Friday, November 17, 2017

A Motley Crew

Sometimes I think that the word poker is defined as a game of skill until the opposing player calls with a terrible hand and the dealer performs a five card magic trick.

It's a $1/$3 game and I'm in seat 5.

Seat 5:  I am your average weekend warrior, be it in poker or golf.  At the table, most of the time, I prefer to tune out all the table chitchat and loud slot machine noises near the poker room by using earphones.  On this occasion, that was not the case.  Plenty of interesting stories and topics were being covered.  Since I didn't get many playable hands, I was happy to be part of the conversation.  Played reasonably well but in the last hour made some major mistakes.

Seat 1: Young black kid.  Probably just turned 21.  He was using that poker lingo and looking very confident.  And then I saw him play.

Hand: I open J-J to $12.  Only he calls with $90 behind.  The flop is J-2-4 rainbow.  I bet $15 and he calls.  The turn is a 5 and I bet $20.  He moves all-in for $63.  I call and he tables A-3.  A wheel for the win!

Seat 3: A retired white guy.  He plays several orbits and then gets up.  Loves to talk.  He is on first-name bases with every dealer, cocktail waitress, floorman, and the majority of grinders.  If one of them walks by the table, there was a 100% chance he would say something.

I'd love to share a hand that he was involved in but I don't remember him playing any during the five hours I was there.

Seat 4: A big rugged man.  Big in the sense that he is 50 lbs overweight.  Also donning a big fuzzy beard.  My guess is that no-shave November started in September.

Hand: It's opened pre-flop to $12, he calls, and I make it $30 with K-K.  Only he calls.  The flop is J-7-9 with two hearts.  He leads out for $20 and I call (that was a mistake).  The turn is the 3 and he moves all-in for $52.  I call and he shows A-8.  I table my K-K.  The river is a black 10.  Jack-high straight wins, brilliant!

Seat 6: A very friendly and talkative lady in her mid forties.  She was in shape, married, and her kids were in college.  Surprisingly, the husband wasn't into casinos or poker.  She even said, "I like visiting MGM.  Go Gamble!"  A reference to a Vegas YouTube poker entrepreneur?  I think so.  She also likes football and goes to UMD and Redskins games.

Hand: Four players call $3 and I open to $18 in the cut-off with A-J.  She calls and so do three more players.  The flop is Q-3-9 and it's checked to me.  I bet $40 and the lady moves all-in for $105.  I know I'm behind but make the call (another mistake).  The lady tables Q-7!  The turn and the river are no help.

Seat 9: He reminded me of Roberto Benigni but with glasses.  He showed up towards the end of my session.  The guy in seat 3 had left and was replaced by a 30 something woman.

Hand: I open J-J pre-flop to $12.  Seat 9 calls, the young black guy in seat 1 makes it $30, and the woman in seat 3 goes all-in for $130.  I fold.  Seat 9 and seat 1 both call.  The lady flips over A-A.  Seat 1 shows 5-5.  The flop is 10-7-3.  The turn is the 5.  The young guy jumps up out of his seat.  He puts his hands above his head.  The river is the 8.  Seat 9 shows A-Q and the dealer pushes him the pot.  Seat 1 starts to say to the dealer that he has a set of fives but then realizes that the flush came in on the river.  He can't believe it.  The lady in seat 3 is even more shocked and starts shaking her head.

Seat 10: Sixty years old and a poker veteran.  Best player at the table.  I've played with him before and he has the skills and the guts to put pressure on his opponents.

Hand:  I'm sitting on $300 in the big blind with 8-4.  The poker veteran opens to $10 pre-flop with a $500 stack.  Seat 4 calls with a $150 stack.  I call and so does the short stack in seat 7.  The flop is 7-5-10.  Seat 4 bets $20, I call, seat 7 calls, and the poker veteran makes it $90.  Seat 4 calls.  Seat 7 has about $40 left and will probably call.  What do you do?


I thought about it.  I just couldn't believe that none of the other players in the hand didn't have spades.  I folded.  At the end, poker veteran had 7-7, seat 7 had A♠-6, and seat 4 had J-J.  The board bricked out and the poker veteran won the big pot.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

20 Years Ago Today

Twenty years ago today, a plane full of passengers from Vienna, Austria landed at the JFK airport in New York City.  Amongst the passengers on that Delta flight was a family of four headed to Tennessee.

My uncle and his family immigrated to US in 1995 from Yugoslavia.  In 1997, they asked my parents if they would like to move to the US.  My parents had a hard choice to make but they decided to give it a shot and filled out the paperwork.  We also had an interview at the US Embassy.  After the interview with the consular officers, they told us that they would inform us of their decision in a few weeks.

The middle school year started in September.  My brother and I had to attend and study under the assumption that we were not going to emigrate.  Before that semester, I always tried to do well in school.  That last semester was different.  Within a few days, I gave up.  I couldn't bring myself to study knowing that we would be leaving before the semester was over.  It didn't feel good failing quiz after quiz but neither did the idea of studying for tests that would have zero meaning once (if) we left for the US.

I still remember coming home after school one afternoon in late September or early October and my parents telling me that the embassy had called earlier that day.  I was so nervous because this was the big moment.  Either we were leaving or I was going to have to hit the books day and night for the rest of the semester.  My parents tortured me for two or three minutes by not saying what the verdict was.  Finally they said that we were approved!  I was so excited that I started to run around the living room.  In a way, that was my first big gamble in life and I had won the coin flip 😃.

On November 12, we got to the airport and dropped off our bags.  Then it was time to say goodbye to our relatives.  Going through security was going to be interesting.  In my backpack, I had my favorite toy.  I had refused to put it in the checked luggage because I was afraid it might get stolen 😃.  The toy was a metal cap gun.  My parents agreed to let me carry it in my backpack and let security decide if it could go through.  It looked like the one in the picture below.

It didn't take long for the security guy to ask me to open the bag.  They looked at it and we said that it was a toy.  Surprisingly, the guard let me take it onto the flight to Vienna.  Once we landed in Vienna, we had to go through another screening.  

This time around, the security guy was not as easy going.  Before we knew it, five or six guards had gathered around us and were asking us questions in German and maybe English.  Long story short, they took the toy gun away and said that we should ask for it once we arrive in NYC.  I was pretty sure that that was the last time I would see my favorite toy.  I was right.

After landing at JFK, we picked up our bags and went through customs.  After that, a shuttle drove us to a hotel where we spent the night since our flight to Knoxville was the following day.  In the morning, the shuttle dropped us off at JFK and we boarded the flight to our final destination.  

Growing up, my brother and I loved Coca-Cola.  If you had offered us Coca-Cola or water, every time we would pick coke.  It so happened that on that flight from JFK to TYS, the flight attendants were very friendly.  They kept offering us can after can of coke and we kept accepting!  After drinking three or four cans, the aircraft started experiencing turbulence.  All that coke started to feel pretty bad in my stomach.  Once we landed, I felt fine again but I had lost my desire for Coca-Cola.  That has not changed ever since.  

My uncle's family and friends were waiting for us at the airport.  They had brought flowers for my mom and had made welcome posters.  I leave you with a photo of me and my younger brother with family and friends.

Bottom Row: Ace, friend, and my brother

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Valley of the Kings

If you are a history buff then the title of this post might be intriguing.  But the kings that I'm talking about are also knows as cowboys.  In a three hour session, I was dealt pocket kings three times!

There was some straddling going on and I saw a few flops but couldn't connect.  The first hand of significance I played:

I put out a blocker bet on the river and he raised.  This should have been an easy fold.  An orbit later I got dealt black kings:

Usually I prefer to rebuy instead of adding-on but in this hand, I wish I had added-on.  Two hands later, I got dealt two red kings.  Seat 9 was a calling station and he could show up with any two.

I got up to about $340 and then had several hands that were second best.  It was to be my last orbit before calling it quits when I looked down at pocket kings again:

I butchered the hand on the flop.  I was first to act on the flop and grabbed a stack of red chips with my right hand.  There is no betting line at the MGM.  I was going to cut-out $50 but by the time I had dropped two red chips, the villain moved his whole stack in.  I looked at the dealer who shrugged.

The villain said, "I am going all-in, no matter what you do."  He was telling me he had an ace!  So, I left the two red chips that were on the felt as my bet and moved back my hand with the rest of the chips.  The dealer said that the action was back on me.  I should have folded.

And the very next hand, I got the final nail in the coffin:

Just like the pharaohs in Egypt, I got buried with the kings.  I did my own digging though.