I babysat for Sarah and one of her fellow mom drinking buddies this weekend and then after they got home, I hit the Big Game slightly before midnight. I arrived to a table of six morose people playing $2/$5 No limit Hold’em, maximum buyin $1,000. Two guys were racking up around $5-6,000 in chips and the rest of the table looked entirely morose as they were leaving. All night these players had been dominating the table apparently. When one had accumulated $2,000 or so, he started simply making bets so big nobody could stand them. Slowly he chipped away at everyone’s stack. Occasionally someone would make a stand and they’d discover he had a great hand.
After a while, he just started raising every pot to $25, and few players, if any, had the ability to make a stand. When one of the guys racked up his $4,000+ and left, I thought the rest of them were going to cry.
And so I sat down to a table of emotionally scarred players with my $500 in chips. The five of us started playing and they were thrilled to discover I wasn’t a maniac. In order around the table were four players of wildly different styles. To my left was hip-hop guy, who’s a terrible poker player whom I could often push out of a pot. He’s trying to learn by playing cards instead of playing and studying
To his left was Maniac Recruiter Guy. He’d dropped $1,500 playing against the lunatic who just left, and still had about $700 left. To his left was Government Contractor Construction Guy, who bluffs a lot. And to his left was Stapler Rock Guy, who’s dangerous when he has a good hand.
Maniac Recruiter Guy was tilted all evening from dropping $1,500 to the Maniac earlier. It’s not the money that bothers him, it’s the fact that he lost it in a game against someone else. He’s an entrepreneur who sold his company a few years ago and has more money than he’ll ever spend.
He, like most poker players, are extremely competitive and losing the money is not nearly as important as losing a hand to someone else and being shown that they played poorly.
Maniac Recruiter Guy and I got into a hand when I had Ace-Queen of clubs and he had King clubs, Jack of diamonds. The flop came 3 diamonds, 4 diamonds, and King hearts. Maniac Guy bet $25 and I raised to $100. He thought for a second and then called. The turn came the 8 of diamonds and the whole table considered the flush. Maniac Recruiter Guy thought and checked. I quickly bet $300 to try and push him out of the pot.
Maniac Recruiter Guy went deep into the tank to think. He sat and moved his two hole cards, bottom to top, one at a time. Bottom card pulled out and put on top. Over and over again. Stapler Rock Guy said, "Hey, you’re showing your cards."
I believed I saw the King of diamonds, and I told him so. "Hey, I can’t be deceitful, my integrity requires that I tell you. But I’d be happy if you called."
He thought for a long time, and then said, "I don’t have the King of diamonds, but I do have a diamond." And then he folded. I told him I had the Ace-queen of clubs and was on a pure bluff and he proceeded to tilt badly for the next hour. Sadly, my bluff taught him to copy my move, and every time I entered a pot with him, he bullied me out of it. He took so many $75 pots with $700 bets that I just tightened up and quit playing anything out of position against him.
After about 90 minutes I was dealt a pair of jacks. I limped into the pot with Maniac Recruiter Guy and Stapler Rock Guy. The flop came J-4-3, all different suits. I hit my set! I was out of position, with the pot at $15, I bet $15. Maniac Recruiter Guy called, and Stapler Rock Guy folded.
The turn came a queen, making the board J-3-4-Q and I bet $50. Maniac Recruiter Guy thought for a second and then said "all in". He had bet about $800. I had $500-$600 left. I thought about whether or not he would have played a pair of queens like that, which would have given him a high set of queens, and assumed no. I also re-read the board, and found that he couldn’t have a flush or a straight. He either has a lower set or two pair or heaven forbid, a draw. Possibly and overpair, but he would have raised that before the flop.
I knew I had the best hand, and I said, "I call, I hope you have queens." He turned over Queen-Four to show that he had two pair. He was dead unless the final card was a queen. It was not, it was a three, making me a full house and him three pair. I threw $15 to the dealer and asked her to count my chips carefully while I took a walk around the room. I didn’t really want to sit there and watch him count out my chips.
When I came back the club owner and the dealer had carefully stacked about $1,150 in chips in front of me. Maniac Recruiter Guy had taken his last $125 and left for the night. I sat back down and pondered playing this game three handed.
We played three handed for a while and the two remaining players ran over me with bluffs and semi-bluffs. I dropped about $200 and then the owner closed for the night. I cashed out my largest win ever and hitched a ride home.
As he counted out my twenties, the owner said, "I’m really sorry you had such a bad night, Shabbir."
Heh. I’ll be back to the Big Game again.