This trip report begins as many of the others do: Hey Jo, we haven't played poker in a while, whudja think, sure, let's go.
That's where the similarities end.
It started off with such promise: Yosie and I hadn't seen each other in months and it's always a barrel of laughs when we haven't seen each other in a while and act as stupidly as we can to get the other to laugh (and, in Josie's case, spit her drink à la Danny Thomas). She took the train down to the stop closest to me, right by Shangri-La, and I was looking forward to a fun day at the tables.
But the look on Josie's face as she got off the train told me a different tale.
She got in the car and before I could say "Jesus, you look like hell," or some similar endearment, she looked at me with desperation about the corners of her eyes and said "We need to stop at a bathroom."
"I live 7 minutes down the road," I answered, in tones I hoped were assuring.
She looked at me and said words that put the fear of God Almighty in me.
"I don't have that kind of time," she said.
Roger that. I threw ol' Bessie into gear (Bessie being at present a 2012 Ford Fusion, bereft of any bodily fluids or solids, and that's just how I like it), floored it around the parking lot and screeched into a gas station nearby. She looked at me with pure gratitude in her eyes (and, if you're a girl, your straits have to be pretty desperate to be grateful for a gas station bathroom) and said she'd be right back.
A few minutes later, she came walking out of the Mobil station a hell of a lot more at her ease than when she walked in. And when she got in the car she was a different person.
So, the wrongs of the world righted for the moment, off we toddle to Twin Rivers to play a little poker.
Now I had just gotten my Christmas bonus, a matter of a couple of months' salary more or less, and I was feeling flush. So on the way we discussed swimming in the somewhat deeper waters of 2/5 NL, as opposed to the 1/2 that we were used to.
We knew poker, right? We had our poop in a group, metaphysically speaking. We were strong players. We had reading skills. We had mojo. We knew a flush beat a straight. We were ready, god dammit.
Except we weren't ready.
As it turns out, playing 2/5 is kinda like Double-A baseball. You're not seeing major-league play for sure, but you're sure as hell no longer in the rookie league. At the 2/5 table, no one is splashing around, no one has dime-store skills, no one has tells so transparent you have to stop yourself from laughing at them.
And there isn't a single fish at the table. Well, at our table, there were two: Josie and me.
Could we succeed at 2/5? Sure, I suppose so. But it so obviously required an entirely different mind-set than what we were used to that we were entirely unprepared for it.
Jos lost what could be considered a lot of money - unless that sum is compared to what I lost.
In the span of two hours, my friends, I was down about $850, with no sign of doing any better. Far and away the biggest and fastest loss I ever experienced. And it hurt.
At 2:30 we had lunch at a bar/grill called The Shipyard, right next to the poker room. She, watching her figure, had a salad; I, who was also watching her figure but also trying to eat better, had a salad too.
We ate our lettuce and licked our wounds, and grumbled between bites about how we need to come up with a new strategy. We could either keep knocking our dicks in the dirt (figuratively, for one of us) at 2/5 until we had to sell our plasma for gas money home, or we could conduct a strategic retreat, regroup behind established territory in 1/2 land, and do what we could to recoup our losses.
As we both dislike giving blood, we decided to play some 1/2 for the latter part of the day. And oh, friends and neighbors, what a good decision that was.
As soon as I sat down I knew I was on friendlier turf. It was like going from prison to a playground. The difference was astounding. Within 10 minutes of sitting down I had a decent read on everyone at the table. I deliberately let two blinds go by just watching the group before I started playing. This raised a few eyebrows but I got some good intel and I think I scared them a touch as well: one of them remarked on my patience, and asked me "Have you learned anything about us?"
I answered "A few tidbits here and there."
"Like what?" seat 4 asked me, a half-grin playing about his lips.
"Well, if it's all the same I'll keep that to myself, but I will say that you and seat 8 are left-handed."
That seemed to land a little bit. There were no more questions about what I had learned after that. Certainly no scoffing at my observational skills. If you're interested, by the way, I had seat 7 pegged as a compulsive bluffer, seat 3 as someone to avoid (as it turns out, he was waiting for a 2/5 seat to open up), and seat 1 just plain didn't know what he was doing.
It was like a clinic in how not to play poker: this one squirmed in his seat when he caught something; that one grinned at his hand. GRINNED AT HIS HAND! I'd love to take credit for my comeback but sometimes it's enough just to be king of the dipshits.
Yosie, at another table, was doing about as well. We could see each other from where we sat. We texted each other about how squishy soft our respective tables were and rolled our eyes.
The early going went against us, but by God, we captured the afternoon.
So: in the span of about 3 1/2 hours, I turned $300 into $1183. I cashed in $883 in chips and had $300 in cash. I made back everything I'd lost except perhaps $80. Jo came up positive for the day, but she played a little 21 in there too. We turned a near-disastrous start into a great day at the tables.
And I learned an incredibly valuable lesson about my place in the poker world for a ridiculously small amount of money - especially given how much that lesson can cost sometimes.
The lesson, of course, is this: It's way better being the big fish in the little pond, my friends. The king of the dipshits is still a king.