Life as a gambler can test a man's constitution, and this last week has put Old Zeke through the wringer. More troubling than the simple losses is that when you need a big game to break out of your rut, Albuquerque sometimes just plain doesn't have one. On Sunday, the biggest poker room in town couldn't spread a game bigger than $1/$2-blinds for no-limit hold 'em, and I was stuck trying to make up for a week of profitless play on this dinky table.
Tonight, however (last night your time), there was no such problem. A pro named Robert, who spends most of his time in Vegas, was in town and brought the action along with him. When I showed up at around 9 p.m., they had spread a pot-limit game with $10-$20 blinds, and perhaps $20k on the table. Not bad by New Mexico standards. [Poker agnostics/atheists will probably want to quit reading now.]
I bought in for $600 and was fortunate enough to bust a guy for another $500 on the first hand I was dealt. I built my stack until I had about $2100, and then found myself looking at the first hole card of a new hand: the ace of diamonds. As the cards went around, a regular named Anthony said, "I've never beat Charlie--ever." (Charlie is the name I go by in the cardroom.) To this, Robert responds, "Well let's see if we can't beat him right now." I then look down at my second card: ace of clubs. Nice timing.
I raise to $120 after several people limp in, and lose everybody except Robert, who has me outstacked. He calls. Flop comes K 8 3, nothing suited. Looking good. Not wanting to betray the strength of my hand, I bet a fairly weak $100 into the $300 pot. He quickly comes over the top for $400. I think, think, and think. These are the situations where you lose a lot of money.
Nonetheless, I decide Robert is trying to do just as he said: beat me out of the pot. If he has a hand that can beat me (pocket 8-8 seems the only candidate), so be it. If not, I need to coax as many chips as I can into the pot. I call.
Fourth Street brings the 4 of diamonds. Can't possibly have helped him, and yet he bets out $600. The moment of truth. I say, "I'm going to stick all my chips in," and count out the $600, and then the remaining $890. He thinks for a brief time and then calls, to which Anthony says with a hint of satisfaction, "You're f---ed, Charlie." All I can manage is, "I agree"...and I most certainly did agree.
The river brings an apparent blank, but I can't imagine I have the best of it now. "One pair," I mutter. "Are they aces?" asks Robert. A glimmer of hope. I flip over my aces; he purses his lips, checks his cards, and says, "They're good." Kaboom: better than $4k in the pot.
Poker players compliment each other in the strangest of ways, and near the end of the night I received one of the kindest compliments I've ever heard at a table. "You're like a sore d--k, Charlie," said Robert. "I just can't beat you."