Raise or Fold:  A Year of Risky Business

Writing and playing poker as if they were activities worth doing well.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A Warm Cardroom on a Cold Night & A Good Bluff Gone Bad

One could be forgiven for believing that the D.C. area is not well suited to a person trying to earn a living playing poker. The fact is, really, it is far from ideal. There are a limited number of cash game venues, and little choice in stakes. The environments are hardly uniformly safe, comfortable, or pleasant. And if you want full-scale security and legitimacy, those are only to be found at least a three-hour drive away, in Atlantic City.

It is for that reason that I am very grateful for the existence of the Crime Scene Game. Its location is convenient to me. It is entirely safe, well-run, and pleasant. The stakes are at a good level for my purposes: juicy enough to be worth the time, and modest enough to ensure a steady influx of players willing to put their money at risk.

And where else are you going to find a full table of players when snow is blizzarding from the sky, while the entire region is paralyzed by a winter storm warning and in full DEFCON 5 panic shut-down? I wandered into the game at 8 pm tonight, and it didn't wind down until 4 am. (I drove slowly and carefully home on mercifully empty but unplowed roads with fluffy snow piling on top of the black ice.)

This evening's session recapitulated my classic story arc: bought in, was up half a buy-in, lost it and was back to even, and then got felted. Re-bought. Went completely card dead. Folded a lot. Folded some more. Continued to fold. Won a couple of pots. Won a few more pots. Value bet the bejesus out of the reliable calling stations. Busted the guy who never believes I have a hand. Cashed out up a buy-in and a half. (For you folks who find cash ROI statistics meaningless, I'm making 11.5BB/hr. so far in month 7.)

I did have one especially interesting moment, which happened during my period of utter card-deadness. One of the better players is an older guy of Ethiopian extraction. He's a pretty canny player, and is usually quiet and consistent. Tonight, he'd had a drink or two, and he was louder and more contentious than usual. I didn't know that alcohol was responsible for his change in demeanor (I learned this after he left), but it made it more difficult for me to know what to expect from him.

He opened the pot in mid-position for a 4xBB raise ~ average for this table. It was folded to me in the big blind, where I had 3 4 spades. Believe it or not, this was one of the more promising hands I'd seen in several hours: hey, it was suited and connected. Obviously I should have folded. But, I was frustrated and bored, and I thought I could make money if I connected with the flop, so I called.

The flop was 9 9 8, with two clubs. Missed me totally. But I thought it likely that it had missed my opponent entirely too, and I took a stab at the pot. He called, but the way he called persuaded me that he had indeed completely missed. The turn put a red Q on the board. I checked, and my adversary bet out. It was a weak bet, and I was once again convinced that this card had not helped him at all. I thought for a moment and called. My plan was to bluff and represent the flush if a club appeared on the river.

Which it did, a 5.

We were now looking at a pretty substantial pot. I led out for about half that pot and awaited my opponent's decision. He hemmed and hawed for quite awhile. He cut out chips for a call. Then he cut out chips for a raise, all the while studying me. Then he restacked them. He was sitting in the 1 seat, to the dealer's left. He nudged his cards away from himself, toward the dealer. The dealer swept the cards into the muck.

I felt myself visibly relax: he was folding, and my bluff was good.

He said: "Hey, I'm not folding!" His cards (which were still identifiable) were retrieved from the muck and returned to him. He started to think again, and someone asked for the clock.

And then he called.

I believe it's likely he saw my movement of relief and that either led directly or contributed substantially to his decision to call. I'm pretty sure he was originally intending to fold. He is not a particularly adventurous player and he called me down with Ace high on a paired and flushing board. He announced, "Lady J was playing the player, not her cards."

I didn't say anything as he dragged the pot, but later I spoke to the dealer, who had of course been sure that he was folding, which was why he mucked the cards in the first place. I couldn't tell whether or not I'd been angleshot or otherwise faded; I still don't know if I should have objected at the time.

My feeling was that I have a sufficient edge in this particular game that it's okay for them to see me get a big bluff snapped off from time to time. But I sure wouldn't have minded winning that pot either.

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Blogger Philly said...

That muck retrieval was a little too much on the shady side for me. You seem to be on your best behavior for fear that they won't let you come back. Is that right?How many of your fellow players would have sat quietly for that action?

3/2/09 8:28 AM  
Blogger Mike Wilson said...

That sounds fun. Does sound (knowing nigh on nothing of the particulars) like some shady lines being crossed there.

Though the similarities are still pretty haunting, I'll take trading, where it seems the primary difference is that nobody can see my face while I'm at the table.

3/2/09 12:21 PM  
Blogger Cardgrrl said...

@Philly: No, no, I'm not the slightest bit worried about them not letting me come back! I've developed very friendly relationships with the guys who run the place, and when I talked to them about this incident they promised to keep an eye out for any possible repeat.

I didn't make a fuss mostly because I felt that it wasn't in my long-term interest to do so ~ largely with respect to the image I have with the other players. And if the guy who called me down now feels he has my number, that's okay too.

3/2/09 3:59 PM  
Blogger Philly said...

Okay good. I was worried you were being too passive. I get you now.

3/2/09 7:16 PM  

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