Thursday, April 10, 2008

Fear and Loathing at The Poker Table

Last night I went to my first actual Poker Night in like, a while. Probably since I left Maine.

First off, let me say I'm not exactly God's Gift to poker. I can hold my own, I know some basics, I know the rules, I know what beats what and what hands to hold and what hands to fold, and considering the majority of the five people crowded around a tiny back-bar in Big Country's duplex last night had no clue how to play good poker, you'd think I would be in line to bring home the winnings.

I was not.

Let me break down the night for you: Around 8ish me and the roommate took off for the local supermarket to buy a 12 back of Miller High Lifes and hit up an ATM for the 20 dollar buy-in. Thing is about The Cape that no super market or convenience store sells alcohol, which is something that a Mainer would have to get used to. We first pull into the local Shaw's (cringe...) and wander around, up and down the aisles for a full ten minutes before tracking down a semi-retarded stock boy.

"Hey, do you guys even sell beer here?" I ask. He, the retarded stock boy, is walking directly at me. Have you ever had someone you weren't completely sure was retarded making a bee-line for you? The whole time you're thinking if this guy is retarded, he might not alter his course, but if I get out of his way and he turns out NOT to be retarded, then he's going to think that I THINK he IS retarded, and might resent that, and withhold valuable beer-purchasing information....

About three feet in front of us he stops, suddenly, and kinda stares through us.

"No. There's a store around the way though..." and this 'around the way' business is very helpful. We then spend another few minutes trying to figure out if this Shaw's has an ATM in it to get out our buy-in money. It doesn't (the one's in Maine do, however. Add this to my growing list of why Maine is superior to Massachusetts.)

We then try an Irving gas station down the road a little bit when we're hassled by hoodlum youths huddled hooded in the shadows of the rear of the building. Before me and the roommate are even half way out of my truck, I hear a voice trying too hard to be hard call out "hey man,"

The roommate turns half way around and I post up at the front driver's side quarter panel to my truck which would provide me with superior cover should a gun fight ensue. "Hey man," the voice says again, and a four-foot-tall Puerto Rican who dresses with the same sense of fashionable flair as my roommate emerges. "Do you think you could go inside and buy me some blunt wraps, yo?"

"Blunt wraps?" I chuckle through as I turn back to the store.

"I'm sorry bro, I'm not 18," my roommate says as he turns away. There's nothing more said from the diminutive Hyannis thug.

I found my roommate's response ironic and humorous; at the Station we tease him all the time about how young he looks. When we all got pulled over a few weeks ago, and the undercover officer wanted to see his ID, even he said that the roommate looked "like 13." So for him to use his youthful appearance to get out of buying "blunt wraps" for some juvenile delinquent got a chuckle out of me.

There's no beer at the Irving either, but there was an ATM. I took out my twenty dollars and did my best to keep an eye on my truck through the window, lest one of the street urchins outside should decide that my GPS must be worth something at the local pawn brokery.

When we get outside and back into the truck, I lean back to get my seatbelt when a yellow light catches my eye. I glance over at it and realize that it's a "discount liquor" store right directly across from us on Iyannough. I curse under my breath and pull the truck into it's tiny parking lot.

Once inside, by myself, I have a helluva time trying to find where the 'regular fucking beer' is. I put that in semi quotes because that's what I kept saying as I wandered around endless wine racks in this Portuguese-owned liquor purchasing establishment.

I finally find the "cheap beer" section, pick up a 12 pack of MHLs for 13-something dollars.

"Discount Liquors," pfft.

We're on the road, finally, to go play cards.

Big Country, who is the Marlboro Man animated - 21 years old, 6'2, skinny, dresses as if a damn rodeo is going to break out at any second, wears Ray-Ban Wayfarers 24/7, has been waiting for us over an hour, even going so far to call my phone twice while we've been driving. He lives in Orleans which is about a 20 minute drive from Hyannis, and since we had to make about forty stops between the apartment and his place out in the middle of no where, he was getting agitated.

We arrive and make ready the poker set. E-Money and his petite girlfriend is there as well. Money is my boss's boss at the Station, 25 years old, sharp dresser, very much like me in sarcastic-ness and competitiveness. I'm somewhat irked that he brought his girlfriend along, and even more so irked that they're splitting a buy-in.

Seriously, you brought not only a female, but your girlfriend to a poker night? Dude, really?

I take everyone's cash and make a pot of a hundred dollars and secure it in my poker set case. I divvy up the chips and deal out the first hand, announcing the game is Texas Hold'em. To this I get a lot of blank stares.

I look around the small bar which we're all seated around, stacks of multi-colored chips in front of us like siege towers before an epic medieval battle.

"What...?" I ask everyone.

"How... do you play?" Comes from E-Money. My jaw actually makes a noise when it unhinges.

I'm not a professional poker player by any means. I 'sorta' fell into that whole "Hold'em Craze" from back in like 2004, but to say that you have no idea how to play cards, especially hold'em, when for the last semi-odd years it's gotten more national coverage than Al Gore trying to save the planet, is baffling.

What baffles me more is that my roommate is from LAS FUCKING VEGAS and he needed me to draft up a cheat sheet which broke down the hands. I even labeled what was junk and what you'd want to stay with.

We play a few hands, small bets and pots are being made and I'm drinking beers faster and faster. Big Country hands me a fifth of Wild Turkey and I take a few pulls off of that, cursing in my mind that I'm getting total bullshit hands.

We play for about an hour and the roommate is betting somewhat recklessly, which makes it increasingly difficult to get a read on him. It doesn't help matters when he's betting before me each hand.

Big Country is fiddling with his laptop, which is strange to watch considering he's very anti-technology. Watching him select music on his iTunes is like watching two middle school kids slow dance for the first time. It's adorably awkward.

E-Money and his girlfriend are the easiest to read at the table. He's spending too much time before he bets glancing at his hole cards and the cards on the table. She's doing the same thing plus touching her face when he's got semi-good cards. I'm doing my best to fuck with him psychologically knowing that, like me, his ego is everything. To be called 'cheap' in any form would automatically cause him to overly compensate for it to disprove the claim.

"I'm starting to think we should raise the minimum bet," I say aloud as soon as he places one black chip (worth twenty-five cents) in the pot. He instantly increases his bet by two-fold.

After about an hour, Big Country has a commanding chips lead, and E-Money has been crushed out, his girlfriend is hanging on by a thread only because I wanted to be a gentleman and not put her all in, leaving her a dollar and twenty-five cents in her stacks. My roommate is also short stacking. I have the second most chips.

Fifteen minutes pass and E-Money and his girlfriend leave us amidst hanging Marlboro smoke, defeated. Money's bitching, obviously sore that he's the first to be taken out when I look at him in the eyes and tell him that he knew what he was getting into before we started playing.

"Don't be sore, you know what this," I say. He harumphs and leaves with his girlfriend, who was gracious and pleasant as she closed the door behind them.

My next objective is to smoke my roommate's short stack. I get dealt pocket kings and the table's showing a Five of Diamonds, Jack of Diamonds, Nine of Clubs, Three of Spades, and Ten of Diamonds. Still betting recklessly, my roommate bets high and I figure he's bluffing/has no idea what he's doing. This gets Big Country, who since extinguishing The E-Moneys has been playing tight, to fold. I raise roommate's bet and put him all in, leaving my stacks small, but thinking there's no way he can beat my cowboys.

He flips over an Ace and Two of Diamonds. He fucking flushed me out. Son of a bitch. It feels like I took a front kick square to my solar-plexus. And I'm suddenly very sober.

I'm now in panic mode, only having about four dollars left in front of me, mostly in small chips, watching my roommate stack up roughly half of the chips from the set in front of himself. With the blinds being raised to double what they were when we started with five people, I know I'm on the endangered species list.

It isn't long before Big Country puts me all in and I'm stuck with off-suit Eight of Clubs and Seven of Hearts. I manage to pull out a pair of Sevens from the table, but it's not enough to beat the pair of Jacks Country had. I resign myself to being permanent dealer.

The game goes on for another few minutes where it starts to look like a stalemate. I realize that the whole time Big Country was sizing everyone up and playing very quiet, good poker. He levels my roommate an ultimatum.

"What do you wanna do here? We can split the pot," he offers. That'd be about 50 bucks a piece. I glance at my naive roommate who's playing with his chips dumbly.

"I just want my 20 bucks back if that's ok with you," he says half distractedly. I explode.

"Are you kidding me, you're going to just give him thirty bucks! What the fuck!" He shrugs, and before I can convince him otherwise, Big Country agrees and the money is split up.

We leave the duplex and I'm cold staring my roommate the entire walk to the truck.

"Dude, all I wanted was my money back..." he tries to explain.

"You could've given me the thirty bucks if you didn't want it," I say back. I fumble for my keys and manage to get myself into the truck and start my GPS.

"You good to drive?" He asks. I do my finger test and barely pass it.

"You know how to drive stick?" I ask, already knowing the answer.


"Then we'll be fine," and I back down the twisting sloping driveway in utter darkness.

(Editor's Note: We're all very proud of Jim for getting this article into us the next morning, despite being overly hungover and unresponsive to pokes in the side from a sharp stick we keep around the office. Kudos, and nice work Jim!)

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