Monday, April 23, 2007

Cinderella Story

It was Saturday, and if you looked at the calendar, you'd see that it was April 21st. Horoscopes will tell you that April 21st is on the cusp of the Taurus. And if you look even further still, you'd see that those born under that sign are quite stubborn in nature. Saturday was my birthday.


At one point during Saturday afternoon, I could have told you what heaven was like. Not the real heaven of course, but one close to it. A piece of nirvana that comes quite infrequently these days. In days filled with work, responsibilities, and making other plans, I rarely find the occasion to look around, smile, and be totally content.

I was sitting in my living room, watching a Sox-Yanks game in High Definition with my dad. In one hand, I held a martini. My grandmother had sent me some Pravda vodka and as is customary, I needed to run it through the Blood test of quality control. Mixed into the martini were some jalapeno-filled olives taken from the Olive Bar at the local Whole Foods market. It passed.

On my lap was my laptop, logged into Pokerstars. I was having a small winning session and couldn't really find anything to complain about. The kids were outside playing on a near-perfect day.

Not only was the present moment about as perfect as could be, there was more to that day to look forward to. A babysitter was coming around 6pm and I had reservations at a local high-brow restaurant later that evening. It was then that I found an inner joy that had long been missing. I welcomed it with an open mind and open arms.


Dinner was fantastic; and by the time we all got home, it was approaching 10pm. Everyone was tired, except me. Everyone was making arrangements for bed and slumber. Except me. I had two hours left to my birthday; I wasn't done.

The wife, seeing the gleam in my eye, just said one word. "Go."

And so I went. To play some poker.


As the hostess unlocked the front door to let me in, I greeted her by singing the Beatles classic - Birthday. "Da-da da-da da-da da-DAH. They say it's your birthday. It's my birthday too, yeah."

I'm pretty funny. Mainly to myself. But if you can't crack yourself up, I ask you, then who?

She let me in just as the second table was starting up. No G-Rob, no Otis, no GucciRick, no TheMark. Just me. I sent a few text messages just in case anyone could make it, but began the night alone.


I bought in for $300. I announced that because today was my birthday, I would not be losing any showdowns. Eddie made sure of that.

I flopped bottom two on a 69J flop and led out my currently strong, yet soon-to-be-weak holding. A player in late position raised me and I put him on a strong Jack. I only called because I felt I knew his holding so well. The turn was a seven, and I checked.

He looked weak, but looked also like he wanted to look strong. I reaffirmed my read and checked again. He bet $75 leaving only $100 behind.

"Well, I'm not folding this hand, so I'll just simply put you all-in now," I said as I threw in $175 to the pot.

There was no insta-call. My read grew stronger and stronger and I wanted a call. Finally, after repeatedly asking me if I flopped two-pair, he found a call.

He had J7. D'oh. Initial read, marginal. Subsequent reads, poor.

Still, the 6 on the river gave me the pot. "I'm sorry about that one," I said, "it's my birthday."


TheMark entered the room and sat in my favorite seat - directly to my right. I continued to drink, maintaining my good-time buzz, all the while building my stack to a respectable $850 or so. TheMark had to rebuy a couple of times, but still, his demeanor mirrored mine. We were having fun.

TheMark came in for a raise and I called behind with pocket 9's. Two more callers came with us and we saw a 4-handed flop of J92 - rainbow. TheMark made his continuation bet as expected and only I called. The turn brought a King and TheMark fired his 2nd bullet worth $50.

I made it $150 to go, wondering if I was good or if TheMark was holding QT. His smooth call told me something was amiss. I looked to my left and while I can't recall if it was Eddie's watch or my cell phone, I did manage to know that it was now past midnight. My birthday was over.

I needed the board to pair. And it did, with running Kings completing my 9's over full house. TheMark led the river for $125 and I figured that I had just re-sucked against his straight. I raised, putting Mark all-in, firing 5 black chips into the pot.

"Damnit Blood!" he said as he got up from the table, "You got pocket Kings?"

Why would he ask me such a stupid question? Pocket Kings? Runner-runner quads? Why on earth would he ask this question unless....

Oh no.

"I call," he said.

"Cold deck," I said.

Pocket Jacks lay there in front of TheMark along with a not very inconspicuous $1300 pot.

"They say it's your birthday....."


The way I'd been running, that set over set debacle could have been a killing blow. But it wasn't. Of all the people in the world to double up with that hand, TheMark would be the most appropriate choice. His one-outer in Tunica with a flopped set of Jacks remains the worst beat of the past few years for us players in G-Vegas. And frankly, he's no G-Rob when it comes to rubbing it in.

Sure, I would wager he was happy to win that pot. But he's not the type of person to throw it back in your face, at least to me.

And for whatever reason, that inner joy that I'd found earlier in the day was still there. That one single hand wasn't going to kill me. Unless I let it.

But I wasn't going to. Not on the day after my birthday.


There's one player in G-Vegas we like to call Do-right. It's an Otis-created moniker, as most of them are, that truly fits the person. Because Do-right rarely does. He's characterized for all the wrong reasons as a poker player. Bad when he loses, and a slow-rolling ass when he wins.

He had slow-rolled me and Rhodes in a pot earlier with a flopped set of fives. Apparently it's not good enough to triple up, but you have to stick it to your opponents when they're down too. That's OK, I thought; I can Do-right too.


The jackpot makes you play hands you shouldn't, but sometimes it gives you another chance to get lucky. My luck came in the form of Q9 of clubs. I limped to a straddle and then called Do-right's raise out of position. The flop looked like a pre-midnight flop: 993.

No slow-playing Do-right here, I quickly led out for $25 and Do-right called. Another player, however was still in the pot. From late position, Winger raised to $60, causing me to at least raise one eyebrow in Spock-like fashion before I called. Meanwhile, Do-right is still calling too, with his dead to rites overpair.

Winger is a player, so I know he may also have a 9 in his hand. However, he most likely is playing T9 or 98 and at this point, I truly think I have him beat. I KNOW I have Do-right beat. So rather than get all fancy, I continue to lead the turn when an off-suit 7 hits. Do-right calls the $100 and Winger folds, figuring that he's beat if I'm risking a decent percent of my remaining stack.

It's a good fold as the river hits me hard. A fourth nine. Quads. I push my remaining chips into the pot and Do-right can't call fast enough.

Ah yes, karma, she is a bitch. "Wow, all I gots here is this pretty little Queen," I say in a southern drawl.

"I have pocket Kings," replies Do-right, tabling his hand.

"Wow, nice hand.......BUT WAIT! I have another card too. Hey, whatta ya know? It's a nine. I have four nines."

I've never slow-rolled before in my life. Ever. I don't plan on doing it again. But just this once, after getting slow-rolled by the worst offender in G-Vegas, I had to do it.

It felt good. I thought of Daddy. Not my biological father, but Daddy. "Crush."


Like I mentioned, we Tauruses are stubborn people. It was getting to be about the time I turned into a pumpkin for the evening, and as is my custom, I announced to the remaining players, "Last orbit."

I had grown my stack back into the profitable region. After losing a $1300 pot, I felt good about that. I also felt good about feeling good. Crazy meta-emotions.

Not to let the night's comeback effect my play, I still made the proper pre-flop raise with pocket Jacks in EP. Four callers (hey, it's G-Vegas) and the flop comes down J87 with the 87 being spades.

"Interesting flop," remarks Eddie.

"Yeah, it sure is," I reply.

I fire out $50 and get a lone caller who I'd not seen play before this evening. I behind right now? Maybe.

A King hits the turn and I fire out $100. If I was ahead on the flop, I'm still ahead now. Likewise if I were behind. New guy min-raises me to $200 and I'm thinking there's a good chance I could be beat. Still, I'm faced with an easy call given my 10-outs to a boat or better.

The river hits and it's the 6 of spades. You may be thinking the same thing as I, not my ideal card. I'm somewhat resigned to the fact that I may have inherited TheMark's ability to lose with flopped sets of Jacks. So much so, that I don't bet a blocking bet here, but simply check.

The new guy bets $100 on the river. It screams value, but still, I'm almost forced to make a crying call based on the pot size. So that's what I do. Call.

I fear the worst. But it was the best. Pocket 8's. Set-over-set. But this time, I win. Crazy hand on a crazy night. Even crazier still, I cash out up nearly $700 on a night I lose a $1300 pot. I'll take those nights any time.


They say it's your birthday. We're gonna have a good time.

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