So much for my resolution to update here on a more regular basis. This tale has been in the queue for while awaiting refinement and has really stopped up the pipes so to speak. I haven’t wanted to post anything until I finished it, but I could never quite get up the will to complete it.
As I mentioned in the past, there’s an organization, the Red Hot Poker Tour that runs tournaments in bars across the city. They started off with 3-4 games a week but they’ve expanded to the point where they are running that many games on some nights. I’ve been meaning to attend for some time and even went on one occasion when Daniel Negreanu was in town to show his support for poker in tournament. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get a seat in the game that time, despite showing up early.
Recently I was finally able to get out to one of these events with a buddy of mine. It was hosted at the Yellow Griffin, a small pub that specializes in burgers, featuring 6 different patties, 40 different toppings (including fish roe and peanut butter) and 7 different sides. I settled on a rather sedate “creme caramel” burger but was disappointed in both the service and the quality of the food. But I’d come for the poker, so I finished up my Guinness and headed upstairs to play some cards.
I didn’t get the complete count on participants when we started, there were at least 6-7 tables playing, so there were probably 60+ bodies. I was sitting at a full 10-handed table in the 3 seat. It was tough to judge initially, but none of the players looked too serious, though a few were apparently regulars of these events. I decide to take it a bit slowly to start, mostly just to ensure I outlast my buddy, who was seated at a nearby table.
Things start pretty slowly and everyone is chatting about how they met Negreanu when he came out to a Tour event and how he would be throwing the first pitch at the Jays game on the weekend. One player even said he used to play with Negreanu back in the day, which I wouldn’t put past him as Negreanu did play the local charity games almost a decade ago. I quickly realize that even the players who are apparently regulars don’t know that much about the game, or even table etiquette. Fortunately we have our very own Felicia at the table who is willing to call table infractions. I’m just glad that I don’t have to be the first to point out string bets, though I am quick to support her whenever she played table captain.
I take a few small hits but manage to double up fairly early with KK. I actually ran a pair of pocket jacks that hit a set on the flop, but lucked into a flush by the river. Most of the money got in pre-flop, so I didn’t feel too guilty about the suck out when I started with the best hand.
Shortly after that I see something I could not believe. The older player that claimed he used to play Negreanu was trying to play table captain, declaring bets, pushing chips, collected mucking cards. Of course, he was wrong on most occasions, but nothing that couldn’t be fixed easily. But then he started peeking at the mucked cards when the flop came. The first time I saw this I was speechless and didn’t say anything. No one else at the table seemed to care. The next time it happened I slapped the table and explained that he couldn’t look at folded cards. His reaction made it obvious he knew this but was hoping not to be called on it. Unfortunately he didn’t stop there and I had to stop him from looking on two other occasions.
In fact, my whole night was full of rules nonsense. After running cold for a while, I decide to get a bit more aggressive with my above average stack of chips. The same frustrating gentleman flips his pair of jacks up in the middle of the table. Now, I don’t have a lot of casino experience, but I thought exposing your cards without declaring an action was construed as a fold. Now, I assumed he was calling my bet (which put him all-in) and was certainly not going to call him on it at a bar tournament. But I did point out that he should be careful because it was technically a fold. It didn’t much matter however I went runner-runner flush to bust him. Looking back at the end of the tournament, I feel he may have been pulling a move on me here, getting my reaction before committing his chips. He had been playing tight all night long and had already demonstrated a propensity for underhanded play. Of course, I may be crediting him with too much intelligence.
Before too long we are collapsing down to two tables. I’ve got more chips than many at the table, but not nearly as many as some of the players that start to join us. Then I start to hear rumblings that someone is thinking about starting a cash game back at their place. After playing a couple hours in a free poker tournament, the opportunity to make some actual cash seems like a good idea. And it turned out it was put together by one of the lads from my own bi-weekly tournament who had shown up late. While I’ve got a shot at the final table, I don’t like my chances at first place and the kind of points I would need to qualify for the season ending tournament. And I just haven’t been feeling it in my no-limit tournament game recently. It’s all fold or push and I’ve been having trouble finding my rhythm.
So, with the cash game looking mighty tempting, I start to look for an opportunity to push. We are getting close to the final table, so I figure people are starting to play cautious. I find A9 of diamonds and decide I’m going to get all my chips in. Well, I ended up raising to about a 3rd of my stack (4 times the big blind) and when I am re-raised I come back over the top putting him all in. Now, why I thought this was a good play at this point is beyond me. This player was a rock and I think AQ was the worst hand he showed down all night. Of course, he has KK and I’m in rough shape. I pick up a flush draw on the flop but get no help and I am seriously crippled with slightly less than the big blind left under the gun.
Of course, like any self-respecting poker player in this position, I push my chips in blind before the cards are dealt. I then turn to talk to someone about arrangements to get to the cash game afterwards. As I turn back to the table I see the player to my left muck his cards into my hand, which I had yet to collect from where it was dealt. I of course panicked and grabbed my two cards while I could still identify them. Someone down the table declares that he is going all-in over the top of me. The player to my left looks at my cards (which I left face down in front of my, having no chips to protect them) and says that he is not sure they are mine. He then grabs his hand *and* mine to look at all four cards. He declares he is not sure which are which. At this point, I’m sure that both hands had a card of the same rank and he forgot the suit, but at this point all I want is my bet back. But people have acted after me (even though I asked them to wait while I figured this out) and they don’t want the money to come out of the pot. Eventually the TD arrives and we explain the situation. He rules that I must protect my hand and my cards are dead and my bet stays in the pot. I was just frustrated because I never even touched my cards and suddenly I was out of the tournament without even playing the hand.
At least there was a cash game to go to. My buddy Josh had wrangled up a few friends and a couple random players who’d busted out to go back to his place to play some cash game. Of course, we’d have to stop off to pick up some brews from the liquor store. What followed was perhaps the most harrowing car ride of my life. We were being led by a guy on a motorcycle who was determined to impress us, popping wheelies and taking off an at incredible clip. There was one particularly traumatic s-curve in the road where our driver (in an SUV) decided to pass someone, in the inside lane, at 50 miles an hour. When our driver passed out after another hour and a half of drinking at my friend’s place, we realized we were lucky that things weren’t worse. I would never have gotten in the car with him had I thought about how drunk he was.
Unfortunately the poker itself was not nearly as exciting. I mean, the beer fridge within reach of the table was nice. And the cigarette and “other” smoke hanging in the air made for an authentic poker environment. But my cards were extremely cold and I just couldn’t make anything happen. Which is a damn shame because everyone at the table was willing to put their money in with any two cards. So I just had to content myself with abusing the other players at the table.
A lot of fun was had by all – I think. This potion of the evening was a little foggier than the tournament. At least my friend Josh was able to take the random stranger from Windsor for all his cash before letting him crash on the couch.