The first rule of the Big Game: don’t talk about the Big Game.

It’s really true.  If you found a wonderfully loose card game full of poor players playing for decent stakes, you’d keep your mouth shut.

And I will, mostly, except that I’m going to crow a little bit.  I won’t talk about where it is, who’s hosting it, or anything else that might allow you to find it, but I’m going to tell the occasional story since it’s too juicy to pass up.  It will be known from here on as "The Big Game".

I visited the Big Game and sat down to a game of $1/$2 no limit hold’em.  I bought in for $300.  Ninety minutes later, I had played 6 hands and I had $650.  Here’s the key to this story: I’m not that good player, and my cards weren’t all that great.  I just played competently.

One of the better players (we’ll call him Skip) who was sitting to my immediate left (that was aggravating), once got into a $150 pot and said "Eh, it’s a coin flip."  My mouth almost hit the felt.  There was $25 in the pot already, and some guy tosses in his last $70 or so and said, "all in".  Skip looked at this cards, concluded that it was a coin flip, and called the $70 bet.  I thought back to my previous lecture on the concept of "Risk vs. Volatility" and a little voice in my head said, "Skip’s an idiot for flipping a coin for $70."  Needless to say, I managed to keep my real mouth shut.

I listened to that voice all evening and only got into a pot where I was the overwhelming favorite or when I had a good enough read and big enough balls to make a bet sizable enough when everyone missed the flop that nobody could call me.  Many of the players, especially one I’ll refer to as Gregory, had a bad habit of raising too much with Ace-King or a pair of Queens or Jacks and then checking when the flop brought an Ace.  Typically if I was in last position I’d put in a pot-sized bet ($80-$100).  And it worked.  Especially on Gregory.

I mis-read one player all evening which costs me $50 in a river call.   Here’s what happened:

An awful player, let’s call him Bruce, has a death wish.  He repeatedly goes all in from the blinds before the flop with any medium Ace such as Ace-Seven or Ace-Ten.  Usually he pushes in $100 or more in order to win $12-20.  Like I said, he has a death wish.

Sooner or later someone with a decent pair or a bigger ace will call him and take his money.  I didn’t have the cards that night, so it never got to be me.

On his left was a buddy (we’ll call him Josh) who sat and yakked with him all night, but didn’t play many hands.  Not noticing his tight play was my undoing, as I got into a pot with him later and he woke up on the river with a $50 bet into a $120 pot. 

I could smell something was wrong, but it wasn’t until he turned over his cards that I realized I had him pegged as a bad player because I’d associated him with his neighbor due to a lack of data.  In fact, the lack of data was information that I should have heeded, but I had overlooked that.  He was a good player, and I fell right into his trap when he slow played his set of queens, my Ace-Queen was no good and I realized that was the only hand I’d seen him play for an hour.

I would like to blame this on the fact that it’s a new poker room, but in reality, I suspect it’s because all the waitresses at this place wear corsets that make their cleavage look enormous.  I clearly wasn’t paying attention at that moment and I paid the price in literal, real dollars.

My best hand was actually played against a friend.  I picked up a pair of nines, raised it to $9 (a play I was setting up for later) and he called in the big blind with a 74 (suited).  The flop came 742 (rainbow) and I bet out $15.  He flat-called and the turn came a 9.  I bet $30 and he called.  The river brought a brick and no flush possibilities and he checked. 

I thought I could take his last dollar right there, but to be honest I suffered a moment of weakness.  He’s a colleague, is playing above his limit, and was in town for a little fun.  I felt I’d taken enough off him and didn’t need to take his last dollar, so I checked it down.  I could have made more, but as they say, "Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered."  In a casino against someone I didn’t know, I would have certainly have made a final bet.  The same would be true of limit.

A couple hours later I cashed out, calculated my hourly rate at $125 an hour and hid my money on my for the trip home.  When I play no limit I really have to carry a lot more cash on me than I’m comfortable with so I’m starting to have to learn to hide it.  I have some unusual expenses related to playing in the Big Game that I’ve never had before, so since I don’t really need the money I think I’m just going to bankroll them for these costs and not worry about collecting them.  After all, I don’t need the money, I need the experience.*

(I think that’s a funny irony.  Poker players are always saying when they lose that it was a good experience to justify the fact that they didn’t make any money.  I suspect I’m the rare player to pooh-pooh my winnings and talk about the experience.)