Monday, July 22, 2013

Monday Morning Stories With Mookie - Episode 78

The Time Mookie Played Texas Hold-Em Poker In A Casino

I've definitely played my share of Poker over the years, but unfortunately almost all of it has been done with computer games or on iPad/smartphone apps (for no real money of course).  The few times I have played face-to-face with real live people has been at impromptu gatherings with family and friends.  That being said, a few years ago I finally got brave enough to "put up or shut up" and test my skills in the den of the beast - a real live casino poker room.

A humorous side note to this event - Whenever I have felt like getting out of the house and hitting a nearby casino, I usually like to have a partner in crime for the festivities.  My obvious first choice is my wife.  Most of the time one of us wins enough to make up for what the other person lost, but when we both lose...well it is not a happy day and we spend the car ride home God-damning the casino. So the times my wife doesn't want to hit the casino, I still have a sure-shot go-to person who almost will always go:  My Mom.

It is always hilarious calling my Mom and Dad's house to ask my Mom to go gambling, because when my Dad answers the phone and I ask if Mom is busy...it always goes like this:

Dad: "I don't think she's busy. Why what's up?"
Me: "Umm, I was wondering if she wanted to go to...Target."

It took him about five seconds to figure out that Target meant the casino.  Especially when my Mom was like "Ohh yeah I'll go!"  No one gets that excited for Target.  Well...most people don't anyway.

So Mom and I headed for the casino and I told her I was going to do it - I was going to try my hand at real live-action poker.  She thought this was cool, as she had became a fan of watching the "World Series of Poker" being played endlessly on ESPN.  When we hit the casino, we went our separate ways as we often do.  She normally hit the slots somewhere while I normally settle into a seat at a blackjack table.  We then find one another after we either lose all of our money, win money and decided to quit, or just have had enough of the elderly chain-smoking disabled folks taking gasps from their oxygen tanks between puffs on their cigarettes and hitting the spin button on their slot machines.  God Bless America.

I entered the poker room with ab-so-lutely no idea what I was going to be getting myself into.  I quickly found out that since it was a Sunday afternoon, business was slow and there were only a few games going at that time.  However, as luck would have it - the "director" of the room told me there was going to be a new table opening up in a few minutes hosting $3/6 Limit Texas Hold 'Em.  Nice.  The only issue here was that I'd never played any "limit" games of any kind, so that was going to be a new thing for me.

I bought in for a whopping $30 (the minimum buy-in), and when I sat down at the table with my little tray of chips I quickly found out that I was already dead meat.  The other 8 people sitting down to play had at least $50, if not $100 in chips sitting in front of them.  I told myself that since it was "limit" hold 'em, I could still take care of business.  (Nice thinking there Mookie....)

The game commenced, and my first hand was junk.  I mucked my hand and spent the rest of the hand looking at my competitors.  The older gentleman to my left did a HORRIBLE job of hiding his cards, because at will - I could simply just look to my left and see what he was holding.  I didn't say anything because I hoped this would play to my advantage, AND I didn't want to get my ass kicked for telling a guy I saw his cards.  The next hand played out and I was holding suited face cards, so I ante'd the $3 and got into the hand.  When the dealer dealt "the flop" (the first 3 community cards), I quickly surmised I had nothing.  So when the guy to my right bet at the pot - I folded.

As I sat waiting for the next hand, I remember feeling confident in how I was playing and thought it was pretty cool to be actually sitting there.  When the dealer cleared the table of the previous hand, I found myself sitting in the "big blind" position so I had to automatically bet the $3 table limit.  The dealer dealt the cards to the table, and when I peeked at my two cards I almost freaked out: Q Q.  Play went around the table with people either betting or folding.  When it got to me, I decided to "check" (not bet anymore) as I was last to play and had already bet with my "big blind" ante.  The dealer then laid the three-card flop: two cards I don't remember - and a Queen.  Yup...I'm sitting on three-of-a-kind here.  My hands were literally shaking from excitement and I was doing everything I could to look composed and calm so I didn't give away my good hand.  When the play came to me, I bet the table limit of $6.  This altered the play around the table after me, with some people choosing to stay in, but most people folded.  The dealer revealed the "turn" card (the fourth community card), which was nothing to me as it did not pair anything already on the table - nor was it another Queen.  When play came to me, I again raised the bet to the table max of $6.  All but one other guy over to my right folded as the play went around the table.  I knew my hands were definitely shaking at this point, but I kept my eyes staring at my own cards laying face down on the table in hopes that my excitement just looked like I had a weird twitch or something.  The only time I looked up was when the other guy to my right continued to match my bet on the table.  The dealer then laid the "river" card (the 5th and final community card), which again did not pair anything on the table - nor did it include another Queen.  I looked at the cards and was fairly certain that the guy betting against me could not be holding a flush or a straight.  At best I figured he had a strong pair or maybe even two pair.  Either way, even if he had two-pair I still had him beat with my three ladies.  I looked up at the guy, and bet another $6 - which he promptly matched like he was trying to bully me or something.  The dealer asked us to turn over our cards, and the other guy quickly and proudly flipped his over to show that with "the board" (the community cards on the table) he had made two pair.  With all eyes on me - and the look of triumph in the other guy's eyes glaring down at me -  I turned over my cards and said "Three of a kind."

The look on the guy's face was PRICELESS.  The dealer then pushed all the chips towards me and I felt like I had won the GD World Series Of Poker.  It was a moment I will never forget.

It's OK honey.  I already knew you were a loser.
It wasn't long after this though that I quickly learned that "limit" poker isn't a game where you can bluff, or bet at stupid shit a whole lot and win.  You pretty much need to have "the hand" or you are just wasting your money.  Due to my novice level of "limit" poker, I was doing stupid stuff like betting the pot limit on low-pair hands or gut-shot straights that never made it.  It was as though I had basically used up all of my collective luck on that one three of a kind hand, because just as fast as I had taken down that big pot - I busted out and had to get up.

When I left the poker room and casino that day, while I was obviously financially poorer than when I walked in - I was definitely richer in terms of the "education" I received sitting at that table, and having the experience of that first "big" win.

If you ask me, it was $30 well spent.

Miss a previous story?  You had better click HERE to catch up!

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