Sixth-Graders Suck; or, Even Cowboys Get The Blues
OK, here is the long-awaited post from my trip to the lake a bit ago. You'll soon understand why it took me so long to write. I'm not a masochist, I don't go looking for pain. And reliving the agony...it was hard.
Ted and I arrived on Thursday afternoon, and while I took the JetSki out for a quick sun run, I had my mind focused on one thing, and one thing only--eating Frank's fajitas and Heather's Spanish rice. The boating, the drinking, the hanging out with far-flung friends? Screw that. Screw them. Fajita. Rice.
Frank grilled a mess of chicken and a mess of steak and carved 'em up into slender, tender planks. There were grilled peppers. Frank made a big batch of salsa made from veggies from his garden for an appetizer. And of course there were two big bowls of Spanish rice, which I'm convinced has a special ingredient known as "crack". I would donate plasma for a bowl. Can't get enough of it.
Though, eventually, I did get enough of it. I ate until I was almost full..but just almost. I knew there would be time for a midnight snack...after we played some poker.
To the tables! I did very well last time out, winning three of four tournaments and guaranteeing that my unemployed soul would be eating meat at least TWICE the following week. I had visions of expired hot dogs and remaindered bologna dancing in my head as I riffled my chips and hunkered down for the first game of the night. You can't win 'em all if you don't win the first, as my Uncle Bob has said, and I went and won the first game of the night. I didn't get great cards, but I certainly hit the flops. I ended heads-up against Frank, and repaid his fajitamajik by flopping top two pair on board of A-10-5, all diamonds. I bet, he went all-in, and I called fearing the flush draw. Turns out he had J-10, no diamonds, and that was that. Victory was mine!
Game two saw me playing at a very, very high level, even despite the ten beers I'd had at this point. Everyone assumes I play very tight, which is somewhat true, but I mix it up a bit more than everyone thinks. Especially when I'm on my way to getting nicely sloshed. It didn't hurt that I kept hitting flops, and that the suckouts were hitting other people. On one hand Ted had A-10 against Neil's pocket sevens. A meaningless board right up to the river, when Ted spiked a ten. "Fuck you, you all suck donkey balls" Neil said with his customery eloquence. With the bad luck fairy spitting in everyone else's beer I went on to win this one as well, I think this one was against Rick. He was doing his Hoyt Corkins "all-in" power plays and I woke up with AK. Oh, how like a cobra I waited for him to push in his chips, how I coiled and tensed for the strike.
The next game the luck continued. Early on Frank raised big and I looked down at pocket eights. I thought about mucking it, but when you're running good...I paid to see the flop, and liked the eight sitting in the nougaty center of it. I checked, Frank bet, I pushed, and he didn't look happy as he called. His pocket aces didn't improve, and again I ended heads-up, this time against Neil. Here I made a mistake. I flopped a flush draw holding J-2, and after he made a nice bet I pushed him all-in. My mistake was thinking I had a bigger chip lead than I did. He made the call with top pair, so I needed a diamond or a jack to win the game. I got neither, and ended up badly short-stacked. Had I known he had that many chips I probably would've just called and folded. Alas.
But alas for not much longer, as I went on to win my third game of the night. I wish I could remember more of this Iveyesque performance, but I can't. I was drunk. I was full of fajita. It wasn't very late for us, barely past midnight, but the details of this last game are lost to me. I slept the sleep of the lucky, and while there weren't visions of sugarplums dancing in my head, there WAS a singing chorus line of Oscar Meyer wieners in my dreams that night. Yes, there would be animal protein in my future!
Of course, I might not have dreamed my happy little dreams of processed snouts and hooves had I known that Hurricane Karina was just a day from making lakefall.
A brief aside--all this talk about animal protein reminds me that after our fajitafeast we filled two gallon-plus sized freezer bags with sliced chicken and steak. Even though I was stuffed to the gills the midnight snack I saw in my future made me smile. So a few hours later, well into our second game, I was horrified to see Ted return to the table with what could only be called a MOUND of chicken in a bowl. I should explain--Ted is a powerliftin' man. Weighs about 395 pounds (OK, that's perhaps a slight exaggeration. He says he's 280, but, Ted, come now). And he eats himself a lotta protein. He showed up at one of our volleyball games with a Ziploc bag filled with pinkish-grey strips, and when we asked what he was eating, he shrugged and said, "Meat". He brings a bathtub full of whey protein up every trip and on one morning made himself something like 18 eggs for breakfast. I thought he was getting ready to audition for the remake of "Cool Hand Luke."
Anyway, Ted is inhaling three big handfulls of cold chicken...the chicken I
planned on eating come midnight. "What the hell!" I said. He wasn't even ENJOYING it. He was just shoveling it in, coal for the furnace. "There's a ton left," he said, and while he was right--it took us three days to finish it all--I didn't know that! That's like five pounds of chicken! My chicken! I think I was on chicken-tilt for the next half-hour. Plus there's the fact that Ted never seems to wear a shirt up there, which actually serves to limit my appetite. So my digestive system was all out of whack.
The next day I spent outdoors, crashing around the lake on the JetSki and soaking up the sun. It's been chilly up there this summer, not enough sun, but that afternoon was pretty much perfect. Scott and Tara came up around 10PM, so the day wasn't a COMPLETE success, though when we sat down at the tables I did enjoy seeing Scott suffer the first of what would be many bad beats. I recall his AQ losing to A-4 when a four hit on the river, and I especially remember me being pot-committed and having to make a crying call with K-3 when he held queens. How brave and handsome was that lone cowboy who appeared on the river? Tough hand, Scott. Well-played. Heh heh.
But hubris is a bitch. She waits till you're smiling before she kicks you in the nuts. And just past midnight, Gary and Karina showed up.
Now you might be thinking, what is an adorable 11-year-old girl doing up at 1AM playing poker with a bunch of drunken slobs? You might especially be thinking this if you're some sort of social worker involved with child welfare. If so, contact me and I'll give you Gary's address. Because after what happened later I want SOMEONE to go to jail.
Let me give credit where credit is to--that first night I held my own against Karina. With me winning so much the table had adopted a tactic called "ABG"--anyone but Gene. So I had to contend with players who didn't want to give me chips, while at the same time putting me to the test as often as possible. I of course made the correct adjustments to my game and continued crushing. I even played the Hammer brilliantly, once making a full-house that, unfortunately, Rick somehow escaped.
The second time came against Karina. With several people in an unraised pot I decided not to get frisky with the Hammer in the big blind. The flop came 7-5-2 and I checked, though cocking my wrist for the check-raise. Karina threw out a little bet, and when it came around to me I threw out a little raise.
Here's where the BLATANT CHEATING took place. Karina showed her cards to her dad and asked for advice! I mean, you don't see Todd Brunson running over to Doyle saying, "Daddy daddy, what should I do??". But that's what Karina did! Now, let's be fair here, asking Gary for advice didn't exactly set my knees to trembling. He said, "Do you think you have the best hand here?", and Karina looked at me, looked at my stack, and said, "I want his chips!" Then, with Daddy's help, she raised me.
"You want my chips, little girl?" I sneered as I pushed in my stack. "Then come and get them!" I know that's not too cool, trying to intimidate a curly-haired little girl not even in junior-high school. But you weren't THERE! You didn't see the mocking look in her eye, the CONTEMPT she had for my skills!
After a quick father-daughter conference, she called, and turned over her pocket eights. I turned over my cards and said, "Where I come from we call this hand the Hammer!" In your FACE little girl, in your FACE!! Of course, I now had to sweat the board pairing and counterfeiting my deuces, but this time, THIS time, the Poker Gods let me slide. I won the hand, and sent Karina to the rail. I think I took third that game, but I don't remember who won. Tara, maybe? That seems most likely.
The next day we boated, we lounged, we ate. God, did we eat up there. Fajitas, chili, pasta, burgers and dogs and cookies and beer, beer, beer. I did something smart I'll keep doing from now on--once I woke up I took a long walk. It's quiet up there, little blacktop road, trees forming a canopy over your head, very nice. A couple of dogs came up to get a pat on the head, a few fellow-travelers bid me good morning. Very nice.
And then back to the house, where the knives were already out and waiting to be jammed into my back.
If I had good luck the first two days at the table, this night I could get no traction. I bubbled once, twice. Scott, SCOTT, won a game. It just wasn't happening for me.
And then, finally, I was dealt a hand. Two kings.
I raised. It was folded around to Karina, who picked up a black $100 chip and announced she was gonna raise. But she only raised me a green $25 chip. Now, while this is TOTALLY ILLEGAL and WRONG and therefore the rest of the hand SHOULD HAVE BEEN DISQUALIFIED, we let it slide. After all, she's just an 11-year-old girl, right? She's just a kid, she just doesn't know better yet.
So I raised her back, this time by two black $100 chips. She shows me this pixieish smile and sees my two licorice chips and raises me...again by a single greeny. Inside my head I hear Dr. Evil bellow "OK, THIS IS RI-GOD-DAM-DICULOUS" and I say, "Let's cut to the chase" and push in my entire stack.
This had the desired effect, as Karina's face scrunched up and she said, with real consternation, "Oh poopy-poopy-poopy!!" That is a direct quote. I don't know if Jennifer Harman, playing in her father's home game as a little girl, ever said "Oh poopy-poopy-poopy" when raised all-in, but I have to confess that I didn't feel too good about myself at that moment. She really looked upset. Have I really fallen so far that I'm willing to crush the hopes of a little girl?
I wasn't able to answer the question until Karina pushed in her chips. I flipped over my kings, and she turned over...the three and four of diamonds. "You called with THAT!" I said. What the hell! She had plenty of chips left! She could've folded! I wanted to grab Gary by the lapels and shake him and scream "WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN TEACHING THIS GIRL!!" but, sadly, Gary's T-shirt didn't have lapels.
Kings vs. 3-4 suited. I think we all know the kings are the favorite. So how come my intestines already felt squirrely. I wanted to see a totally innocuous flop. Instead there was a four in the door. Mouth now dry, I had to sit there and watch and Rick burned and turned a goddam four. "Are you friggin' KIDDING ME!" I silently shrieked to the Poker Gods. The river did not bring a cowboy, and I went from being chip master to nearly broke. There was, of course, bedlam in the room, everyone whooping and hollering, and Karina smiling from ear to ear and giggling like the little girl she is. I smiled and rapped the table and silently prayed that the night of her Junior Prom she gets a zit the size of a golf ball in the middle of her forehead.
I wasn't dead yet, for, on the very next hand, I was dealt kings AGAIN. The money went all-in, and Karina called. Of course she did. But this time she had a hand--queens. And the kings held up. The VERY NEXT HAND I was dealt aces, and I more than doubled up again. I was a threat. I was back in action. But a few hands later I was dealt pocket eights, I made a move, and I think I got called down by AK. I think it was Debbie who put me out that time.
But no matter, because it was Karina who went on to win the whole thing. An 11-year-old girl beat the lot of us. Fan-flippin-tastic. She won $30, but since Daddy had bought her in to every game so far she had to chop it up with him. He gave her ten bucks, just some walking-around money.
Three-four. Sooted. Called off all her chips with three-four and survived. As I tried to fall asleep that night I feared for the future of our nation. What lessons are we teaching our children? That it's OK to call off all your chips when you KNOW you're a big dog? Shouldn't she be learning this stuff in school? How could Gary sleep, knowing that he'd inexplicably left this massive gap in her upbringing? I tossed and turned a long while before I finally drifted off.
That was out last big lake trip of the summer. We'll probably go up again after Labor Day, but the Baltimore crew won't be able to make it. Nor will Gary and Karina be coming all the way from Philly/Jersey. It'll be a nice, quiet weekend with more boating and less drinking. Probably little or no poker. And while I'll miss playing, I think I'm probably going to sleep soundly every night.