Working on my Swing
With my trip to Aruba on the horizon I thought getting a taste of hot poker action would be a good idea. Get in the rhyhtm of the live game, observe the players, become attuned to the pulsating energy of a packed casino. One problem--I'm in Pittsburgh, and with the ETA of our planned slots casino around 2021, finding action would be difficult. But not impossible.
I drove the five minutes from my flat to the sports bar down the road, where I knew they had free poker tournaments on Wednesday nights. Now, I know what you're thinking. A banquet hall in a bar does not equal Commerce Casino. And you're right, I have no response to that. But as I wanted to see cards in the air and hear the clatter of chips, this was the best I could do at the moment. I showed up spot on 6:30, when the early game was due to begin, and found a gaggle of people standing outside the room smoking and sipping beers. Got myself a Yuengling, scribbled my name on the sign-up sheet, and a few minutes later took my place at table 3, seat 3.
Well, there were only three tables that night. Small crowd, only 17 people. The last time I came they had six tables going, and from the talk things slowed down over the summer. Everyone playing seemed to know each other--except for me. The mysterious stranger who comes out of nowhere and starts riffling chips and check-raising. Which I what I did on the first hand I played when I flopped two pair. I play for keeps, people. That's the message I wanted to get across.
I had fun. Nice people, friendly game, good cards. I won a big pot with AK vs. AQ, and even won two big pots with bluffs on the river. I played with no fear, with style and elan and...some other ludicrously inappropriate word. I made the final table and continued my soul-destroying run by doubling up with KK against tens and knocking out the table captain when my AJ crushed his A-8.
When I've played in these things I don't tell people that I'm a blogger, that I've written about poker, and that night I didn't tell anyone about my upcoming assignment to work the Aruba Classic. Trying to explain what a blogger would be difficult at best, and trying to get them to care harder still. So I keep my identity secret, kinda like Bruce Wayne. Kinda.
Two hands near the end were amusing. I dealt myself AQ and called the all-in of the shortstack. He had the Hammer. Uh-oh, it would suck if I lost to the Ham...oh, great, I just dealt a 7 on the flop. Lost that hand, and the next time I was on the button I dealt myself the Hammer. Raised big, and the guy who'd just beat me thought it over and went all-in. Stuck but good I called, and he turned over J-10. And once again I flipped a 7 on the flop. Knew the Hammer wouldn't let me down. Overall, I mean.
Heads-up lasted one hand. I pushed with A-3, the chip leader called with Q-J, and he flopped a queen. So, I asked, what did I win for my 2nd-place finish. Well, 24% of the prize pool. What was the prize pool? Points. You get points basked on how you do and you can redeem these points for...I don't know what. Last time I was there you could win coupons and stuff for the restaurant, but this time I won points. The folks there that night play 3 or 4 nights a week at different bars who use the same company, which I'm not able to do. So, I played high-quality poker for 2 hours, and ended up with...nothing. But I had three inexpensive beers, had a good time, and felt like I'd done some homework for my trip next week. Mission Accomplished.