Friday, April 27, 2007

Shamus in Vegas: Episode 5 -- “It's Only Money”

Imperial PalaceThe Imperial Palace poker “room” (or, more properly, “area”) is modestly-sized, with no more than a dozen tables or so curled around a bar in the front right-corner of the building. The 2/4 limit game was at the table nearest the gateway-like entrance. I sat down in the just vacated seat 7. When I began, all of the players were men, and while several would come and go during the two-and-a-half hours I remained at the table, the table would remain all men throughout -- with one highly conspicuous exception (more later).

Took just a few orbits for me to figure out that the fish were mostly gathered on the other side of the table, and the better players were sitting on either side of me. Not the best arrangement. Still, I think my end of the table was more entertaining.

To the left of the dealer (in seat 10) was a largish gentleman whose baseball cap and accent identified him as a Chicagoan. At one point he said he’d “spent forty years in strip b-AH-s and casinos,” so I suppose he’d played a fair amount of poker in his life. I’ll call him Windy City (did a lot of talking, not much winning). To his left was a younger, stronger player whom I’ll call Mr. Grins because he managed to keep us all cracking up throughout the session. Mr. Grins had good reason to grin -- he won a bundle. He was a good player, but also had some good fortune -- twice he had AK and flopped two pair, then had an opponent (the same poor guy) turn a straight, then made his four-outer boat on the river. On another hand, he held a pair of nines and turned a boat, then said if the fourth nine had come on the river he would have taken off his pants and run around the table. Mr. Grins did a good job keeping us laughing while taking our chips.

To Mr. Grins’ left (and my right) was an older, quieter player -- Old Granite -- who never bet without at least two pair, and didn’t preflop raise when he got big slick. The last player I’ll refer to -- Action Joe -- actually didn’t come to the table until after the first hour or so, once the afternoon tourney had finished. He arrived telling the dealer (and us) that he’d chopped the tourney, thus giving him $900 in tourney winnings for the week. Soon afterwards he’d mention he was a television executive (in Vegas for the big conference that was concluding Friday). He was also a fairly crafty player. Unfortunately for me, Action Joe was seated to my left.

As I had done at the MGM, I bought in for $100. Spent the first couple of orbits folding sub-par hands and watching. A lot more preflop raising going on here than at MGM. I had trickled down to $85 or so when I pick up QT on the button. Somehow six players had limped in without a raise, and eager to see a flop I limp as well. About $30 in the pot, then, when the flop comes QT7-rainbow. One early position player on the other end of the table bets, and it folds to me. I raise, he calls, and everyone else skedaddles. The turn was another queen. Sweet sassy molassey, I thought. Easy game when you hold the nuts. Again EP bets. I might’ve slow-played, but decided to raise since I thought he could draw out on me somehow. He called. Now there’s $55 or so in the pot. The river is a deuce, and he bets again. I raise and he three-bets.

I think for a moment and reassess my hand. Have been playing a lot of Omaha, where sometimes quads sneaks up and bites you on the ass when you think you’re holding the nuts. Nope, I assure myself, my hand cannot be topped here. The dealer explains that since we went the river heads-up, there is no longer a cap on the betting. I’m wondering if I could just announce “all in” at this point. (Anybody know?) I didn’t know, and so reraise once again. By this point, I was about 90% sure my opponent was also holding the QT and we were about to chop a huge pot. The rake had already reached its limit (10% or $4 max.), though, so there was no reason not to keep betting with the nuts. To my surprise, he just calls the fourth bet, turning over Q7 for a lesser boat. I scoop what was probably the biggest pot I won all week -- $70+ or thereabouts. That put me nearly $30 up for the session.

I know what you’re thinking. Just when, exactly, is all this horseshoe-up-yr-keister stuff gonna end, Shamus? How about right now.

Following that huge hand, I endure a fairly long stretch where I have a hard time picking up anything playable or connecting with any boards. All the preflop raising is making it harder, also, for me to play the speculative hands. Chips are starting to dribble away. Finally I get AsKc in late position and raise it up. Three or four players call, and the flop comes 6h8hTh. Criminy. All check to me, I bet, and all call. The turn is the 4h and I make scarce. I’m now about $10 up.

Another hand finds Mr. Grins and Windy City in a heads-up situation. On the turn, Windy City decides to fold, saying “playing heads-up is like kissing your sister” as he does. Can’t say I really understood his precise meaning, but Mr. Grins offered to clarify.

“Oh, right. You mean like it feels good at the time but you feel bad about it later.”

No one got it, so I chimed in with a “Wa-a-a-ait a minute.” Everyone cracked up, and Mr. Grins felt obligated to explain that, in fact, he had no interest in making out with his sister.

An orbit or two later I pick up AdAh in the cutoff. I get a couple of callers, including Action Joe from the button. Flop comes K55 and the early position player checks. I bet and both of my opponents call. The turn is a deuce, and when I bet this time only Action Joe stays with me. The river is a jack. I bet and Action Joe raises.

I had thought he’d probably have stuck around with a king, and perhaps he’s paired his kicker here as well. I knew he was no dummy, though. A dummy with KJ might raise here, not thinking about rockets beating him. I called and he showed 85-offsuit. (Clever call preflop, eh?) “Nice hand,” I told him. And it was, actually. He had extracted the maximum from me. I was now down about $10 for the session.

Emboldened, Action Joe started making straddle bets every time he was UTG. This was new to me. A straddle is essentially a raise in the dark, meaning before the cards were dealt, the blinds plus the straddle’s four dollars were already on the table, and thus it would take $4 to call (or $6 to raise) if one wanted to enter the pot. The straddles, coupled with an already aggressive preflop table and crummy starting hands, made it even harder for me to get to a flop.

One hand I’m dealt 33 in middle position and end up folding it preflop in the face of a reraise before me. The board ended up coming Ad7d3d 8cAc. I would’ve come in second. Two players had flushes, and the winner had A8.

Another hand I’m in the BB with QsJc. It folds all of the way around to Mr. Grins on the button who raises. Old Granite calls, and I do as well. The flop comes AcKd7d. Old Granite bets, and I recklessly call with my lame gutshot. (I’m getting frustrated, clearly.) Mr. Grins raises, Old Granite calls, and now I’m telling myself I have to call, too. The turn is 8d and Old Granite checks. I decide to represent the flush and bet, but Mr. Grins raises me. We both fold, and Mr. Grins shows Ad2d. Bad hand for me there. I’m now down around $25.

Around this time a dark-haired, tanned woman with a low-cut blouse arrives with a flourish to take a seat at the other end. Lots of testosterone-inspired murmurs on my end of the table. Her blonde-haired girlfriend sits down behind her. The player looks to be in her early twenties. Would’ve made an impression with this crowd no matter how she played.

But let me tell you how she played.

It took exactly one hand to figure out her style. Every time the action was on her, she would bet or raise. At the turn she always had to be told by the dealer how much to bet. Couldn’t exactly tell if she was drunk or just crazy. Probably the former, as the dealer had to tell her more than once not to use foul language. In either case, she she clearly had no idea she wasn’t at a craps table or playing some other game where you place your bets and cross your fingers. At the end of that first hand, she showed down six-high, dropping over $30. Soon she’d run through her initial $100 and rebought. Mr. Grins picked up big slick yet again, flopped an ace, and as the hand progressed provided us with a running narration (“That’s right, honey . . . oh, yes . . . watch, I’m going to get paid here . . . ”). Reactions to hands become increasingly animated, but she seems utterly nonplussed.

“It’s only money,” she says, her only explanation. Let’s call her Wild Woman.

I’m not picking up anything worth playing, and lose a few more bets just trying to get involved. Then comes the craziest hand of the week.

Wild Woman is in the small blind. Several limp, I throw away my J2 or something like it from late position, more call, then Wild Woman raises, leaning back and talking to her girlfriend as she does. Everyone calls (there are about six players in the hand). The flop comes Qc6d7s and the action is on Wild Woman. She’s still leaned backwards, jabbering on, and holding her cards in her right hand. The dealer is telling her it is her turn . . . .

I realize suddenly I can see her cards: 4c8c. (Good raising hand, eh?) Man, if only I could get in a hand . . . !

The dealer warns Wild Woman to cover her cards, but Action Joe (who is between me and her) announces he has also seen her hand. The floor gets called over and rules that Wild Woman must now place her cards face up on the table for all to see. She does so, somewhat petulantly. Then she is reminded again it is her turn to act. What does she do?

She bets, of course. Expressions of amazement. When all five of her opponents call, I keep my expressions of amazement to myself.

The turn brings the Jc. And a chorus of “oohs.” Wild Woman has probably just quadrupled her outs. She bets again. “I’d bet with that hand, too,” someone says. This time four call, one fold. The pot is up around $50. The river is . . . the 3c. She bets, and all fold.


Eventually she gives all those chips back to the game (of course), and buys in again, though this time just for $50 more. I’m starting to feel a little desperate, having not had a chance to play a hand with her. Being down around $35-$40 for the session or so ain’t helping my mood. And I’m going to have to leave soon to meet Vera for the show. So I decide to do something unorthodox.

I’m in the cutoff with Kc2s. Wild Woman is in the big blind, so I know she’s going to be in the hand. A couple of players limp, and I decide to raise. I know I’ve got crap cards -- the “devil’s cards,” as Henry and Zog of PokerDiagram call K2 -- but I’m also trying to use my tight image here. I actually hadn’t raised a hand preflop since my rockets had gotten busted. In fact, as Action Joe calls me, he makes reference to that hand. “Oh well, I’ll call and give you back some of your chips,” he says. “Or I might win, but then I’ll feel bad.” “You wouldn’t feel that bad,” I reply. Wild Woman calls (had thought she might raise), as do the limpers, so there are actually five of us to see the flop. (Not such a great attempt at isolation, I know.)

The flop is KJ7-rainbow and Wild Woman bets out. Both the limpers fold (yes!), and I raise, but Action Joe calls the two bets (no!). Wild Woman just calls. $30 or so in the pot.

The turn is a Q and Wild Woman bets again. I raise again, and this time Action Joe gets out. She just calls. I don’t realize it, but she’s almost out of chips again. In fact, for the last few hands her girlfriend has been keeping her chips on the small table behind her. (That can’t be allowed, can it?)

The river is another 7 and she bets her last three dollars. I call, praying this isn’t the one hand where she actually has something. She shows 10-high, and I show my king-deuce. “You raised with that?” exclaims Action Joe. I smile and say something about taking a chance. He clearly didn’t think I was capable of such applesauce. I am back to around $80 total. To the groans of the table, Wild Woman and her girlfriend leave.

The very next hand I pick up AsKs and raise it up again. Again Action Joe calls, though I can tell he’s a little unsteady. A king comes on the flop, and I eventually get Joe to fold on the turn, picking up a few more chips. I have exactly $86.50 (for some reason, the Imperial mixes quarters in with the chips, I suppose when the rake isn’t exactly a dollar). I decide to move on.

So a losing session, but with my $95 win at the MGM I’m still up $81.50 overall. Winning that first day surely made the ups and downs at the Imperial easier to endure. Probably also caused me to play more conservatively, though, which was not necessarily a good thing at this table. Still, I was glad to get out without having taken much of a hit.

I met Vera at 6 p.m. and we grabbed a bite and then saw “O.” Pretty wild stuff. They may well have made the sport of synchronized swimming obsolete with that show -- nothing left to do, really. We made it back to the hotel before it was too late, then Friday morning Vera took off for some more dressage at the FEI. Meanwhile, I set my sights on downtown. Had a few places I wanted to see, but one in particular.




Anonymous Anonymous said...

That hand with the Wild Woman catching a runner runner flush was hilarious.

Good retelling of your poker session. About as good as the ones at Up For Poker.

I think you held your own. Sounded like a pretty wild table.

4/28/2007 5:26 AM  

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