So I'm back from the cruise, Hurricane Earl having done nothing but sneezed in our general direction and moved merrily along to Greenland. Yes - a tropical hurricane is lapping not so gently at the shores of Greenland. That's how I like my irony, friends and neighbors.
Anyway, the cruise was great and I made a shitpile of money at the poker table. They spread a $1/$2 NL cash game, using Poker Pro dealer-less tables. It's a choice, I guess; the cruise line doesn't have to pay for (and house and feed) another dealer - even though they employ dozens for their casino. It's not the worst thing in the world, I reckon. I like fucking with poker chips though.
Anyway it was more or less the same dozen people who showed up at the table, 12 of the worst poker players that I personally have ever seen. People calling big bets with 9-5 offsuit; people not respecting bluffs or bets from me or anybody else for that matter; people playing poker for the very first time in their lives. I don't know, maybe it's because they're on vacation, in the bag, and flush with spending money, but Ja-heezius Christ, there was some bad play going around.
Until I got the vibe of the table and adjusted my game accordingly I was already pretty far down - like multiple hundreds. One quick example: I held a pair of sevens and flopped the set. I bet huge, trying to protect my hand, but got called nonetheless, with a flush draw. Guess what? he caught, and there was the better part of a hundred bucks down the shitter right there.
So I decided that if that was the kind of nonsense I was up against, I wasn't going to fuck around. I decided that until I got some money in front of me I was going to play tighter than a gnat's ass stretched across a rain barrel. I'm talking top 10 hands only in early or middle position, and maybe high suited connectors, A9-A10, and middle pairs in late position and if it's cheap. So that stanched the bleeding for a while until I got my wind back and my legs back underneath me.
The first whiff of recovery came when I looked down at two black queens. 4x preflop raise, five callers. Flop all lower than Q, rainbow. Bet $25, four callers. Turn blank, I go all in with about $60, three callers. The Crafty Southpaw pulls down a hand that puts almost $400 in front of me. Woo hoo!
From that point on it was smooth sailing over calm seas, with one exception.
His name was Chi. A Chinese fella who was vying with me for Table Captain. Likeable, affable, and sitting affably on a mountain of fucking chips. He would buy a $14 pot with a $200 bet and tell you so: "I want that $14. I have nothing but you can't call me!" and cackle a high-pitched laugh that, really, made one want to stick a fork in his throat and pour rat poison in the wound.
So fast forward to Saturday: I'm up huge, have maybe $500 in front of me, and I look down from my lofty perch as SB to see AJ. Flop comes JXX, two hearts. I bet, Chi raises to $25, I raise to $50, he calls. Turn comes a third heart. He goes in the tank for a little while, adopts a thousand-yard stare, and puts me all in. I think perfunctorily for a while and fold. I figure he either has the hearts or the Ace of hearts - either way I'm not going to risk $500 with TPTK. He turns over an absolute bluff; he was actually drawing dead, but whatareyagonnado. I kept my cool until I get back to the cabin and unleash a torrent of obscenity that would have made Popeye drop his pipe. I lost a hundred bucks but even worse could have won $500 more.
So yesterday, I'm pleased to say that the pattern repeated itself: After only a half-hour or so I was up $100 and doing well. Maybe that's why as SB I called the BB with A6o - it was only a buck, and I had plenty of those.
I whiff the flop utterly, but try to take a stab at it. I bet out, I think $15 or $20. Chi, my Chinese friend, raises to $50. I re-raise to either $75 or $100; can't remember which. Everybody else folds, of course, and Chi calls.
The turn is also a blank: I don't think there was a card over 8 on the board.
Chi gets that faraway look in his eyes and moves in. He only has about $80 left in front of him. And I start thinking.
"Here's the problem," I said to him. "Last time you did this, you looked exactly like you look now. But last time, I had a hand. This time I don't, but I think my garbage beats your garbage."
He starts laughing and in his broad Chinese accent says "ohhhh, you remember last time. Good, good!"
"OK, you convinced me," I say. "I call."
He gets a look like he's been constipated for a week. The table turns over his hand.
He gots himself a whole bunch of nothing. I win with Ace high. Somewhere like $300 on this one hand.
To his credit, Chi took it really well. He laughs, he leans over to high-five me, he compliments my call. Back-pats and 'good call' from everybody. And lots of yummy money my way. A few hands later I decide to take my winnings and go home.
The last two days erased my deficit and put me way ahead - I won't say how much but it reimbursed the cost of the cruise to the tune of about 25%.
And more importantly, it reinforced a very important bit of philosophy: if you honestly think that your opponent is bluffing, then move in. If you're wrong, that's fine; well, it's not, really, but it's another problem for you to work on. But don't let a big bet on its surface cow you into folding.
In any event, it was a great week of cruising, caloric overindulgence, watching attractive 20 year olds in bikinis, and poker, but I'm home now.