A Chip, A Chair, And A Pact With The Goddamned Prince Of Darkness

I made the mistake of wanting to win last night. It didn't make the game personal for me, it didn't alter any of the decisions I've made. It just hurt more than it should have when I lost. Though the way it went down may have had something to do with that. Poker players are not all princes among men. (Or princesses among women, etc.) There are plenty of players who take their winnings with a smile and their losses with a gentle rapping of the table, but I've dealt with some less flattering representatives of the species in the last couple of days. Last night before the tourney I overheard a little something. The title of the story should be fairly self-explanatory; it's called "The Mouthy Poker Player Proudly - Proudly! - Informs Everyone Within Earshot That He Recently Threatened A Stripper With Physical Violence". Apparently over a dispute involving the proper distribution of dollar bills given out during a multiple-stripper performance, and featuring this sterling line of dialogue, repeated here ver batim:

"I told her, 'You better start acting like a lady before I treat you like a man. You think I won't hit a woman?'"
Yeah. That guy was to my left for the first orbit or so last night, but mercifully not much longer, as he got moved to the other table when we were down to 18. Tourney itself was a bust. I went out 15th. I could have finished higher but for a string of unlikely events. OK, I got no cards, which isn't at all unlikely. I got sandwiched with KQo within the first few hands and lost a few chips refusing to go to war with it. Otherwise I had two (sort of) playable hands, both UTG: 1. AJs, which normally I'd just fold UTG but we were only eight-handed or so. Big blind calls. Flop K99 two spades. I'm committed to the pot and shove when he checks. He assumes I have AK and folds. 2. ... ... ... all right, here's how it happened. I need to digress here for a minute. There's a long list of rules for tournament play. Except that it's not that long. It basically boils down to: one player to a hand, protect your hand, don't act out of turn, don't be a colossal dick to the other players or the dealer, don't say fuck, no phones at the table. I obey all of these rules religiously. Not because I'm hidebound - I could care less about the f-bomb, I think the use of cell phones at the table is rude but banning them is no protection against collusion, and why should they have to make a rule against dickish behavior, anyway? But I obey the rules. I use my phone ten times as often as anyone else in the tourney to send out AIM updates or moblog. When I want to do it, I wait patiently for my turn to come, without telegraphing my actions beforehand. Then I get up, pull my phone out and step away from the table. I do this every time without fail. I've uttered fewer 'motherfuckers' in the past two weeks than I used to let fly in an average day. I obey the rules because it's common courtesy, because it's fair, because I know without them the latter stages of a tournament would likely be decided by a series of stabbings. Some people don't. It's cool. I ultimately don't care if you're a foul-mouthed dickhead who can't stop talking during a hand and have such a painfully undernourished ego that you need to do a dramatic slowroll every damn time you or someone else is all-in during a hand. I don't care if you're too dumb to realize that you have to call blind when you have just over half a big blind left after posting your big blind, considering the value of the blinds and antes. Broken rules and mistakes are ultimately supposed to help me and hurt you so I don't mind if you make them. Unless, by some random chance, a combination of good will, iffy tournament-director calls, and good fortune lets you come back from the brink of extinction to bust someone, and that someone happens to be me. The guy who eventually busted me lost a race for most of his chips. 88 vs. KQ. "I knew I had him," he said before a queen came out, as if either of them could have folded if their cards were face-up on the table given the value of the pot. He drops a few f-bombs. I've seen a number of players get penalties for that. He didn't, not that it mattered. He was down to next to nothing and, rather than making aggressive shortstack plays, he just let himself get anted away. Fold, fold, fold. Hoping for a miracle premium hand, maybe, or just hoping to last into a money jump (which wasn't happening). Finally the blinds have jumped - it's 1000/2000/300, and he has about 1700 left after posting his big blind. The button raises. He thinks, looks at his cards, exposes them to other players (an act for which I have seen a chip leader get a penalty). He has to call 1700 to win 7400 so he's getting better than 4:1 on his money. If he folds the hand, after posting the small blind and ante on the next hand, he'll have 400 behind. He folds. The table is aghast, but, okay, fine, he folds. Two penalty-worthy actions, one mistake dumber than I'd thought possible for this stage of the tourney, and yet he's still alive with four brown chips in what can only technically be called a stack. Fine. He can't be our problem for much longer. On the next deal we realize he can't be anyone's problem. He gets his cards in the small blind, doesn't look at them, and gets up and walks away to talk to some friends sweating him from beyond the rail. Which means that his hand is dead. It's on the way to the muck when he runs back to the table, waving his hands. The tournament director is called and after some debate, his hand is declared live. At the time I shrug it off. I know I wouldn't want to go out that way, and it's obvious what his intent should be - to call all-in with his last 400 in chips. Then again, it certainly seemed obvious to the table that he should have gone all-in on the last hand as well, and he didn't do that, and he declared his action out of turn in any case. But fine, he's broken half of the enforced tourney rules in the last few minutes, what the fuck is one more. Odds are he'll get busted. The button raises, he calls, the big blind folds. The button has A3o. Villain reveals, with much fanfare (he takes his cards off the table, holds them apart from each other, his eyes flicking from one to the other for a few seconds before finally dropping them faceup on the table): AQo, which holds up unimproved. He proceeds to double up a few times, winning a race with A8s against 55, winning with QJ when dominated, winning another random any-two-cards push. Suddenly he's playing a shortstack like you're supposed to, and getting lucky like you need to. I, meanwhile, can get no traction at the table and have been reduced to looking down at KJo UTG+1 and thinking, "Well, I gotta get some blinds sometime." It is the third-best hand I have seen all night. At 1000/2000/300 I literally have enough in my stack to steal once; if I get raised I'm either in for all my chips or a supershortstack. With about 25K left I raise 8K, which may seem a bit high but is pretty much my standard raise for this position. Everyone folds around to the big-blind luckbox, who looks at his cards and moves all-in. Thanks to his recent run, he has me covered, but not by much. Both of us are pretty short and he obviously doesn't mind gambling - of his recent range of hands I'm not a serious dog to any, so getting 2:1 it's a pretty clear call; if I fold I have an M of around 3, I'm in the blind within the next two hands, and I'm surrounded by relatively deep stacks that can afford to knock me out. I ask the dealer to pull in the original bets, which causes the table to grouse - "He has you covered!" Fuck you, gentlemen, I didn't say boo when this fellow across from me had his hand brought back from the grave, I want to get a clear look at the bets and the pot so I know I'm not simply miscalculating. It's a formality but it's well within the goddamn rules. Calling is a formality for me, too. I do. I flip up my KJ. He does his theatrical slowroll: aces. All that and I still don't call him a motherfucker. J on the flop gives me some hope. Ace on the turn kills it. I follow the rules, quietly shake his hand, say "Good game," and go over to collect my prize. As I pass the other table I see that hypothetical-stripper-assault-guy is still alive. Which is why I was tilted. Thanks for reading. Most of these stories have a happy ending, really. I was well-paid for my time and trouble. And the whole point of poker is to make good decisions and exploit those who don't. Sometimes you do the right thing and get punched in the gut - hell, it happens a lot. The difference this time was I actually felt it.


Blogger Absinthe said...

That guy? Turns out he won the tourney.

Now I'm even more tilted.

2/04/2006 08:56:00 PM  
Blogger Otis said...


2/04/2006 10:15:00 PM  
Blogger StudioGlyphic said...

Son of a bitch...

2/05/2006 11:07:00 AM  
Blogger skitch said...

The guy who busted you or the stripper guy won?

2/05/2006 01:38:00 PM  
Blogger Absinthe said...

The guy who busted me won.

Hypothetical-stripper-assault guy went out not that long after me, from the standings, though exactly how long I won't say in order to protect his identity. Not that he deserves it.

2/05/2006 01:41:00 PM  
Blogger pokerpeaker said...

I was just about to say, maybe you could show him the stub from your tournament win, until you posted that he won.
Poker, sometimes, can be very cruel.

2/05/2006 02:48:00 PM  
Blogger FatBaldGuy said...

Ryan, it seems to me you are a gentleman. You have my respect and admiration, not only for your skill, but for the way you acted.

2/05/2006 06:56:00 PM  
Blogger peacecorn said...

The post was painful enough, but to hear he WON IT?


2/06/2006 06:44:00 AM  
Blogger Drizztdj said...

Unreal. People like that put their karma so far in the negative its a wonder how they're not destined for bad beats the rest of their lives.

2/06/2006 07:31:00 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Good story, Ryan. I still say that I find, for the most part, the real diggheads at the table do not tend to win. Yes every now and again someone does, but for the most part I have found, especially in live games, that the bully-type and other assholic players around the table may do well for a while, but don't typically last too long. Look at Matusow when he got in Raymer's face in the 2004 WSOP as a perfect example -- the Mouth had a nice run, but he was gone shortly after going off the deep end with the eventual champion.

2/06/2006 01:18:00 PM  
Blogger Felicia :) said...

Commerce is packed with a bunch of cheating scumbags. I stopped playing tourneys there in Feb '05, and that was the primary reason (I should have written a post about it, but it somehow slipped my mind, incredibly).

In better news, you've played at one of the worst, imaginable tournament venues in the world, everything is up from there!

2/06/2006 03:35:00 PM  

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