Feelin’ cool at the card table

July 20, 2008

 What does it take for you to feel cool at the card table?  Not shivering cool, you can crack a window in the winter for that.  Or hold up a beer that’s been in the freezer to your face for a few seconds.  No, I mean, slick…happening…”the man.”

    Not I, nor anyone reading this is, in fact, “the man,” but I’m sure there was a time when you felt like you were, even if it was just for a few moments.
    I’ve felt like “the man” myself, and I’d like to share the one biggest example I can think of to really sum up the feeling.  There are a couple other times I’ve felt cool at the card table, like just experiencing sitting down at Binion’s Horseshoe Casino, or every time I say “all-in” and mean it, but this one moment truly takes the pot, so to speak.
The Hand:  Nothing feels quite as good as nailing someone with a boatload of hidden cards, especially when it puts them back in their place.  I was having a rough night at the table, not down a whole lot, but getting down on myself and making poor decisions, affecting my play and forcing me into a timid, reserved gameplay style, which isn’t really much fun to do on a Saturday night, but whatever. 
    The game is 7-card, stud, no limit raises.  I think there were 6 people at the table.  One guy whom I only knew through a friend who was there, was supremely arrogant the entire night…and the funny thing was he was only up about $35 bucks or so, not even the largest winner of the night up until that point. But as smug as can be…and he was one of those guys who showed it even in his shuffling technique.  I can’t describe it, but trust me you’d want to take the cards and shove ‘em somewhere.
    So here’s “the hand.”
    My face-up card is a 2 of hearts, his is the Ace of spades.  No surprise there, he’s fed off his strong up cards the whole night.  Gotten quite comfortable with growing chip stacks, pulling out bluffs left and right.  With two people’s stacks at the table shrinking as the hours went on, they were reluctant to keep calling, so the smug bastard’s own stacks ate up little antes and small calls.
    First bet, $4 from smuggy, trying to get everyone out right away.  Three guys fold immediately, in order, I call, one other person calls.  3 left.
    Fourth street: 9 of hearts to me, six of diamonds to him.  Same bet, I call, irrelevant third player folds.  2 left.
    Fifth street: 3 of hearts to me, King of diamonds to him.  $10 bet from him.  I check my hidden cards calmly, think for a moment, and call.
    Sixth street: Queen of hearts to me, Six of spades to him.  $40 bet from him.  I take a step back and assess what we got here.  I have 4 to a flush showing, which doesn’t seem to phase him in the least.  Or at least he’s doing his best to make it appear as such.  He has a pair of sixes and two high cards…is he on a draw with top two pair?  Or did he actually have a hand to begin with?  Tough call, and no small bet to deal with here.
    Screw it, I called.
    River: I peek cautiously but optimistically and organize my three down cards together under my increasingly sweaty palms.  He does a quick take and nods – seriously – nods to himself but with the obvious intention of me seeing.  Then he bets $75…and yes he had all this cash on him.  We were playing chips but you could add bets with cash if you had it on hand.
    Well, he’d been good at betting generously early on in hands, usually bluffing his way to small pot victories, but did he have the balls to do it with this much money…or was I facing a full house?
    Only one way to find out.
    ….i had barely put the money in the middle when smuggy forcefully plopped down his hidden cards to reveal another pair of aces…full house aces over.
    “How’s that flush lookin’ now, bud?” he asks.
    At that point – in this one moment that I remember more clearly than any other poker hand I’ve ever won or lost – I felt like Teddy KGB when he said “You’re right, Mike, I don’t heeeeavve the spades.”
    And over can my hidden cards, three pretty little 2’s, to add to the lonely, shy one I had face up.
    Not only did I feel like “the man”, but I sent the false “man” packing for good that night, and I’ve never seen or heard from him since.