Saturday, November 26, 2005

The Big Empty (Part I)

I took great care in preparing myself to play at Hollywood Park last night. Though I was only planning on playing the 4-8 or 100 NL games I've played live for going on two years now, the state of my bankroll made me feel as if I was "taking a shot" at a higher limit. So I prepared accordingly. I slept until noon, woke up to watch Colorado embarrass themselves against Nebraska, re-read the hand quizzes in Small Stakes Hold'em and squeezed in another short nap after dinner. I woke up around 8 PM,fresh and ready to play some cards.

I walked onto the casino floor shortly after 8:30. I threw my initials on the board, and grabbed a Pink's hot dog and a Red Bull while I waited. The room was packed and the degenerates and miscreants were out in full force. Hollywood Park is by far the nastiest of the major L.A. casinos. The crowd is rougher, the upholstery stained, and each air conditioning vent embedded in the ceiling is encircled by a ring of grey-black sooty looking crap. But no one comes here for the atmosphere. The true degenerates come for the ponies. The true card players come to fleece the 'tards who bet 9-2 suited to the river.

By the time my name was called for 4-8 limit, I was pumped and ready to go. I felt good about my game and great about my chances. I repeated my internal mantra as I tucked my feet behind my ass in the 2s. "Make good decisions. Play good poker, and the money will come. Play good poker, and the money will come."

The lineup was juicier than juicy. Quintessential L.A. low-limit.

1s: Directly on my right was a corpulent, sweaty Italian guy in serious need of a bath and a shave. He wore a yellowing v-neck T-shirt underneath an 80's-looking faded denim button-up and stained, baggy khakis. His stack was perpetually low and he rebought only $20 at a time.

2s: Yours truly.

3s: Another sweaty fat dude, this one red-faced, bearded and stuffed into a yellow golf shirt. He looked exactly like Tropical Henry from TILT.

4s: Twentysomething black dude. Obviously new to the game, as he asked me if I'd ever seen "that WSOP game on TV." His quiet, pretty girlfriend with the Louis Vuitton purse sat behind him and text messaged on her Treo the entire time.

5s: Older Asian lady also in need of a bath. She wore a grey wool Indian-pattern sweater that looked and smelled like she'd fished it out of a dumpster. She had some sort of tick or condition that made her head shake a little from side to side like a bobblehead doll.

6s: Empty.

7s: Black guy who looked like Morris Chestnut, only 20 years older. Losing. Frustrated. Flung cards at dealer repeatedly.

8s: Another older Asian lady whom I recognized from previous sessions. Definitely a crafty player. She had over $800 stacked in front of her in enormous towers.

9s: 30-something guy in a Red Sox shirt who looked like he was at the tail end of a 36-hour session. His eyes were glazed over and he looked like he could fall asleep at any moment.

The first hand I'm dealt is a J9d in the cutoff. I see a flop for one bet along with five others. Flop comes a 998 rainbow. BINGO BONGO BANGO. It's checked to me and I bet. Button folds, blinds call, Morris Chestnut calls from UTG. Turn is a 6. Morris bets, one call, one fold, I raise. Blinds fold and Morris calls. River another blank. Morris bets, I raise, and he calls. I table my J9 with a smile only to see the pot pushed in the other direction when Morris shows his Q9 offsuit. OK, OK, that's just unlucky. I didn't do anything wrong there. That's just a cold deck. My face remains cool and impassive as I watch Morris stack my chips. It's only the first hand.

A few minutes later I pick up ATo in the BB. The action is capped when it gets to me and I dump it. Not a hand to go to war with in this kind of huge, multiway pot. The flop comes KQJ, two diamonds. I stare ahead in disbelief. I would have flopped the fucking nut straight. God damn. Though, as it turns out, it was a good fold. Crafty Asian Lady made her diamond flush on the river. OK, OK, good fold there. Coulda lost a LOT on that hand. It's still early.

Very next hand I get AQo UTG and raise. 4 people cold-call, including Crafty Asian Lady. Flop is ugly-- 567, two clubs. I check and it's checked around to C.A.L. who bets. I muck and the other 3 donkeys call. Turn comes an ace. Steam begins to escape from my ears. But again, it was a good fold, as the river 9 made C.A.L.'s straight (she had 78 suited). Bitch is on one helluva rush.

KdQh in MP. It's folded to me and I raise. 4 cold- callers. A raggy flop with 2 diamonds is checked around. Turn is another blank diamond. Crafty Asian lady bets and all but Fat Italian fold. I call the $8, getting 7-1 with my two overs and second-nut-flush draw. I'm dubious at this point, but the pot is far too large to fold. A raise could work here in some situations but neither of these players are going anywhere. She could have a pair. She could have a draw. She could have already made her flush. River is a black Q giving me top pair. She bets, Fat Italian calls and I make the crying call, knowing I'm beat, but unable to fold in such a huge pot. Crafty Asian Lady shows 46 of diamonds. Those fuckin' suited connectors, man. Deal me some of THAT.

45o in the SB. Capped PF to me and I make an easy fold. Flop comes A23. FUCK!!! Please tell me this isn't going to be one of those days. Remember that one pot can turn it around. One pot.

I folded, folded, folded for about two orbits until I picked up KQ and raised. 4 cold-callers again. Flop AQX, no suits. Morris bets, Fat Italian calls and I raise to try and thin the field. No such luck. Turn is an Ace. That makes it less likely that anyone else has an ace, especially Morris, who was extremely likely to lead at the pot with anything from bottom or middle pair to a straight draw. Morris checks, and everyone else checks to me. I bet. Bobblehead Asian Lady calls and Morris calls. The river is a beautiful Q, making me queens full. Morris checks, I bet, Bobblehead raises, Morris folds and I call. She has AJ. Another pot pushed away from me. I grab my purse and head for the ladies room. Time for a breather before I start to tilt in front of my opponents.

I sit down at the long vanity in the restroom and scribble hands into my notebook. I'm already down $150 of my $200 buy-in, though I haven't made any major mistakes.

Or have I and I just don't know it?

This really can't be one of those nights. One pot would make it all better. One. Pot. I steadied myself and re-applied some lip gloss before heading back out to the table. It was time to turn this thing around.


Unknown said...

Thank you , Chance, this is exactly what I was hoping for. Can't wait for part II.

April said...

I admit, it makes me a little queasy to read this, because it captures exactly how I was feeling the last trip I made to Vegas. Can't go through that again....