Poker after a while

May 24, 2007

Poker’s great when you haven’t played in a while.

Last night, I sat in with a group of people whom I hadn’t played with in what seemed like forever, and though the comfortable feeling of sliding those little metallic friends through my Dorito-stained fingers all night was all too familiar, it was how I played the game that surprised me.

I’m just guessing here, but I’d say most poker players, even those who do it for a living, take a break from the game every now and then. Family issues, vacation, lack of funds, busy at work…they all can find a way to take priority in our lives. And for me, I look forward each time to sitting back down at the green felt after an absence like it was a full day at an amusement park.
And….oh yes….I do have a cotton candy machine at home.

A little side tip for everyone else who has one of these babies, which by the way should be the centerpiece – the shining staple – of anyone’s kitchen. You can make any flavor of cotton candy you want just by combining Kool-aid mix with sugar.

I’m working on lobbying for Dorito-flavored Kool-aid for this very purpose.
OK, anyway, back to my night of cards.

I tend to get into routines of being a controlled but timid player. It bothers me more because of how aware I become of my safe playing. And I have no doubt to my transparency for others to pick up on, either.

I’ll get frightened early by big bets…I’ll make a move and then cower out at a re-raise, all the while knowing damn well I’m playing poorly, but just missing those gut feelings that sometimes help push you through your common sense into rolling the chips into the middle.

Well last night was different. I started out playing quiet, feeling my way back into the game after an extended absence. The house rules were that the deal switched every hand, and with it the choice of game. This I enjoyed, because it gave me the opportunity to refresh myself with the handful of games this group generally plays early on in the evening.

I won a few medium-sized hands in hold ‘em and Omaha high-low, (best place to play Omaha high-low right now is on, but then started slowly getting nickel and dimed to death.

After two hours I was down half my money. And then something clicked…maybe it was the alcohol (I can’t remember but it was sometime between my third and fourth cigar).

We switched to a hold ‘em tournament with the blinds doubling every 10 minutes. I told myself going in I would bet smart but aggressive, and try to be the first one to make the big bet…so as not to be forced to react to someone else’s.

Of course, it didn’t happen that way. I was reacting the entire tournament.

Two big hands to note. The guy to my left called a $5 raise of mine by going all in on a flush draw. 4 clubs after the flop. I had top two pair and called.

He didn’t catch and I put him out of the game, leaving 2 other people left at the table. At that point I was the chip leader by a good amount, and started pushing people around a little bit, knowing I could drop a little here or there to buy myself a bit of attitude in the other players’ minds – something I rarely did in months past, but was sorely missing from my game.

After player 2 took out player 3, it was down to me and player 2, both with even stacks. He went all in, and I luckily had a strong hand of Ace Jack to call him back with. Only trouble was, his Ace 5 was suited.

And again, I had to sweat out the same situation on the next all-in. His flush draw this time was diamonds, but it was on the flop, as well. The cards no help to his 5.

And again, he failed to catch.

I won the tournament, bringing me back to even, and carried the attitude back into the cash game.

Cautious not to get careless (since at that point we dropped the betting limit), I used the momentum to overbet more than I ever had before.

$5 here, $10 raise there…and a few strong bluffs later, I ended the night as the only winner at the table.

Now, everyone figures at one point when they’re losing it makes sense to try something new.

Hell, it’s only logical. And historically, I was the kind of person to pull the reigns in even tighter and wait for a big hand to pay off.

But, as everyone also knows, if you wait too long, you’ll find yourself with nothing but crumbs at the end of the night.