Yesterday, seemingly out of the clear blue sky, I got a text from very Josie asking me if I wanted to head up to Seabrook with her to play the 6:30 tournament. I really wasn't into playing poker right then - I wasn't really myself - but I figured what the hell, the structure sounded ok. 90 bucks gives you 12,000 chips with 20 min. blinds (except for the one right after the first break, which for some reason was 40 minutes). So that, plus it being Black Friday and me not having anything special to purchase, I headed up to Casa Del Josie and off we went to Seabrook New Hampshire.
Like I said, I wasn't really myself yesterday. I confess that I didn't exactly hold up my share of the conversational responsibilities. Thankfully Josie was up to the task and what I ended up doing was listen to her talk talk talk talk talk talk talk about, if the unvarnished truth be told, you guys. If you have any doubts how Josie really feels about her new friends from the blog universe, those fears are unfounded: she loves you all and doesn't mind talking about it -- over and over again. It was 45 min. of this one is such a nice guy and that one chauffeured me everywhere and this one doesn't trust that one and this one (I think) wants to fuck me and that one is such a gentleman. It was like I was back in junior high school except I was actually speaking to a woman.
But one extremely useful thing she said to me was something I already knew yet you just can't hear enough times. Right before we went in she looked at me and said, "Now remember, these guys are all idiots so bluffing them won't work; play them straight up-and-down and that's how you win at Seabrook."
This much I already knew; I played in Seabrook enough times and been witness to enough amateur poker played to last me a lifetime. But ask anyone who's ever had a golf club in their hand and they'll tell you that it's always good to hear the standard advice: keep your head down, keep your arm straight. So I took that as good advice and more importantly I took it to heart.
You may not believe this but I developed a reputation as being an incredibly nitty player: supertight but reasonably aggressive when I was in a pot. Believe me, Josie was just as surprised (the respect she has for my game flows out of her like aggressive menses). Anyway, the guy to my immediate right (you've met him; he wears a lot of Ed Hardy, his hat sits akimbo on his head, his white tracksuit glistens under the cool fluorescent lights, is under 25 and is mindlessly aggressive) said that he hadn't seen me in Seabrook before,which was probably true enough. I said when I play I usually play at Foxwoods. In asking me what I played there, he said something that I took as quite a compliment whether or not it was intended as such. He said, "you strike me like a mixed game player." Now to be thought of as a mixed game player, or at least for a poker player to get a read on me like I was one, assumes a certain level of talent; if you can put your money down on deuce – seven lowball with the same gusto as no limit hold 'em you got to have some chops. So even though I can't legitimately lay claim to having that skill, it was a pleasant little kiss on the ass that he thought I did.
And yet, despite my own doubts in my abilities that day (I told Josie for example that I just wasn't feeling it that day; that I had a bad feeling about the outcome), once the cards were in the air I felt overtaken with a preternatural sense of calm. I was in a zone I hadn't been in in quite some time. I just didn't feel any need to to show any ass or fall prey to fancy play syndrome and bleed my chips away. I found that by playing them when they're good and throwing them away when they ain't is about as good a strategy at Seabrook as there is. And it took me a pretty fair ways down the road. But the thing is with tournaments is that to win you need at least a little bit of luck and my luck just didn't hold.
My last hand was a classic example of why I've been losing so many tournaments. I'd been playing for the better part of six hours. The blinds were 3000 – 6000; I'd played short stacked most of the tournament but after winning a couple of pots and stealing a few rounds of blinds I was up to about 29,000 in chips, which was still a below average stack but at least I wasn't low man. We were down to 12 runners, six at each table. At UTG +1 I was dealt Ace Jack, which is a really nice hand six handed. With the blinds so high there was really only one move left to me of course, so I shoved (with less than five big blinds in my stack I defy anyone to say that I should've just raised or called). I honestly would've been happy had everyone folded but I think I was just as happy with the call; there were only a handful of hands that I was vulnerable to and like I said if I was going to win this tournament I would have to trust to luck. Well I got my call - a regular there who had a voice like Tom Waits after gargling with bleach - and he flipped his A6 over before I could flip over mine. Good. He was dead to a three outer.
The flop came 23K. So far so good. I was about 70 – 25 with a 5% chance of tying on the flop; now I was about 81%. The turn came up four, which gave him four more outs; now he had three sixes and four fives to win but I was still 85% to win it. But of course the God damn five comes up on the turn, which filled my wheel but which gave the villain a straight to the six. And that, my friends, was the story of me. I finished 12th out of 63 runners, two off the final table and six off the money.
I admit it: I was absolutely heartbroken to see that five. I's one thing to lose a coin flip but it's far different to fall victim to an 85/15 at such an important point in the game. I know it happens all the time (well, 15 times out of every hundred) but does it really have to happen when the game is on the line? If the hand had gone my way I would've had one of the deeper stacks on the table, in great position to make the final table and to cash - which by the way I've never done at that flea infested cesspool whore's den that sits right over the Massachusetts border.
The worst part about it is that usually when I lose a tournament I can point to a hand (usually more than one) that I played poorly or that I misread so badly that I deserved to lose. Certainly I would never consider my play anything close to perfect but yesterday I thought I played really well; I thought I finally internalized the whole "keep your head down, keep your right arm straight" business. I felt that at a really deep level I finally understood some real fundamental truths about tournament play versus cash play, namely that it's just not as important as it is to be right 100% of the time like it is in a cash game. Like every so often it's okay to fold the best hand in tournament play, as opposed to a cash game where all you have to do if you made a bad decision is reach into your pocket. That patience, if you can find it, is one of your greatest allies in tournament play. Stuff that I always knew but finally absorbed in a fundamental way.
But Lady Poker just seems to extract too high a price for each lesson. She really makes it sting sometimes. And I don't know if she is just toying with me, still stealing every dollar from my wallet but making it seem like a good decision to go back…or if I should listen to the voices in my head who are all saying fuck that rat trap. Never darken that door again. I'm starting to think, contrary to my Hebraiety, that it'll be worth shoveling money into that place for the ability to extract out some pittance back out of it one day. Yes, it would be a pyrrhic victory, but at this point I'd take any victory at all. I'm desperate for some good news.
All in all I have to say it was a pretty miserable time. A day out with Josie is usually its own reward (he said with an evil grin, as he twirled his handlebar mustache), but I have to admit after I got out of there all I wanted to do was just drop off my passenger and go home. I was pretty monosyllabic on the trip back to Josie's house, I guess. Thankfully she shouldered the lion's share of the talking.
And what did she talk about?
You guys, of course. She loves you guys, you know.
So until next time, fuck that shithole in Seabrok, and everyone associated therewith.
(Editors note: this post was largely created using Dragon NaturallySpeaking [11.5, for you geeks in the crowd] and I'm curious if you notice any departure in my usual tone; I wonder if dictating as opposed to typing changes the way I fundamentally put sentences together. It certainly feels like it's different; I perceive my writing to be more confident when I create it from the tips of my fingers, as opposed to when I speak it to my laptop, although that might just be the confidence of familiar ground. Your opinion would be helpful: do I sound different?)