER” Bleep Bloop Bleep. Then, all of the sudden, the thing went CRACK and started playing this really loud music and the light on top was flashing, and that wasn’t the only thing that was flashing! The top amount on the machine was blinking $25,000. There would be no more offers, Jackpot!

Jason and I looked at each other and we were trying to figure out if this whole thing was for real or not, and we were laughing our butts off! I looked over to the chubby slot concierge and said, “Excuse me, Miss?” She shot back immediately, “Just a second Hon.” I was thinking to myself, Hey this is like, kind of important here! Jason and I were doing the little five year old that has to pee dance. Holy crap, this is AWESOME! She finally came over two minutes later, which seemed like hours, and looked at me, then the machine, and said in a pretty matter a fact tone, “Hey, you won 25,000 bucks.” I said, “Really?” and she laughed and said, “Yea, how do you want it?” I said that I wanted $100s and she perked up a little and said, “you want cash?” To which I responded, “Does rose Kennedy have a black dress?”

She ushered me over to the counter and loaded about four inches of bills into the cash counter and started banding them together in $10,000 packages. “May I see your driver’s license?” she asked. I opened my wallet and there it was, my little slip of paper from Sissy:

"Soon you will be part of a profitable transaction"

Boy, that Lyndsey was something else; it was like she knew it all along.

Having her for a daughter was way more important than all this, but man this was pretty fun! I started making phone calls; Lucy thought I was teasing her.

No more than five minutes later we were walking through the Bellagio holding the 25 grand in cash because it wouldn’t fit in my pocket. We walked up to the poker room and Jason said, “Hey bro, let’s go put that in the safe before we do something REALLY stupid!” Later at lunch, I waited for my food as we sat there in shocked silence and I quietly asked God, “Are you giving me the run of my life right before you bring me back home?” He didn’t answer. I only hoped he didn’t need me yet because I really was the luckiest guy in the world, and $25,000 didn’t have anything to do with it. Just then, Jason came out with, “Oh yea, your buying lunch!” We both laughed, we always did.

Long story short regarding my heart was this: I did the nuclear stress test and the MRI Scan when I got home and the aorta was not blocked at all. He said, “Your heart is healthy and strong.” Lucy was by my side when I hit the real jackpot. When I got home from the doctor’s office, I was well and I would get more time with my girls. A very profitable transaction indeed!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

2007 WSOP - Bingo!

I just had to write this one next because it was so much fun! My constant readers know that the love of my life Lucy doesn’t gamble except for hooking up with me I guess; I try to make that a good overlay for her. She goes to the WSOP every year and she loves it. Sometimes the girls come too, but even if they don’t she wouldn’t miss it. I am pretty busy playing during tournament time, so she makes her own fun shopping and hanging out by the pool. I really try and go to dinner with her on nights that I have busted out early and we make time every year to play bingo at least once.

She doesn’t gamble but for some reason she loves playing bingo, she doesn’t care about the money either she just likes to play and she likes me to be there with her when she does. I will say again she doesn’t ask me for much so when she does ask me for something, I do it.

We play bingo at the Gold Coast casino, I wrote a story about our last outing and if you remember we invited Jason at the last minute and he had a blast. This year he made sure that he was part of the “Bingo Tribe”, demanding an invite to our little date night. Lucy loves Jason like a little brother and she was fine with him going as long as he didn’t embarrass her at the bingo parlor. I would have like to take action on the over on that one, but he said he would try and behave and that he would for sure turn off his cell phone, he really was trying to be good.

We arrived early so we could get a good seat, Lucy is always early and it was her night so we were on her schedule. We go to the bingo hall upstairs and it was crazy! There were already 50 or 60 people in line, there are several windows like at the bank. I looked for the lady that normally helps us; she is a really nice gal from New Jersey named Diane.

We found her window and got in line, we like her waiting on us because in addition to being nice she knows what we want. When we play bingo we play as high as they will let us, most of the people in there are playing paper cards and dobbing. You can buy different packets of cards that are different colors, the more expensive the pack you buy; the more it pays when you hit a bingo. We don’t use the paper cards, we rent the little laptop called a TED and they load your bingo cards in that thing and it marks them all for you. We like to load the machine with the most cards it will hold and our girl Diane knows just how to get that done.

I noticed this lady who had to be at least 106 years old sitting in a chair while she was in line and the line was advancing beyond her creating a large gap. I being the chivalrous gentleman that I am, grabbed another chair and sat it 10 feet further in line so she could still sit and not lose her place in line. I offered “Would you like to sit in this chair?” as I motioned to the new spot that I had created for her. She looked up at me with kind eyes and said “Why don’t you mind your own god damn business?” as she waved her hands she continued with “get the hell behind me and stay there!” I did as instructed and Jason and Lucy were church laughing so hard that I thought they were going to pee their pants.

I few moments later the old woman looked back at me and I said “Hey, I am being good!” and with that she laughed and said “Your alright, most people don’t get my sense of humor.” I said “I am just scared that’s all.” We all laughed and as it turns out that old lady was none other than Diane’s mom! Small world, we reached the window and Diane was beaming, she remembered us; I don’t think she gets many high stakes bingo players through there. Most of the people in there are buying in for between $8.00 and $24.00, when she sets up our machines it is around $200.00 a piece. I think it’s as fun for her as it is for us, “let’s have your player’s cards!”

We don’t have player’s cards! She let us know that we had to go downstairs and get them; we would save $20.00 each! Jason and I had around 20 grand on us and we had been playing high as a kite all week, I paid $700.00 for dinner the night before. It wasn’t a suggestion, so off we went. Hey we were laughing and having fun what the heck, plus it is the way of the karma, we will be getting a different machine now, who knows we may need to do this to get the right machines tonight. We got our cards and since we were new members we got a whole bunch of Mardi gras beads, Silver and red to match Lucy’s Bling, Bling WSOP shirt, sliver for Galt and Gold Chains for Big Papa! Hey it was Bingo night and we were cutting loose.

We were back up stairs waiting in line again when Jason and I firmed up the side action bets for the night. We would be playing $25.00 for who ever was closest to bingo when someone called it and something new for tonight “Magic Ball” we each got to chose a ball, 25 for me and 13 for John Galt. I don’t know why he chose 13 but 25 is my number, my birthday, Lucy’s birthday, our youngest daughter Kaity, I even moneyed in Event #25 - WSOP No Limit Hold'em this year. Yea, it would have to be 25 for me. Here is how the magic ball bet goes when ever the bingo caller brings out the 25 ball Jason gives me $50.00 and if the 13 ball came he would get it back and vice versa. I wanted to play that game for $100.00, but it was negotiated down to $50.00 by Jason, he fears my Bingo skills.

We were in high form and having a ball, someone called bingo and Jason showed me his machine and I pay him $25.00, as the bingo caller says “pay that one lucky blue card winner $40.00.” A few minutes later she is going “pay that one lucky tan card winner $110.00” Jason is paying me $25.00 this time, plus my $50.00 magic ball bet! We are playing for more than these people that hit the bingos are winning, good times.
What happens next is out of this world, we are ordering coffee from the waiter and my machine dings! I tell Lucy and Jason that I am one away I need 38, and the next ball out is “38”! She calls it and my machine starts dancing and I hold it up and yell “BINGO!” The odd thing is everyone is clapping, no one ever claps.

The waiter asks me if we want anything else to drink, Champaign perhaps. Yea whatever, coffee is fine. When you hit a bingo they have to send a lady by and verify your card/machine, then after that they bring the cash around to you and you tip the runner and the game rolls on.

This time the lady came by and did the check with the bingo caller thing and when it was verified, the lady says “We are going to need your driver’s license and social security card.” This never happens, I asked the lady why she needed that and she said “Honey, you won the jackpot!” Apparently there is a special jackpot for if you hit bingo on the number that they chose before hand, tonight that number was 38.
That sounds awesome, I was thinking to myself “pay that lucky tan card winner $110!” and since I was the jackpot winner I may have won like $300 bucks!

I would have to split half of that with Jason because we buy half of each others action when we play bingo, that way if your buddy wins, you win. Bingo is just for fun anyway and so now Jason is getting interested in the proceedings since he owns half of the “Jackpot”.

Finally LuAnn spoke up and said what we couldn’t, “Ok, suppose we are dense and we don’t know about the jackpot, how much money did he win?” The lady says “Sweetie, He won $7462.00!” Jason went nuts! He was like a little kid, he makes 100K trading stocks in a day and he doesn’t blink, but this made him lose it. He was doing the pound fist, high five thing and then he started to jump up on his chair and one look at Lucy ended that, she gave him the “that is enough, even for 7 grand look” and he sat back down. She warmed back up too him and he continued on with “Oh man, this is sweet!” I love bingo!

It really was sweet, I had to go up and get the money from the bank teller windows, but I still tipped the gal that did the verification thing for us a hundred bucks and I folded over two hundred dollar bills and walked over to Diane and as she walked off in a different direction to go do something I say “Hey I need to take care of you.” And she said “You guys already did?” Jason had given her $20.00 when we bought in.

I said “come on you saw what I hit, you are our personal bingo concierge, let me do this.” I handed her the two bills and I swear she started to well up, “you guys are the nicest people that ever came in here and so much fun too with all your side betting and laughing” I told her that we feel the same way about her and that we wouldn’t play bingo anywhere else in Vegas because of her. She said “You better not!” and gave me a big hug.

Luann made me promise to mention that she won that night too, $24.00. I tried to tip Diane four of it and she just laughed at me, you can take the girl out of Jersey, but you can’t take the Jersey out of the girl. She is just our kind of people, fun.
There was one more moment of excitement in the second session we played that night, Jason was one away and he needed a 74. You guessed it, 74 was the Jackpot ball for that game, $2800.00 and then someone called bingo, wait they made a mistake the game continued.

Then someone else called it and it was paper and again not good, keep going. I thought Jason was going to have a heart attack. Eventually someone called it and really did have bingo, which I think was probably a good thing because if our tribe had won two jackpots that night those people would have killed us for sure.
I do have to say it was thrilling to get that bingo, but those people treated me like a rock star for doing it. When we were on brake between sessions we went and got a bite to eat and everywhere we went there were bingo players pointing at me and saying “that is him!”

There were two older ladies that came up to me after we were done that night while I waited for Jason and Luann to get out of the restroom and wanted to chat about the jackpot. One of the ladies said “I have been playing for seventeen years and I have never hit one of those!”

Then she reached over and rubbed my arm, for luck. At first I thought how funny she is kidding and I laughed a little, she was dead serious and then her friend came over for a rub of luck! Luann walked over just then and not a moment too soon, bye ladies and we bolted. It’s not easy being a bingo rock star.

The little gambling that Lucy will do is done at the Gold Coast because the limits are low, even though I give her the money to do it she still isn’t about throwing around $300.00 on nonsense. It was late and I asked her if she still wanted to play a little roulette and she declined, it was 10:30 at night after all. Then she stopped and said “what the heck, lets play, just not too long.”

We sat down at a roulette table and I bought $100.00 worth of one dollar checks for each of us, Lucy was playing pink of course and brown for me. Jason had gone to the gage to cash in what $25.00 chips I hadn’t taken from him in side action, which truth be told almost always ends up dead even.

When I play roulette I only play one number, 25 for twenty five dollars. It doesn’t hit very much normally (except this week) but when it does it is sweet, 35 to 1 for $875.00! Tonight just for fun I played 25 for 25 but I also played 13 for 13 because that was Jason’s magic ball number. I put out my bets and Luann spread like 8 chips out there on various numbers and put two on 25 that is her number too.
To continue the amazing run I have been on the dealer rolls out a 25 on the first spin! She pushes me $875 and $70.00 for Luann. I leave my bet out there and Lucy tosses out a couple of more chips when Jason walks up and says “What the hell happened? Where did all the black come from?” In the casino $100.00 chips are black and I had a bunch of them.

I just turned around and said “Twenty Five Ball!” He laughed and the ball was spinning. The dealer said “Black 13” and Jason saw the stack of my brown chips on the table and said “thirteen Ball? Lui screeched a little as the dealer pushed me $455.00, I had thirteen black birds and around one hundred roulette chips and I was done.

I pushed the five stacks on to the red square and pocketed the hundreds. Lucy freaked a little and scrolled me for betting so much, I told her it wasn’t that much and it was my last be anyway, she still didn’t like it even though I won.

She is funny about that every time she comes into the Bellagio poker room and walks over to where I am playing, I push in a big bet and she does a fast u turn and waits for me to come after her in the sports book.

She just wants Big Papa to bring home the bacon, she doesn’t want to see it being made and I’m ok with that. We have a great deal with each other and I wouldn’t want to change a thing.

I cashed out and as we were leaving I had a problem, if you didn’t count the cash games (I have two great stories coming about my live play) I had made more money playing bingo at the WSOP this year than I have playing tournament poker! I needed to win and I did as you read in the Caesars 540 story, but for a time there I was thinking of switching games.

I apologize for the long windedness of this one, but if you read me regularly you know that it is just as much about friends and family as it is about poker for me and keeping my promise to spend time with Lucy really paid off. You may want to know what a high rolling bingo pro spends his dough on; Lucy and I bought ourselves a brand new bed when we got home. I know the excitement never ends at our house.


Friday, July 06, 2007

Caesars Palace Saturday Night 7:00 $540

The title of this story is deceiving because this is really a tale about the ending of my 2007 WSOP. I have gotten in the habit of starting from the end of the trip and working to the beginning in the last couple of years, this year will be no exception.


It has become very difficult for me to decide which I like better: playing poker or writing about what happened. I do know for sure that building the memories with my friends is the largest diamond in the mine. We call our group that goes to the series every year "The Tribe." We fight and die together on the felt and poker can be a cruel mistress. When you are not winning it is nice to have the support of your friends. I would like to say THANK YOU to Jason, Brad, Randy, Brandon, Gavin and the list of the many others who, although are not tribal, gave their support to me. I need to give a special thank you to Brad and Jason, you are my wingmen and you are always there for me. I wanted to win that night for me; I NEEDED to win that night because I was representing US.

Like so many other times before, the day begins in the afternoon.

It was the end of a very long week and I will no doubt write some stories about the bad beats the tribe took, there were many and we were tired. I was done with tournament poker for the trip. When you are playing that many big buy-in tournaments for that many hours, really getting deep only to have victory snatched away from you by some donkey catching his 4 outter, it can really take the wind out of your sails. We train ourselves to take the swings and we know that if you are getting your money in good most of the time, they are going to sneak some beats in on you every once in a while. We had taken more than our fair share and we were beat up and battle scarred.

The whole tribe had been playing really well, especially the "Most Improved" tribe member award winner: Brad. Brad really had become a dedicated student of the game this last year joining's program. He diligently put the time in and it showed. Every time I saw him in a tournament that week, if he wasn't leading in chips at his table, he had a top 2 stack. His table image was awesome; more than once I watched him announce "Gentlemen I am tighter than the skin on a hot dog." as he turned over the nuts for them. I also personally witnessed some of the gut wrenching beats he was taking, AA vs you name it and they get there. I once saw him flop a set of kings and get it all in with a turned set of queens and the river brought the omega black widow to iron out his monster hand, just sick.

I was done playing tournaments. I am a good tournament player, but my heart and skills are embedded in the cash games. That is where I feel the most comfortable and I had been swimming in those familiar high limit cash games for the last couple of days. I was leaving blood trails back to my room with Lucy at the Bellagio. It felt good and I have never seen the action running this high- it usually pumps up a little around series time but this was insane. The 10/20 NL game was playing like the 50/100 and so on up the list. They boys were in town and they wanted to clash with each other. I will write a couple of stories about those cash games for you later that will make you hold on to your wallet while you read them, I know I did when I played them. When I play cash, I play all night and sleep all day. The poker room is richer in both money and loose attitudes at night. Over the years I have become a poker vampire I guess.

It was about four in the afternoon and I was just finishing eggs Benedict in my room, when my phone beeped. It was Coldiron with a three word text "Tourney @ 7:00". I know I said I was done with it but I guess that is part of being tribal, it was our last night and if he was going, I was going. I called John Galt and said the same to him "Tourney @ 7:00." He said the only thing I expected him to say, "Ok." I said, “Meet me at Caesars early so we can play some cash before.” I jumped in the shower and called Lucy to let her know where I would be; she wished me luck. Even she knew the way these things had been running. I really did need her to wish me luck this time and I told her the same thing I always tell her, "I am already the luckiest man alive because of you and the girls." I really do feel that way, winning at poker for me is just extra. She asked me when I was leaving and I said that I wanted to go soon. Then she said that if I would wait five minutes, she had something to give me. I said, "Honey, I don't have that kind of time!" She told me that I was a pervert and that wasn't what it was and that she was getting in the elevator.

When she walked in she was holding a teal box with a white ribbon. I knew instantly what it was and I loved her all the more for it. The tribe has a tradition that anytime one of our own gets there in the WSOP we award our own bracelet. It is an ID bracelet from Tiffany's. I earned one earlier in the week but I hadn't said anything and there she was, it was engraved 2007 WSOP event #25. I guess she is just as tribal as the rest of them. Thanks Lucy! She is the real prize.

I was on my way next door when I ran into Jason standing on the carpet highway in front of the Bellagio poker room. I was pretty sure it was the end of days. It was one thing for John Galt to be on time, but for him to be early? I pointed to my watch and tilted my head; he knew what I was asking without a word being said. "I know, I just want to bankrupt some tourist in a cash game before we play the tournament. If I can't find one it's going to need to be you." I put my arm around his shoulder as we walked toward Caesars Palace and said, "Let's go find you a lamb. I'll hold him for you, how is that?" We both smiled. If poker gives you just one good friend, that makes up for all the bad beats. We both knew that poker didn't owe us anything.

Caesars Palace Saturday Night 7:00 $540 Buy - In Part Two - Nine Ball

Galt and I walked into the Caesars Palace poker room and it was hopping, all the tables were full including the upper deck. I walked around the corner of the sign-in desk and handed Lexie a $20.00 bill and said, “Put Nitrox and Galt on all the no limit lists please.” She said "Thanks!" and we went to the tournament area to sign up while we waited. I handed the girl my WSOP players card and $540USD and asked her how many she had so far and she said "You're the first one" I wondered to myself FIFO or FILO?

I went and sat at one of the empty tournament tables in the sea of tables in the huge tournament room at Caesars and waited for Jason to sign in. Poker sure has come into its own the last couple of years. They used to just shove us in a corner somewhere and now look at this beautiful room. As I sat there Galt joined me. As we chatted about the improvements to the room including the new elevated and televised final table, we heard the announcement "Nitrox, 2/5 No Limit, Galt, 2/5 No Limit!".

We were seated in the main poker room at table 00723. As the chip runner went for our ammo, I called Coldiron. I told him where we were and he said that he was showing up at 6:30 to get signed in and that he planned on winning tonight. He sounded serious and I believed him. Poker didn't owe me a thing either as far as he was concerned. We met many years ago as we both started new businesses, I sold him his first computer when he started his firm and my computer shop was one room. Playing poker together for the last 4 or 5 years further forged our friendship, more like brothers than friends, at least for me. I heard once that history will remember you more for your associations than your deeds; I am comfortable that history will remember me well. In addition to being very gracious and a gentleman at all times, Brad is a very fierce competitor and after talking to him I really hoped that I didn't draw his table tonight.

The chips came and Jason and I both were playing a rack of red and five behind, $500.00 in $5.00 chips and $500.00 cash behind. It was a pretty soft spot, the usual suspect's a couple of minor leaguer WSOP guys, a kid from Helsinki, someone's mom, Galt and Boss. If you are a constant reader you know how this is going to go. I never remember anyone's name, even though as a sale's professional it is my business to remember. I don't remember their names on purpose because as you know, I name them when I sit down. Galt is in the five seat and I am in the eight seat, the number 2 seat is a large man with a baseball hat on emblazoned with a big M, for Missouri. He makes a bet at me and I start in "Why so much Mississippi?" He says "It's not that much, only three times the big blind and it's MISSOURI!" I say "oh sorry" and look at Galt who already has the "here we go with this shit" look on his face. I call this guy every geographical M name I can think of except Missouri the rest of the time we were there. He stopped correcting me when I got to the University of Madagascar. The table roared with laughter.

When I am at the table we are going to have fun, but never in a mean spirited sort of way. I will leave with the money more than my fair share of the time but we always have fun! I also create a lot of action in a small game like this because I like to play odd hands like small pairs and suited connectors and 90% of the time I take a flop, I raise with them. I do this for several reasons, but mainly I feel like I will have the advantage playing after the flop. I either make a monster hand and do the whole village or I sense the other players holding and get away cheap after I have 70% of the information. I also have built a nice pot at this point and a lot of times a reasonable continuation bet wins me what is in the middle when they don't hit. I am always talking and having fun and my table mates are having fun also; occasionally there is the one grump. He normally just loses and leaves mumbling something about my poor play, "Seat Open!" and the game rolls on.

We had a great time in that game and Jason and I were just vacuuming chips off that table. I was in full control. Jason said later that he felt like we were the Penn and Teller act, he said, "guess which one I am?" I laughed, good times.

Since almost the first hand I started calling for cards to come on the board. Sometimes I really did call for the card I needed but mostly I was just fooling around, but I said it John Juanda style with "ball" after the card I wanted every time. I was also saying it really loud so the whole card room could hear it. I know, hard to believe.

The next hand comes to me min raised and I am one off the button. I look down and see a double skip connector suited in diamonds. I like ten/seven suited with five other players for $20.00, so I call. The big blind calls so seven of us take a flop and it comes out 68K the two babies are diamonds the king is a club. Now I am open ended with a flush draw. The blind checks and under the gun makes it $50.00 to go. It’s folded to me and I figure him for AK and I call, we lose the rest and take the turn heads up.

The dealer burns and just as he is bringing out the turn card I yell "NINE BALL" and you can probably guess who shows up to the party, the Nine of spades. I had been doing the nine ball, jack ball, two ball thing for over an hour so when the nine comes out the guy just shakes his head and bets out a stack and a half. I say "why so much Toto, why would you bet soooo much?" which is something I have said to everyone the whole time no matter what they bet, "you didn't hear me call for the nine ball?" then the guys says "I think you are a "full of crap BALL" everyone including me laughed and then I did the scariest thing you can do in no limit poker, I flat called his big bet.

The table went silent. It felt to me like the whole room went silent and the dealer burned and turned the river. All I could think about was no diamond and don't pair the board. What came out of my mouth, however, was "NINE BALL!" The dealer brought the Ace of clubs, the nuts for me and what I was sure was the cooler for my friend in the Madagascar University ball cap, if I was right he had top two. I felt sorry for the guy. All the money was going in and the cinderblock was heading for the bottom, the goat was doing a hundred miles an hour headed for the hole and nothing was going to stop it.

(If you read my stuff you know about the goat and the cinder block. To review- sometimes an action happens and the horrible result isn't felt until later even though it was inevitable after the first action. Tie a rope to a cinderblock, tie the other end to a goat, throw the cinderblock down a hole, three minutes later you have a surprised goat with a mouth full of grass racing towards a hole. Poker is like that, A lot!)

I almost felt a little sick when my goat said, "I think you have Ace, King." I said, "I think you have Ace, King." He said, "I can beat Ace King," and I said, "Me too." Then he shoved- it was $250 to go and he was all in. I said I have to call, he showed pocket eights for a set and I turned over my straight. I give him credit- he says "Son of a bitch, you really did need a NINE BALL!" He reached into his pocket and pulled out a wad of $100s and yelled "Re-Buy, Ball." everyone was laughing and I was stacking chips. What a nice guy. You can really tell what a man is made of by the way he loses a pot. The man from Missouri had my respect; little did I know later that night we would be in a larger pot together, $26,000 larger!

I finally ask the kid from Helsinki, who I have named Hansel, if he is mute. He laughs and responds in a thick accent that no he is "just scared." We all laugh with him. Two hands later he gets involved in a big hand with the one seat that I have named Ed Norton. He is a local pro and it goes like this: pre-flop Hansel Raise $50.00, Ed Re-Raise make it $100.00, Hansel Re-Raise $300.00, Ed Re-Raise after a long shocked look at Hansel, all In for $1200.00! The kid thinks for a minute and then mucks his hand face up, 72 off suit! Ed Norton exploded turning over pocket kings, "I had no idea you even had that gear!" I immediately piped in and said, "Nice going guys, you scared the crap out of Chau Chang," as I point to the very quite Asian gentleman sitting next to Galt in seat four. He looked at me for a second and he started laughing and then everyone was laughing as he said "Man, you guys are crazy! This is the most fun I have had in Vegas, ever!" it was the first thing he had said in over an hour.

I felt a hand on my shoulder and a deep voice said "Rack up boys, it's time." It was Coldiron and it was also 6:50pm. I was up $750.00 and Jason was up at least that when we started picking up, the table complained "come on, don't leave, this has been the most fun table yet!" I said, "Don't worry, the way I have been running I will be back sooner than later." Little did I know that the tribe had just thrown a giant cinderblock down a bottomless pit, as the three amigos walk into the tournament room.

Caesars Palace Saturday Night 7:00 $540 Buy - In Part Three - "Wanna Bet?"

The three of us walked into the tournament room together and we were all at different tables, which I prefer. I like playing with my mates in a cash game, but not having to worry about being the one to snuff out a tribal light is just that much less pressure for me. The tournament clock on the wall is counting us down. Just less than five minutes to go, Jason says "How about a ‘last longer’, say $200.00 each?" Brad and I both agree and it looks like one of us is going to be on a free roll.

Gavin and his friend Alan show up. Alan is not a tribe member, but we wish them both well anyway. I give a hug to my wingmen and we all sit. About midway through the second hand I have pocket nines and, you guessed it, before the flop comes out I yell "Nine Ball!" Brad is at the table next to me and turns around and smiles. Jason is all the way across the room and I see his head pop up from a table and we exchange smiles. It feels good to be under fire again. The nine ball didn't come and I had to lay down my pocket nines to a large re-raise of my continuation bet on the flop. Start the grind again.

Gavin's buddy Alan was a nice enough guy, but I think he needs to relax a little. Every time I saw him he had a big backpack and a fanny pack and when I asked him about it, he said that he dressed in layers for all the tournaments. I have trouble remembering to pack enough underwear for the series each year and here this guy is with a camp stove and hiking boots! We’re poker players for God sake, relax! Five minutes into this thing here comes Alan marching down the center isle of tables with his rucksack, saying "pocket aces CRACKED!" It really wasn't funny but I… who am I kidding, it was funny.

It is nearing the first break and I notice a shuffling at Brad’s table. He is involved with someone and it is getting animated. I stand up to notice that it is Gavin and Brad is all in. The pot is HUGE and Gavin is accusing Brad of pushing him around. Brad is assuring him that he is not and he is more than happy to have Gavin call if he needs to. Gavin lays it down and is pissed. I see Brad mouthing to Gavin a couple hands later, "Pocket Aces," but Gavin is not having it; he is sitting there with his hat pulled down steaming. It really isn't funny but.... oh who am I kidding again, I was laughing my ass off.

If you have ever played any tournament poker you know that it is all about the bathroom- every break all the players head for the bathroom and then chat afterwards. The break came and I ran into Coldiron outside the men's room and said, "What were you doing to Gavin?" He told me he raised with American Airlines and Gavin re-popped him so he moved in to let Gavin know where he was. Brad was like, "I was trying to be nice to the guy. Mark, if it was you I would have called and check raised you on the flop!" See why I didn't want to be at his table? I asked him how he was doing and he said he was around six grand. We started with $2500, and I still had around that. I gave him the "what are you doing look" and he said that he had already killed two guys. Note to self: stay away from Coldiron.

Midway through round four Gavin got it all in and took a walk. Later, on a break, Brad told me he put it in with five other guys and showed a 58. QQ took it down. I think he must have been trying to steal. Then there were three. Jason and I were just surviving, and other than yelling "Jack Ball, Nine Ball," I had zero going for myself. Bradley on the other hand was the dominate chip leader when we got it to four tables.

Jason asked me if he could pen the account of his own death and it is as follows:

About half the contestants were out and I was sitting on an average stack, about double what we had started with. I was in the small blind with the blinds at 200-400 with a 25 ante and it was folded around to the cutoff. He made it 1600 and the button folded. I peeked down and saw AQ of hearts and raised it to 4800 hoping to take it down right there.

I only had 4000 left, so I would have to call any re-raise. The BB folded and the cutoff started counting out his chips. He seemed hesitant and confused. I couldn't tell if he had a monster and didn't know what to do or if he had a real decision. He had to know my chips were going in no matter what pre-flop. In fact, I had made up my mind to push them in post-flop too, no matter what. Can you say stop and go?

Anyway, he finally said all in, and was pushing his chips to the center of the table when I quickly said call. His motion stopped and I flipped over my AQ and he slapped the table and said, “Damn it.” Well well, that's a good sign. He then flipped over QJ off, and my hand couldn't be in a better spot. Getting all in as a 3 to 1 favorite in a critical point in the tournament is what you need to do to advance to the final table and collect some real payola. I couldn't have been happier!

Flop 10 9 7. Smile leaves my face. Turn 3, smile reappears. River the King, I spit my Red Bull all over the table a la Men the Master. Just kidding (about the red bull part). I had been rivered by a straight and that was that. No whining or crying, it just wasn't meant to be for myself in this tourney. I accepted the cutoff’s apology and wished the table well, then headed off to see where the rest of the tribe stood. I was in for a pleasant surprise.


RIP Mr. Galt

Jason got his money in good with AQ and got knocked out. He then came over to me and handed me $200.00 and actually said "When you get knocked out give this to Coldiron with your $200.00, I'm going to get something to eat." Thanks for the vote of confidence! Brad did have a lot of chips and he was playing really well, honestly I was really proud of him. He was really playing well and if it couldn't be me, I was glad it was him.

The next break came and after the bathroom run, I went over to visit Brad at his table and he had a scary stack. I asked him what he planned on doing and he said "I can't imagine playing anything but premium cards until I get to the final table, then I will take it from there." I handed him the $400.00 and said "this is obviously yours", he said, “Naw, you hold it Bubba.” Then after the break was over the tournament director said the thing I didn't want to hear, "Players we are going to combine to 2 tables." Wonderful. They put me three to Brad’s left and, just for good measure, they bring over the Brazilian, the only other stack close to Brad's, and put him on my right also. I was pretty sure death was coming.

The next hand made me sick, Brad raised, this old guy from Grand Island re-raised, Brad went in and the old guy called. Grand Island had about half the amount of chips Brad had and turned over AQ Brad showed the only hand I knew he could have, Pocket Aces. Brad was going to add 50% to his already monster stack. He was going to win this thing for sure. Then mothers milk went sour. I watched it and I still don't believe what happened. The flop came out J89 rainbow, the turn was a King, and I almost said what I had screaming inside my head "Deuce!" Then, just like a cancer cell, the ten of diamonds came on river giving the man from Grand Island a straight. Brad never missed a beat, He said "Nice catch Sir," and cut out the rest of the chips from his stack and went about his business.

A few hands later Brad was moved to the other table and I was getting to the point that I needed to pick up a hand. John Galt was behind me and I kept mucking and leaning back talking to him and saying I needed some help. I had not had a hand all day.

Then I looked down and sweet mama, Pocket Aces! I am at just about $13,000 and the blinds are 500/1000 plus a $100 ante so this is my spot. I fire in $5000.00 and get one mid position caller and then the blind declares he is ALL IN. I speed call because he has me covered and then Mr. mid position goes in the tank. I want the chips but I would rather do this heads up. He finally grants my secret wish and gives up on his hand. I turn over my hand and the blind shows me his TT. I stand up and say "One time, let it hold up once." The board is kind and I am now at over 30 grand. I think for the first time in hours I may really still be in this thing.

Caesars Palace Saturday Night 7:00 $540 Buy - In Part Four "The Final Table".

We were down to two tables and fourteen of us. I was chipped up and looking to gain the strength I would need to final table or hit the rail, it was time. I FINALLY had some chips to make a move or two; the blinds were high, twenty more minutes at $600/$1200 with a $200 ante. I was ready to die- if you play you know what I am talking about. The cops call it "suicide calm." I was going to do what needed to be done and if that meant that it was my time, I was ready. I suppose the top pros might feel this way all the time, but before that moment all night I needed to have it locked to move. I was on fire for the next three rounds. If I had position I fired, if they limped, I fired, if they looked weak I hit them with the flame thrower and then, you guessed it, FIRE! I took four pots uncontested out of nine that orbit. $1800 in antes and $1800 in blinds $3600 went in my stack every time they weakly folded desperately hoping to make the final ten, the MONEY.

The floor man yelled out, "Dealers finish the hand you are on, players we are going to $2000/$4000 $400 ante." The four seat was counting down the last round with the two seat, they had to go to the bathroom BAD. They asked the boss "What no break?" He said, "Next round guys. Forty minutes." I was laughing; they weren't. At this level a bathroom run could cost you $9600!

Up $14,000 to $45,000 from the last rampage and my table image was fierce- I continued to push. I was gaining $9600 now every time I took a pot uncontested, which I did on the first two hands, up to 60K. The problem was some of these guys were getting short in both chips and patience, the dying were starting to fight back. They were no longer able to fold to my aggression, they were moving all in. I was ok with the knowledge that they likely didn't have premium cards but I still didn't want to let one of the walking wounded double trough me. It was getting dicey.

Just then I saw something I didn't want to see, Coldiron. We had been walking over to each other’s table all night checking on each other when we weren't involved, but I knew this wasn't a welfare check. He looked like a doctor walking into a hospital lobby with bad news for the family. "I'm out!" I said, "Sorry man," and he said what he always says, "Don't be, it was time to move and I got it in good, it didn't work out." He was smiling, that is just who he is. I know he was disappointed, he really wanted this one and it was his to win, lady luck is a mean bitch sometimes.

Then he said another thing he always says to me "Take your time Mark, you have all the time you need, play your game and win this, you need anything?" He always asks me that, he always has. I do it now too; it's a great way to show your support for the tribe members still in it. It's a great tradition the tribe has adopted, but I know Brad started it. I looked over my shoulder and said "Pocket Rockets would be nice," and he looked at me a little disgusted, “Be careful what you wish for Bubba!" Oh yea, that really sucked. He smiled and did a little "what are you going to do?" thing with his hands.

I was the last man from our family left, it was a little lonely but I knew I wasn't alone; the boys would never leave a tribe member behind. We never arrived together, but we ALWAYS walked out together. When I played rugby in college I never really remembered much about the second half, this was a lot like that. I remember pounding the table but the details elude me. We kept losing players and the floor kept counting us down.

The whole time I was pounding the small stacks, then the director called out, "Players we are now down to ten players. From here forward it will be hand for hand." Hand for hand makes sure that one table doesn't play slow to sneak into the money, so when you finish your hand you have to stop and wait for the other table to finish their hand. We finished a hand and the fat guy in seat four jumped up and ran past the other table, one of their players was in the tank deciding weather to call all in. He yelled, "Take your time," and the huge 50 plus year old man did something I know he hadn't done in years, he ran! The bathroom couldn't wait any longer; it was worth four or five thousand to him at that point.

As we watched the large man gallop out of sight the player he asked to wait didn't, he called and dealer shouted to the director, "We are all in over here!" Just like it is in nature, it was this one time in poker- the large one consumed the small one and we were down to the final nine. The director passed out our cards and said "get seated at the final table and place your drivers licenses and players cards in front of your chips, after that you are on break." The fat man came rounding the corner and we all laughed. I shouted, "Take your time, you have all the time you need."

I stepped down from the elevated final table in to the arms of the tribe, I felt truly honored to have my association with them. It was a neat time that night, but I wanted to win this, oh man wouldn't that be sweet! They said to me, "The shorter this gets the better your chances get. When it gets five handed these guys don't stand a chance," and just then I said, "When it gets heads up, I win!" I really don't think it was conceit, I really just felt that confident. The support of my friends help a lot.

I got back from break and the blinds were $3000/$6000 with a $500 ante and I wasn't as confident as before. There were monsters up here; I was like the fourth smallest stack! Without boring you all with a detail of each hand it was mass action! The first hand a kid that had been drinking and must have been dealing out bad beats all night was short stacked and all in from seat two with pocket fours. A funny side note on him was that he had like $12,000 in chips, less than one orbit and had the nerve to hire a massage girl for the final table! The four seat called him with AK and flopped a king, good night kid.

Then there were eight, the action never let up, The Brazilian who was the major chip leader for hours was now dead, the lady from Argentina got him. I waited and got a feel for things and mucked my horrible cards. I stole a couple, but I was really getting down there. Nice time to go card dead. I waited.

The next hand is something that I am not really proud of but it happens in poker and it needs to be told. It gets folded around to me and I look down and see TT on the button. I am down to around $44,000 and I want those blinds and antes. I make it all-in because, if I make it- three times the blind. Half my stack is in there and the goat is going in anyway, so I don't want a call here. The big blind not only calls he beats me into the pot. Please have AK I think as he turns over JJ. I am dead, and the big blind has a name, a big smile, and a ball cap with a big yellow M on it. I say "Nice hand Missouri." The dealer brings out the flop and I hear Jason yell, "You have an open ended straight draw!" Before I even see the cards 987 the big man isn't smiling anymore and then the turn is sick. A jack comes out giving the man from the mid-west a set of jacks and a large problem, I got there.

He starts yelling at the dealer to pair the board and in the distance I can hear someone yelling "2 Ball." A 3 of clubs comes and I start walking around the table to shake the man’s hand. He doesn't want it at first, but that quickly fades as I offer my apology and tell him he played very well. I walk past Bradley on the way back to my seat and he says out of earshot, "screw sorry, win this!" I smiled, it felt good to be alive and more importantly I had the dead man's chips.

Then we were six. I was comfortable in chips at about 120 grand and I was aggressing the small stacks and so was the ten seat, an athletic looking 45 / 50 year old guy that keeps spouting odds. He is also wearing a Party Poker golf shirt. He just made a big dent in the kid in the four seat who had allowed himself to become short after coming to the final table very large and was now just bait. He was around twenty something and he got lost laddering up the prizes, he wanted the money too much.

The director shows up and you know the drill, going up $5000/$10000 with $1000 antes. The ten seat was talking about how much he loved that last hand (pocket fives) when it came. I look down under the gun, Pocket Aces, as soon as I look, I say pretty loud, "Hey, I got my favorite hand!" The ten seat asks, "What hand is that?" I say, "Pocket fives of course!" John Galt and Coldiron knew better. They both knew that I always say that in cash games, but in cash games, I never have it when I say "My favorite hand, Pocket Aces!" as I raise.

The boys knew what I had now. I felt them staring a hole in the back of my head. I made it $30,000 to go and Mr. Stats flat called and then it folded around to the old man from Grand Island, who I called by his geography rather than a name all night and who just happened to be the very guy that put the sick beat on Brad earlier, called. The flop came out JT3 and Grand Island did a classic stop and go and declared that he was "All In!" to which I announced that I would be all in too and I shoved. Now the ten seat went into the tank and I gave him about three minutes and I let him look at me twice. The third time he stared at me I said, "You are going to need a hand you like a lot more than that one if you want to call here," and he got a little snippy when he informed me that he had the best draw. I stood up and gave the man more time and he lifted his cards up to eye level as players often do before they fold and I saw his holding: KQ off suit. He mucked his cards, which was fine with me. The man from Nebraska turned over a very ironic hand: AQ. The miracle he needed to defeat Brad didn't come for him and I had exacted tribal revenge, we were down to five.

The man from New Zealand to my left and the ladder climbing Kid met un-fantastic ends to the big stack aggression and were out 5th and 4th respectively.

We had established a pretty clear pecking order when it got to three handed and the nice lady from Argentina was not long for this world when Jason's two brother's Gavin and Adam show up with a race car driving friend of Adam's named Buzz and all of their wives. They had been to a show earlier and were out on the town when they called Jason, "Get over here. We are at the final table at Caesars!" You can imagine that this gave me quite the home field advantage and just slightly more pressure, but I was feeling good. The nice lady in seat six got her money in the best she could soon after and it was heads up with me and the party poker professor.

He was very aggressive and that was fine for me. He got it in bad with a J3 once and I doubled him when he caught a jack to defeat my AK. Four or five hands later we faced off his K4 vs. my A4. The board came Q96, the turn was a Q. I was already there but if the board paired we would both have two pair and I would win with the ace kicker. So naturally, before the river came out, I call for a.... you guessed it, "Nine Ball!" and the dealer brought out the nine of spades.

I won't lie to you, 1st place felt pretty nice for me that night, especially since I had the Queen of Hearts sleeping quietly in the Bellagio after watching her fountains and going to sleep at 10:30, letting Big Papa live his dream while she had hers. She scolded me the next morning for not calling her at 4:30am to let her know I won. I smiled and said, "Sorry sweetie, next time I get first I will call you." That was ok with her and I really was the luckiest guy in Vegas.

When you win and your friends are in the audience cheering you on and taking pictures while they are calculating the total amount of tournament chips you have control of and the guy you are heads up with finally breaks down and asks you "Who the hell are all these people? I can't believe you have your own entourage!"

That is the reason we fight, that is why we take all the bad beats and demoralizing bubble finishes. Every single loss is erased in that one moment of triumph. I just looked at him and said, "That is the TRIBE and today, I got to be chief." He just shook his head and I thought to myself, "and today the Indians get to keep all the land, Cowboy."

Friday, May 25, 2007

Bingo At The WSOP 2006

Before you start going off and saying that Big Papa has gone soft, Read the story. I have stated many times that I am the “Luckiest Guy In The World” and that is true but, not because I hit the 2 outer.

I am lucky because God has given me the best house full of girls a man could ever ask for Lucy, Lyndsey, Kaity and Mackenzie. There are no boys in Big Papa’s house even the dog is a girl. I wouldn’t change a thing.

Lucy is the best woman a man could ever hope to find, she takes care of me and I don’t know what I would do without her. I had to laugh the other day she was on the phone with someone and I overheard her say “I can’t wait until the world series of poker!” She went on to talk about all the things she was going to do and how all of our girls would be there, on and on. The thing you need to know is that Lucy has never played a hand of cards, none of the girls have and she doesn’t want to. She loves the WSOP because she knows how happy it makes me and instead of acting like I am dragging her there she makes her own fun, shopping and doing the pool thing. That is just the kind of woman she is and it’s not an act, she LOVES it! The fact that there is a poker game going on really doesn’t matter to her very much. If you guys could find a girl like I did, you would be damn lucky because God made very few like my Lucy.

The point to all this is that my Lucy asks me for VERY little and I love her very much, so when she asks, she gets. “Baby Boy, maybe one night if you get knocked out would you go play Bingo with me this year at the World Series?” I gave my stock response “I would love to.”

We were getting ready to go to the Gold Coast, we read on the internet that that was the Mecca of Bingo in Vegas and if I was going to play Bingo I wanted the highest Bingo action in town, when John Galt himself call our room. “Hey, Bubba let’s go to the RIO and stab some fish in the gills at the Sit-n-Goes.” I said that I couldn’t I had plans; I was REALLY hoping he wouldn’t ask. He did, “I am going to play Bingo with Lucy and I don’t need you to give me a bunch of crap about it.” Then the man with steely nerves said something I couldn’t believe. “Can I come?” I told him to meet us at the cab line in front of the Bellagio, but if all he wanted to do was come and make trouble I would be kicking his ass.

Lucy was Giddy, she LOVES Bingo and tonight the boys were going with her to do something that was only for her. It is the only thing that she does that is even close to gambling. We got out of the cab and we could see the RIO from the Gold Coast, it was in fact across the street. Lucy made the offer as is her style, “You guys are just being nice to me, you two just walk right over there to the World Series and let me do my bingo that is where you want to be huh?” We laughed, don’t be silly we want to, besides you are probably saving us a ton of money, I mean how expenses could bingo be? We were about to find out.We walked into the Bingo hall upstairs and got in line to buy in, now for those of you who are not hip, you don’t have to dob paper at the bingo hall anymore if you don’t like to do that. They will sell you a little laptop computer called a TED with all the cards you want to play are loaded up and it marks all your cards for you automatically. I told Lucy to get whatever she wanted cards wise and she was discussing with the lady what the best deal was and I turned to Jason and said “You want side action?” and he said “Does Rose Kennedy have a black dress?” he continued with “How much?” and I told him I thought that $100.00 for closest to bingo when it gets called would be fair and he said “Ok, but Texas rules.” I agreed to that. Texas rules is like double or nothing except the player that is behind gets to declare a double for more so that if he wins he is not just even, he is ahead.
Lucy had decided what she wanted and was shaking her head at our negotiations. “You boys can’t walk across the street without making a bet on which gets there first, let’s get our machines people are waiting.” What she really meant was people are looking at us and wondering what we were doing, she hates that. It was going to be a bad draw for hating that tonight. I asked her how much I need to play the lady for her Ted and she told me $36.00. I paid for her and she was off to find us a table, likely in a corner to reduce her embarrassment for our extra gambling which she was sure was illegal and were going to get arrested for.
I ask the lady behind the counter how much for the most cards one of these computers will hold and she said “Everything, all the special and all the extras?” The most you can buy is what I want. She did some number crunching on her POS and declared that the most money you could spend on Bingo at one time in the Gold Coast Bingo Hall was $214.00! I said perfect we will take two. She laughed and so did we, Jason said “Can we play more than one machine?” she said no that was illegal.

We collect our machines and go sit next to Lucy and she warns us to turn off our phones before it starts, I guess that is a major breach of Bingo protocol. The first game is under way and we find out that it is a progressive with three other casinos and the prize is $50,000.00 there might be something to this Bingo after all.

I am not going to try and describe play by play Bingo action; I wouldn’t know where to start except to say we had a ball! When you get one away from a bingo your little laptop makes a ding and I will tell you, believe it or not it is thrilling. Jason and I had money all over the table with our side bets and instead of getting in trouble the little old ladies kept coming by our table asking us who won the side bet! Next time we would just bring black chips from the Bellagio that would be much more discrete; Lucy liked the sound of that.

I can’t remember how much we won at Bingo but, I do know that we laughed and had the best time, Bingo is part of the World Series for us now and Lucy made her own little “Bingo Tribe” that night. The next time someone asks you to do something that sounds stupid don’t be too quick to judge, you may just laugh your ass off like we did.

I am a lucky man for reasons that I am sure are obvious.

Money Management For The Non Professional

There are a ton of good articles written by professionals regarding this subject.
Just type in to Google: poker money management

There is a ton of information out there for professionals and it is easy to find.

I am not going to try and get into money management for playing poker professionally, mainly because I think playing poker as a profession is a dumb idea, mainly due to the fact that if you are smart enough to beat poker in that significant a fashion your earnings in a profession without the huge built in luck factor would be 10 times your poker income. You could then amass your fortune, live off the interest and play poker fulltime without regard to paying bills with your bankroll. I think that makes you a very dangerous player and that is the road I am taking, but I have talked about that before. See you pros in five years when I am 50 and out! So for now, the advice I have to give is from the viewpoint of a recreational poker player, which is who I am.

This money management tip is for a trip that involves any kind of gaming. I play poker today because years ago I found that I could have fun and play in the casino for much longer playing poker than in the pit. Playing $5.00 a hand black jack $100.00 can go in less than an hour, that same $100.00 can last 5 or 6 hours in a poker game even for a new player. Poker in my opinion is just a better choice.

The first concept that we need to address is that there are two types of money, spending money (Real world money) and bank roll. The two should NEVER be mixed.

We need to develop a pre-trip plan which will help us determine how much money we need to bring to spend on meals, hotel and entertainment other than gaming. Then we need to determine how much we are going to “spend” total on the trip for our gambling entertainment.

I need to mention here that under no circumstances should you ever use and ATM in a casino or on a gaming vacation, EVER. Decide how much you are going to spend gambling on your vacation before you leave the house, take that money with you in cash, there is a safe in the room. The fees that the bank and the casino charge for cash advances should be enough to let you know that you have a problem and should get professional help if you are willing to pay those percentages just to get back in action. I will repeat this because it is important, if you cannot determine a budget and stop gaming of any kind including poker when you have reached that limit you are addicted and should stop gambling altogether before it gets worse.
Enough said about that, now we need to decide on the amount that we are willing to lose in our pursuit of action. Once we have done that I use the envelop method, your bank will provide you with half a dozen of those little white envelopes if you ask them. Divide the amount of gambling money you are going to spend total for the trip into the number of days you will be there and put that amount into as many envelopes.

When you get to the hotel take your first envelope out and put the remaining envelops in the safe in your room, if there is not a safe in your room the hotel will have a safe deposit box at the front desk. If there is neither you are in the wrong hotel. I suggest splitting the money you now have in your pocket in to two units also, spending money in your wallet and gaming money in your money clip. Ladies may just want to keep the gaming money in the envelope and put it in your purse.

Now you are ready to go get em! The money you have is all the money you can gamble with and when it is gone you are done for the day/night. Now we further budget decisions, let’s just say for the sake of example we are on a 4 day trip to Vegas and our bankroll is $2000.00 so we have four envelopes, three in the safe and $500.00 in our money clip. Now it becomes pretty easy to decide whether or not we should join our poker pals who are entering the $500.00 buy in multi table tournament at 10:00 am the day we arrive. Have fun guys, I am going to go to the Luxor and sign up for the $50.00 noon event and play 2/4 limit and see if I can make back my entry fee before it starts.

The management part of this is easy, you only have $500.00! Now let’s say our hero lost the $500.00 for day one by 8:00pm. You are done. You have no more money for gaming until 6:00am the next morning, if you ever break this rule you need to stop playing poker you have no self control and are at risk of making larger mistakes. This program is easy, and you have other money and lots of other things to do, go to a nice dinner and see if your wife wants to go to a strip bar. Who knows that night may be the most fun night of the trip, just no more gaming.
The neat thing that happens now is that the next day you have a fresh new start and a brand new FAT $500.00 bankroll! Let’s say that on day two we do much better and at 3:00am we are headed back to the room with a net gain of $700.00 + The $500.00 we started with giving us a total of $1200.00 in our money clip / Working bankroll. Nice job player! Now we have some money management decisions to make.

(A) Refill day one and day two’s envelops, leave day three in the safe and try to play on your $200.00 white meat.

(B) Refill day two’s envelop, leave day three in the safe and play on a $700.00 daily working bankroll.

(C) Leave day three in the safe and play on a $1200.00 daily working bankroll.

(D) Take out day three and play on a $1700.00 daily working bankroll. Remember its YOUR MONEY it’s ok to play higher if you want to; you are just being responsible and thinking about your choices. The only thing I would state here is that you need to be prepared to lose it all and when you do; you have to check your ego at the door on day four and step down to limits more fitting your $500.00 bankroll. Do NOT Chase any money you have lost in the larger game with your smaller daily working bankroll. Before you step up I would consider that it is hard to step back down and I would also warn you that just because you now have a larger bankroll does not mean that you are a better player. You may be better off staying at the limit that won you the money.

Managing your money in this fashion is fun, you have more control and in the long run you are giving yourself time to make the best decisions for you and your situation.
I will tell you right now that I chose option (C – Save day three and play on the $1200.00). This is the best choice for me because I can play a little higher and I still have choices while remaining inside my money management guidelines. Let’s say that I stumble and fall and get busted at 6:00pm on day three, I can still decide that if I want to continue to have fun and play (I am in Vegas after all) that I can go back to the room and reload with my day three envelop and restart my session at the $500.00 working bankroll level.

Let’s say that our hero (You) makes the play I would have made and heads out the door with $1200.00 in his pocket and $500.00 in the safe available if necessary. We play a $250.00 buy in tournament with our now larger working bankroll and what do you know all those years practicing at the pay off. We make third place, we should have won it but a donkey called our all in with 56 and cracked our AA, what can you do. Third place pays us $1850.00 so we are now working with $3050.00 and $500.00 in reserve. Let’s take a brake and have some dinner with our lovely wife and beautiful daughters, they are sure to want to hear every detail of our conquest. Hey, it’s my story I can make up stuff that would never happen.

The point is this it’s time for a brake and another group of money management choices.
(A) Play the 3050.00 and go back to the room and get the day three envelop and play a total working bankroll of 3550.00. We are on a roll and we should buy into the largest cash game we can after all we are leaving tomorrow or are we? I could easily do this for a living, run this up to 50 or 60 grand and ……

(B) Go back to the room and refill day one and day two leaving us a $2050.00 working bankroll and $1500.00 in reserve with $500.00 still earmarked for day four. This is a neat choice because we have the total bankroll we were willing to lose protected in the safe on day three and if we leave in that spot we leave even and that by itself is a nice achievement.

We make the smart choice and head out into the night rested and well feed with two grand to play with and happy girls, life is good. Let’s say we play a little higher, now is a good time. We are not worried about the money and we are feeling pretty good. We enter the 15/30 game up one level from our normal 8/16 limit holdem game and we learn something. The players at the higher level are better and we learn that this is a good thing, they are not out classing us, we have practiced and we are ready. The play at this level is more predictable and because it is a larger game than we are used to we are playing tight but aggressive, watching the players identifying their tendencies, guessing their hands (to ourselves only of course) when we are not in a hand and then using all this information when we have cards worth playing.

3:00am tired but very satisfied we book a nice win in the 15/30 $1600.00 up for a total working bankroll of $3650.00 with $1500.00 in reserve and $500.00 earmarked for day four. We are off to bed and when we get up we need to do some more money management planning.
I am not going to drag this out any more you get the idea. I will just say in summation that my move on day four is to play a $1650.00 working bankroll of the total $5650.00 I have available to me on day four, assuring me that worst case scenario I take home $4000.00 booking a nice $2000.00 win for sure.

When I am in the airport at 3:00 going home I have just over $5000.00 bankroll and because hey I was up and I gambled a little. I also have $1200.00 of the $2000.00 in real world money I didn’t spend on other entertainment because I only busted one day and I was playing so much.

What a trip!

You will notice that this system is designed to focus on keeping me in play NOT as an income device. I love poker and I want to play, the worst thing that you can do is lose all your money on day one and like I said going to the ATM is just a sucker’s play. Be your own best friend at the poker table, make a plan before you leave home and stick to it. I have used this system for over 20 years and I hope it helps you enjoy the game of poker as much as it has helped me.


Seven Card Stud Sit & Go At The 2005 WSOP With Karina Jett

I was at the 2005 WSOP with the tribe and we were farming sit and goes, these are one table, winner take all mini tournaments that allow players to get into larger events for less than the full buy in.

It works like this; let’s say that there is a $5000.00 event tomorrow, they will run a single table for $525.00 and Harrah’s keeps a cut for running it and the winner gets 5125.00 the bulk of this being paid in the form of $500.00 tournament buy in chips which can be exchanged for a seat in the next day’s event or any event that year.

The truth is that these chips are used as currency and are regularly bought and sold at the series. There are players that play these sit and goes all month and never enter one of the larger events, it is pretty juicy. The other cool thing about these events is that you can play a smaller version of the larger event at a nice price and the truth is that if you can’t beat the sit and go you might not be ready for the larger event. It is also a great place to try a game that you are new or less skilled at and that is the meat of this little poker story.

John Galt and I were in the lineup for the sit and goes and when they say sit and go they mean it, when ten players are ready they fire up a table. We were waiting for a hold’em game when the brush called out, “We are seating a $175.00 single table STUD sit and go.” I looked at Jason and was like you want to? He is a very good stud player. I know about as much about playing stud as George Bush does about basic economics. In other words I don’t have a clue except that it is poker.

We are walking over to the table where they are going to have it and I say “Ok Jason tell me how to play this while we are walking over there.” He says “Just play good hole cards and watch what the other players have.” Ok then, I guess am ready! We are sitting down I see Karina Jett in the #2 seat and I have to say that she has always been very nice to me and is truly a class act. Her husband Chip is the same way true professionals both of them. Karina can also play, well.

We play for an hour and a half and get down to five of us and the antes are getting up there. I am at the point where I need to make a move, my door card is a 2 of hearts and I have a 3 and a 4 in the hole. This may be it, I bring it in and it is folded around to Karina who is showing a Queen, everyone else folds. The next card I get is a 5 and now I am open ended, Karina draws a 7 and bets, I raise and she looks at me with the (Do you have a set already) kind of look and calls. Fifth street gives me a 10 and her a 4, she checks I bet, she calls. Sixth Street is the same I am just betting hoping she will give up and lay down something like queens believing the set story. I am trying to sell and she keeps calling.

We get our last card down and I am too far along to quit so I bet dark and she calls with her last chips, she is all in. I am sure I am beat and actually say “Good call, I was on a straight draw.” She flips over two pair Queens and tens and I flip over my down cards and to my amazement I caught on the river! The ace of spades! I had the wheel! I said “I am so sorry Karina, I bet dark and didn’t look, and I made the wheel.” The dealer is pushing me this giant pot and Karina is just sitting there shocked. Then I look at Jason and he says “Real professional Boss!”

I have to admit I was screwing around and in the end I really did feel like a doofus, but now I have a bunch of chips so, let’s do this. We go for another half an hour and Jason has to get it in the best he can and gets knocked out. Then there were three. I offer to give him stud lessons later as he is leaving and he questions whether my mother was married to my father.

Two hands later I look down and see rolled up Aces, Sweet! Long story short I get it all in and the other big stack at the table makes a straight on the river. Poetic Justice. I had a chance to win that thing too.

I guess the point to this whole story is you don’t need to be the best or really any good at all to have fun playing poker at the world series, so get out there and do it. Life is too short to sit on the sidelines thinking you are not good enough.

Every time I see Karina on T.V. now I am just a little embarrassed, but I still say it, “Hey I played with her before!” I am sure when sees me on T.V. she will turn to Chip and say “Hey, That’s The Guy!”

Don’t get too serious, it’s just a poker game after all.

2007 Feb In Vegas Hoyt And the 20/40 Short Game

The 10 / 20 no limit game is a big game for me especially at the Bellagio because the players buy in for so much and are not afraid to put you to the test. The game is 10/20 blinds but some of these guys are playing 30 grand or more behind.

It is particularly bad when it is short handed because the blinds are coming around so fast and you have to open up and play more hands or you will just get ground down. I shouldn’t have been there, I knew that, but Hoyt Corkins sat down and if I was going to do something stupid tonight I was going to do it sitting next to a world class player, to his left if possible.

I went and bought $1200.00 in orange $20.00 checks and had $800.00 in cash behind, this had become my preferred buy in to this game. This buy in gave me chips to play and a not so easy amount of cash for my table mates to wonder what I had “behind”. I was un-racking to Hoyt’s left when the cowboy himself turns to me and says “We are playing 20/40 blinds because it is short handed but everyone has to agree, so if you want 10/20 instead just say so.” I said the only thing a guy with two testes could say “No problem.” Gulp. Holy Mary! Not only are you playing shorthanded with one of the world’s greatest players, you just agreed to double the stakes!

I quickly figured whatever this is how you get experience and I wanted that more than anything. I want to take my place at the table. I need to keep pushing and if I really work hard I will be one of the best with a life time of stories about how I got there. I already knew how this was probably going to go down. Experience was expensive and I had already bought a bunch of it to get where I am now. You need to leave a bunch of skin on a ton of nails before you get over those fences of experiences.

I knew my ego and bankroll were in for a pounding, I was excited! I also knew that you don’t learn anything new standing on the beach; you need to get out there and swim. Minutes later I couldn’t even see land and the metaphorical sharks were glad to see me.

I spent the better half of the 30 minute down folding and I was stuck around $200.00 just posting my blinds. I was just bleeding money I had to decide to get in there and play or get up and admit I had no business being there. The truth was I didn’t really have any business being there but I wanted to play, I wanted so badly to belong at that level. I felt like a small boy riding his father’s bicycle, the bike was too big for me but I had heart and if I could just find a downhill part that might be enough.

I looked down and saw AJ in the big blind, it was folded to Hoyt in the small blind and he made it $100.00. He always made it $100.00. I had just about had my fill, I call. The flop came down JJ4 rainbow. Hoyt fired out $300.00 and I paused for a second and called. The turn was a 7 and the Alabama Cowboy made it $600.00 to go, I counted out the six hundred and said well I guess that would leave me with about $800.00 left, I am all in. The man in the hat fired his cards in the muck and I showed him what he already knew, nice hand said. A $2000.00 pot off Hoyt Corkins, this bike might not be too big after all. I visited with him over the next couple of hours of mostly small ball poker and small talk. I told him that I thought he was a class act as far as name brands went and he asked me if I was going to play in the world series of poker this year.

I said that I was and he said he would see me there. Hoyt got up to go get a candy bar and one of the others got called to the main game. The feeder broke up and I started swimming for the beach, I took my time there was nothing out here I needed to be afraid of, not today anyway.
I met up with the cowboy in the main game later and you won’t believe what I saw, more on that in the next blog…..

Hoyt & The Main Game.

The Jerk In The Vegas Seven Card Stud Game

I suppose you might call this a rant rather than a blog and I wish I knew this belly crawlers name because I would post it here. I was waiting for the 10/20 no limit feeder game to fill up a little more as it was three handed and I am just now feeling comfortable in that game, but shorthanded was not in my comfort zone yet. So I decide to sit shorthanded in the 20/40 limit stud game, why I thought that was a good idea only the lord knows, but I sat.

I bought in for a rack of red ($500.00) and I play fairly tight in that game jacks or better split and nines or better wired, so I was sitting there four handed anteing and mucking a lot and this guy who I can only describe as a fifty year old “I’m so much better than you California type” was jamming the pot at every street and the other two guys would call the small bets and when the big bet came he would auto fire and they would lay down. I pick up rolled up threes and make quads on Fourth Street and I check raise Mr. Wonderful and he re pops and so do I. He gives me the, you are supposed to fold not raise look; “can you beat a full house?” I say “So I need quads?” he re-raises so do I and then he calls. I bet dark and he mucks his hand, he says nothing and I stack his chips.

This is where he pissed me off, like five or six hands later I pick up three spades and figure I will call and see what happens, long story short there is mass action and he is aggressing the whole way and I am calling all his bets. We get our last card and I have completely missed so I bet $40.00 and he goes into the showing me one of his down cards is a jack telling me that with his other cards he has a straight and raises and I am sure he is totally full of shit so I re-raise. He turns his hole cards face up and says you got me and I wait until the dealer turns his cards over and puts them into the muck and show him my cards to tell the jerk he folded the winner.

Then a thing happens I cannot believe! He says “Wait, I call” and puts out $40.00 and says “Tabled Hand” I say no way and the floor is called, Tim who is a friend of mine and a very nice guy says “Mark, I am sorry but if he tabled his hand (ie: turned his hand face up and put them on the table) those cards are playable, it isn’t very sportsman like but he is right.” I was red hot now “Tim his cards were in the muck!” This jerk was yelling so loud for this pot that Jared the floor supervisor walked by and this was his undoing. He carefully explained everything to Jared and I mean everything including him showing me the Jack and Jared says “I don’t care about the tabled hand push this man his pot” and points to me. He goes on to say that if Mr. Wonderful exposed one of his cards to an active player his hand is dead right there.

That was the final decision and I started racking up my chips when Mr. Angle shooter says you’re picking up? I said “I don’t play cards with assholes and you qualify. He says “So your calling me and Asshole?” and I said stood up, he stood up and I had him by at least a hundred pounds and I was pissed! “If it is too noisy in here for you we can go outside and visit.” He sat down and I finished racking up. What a jerk, he plays in that game all the time and seven stud is not my game I am just learning. I sit at the highest limit there is in that casino for that game and give him action. Honestly he has the best of it and he wants to pull some cheap crap like that? I won’t play in that game with him again until I have a much stronger game, first I play to have fun and second when I play him again I will have the best of it. You can shear a sheep many times but butcher it only once. I feel sorry for the guy fifty or sixty years old and his integrity tank is on empty, what a wasted life.

Just then Hoyt Corkins walks by and sits in the 10/20 No limit feeder game. I yell over to Tim and say put me on the list for the 10/20 and he says seat open boss I will lock it for you.
More on this in the next blog “Playing short with Hoyt”

2007 Vegas Jason’s BirthdayFeb In Vegas Seven Card Stud

Thursday, March 15, 2007

2006 – 37th Annual WSOP - Event Number 31 – The $2000 Part Three

I started counting my chips and was getting ready to verify. After you get checked by the staff, they give you a bag and you seal your chips up and get a receipt. I called Brad real quick to let him know the good news; funny it was 3:00AM his time and I never even thought twice about calling him. Poker players. I was walking out of the Rio with Jason and I turned to him and said, “I made it, Bro.” He said something that I will never forget. “Yes you did. You wanted it more than they did there is no defense for that.” It was true, I did want it. I crawled all day on the metaphorical broken glass and now it was all extra. Whatever happened, this could never be taken away from me. Before we got on our separate elevators back at the Bellagio, Jason stepped into his elevator, turned around and said to me, “You do remember that I finished 77th when I cashed in the World Series, right?” The doors closed and he was gone. Yea, that would be sweet, to fight through at least 121 more players and finish deeper than Mr. Smart-Ass.

Nine or ten years ago, when I first started to play poker seriously, I would play until breakfast when I was winning, and I still do. I love the night, when I am rolling I play as long a session as I can and pick up when it is time to eat with Lucy in the morning. I could play longer but it makes it nice to meet her and go sleep for 5 or 6 hours; it has become our thing. Back in the day when I got busted and lost all the money I allocated for poker that day, I would have to go to the room earlier than breakfast. I have always been very strict about the money management associated with poker. Lucy quickly learned that if Big Papa should show up at the room too early, things went bad and I had lost all my money. She was so funny in those days. She would always pretend to be asleep when I came home early. We both knew she wasn’t and I was typically so pissed that I was glad to go along with it, so as not to risk taking it out on her accidentally. I was never pissed about the money; it was taken there to lose if necessary. I was very seldom mad at my table mates; they wanted to win and they had rights to that. I was always mad at me. I was frustrated that it seemed that I didn’t know anything about poker and I wanted to become better, and every time I got busted it seemed like I knew less. I would dominate one game and then move up a level in cash and get punched in face. Every time I got knocked down I had a bunch of time to lie in bed next to my baby girl who was pretending to be asleep and think about what I had done wrong. I would analyze those mistakes and try to figure out ways that I could avoid them in the future, and pretty soon I stopped losing so often, then after a couple of years it was the remote exception, and now I haven’t lost all the money I left the room with in 4 or 5 years. The point I am making is, if I can do it, you can do it. However, you must face your mistakes and correct them, spend time thinking about your failures and they will happen less often. Talk to people whose game you respect about the dumb things you did, not about how you made quad kings. Be honest with them and more importantly with yourself and you will get better, I promise. It worked for me and am definitely not the smartest guy in the game. I just want it more than they do.

I got back to the room around 3:00AM and I crawled in bed, knowing that Lucy would consider this a VERY bad sign. I kissed her on the head and said nothing. Five minutes went by and she said, “I am sure you tried your best, honey.” I said, “I did, and I am going back tomorrow for day two! I am in the money!” She told me how much I sucked and slapped me around a little. Then we laughed and talked like kids until 5:00 when she made me settle down and get some sleep. I had a tournament to play in the morning!

We all got together for breakfast in the morning at the Bellagio Café; we love eating there. That’s when it all started, the prop betting. I said to Jason, “So if I go below 100, what do I get?” He thought for 2 seconds and said, “Remember those lame WSOP shirts with ‘spectator’ printed on the back that we made so much fun of?” We really did make fun of them, I mean really, why not just get a shirt that says “mirage buffet spectator”? I told him that I remembered the shirt, but what of it? He said, “If you go below 100 you get nothing, but if you break my record and go below 77, I will wear that shirt on the rail, stand on a chair and cheer you on to victory for the rest of the tournament.” I said, “Even if I make the final table and you end up on ESPN doing that for 8 hours?” He replied, “Especially if you make the final table!” We had a deal.

I got to the Rio at 11:30 to be early for my noon start and walked into the main event area. My mouth dropped open as I saw a tournament already in full swing with a small number of tables in advanced rounds roped off. Holy crap! Did I get the time wrong? If I had been blinding out since 9:00 I was screwed! I panicked. The “Missed your final exam and you don't graduate” kind of panic. I asked one of the directors if this was day two of event #31 and he said, “No this is day three of Event #30 - WSOP No Limit Hold'em Short Handed. Event number 31 is over there,” pointing to the other roped off section. “That starts at noon. If you are here to watch that, you have plenty of time.” Ok, that was a little scary. I walked over to the tournament and the security guard said, “This area is for players only, sir.” Music to my ears! I was in the right place and it was the right time and hey, I was a player!

We started the day at $2000/$4000 with a $1000 ante, and on the second hand something wild happened. Ian raised to $10,000, it was folded to me and I looked down and what did I see but American Airlines: AA. I was 17th in chips with $52,000, so I made it $30,000 to go. It was folded around to Ian and he said, “I suppose you have pocket aces again, because I have wired queens,” as he tossed them face up in the muck. I slid the aces face down to the dealer and took my pot. Two hands later, Ian said, “What did you have, mate?” I replied with “pocket fours.” He said, “So aces then, eh?” and I said, “Yea.” Same hand and same players as the night before.

For the next couple of hours I really went card dead. Jennifer Tilly was at the table next to me and was knocked out in 99th place. As she was starting to walk out, this girl was chasing behind her with a clipboard, trying to get her info to pay her, and Jennifer just ignored this girl. “Miss Tilly, Miss Tilly,” the girl chased after her and she just walked out without collecting her prize or even acknowledging the girl trying to do her job. If you don't need the money, fine, tell the girl to give it to charity; if you are mad and can’t talk now, tell the girl you will come back later. It was obvious to me that Jennifer thought she was better than that girl. I was not impressed, and I was a bigger fan of the girl trying to do her job than of Jennifer Tilly. I did get to talk to Jennifer’s boyfriend Phil “The Unabomber” Laak before the tournament started and he was a really nice guy.

Now we were at $4000/$8000 with $1000 antes. Things were moving pretty fast now, and I was down to around $26,000. I was going to have to find a spot to make a stand while I still had enough chips to make someone at least think about laying down when I move in. When I looked up at the TV with all the tourney info to see how long we have left in this round, I saw we were down to 70 players. I looked around to find Jason on the rail and he was standing on a chair next to Lucy wearing that stupid shirt, backwards with the “Spectator” facing front! He is indeed a man of his word and he was having fun; he is a good friend. It was time; I had picked up queen ten of hearts in late position. I needed to start stealing and get healthy again, and if I got called I got called. Any hand that called me would likely give me live cards to draw at and the hearts provided additional ways home. It was folded to me and I moved in. Like a storybook ending it was Ian that called me. He turned over AK, I didn’t improve and just like that I was out in 56th position. Ian walked around to me and gave me a hug; I wished him luck. Then he said, “I am sure I will see you in more of the upcoming events; you're a pro right?” I was very complemented and I said, “No, I am just the fourth best player in my home game and it was an honor to play with you all! Good luck!” I shook everyone's hand including Dan Harrington, and I would like say he was very nice to me and very professional. Some other professional players could learn from the example he sets. I hope the next WSOP story I write starts like…. “So there I was at the final table with Jason and Brad.” Until then, be nice, it matters.


2006 – 37th Annual WSOP - Event Number 31 – The $2000 Part Two

I sat down and the blind would hit me in two hands. I just needed two cards that would allow me to move my stack in. The good news was that between the antes and the blinds there is $550 in the middle every hand. Mother of Mary I needed a hand! I put in my $25 ante and got my cards: Q2 off suit. Perfect! I mucked. Next hand, 84 off suit. Muck. I am starting to run low on choices, and I was already at the point that an all in from me was giving anyone 3 to 1 odds to call, so I wasn’t going to scare anyone away. I needed a hand! I threw my last $25 chip out for my ante placed my last two black $100 chips out in front of me to satisfy my big blind obligation. I was down to one chip: a lone $500 check; it was almost funny in a way. I watched in amazement as this previously bloodthirsty table that was making every hand $500 pre-flop turned into a little lamb with seven players just limping in for $200 big blind! I never look at my cards until it is my turn to act, as you know, so I was sitting there thinking that if I had ANYTHING I was going to throw in my last $500 chip and we were going for a ride, hoping that if they were all that weak, they might be able to lay down to a guy that hasn’t played a hand in 2 hours. This would be the score I need to get back on this horse, please pocket fives, anything. The small blind called the additional $100 and the dealer looked at me and said, “Option?” You bet your ass, I looked down to see what monster fate had provided me in this perfect scenario and there it was. 72 off suit. Yes boys and girls, the worst starting hand in hold’em. I check; I guess we hope for the best, huh. The flop comes out J82 and well that that hit me, but it was nothing to write home about. The small blind checked and so did I, then another miracle happened. Everyone else at this hostile table checked! Wow! The dealer brought out the turn card and I just couldn’t believe what I saw: the 2 of clubs. I had made trips and the small blind checked. I actually said out loud, “I have been waiting all afternoon for a hand to go all in with and I can’t believe that this is the one I am doing it with but, I’m all in!” With that I tossed my lone $500 chip out in front of me and everyone folded save two players. When they called I thought, “No one would have played a set like that and if there was the case deuce out there, I probably had them out kicked because they would likely have limped that card suited and connected with a three or god forbid an ace.” I didn’t have long to worry, because when the river came I almost feel out of my chair. The seven of diamonds. I had made a full house. It wasn’t the nuts, but I was happy to get it all in with this hand and if someone beat me they beat me. Don’t get me wrong, I would never play poker again if I was beat, but I would accept it. Ace Jack made a pair of jacks to win a small $400 side pot over pocket tens when I announced “I’m full.” The math was 8 players calling $200 pre-flop, 10 players putting in $25 in antes and myself and two others putting in the $500 each for $3350 coming my way. I was so happy I was shaking. I had my voice back; I had a chance.

The thing that happened next was really great and kind of eerie at the same time. I was happily stacking my chips now that I had more than 3 of them, and I was in the small blind. Under The Gun limped and it was folded to the button who was a crazy Russian kid from New York City. I had watched him get involved and show down some pretty crazy hands in the last 2 hours, and he made it $600 to go. I thought, “You want to steal my small blind? Who cares?” I was so happy just to be alive. I looked down and saw wired jacks. Crap, here we go again. I was not folding Jacks to a $500 raise. I could get away from it on the flop if it got crazy. I called, and the big blind and the under the gun limper also called. I thought, “Oh well with four players, you are certainly up against some big hands like AA KK QQ or AK AQ that will turn monstrous with the right flop.” I was doing the right thing with the hand but I was done with it already. When the dealer brought the flop out, I just pulled down my sunglasses and covered my mouth after I quickly said, “Check.” The flop was JJA, all those hands I was afraid they were holding pre-flop were now money cards for me. I could not believe it, Quadzilla! All of that torture all day and now in two hands I was going to make it to safety. The big blind checked with me and UTG made it $2000 to go, when just then the crazy Russian kid pushed all his chips in and actually said, “All in Bitches.” Now, he had like $7500, and at this point I only had $2725 left, but I went in the tank and took at least 3 minutes to call with the rest of my chips in hopes that I could get the other two to come along. The big blind mucked immediately and UTG said, “I only have AK; I was stealing,” and mucked his cards face up. The kid turned to me and said, “What do you have?” Proper protocol would be for him to show me his cards first since I called his all in, but asking him for that would have been bad form in my mind given my holding. I said, “I have ALL the Jacks,” as I flip over my hole cards. Then, I guess out of embarrassment, the kid told the dealer to bring out the turn and the river without exposing his hand. The dealer said, “We need to see both hands in a showdown, sir.” He said, “I don’t have to show my cards if I don’t want to!” The dealer said he did and so did the rest of the table. I told the dealer that I didn’t care, but the dealer called for a decision. Now everyone was getting upset because the kid is wasting everyone’s time and the blinds were going up, and the short stacks were low on patience, and boy did I ever know how they felt. I turned to him and said, “Come on, don’t make it hard on the short stacks, let’s just do this.” I must have gotten to him because before the floor came he flipped over A4 of spades. Two blanks came and it was over. $250 for the antes, four players pre-flop for $600 equals $2400, and the kid and I for $2725 each on the end made me $10,100. It came over the loud speaker, “Dealers finish the hand you are on and we are breaking for dinner. Players, you have one hour.”

I went looking for Jason and when I found him it didn’t look good. I said, “What’s up Killer?” He said, “I just got wiped out. I was up over $5000 and I got it all in with QQ vs 88 and you know how this story ends.” I said, “A #$%^&ing eight comes?” He said, “Of Course. I hate poker sometimes.” Note: Don’t worry, Jason got his revenge at the Wynn Classic later that year by making a final table in a major event, so he and poker are friends again. He said, “How about you? Are you still in it?” I told him my tale and he couldn’t have been happier for me, and that was for real. If he couldn’t win it, he was truly happy that I had my chance. He told me he was going to find some stripper to make him feel better, but I knew he was going back to the Bellagio, so I called Lucy and told her to call his room in half an hour and make sure he got some dinner. She was happy that I was still in it. She had no idea. “Are you having fun honey boy?” It was like John Elway calling his wife at half time during the super bowl after he just scored the go ahead touchdown. “That’s nice Johnny, are you having fun?” Classic; she doesn’t give a rat’s ass about poker and she tries so hard to conceal that from me, because the only thing that she cares about regarding poker is that it makes Big Papa happy and for that she loves poker and I love her for being just who she is. I hope God takes me before her because I just couldn’t stand it here without Mimi.

Time to call Brad, and oh hell yea! It was seven o’clock in Vegas so it was eight in Denver, and guess what? It was our monthly poker club night and Brad was at his house with all the guys. I called and he answered and said, “Great Job Mark, I am so proud of you!” I was like, “What the ..?” He said, “The tournament is all over the internet and we have been following along. The bloggers are posting everything.” I asked him to tell the guys I said hey, and I would continue to do my best. He said, “I never doubted you for a second Bubba!” Man, I can’t tell you how good that phone call felt. I hung up the cell phone and I was alone. When you are on break at the WSOP you are required to leave the tournament area, so I had walked over to an area of about fifty tables that were empty from the days knockouts and not being used for the sit n goes or the second chance tournament yet, so they were just empty, save me in the middle of them. I was alone for the first time in what seemed like ages and I wasn’t hungry. I had called all the people I needed to talk to and there I was. I slipped my on iPod and listened to the song that I had put on repeat and played over 200 times over and over while I ground down the cheese grater. “Me Against The World,” by 2Pac.

Could somebody help me? I'm out here all by myself
See ladies in stores, Baby Capones, livin’ wealthy;
Pictures of my birth on this Earth is what I'm dreamin’
Seein’ Daddy's semen, full of crooked demons, already crazy
and screamin I guess them nightmares as a child
had me scared, but left me prepared for a while;
Is there another route? For a crooked Outlaw
Veteran, a villian, a young thug, who one day shall fall;

Every day there's mo' death, and plus I'm dough-less
I'm seein mo' reasons for me to proceed with thievin’
Scheme on the scheming and leave the peeps grievin’;
Cause ain't no bucks to stack up, my nuts is backed up
I'm bout to act up, go load the Mac up, now watch me klacka;
Tried makin fat cuts, but yo it ain't workin
And Evil's lurking, I can see him smirking
when I gets to pervin’, so what?
Go put some work in, and make my mail, makin sales
Risking 25 with a 'L', but oh well;

Me against the world
With nuttin to lose
It's just me against the world
Ooh yeah.. oooh-ooooh
It's just me against the world baby
Me against the world
I got nuttin to lose
It's just me against the world

I really felt like all day it really had been me against the world. I leaned back in that chair, put my feet up, pulled down my sunglasses and drifted off to sleep for what felt like too long when I felt a nudge. It was the fat guy from my table. He was 30ish and had been a large stake for most of the day, as well as a major pain in my short stacked ass. He was hyper aggressive, raising every pot. I wasn’t surprised to find out that he was a professional player named Mark Davis from Dublin, Ireland. I woke up and looked at my watch; I had been out for 30 minutes. I pulled my plugs and after a couple of minutes I felt great; refreshed and ready. Mark was yakking at me, “You really made a comeback there,” he said. “Yea, I was on death’s door all day it was nerve wracking.” I was trying not to hold a grudge, but he was one of the troop that had been pounding on me for the last five hours. I am sure he didn’t even realize it; he was just playing cards. Five minutes to go time, “Nice talking to you Mark, see you at the table, good luck.” I went to the bathroom and then I needed to get refocused. I still had a long way home.

I showed up back at the table and it was moving day. The Grim Reaper Tournament Director was there passing out cards for us to draw. I chose table three seat seven, and wished my previous tablemates good luck. When I make my way to my new table with my new stack, I am immediately put back. The big stacks at my previous table were like the furry creatures in Monsters, Inc. These towers of chips were like the monsters in Alien 3, complete with acid for blood. After witnessing this new level of aggressive play, I thought that I was back where I started. If I was going to get involved, I would need to have a hand and just play tight and aggressive. In short, I needed to try my best and not make a stupid mistake. I played for about an hour without much going on. I stole a couple of blinds and antes and had a really good idea of what was going on at the table when I got my chance. I was one off the button and it was checked around to me when I saw AK of clubs. The button was a fairly tight professional player, but the small and large blinds were a couple of kids that had been splashing around pretty well with less than premium holdings. The blinds were $200/$400 with a $50 ante and I had around $14,000 in chips. I made it $1200 and the button mucked his cards. The small and large blinds both called. The flop came out J42 with 2 clubs and the small blind checked it. The big blind made it $2000, so I called and so did the small blind. The turn took all the pressure off of me when it brought the 3 of clubs; I had made the nut flush and there was now a small straight out there. I had seen a couple of bust outs at this table come from the kid in the big blind when he had made small straights against opponents holding large cards. Both the small and big blinds checked. I thought for a minute and wondered if one had 2 pair or a set. If so, and the board paired, I would have a tough decision. I made it $4500, and honestly I was happy to end it there. The small blind called and after thinking for a second, the big blind moved all in! He had around $40,000 and I did a little acting and said, “Well I only have around $6000 more so I am going to call; I am all in too.” The small blind went in the tank and after a long time he finally said, “I have top pair, best kicker and a gut shot straight draw, but I am going to lay this down,” and tossed AJ face up into the muck. The kid in the big blind turned over his hand saying, “I have the wheel.” As he turned it over, I flip over my hand and say, “Your drawing dead. I have the nut flush.” He is a really nice kid, but I was amazed he had so many chips when he replied, “I didn’t even see that flush out there!” Including the antes and all the small blind money, I rack in $36,200, and for the first time all day I feel like I can relax.

I got my voice back and started having fun, really playing small ball poker and I was stealing blinds and making speculative plays for small amounts in multi-way pots that would only give me the highest odds of winning if it got messy. I was up and down, hovering around $30,000 for the next few hours. At one point I flopped quad fives and checked it to the end with two players, making the minimum bet on the end and watching them both fold, and thank God I didn’t need the money then. Sometime later, Michael Odeh sat down beside me and started giving me a hard time. I told him to shut up. He told me we were going to settle this outside on the next break and I looked up and said, “Mike, if you walk outside with me you won’t come back inside ever again.” He let me know that he had cancer and asked what I could do to him. I replied, “Mike, I can end your suffering if you don’t stop messing with me. This is the deepest I have ever been in the World Series and I plan on cashing so knock it off.” I also reminded him that I play 15/30 limit with him all the time at the Bellagio and that he told me about his “cancer” five years ago and I was glad he was still around playing and looking so good. He said, “I thought you looked familiar!” I said, “Mike, do you make a habit of asking 225 pound 6 foot tall ex-football players outside to fight during the breaks?” Mike, a 5’7” 135 pound 60 year-old Persian man, responded, “I watched you for 3 minutes when I sat down; I knew you wouldn’t hurt me.” I guess I was far less fierce than I appeared and Mike was an old time rounder. I believed he had the skills to sum someone up in that amount of time. In his business you had better have that skill honed to a razor’s edge. One of the amazing things I watched during the considerable time I sat with him at that WSOP table was his almost Rain Man-like ability to count down a stack of chips. I would ask, “Mike, how much does the one seat have in front of him?” He would shoot back instantaneously $64,000, nut on every time, and I used this skill of his a couple of times that night. Mike was a little hard because of the life he had chosen; being a professional rounder is not an easy job and it leaves marks. I respected Mike and he liked me enough to give me a little mentoring along the way. It was a nice arrangement. He had an odd superstition against $1000 chips. He didn’t want them, so when he won a pot with those yellow $1000 checks in it, I would buy them from him for pink $500s. That is why, in all the pictures of me at the World Series, you never see me with anything but black and yellow checks; Mike had all my pink ones. He was nice to me, but only after I stood my ground. Life is odd that way sometimes with men. I don’t know why, but I have found it to be the norm.

“Hey, Big Man!” I heard it from the roped-off area. I turned around and there was Mr. Galt, fresh, showered and fed. It was nice to have him there, I waved and put up five fingers; we would break in five minutes. I went for a Coke and a slice of pizza with Jason and he let me know that Lucy had taken care of him. They had eaten dinner at the Bellagio Café and he had told her all about the unfairness of poker and somehow it was all ok now and he was ready to cheer me on to victory. I knew she would, she loves Jason.

There was a buzz going on around us. It was midnight and we were down to 225 players; the money was at 197. Would they make it? How many short stacks were there? How much was the first level of payouts? Everyone had all kinds of questions and their minds were racing. I let Jason know the score and when I called Brad to check in, he was at the final table of the tournament back home. He wanted a call when we were in the money. “WHEN we were in the money.” There was no “IF we get to the money” for Brad; he is the most positive guy I know. I was close, and even I was starting to think that there would be no denying me this year, and that felt good. Jason wanted to know if I had bumped into any name brand players. There were a dozen or so TV players left and I was at a table right behind Hasan Habib who is a really likeable pro that is always nice to everyone. The interesting side note on him is that his name has become popular amongst other poker players and gamblers alike. Whenever someone hits the card they need while playing poker or hits a jackpot in a slot machine or anything involving winning in gambling, the person will often exclaim, "HASAN HABIB!!" I told Jason that I hoped he would be moved over to my table at some point. I needed to get going and asked him if he was going to hang around. He asked, “Have you bumped your head tonight?” I thanked him and told him how much it meant for me that he was there.

When I sat down we were at $800/$1600 with a $200 ante, and not much happened for me in the next hour, but at the next level there was an announcement from the tournament director that we were at 207 players and would now be playing round for round. I had never seen this before, but I guess they didn’t want one table slow playing to get into the money, so they marked where the button was and as soon as the button returned to that spot the dealer would stand up and play at the table was stopped until all the tables made that rotation and all the dealers were standing. Then they did this again until we hit the money. This was getting exciting and as long as I didn’t make a major mistake, I was going to make it. I had plenty of chips and even made some moves on a couple of the short stacks that I knew didn’t want to get involved so close to the money. What turn of events! Ten hours earlier I was the one they had been feeding on. I happened to be the round for round button at our table and we had completed our second rotation and were waiting for the other tables to finish when it happened. Someone had hit the bubble and went out in the historic “you played all this time and you get nothing” position of 198th. We were there, and it was around 1:00AM. We all clapped for ourselves and the tournament staff congratulated all of us for “making it.” I turned and found Jason in the crowd on the rail and he was holding both his thumbs up. This was sweet, my first cash, and now my second short term goal of making it to day two was almost certain because the director went on to announce that we were going to play the button around one more time and then that was it for the day.

The blinds had gone up again and it was now $1000/$2000 with a $500 ante, and I was really focusing on not making a mistake so I could come back tomorrow and play fresh. I really had an easy go of it because lucky or unlucky I was card dead; no real playable hands even if I was itching to get involved, which I wasn’t. I was in the big blind and it was folded around to the six seat, Ian Fraser from the United Kingdom, who raised one unit to $4000. Another player folded and Jose Severino from Panama announced that he was raising, and made it $8000. I started chirping, “Oh nice, my last big blind of the night and you guys want to steal it from me”. As I was going on about all that, it was folded to me and I uncapped my cards and looked down. And there they were: TWO black Aces. I paused for 10 seconds and said, in what I am sure sounded like a very serious voice, “I am ALL IN,” and stood up as I moved my now $26,000 in chips in front of my cards. Ian stood up. He couldn’t believe it. I turned to Jason and mouthed, “I’m All In!” I saw Jason take off somewhere, and I turned to Ian who was holding his head. I said, “I did what I had to do and to be honest I don’t want you to call, but I had to do that.” He was more confused than ever, and I looked up in the now empty TV grand stands to see Jason in the top row looking down on this growing drama. He nodded to me like, “Do you have it?” I looked back at him with a nod that said, “Does Rose Kennedy have a black dress?” and we waited for Ian for at least 4 or 5 minutes. Everyone respected that he had a decision to make and gave him time and space. He looked at me one last time and said, “I Call.” I really didn’t want the call as he had me covered by at least double, and I had plenty of experience with Aces not working out in big situations before. “Here we go again,” I thought. Then Jose started acting like he was going to go in the tank and several players, pros mostly, piped up and said, “No way, you should have been thinking about your hand while we waited for him! Put a clock on him!” By now all the action in our corner of the room had stopped and the director and several tournament staff were right there with at least 200 other spectators. They started counting Jose down. 30 seconds, 20 seconds, 10 seconds. Jose mucked two Jacks, face up. I looked at Ian and said, “You know what I have,” and flipped over my Aces. He shook his head and turned over two red queens. I was a 4 to 1 favorite, and I knew I was doomed. The flop came out and it was my worst nightmare realized. All the cards were RED. Jack, Ten, Seven. Ian started cheering for his cards; he had an outside flush and straight draw. I just stepped back in silence. Everyone was screaming including Jason and it was like they were all muffed except my buddy up in the heavens, and I could hear him like he was right next to me, saying “Black Deuce, Black Deuce,” over and over. The turn came a five of clubs and the dealer was kind, ripping off the last card quickly, the 3 of spades. My rockets had held up for close to 60 thousand dollars, and I have no idea where this came from, but I jumped up on my chair and as loud as I could I yelled out the magic words: "HASAN HABIB!" To my surprise, just then the actual Hasan Habib jumped up and ran over to me, giving me a great big hug! And the crowd roared. The dealer shoved a pile of chips as big as a trash can lid at me and I took the last hand of the night, my small blind. For the first time all day I looked at my cards without waiting my turn while my shaking hands started stacking chips. I had made it to day two.


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

2006 – 37th Annual WSOP - Event Number 31 – The $2000.00 - Part One

Man, where to start? This story has taken me almost a year to write and I think that I have put it off so long because once it is written it truly will be over and I don’t want it to be over EVER. If you are a constant reader, you know how important this was for me and you also know that the victory of cashing was taken from me in the $1500.00 event. This was my last chance. I had left Miss Lucy poolside at the Bellagio with a “Wish me luck sweetie.” She replied, “Just win it Baby Boy.” It’s amazing that when she looks at Big Papa that is the thing that she chooses to call me. I am the luckiest man on the planet because of her, my girls and my friends, and if you are sick of hearing that, please stop reading my stories, because without them to share it all with I wouldn’t play poker. What would be the point?

Speaking of friends, I was headed to the World Series Of Poker with Mr. Jason “Who is John Galt?" Writer. We are close and I really don’t know when it happened, but we are the “you don’t really need to finish most of your sentences” kind of close. I know when it started, and that will be the greatest story ever told, called “The Bravery Of The Lambs: The Dawning” but it is a story for another time. Jason is one of those guys who is very popular and knows a lot of people. He does a lot of charity work and many people think that they are his friend, and he lets them think that. It isn’t that he doesn’t like them; he just doesn’t let them in. Closely guarded privacy is the watch word for Mr. Galt. If Jason only had one phone call, I am sure he would call me and then I would call Brad, because damn, this sounds serious!

Jason and I pulled up in the back parking lot of the Rio about a half hour before jump time and Jennifer Tilly was valet parking her Bentley Continental GT. More on her later; she was less than impressive as a person. It looked like an NFL football game letting out and I thought, “here we go, another army to wade through.” It turned out that over 2000 people signed up for our little card game today.

On the way in I called Brad. He was majorly pissed off. Circumstances had unfolded at one of his companies and kept him from coming down with us. It wasn’t getting any better, and he was going to miss the whole thing. Bradley wished me well, the same as Lucy did, only instead of “Baby Boy” he called me “Bubba” and said, “Just do your best Bubba, if you want to stay longer I would put you in the main event, that is how much confidence and trust I have in you. Just do your thing!” I will never know if what he said was his true feelings or if he was just trying to get me up for what I had to do. Either way I will never forget him for it; I know that his words helped me focus and feel confident. I was having a conversation with him a couple of months ago and he told me that he was still just sick about not being with us, and I told him that he was with me the whole way. With our partnership I felt like whatever I was doing in the tournament was his to own as well, and I am not at all sure that the fact that I was playing for US and not just me alone didn’t take my game to the next level. I was damn sure not going to make any stupid mistakes on Bradley’s dime; I wasn’t going to let either of us down, not this year.

Big hug for Jason and I said, “Flop’em Dead Kid” and he said, “Do the whole village Big Man.” It is kind of funny that we NEVER call any of the Tribe members by our given names and not by design. It just is what it is. I sit down and have 5 minutes to chat with my tablemates. I am friendly, but what I am really doing is gathering the information that I need send them to Valhalla later. The one thing that is true in a poker tournament is that no one is your friend. It is war. People are friendly but what they want is you dead, period. I never forget that even if my fellow Tribe members who I love show me the soft under belly in a tournament, they are dead. No questions asked, no apologies given, made a head stone. The same goes the other way around too, except I am even more cautious when I am in a pot with one of them. I know them too well, they know that I know them and this is where it gets even more dangerous, because these guys are some of the most brilliant minds I know, and the levels of poker theory can get a little mind bending. Your basic player looks at his cards and bets accordingly; the more advanced player looks at his cards and wonders what his opponent has. One more level up, the player thinks “what do I have, what does he have and what does he think I have?” Keep adding levels and add some deception and it can get pretty hairy. So much for my friendly table mates.

Okay players, the first round is 25/25; shuffle up and deal. Here we go. These World Series events don’t really give you much room to splash around. In a $2000.00 buy-in tournament, that is the amount of tournament chips you get: $2000.00. I will point out how this gets dicey as I review how the day started for me. We draw for the button and I end up with my first win, the button. The action is a raise to $125.00 with 3 callers. I look down and see a pair of nines. Basic strategy dictates that you want to play small ball poker early and try and gather chips without allowing you to be at risk unless you have a really big hand. I call the $125.00 with my nines, both the blinds fold. What I am looking to see is another nine for a set. The flop comes down TJ8 rainbow. This is a really a pretty good flop for me as I don’t have anything more than 2 nines but I have flop a straight draw and no flush is present. The pre-flop raiser makes it $200.00. This really doesn’t mean much. He is making what I assume to be a continuation bet because it is proper strategy to do so. AA KK QQ are unlikely holdings due to the fact that a player would protect those hands more aggressively from someone drawing out on them, and JJ is hard to imagine because that hand surely would be checking hoping to induce other players to bet. I put the pre-flop raiser and his subsequent callers on AK AQ AJ AT range of hands. One of the two callers drops out and one calls. I have too many outs to not call here. Two nines are left to give me a set of nines; four sevens and four queens are out there to give me the second nut straight. 10 outs, 38.4% and the pot has 4 x $125 = $500.00 pre-flop plus the $400.00 the boys just put in, so I am getting $1000.00 back for the $200.00 I am putting in or 5 to 1. In a cash game this is a no brainer, but the monster we are dealing with in a tournament is that we are on a limited budget. I call the $200.00 and we see the turn, the Ace of spades. This is not a good card for us. The pre-flop raiser makes it $200.00, which is an odd bet for a pot this size. The next guy makes it $1000.00 straight. We fold, and the initial aggressor goes all in with his dance partner speed calling. The dealer has them flip over their hands before the river and I expect to see AJ/AT for 2 pair, possibly suited with a spade redraw and a set of tens, jacks or eights. The actual holdings are pretty amazing. The first guy shows AK for one pair of Aces and no flush redraw and the speed caller turns over a ten and an eight for 2 pair. The AK jumps up and yells, “how can you call $125.00 with that crap?!” The guy is pretty quick and he says, “how can you go all in with only one pair?” Ah, making friends at the World Series Of Poker. The river is a 2 of hearts and the guy with AK is gathering his stuff and muttering something about donkeys and the guy stacking all the chips says, “What did you say?” I can’t help myself, so I jump in here and say, “He said nice hand, good game.” The table busts up laughing and things go forward, with the dealer tossing a card where the dead player was (Table 46 Seat #5).

We go card dead for the rest of that down, stealing one set of blinds, paying 4 orbits worth a net loss of $150.00, leaving us at $1525.00 going into round two. The blinds are now 25/50 when we pick up a nice holding in bad position. I will mention that this table was rowdy. We knocked out 4 players in an hour and so there were some larger stacks growing and the table standard bet was going up. 25/50 blinds and these guys were settling in on a $225.00 bring in culture. It was kind of scary. From under the gun, we see QQ and I limp for $50.00. The hand gets raised to $150.00, two guys call and the blinds drop out. I call the extra $100.00 and see a flop that I hope doesn’t have an ace or a king in it. The flop comes out T52, the pot is $525.00 and I want to end this thing right here, so I make it $400.00 or roughly 75% of the pot. The first guy calls and the other guy, one of the larger stacks, makes it $1200.00. Calling this raise would put me all in except for like $175.00. I go in the tank for what seems like forever and I am just sick. I think to myself, “Mark, why can’t you do better in these things? You are just going to throw in the last of your chips and get beat here? What then, more machine gun shooting? I felt like such a loser. Snap out of it man! What do they have?! AA KK – You have QQ – JJ TTT 555 222 AT A5 T5 52.” I could think of seven hands that were better than me and a couple of draws that would be worrisome. If I fold here I have $975.00 left. @#$%^! I muck the ladies and the other guy calls the $1200.00, except he only has $1100.00 of it so he is all in. A $100.00 rebate goes back to the big stack and they flip over their cards. The all in shows 55 for a set and the big guy turns over wired jacks. The turn is a king and the river is a seven. I say, “Nice hand kid. That is what I had too.” He says, “Really?” and then thinks for a minute and does a “Hey wait a minute.” When he realizes that would be impossible, and I say, “Queens,” he says, “You folded pocket queens?” I shake my head; I am not nearly as impressed as he is, I am getting pissed.

I wasn’t really in the mood to think about how great a player I was and now I was screwed. The blinds had just gone up to 50/100 and I was down to essentially just one move: wait for a really good hand and move in. The table was moving pretty fast at this point. Every pot was 40 to 50 percent of my stack to see a flop, and I was card dead. I gave up a ton of blind money and when the small blind folded to me once when it was folded around to him I felt like kissing him. Hey, that was $150.00 profit for me! I was truly riding the cheese grater to the bottom, but I was still determined not to make a stupid mistake if I hadn’t already; it had already been a long day. They had called for the break and I had $900.00 in chips. I always count my chips before I go on break; at least that job was easy. One more hand and Halleluiah! My patience pays off, I pick up KK on the button and move in, everyone folds and I pick up two limpers and the blinds: $350.00. I am at $1250.00 when we go on break. I call Brad, get the voicemail and tell him it is a struggle but we are still alive. Jason says he is dealing with some maniacs at his table and he is grinding it out, at around $1700.00. Good luck buddy.

The next several levels are uneventful as I have gotten myself so low that unless I pick up a monster I can’t move. I am determined not to make a stupid mistake. I am watching the other players splash around some with lesser cards than I mucked. Some of those same players are getting knocked out, some are winning with those mediocre holdings, and me, I am getting ground down but refusing to panic. 75/150 goes by; 100/200 comes and goes I am still sitting in the bed I made fooling around with those lesser hands before. I keep rethinking the action of before and I am sure I played it right, but it sure doesn’t feel right now. Stuck and Short. Last hand and we go on break. I have a $500 chip, four $100.00 chips and three $75.00 chips.

I headed out back to the trailers they had installed this year, correcting the “one bathroom” problem from last year. They were not very good about the signage however, which was fine with me. The less people that knew about the new facilities, the better. Jason caught up to me in the bathroom line and wanted to know how I was doing. I said that for someone that plays as bad as I do, I was lucky to still be in it, and laughed. I asked him where he was and he said, “$1200.00, no cards, you?” I told him I was at $700.00, $100/$200 blinds with a $25.00 ante and when we get off break I needed a hand; he felt the same way. I told him I really felt like I hadn’t made any errors and I got away from queens when they were beat with 1/3 of my chips out there. Jason thought that was impressive; I just had a headache. We did our business and Jason asked me if I was going to go through the cafeteria line for a Coke or anything. I said no but I would meet him inside. I wanted to go call Brad while I was still in this thing. I went to the far end of the inside hallway and made the call I didn’t want to make. Almost hoping to get voicemail again, Bradley picked up on the first ring with, “Hey Bubba, how are we doing?” I said the only thing I could think of, the truth. “Brad I am doing the very best I know how and things just aren’t going well at all. We are on break and the next round is 100/200 and I have $700.00 left in chips.” I felt like I wanted to cry; here this guy had really believed in me and it looked like I was going to let us both down, AGAIN. Brad never missed a beat. “Hey man, that’s poker. You go back in there and keep being conservative, whatever happens is what will happen and I am fine with that. Just do your best.” I assured him that I would and hung up the phone.

Brad was a good friend to me, saying what he did that day. I knew that if he lost the money it wouldn’t hurt him and I had made sure before we made this partnership that our friendship would not be affected. No amount of money was worth even the remotest chance of harming a friendship like the one I had with Brad. We went way back. I sold Brad one of the first computers he bought when he started his firm and I had just left corporate America to start my own retail computer business. We were both slugging it out 80 hours a week to make things work back then, now both businesses are multimillion dollar concerns. The only thing that hadn’t changed from the old days was us. We were still just two friends making our way through the world. There were a lot more zeros now, but we were still just two hard working entrepreneurs; we didn’t really know how to be any other way. I was mad now. Damn it I wanted to win! I had worked too hard for this; I wanted to call Brad and tell him how smart he was for having faith in me. I deserved to make that call, and those guys at that table in there were denying me my phone call. I was being tested and I wanted to pass the test.

Jason walked up behind me and said, “I know you said you didn’t want anything but I got you a Diet Coke and a package of aspirin. You said you had a headache right?” Jason, he is a good guy to have on your wing. How I got so lucky in life, I will never know. I gave Mr. Galt a big hug and took my aspirin; we had two minutes left.


Saturday, March 10, 2007

03.2007 – How Can I Get Better At Poker?

Simple: Put In the Time

People ask me this question all the time when I’m online, my email from the website, live and my response is always the same. Love the game and always keep your legs moving and keep going forward. I never stop playing poker and when I say playing poker, I mean enjoying the complete hobby of playing the game. When I say complete, I mean that I play poker because of the tremendous opportunity for growth it presents for me, as a person.

The following are 6 steps that I use to expand my poker experience:

One: READ – A lot
I have over fifty poker books in my office and I have read them all. Many of them two times. Read Super Systems 1 and 2 until you can quote from them. My theory is that all poker books are free, if I get just one idea or one concept from a book that will help me win a fifty dollar book, then that book has paid for itself. The truth is that many of those books have made me thousands of dollars each. It is my strong belief that if you are unwilling to read, you are destined to be the sucker in the game.

Two: Watch And Learn
I have instructional DVD materials and I purchased the entire VHS collection of WSOP from Binons. I gleaned what information I could from those tapes and then magic happened. Four or five years ago, Steve Lipscomb launched the World Poker Tour on the Travel Channel and we got to see the hole cards. The art of studying poker had changed forever. We now have a televised poker explosion:

World Series of Poker
Lon McEachern and Norman Chad

World Poker Tour
The Travel Channel
Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten

Celebrity Poker Showdown
Dave Foley and Phil Hellmuth

Poker Superstars Invitational Tournament
Fox Sports Net
Chris Rose and Howard "The Professor" Lederer

Ultimate Poker Challenge
Chad Brown and weekly guest

Poker Royale
John Ahlers and Robert Williamson III

High Stakes Poker
A.J. Benza and Gabe Kaplan

Professional Poker Tour
The Travel Channel
Matt Corboy and Mark Seif

National Heads-Up Poker Championship
Matt Vasgersian and Gabe Kaplan

Poker Dome Challenge
Fox Sports Net
Barry Tompkins and Michael Konik

Poker After Dark
Shana Hiatt and Oliver Nejad

Pro-Am Poker Equalizer
Phil Gordon

I watch most of these shows. I TIVO all of the WSOP, WPT, PPT and High Stakes Poker on GSN, and I watch each of these at least three times, some of them more. Thank God for TIVO or I would be able to claim that I have seen 100,000 party poker commercials. This wonderful device allows me to skip them. I watch the different styles of play and I also learn, what I believe, to be tells on these great players. I have used this information to my advantage in major events, however, that is only a side benefit. The learning and self growth is what I am after, and I get that. It is worthwhile time spent, for the serious poker player, to view these shows.

Three: Practice Your New Found Knowledge Online (Poker Lab)I play regularly on a website called I have played online, for cash, at all the major sites. I longer do this and not because of the reason you might think. The big problem I have playing for real money online, is that it breeds cheating. It is so easy to imagine a crew together in one room, possibly in China, with masked Ip addresses, appearing to be all over the world, sharing their hole cards. If you play online poker, I believe you are foolish and any money you lose, is the price for being naïve. It is just too easy to do, and to think that it isn’t being done for the money that is involved. I really don’t care about the money part either, my big problem stems from the old adage that “Practice doesn’t make Perfect, Perfect practice makes perfect”. If you are a student of the game as I am, learning how people react to the way you play AK suit in first position, when they all know each other’s cards, really does nothing for my growth as a play in major events, where this is not a factor. (Please do not send me emails about this, if you want to give someone that large of an edge, go ahead. If you are winning, I am truly glad for you. Bring that money with you to the WSOP in June, I will be there like the darkness, waiting.) With all of that said, Mark and Tina Napolitano, founders of, developed PokerSchool Online to further help players learn the game. is one of my favorite websites to use as a poker/poker player resource.

PokerSchool Online will offer up to $100,000 in student sponsorships to the 2007 World Series of Poker (WSOP). Student Sponsorships will also be available for other major poker tournaments. Scholarships are awarded within the school as well, based on various performance criteria.

When you enroll in Poker School, you will learn how to play the games correctly and learn how to compete and win in tournaments, in the real money world of poker. The games covered are limit, pot limit, and no-limit Texas Hold'em, and Omaha, as well as single-table satellites (24 x 7) and 7 Card Stud and Ring Games.

Your education starts with weekly lessons posted on the site by some very well know instructors. Mike Caro, "The mad genius of Poker", is PokerSchool Online's Dean. Plug into his exclusive weekly audio lessons in the comfort of your own home. You'll find more instructional materials in his classroom. This includes books, tests, tips, strategies and much more! Other instructors include Nolan Dalla (Noted Columnist) and Lou Krieger (author of 'Poker for Dummies') and Mark Napolitano (visionary co-founder of and himself a former European Poker Champion).

Daily tournaments and games are offered in the Poker School card room using their proprietary PokerPages software, so the student can practice in live game situations. Each student is given an initial bankroll to use to buy into the tournaments. Additional money can be added to your bankroll by completing and passing tests, based on the weekly lessons and by winning one of the online tournaments.

The Poker School lessons are not just for beginners. There are topics covered for advanced players as well. If you have any questions, you can ask the Experts by e-mailing the instructors. You can also discuss topics with other students through the forum or in the chat room. Socialize with the friendliest poker community on the Internet, where all levels of players from beginner to professional meet and help each other to improve.

The biggest advantage of PokerSchool Online is that you can learn, play and practice at your own pace. You are not risking a lot of money that it would cost you to get your education, at the live tables. Unlike some of the play for fun sites you may have visited, I find that the players in the games on the poker school site, are very serious about their play, and most treated their cyber-bankroll as real money.

The cost of PokerSchool Online is nominal. It is just $14.95 per month or $149.95 annually. You get all this for less than $3.00 per week: Lessons from top authorities in the poker industry, books online, audio lessons, hand analyses, tests, reference articles, practice play, league tournaments, and a chance to win entry into major national tournaments. And there is a 14-day, money-back guarantee, so you can try it - risk-free!

I play there and you can play with me whenever you want. My handle is NitroxBoss!

Four: Make Some Friends – Help Them Grow
I have a very close-knit group of friends and write about them. Often, here on poker stories, I refer to them as the “Tribe”. They are my crew and we help each other learn and improve. It is interesting and not surprising to me in the least, that each member of my Tribe is a multimillionaire, down to the last man. None of which, would any member count poker as the source. I say this to point out that these men are highly educated and very successful. They use those proven tools at the poker table, with extremely damaging results. They are among my closest friends and harshest critiques. We have love for each other that only men who have faced the enemy together can know. We are truly looking out for each other and, if I had to say what the most value able thing that poker has given me, I would say without reservation it is the Tribe. I only hope they feel the same about me, because without the Tribe, I could never have come this far. So, I hope in the same way, I have also helped them. The next time you are around a successful pro, ask them about their friends and the impact those friendships have had on their success. I know the answers you are going to get, so if you want to be a successful player at the highest levels, you better find a “tribe”, and if you are very wise, you will surround yourself with people that are among the smartest and most successful people in the world, as I have.

Note: If you do decide to join the site and end up playing with Johnwgalt, protect your chips. He is Tribe and he is also the number one ranked player on the site.

Five: Test Your Progress – Often
The three main tribal leaders of our group (Bard, Jason and I) formed a club called the and we have a large tournament every month. This club allows us to test what we have learned from studying books and T.V. and our poker discussions, in a live brick and mortar tournament. We consider it the monthly test. We have all the professional tables and chips, and we follow strict WSOP formatting and blinds. We even have an exact replica of the WSOP final table, made by the same company that made the final table for Harrahs. This club is the NUTS. It has grown into a really neat place for people to come and learn about poker, in a friendly and fun environment. Don’t get me wrong, there is action and the competition is fierce! I have to give major credit and thanks to Brad. Without his generosity and dedication, that club would never have become what it is today. Membership in the club is closed as of now, however, if you do get invited to the game and you end up sitting next to Brad, step carefully. He is one of the nicest guys I know, he is also Tribe and he has dealt me the “death blow” more times than I care to remember, and he loves me. You are only a source of chips, on his way home to the final table.

Six: Go To The Dance
Go to a major event once a year. The really cool thing about poker, is that you can be a part of it on a grand scale. When you are in a big event and you have a name brand player at your table, it doesn’t matter if you bust them, or they bust you, it is going to be fun and you are going to come away from it with a life experience. You and your Tribe are going to be closer for attending. It is something to look forward to all year. When you get there, it is electric. Include your family. My girls go every year and none of them play, but they get to stay at the Bellagio, and shop and play by the pool. They have a blast and I love sharing this part of my life with them. The whole Tribe and everyone they bring always gets together for a couple of nice meals, and everyone has a story to tell from bad beats to unreal shopping bargains. The World Series Of Poker is fun for everyone in my family, and one day my girls will all be lined up watching Big Papa win the big one, and from there we are all going to forum mall and I will show those girls how to shop, without looking at price tags.

I started writing this story long time ago, as the Tribe was breaking into the big game in the upper deck at the Bellagio. They play really high in that game with a lot of the players buying in for more than $25,000.00. We wanted to test our metal and boy did that ever happen. Anyway, I never finished the story and after re-reading it, I couldn’t believe how bad I played this hand. I am including it as an example, with embarrassment, to illustrate that if you work on your game, you are forever growing. I know I have. The player I am today, would have lost no more than $20.00 in the following hand. I wish I could find the “past me” and get him in a juicy “no limit” game, with the present me.

11_05 The Tribe Meets The T.V. Pros

This post really should be titled “After The Kid Left His Coat”. As you remember from that story, the Tribe had decided to swim in the deep end. We watched a blood letting before any of us even shifted in our seats. I get AQ off in late position and make it $60.00. The button and the big blind go along for the ride. The flop is J82 rainbow and I am first to act. This isn’t exactly what I had hoped for, but in the absence of a QQA flop, I figured I would make a move on this pot, and we could all go on to the next hand. I was the pre-flop raiser, so a first to act bet might yield me the pot. I make it $120 or 75% of the pot and they both call. CRAP! The turn is a blank and I make it $260, or about half the pot, and I am done with this hand if I get played back at. They BOTH call. The river is also a blank. Forget it. I check, they both check. The kid in the small blind flips 85 off for a pair of eights, beating the buttons AK, and making the AQ I was so proud of, third prize. I feel like a real boob investing $440 in that mess, but at least I was betting and not calling. $50 more to go, with 85 off-suit. I will need to remember that…..

Needless to say, more bad things happened to the Tribe that day, but we got to play poker with David Williams and Cindy Violet, and we had fun. We were also able to learn a little more about poker and ourselves. Poker is just one big game your whole life. You will be up and down at times. Keep learning and make sure to include your family and friends. In the end, they are the only things of value you get to keep when we move on.

Me? I am already the luckiest guy alive.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

2006 – 37th Annual WSOP - Event Number 27 – The $1500.00

Well here we go boys, the $1500.00 NLHE. This is the first of two events that I would be playing in this year and as a player I needed to cash this year. I have won a bunch of smaller tournaments and I have earned my stripes in the cash games. In fact, I know that I could earn a living playing in cash games. I would never do it for two reasons. One, I am a good player and I am a great salesman. I will never be as good a poker player as I am an executive, so if I need money, I do what I do better than anyone else in the world. Two, and most importantly, poker is my passion. It is the unsolvable puzzle. It is the thing that allows me to go into battle and cement the friendships I have, with men that I trust, and they trust me. It is WHY we go to the desert with lights. It is the reason to have a tribe. It is a thing that I love. I would never make something I love a beast of burden, whipping it, to pay my bills. I would have to get away from poker by playing golf to relax and then what would the point be? The reason I talk about this so much is for the younger players. My advice is to go to school, get a good job. THINK for just two seconds before you “go pro”. Don't turn your play into your work, because you will turn your life into a grind. Unless you are that 2% and buddy you are probably not the next Danny N. Sorry. Anytime any of you readers would like to meet real poker pros let me know. I will introduce you to them and they will tell you that what they do is a lot harder than what I do. They don’t have poker to relax with. That pony is pulling the cart already. The point I was making, before I wandered off, is that my game was there and I felt more dangerous at the poker table than I ever have. I have just never had a cash in the World Series Of Poker and frankly that was pissing me off. This would be my year and I was going home with a pelt…period. I also had something else talking to me in the back of my mind. Bradley, a very close friend of mine and fellow tribe member, was backing me this year and frankly, he had faith in me when there was no track record to support that faith. I knew that Bradley was wise to do it, and I wasn’t interested in making any stupid mistakes, that left either of us looking foolish. The screw-up fairy visited Brad just before the 06 series, and he wasn't able to attend that year. The bottom line was, it was time to get it done!

Jason and I walked into the Rio ballroom. Like many years before, alone, but it was much different now. Our metaphorical weapons were no longer new. They were scratched and dented, and boys and girls, this truly wasn't our first rodeo. We arrived early, and I was off to the bathroom for the usual pre-game routine, so I gave Jason a big hug and said “see you at the final table”. He said, “how about I buy you a hot dog at the first break, Big Man”? I smiled.

There were 2,126 players and five minutes to find a chair. Seat three, table 96. I made my way to my sea, and when I show up, I see something I am not crazy about. Greg Miller is in seat one. I am not afraid to sit with anyone, but he is a loose cannon and I really don’t want to have to hug a porcupine for the next four hours. He is a great guy and he is fun to play with. In a past life, he was a professional hockey player. Now he makes his mark as the only touring pro that always wears pajama bottoms at the poker table. Even the final tables, on T.V. Greg is the type of player that plays all 40 events at the WSOP. I play two. He is likely to have the attitude that he wants to get big in chips fast, or get out. He has another event tomorrow, so who cares. This makes him very dangerous. I know he will be playing way to fast, and I can't depend on what he has. It could be Aces or it could be pocket fives. He will play both hands the same.

I am about 20 percent up from random stealing, an hour into things. When I pick up AK Spades in early position, so early, in fact, that it is Greg’s big blind. Perfect! The blinds are 50/100 with no ante and I just call. Everyone folds around to Greg, including the small blind. Just then, he cascades all his chips into the middle, he is all-in. I just knew he was going to be like that. I turned to him and said “next time you need a chip to tip the drink girl just ask”. I tossed my hand into the muck. I hoped that later, he would do that when I held a hand. If I was willing to gamble, I would have mixed it with him, but I was being careful. Disciplined. I grinded my way to the first break. I had doubled up my original stack of $1,500.00 to just over $3,000.00. I felt good.

I met Mr. Galt at the commissary and he was doing well also. He always does. He is one of my very best friends, and I would say this anyway, he is a great poker player. Especially in tournaments. He is very careful when he plays and he has the patience of Jobe. I always expect him to go deep. He is a real student of the game. We laugh and joke about how we didn’t expect the other guy to make it this deep, because, you know you’re “retarded”. I told Jason about the new drink I invented called the “Seven – Deuce”. I always like to drink coffee in a tourney, but they make it so hot, that I normally pour water in it to cool it down. This year, I started cooling my java with sugar-free, Red Bull. All the players were saying how gross it looked, until they tried it. When you see that on ESPN, just remember who invented it. Okay, back to the game. 300 or so, are already dead.

I arrive at the table, to see one of the tournament directors there, with a handful of cards. Moving day and the table was breaking. I hate moving tables. You spend all that time figuring out who is who, and now, a whole new table. They know everything, and you have no information on them. The only plus here, is they know nothing about me. My plan is to get there and start talking it up. Giving the impression that I am a loose player, while I continue to play my tight, aggressive A game. Hopefully, one of those goats will be going down the hole.

I get seated in seat 3. To my right is a British pro. He was wearing support gear for a site in the UK, or something like that, and he was running over the table. There were several short stacks making moves, like lemmings diving off a cliff, and pokerlads call two of them in a row. They were all-in, and he put them all out. He held AJ both times. We were at a pivotal time in the tourney. The blinds are $100.00/$200.00 with a $25.00 ante. The reason that this is important, is that you can really gain chips now. Because using position, you can steal the blinds, and when you do, you pick up $550.00 each time. Because of the antes, I was in really good shape. I was in the big blind when the table folded all the way around to the small blind. Pokerlads makes it $1,200.00. Please let me have something! I squeeze my cards and there they are, the weapons of mass destruction. Ace of Hearts and the Ace of Diamonds. I decide that I'm not fooling around. I just move my stake in front of my cards. I'm “All-In”. Like a shot, Pokerlads calls and I say, “you are going to need more than AJ this time”. He flips over two black eights and I say, “you are a ways from home”. Then it happens, and for the sake of brevity and my sanity, I will not go through a blow-by-blow. The board runs out four clubs and Pokerlads rakes the pot, and all my chips with a flush. All I could say is, “you better win this thing after that”. “Good Luck Guys”. Pokerlads says, “Sorry mate, I will buy you a beer after this is over”.

I was off to find Jason, to let him know what happened. I wouldn't have to say anything. When you see a tribe member standing next to your table, and it’s not a break, you know. He was happy and smiling, despite the fact he was down to like $600.00 in chips. He mouthed “AA cracked”. I mouthed back, “me too”. I just stood there steaming. I was PISSED, and I guess it showed. He said, “you ok?” I said “NO”, and I wasn't . I went to the hall. There was a couch, and I had 15 minutes to wait. I knew Jason needed to get it in twice quick, he was short on options. If it worked out, or he got busted, either way, I would know in less than 15 minutes. He walked out in less than 10 minutes. It didn't work out. He said “I got cracked and I was fine, you know, that’s poker. Then I saw you, and now I'm PISSED too”! We both laughed that uncomfortable laugh, like a first date, and you know you don't like each other laugh, and we walked. Through the Rio, out the door, halfway to the Gold Coast next door and said, “Why are we going here?” We turned around and headed back to the cab line. Finally, I say, “I never tilt. I NEVER get like this! I am just blind with it”. It was an odd feeling, and I didn't like it.

We went back to the Bellagio. I was in the room looking out the window, over the strip, and I called Brad. I got his voicemail and I said, “I'm out. I let us down, and I feel like shit about it, but I did my very best. No mistakes”. Then I called Lucy. If anyone could make me feel better, it was her. “Hunny, what is wrong you? You sound awful”. I told her I was out, and I was twisted, and I couldn’t shake it. Just then, like an angel, she says “Babe I am by the pool. You call Jason, and you boys go to that machine gun shooting place we read about.” Thanks sweetie, that might just do it.

Two hours and 2000 rounds later, me with a Thompson sub-machine gun in my hand, and Jason with an Mp5 full auto, we were better. We mouthed something different to each other, “F - Yea”!!! The brass was flying, and we were better. Two friends doing stupid guy stuff, in Vegas. That turney was in the past. We walked out of the firing range, into the gun shop and asked if they could call us a cab. They said they could, but it would be like an hour before one would come this far out. Get this, the guys says the bus stop is out front and it will take you to the strip. Note to self: Take a limo to the gun store next time and have the driver wait!! Friggin public bus!! So, we are sitting on the bus bench and I say, “do you even know how much it costs to ride the bus?” Jason responds with, “No”. We both pull out our rolls and realize we have over 15 grand on us, and the smallest bill we have is a fifty. Guess the driver is getting a big tip today. I called Lucy and she said she would get cab and come get us. “Thanks”, we were already on the bus. “Why didn’t you guys just get a towncar?” Hey, good idea. Sometimes we are just retarded.

I turned to Jason, (after I took his picture on the public bus, with my cell phone) and said “F-ing eights Man”. He said the only thing a true friend could say. “Have you considered taking up checkers?”


Monday, March 05, 2007

The Fat Man In Seat Nine

Sometimes, you are very close to people and you are very different. That is the case with my business partner, Alain. We have truly grown to be brothers throughout the years and his careful, conservative ways have rubbed off on me. I believe I have shown him the carefree “leap before you look” side of life. I also think that we are both better for the mixing. I know I am, for sure. We have made a tradition for years of going to Vegas for little weekend trips and we talk about business, but mostly we eat, gamble, relax and have fun.

I left Alain around 9:30 p.m., after giving Caesar what was his on a roulette table, to go play a little live action and wait for the nightly 11:00 p.m. tournament. I bought in and had a little over an hour to kill before the tournament, so I put my name on 4 NL Holdem lists. I was no better than fifth on any of them. Three minutes later, Nikki, the high brush, called my name, “Nitro, your 2/5 seat is ready”. I handed her five $100.00 bills and sat down. She went for chips. You are asking yourself, four players were seated in the three minutes I was waiting, right? The answer is, of course not. Nikki knew me and she also knew that when she brought me that rack of red chips, two of those would belong to her. When I am in Vegas, I tip everyone and they remember, and as I have said many times, “being nice is just a good policy”.

My chips arrived and I tipped the brush. “Thank you Mark, Good Luck.” She knew my name wasn’t “Nitro”, and she also knew I didn’t need any luck. She was just being nice. It’s her policy. You may be thinking that all I got for my $10.00 was a seat before I should have, and you would be wrong. It is true, I didn’t have to wait in the line, but the more important thing is, I got “THE” seat. You see, as the high brush, Nikki is watching all the games and she knows where the open seats are. But, more importantly, she knows where the fish are swimming. That is how she knew I didn’t need any luck. She had seated me in the softest seat in the Caesars Poker Room.

I was un-racking and watching the play. In the first 15 minutes at the table, you can get a pretty good feeling for who is playing and how. This table would take me about two minutes. I am in seat one, next to me is Grandpa with $225.00 in chips neatly stacked and three drinks,two waters and a coffee. Those chips were not going anywhere. Seat three was a business suit with $75.00 in chips, all held in his hand. I suspect those used be a rack of chips. So, threat level zero. Then next to three were all college guys with between $125.00 - $175.00. Welcome to Vegas fellas. Open seat and someone’s Mom with $400.00. Seat nine was a big fat guy who had a Chicago accent and better than $900.00. Seat 10 was a Persian dealer that said he was waiting to deal the 11:00. he had to have a coat on at the table to cover his uniform. I always give respect to dealers that are playing, not because they are always good, but because they have a tendancy to really move chips. They watch all these hands while working and when they get their own seat, they want to play. If you are in a pot with a dealer, you have a good chance to play for all his/her chips.

The first hand I watched went like this: fold to one of the kids, he makes it $20.00, call, call, the round man makes it $50.00 straight, two of the kids call him and we see a flop. The board is 3KT rainbow check. $20.00 again from a frat boy and the fat man says “raise, make it $70.00 to go” and he turns to the kid that bet and says “I’m just getting us to where we are going to go. If you play this hand, you will be playing for all your money!” The lambs go away and chubby fingers start stacking chips, next hand.

I am in the big blind now, I never look at my cards before it’s my turn, so I am watching and it is an exact repeat of the last hand. Two college kids for $20.00 and Dom DeLouise making it $50.00 total. The dealer in the small folds. I look down and see wired 6s. I think at least one of the boys is going to call, so I am getting implied odds to gamble a little and see a flop, I put in $45.00 more and say “call”. Both boys jump in the bucket and we take it four handed to the flop. We have a game. It’s Q6T rainbow. I have hit my set. I say “check” as fast as I can. 1st kid check, 2nd kid $20.00. Fatso says “$100.00” as his previously, buffalo wing stained paws, set out a stack of red. I think for a couple of minutes and call, we lose both the boys. The dealer says “Heads up”. It was a description, but the bully should have taken it as a warning.

The turn is my money card, the Ace of clubs. I had him on AQ or AT on the flop and if I was right, he has made two big pairs. All his fat was going in the fryer. I decide, for some odd ball reason, to mimic the college kids this guy had been pounding on, so I bet $20.00 into the pot, which is now $427.00. I hoped he wanted to pick on me. He did. Two chubby hands, two stacks of red, “Oh No, not $20.00. We are playing for $200.00, if we are going to see the river!” I say “Oh are you just getting us where are going anyway?” I saw his face, and the fat man had just realized, Big Papa wasn’t a college kid and his rather substantial ankle was caught in the snare.

I continued, “Well I can’t call”. I swear to Doyle, I heard him exhale. I continued again, “I would only have $140.00 left, if I called” it was time to stop the dance. “I know you have an Ace, but I am going to go all in” and I shoved. You would have thought I gave him a cookie, he was so happy. “I call” he said, and flipped over his hand. It was A6, just as I thought, only better. He was drawing to one of the two remaining aces. I didn’t have to turn over my hand in this cash game, like he did. That is only for tournaments. I did want the kids to see their bully get a spanking. I turned over my cards and said “well, looks like we are all out of the sixes”. The turn is a 5 of clubs and the dealer asks him to cut out $140 more. While he is doing that, he says under his breath, “How can you call $50.00 pre flop with sixes?” I responded with “I got lucky on you. I’m sorry, would you like your money back?” The boys at the table couldn’t believe what I was saying and the man in seat nine said “Hell Yeah. I want my money back”. I then said, “Okay, I promise to get it all in with you again, but you have to promise to play a lot better.”

The boys were laughing now. Not only did I spank their bully, but it was clear that he wouldn’t be pushing them around like before. There was a new bull at the table. A bigger one and somehow they knew Big Papa wasn’t there to tease the young ones.

The pot was $960.00 all in red chips, so I had a mess on my hands with stacking the chips as the next hand started. Again, two kids bet and call $20.00, three others call, including my new fat friend. I am in the small blind, still stacking and with that many callers, I just throw in blind. The flop comes 5J7 and I check. One kid makes it $20.00. Mr. Personality makes it $75.00. I am almost done stacking my chips and say “okay for $75.00, I will have to look at my cards”. Somebody’s Mom in the 8 seat says, “you haven’t looked yet?” and the dealer says “no he was stacking”. I look at him and say “Shhhhhhhh” and smile. I open my cards to see POCKET JACKS. I actually say “WOW”! I look at fatso and say, “you ready to get your money back?” He looks down and won’t talk to me. Sweet! I put him on a very big hand. AA or KK, I am going to gut him. The only problem is, I have this kid in-between us and I really don’t want to break him.

I would normally just call here and let the bully seal his own fate, putting in his last 350.00 on the turn. However, if I call, the kid may call and he would have to call his last $50.00, when I chop up Mr. Wonderful. I decide that I am going to shove. If the kid calls all his money to my all-in, he deserves what he gets. The action is on the kid now and he looks down at his cards to recheck them and I say “stop, look at me for just a second”. I say “I have a big hand and to win, you would have to have a hand that you could have remembered”. I then say, pointing to seat nine, “I am going to bust Mr. Ed over there and I would rather not have your last $100.00. Now, with that said, if you want action and know that you will need to get lucky on me to win, you are a big boy and you should do what you think is best. Just know that I am not messing with you.” He was on the horns of a dilemma, and he looked at his cards again. He then looked at me. The fat man who was staring straight down as to not give away his intentions, I suspect, he wanted that boy to call. The kid looked at the dealer, who shrugged his shoulders as if to say, “don’t ask me, I just work here”. Finally, the kid mucked his hand and I heard nothing from the bad man in the corner. The the dealer said, “player all-in”.

The nine seat had just slid three and a half stacks of red over the race track line, and went back to staring down. Just to satisfy my ornery side, I leaned in and asked him “Do you want action?” Nothing. “What, we don’t talk now? After all we have been through?” The whole table was looking at looking him and then looking at me. I said, “you want to tangle, and I am not going to disappoint you. I call!”

The bully in seat nine jumped up, (which to my guess, was the extent of his exercise for the week) and said, “You dumb ass! You talked him out of calling and cost me $125.00. I have the set!” I said, “nice hand… me too!” I waited for that to sink in, knowing that with a flop of 5J7, he couldn’t have a set of jacks. Big Papa had those. He had 5s or 7s. He was in trouble. He flipped over pocket fives, and I said, “that hand is going to be second place, unless God loves you”. I showed him my hand and he actually started calling for a 5! I walked over to the counter and picked up 3 empty racks. As I walked back, the turn and the river were out…Ace, Ten.

The bully walked over to some guy sitting over by the rail, and said, “That guy just sucked out on me, let’s get out of here”. I just couldn’t believe it, but my sense told me that the man on the rail, had put this guy in the game! These two 50 year old men had formed a corporation to take money away from these college kids and someone’s Mom? Unreal. Just then, the kid that was in the hand with us looked at me and silently mouthed to me, “I had pocket queens”. I said, “I knew you had a hand, and I really didn’t want you in that mess.” He said, “Thanks”.

I started to rack up. It was 10:45 and the college guys were like, “Hey, don’t go. It didn’t get fun until you showed up”. I said, “Sorry guys, I have a tournament to play at 11:00, and I need to do my pre-game bathroom stop. Plus, my friend left.”

As I was leaving, I said “I will probably get knocked out quick and I will come back and play with you guys”. The kid that held the queens said, “I think that is the first lie you have told us.”

“Thanks for the game guys.” Big Papa made some friends, some money, and I wouldn’t trade the former for the latter.


“Lobster Quesadilla With A Lake View”

We checked in the night before and I made the reservations through the poker room. Normally, with that and a $20.00 bill for the girl checking us in, secures the one thing that Lucy requests when we go to Vegas: a lake view room above the 15th floor at the Bellagio. When you have a woman that is as wonderful as I have and she asks for something, you get it for her. Normally, it is not a problem like I said, however, this time the hotel was full and several phone calls couldn’t fix it. It was 11:00 p.m. when we checked in, so we took the room in the Spa tower and were told we could get the room we wanted the next morning as soon as a guest vacated one.

I played poker all night (until 7:00 am) and then went to the hotel registration desk to be the first on the list to switch rooms. Not only did the lady there tell me that a room wasn’t ready she also told me that there would be no room that day and to check back tomorrow! This sent me back to the poker room to check with them and see if they could apply a little pressure. I wanted this room for LuAnn! The wonderful lady that normally helps me there, Collette, was out for 10 days vacation and Penny was working. Her reply was “Tough Luck Try Tomorrow”. Thanks for the help, Penny.

I went back out to the poker room and was talking to another employee and told them how disappointed Lucy would be for not being able to watch the fountains from the room that night. I had a spoken to this person last night about this very subject, so they knew how much LuAnn loved the lake view.

Earlier that night, I also had an interaction with this employee regarding an order of Lobster quesadilla. I was hungry and wanted to eat at the table, but I only wanted this one dish. I was told that it was 4:00am and it wasn’t available til 6:00 am. I laughed and said “you know people get it here, and you can have some”. A half hour later I was sharing some of the best food I have ever eaten, with someone that knows a little more about customer service than most.

Anyway, long story short, this wonderful person made one phone call and came over to the game I was in and said, “Your lady’s room will be ready at 11:00 a.m.”. I am relating this story to do two things. While I have protected this person’s identity at their request, (which is why it is written in such an awkward manor), I still wanted to post a very heartfelt “thank you, you make the world a better place”. Number two, please note this story and remember in your travels to be nice to people around you and it might turn a little lobster quesadilla into the answer to an unsolvable problem.

I was sitting a table one night when the subject of lobster quesadilla came up and one of the guys at the table asked if it was good and this kid from New York jumped into the conversation and very passionately said “Chocolate Cake is Good. Sex is Good. Lobster quesadilla is AWESOME!” I don’t know if it is all that, but my recommendation is the next time you are playing high limit at the Bellagio, order the lobster quesadilla and share it with a friend.


“Show Me Some Magic!”

2007 – February – Jason’s Birthday Party

“Show Me Some Magic!”

There we were in Las Vegas for the 40th anniversary of the birth of one of my closest friends, Mr. Jason Writer. I woke up after some much needed rest about 5:00 PM. I had played all night the previous night and tonight we were going to have dinner at FIX and go out to a club for Jason’s birthday. If you know Lucy and I, you are saying “Mark, Night Club?”. Yes, he is THAT good of a friend. I haven’t had a drink in over 8 years, I am allergic to alcohol. I break out in handcuffs, not to mention that Lucy and I both hate crowds. Jason wanted to blow it out a little on his birthday and we wouldn’t miss it, however, LuAnn and I politely made our exit around midnight and left Jason in the care of his two brothers, Gavin and Adam.

I walked my date back to the room and she was in her jammies in 3 seconds flat. Your hero was off to the poker room to slay a dragon! I got involved in an extremely live 2/5 NL game, the max buy in for this game is $500.00 and 4 or 5 players at this table have over $2,500.00 in front of them. They were all gambling and re-buying. I sat down in seat number four. Seat seven held an asian player by the name of Kyle. Kyle was in every pot raising and saying “Raisy Daisy” as the chips went in. For you non-poker types, that is what Sammy Farha says on High Stakes Poker on GSN. I think Kyle watches too much T.V. and should buy a poker book or two. The eighth seat was a guy I would later find out was just an asshole. He was the type of player that is an expert. He was stuck $1,500.00 when I sat down and lost another grand as the night wore on. He continually complained about how the other players were making poor decisions and causing him to lose him money. He was a white man, 50ish, with a red beard. I called him “Pedro” all night until he finally got pissed and said “Why the #$%^& do you keep calling me Pedro!!?? ” His card protector was a little plastic donkey and I told him he was such an ass and that I thought they were brothers. The table roared. He said “did you just call me an ass”? I said, “you should switch your card protector to a little plastic baby if you really want my opinion”. He didn’t. The guy next to me was a very tight player. I would suspect him of being a working pro, but I never asked him. He was losing in chunks, mostly following Kyle into pots with good cards, $50.00 a bet, until the river and when Kyle made it $105.00. It was then that he decided he was beat and cut the losses. Later, he was getting frustrated and calling the bets on the end, and then Kyle would have it. I felt bad for him. He reloaded $200.00 at a time for at least 2K and given the night he was obviously having, I didn’t want to start with “so… this is how you make your living huh?”. I am only mean to the meanies and he was a nice kid and got a pass from Big Papa. I was playing well and I had full control of the table. I knew who was doing what and I would have bet money I could tell you what the other players were holding. When I am in the zone, everyone, except a couple assholes at the table, are having fun. They are losing money but they don’t care because we are laughing and having the time of our lives and playing poker in Vegas. Big Papa showed up and told them jokes and made fun of the bullies…while he took their money. I take their money too, but with me, they get some value and we have fun and laugh as long as I am in the game. I always show them respect and I NEVER make them feel bad about how they play. They hit a four outter on the river and I tell them how I did that to Daniel Negreanu in the 04 World Series Of Poker, “just don’t expect me to be as nice about it as he was” and then we all laugh. I want them to stay, I want them to keep doing that, they are my chips. If it makes the tourist feel like a winner to have my chips in front of him/her for awhile, it’s good for the game. The only way the beginners get to keep the money, is when some EXPERT player starts shouting about how stupid they are and how they are bad at math. Then the nice people get up with the money and they leave the game, with the money (who is stupid now Pedro)? When I start hammering the rocks and the crabby old farts know I am only protecting my lambs, I admit that it is more than a little fun to raise their blood pressure.

It is 4:45 a.m. Jason and Adam walk in, a little drunk and happy to be alive. They pull up a couple of chairs and start telling me about the evening and Adam wants to know if he can sit behind me and look at the cards I am playing. I told him “no problem”. It is a common thing that happens all the time and they call it “sweating”. After about 5 minutes of me folding hands my slightly inebriated sweater leans into me and says “come on Mark, show me some MAGIC!” Adam wanted to see a big pot. He doesn’t play, but both of his brothers do and he hears about all the “Action” that happens at the WSOP from them. He wanted to see a little “blood” hit the felt, so I opened up my game a little and started entering raised pots with some screwy, low-suited, skip connectors, knowing that if I hooked one up, I would be involved with a big starting hand like AA, KK, QQ or the like. At which point, all the money would go in and young Adam would get a front row seat when the train wreak happened. Now, when I say all the money was going in, I need to define “All The Money”. Like I said, I had been playing for four hours and things were really going my way. I bought in the game for a rack of red chips ($5.00) and normally in this game, you play with only reds and some blues ($1.00) for the small blinds and when you’re up, you can make a mountain out of the chips and your opponents know you have chips (Power). However, in this game, I didn’t really want to make such a big thing about what I was taking away from the game, especially since I had such a strong table presence, so every time I was up over three racks of red, I would color up to one stack of green ($25.00) and when I got two stacks of green, I would trade those up for 10 black ($100.00). By doing this, my hope was to make me look less intimidating. Anyway, I had the largest towers at the table well covered, so when Adam got his wish, and the cinder block went down the hole, all the goats tied to it were going in. They were all headed for deep water and no one knew a thing, except my running partner Jason. Jason was sweating behind Adam and by now he was sober. He knew me, and he saw the hole cards that Adam saw, except the cards told Jason something Adam couldn’t read. I was opening the door and letting death come in. Jason knew the dicey game I was playing to give a thrill to Adam. Jason knew now that the game had changed and in this game, sometimes the lambs eat the lion.

In an odd twist, just as I was opening pandora’s box, we got a new dealer in the game. Wanda is a nice, old school dealer, 50ish, and huge Loretta Lynn type, female country singer hair. Wanda started making all kinds of noise about the $25.00 checks. “Why are those $25.00 chips on the table…they don’t play in this game… yak yak yak”. “Well, Wanda you know us poker players. We aren’t real big rule followers” (translation… Shhhhhh your going to wake up my lambs before it’s time). She let it go with a little huff; “PLAYERS” and myself made ship of doom cut through the water, barely leaving a ripple. The tourists were still laughing about all the funny names we were calling each other, the rocks were crumbling and cursing their “lucky” plastic donkey card covers, but one sound was absent…ME. I was no longer leading the band. I was silent and focused knowing that when I made the moveI was going to make, I would HAVE to be right this time about what cards my babies had. There would be no “nice hand” and a story about Danny and the 04 WSOP. If it went bad now, I would be pissed and not for losing a big hand that happens in this game. I would be mad at myself for showboating and making all this firestorm happen, when I was in control, and I could have safely vacuumed all those chips up as we laughed and had fun. This needed to go down correctly because I was allowing them to come in where I normally force them to go away. In poker they call it trapping, the only problem is, the gate swings both ways.

I am under the gun and pick up 58 spades and call the $5.00 blind. Two players call and Krazy Kyle makes it $20.00, like he always does, and three people call and then I call. I’m fishing for sure on this one, the first two callers complete and we take seven people into the flop. Now we have dynamite. The flop comes 647 with 2 diamonds. I have flopped the nuts. Now we just need a match. Come on Kyle, do your job! There is $120.00 in the middle and I check. The guy to my left shocks me, and moves in for the rest of his money. $240.00 - crap! This is not what we wanted. He may scare off the larger stacks. The next guys folds. Kyle starts to think about his hand when Wanda pipes up “Hey, Ski what is up with the $25.00 chips in this game?” Perfect! Ski is one of the poker room managers and a good friend of mine over the years. He is standing behind me now with his hands on my shoulders and says, “She is right Mark, those $25 chips need to be changed”. I said, “Ok Ski, I will, but I am in a pot right now. Can we deal with this in a second?” Ski responds with “Oh, I am sorry, I didn’t notice. Of course, we can wait”. I said, “Plus, these are all going in, so you can sort it all out with whoever wins this pot!” and I shoved it all in.

Kyle jumped out of his chair to call. He would have to commit all of his chips. I could have said something to encourage him to call, but this was a lot of money and fun was fun. Up to now, he was on the hook for $260.00 something. If he was going to lose another $1700.00, I wanted his greed to make him call, not me. While Kyle struggled, I turned around and to ask Adam if this was enough magic for him? His reply was “you guys are NUTS and, yes, this is GREAT!” Just then, I heard something I was not real sure I wanted to hear… “I call!” It was Kyle. As he said it, he flipped over the hand I knew he had, A4 suited diamonds, he was drawing at the nut flush and we were nowhere near safe. I was fine with the whole thing, either way, Adam got his show and I got my money in with the best hand. Two black cards slid off and I turned to Jason and gave him a big hug and said “Happy Birthday Brother”!! He just smiled and I knew he was happy. I was happy, but not for the reason you might think, I had friends that were worth a dump truck worth of those chips and I was in Vegas with John W. Galt.

I tipped Wanda one of those green $25.00 checks; she never said another word about those chips being in the game.


Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Tribe Goes To War: WSOP 2006

The Tribe Goes To War: WSOP 2006

If you are a constant reader you know what the tribe is, for you folks just joining us the tribe is a group of friends that decided that we would go on a quest. The tasks at hand, practice and then play in the World Series of Poker. In case you don’t know, anyone that has money and desire can play in this championship event with the best in the world no qualification necessary. This is the equivalent of a golfer being able to play with Tiger Woods for a green jacket every year. It’s a big deal.

This being the third year we made the trip it is obvious that we achieved our primary goal of playing in the big show. The tribe now has a different agenda, in 2004 Jason Writer cashed in 35th World Series of Poker in the $ 2,000 No-Limit Hold'em event, placing 77th of 834 entries, beyond that it was a dismal showing by the two founding fathers of the tribe. Honestly Jason and I would have to later admit that by all forms of measurement we were the lambs and they were the lions.

Even so those memories will always be among the fondest ones I have created in life so far and I have done some pretty cool stuff. That year also formed a friendship I know I have written about before but one that also deserves repeating, Jason and I faced certain death in the metaphoric field of battle and anyone that has done that knows the bond that forms. As far as I am concerned with that friendship poker and I are even, now don’t get me wrong if she decided to give me a world championship, I wouldn’t turn it down.

This year’s line up ended up being Jason, I & my lovely wife Lucy for the whole ten days. Two of the core tribe members were absent. Brad had pressing business matters that could not be ignored and could not attend. However always the solider he staked my tournaments this year so at least his money was there in 06. Honestly this added more pressure than I think I was expecting, it wasn’t the money that bothered me. I know that Brad wasn’t concerned about the cash even if I lost as long as I did my best. Brad has a reputation as an entrepreneur that makes excellent decisions and now he had decided to put faith in me and I was not at all interested in making either of us look foolish, esp since the result is a matter of public record. I have to be honest “Courage does not mean an absence of fear” I didn’t want to let Brad or anyone else that supports me in this deal down, I needed to win this year.

The other tribe member that was missing was none other than Gavin Writer – 69th of 2305 in the $1,500 No Limit Hold'em 36th World Series of Poker (WSOP) in 2005. He would be going down later in the month with a friend of his to play in other events, guess he found another tribe. Last but not least Randy Larsen would join us as our newest member but could only stay for the first 4 days, he mentioned his wife was giving birth that week and couldn’t stay the whole time or something to that effect. (Tourist) Let’s just say that Randy got the same cruel introduction to WSOP that I did and I am sure that by next year his balls and wallet will be ready for another dance and he will go much deeper without so much going on back at home. On a positive note he is very good at Bingo and cashed for over $400.00 first time out in that event. Randy, it was nice to have you there and remember you had the courage to stand and fight where many feared to go, plus I already have a new guy for next year so you as a veteran can haze him, more on my son in-law Brandon in later blogs.

Friday July 14th we are on the 9:30 flight out of Denver, buckle up boys in more ways than one. Jason is on the same flight with us and we are waiting for our bags in Vegas and it starts. Jason says “Let’s gamble on who pays for the ride to the Bellagio” My first big mistake I say “sure!” I know it’s going to be a limo, it always is but we should have defined “Limo” before I lost the bet. Which ever guy’s bag comes out on the conveyer first is winner and the other guy pays for the ride. Jason’s bag is out a half hour before mine and this leaves him plenty of time to run around and find the longest super stretch limousine available. I need to start being more careful with the side action.

We arrive in style and it takes forever to get checked in. Lucy needs a room with a view of the fountains, honestly that is the only thing she ever asks for I am a very lucky guy in that regard and even the generous tip to the girl at registration can’t make one available that is non smoking. We say whatever just give us a room and we will move tomorrow, we have an appointment with poker. We walk the 9 miles to the spa tower, I kiss an angel on the head, who is already in her jammies by the time I put my roll in the safe. Now finally we can go to the Rio and punch some people’s tickets for them. We also want to see the final table of the $50,000.00 buy in horse event that will finish tonight, Doyle and Chip are both at that table along with Mr. Ivy. This should be good. Andy Block is there also but he is such a liberal socialist that he is hard to like, I guess when you are a millionaire in a cash business it’s easy to keep pressing for more programs and higher taxes.

Time to get in the ring, Jason and I buy half of each other for the sit and goes which works out really well. It seemed that when ever I lost my table he was winning his and vice versa. Plus we had a ton of fun. Around 3:00am Jason was ready for the sandman so we parted ways in front of the Bellagio poker room, no way was I ready for bed. I still had half a tank and five hours before Lucy would head to the pool. I always make sure even if I play late that I get back to the room before she heads to the pool no need for her to worry and honestly 9:00pm to 9:00am is enough poker even for me except for a couple of times I had to call her because the game was just THAT good.

I talk to the high brush Nate and tell him I want to sit in the 15/30 hold’em game but the one that is short is full of rocks and I know the kid running that list won’t let me in the good game until the other game fills and at 3:00am I don’t see that happening anytime soon. Nate said “Sorry nothing I can do about it” Gezzz when did all this rule following get started. I go tell Chris I want in the 15/30 on table 34 and he says “Sorry my other game is 7 handed” Ok but get ready for some yelling, cuz I am going to bust open some rocks. For review, a rock is a very tight player usually earning a wage in the game; they sit around waiting for the best possible hand and are usually grumpy old people who like to complain about everyone’s play anyway like they should be the only ones allowed to win a hand. It is pitiful how easy it is to put them on a hand. Group one or two only and when they have it they NEVER slow down because the wait so long to play a premium hand they need to make up for all the blinds they lost and in the 15/30 it’s expensive to wait at $25.00 an orbit even more expensive when the game is short.

I buy a rack of $5.00 chips = $500.00 and I sit down and play the first ten hands I am dealt and I raise every time I open. This really gets them pissed there goes the group two hands. Now they are only playing AA, KK, QQ, JJ and AK and I hope they get those hands more than they do because I know what they have and I know what I have. I have suited connectors and low and middle pairs that I bring in raised. Once they figure it out I will have all ready chopped their heads off. I prefer an action game to this but I do like when they cry about how bad I play as I stack their chips. I have a lot of stick and move in the first half hour, I am showing lots of aggression and releasing when they play back at me. This is to make them think I am a loose but passive player like the tourists they are used to busting. When my first trap gets sprung I catch two of them at once, I raise under the gun with 2 ducks and both of them smooth call. The flop is 2cKhTd. I bet out like always, this time the old guy in the bears hat repumps and the dragon lady calls. I put in the third bet and grandpa raises again the dragon calls and so do I. The turn is a 5h I check Grand Dad checks and the lady puts in the big bet, I call and good ole grand dad pumps, I say “check raise?” She calls and He snaps at me “you play your game and I will play mine” I say “I don’t have a game I will just borrow yours, I raise too!” He re-raises without any hesitation, another call from the dragon and I cap it. He calls and she drops out. The river is the As long story short we are heads up and we get in 8 bets before he figures out top 2 pair is no good against this tourist, he calls the last raise. I show him his fate and he mucks what had to be Anna and gets up with what is left of his chips and walks away. I said “need a rack?” He didn’t.

I go on a mini rush and fill 3 racks, it’s 5:30 and I need to get a rice crispy treat and head for bed.

“Good night Rocks”

Look for these stories from the 2006 World Series of Poker Soon:
The 1500.00
Rocky the Pro
The 2000.00

Friday, December 02, 2005

Busting Mr. Hoyle...

It’s 3:00 p.m., my phone goes off and I step back from the table. It’s Lucy and says “the room is ready and it’s wonderful”! “Thank you so much Marky. I am so excited, we all really needed this.” Now, before anyone gets any wise ideas, she is the only one that gets to call me that. I look down and I am a winner. It’s about $700.00. This is the perfect excuse to keep the money. “Pete, I have to run. Dinner at FIX tomorrow night at eight right?” I rack up and go to the room. A three-hour nap and the call comes in. The Writer brothers are in town, money and aggression at the table is the horsepower in poker; these two have plenty of both. I always make sure they are to my left. Jason and I are very close. We have one of those friendships forged in the fire of the battlefield. My life is better knowing him…and MAN have we ever had fun playing poker! His brother Gavin is a great guy too. Gavin is mild mannered, generous and happy all the time, until he gets cards in front of him. I have NEVER seen anyone enjoy bluffing and outright stealing people’s money at the poker table with so much childlike glee as Gavin. He doesn’t need the money and I am pretty sure if you told him you did, he would give it back. He just LOVES taking it.

“We all set?” Jason was talking about the show tonight, before we got completely submerged in poker. I promised LuAnn and Lyndsey I would take them to see KA, the new Cirque Du Soleil show at the MGM Grand and Jason was coming along with us. To say I was not real excited would have been mild. I was going so that I could spend some time with them doing something they liked - and that was enough for me. I wondered if they knew that there was a poker game in town. I was wrong and I am admitting it publicly here. The show was AWESOME and I am really glad I went. I highly recommend it. 5000 other folks thought the same thing and the cab line was two miles long. Time for another limo. Back at the Bellagio the girls were headed for jammies and chocolates on pillows and Mr. Writer and I were off to show some tourists that A6 really wasn’t that great of a hand, even if it was “Suited”.

2:00 a.m. Jason had made a killing in the 2/5 NL game and I was about even. I tell Jason “Let’s play higher”. Jason let me know that he didn’t think this was a wise choice. I believe his exact words were “ %$&*^ You, I’m tired and I am going to bed!” “Okay, fair enough, but remember breakfast is at 3:00 p.m. sharp. Night Bro”.

So there I was. On my own with all of the “poker creatures of the night”. My natural body rhythm allows for me to book a bunch of hours at a stretch and then when I sleep, I sleep deeply and bank up. I played another hour or so at the 2/5 NL game and filled a rack (Up $300.00). Screw this, I am playing higher. I picked up. I walked up to the upper deck and asked Ski, the high brush, to put me on the 10/20 NL list. He says “no list bubba, you can sit right now”. I have a seat. How much do you need? I NEED about 30 large, but let’s start with 2k and see where we get. I handed him 20 dead presidents and sat down.

I opted to wait for the blind. While I was sitting there surveying the players, it was short handed. Five of us. I needed info fast. I was also watching the 80/160 limit game and I saw something really sad. Two young pros were cripple shooting this very drunk kid. They had the knife in, it was twisted and time was all it was going to take for all the blood to be on the floor. He had about $5,000.00 in front of him (as far as I could tell), his stacks were pretty sloppy, but it looked like a couple racks of orange and ¼ inch in hundred dollar bills. Ski showed up with my chips and I tipped him ten bucks. (Pet peeve: if you can tip the amount of the small blind to the person that runs your chips, find a smaller game or get the crowbar in your wallet and show some class tight ass). I asked Ski how much he started with and he said the kid sat down with more than 20 grand and he has been Ramming, Jamming chips and slamming drinks all night. He was a happy enough kid and don’t get me wrong, you pray for this to happen, but the way these young pros were acting, I was ashamed for them. They were treating everyone like crap, yelling at the dealer to hurry, treating the kid with massive disrespect. He is paying you off, be a gentleman and let him have his 20 grand of fun. You can get his money and help him save a little pride guys. Who knows, he may come back with another 20 large tomorrow night if you’re nice. These boys were building some bad mojo, and friends, I saw the worm turn for the English pro the next night and I laughed in his face. You’ll learn his fate in an upcoming blog. It’s worth the wait.

I looked at Ski and shook my head, he knew. “Good luck Mark”. “Thanks buddy”. I posted my blind. Welcome to the jungle. The one seat is empty and your hero is sitting in the 2/3 seat. The 4/5 is a young kid, dressing and talking like a rapper, (kind of “I’m white but I wish I was black” feel) a lot of bling and not too strict on the rules he learned in English class. He had about $1,700.00 half-and-half chips and hundreds. He looked pretty easy to deal with. I would find out differently later. The 7/8 seat was a HUGE fat guy, like 450 lbs. at least, nice enough. He was about 50, made solid basic plays and talked like he has played a lot, but NO imagination. I would find a trap later and push Dom Delouise when he was holding top pair and take his ice cream money. He had about 4 grand and I felt like I could see his cards better than he could. The 9 seat was a curly headed kid from Texas, white sweatsuit, with a matching baseball cap. “Yack yack yack, my daddy says this…” and he was moving chips as fast as he was talking. I called him Junior because of all the “daddy talk” and he said, “why did you call me that”? “You just look like a Junior, am I right”? He replies “I AM named after my daddy! That’s AMAZING, how did you know that”? I smiled and shrugged. Junior had around 10 grand in front of him, he was going to be a tough turtle to grab. The 10 seat was a grinder I play with all the time. I could just tell he was STUCK. He was unhappy and speed folding. I knew he was waiting for a spot to put that last $1,200.00 in and hope for the best. Note to self: when Jeff enters a pot, have the goods, because he will. I was happy to have him on my right.

I normally like to play it straight in a game like this because it can get out of hand quick and if I put my babies out there, I like to have cards. I feel okay about moving in with if someone gets cute. Later, when I double or triple up, I have a better feel for the players and I can make some position plays. They have watched me play really tight for a couple hours and I can start speculating with smaller pairs, hoping for sets and suited connectors and brake someone when it comes down right and they are SURE I only play big cards. I play this way for about an hour and I learn some things. The three seat is named Darius. He is from Denver. He is the nicest kid you would want to meet, and he is a total maniac! Every move I made he raised. He went in more than a sailor on a weekend pass. The huge fat guy was just what I thought, solid and VERY predictable. Most of my gain was from him. I was up around $3,200.00 and every time we locked up, I out kicked him. He had KJ, a king flopped. I had KQ. He moved with an AJ. I had big slick. They weren’t big confrontations, but it was costing him three or four hundred every time he messed with me. He finally said “I am not playing a pot with you anymore unless I have AA”. Like I didn’t have enough info on you before - lol. I just smiled and said, “yeah, I have been getting pretty lucky against you”. He agreed.

I went card dead for about a down and a half (45 minutes) and thank God I did. Darius and Junior went to war. We were now playing $300.00 minimum pre-flop and I think they both played for a half an hour standing up. I was about $2,900.00 when it happened, huge fat guy wasn’t so lucky. The boys ground him down to $1,200.00. I picked up AA and was under the gun. I made it $120 to go. Darius made it $240, and BHFG move in for $1200. It gets folded around back to me and I go in the tank a little. I know I am going to play, but do I isolate Mayor McCheese or do I flat call and take my chances with Darius and a bigger payday? “So you have Aces or were you kidding about that before?” He said, “Do I need Aces?” I say nothing and slide out $1,080.00. The dealer announces “that’s a call, its $960 to you sir”… Darius looks right at me and says, “We are both from Colorado and you are trying to bust me? You are the one with Aces and he has Kings and I have to go to the bathroom”. He got up and mucked JJ face up.

The dealer says, “let's see them” and the big guy makes a huge deal about how we don’t have to do that in this game, only 2/5. I said “awe don’t be like that, it’s 5:00 in the morning”. He says I don’t have to show and I’m not going to. I said “whatever” and told the dealer to peal it. I showed my cards to Darius as he was now standing behind me and the flop was 78Q Turn a 2 and the river was a big beautiful Ace of clubs. He says to me “so what do you have”? “WHAT do I HAVE”? I said “Normally, I wouldn’t be this way, but with all that static you made about the rules are the rules before, I called you and you need to show me now Mr. According to Hoyle!” “Okay, then I will tell you first, your friend was wrong, I didn’t have kings, I have Queens...three of them”! I was so tempted to slow roll him and I would hope that I wouldn’t have stooped that low, but I never got the chance. Darius pipes up from behind me and says “Trip Rockets BITCH, take it down Mark”! I was a little shocked and just turned over my two red aces.

The big man got up and said “You sleep with Angels, Man!” I said, “Angel and her name is Lucy”. I caught up with Darius in the bathroom and said nice read kid. He says to me “Man, you are fun to have in the game.” I told him that I felt the same about him and he was welcome in my home game anytime. We exchanged numbers and I am pretty sure this blog hasn’t seen the last post about young Mr. Darius. We got back and the game was broken, just as well, I needed to get to bed. After all, I had a breakfast meeting with Galt at 3:00 p.m. and, I wouldn’t want to oversleep.

Stay tuned for day two (The Tribe Meets The T.V. Pros). The next day’s action makes this post look like bird watching.

The kid And The Coat

The Kid And The Coat

11:00 a.m. – I wake up alone. My girls are off enjoying the day and I am rested and wide-awake, even though I only went to sleep at 7:00 a.m. There is something about this place, where I truly rest. I love coming here. Our family has a tradition called the fun drawer. We pick a drawer in the room and when we are out, we pick up fun stuff. Mostly snacks and candy bars and things like that and bring it back to the room and stock the “Fun Drawer”. I was on a MAJOR diet before we left Denver, but I am on vacation and all bets are off this week. Let’s see how to start day two! I chose The Fantastic Four on pay per view and breakfast from the “Fun Drawer” (something on the order of a Rice Crispy Treat and Cheetos). I am really in the relaxation zone now.

2:30 p.m. – When the phone rings, I have just gotten out of the shower and I am speaking with Gavin Writer; “Hey Buddy, you gonna play in the 3:00 tourney?” I respond with “sounds good, you just get up”? “No way! I got up at 7:00, went swimming and had a breakfast of egg whites. How about you”? “Same here” (LOL). I really need to show Gavin how to relax. The poor guy is missing the point. He has been on a diet also, but we are in Vegas man, let it go for a week. Gavin and I have a weight loss bet tied to the 2006 WSOP I will let you all know how it works out, but I ain’t eating any egg white breakfast in Vegas. I would rather pay him off.

I will be right down, I need to call Jason. I promised him I would buzz him before the tournament. I call both his cell and his room, no joy. This is situation normal for Jason. The guy only answers his phone when he feels like it, which is not often. If he wants to talk to you on the phone, he will be doing the dialing. It’s his world; we just live in it. I finish getting ready and head down to sign up. I am standing in line with Gavin, telling him he is a dork for dieting in Vegas and he is STILL going down to me on the bet. Jason walks up and starts busting my chops, for you guessed it … “Thanks for calling me!” Boom, Zam, Right to the moon! I ask, “is your phone even turned on? Einstein!” “Oh Shit”. “Perfect, shut up”. You see we are male and we are the best of friends. This is how we bond. We don’t know any other way, and in case you were wondering, this is also why not many women play poker. Women are smarter and more involved than men are.

Jason and I draw the upper deck. Gavin and Ron, another friend of ours, are at another table. They signed up early... Shut Up… Good luck guys. I get seated next to Pete “Pac Man” Lawson.

He came in third to Doyle in the Legends tourney. How do I keep getting seated to the right of these monsters? I have been nice. This tournament structure sucked, the blinds escalated so fast in relationship to the chip stacks all four of us had to make desperate stabs and received unceremonious knock outs. We were hungry anyway. Off to the Bellagio snack bar for a $30.00 hotdog.

After our snack, we were back in the poker room chatting with Pete. His Omaha game just broke and I look over and see four open seats in the 10/20 NL feeder game. Let’s take our place guys. We are getting seated stacking our chips when a kid (24ish) walks up and takes the last seat, number seven. A guy in the two seat says “Hey glad your back, I thought you left…er after what happened” he must have taken a bad beat is what I was thinking. He puts down a little over $3,500 two grand in hundreds and the rest orange. He is hanging his coat over the back of his chair and the dealer feeds him a hand as he is sitting down. The eight seat is a MONSTER stack well over 30 K the kid is first to act and he makes it $120 to go. The MONSTER beats him in the pot, two others call and the flop is J83 rainbow. The kid makes it 240 and the MONSTER says “make it 480”, the other two players fold and the kid says, “I’m all in”. The Monster speed calls. They both flip over their hands and the kid is way ahead. He has a set of jacks. The MONSTER unluckily has a set of threes. The kid couldn’t be in better shape. His opponent only has one out; he is a 98% favorite. The turn is a blank and the river is a nightmare. The case three comes… The MONSTER has made Quadzilla and the kids’ Jacks full are second best. He says “un%^$%&ing Believable” and walks straight out of the poker room, leaving his coat behind.

Poker is an odd girl. Things like this happen and NOTHING was going to stop this. After the flop, both players made their set and all the money was going in. The thing that makes me shiver is the fact that the whole time that case three was already locked and loaded in the dealers hand, ready to come out when the kid was taking his coat off.

Note to self: Never put money into play that you aren’t willing to live without. The rocks are sharp and the bridge has some slats missing.

Look for the next installment when tribe takes over the main game.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Poker Pete November 2005 Day One

Most of the time, you don’t know you are at the begging of something until you are at the end looking back. This would be one of those times. I promised my oldest daughter that I would take her on a trip as a reward for perfect marks (as usual) in school. I was acting as the travel agent for this junket and I quickly made the first mistake of the trip, a 7:00 a.m. Saturday flight out of DIA. My finely honed problem solving skills leapt into action. Hey, the Friday night before the flight is the monthly poker tournament. So, the only reasonable thing to do would be to play all night and then come straight home and go to the airport.

Several years ago I had planned on entering the WSOP and I really wanted to dedicate some serious effort to the task. I could study by reading books and work the mechanics by playing online, but I needed to gain experience playing in live tournaments. The casinos in Colorado did not offer this, for those of you not from Colorado, what we have is a limit of $5.00 on any bet in a casino including poker. This retarded cap puts players that want to gamble and should be playing 30/60 or higher in this smaller game and you guessed it, they play every hand and cap every street. And at the end, someone yells “bingo” and we deal another round. Needless to say, it’s not a very good game but I digress. Why not start a club and do my own tournament?

The was born. We played in the basement of a bank, until we were asked not to return (that is another poker tale all together). The game is now held at a mansion of one of my very close friends, who is also one of the most generous and regular guys you would ever want to meet. It’s a sweet deal. We have six regulation Hold’em tables and a bunch of great guys that get together once a month to compete over the “Trophy”. I have had the pleasure of winning that tournament several times in the early years since founding the game, but it’s been awhile and I have never won since we have been in Brad’s Bellagio Basement. There are some that would say that I normally take an early knock out of the $20.00 buy in tournament, just to get in the juicy “no limit” side game so I can make 10 times what the winner of the tournament makes. That is simply not true. I do not TRY to get knocked out. Welcome it, yes.

Side game or no, I have really been wanting to win the tourney, so I have turned a blind eye to the mounting chips in the no limit game and forged ahead. I had Brad to my left all night at table one and it was hard for me to accumulate chips because he is so aggressive. I found a way and we were evenly stacked with two tables left and Brad turns to me and says “I made third in this last month, I am winning it this month!” I said the only thing that Brad could expect to hear, “BULLSHIT, I don’t care if I win - as long as I knock you out”. I raised the pot $1,200.00. Brad went all in, I folded. Note to self, don’t poke the bear.

Long story short, I won the tournament and sat down in the side game. Was I ever pumped. I went on a major rush, won like six pots and announced “I don’t care how far up I am, it’s 1:30 a.m. and I HAVE to leave at 3:00 a.m. to take the girls to the airport, no if ands or buts, I mean it”! At 4:10 a.m. my phone rang… “Hey baby girl, funny you should call...I was just leaving”. She KNEW. I said “Okay guys, buy these chips and I am a gone champion, see ya next month”. What a great bunch. I love that club.

Boring details omitted the girls and I were in a 40-foot limo headed for the Bellagio. They would both be more than happy to just take a taxi, but I like to take the limo because they are so wonderful to have in my life, it only seems right. The room at the hotel is a different story altogether, I tip the girl at reservation pretty hard, “My wife and daughter would REALLY like a lake view.” Man do they love watching those fountains from the room. I pass on breakfast and shopping and head for the poker room until our room is ready.

It’s 8:30 a.m. and I am at table number 37 having coffee and reading Cardplayer when he walks in. Poker Pete. He has two huge bags of McDonalds sandwiches and two big boxes of Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Yes, he is a really nice guy, but don’t be fooled, the breakfast money came out of Pete’s pocket and he wouldn’t think of letting anyone kick in. However, the players of the regular Omaha eight or better high/low with a full kill game, which Pete calls the “Office”, paid for the treats. That’s right kids, a real live poker professional and a very good friend of mine. Pete is a master at what he does, part of this mastery is to craft a very inviting table presence. It’s part of his job. He keeps his rattle very quite, he doesn’t need to tell everyone what a brilliant card player he is. What he needs is your chips - thank you very much... “want a McMuffin”?

I have written about this game before and if you are not a constant reader, the landscape is this: the Bellagio Omaha 8 H/L is the double black diamond of poker. The water gets deep so fast, that I have watched legends struggle and weaker pros quit that game altogether. If you ever get the chance and have $2,000.00 and you don’t care much about sitting in that game, you can check “play with the worlds best poker players” off your list.

At 9:00 a.m. the table was full and Pete was to my right… PERFECT!

Friday, June 17, 2005

WSOP 2005 - Part One….

There is only one way to unfold WSOP 2005. That would be from the ending to the beginning. I got back into town and I have talked to a hundred people on my first day back and they all want to know the same thing, “How did it go, how did you do?”.

There I am on day number six of my trip and Lui and I are walking into the conference center at the Rio. We arrived around 10:30 a.m. in order for her to get a look at the battlefield and do a little shopping at the WSOP store. She really is the very best thing that has ever happened to me. Lucy took one look at the whole thing, making sure to see my seat (table 116, seat #2). Saint Lucy; what a trooper. More on that later. We hit the WSOP store only to find that they don’t sell anything for the grandbaby. Okay, now she’s pissed. Oh well, we buy all of the gifts we need for friends and family and it is now 11:15 a.m. Crap, I still have 45 minutes to wait until “go” time. I walk her to the front of the casino, around six miles each way; let’s just say that this first year with the new owner is a little disorganized. Anyway, I steal a little kiss and she wishes me good luck. I watch her walk away swinging her shopping bags and knowing I have already won the game of life. Now, let’s deal with the monster at hand, Event number nine, WSOP, $2000.00 No Limit Hold’em.

I take my long walk back to the ring. As I walk in, I look up and see the HUGE projection screen with all of the tournament information clicking down, “COUNTDOWN 7min 45sec”. I stop and have a brief moment with Mike Sica. Mike won event number thirty last year and we became pretty good friends in my normal cash game, as it took him 3 months to go back home to New Jersey after winning over $500,000.00 last year. I say “see you at the final table, Mike”. Mike says “hope you are to my right Mark, see you there”.

I stand at the crossroads, next to table #116 and who do I see but the “tribe”, Brad C. from the left, Jason W. in front with none other than Mr. “69” Gavin W. in tow. Yeah, that is just what I needed; the pump that has been injecting adrenaline into my stomach for the past hour takes a rest. “Hello boys!” The usual glad handing and exchange of luck and then the iron man, turns to me and says, “any last words of advice?” To be very honest, it was kind of nice to be giving the advice to a man that has been advising me flawlessly for so many years. “You know what to do Brad, just remember every step could be your last, in a tournament and you need to be able to lay down a big hand, like wired queens”. Brad is a relentless high-limit, cash player that just fires and fires and fires at pots. Today is his first really big tournament. I am still glad that he isn’t at my table. On that note, I am really glad that Jason and Gavin are across the room also. I would have to say that if there was one guy that I fear in poker, it would be Jason, mostly because he is the number one ranked online player today. I could get by that without too much trouble. This isn’t my first rodeo either, but Jason has an edge, he knows me and he plays a very conservative trapping style. I like to fire and dominate. I just plain steal a lot of my poker winnings, Jason counts on that and when he tags me one, it’s deep and often fatal. Gavin simply sleeps with angels; My AA to his 33 is about a 50 to 1 dog. I am glad the tribe is all spread out, plus I would feel bad when I knock them out, so it’s better this way.

COUNTDOWN 0:00. “Players in your seats”. “Shuffle up & Deal”.

Today I made myself a promise, no cowboy stuff early. Today we get deep. I am just going to play solid hands and lay down anything but a monster. Come on Mark! Let’s win this friggin thing! I am true to my word, and I am a very good boy for about a half-hour and then “hello darling”, I am on the button and it is folded around to me. Hey, I am at least stealing these blinds. I look down and see Big Slick AK! I pop it for $125. The little blind folds and the big blind goes all-in without saying anything. What an ASS! His all-in would put me in. I can’t call. I just toss mine in and hope he pulls that later, when I really have the goods.

I steal a couple of blinds and the first hour is dead. We are now at $25.00 and $50.00 blinds and your hero is still composed and patient. I am one off the button and look down at a couple of wired tens. This is an odd ball deal, with already 3 callers. I would normally punch that a little to trim the field, but in this case, I just call, hoping the button and the blinds do the same and we all see the flop together. I am hoping, of course, for a flop like TTA. What I get is AQ4 with 2 hearts. It gets checked around to me, so I do 70% of the pot to take it down. Call, fold, fold, call, oops…”Houston, we have a problem”. The turn is a 7 of hearts, checked to me and I am done with this hand. I check. The river is a 4 of clubs. Check to me again. I am not touching this with a 10-foot pole! I flip over my hand and everyone mucks! Okay, “what the hell were you guys playing?” I go a little card dead for a while, but patience is the key here and I am fine. I look at the table behind me and two players are going at it. David “Devilfish” Elliot just got re-raised. His response? All-In! The guy waits a little bit and then calls. The Devil had AK hearts and they didn’t improve over a pair of pocket nines, “take care David”. Hey, at least I beat him right?

I look down after a half-hour or so and I guess it is my turn to play again. Middle position and there they are, the Gabor sisters. Wired queens. It is checked to me and I make it $300.00. The small blind folds and the big blind calls. The flop gives me wood, 8Q4 rainbow, I have the nuts. The blind checks and I make it $800.00. He calls; “WTF”? The turn is a deuce and still no flush draw. I am still unbeatable. All I can think of is how to get all my money in and I get my chance. He bets out $800.00 and I re-fire “All In”. He speed calls and turns over pocket Aces. Nice hand, second, but very nice. Now I am pumped and ready to get this party going. Of the 44 remaining cards, only two of them can help him. The two aces. Any one of the other 42 cards and I double up and start stacking my chips. The river is an Ace. I decide right then and there, I will never play poker again.

I checked on the rest of the tribe. They were all doing well and didn’t need me to get them anything. I walked away.

Look for more action from the 2005 WSOP in part II as we continue to move backwards through the week.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Three Jacks Won’t Play Part III

Three Jacks Won’t Play Part III….

I find my way to the 1st 2/5 NLHE table and set down all my crap, I have some work to do first because I am only allowed to buy in for $200.00 here and I have three full racks. I go cash in all but $200.00 and start getting settled when the guy right behind me in another game taps me on the shoulder and says, “You have enough room or what? I say, “Sure I’m good thanks”. He looks at me and says “you’re hilarious STOP bumping into my chair!” I respond with, it's not me buddy! He shoots back, “Well SOMEONE is pushing my chair!” I get up and point to my 2 unmolested stacks of red and no hand and say “I just got here 2 seconds ago, you want me to push you I will push you but I haven’t yet!” Oh?... and he turns around; I say, “jerk” and sit back down. Two minutes later he taps me again and says “Hey, sorry man” No problem, I just got out of prison and I don’t need any problems anyway. He was really polite to me the rest of the night, go figure.

I take a look around and who do I see in the number seven seat? It’s trip jacks from last night and he has about $500.00 something in front of him. He looks over and makes eye contact. I smile and he jumps out of his chair like he saw a ghost! He grabs an empty rack and announces to the whole table “I am sorry to win and leave but, I am NOT playing with Him!” he points right at me and continues with “I worked hard for this $300.00 and he will just take it from me, goodnight everyone”. Seat open on table 17! Now everyone is looking at me. What did you do to him? I am his monster under the bed. Every player wants to be feared; I have never had one actually run away before. Thanks kid you made my year.

Poker is a people game played with cards, not the other way around and that is truer in no limit than any other game. I like to keep that in mind at all times at the table, particularly when I am not in a hand. I like to talk and get to know the players at the table, plus I am here to have fun so why not visit? I will tell you why not, you talk too much to me and eventually will see into that place deep inside you and find that hidden thing you didn’t want me to see.

Meet Jim, he is a 24-year-old sitting to my left. After about 30 minutes of friendly play I have learned that he just graduated from college at Fresno State and now lives in a room he rents from a friend. Jim doesn’t have a job; he is just relaxing and having fun playing poker every day. Jim is a pro, not in the sense that he is THAT good, but he makes his sole income from playing poker (See: Grinder)

I know several guys that make their rent playing this 2/5 game; they buy in for $200.00 work up to about a rack and then cash out. Then, they wait the mandatory one-hour and buy back in for $200.00 thus protecting their winnings. Some of the guys I know do this a half a dozen times a night. I asked Jim, assuming this is what he was doing, “So how many times have you cashed in from this game today?” he misunderstood me and thought I was asking how many times did he reload today. The next little bit of information Jim shouldn’t have released was this: “This is still my original buy in from 2:00 this afternoon” it was 11:00 now; he had about $450.00 in front of him. I let it drop; nice job was all I said.

Here we are at 1:00 am and I have been having a whale of a time and have really made some nice gains. I have about a rack and a half or $750.00 plus or minus and a nice aggressive table image to go with it when this hand comes up. I am on the button with a 3&4 of clubs. Under the gun limps for $5.00 and that gets raised to $20.00, five others call. This could get fun. I call, Jim in the small blind raises $30.00 more and makes it $50.00 total. All six players involved call! I’m your huckleberry and I am certainly getting odds to call. (See: Dumb Moves) The flop comes down J47 with 2 clubs. Jim comes out with $50.00 and 2 players call, I make it 4 of us. The turn is a blank that is not a club and I need to find a way to slow this train down to see the river.

I turn to Jim and say, “be careful buddy I am on a monster draw”. I have been pretty vocal (I know, big surprise right?) he has seen me hang on and make a hand to bust out two players tonight so he knows I have to have something. He is unaffected by my ploy and bets out another $50.00. He should have made it much more, especially since I had position on him and TOLD him I was drawing at him. The other two players lose their nerve and it’s just me and the young pro. The river brings an 8 that isn’t a club and I turn to him and say in my most fatherly tone, “That’s your ass kid, you should have made a pot size bet on the turn, you let me draw out on you.”

The important thing to note here is that we had developed a poker table friendship and I have been complementing and congratulating his “great play” all night, we had become buddies. He said “really?” I responded with “save your money Jim”. Jim goes in the tank for about five minutes and says “if it was anyone else I wouldn’t believe it, but I have been watching you do it to guys all night, you have the 5 and the 6 don’t you?” I looked at him and smiled, my painting was complete and it looked like I had a buyer, “Do I look like the type of man that would play a 5&6 for $150.00?”

This really sucks, I check. I pulled back and brought out a stack of red and made it $100.00 to go. While Jim goes back in the tank here, let’s review. He is a tight young player renting a room from a buddy. He has been playing over ten hours now for a profit of around $250.00, plus he is very proud that he didn’t have to re- buy into this game even once. He already has $150.00 of that profit invested in the pot and the bet I just made erases any gain he has made for the whole night. He looks over at me for the 10th time, only this time he shakes his head and shows me his hand, pocket sevens! I don’t hesitate a second and again, like his old lost uncle I say, “You know where you are at, do what you need to do.” He tossed his hand in face up and said “Nice hand”. I tossed mine in right behind him and said “Good lay down”.

The table exploded “How do you lay down a set of sevens?” He said when you play as much as I do you know when you are beaten, plus I really don’t think he would lie to me.” Then he turned and looked at me. “You owe me one kid.” Yeah, I know. Thanks.

A people game played with cards…

Friday, May 27, 2005

Three Jacks Won’t Play Part II….

Three Jacks Won’t Play Part II….

Man was I ever hot last night; just hand over hand, I was a card rack for premium hands and when I got in tough shape with rags my slim out came home. What a night! I go to the poker room around 8:00 and the list is 45 minutes to an hour. Who the hell knows what that means. It could be a while. I decide to also put my name on the 15/30 and 30/60 limit list. I think about signing up for some lower limits, just to get in a game, but whenever I play in the lower games, I end up trying to run over the game. I always have a lot of fun doing that and I am normally positive at the end, but I don’t want to get stuck in “crazy mode” later in the big game and get it handed to me, so I pass.

I talk a walk around the poker room to see if any of my poker pals are around and get a peek at what the name brands are up to. First stop, the upper deck. The upper deck is now one of the second highest areas to play poker in Vegas. The number one being the new glass enclosed room they call “Bobby’s room”, after Bobby Baldwin. You need to really be a player to go in there, minimum 2000/4000 blinds limit or 100/200 no limit. The upper deck is now a place for the 10/20 no limit game, which is now 3 tables, two feeders and a main game most of the time. Tonight there was also an 80/160 hold’em and some 100/300 mixed that was short-handed in the corner. I ran into a staple of the poker world while I was walking, none other than poker Pete.

Pete is the nicest pro you will ever meet. A lifetime ago, Pete was a touring pro, but these days he is happy to grind out a very comfortable living in the 20/40 Omaha High/Low with a kill game. Sound nasty? It is, believe me. I have sat in that game before and it is deep water, plus it is ten handed and nine seats are filled with regulars like Pete. They spend all day beating on each other while waiting for some fish (See: Mark or Jason) to sit down in the open seat. Kaity bar the door when that happens, it is a blood bath and those guys pay their rent in about an hour and the confused donor has just learned a new poker term, “Dead Money”. I am chatting with Pete, who is normally not here this late in the evening and he explains he is stuck a “little”. My name gets called for the 15/30, I wish him luck and he says “Flop’em Dead”. I intend to, what a nice guy.

Table 36, right next to Bobby’s room, I look over to see Jennifer Harmon, Todd Brunson, Johnny Chan and Barry Greenstein through the window, No one is laughing in there. Oh well, I am unracking. I bought in for $500.00, my usual amount for this limit. I notice right away that we have two co-table captains in charge of the game and in three hands, I have spotted at least 5 solid calling stations and one fat guy in an orange polo with a black collar. I swear to God, he looks just like Fred Flintstone! Limit is a little different experience, especially with all these weak players calling every bet. Don’t try to make a move here boys, you will just need to be patient and show the best hand.

I just fall into my normal limit routine, order 1 coffee black & a Perrier, put in the left plug of my Ipod and just sit back and wait. I always listen to the same song over and over while I play, that way I don’t have to concentrate on a new song all the time and really it just provides a soundtrack to me busting someone out. Tonight’s theme is Let's Get It On, by Marvin Gaye, I get distracted sometimes and I actually find myself singing out loud, and that can get REALLY funny! I chose the song for the “Let’s get it on” reference but there is a part that says “Since we got to be, Lets live (I love you)” and you guessed it, I am staring a hole in Fred Flintstone and I actually say out loud… “I Love You”. You WHAT!? J Oops.

He is in the big blind and I am one off the button. Everyone folded to me, so what the heck, I have an A7 Spades and I would normally just let this hand go in a limit game because it is so easily beaten by so many hands post flop, but, hey it’s me and Fred and we are in love in Vegas. I say Fred, let’s make this our own private dance, I raise! The button calls, the small blind folds and Freddy sees the flop with me. I flop the slot machine, J77 rainbow. I actually say “WOW” Fred makes a 15 dollar bet and I turn to the button and say, “This is a private dance”, I raise, make it 30. I get an odd look from the button and he re-raises. Fred says “ok smart alic, you want to dance”? Re-raise! I say “awe Fred”, I raise and that is cap. All told, we now have $280.00 in the center. I am a little worried that one of these guys has pocket jacks. Please, don’t let it be Fred at least. The turn brings a 4 of clubs, there is now a flush draw on deck and the betting is still three-way and it caps again. I am now REALLY worried. We have put in another $450.00 and the pot is at $730.00. With 2 players, I am positive I am behind now.

I won a couple of small pots before this disaster, but I still only have $320.00 left of my original $500.00 and small pre-disaster profits. The river brings an ace of diamonds and Fred actually says “shit check” I do love this guy! I have 2nd nuts. (If he has pocket aces I am going to make him rich because I am getting in as many bets as I can). I look at the button and say, “do you have an ace?” while I bet out 30 bucks. My heart races when he says, “I sure do, make it $60.00. Fred stammers for like 5 minutes and I say “Fred, your done…fold already” STOP calling me “Fred” asshole and I had you dominated before you got your lucky ace on the river! He folds KK face up in the much and the dealer shouts SIR, we still have players to act after you. I am sorry but he is really making me mad! I say “Hey, it’s just poker, nothing personal.” “Fuck You!” The dealer says ENOUGH of that! I smile at Fred and say “raise”, the button re-raises and we go back and forth *unlimited because we are heads up now. All my money goes in. $320.00 more for both of us and the pot ends up at $1460.00 total.

I short called the last bet, so I say “it’s yours to show boss”. He flips over an Ace and a Jack, “Top two pair “BOSS””. That is good for second place and I show him the 7, I look at Fred and say I didn’t need this as I show him the Ace. The table roars, I toss the dealer five reds and I get started stacking when I hear “Nitrox 2/5 No Limit”. That’s my train, thanks for the game everyone. The button reached below and handed me two empty racks and said “Nice hand man”, what a nice thing to say, “That is a classy thing to say, good luck”.

Look for part three and we will see if Nitrox is Boss at No Limit also.

* The dealer actually makes a mistake here because the hand didn’t start heads up so the bets should have been capped at four raises but who am I to correct the dealer.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Three Jacks Won’t Play Part I….

Three Jacks Won’t Play Part I….

Well folks our story begins and where do you think we find our wayward warrior tonight? Yes, I know it sounds strange but there I was in the number three seat in the 2/5 no limit game at the Bellagio poker room. I will set the stage a little by reminding all but the most constant reader that this is a no limit hold’em game however, you are only allowed to buy in for $200.00 and no more, if you bust down below $100.00 you can re-buy for another $200.00. There are normally 4 or 5 tables going all but the last being “must move” to the main game. The important thing to note here is that as players move through the sub games they are building up chips, so the stacks at the last or “Main Game” are normally massive. This format is used to insure that at any given time of the night there is one full game being feed buy the other games.

As I said I was in seat number three of the 1st game or rather five tables away from the main action and had just bought in for my $200.00 starting I had some work to do. My normal strategy in the game is to play very loose and aggressive similar to the tact I would take at a final table of a tournament or sit and go that only paid 1st. you MUST acquire chips to be effective later. The main difference here is that I can reload at anytime, so with out the fear of death I allow my aggression to peak in the early going. I want to push the table around for a couple of reasons, the first of which is to connect some very powerful starters or fill suited connectors getting all of my money in with two or three players and triple up. This will give me enough bullets to start playing my normal aggressive style and allow me to put the slightly larger stacks at this early table to some tough decisions. The second thing this does is establish a very loose and wild table image, particularly if I get busted when I don’t fill and the other players see me go broke playing rags. They are getting out their fishing tackle even if I am successful and win they are likely to want to break the “lucky tourist” and I get some really nice calls later when I am playing my solid A game and all the sudden I have the goods this time.

The fact that I am a little loud and like to crack some jokes at the table helps my image, I often try to pick out a player at the table and assign a nick name, from then on that is their name and I use it A LOT, especially AFTER they tell me their real name. I spotted my straight man right away, a skinny balding man, welcome to the game “Barney”. “Nice hand Barney”, “Nice bet Barney”… WHY do you keep calling me BARNEY!? Oh come on! No one has ever told you that you look just like Don Knotts? You know Barney Fife? No? Wow! The table roars with laughter, everyone except Barney, I may not look like Brad Pitt but, who the hell is this guy? I will get a big call from him later when he “shows” me. I will have the stone nuts when he does but that’s life in Mayberry RFD.

Back to the game at hand. I make a couple of pretty strong moves with some pretty marginal holdings and end up with a pretty strong hold on the table. I have worked myself up to around $350.00 with out any real confrontations. I still need to make a big score to get healthy and settle in for the night. $350.00 is nice, but I am more than happy to risk it all for a possible $900.00 stack (See Plan: A). I am on the button and 26 people limp for $5.00. I look 3 & 4 of clubs I should call here and see how it flops. This could be good, yea RIGHT. Make it look like $20.00! The small blind folds the big blind raises to $40.00! Hey this is my show buddy, two callers and here I am, I call $20.00 because hey, I am getting odds now right? I always say that right before I do something really dumb. We get a flop that looks like J,5,7 with 2 clubs. Not Bad, flush draw and an outside straight draw, I am sure I own the straight because who else would be dumb enough to be playing cards that small in a double raised pot? I don’t get to think very long about what I am going to do here because the big blind counts out the rest of his chips and says “I am all-in!” Well of course you are! Fold, fold, ok Mark, NOW what? I go in the tank and finally decide that I am going to call junior and I know just what I am going to say. Last year in the World Series a buddy of mine went in with AQ and none other than Daniel Negreanu called him with a suited 3 and 4 and named his hand before he went in, “I really hope you have something like an Ace and Queen.” How cool is that! Jason didn’t think it was that cool when Danny caught a four on the turn and it was off to the free Binions buffet for him. Now I try to act like “player of the year” and I look at the kid and say the same thing. I call.

Well, as you can imagine, it didn’t work for me the same way it didn’t for Negreanu. The kid didn’t show me an Ace and a Queen; he flipped over JJ for a set. I said what I always say, “looks like you are in big trouble kid” and showed him my disaster. The Gods were happy a club on the turn and the red faced kid was out of the poker room before the river hit, the board could have paired you know. Oh well. I had my stack and was off to war.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Mark, The Pro, A King & A Deuce....

This is a story about a hand, I love this story and after reading it you will know why. The picture gets painted like this, I have been playing in the 2/5 NL game at the Bellagio and I was doing pretty well for that game I bought in for $200.00 and as I was racking my checks I had filled the fourth rack and had 20 or 30 odd chips left over.

It was 5 handed and the rest of the guys were doing the same as I was getting ready to leave but taking hands in the process, it was 4:30am and I am sure most of them had been there as long or longer than I had, I got there around 9:00 after taking my Lucy to dinner and tucking her away in the room for the night.

It doesn’t matter sometimes you just don’t want the game to brake, one more hand, one more opportunity for catch that big starting hand and that domination only a poker player knows. This however was not to be that hand, K2 diamonds under the gun, I limped. I know I know but hey it was suited, it was short handed and hey it was 4:30 in the friggin morning for crying out loud. I guess everyone felt the same way we were 5 handed when Linda dealt the flop.

Well Well Well… I really am the luckiest man alive I ALWAYS say that at the poker table, what people don’t know is that I am talking about my girls. I have the most beautiful, intelligent & most appreciative girls a man could ever ask for and if I lost every pot I was in from now til the end I would smile and tell you the same thing, so there is never a way for me to lose and that makes me very dangerous if I end up in your pot.

Anyway, there it was just as big as Montana KK5 holy shit batman. Small: check, Big: check, your hero: check, the two others make it unanimous. Let’s see the turn, this is too much a 2 comes. Well folks we have the hidden full house and you know what is most likely going to happen, no bets no action. Well screw that I am going to make it look like I am at least stealing it, I bet the pot, fold, CALL, fold, fold.

So here we are heads up and waiting for the river. The man that called? I won’t use his real name here because I would really like it if he didn’t use mine if things were reversed. Let’s just call him Mike. Mike is a working pro and at the time he was rated 134th by card player magazine. He has had some decent tournament finishes but I suspect most of his income comes from the Bellagio poker room, the lions share cut from tourists swimming in the friendly appearing but shark infested waters of the 2/5 NLHE game. It really is funny to watch the fish, they figure that they saw poker on TV once and this really doesn’t look all that complicated does it? All of the sudden Barney from Boise is forced to make a decision for what amounts to a month and a half of pay checks back home. What he doesn’t know is he is already on ice, drawing stone cold dead. Gus Hansen won a million dollars on the travel channel with his pair of 3s, Barney doesn’t know until all his vacation money is adrift in the green felt Bermuda circle, Johnny Grinder made the nuts on the turn and is only milking the last of the money that was earned in a hardware store in Idaho. It sure didn’t go this way on TV and what the hell am I going to tell my sleeping wife upstairs in the morning? Welcome to the poker room Barney, come back real soon and the game rolls on.

Ok I know I got side tracked and that was a long walk to the river but here we are, Linda peals a 6 off. I reach into the rack now and I grab a row of 5 dollar chips, that’s $100.00 Barney. Mike raises my hundred with another hundred, he brings it out two handed like his hands are on springs. Interesting and I though I was walking down this river road all alone. I look and Mike has about three racks left after his last hostility, I have around $1800.00 and we definitely have established a fork in the road. I am either going to go get the money in the middle which belongs to me and we move on to the next dance or we blow this thing up, someone gets their head chopped of and I’m not Barney.

I don’t have THE hand but I am feel damn good about the ground I am standing on, sometimes in poker you have to just assume you are there and yes there are a couple of really nasty hands out there that can make yours look like a little school girl, but how likely is it and if you go into the dark and do find that monster waiting for you, hey that’s poker. Besides if you need the stone nuts to make your move every time then your going to die with a full tank of gas and cobwebs on your balls. SCREW that I’m firing and I’m alive, playing not watching. Yea sometime I lose but I win a lot more than those tight rocks waiting for permission from the nuts to go in ever do and besides many fear me (I have a story later for that too) and we all know deep down that is the reason we play, it was never about the money.

Let me just say this first what I said to Mike right before I fired, well I meant it and I was sincere in my heart toward him, some of the tribe I play with don’t believe me, but it’s true. Mike is a nice kid and he is grinding a living out doing something he loves, I respect him for that, I have been blessed by god in this life and I have more than enough for me and my girls, again the money just keeps score. What I really need to beat you and own your soul on that civilized battlefield of poker, to dominate, to win! I didn’t need mikes rent money to do that. So I looked right at him until he held my gaze and I said “Mike, DON’T follow me into this pot!” I pulled the trigger and four racks hit the center, “I move in”. Sure I smiled a little, the Gods were happy and for that moment in time I was king and it was a nice place to sit.

Mike was NOT happy; didn’t I know who he was? Was I so stupid not to realize that a professional poker player isn’t going to call all the way to the end and then re-pump without the goods. WTF who the hell was this guy anyway, advising me on which pots I should and should be in, the name is Nitrox and Nitrox is Boss but that is also another story.

To make matters worse for my young friend a crowd was forming; I know 4:30 in the morning, poker players huh? Still they were there about 15 of them all waiting for Mike’s response, they would need to wait. Mike went into the tank, poker players call it that when someone takes a long time deciding on their hand, derived from the term think tank I suppose, anyway Mike struggled recounting the action in his head, Linda the dealer is a true professional sitting with the remainder of the deck spread, hands in her lap, staring forward into space without a care in the world who won. I have been friends with Linda for a long time and she is a true pro in every sense, however she did care who won, not only do I treat her and the other dealers in my game with respect, I take care of the dealers when I hit and she knows I do, so deep down inside this impartial poker professional I know a little voice was chanting “Call.. Call... Oh Mike you are in the deepest water and Mark holds the hammer, please call” She also knew that if Mike won and took down that almost $4000.00 she would get two bucks from him if she was lucky.

That is one thing I hate about “PROs” they don’t tip well because it takes down their hourly rate, it is a business you know! When you say that you sound like a punk, I own a multi-million dollar computer business with over 40 employees and they ALL get a bonus on top of their regular pay EVERY month, even the guy who cleans the bathroom gets some love. Mine is a business too, I am just a better boss than you.

More waiting, I had given him enough time. “Come on Mike, stay or go” he continued to stare me down, I put my palms up and shrugged “I made the bed already what can I tell ya?” Mike had one more trick left, he showed me his cards, a 3 and 4 and said “I have the nut straight! SWEET all my money was in and I was winner no matter what, no more worries about that case King with a 5 or a 6. I was changing my attitude though this was a little much, I was playing solid and I even honestly told him not to call, but you want to yank my chain like this? Turn the page, now I want the money Mike! Your just pissing me off now!

So I take a page from the art of war…..

All warfare is based upon deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.

Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Now let’s break this little smart ass….

I shift in my seat as much as I can and try not to over play it, he is looking at your eyes Mark, look away, look back quick like you caught yourself and you don’t want him to know that those cards scare you. Briefly compose yourself and then act STRONG, the rule of thumb in poker is that a player is showing you the opposite of what they want you to believe (see “Art of War”) so here I need to dance a little, what does he think, I think, he thinks and so on.

Nice hand Mike, second best, but nice! The fact that no flush is possible is giving him confidence; the fact that I seem nervous is enhancing that feeling. He is discounting the two kings because even if I have a king he has that door nail shut and the rest of the board is little cards. Who plays King Little? Who is John Galt? Mike feels like he has set the perfect trap like only a seasoned pro like him could, play middle and little suited connectors in multi-way pots and when they connect hope for a big card, a tourist with a premium hand like AK, spread the napalm and pick up the bodies. Hey nothing personal it is a business you know.

Time to add the cherry to my pain sundae, a little more nervous this time, damn it Mike this is bullshit! I turn to Linda and say “put the clock on him” She calls for the floor person, who never shows up, big surprise there, I don’t care if he comes or not just that Mike thinks I need it. The thought here for Mike is “The guy has seen my cards so the more nervous he is the better for me, if I was beat he would be fine to just wait until I hang myself”. I need to play it just right here, he needs to “detect” my discomfort for the puzzle to fit, so I keep making little cuts in myself hoping that his superior poker sense can smell the blood and fear. Mike, I have to take a piss I will be right back, I didn’t have to, just then he says;

No wait …..

I call

I flip over my rags that turned to riches and say “I think I have you covered.” The railbirds roared including Mike’s running buddy Ryan, “How in God’s name could you not know he was rolled up?” Hey shut up Ryan at least he was playing you were only watching. Me? I am off to throw $100.00 bills at Lucy she loves it when I do that.


Last September I went to Las Vegas with some of the poker tribe I play with Jason, Gavin & I were there with Johnny Z. celebrating how friggin old he is and so the first night we are there guess where we end up? Yea I know tough guess, so we are playing in the 2/5 NL game at the Bellagio and who of all people gets moved into our game? Hey how are you doing, I am friendly with everyone at the table, it’s just more profitable to be that way. He takes one look at me and says “Oh you, Mr. King & 2” the tribe just smiled “oh, so that’s the guy!” I may have told them that story a couple of times too many. I guess he may have taken some ribbing from his fellow pros for a while after the computer guy from Denver came and erased Microsoft Money off his hard drive that night. I said; Awe come on Mike I brought all that money right back here to give back to you, honest.

The whole thing has become a big joke with the tribe and we play around with the K2 now for fun, so if I am in your game and a King and a Deuce hit the board…

“Don’t follow me in”

See you in the Ring


Stories Stories Stories ….

I start today writing about the great adventure “Mark & Texas Monster” not really because I am so good at cards or the stories are all that spectacular, more because I am just a regular guy just like you and this is what happened to me when I tried it. The only thing I can compare it to is those sports blooper deals where the guy tries a jump and ends up getting racked in the nuts and humiliated and the viewers LOVE it, mainly do to the fact that it wasn’t them getting racked. Hey Billy-Bob now that is funny shit.

Seriously as always I am writing only for me and I lord knows I am not getting paid for this stuff so if you like welcome to being twisted like me drop me a note. If you don’t like it go somewhere else might be better for you.

So without any more introduction needed these are my stories: