They’re better than you think

July 2, 2007

I played cards over the weekend with a group that I’ve sat with only twice before. I know one of the guys well, and the game was at his place, so I usually feel comfortable going over there knowing it’s a fair game.

Most of the people over there all work at the same restaurant, and it seems to me they just gather to blow off steam after a long day of waiting tables with some Texas Hold ‘em.

Fine with me. I can’t exactly relate to their line of work, but hell, everyone has long days at the office. And for most of us, it’s everyday at the office…whatever form your office may take.

So anyway, the first time I was over at my friend’s house and joined in this game, it was obvious these were just a bunch of people (guys and girls) who had taken interest in poker because it has exploded in popularity. They had the felt table top that’s sold at Spencer Gifts, along with the silver briefcase poker chip set.

All nice, stuff, by the way, and all these poker chip sets and tables are, in my opinion, well worth the money. I remember when we used to play with quarters in high school, and someone had to be the “banker,” which meant stop by the bank and come prepared with $50 in quarters. I suppose that has it’s benefits when the night is out, though, seeing as you don’t have to worry about coming up short when cashing out everyone’s chips.

But anyway, as a veteran poker player, you have to be careful not to prejudge this new group of players just because they can seem like “poker tourists” as I sometimes refer to them. Or “bandwagon” players who’ll likely find something else to do when the game’s popularity drops again, or they simply get bored of the group they’re socializing in.

The reason why you have to be careful? Of course, it’s fairly obvious…some of them are good. A number of them probably play on PokerStars.com. I watched one of the tournaments they had before sitting down, and I was impressed with the betting discipline and the time they took (even through a few bottles of beer) to analyze the table before reacting to a bet. They all knew each other, which definitely helps when trying to read someone, and their instincts did them justice when figuring out of bluff, or knowing when someone caught on the turn or river.

I learned my lesson the easy way…not to underestimate these players, which goes further than just assuming they don’t know the game. I also wanted to stay disciplined in my betting, so as not to lose out on potentially more money when sitting with a strong hand.

Turned out last weekend it paid off for me.

It was our second tournament of the night, playing with 6 others at the table. I was playing tight, but bluffed once or twice knowing I’d probably lose just to let them know I’ll do it every so often. At this point in the game there were 4 of us left. I called the blinds with a pair of jacks…the guy to my left bet 20 bucks, at which time I quickly called.

The flop is Jack, 7, 4…all suits different. Figuring he had an ace or something higher than my jacks, but wasn’t likely to see a matching pair come up on the turn and river, I bet back his 20 after a moment. To my surprise, he raises back 40. At this point, it’s eating deep into my remaining stack, so I move all in.

I should mention we’re the only two remaining in the game at this point.

He hesitates, smiles and calls, saying “you know I couldn’t lay this down.” He then turns up a pair of kings.

I nod politely, feeling secure in my hand. The turn and river are no help to either of us, and I win the pot, and subsequently, the game about 5 hands later. And even more to my surprise, the losing player takes the beat well, offering his hand and a “great hand” gesture, of which I accept.

Who knows, maybe all these “poker tourists” are good for the game in the long run. After all, who am I to judge?