Friday, December 25, 2009

25 DEC 09: Poker Night 122/123 - Double Down

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: In a cost-cutting experiment, today's post is a "blog simulcast" - appearing on both The Blog of Columbus, Georgia and On the Flop.)

'Twas the night before Christmas. At least for most people. Not for me - because I'm a Christian who doesn't keep Christmas. It would have been a challenging Thursday night, looking for something to do besides watching the local 24-hour weather channel to see where the mass of rain is going.

But thankfully, this year offered something unusual. While most Columbus bars and clubs shut down for the holiday, Lil Kim's Cove on Fourth Street was open as usual, holding its weekly Thursday night poker doubleheader. Someone might sing "We Three Kings" there for a very different reason - holding three of a kind, to win a pot.

Since Lil Kim's Cove is walking distance from home, Thursday night has become poker night for me over the last couple of years. I play fairly well and have won money on several occasions, but that's not the only reason for going. I conduct "poker ministry" when the time is right - trying to show there's more to God than cursing when you lose a hand.

So while much of Columbus shut down Thursday night for Christmas, it was business as usual for me. I took the short walk, and for a change played in both poker tournaments instead of the first one. A mix of rain and the holiday reduced the odds of late-night trouble significantly. Next Thursday night may be different, due to amateurs shooting fireworks.

As we suspected, the turnout for poker night was down this week. Only about 20 people showed up -- which increased our chances of making the final table and winning money for the top two finishers. These were the hard-core poker players. I hesitate to call them addicts - but hardly any of them bothered to pay attention to Southern Methodist winning the Hawaii Bowl on TV screens.

I sat for the first tournament at a seven-player table. Five players were African-American, one was Asian-American - and then there was I. A minority in terms of race, and perhaps in morality as well.

The Asian-American man sat next to me, and plopped a basket of fries on the table. He apparently bought them merely for the bonus poker chips you get for a purchase, as he allowed me to eat most of them. Those were the only "chips" other players were willing to share all night.

"Since we're all here playing poker," I said to the table at one point, "I suppose you're like me - not keeping Christmas." No one really responded to that. Perhaps it would have been an admission many of the people didn't really have a life.

It didn't take long for the action to get interesting in Game 1....

BLINDS: 25/50

IN THE POCKET: A-Q offsuit

It's a strong hand and it's early, so we raise to 250. Several players around the table call.

ON THE FLOP: 10-8-10

We missed, but we have "overcards." Not wanting to look weak, we bet 300. A few players call to stay in.


Ah, that's better - two pair with the top kicker. We bet 300 again, and one other man calls.


That looks harmless and inconsequential. But now we check, hoping to get a read on what our opponent has -- and he answers by betting 1,050. Uh-oh. Is he hiding a third 10? We call to see if he's bluffing - but he's not. He has 10-5, and had us topped all along. His full house leaves us emptier.

While that loss hurt, I recovered by winning a few modest pots. One hand was downright strange, when I played A-4. Nothing paired on the board, and it turned out three other players held Aces with small secondary cards. The pot wound up as a four-way split -- something General Motors hasn't even been able to accomplish this year.

Late in the first hour of play, a shouting match erupted at the table next to ours. "You had a FLUSH!" one man standing at the table yelled. A lot of haggling ensued - in a possible preview of what department stores will face Saturday.

(I was told later the argument developed because the dealer put out all five face-up cards at once - not waiting for players to bet "on the flop" when the first three came out. Some players simply are too used to high-speed broadband online games.)

But then came the strangest sight of the evening, as a little girl walked into Lil Kim's Cove. She held a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts, and gave some kind of prepared speech which I couldn't really hear. Is this what school clubs have to do in December, to compete with the Salvation Army?

The girl had no mother or father standing by her - and after a moment, one of the female poker players suggested she leave. Lil Kim's Cove is essentially a bar, after all. The only product made with yeast that most people want is a bottle of beer.

Back at the game, our chip stack increased to 9,500 by the one-hour break. But the cards didn't come our way after that, and we finished the first tournament in tenth place. The remaining nine combined for the final table - so at least we had the courtesy of making room for them.

Usually we leave after the first game at Lil Kim's Cove, and walk home to blog about it. But this week we stayed for the second game - since late-night local newscasts were canceled, and the Christmas Eve church services downtown weren't giving away door prizes.

There's a jukebox inside Lil Kim's Cove, and its screen offered "Christmas hits" for the playing. But no one at the club selected any Thursday night. Well, I heard "The Midnight Special" at one point -- but I don't think that really counts as a carol.

When an Elvis Presley song came on the jukebox, I started modestly doing the twist in my seat. "You can't dance here," a man to our right declared. "This is a no-dancing table." Talk about a killjoy - but then again, Lil Kim's Cove does NOT have a pole in one corner.

The second half of the poker doubleheader began shortly before 10:00 p.m. ET, after the first tournament was settled with a three-way division of the prize money. While the play settled down, the "trash talk" by players escalated - leading me to say: "If a poker player tells you Santa Claus is real, don't believe him."

A moment of courage and decision came our way in Game 2, and it had nothing to do with trash talk....

BLINDS: 200/400

IN THE POCKET: A-7 offsuit

Our chip stack is only average, compared to the players around us. We call the blind, prepared to push if necessary - but the table doesn't.


A pair of Aces always looks nice to us. But a man to our immediate right is playing first, and betting.1,000. Holding top pair, this is a no-brainer - and we call.

ON THE TURN: 8 (as best we recall)

The man to our right checks. So do we, actually feeling a bit relieved by this.


The man to our right examines our chips, then bets 3,000. That's enough to force us all-in, as we have 2,950 left. Uh-oh - is he holding a third 6?

"Ooh boy," a woman across the table says in sympathy with our situation. Then she asks about our work situation - a perfect stress release.

We explain what's happened to us in recent weeks. "But in this case...." we add, as we contemplate some more. Finally we decide to risk it all.

"Show me your 6," we say in semi-defeat as our stack of chips hits the table. "I have two pair with a King."

"You got it," the opponent says - as he held a King. Our two pair were higher, and we're thankful for an A-grade.

I reached the one-hour break in Game 2 with 9,000 chips. Then the second hour brought my strangest personal moment of the night. I put in a 1,000-chip piece for the big blind as the jukebox began playing Ray Charles' "Georgia on My Mind." So I stood up, and removed my hat. "It's the state song," I explained. If GPB had played it at sign-off, I might still have done it.

Trouble is, it was NOT my turn to post the big blind. Someone else wound up dealing the hand, and by the time play reached me it was too late to remove it. I made a substantial donation to someone else's chip stack - and didn't even get a doughnut for my trouble.

Forced to go all-in with the big blind with only 1,500 chips left, my Q-8 was outgunned by players with A-Q and A-10. An Ace on the river paired them, but not me. I wound up in 12th place, going none-for-two in reaching the final table -- even though earlier in the day I finished fifth in an online tournament with 250 players. Of course, they can't see your eyes or sweat online....

No one said "Merry Christmas" as I left Lil Kim's Cove. The remaining players simply kept up their games, as I stepped outside in pouring rain to quickly walk home. The only major holiday reference of the evening came when a player sitting next to a Christmas tree complained of having "pine needles up my...."

MINISTRY MOMENT: For the second night in a row, I took a AAA battery for a "card protector" at the tournaments (and of course much more).

"Why do you have the battery?" a man across the table asked during Game 2.

"It reminds me that I receive power, when the Holy Spirit comes upon me. I read that in a book once. Do you know what book that is?"

The man surprisingly made a good guess. "That's the Good Book, isn't it?"

I'm not sure how that phrase became attached to the Bible. It isn't found in Scripture -- and by the way for you zealots, neither is "Merry Christmas."

But I'm convinced reading and studying the Bible can do much good. It contains "good news," which is what the word "gospel" means. Paul summarizes that gospel in I Corinthians 15 -- and interestingly, he does NOT mention Jesus's birth. Paul focuses on the Savior's death, burial and resurrection. So if a minister Thursday night tried to keep Him in a manger, that was a mistake.

Paul then offers the hope of a resurrection to all who believe -- but verse 33 reminds us: "Bad company corrupts good character." Perhaps that's why I haven't probed too deeply into the lives of the poker players around me. Many of them smoke, some don't mind getting drunk - but at least none of them have tried to play strip poker at our games.

UPDATED POKER SCOREBOARD: 48 final tables in 123 nights (39.0%) - 10 cashes. We're counting Thursday's doubleheader as two nights. But with only one final table in the last 12, this is a serious slump for us.

YAHOO POKER TOTAL: $13,816 (no play)

NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER TOTAL: Five-player sit-n-goes - 3-6-3-1-0. Full tournaments - 7 final tables in 68 games (10.2%), no cashes. There's no slump here right now, as we've had top-five finishes three times in the last eight days.

POKER STARS.NET TOTAL: One-table sit-n-goes - one top-three finish in seven games.

SCHEDULED THIS WEEKEND: A reader's story of recovery.... and our year-end review of 2009 resumes....

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BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 400 (+ 7, 1.8%)

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