Taking out the trash…talking

January 25, 2009

    “I want your mother and your sister out of my house, immediately.”
    Ah, “White Man Can’t Jump,” one of the greatest trash-talking movies of all time.  Woody and Wesley in their primes.
    Caught this on cable the other day, and it made me assess my own trash-talking skills.  Not so much in basketball (although I do trash talk, I just can’t back it up most of the time), but in poker.
    I never really stopped to think if I’m the type of person who trash talks when the cards are out.  I know I’m the type of person that finds it incredibly annoying when others do it, especially “big names” on TV. 
    “Yeah, yeah, great, you’re “the mouth,” and you’re good at poker.  Keep it shut and just do your job. 
    I know, I know, it’s part of the game…trying to psych out the other guys, or use the banter to get into their heads a little bit, try to pry out some response that’ll give you a window into their hand.  And I’m sure it works, but man is it annoying.
    It’s actually one of the reasons I watch ESPN poker on mute these days, if I watch it at all anymore.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’m flipping the dial over to soccer (which, in my opinion, contains no more real action than poker).  I just can’t stand it when they focus on these guys going on and on, talking like they’re the other guy’s friend.  Whatever.
    It’s all business, it’s all part of the game, and it’s overdone and annoying.
    However, I’m certainly not immune to doing it myself.  Here’s where the hypocricy really starts rolling.
    And I’m sure I top most of the rest when it comes to irritation.
    You know, the same nonsenses comes out of my mouth as everyone else’s…someone starts it off…
    “Nah, you don’t have the spades.”
    “Probably not.  Guess you’ll have to call to find out.  Can you…can you move aside your hand.  Your chip stack is so small I couldn’t even tell if you had enough left to go in.  Heh, this whole conversation could’ve just been a moot point.”
    Little red boils up in their face…touch of steam escapes from the collar.
    “Do we need to take a break so you can cash in for some more chips?  I know it might be against the rules, but I just feel so bad that you’re going to lose this hand, I at least want to make sure you have the opportunity to see the loss all the way through to the end here.”
    Then for extra effect, you have to add a time element to the trash talk.
    “Let’s go, buddy.  The clock for the blinds is ticking down as we speak.”
    That added pressure is always fun.
    Of course, I’m more or less the type of guy who will really lay it on when I know I’m going to win, and there’s already a large sum of money in the pot.  Ideal conditions.  Even if that is one of my tells, it’s still pretty fun.  I’m quite sure if you ever saw me playing poker on TV (which will likely never happen, because I’m not that good), you’d dash for that mute button so fast you might strain your shuffling thumbs.
    And I’m proud to say I’ve never been kicked out of anyone’s place for trash-talking.  Or maybe I should be ashamed to say that…maybe I’m not coming across as effective enough if nobody’s gotten fumed enough to boot me from the premises.  No matter, I’d come back the next week with a whole new arsenal of worthless jibber jabber.
    Because the bottom line is I just enjoy it.  It’s part of my personality.  And, to be perfectly honest, I’m sure as hell not doing it to pull some information out of my opponents.  What can I say, I just like being a prick sometimes.
    And what else is there to say?  Oh yeah…
    “No, no…this ain’t Raymond!”

A good beat-down

January 18, 2009

Last week, I finally got around to watching the movie 21.  I’ve actually owned it for months, since the week it came out on blu-ray, but like I do with so many titles, I have the unfortunate habit of leaving movies closed on my shelf while I go out and buy new ones.
Well, no more.  I’m determined to actually watch what I have.  So I started recently with this underrated flick about the blackjack card-counting team from MIT, I’m sure you know the story. 
Kevin Spacey, as usual, is captivating in the movie.  And Lawrence Fishburn, as usual, provides a strong supporting character for the main roles to play off of. 
Speaking of Fishburn, he’s an aging, soon-to-be-obsolete private security/muscle/investigator (he’s something), determined to catch the team, and catch up with Spacey’s character Mickey Rosa in the process.
And, as any good muscle does, he administers his fair share of beat-downs…which, of course, got me to thinking, what are my favorite casino/poker-movie beat-downs.
Here’s the list:
1.) Casino:  “You can either have the money and the hammer, or nothing.”  Ah, DeNiro back when he still mattered.  What I actually like about these beat-down scenes is that they’re so over-staged in terms of violence by anything else Pesci’s doing throughout the movie, yet you somehow feel more frightened for the poor schmo caught cheating, staring through a horribly-framed set of glasses as his bearded buddy gripping his bloody pulp of what used to be his hand.  Of course, a nice pen through the neck, head in a vice or being buried alive would probably get that same message across.
2.) Rounders: “Aren’t you supposed to read us our rights or something?”  Nothing could worm those two out of that mess, caught cheating by a roomful of law enforcement.  The tension was overwhelming, and to make matters worse for them, Damon’s character probably would’ve walked out with a ton of winnings had Norton not started cheating anyhow.
3.) 21: What’s memorable about Fishburn’s couple of beat down is that he’s talking to the victim the entire time, having a conversation between blows.  It’s what made the light saber duels between Vader and Luke so much more interesting and appealing than the ones involving Darth Maul….uh….for example.
4.) And last, but perhaps the greatest…Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.  This entire scene itself is worth quoting a few hundred times a year.  I’ll pick out a few.  “What I win…I keep.  What you win…I keep.” …. “SOUNDS GOOD MR. THE KID!”  And…. “Whoa, four aces!”  “Dude, you gotta have a poker face, like me.” “OH!”  “You a cheatin’ us kid.”   And what ensues is a fun, albeit short and unrealistic, shooting that forces the threesome into their time travelin’ phone booth.  Nothing like a good gunfight to rank up there with the best cheating penalties in a movie.
So, would I ever cheat at cards?  No…and sure as hell not in a casino.  But then again, I’m probably not good enough or smart enough to come close to pulling it off anyway.  I’d probably just try to trade cards with the guy next to me.  “Hey, what do you have?  Need any jacks?”

Poker Home Games: Double Up

January 11, 2009

Every once in a while I learn a game that, in my opinion, can be described as being a little “too easy.”

Not for me, per se, but in general.  Everyone plays with the same rules, so obviously it’s not easy in the sense that I’m awarded some type of advantage over the other players.  I think I mean “easy” in the sense that it’s too “easy” to put together a good hand.

Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Many wild-card games and game inventors pride themselves on said games being too easy.  And those who like playing in wild card games want them to be too easy, and want everyone to have a hand they’d consider going in and betting big on.

Why? Bigger pots, bigger payoff.

So, I can buy into that line of thinking.  But in this case, this isn’t a wild card game, so I sort of feel like the “easiness” of the hands is a little cheap.  I know that makes no sense.  There’s nothing cheaper than having two-pair turned into 4 aces because of a wild card, but that’s how I feel.

Nevertheless, I’ll go through the game because it’s something new and worth a mention.  There are a few rounds of betting, and your hand keeps changing as the community hand does, presenting a few strategic opportunities to hold back early, bet big later and clean up if you catch a few others with the right hands.

1.)    The game is based on Texas Hold ‘Em, mostly in the sense that everyone will have their hidden hand, and everyone has community cards, as well.

2.)    Everyone is dealt three cards, hidden.  You can look at your hand.

3.)    Round of betting.

4.)    THREE community cards are turned up. 

5.)    Second round of betting.

6.)    A fourth community card is turned up AND a fourth hidden card is dealt to each player.

7.)    Third round of betting.

8.)    A fifth and final community card is turned up AND a fifth and final hidden card is dealt to each player.

9.)    Final round of betting.

NOTE – You will use any combination of the 10 cards to make your best 5-card poker hand, and that’s what you’re betting on.

NOTE – No high-low, it’s high hand take all.

See, told you it was easy.  I played this a few times in a game recently, it came back up a few times on the deal rotation, but never became a regular throughout the night.  I think it’s one of those games you’ll give a chance to in order to switch things up for a while, but it’ll never be a favorite.


January 4, 2009

            Couldn’t think of a better title for this blod/article.  If you don’t know what it means, do a quick search for Dreamcatcher the movie and type it in…it’s not hard to find. 


Maybe, when I was writing about New Year’s resolutions, I should’ve just covered my bases by saying, “Don’t play stupid.”  And, if that had been the case, I should’ve listened to myself.

            OK, enough with the setup, I’m particularly disappointed in a hand I played on New Year’s eve this past week.  So, technically it wasn’t the new year yet, and I wasn’t bound to any resolutions poker-related that I may have set for myself, but that certainly doesn’t excuse the stupidity.

            Here’s what happened…

            Straight hold ‘em tournament, not much money, it’s a social game on a social, laid-back night.  I’ve been losing a little up to that point…down to about 70% of my buy-in chip stack…feeling like I want to make something happen.  I hadn’t been getting much of anything in the way of “luck” from the deck, and we’re about 2 or 3 raises into the blinds by this time.

            I get 6, 7 clubs dealt to me.  I was the small blind, nobody bets, it comes back to me and I call.  I feel like it’s worth taking a chance that I’ll catch something early building quickly toward a straight or a flush.

            The big blind raises 4 times the big blind ante…there’s 5 total players, the next two drop out, fourth guy calls, as do I.

            My first stupid move.  Believe me, you don’t have to think about reminding me how I should’ve played, I relived it a few times in my head when I was driving home at the end of the night – quite sober mind you.

            Flop comes out – J clubs, 10 diamonds, 3 clubs. 

            Now, at this point, the thought that pops into my head is – someone was betting on a high king or Aces, and then didn’t pull a pair.  What I should’ve been thinking was – this is a bad hand for you.  The straight is just about gone.  And you’re pushing the odds big time banking on a flush.

            Fourth guy bets what was just bet.  I think it’s a bluff (again, I have nothing to really call it with anyhow) so I call.  Big Blind doesn’t re-raise, but does call to stay in the game.

            Second stupid move.  Even if I was going in for a flush draw, and I didn’t think either of them caught a high pair, I think in hindsight I would’ve put some muscle behind a bluff to see if I could’ve shaken one of them out of the hand.  Now they have a chance, if they haven’t already, to catch whatever they’re looking for, as well.

            Fourth card comes out…8 of hearts.  Worst card possible for me at this point.  Now the inside straight is alive again.

            Same bet by the fourth guy.  Again, all I do is call.

            Now the big blind comes back with a bet twice the amount.  Fourth guy takes little time calling. 

            I call.

            Third mistake.

            River card is no help to either my flush or straight.   I drop out when the bet is made, can’t even remember who won the hand…but I remember wanting to punch myself in the face with a big “after the fact F-U.”

            Shows you how quickly I got over it that I’m still thinking about it 4 days later.

            Well, new year, time to listen to myself and follow those resolutions.