Friday, January 18, 2008

My Hat Went To Oklahoma

11:43 PM. The word on the street is I'm on the list to play 2/5 no limit at the Bellagio.

11:50 PM. 7 minutes later and already I'm giving away money with 5,6 suited. What do you want from me? I'm a NY Giants fan. Something about the 56 makes it so tough to fold.

Playing a hand like this mostly makes me wish I had bought in short. If I only had $200 on the table I may have shoved when I paired on the flop but with 500 at risk it wasn't worth looking up his continuation bet. Pushing all in may not have been positive expected value here but I bet it would have been positive expected fun!

11:56 PM. I've only been at this table for a few minutes but I think I'm in what's known as a good place. There's a guy here who is everything to hope for at a poker table. He singlehandedly makes every hand interesting. He raises and bets at flops without looking at his cards. He's drinking heavy. He's from Oklahoma. He's awesome.

He's not a sucker. He's just a guy who doesn't care if he loses $1500 at poker.
Apparently that's what he's bought in for thus far. And he's telling stories of 5 and 6 figure wins and losses.

Whether or not they're true, he's clearly trying to exude that "the money doesn't matter to me."

To his credit it looks like he's having way more fun than the rest of us. And regardless of whether he wins or loses at this table, he's good for the game.

11:59 PM. Minus 10 with jack 9 suited.

12:19 AM. Hoping. Folding. Waiting.

12:28 AM. I'm the guy who can't get anything going. It's especially painful at this table. Oklahoma even made a comment to me about my lack of action and I told him the truth.

I said "Hey I'm dying to get in there and play some hands with you and the rest of the table but I keep getting 3,9 every time. As soon as I get anything remotely playable I'll be in there with you."

He just called me Brooklyn so we're on good terms.

12:31 PM. Minus 20 with pocket 6's. More bleeding. Oklahoma bets 100 on turn when board pairs. I'm skeptical but he's betting big all the time so I don't feel the urgency to play this specific hand with over cards staring at me. However I am going to have to pick one sooner or later and go with it.

12:44 AM. I finally find my spot. Oklahoma raises to 40 preflop and because it's him he gets 4 of us to call. So there's $200 out there. Thank you sir.

I only have $260 left in front of me so after I connect with the flop I lead out all in. The flop has straight and flush possibilities so my push creates 260 to win 460 odds. That ain't even 2 to 1. If I check the flop and let someone else bet first then my drawing opponents suddenly have improved odds to chase me down. But with 260 to win 460, the flush draw across the table has to fold.

I appreciate not having to hope my hand holds up. Sure greed wonders if I could have won another $260 if we raced. But of course it carried the risk of losing my entire stack and the entire pot. So the push was good. This time. In this spot. Against these particular players. At this moment.

12:52 AM. Minus 25 with AK. It was a multiway pot and this table is so loose, I don't even bother with the continuation bet on the flop. They will call. They will pay you off. You just gotta have something. And I don't. So I don't bet.

And one man truly deserves the credit for this insane action. I forget his name. But his state was Oklahoma. Our table captain. He keeps betting chips before any action happens. Before the dealer even deals he has a stack of chips out there. Sometimes it's 20. Sometimes it's 100. His bet size varies but I've never seen anyone give action like this before.

He tips the dealers when he loses pots. Occasionally says nasty stuff but tips even more when he does that. This creates a funny chemistry where the dealers are almost happy to see him lose. Pavlovian behavior makes them want him to curse at them. Because it will just mean another 10 bucks.

I'm so confused. I never think it's right to abuse dealers but when you watch a man say "You stink and keep giving me lousy cards" and then toss two red chips towards that person, it gets weird.

I'm polite. But this guy is clearly better than me for the dealer's bottom line.

As the evening goes on it's fascinating to watch the different dealers handle him.
He's making really offensive jokes to dealers and then tipping them hard. The more experienced dealers are strict with him and Oklahoma responds. He is well behaved when he needs to be. I find this last part to be somewhat of a relief. It's what makes Oklahoma likable to me.

1:01 AM. I finally take advantage of having Oklahoma to my left. I limp with ace queen and let Oklahoma do his blind raise to 20. Then after 4 players call the 20 in between us, I reraise it to 200.

My raise forced Oklahoma to finally look at his cards and after I survive his random hand, everyone else folds and I picked up 100 bucks.

1:29 AM. Over the past 30 minutes I've given away money with 9,10 suited. King 9 suited. 7,9 suited. Ace suited. Basically I'm trying to find a hand that still looks good post flop. No luck thus far.

1:36 AM. For the second time tonight I've called a flop bet to see what my opponent will do on the turn. And then when my opponent bet again I folded. Both times. This suddenly feels like a leak and will continue to until I hit 2 pair on the turn and take someone's stack. Then it won't feel like a leak. Even though it still will be a leak.

1:55 AM. Oklahoma is all in blind because his wife texted him "Get your ass up to the room."

1:56 AM. Oklahoma triples up with 8,10 off.

1:58 AM. Oklahoma is all in again with 6,7 off vs ace king and rivers a straight.

Of course he does.

2:13 AM. Normally I might feel like I should go but tonight I can't leave till Oklahoma does.

2:20 AM. I hit quad 8's. Strangely, in the middle of the hand Oklahoma asks me if he can wear my hat. Now normally I'd probably say no. Especially if it was my lucky hat. But I did not purchase the hat that I happen to be wearing tonight. It was given to me a few months back. I'm guessing it came from some sort of discount bin. Probably retails for 30 something. But in reality it probably cost like 10 bucks tops.

2:22 AM. Oklahoma offers me 20 bucks for that. I could have played hard ball and gotten 50 out of him. Easily. But I thought it was better for the game to make him happy and give it for 20. Why not keep the good vibe going? The 30 dollars would make little difference. Oklahoma was offering everyone action. The least I could do was let him have a hat that excited him. And he really was proud of it on his head.

Meanwhile I may not be able to win a poker hand. But look at who just made 20 bucks!

2:32 AM. I win another pot doing my hack preflop limp thing behind Oklahoma and the reraising again after he bets 20 blind.

2:39 AM. Here we go again. I limp with ace jack suited and Oklahoma blind raises to 20 behind me. This time I decide to alter my play and just call. We see the flop 4 ways and the board pairs 4s.

Oklahoma reminds everyone that he hasn't looked at his cards yet and says "I might have a 4 so I bet 40."

Good for him right?

There is a Bellagio dealer playing at the table and he is next to act. This dealer player says something about how it's impossible to handle this spot. The dealer player decides that raising is pointless "Since he's just going to call anyway."

But how does he know this?

I think you gotta raise here if you're gonna play the hand. Make Oklahoma look at his cards and make a decision.

But instead the dealer just calls.

This suddenly makes me suspicious that he could have a 4. I fold my ace jack. Yet if the dealer had folded in front of me it's likely I would have raised.

The two players check the turn and the river.

The dealer shows ace 6. He's got ace high.

Oklahoma turns over his random cards for the first time. He has 8,9. We all look back out at the board. There's an 8 out there. Oklahoma takes the pot with a pair of 8's.

2:54 AM. I have one poor hand. And it's over. Perhaps I should celebrate that it took until the early morning of Friday January 18th for me to feel stupid this year.

As for the hand itself, I didn't play it aggressively enough. I flopped the nut flush draw and a dude with top pair bet out. I had Oklahoma behind me so I just smooth called the top pair bet, hoping that Oklahoma might raise behind me. But Oklahoma folded.

My not raising the flop caused 2 problems. It let my opponent put me on a drawing hand. I think that if I raise the flop he folds since his kicker was only 9 high.
And the other benefit of raising the flop is that by waiting till the turn I let him price himself into the pot for the rest of his chips with his turn bet. Thus when my flush didn't come on the river I watched my chips in the middle go across the table.

Obviously I don't mind that the flush didn't come. But I do mind that I didn't put more pressure on my opponent and force him to make a tough decision.

And I think this was the direct result of letting Oklahoma take me off my game. I lost touch with my aggression because on this evening I was so in the habit of letting him do the betting. I basically relinquished my power to raise, knowing it was often going to come from behind me. And on this hand it didn't. And it cost me.


ds2 said...

It's really a small world. A friend from work showed me your blog and I've enjoyed reading it the past few weeks. I'm also from New York and have considered doing just what you did, packing up and moving to Vegas. The amazing part is I was at your table with the drunk Oklahoma guy! I was in town for a long MLK weekend and just returned to NYC and checked your blog. You were wearing a Dockers hat, he kept saying, "I might crack you like a breakfast omlette, and referred to my friend as "throwback" because of the 80's polo shirt he was wearing. I was in between you and Oklahoma, wearing a black Illinois hat and encouraging him all the while trying to pick up a hand to get his chips. Keep up the good work, if I had any idea who you were, I'd have bought you a drink. It was a pleasure, perhaps next time I'm out there, I will buy you a drink and hopefully we can have Oklahoma back at our table.

Joe said...


My buddy (ds2 from comments) tipped me off to your blog. Great stuff. I sat to your immediate right and thanks to the endless nicknames bestowed by "Oklahoma" you may recall me as either "Polo" or "throwback". I was so initially taken back by him that I didn't know at first whether to embrace or hate him. Quickly I realized how likable he was and fired back at one "Throwback" moniker with "Listen pal, I've been losing money in this shirt for 20 years now." The table cracked up and we were friends after that. Thanks for capturing a fun moment in poker that night.

Throwback Joe

Robert said...

That's pretty funny. A small world indeed.

I remember both of you.

DS2- You didn't bet when I checked my quads to you on the river.

Joe- You stole my hack move by raising preflop to take down all the dead money a couple of times...when I was about to raise behind you.

In fact the two of you had a conversation where I thought you guys knew who I was and were basically mocking me. (You guys were talking about how wouldn't it be cool if you could talk to a local and find out where the good games were, etc.)

Part of me was dying to say "You guys are already sitting at it."

It was a pleasure to play with both of you.

Actually let me take that back....What I mean to say is you both seemed like nice guys.

However you were both too competent at poker to be sitting at my table.

Did you guys stay longer than Oklahoma? Did he inevitably give away his stack?

ds2 said...

Great memory, which leads me to a question. I didnt see you taking notes, yet your recollection of hands, and even times is incredibly accurate, lots of practice or is there some "trick" involved. Thanks for the competent moniker. I've had a couple of nice tournament scores and play cash games pretty solidly, if not well and after 13 years of NYC, I really have considered following your lead and moving out there. Sure enough, OK did in fact donk off his entire stack, even after his wife gave him permission to stay longer. I saw him with her the next day, seemingly sober, strolling through the hotel. He said he was going to play the 1k buy-in tourney Saturday, wouldn't be surprised if he took it down, so goes the world in Vegas apparently.

Robert said...

When we played together I took some notes into my phone device. I'm glad to read it wasn't that noticeable.

I can usually remember most of the hands at my table pretty well. It's the best poker habit I've myself gotten into.

As far as knowing the time of day, I absolutely need to jot that part down.

Regarding moving to Vegas: the quality of life out here is nothing like NYC. You REALLY gotta love poker, gambling or vegas if you take the plunge. Like I'm at the point now where even if I have a great spring, even if I were to cash in the 08 WSOP, no matter what happens- I'd rather live on one of the coasts and visit Vegas. But that's just me. Some of the people I meet love living here.