Friday, March 04, 2011

Search For The Grail

A friend recently told me I'm a natural pessimist. He's right of course. Rather than look forward to something with great anticipation, I tuck it away in a neutral spot in my brain so that if whatever it is turns out to be fun, I'll be pleasantly surprised. I don't get let down that way. You'd think, anyway.

Over the past few weeks, I'd been told by The Mark about a live PLO game. When you're The Mark, you always hear about new games. It's your job. Playing, recruiting players, it's all the same package deal. "What are the stakes?" I asked. "5/5," he said, "But how could live players be any good?" It was tough for me to answer that question since I had no other information about the game. So I tucked it away between Reverse and Drive and figured if the time was ever right to play in the game, I'd let The Mark know.

Last Sunday, I told him I could play.


We met after work at an old stomping ground. No longer Azia's, the scene of Mastadon 2010 was still basically the same. The new owner appeared to have purchased everything from the previous one. Same utensils, same glassware, perhaps even the same chefs since the menu wasn't much different. A new smiling face greeted me as I sat at the bar next to The Mark, already knee deep in 4-tabling Rush Poker on Full Tilt.

"Hello, I'm Ashley," she said. She smiled, poured me a beer, and immediately earned a spot as one of my new favorite bartenders. It had nothing to do with her skin tight leggings or low-cut, revealing top. Nothing at all. I'm a sucker in case you didn't know. I have it tattooed on my forehead, but only a select few people can see it.

I opened my netbook, logged onto Full Tilt as well, and began the simple quest of obtaining enough points to qualify for Iron Man. Rush PLO, $100 buy-in. Get it in good, get it out bad. Standard. Mike Myers found his way to the new place and sat down to my right. He may have been some form of good luck to me as a flopped King's full held up against someone overplaying AA. I was profitable, got my points, and began to relax. Winning, or shall we say, not losing credit card roulette almost made me think I was going to enjoy myself tonight. Ha. Not so fast said the pessimist.


It was growing late, and The Mark was still trying to earn enough qualifying points on Full Tilt as well. I had doubts of ever getting to this supposed juicy PLO game. The Mark had never been, and couldn't even say with full confidence where the game was. I asked him to call whoever he knew at the game to see if there were seats. I wasn't about to drive 30 minutes and sit around. He was assured there would be seats for us. The dreaded "House Players" would get up and allow us to sit when we got there. Again, doubt grew. But I didn't care too much. I was up online and if worst came to worst, there were other places I could spend my money on a Thursday night.


When we pulled into the driveway, after twice stopping and turning around, it reminded me of the old Spring Hotel setup. Except that when we rolled around the final bend in the dirt road, we were greated with what appeared to be a wooden loft, nearly luxurious in nature, with wide and high front steps leading up into the game. I had absolutely no idea what town I was even in. It was like I drove through a wormhole that took me from the back woods of South Carolina into an Aspen-like ski town in Colorado. The only thing missing was the snow. We were greeted by the host and as I looked around, it appeared that The Mark and myself dropped the average age of the room by about 10 years.


When you play live poker, you wonder about other games. How many games are there truly in town? Is there a mystical game somewhere, filled with endless supplies of money and hopeless players, ripe for the taking? Professional players in Vegas will drive to LA to play with whales. So I guess it's not much of a stretch for me me drive 40 minutes from my house for this game. It was THAT good.


A poker hand. What good is a blog post without a poker hand?

The game was actually 2/5/10. The winner of the previous pot was forced to straddle for $10. You could straddle any amount from any position after that. Even with those rules, there were several flops seen multi-way for the minimum $10. This was one such pot. I was the big blind with A885, suited Ace in clubs, otherwise known as a PLO MONSTER!. The flop came A84, two diamonds. Normally middle set is a bankroll buster, at least it tends to be for me online against competent players. But that's not where I was. This was about as off-line as one could get.

I led for $40. Even these folks would raise pre-flop with AA and I had a blocker in my hand to boot. I got 4 callers. Wow, I said to myself, I truly am going to go broke with middle set. Pessimism. For the win.

The turn was an off-suit Jack and since no draws were completed, I fired $175 into the pot. I got 2 callers. Toast. I'm toast, I said to myself. Good thing I brought a few bullets to reload after I butcher this hand. The pot was nearly $800 and I only had $145 left in my stack. I suppose I could check-fold to a diamond, but sheesh, even that's a horrible play. The river was another Jack, I caught an underfull. Online, I go broke every time to AJ. Every time. Still, I pushed the remainder of my chips into the pot and got called. Sigh, here it comes. It's just how I roll.

"Eights full," I said sheepishly. He looked down at his cards, messed with them a bit, and I prepared for my slow-roll. Four random cards hit the table and the best I could see was KK. No diamonds. "I was hoping for a King to hit," he said. Dumbstruck, all I could say was, "I'm surprised it didn't."

"Nice hand," The Mark said to me. It was code for "Holy Mother of Fuck is this game amazing!" He was right, it was.


Players went broke, rebought, and began to open straddle for $100. The Mark reloaded another G-Bar into his stack and play resumed. My stack went up and down, but I managed to cash out for a win. This was it. This was the game you heard about, whispered about even, for fear that uttering its name would cause it to vanish back into its wormhole only to appear in another random, unknown location.

If you asked me to drive you there right this second, I wouldn't be able to. It was dark, and I only got home thanks to my GPS. So how will I ever get back?