Vegas baby, Vegas!

Season’s Greetings, everyone. Have you got all your Christmas shopping done? I don’t. Three days until Christmas, I’m snowed in and I don’t have everyone’s gifts yet. Ah well, there might not be a family get-together this year anyway. My dad’s sick, my sister’s boys are sick and my daughter’s sick. Actually on second thought, maybe we should all get together since we’re already all sick. I actually have money to spend this year, thanks in part to my new job, but also to the money I will not be claiming as income I recently came across.

Yeah, I recently decided to try the online poker thing, since I play at home all the time. I put together a Friday-night table a couple months ago, and we’re going strong now playing a couple of times a month. Everyone’s getting good and the pot usually splits three ways at the end, small, medium and large. So only two people lose everything. Anyway, I’ve become somewhat addicted to the Hold ’em phenomenon, having been sucked in by the WPT on television, and playing it on Friday nights. So I checked out an online casino.

It’s a client you download and play online with other real people for real or play money. I played for a while with play money, then decided to give the real money a shot. Pisser is you can’t buy less than fifty dollars worth of chips. Sure, you could cash out forty or forty five as soon as it goes through, right? But what they don’t tell you is that if you paid with a Visa, they have to send you a check. And they won’t send you a check unless it’s back over fifty. And you have to wait 48 hours from the initial deposit to cash out anything. And if you – – blah blah blah. Son of a bitch, they put a lot of rules in after you’ve spent your money! So the basic rundown is that I got caught a week ago with fifty dollars in the hopper that I now have to play. I figured I’d play with two bucks, win ten or fifteen, cash out, and not play online anymore. I’d stick to my Friday-night table to lose my money. Well it didn’t happen that way. I started losing. And kept losing.

I got down to my last seventy five cents when I was finally dealt a good hand. I got pocket cowboys and went all in. Everyone called. Granted I could only win that first call on the pot’s worth, but it got me back in the game. I won six dollars on that hand and it just got better from there.

Now let me explain something to you about poker that a lot of people don’t understand: if you play poker and know this already, feel free to skip to the next paragraph. Bluffing isn’t a skill. It isn’t a strategy or a knack or a handle by which to play cards. It’s certainly not something you want to be ‘known for’. We as kids heard about bluffing growing up and no one ever taught us what it really is. Thus you see people bluffing constantly. Once you’re caught bluffing it’s up! You’re caught and labeled a bluffer, and everyone knows that’s what you do consistently. I see people all the time who play that way as a rule. Bluffing is an art. It’s something that you do once in a blue moon when the cards on the table tell a story. You can make them think you know the end to it, and you bet heavy. Then you muck your winners and move on. You never show your cards and you never let on that you bluffed it.

With that said, these people consistently wait until the river card, check – check – checking and then BAM! They bet 10K on the river. And there’s nothing in the set. It’s obvious they’re trying to buy the pot because it’s got to go to someone! And at high stakes, it becomes quite rich, even if no one has bet anything. So you have a 200-300 dollar pot and they want it. If you don’t have anything yourself, you’re of course chancing that your cards just happen to be higher. So do you buy in? Who knows. There’s no easy way to play that hand. But in my experience, I’ve found that if I do happen to have a low pair or some such, and I’ve invested a couple of colored chips in the pot, it’s worth it to me to buy the showdown. And I’ve been lucky sometimes.

Well the playing got better, and I got up to forty dollars back when I finally decided to sit in on a tournament. They have sit and go tournaments every two or three minutes online, so you don’t have to wait long. I found one where the buy-in was 25 + 2 dollars and the winner took 150 dollars, second and third got 50 and 25 respectively. I figured it was worth a shot, it was money I had to play with anyway (can’t cash out less than 50) and I knew I could at least get third place and break even. You play against eight other people at a table and I knew I was better than six.

I bought in. The tournament started and I folded a shitload of hands. You have to. Unless you’re sitting on the blind, there’s no reason to play a 2-9 split off-suit. If you’re blinded you have to anyway, so you might as well stick around for the flop. Well I got down again but the way they play it is they give everyone 1500 credits so you all have the same amount. There’s always some numbnuts who goes all in on the first hand – or within the first few – and turns up a pair of eights or something. And loses. So within ten minutes or so, it was I me and five other people at this table, and it started moving. I started bringing in the chips. I stuck it out and came back from the short stack to win first place in my first tournament ever. I walked away with 150 bucks, clean as a whistle.

So I cashed out my fifty and went to the next table with my hundred bucks. I bought into a little bit richer tourney and won second place out of 27 in that one. That was worth 750, 450 and 200, so I cleared 450 bucks. And that was enough to enter the 400-dollar table. That one pays 2700 to the winner, and 600, 300 to the second and third place. It was a tight race too. It got down to the last three of us after an hour or so and the heat was intense. I knocked the third place out with three of a kind eights and felt good about the last guy. I knew how he played. He was a bluffer.

This is the type of guy who sits on the dealer button, waits for your check, then bets an assload of cash pre-flop. Why? Even if you have Aces in the hole, if your opponent has a deuce-three and the flop is deuce-three-nine – you’re beat! I’ve never understood high-stakes betting on your hole cards. I have to see the flop first. Now I can understand a dollar or two to put some action in the pot – but not big betting, and certainly not all-in! This guy would bet every single time anyone checked. Always. As a rule. And that, my friends is why bluffing is a weakness. I read him like a cheap paperback. And when he’d go all in, I’d fold. He could have the small pots. I would wait for my pair.

And it came. Like a storm on the sea, it came hard and strong. When he went all-in on that last hand, I called him. When you go call an all-in bet, you go heads up. This means yours and your opponents cards are flipped so everyone can see them. He had a six-nine suited. And I had the Aces. He went all-in on the wrong hand against a guy who knew his tactic, and the flop set me strong. I rained victory down on his dumb ass like steel stilettos. He didn’t even pair in the river.

It was pretty intense watching almost three thousand dollars worth of chips slide my way. And the yellow box popped up announcing me as the winner. I sighed relief and realized I’d been sweating pretty heavily in my seat. It took a pretty strong will to click the cashier button and pull out my winnings. I wanted to keep on playing. I wanted more. I wanted to turn my small fortune into a large one. But my common sense took over and I decided it was enough. At least that’s what I told my wife.

What I didn’t tell her was that I left fifty dollars in there to see if I could do it all over again.

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