Burned at the Lake
Beautiful weekend here in the 'Burgh, but I wasn't out watching the Bassmasters strip our rivers of fish (tho my brother was, more on this later). I was up at my friend Rick's lake house for a weekend of beer and boating. And a few hands of poker to boot.
The trip didn't get off to a good start. I was late getting packed, and halfway down my road when I remembered I forgot the wine and the DVDs I was asked to bring. Did the U-turn, scared the cats who no doubt thought they could relax the rest of the night, and once again was out the door. Picked up Ted, hit the road. We hit Somerset around 7:30 and, to steal a quote from The Simpsons
, I was so hungry I ate at Arby's. I think Arby's food is fine, but the real reason I stopped there was for a jamocha shake. Love their jamocha shakes. One problem. They either gave me a plain vanilla shake, or this was the least jamochy shake I've ever had. An ominous portent of things to come.
Got to the house and Matt gave me a beer, a Yuengling. I opened it and it overflowed all over my curly fries. After I cleaned that mess and finished eating I opened another Yuengling...and it too overflowed all over the place, forcing me into a disgusting and somewhat disquieting slurping display in front of everyone. Ech.
Scott and Debbie arrived and of course that meant the real drinking could commence. Ted made a kettle-sized margarita and we all retired to the card room to, uh, play cards. Just as we started Gary and Lori showed up with their two daughters, Karina and Erika. You can tell them apart pretty easily because Karina is 10 years old and Erica is 6 months old.
To the game. I was dealt QQ, raised, and Gary called. A ragged flop, I bet, and Gary comes over the top. I make a massive, MASSIVE, laydown. I don't think there are 5 players in the world who could've made that laydown. Gary told me later he hit a set. And he wouldn't lie about that, no way. So a great start for me...I get the shivers just thinking about how great
that laydown was.
I take Gary out when my 99 holds up against AJ. Things are moving along OK, except that Rick, sitting to my left, has a big stack and is pushing everyone around. He wins a big pot from Scott when 3 aces show on the board and he holds the case ace. He wins another big pot with aces. But then I come back and win a pot with the Hammer, I making deuces on the flop and Rico holding 7-5. But that's my lone highlight--Rick takes me out with AQ over A7 (bastard picked up AQ in the BB) and I have to SIT there and watch Rick and Scott battle it out. The game ended when Rick called with K2 against Scott's K5, Scott stays safe until the the last card when, you guessed it, a duck quacks up on the river. Rico is victorious, which he brought up about 47 times the rest of the weekend.
Next game. I push Gary out of a pot and he rabbit-hunts to see if he would've hit his open-end straight draw. He would have, and he understandably goes nuts as I laugh on the inside. I stop laughing when I have AQ, hit top two pair on the flop, and suavely check. But Scott doesn't bet. Nor does he bet when a sorta scary king comes on the turn. I know Scott has a big hand, if it's AK I'm hosed. Check check. A goddam 10 on the river, I have to check, he bets, I muck, and he turns over JJ. Again, what an incredible laydown!
. Ask yourself, and be honest, could you have laid that down? Don't go saying that I should've bet on the flop or the turn or the river and that I played the hand as poorly as it could've been played without my actual arrest. I made the big laydown, and that's the mark of a great player.
The baby has gone to bed (after playing with and nibbling on some poker chips) but Karina is still up. After six hours in the car she's a bundle of energy, so why doesn't she act as the dealer? Hey, why not--a ten-year-old dealing poker at 2AM? Who said poker isn't wholesome family fun? A tip, however--you don't want to scream "Deal me some fuckin' cards!" at a ten-year-old. Etiquette and all that.
My notes get a little sketchy at this point. I was drinking Miller Lite which, to steal a line from Monty Python, is like making love in a canoe. It's fucking close to water. They went down fast and they went down easy. I think I was in a hand with Scott where I had A6 to his AQ, flopped a six, but then lost when a queen came on the river. I made a full house and got NO action, which would become a recurring theme. I ended up out when I pushed with nothing and Rick called me with top pair. I think Scott won that one. Hic!
Everyone goes to bed except for me and Scott and Gary. We talk poker a bit while still chugging beers. My hands start turning blue from how often I have to thrust them into the icy waters of the cooler. What the hell, let's play a 3-handed game. These guys don't like ring games, which would make it easier to up and quit when exhaustion takes over. We play, I come in second, I have no idea who won or what happened. We leave the card room looking like John Blutarski's lived there for a month.
It's 5AM. I've been drinking since about 10PM. Yet I feel pretty good. I actually feel great. Buzzed, not piss drunk. I must've paced myself well. So now I have to figure out where to sleep. The house has 5 bedrooms, and as I do some calculations I guesst they're all taken. I usually crash on the comfy futon in the loft above the dining room, but the horrible ripsaw noises coming from up there tell me Ted beat me to that spot. I have 2 options--crash on the living room couch and be woken in about 90 minutes when Karina's internal bells goes off, or sleep in...the spooky room.
This is the room Mark usually takes, but he's in North Carolina and so it's open. Let's me set the scene--there's a long hallway that connects the living room area to the rear of the house. The card room is off this hallway. But just outside the living room door the ceiling is like 20 feet high, and there's a very sturdy wooden ladder affixed to the wall. Climb this ladder about 12 feet up and there's a door leading into a low-ceilinged room above the hallway. It's a long, narrow room with a sloping ceiling that gives it a fun-house effect. There's a bed in there, a sink, and a creepy sense of privacy. You're 12 feet above the ground, the door closes nearly on blank space, inside you only have headroom right above the bed...it's a bit weird.
The previous owners apparently set this room up for one of their kids. And it would be a neat room for a little kid, a private little refuge, and fun too, climbing up and down the ladder. However, and this should come as no surprise to my long-time readers, I'm not a little kid. I'm six feet tall, which becomes a salient point because at the top of the ladder, where you would step onto the ledge and enter the room, is a thick wooden beam about 3 feet above the ledge. For a 4-footer, no problem. For a five-footer, an inconvienience. For me, this is a potential deathtrap. The ladder is perpenticular to the ledge, so I have to climb 12 feet in the air, twist my body so my butt rests on the ledge, lean back to get my head under the beam, and do a sort of limboesque shimmy until I'm settled enough to leave go. Did I mention that, if I fall, I don't land on the floor but on a series of steps that leads down to the hallway? Did I mention that it's dark in the hallway, and that I'm afraid of heights? I did mention that I'd drunk about 4 gallons of light beer, I know I mentioned that.
I tried many different manuevers to get myself safely on that ledge. What followed was ten minutes of what I'd call Extreme Hokey-Pokey:
You stick your right shoulder in
You pull your right shoulder out
You stick your right shoulder in, and you nearly slip and fall
You say a quick Hail Mary and try not to crap your pants
Why not sleep on the floor!
When I finally got myself safely on the ledge I wasn't as happy as you might think--I knew getting back ON the ladder would be an equal challenge. But the room was cool, the bed soft, and I only lasted 2 sentences of Small Stakes Hold-Em
before I was sound asleep.
I woke just before noon, feeling better than I had any right to. I wanted to linger in bed, not wanting to face the ladder, but unfortunately my bladder felt like Kobayashi's stomach after the Nathan's hot dog eating contest. My, ah, discomfort complicated the descent, as I had to perform gyrations that nearly brought tears to my eyes. But my distress spurred me to action, and with only a few false starts I got myself affixed to the ladder and scurried down. I knelt, kissed the linoneum, and answered Nature's insistent call.
Only then did I have the headache I so richly deserved. Everyone else was outside enjoying what looked to be a beautiful day--except Gary and Scott, who looked miserable like me. They were watching TV--the WPT Foxwoods event from season one, in fact, where Howard Lederer beat out Layne Flack at the end. Perhaps my favorite WPT broadcast. I could've kicked back until 2PM watching poker and then eaten lunch.
But the mere thought depressed me, and made my head hurt worse. So I tried a different hangover cure. I grabbed 2 Advil, shotgunned a 20oz bottle of Diet Cherry Pepsi, grabbed a life vest, and saddled up the Jet Ski. No better cure for the poundy-queasies than flying across the water at 40 mph kicking up spray while humming "Ride of the Valkyries". I found my friends on the boat and zigzagged behind the wake, getting nicely soaked and clearing my head completely. If only it came equipped with rocket launchers.
Lunch, then went tubing and did a major job on my shoulder. For dinner Gary and Lori made London broil on the grill, totally fantastic, and the bottle of Dr. Frank's Petit Noir I brought up paired perfectly with it. It was obvious that after last night, and a long day in the sun, and a good, big meal, we wouldn't be playing cards till 5AM. So when Scott and Ted and Rick and Gary went to play pinochle I figured I'd settle down with my book and relax a bit. But Debbie wanted to play, and so we got out the chips to play heads-up a la Andy Beal and the Corporation. Just for lower stakes. Like, none.
We played just a few hands before Debbie asked Lori if she wanted to play. Lori, who had never played poker for money before. "OK," she said, and never was there a more ominous "OK" uttered in the history of the world.
Matt sat to play too and we were off. I got crap cards, of course. I hold K4 in the big blind, get nothin' on the free flop, a king on the turn, a 4 on the river. I make a big bet but Debbie isn't biting. "I think you bluffed me on that one" she says. Later I push with KQ against her with not so much as a taste on the flop. She folds. "I think you got it". It's a good sign that I have Debbie off-balance, but I can't get enough chips to start pushing people around.
Every few minutes Scott came in to see when we'd be done so we could start a "real" game. I tried my hardest, but I had Lori on my right playing more hands than Danny Nguyen. Here's a typical sequence.
Mean Gene: Raise
Mean Gene: Bet
Mean Gene: Eats Foot
Lori didn't just pick on me, surviving an all-in against Matt when he held AK and Lori 10-7. Somehow I survived both Debbie and Lori to get heads up with Matt. I held a king when the flop came K-J-K. I checked, Matt goes all-in, I happily call. Until Matt turns over the 5-6 of hearts and I see 2 hearts on the board. Uh-oh. A black deuce on the turn, and on the river...the nine of hearts. I freeze a grin on my face and console myself that this was just for fun. Now we're gonna play for money, and that's where I shine.
Ha. Haha. For this game we had 8 people, our biggest prize pool yet. A big hand early on--Lori bets, Rick raises, Gary re-raises, Lori calls, Rick goes all-in, Gary goes all-in, Lori goes all-in. Got that so far? Rick has QQ, Gary 99, Lori A-7. You know where this is going? An ace on the flop and Lori triples up.
The game wends and winds, I'm dealt 8-4 about 900 times. And then, finally, a hand--cowboys, to be exact. I raise it up big, knowing Lori will call, which she does. "Do you know that you can fold," I ask. "I mean, you're aware that's part of the game, you don't have to play every hand". She ignores my advice.
Scott calls to, and I'm THRILLED to see a flop of A-A-7. Great. I have to act first, and I check. Lori tosses in a bet (natch), and Scott agonizes. I know he has a flush draw, and eventually he mucks it. Now, what to I do? Would she really have bet with an ace? I have no idea. I know that I'm tired of being shortstacked all the time, so I go all-in. She calls in a microsecond and shows the ace. There are no firearms in the house, no sure-fire poisons, and the oven is electric instead of gas, so I just smile and say nice hand and smile some more. She's never played before. Beat me like a friggin' drum.
Lori goes on to win the game, beating Scott when he pushed with 77 and she held JJ. Never played before, and she wins the game. The lake version of Chris Moneymaker. That would make me Johnny Chan...well, no it wouldn't.
Next game had an interesting hand. Gary pushed all-in and Scott calls. Gary has QJ, Scott KK. The flop comes Q-5-J, and again kings are cracked. Gary says, "Here comes the king" as Ted flips over...the king of clubs. But while this puts Scott ahead, it's put a third club on the board. Gary has a club, so he has outs...and spikes the nine of clubs to win the hand. See-saw hand indeed.
Gary knocked out his wife Lori and then Debbie, giving him about a 19-1 chip advantage against me heads-up. I went all-in blind and ended up with 6-high, which wasn't good when Gary hit his overcard on the flop. All in all, a horrible performance by yours truly.
I was only up to 2:30 Saturday night before turning in. I was far more sober and this time got up the ladder with only minor contortions. Slept well, woke at ten, and this time climbed down like a lemur. Got it figured out, I think. Not that I'm ever, EVER, sleeping up there again. EVER.
Spent so much time on the Jet Ski Sunday I got saddle sores. And got nicely sunburnt to boot. But lots and lots of fun. Another lake trip in a few weeks, but this time I don't think Lori will be there. Thank God. I don't think my nerves could take it.