Part Four is here.
Over the next several hands, the table tightens up significantly. I thought I
was a tight player, but just about any bet gets the table to fold . . . and it's Kotter who is doing the betting. He slowly builds his stack back up, eighteen and twenty-one dollars at a time, and I'd love to get into a pot with him, but my cards are consistently garbage: nothing but single-ply, rest area toilet paper.
At one point, Golf Shirt raises him, and they go heads up. I forget the exact board, but there is a Queen, at when Golf Shirt turns up Q-3 at the showdown, Kotter slowly nods his head, like, "I knew I was beat all along," before showing K-5.
"You don't have to show if you know you're beat," Pungent says. "You can just fold it."
Kotter looks down at his chips, nods his head, and in that moment he becomes the single most tragic figure I've ever seen in a casino — hell, maybe anywhere — in my life.
Right around the deadly 2.5 hour mark (the time, I've determined, when my game completely falls apart, unless I'm on the greatest rush in history) I find A-9 of clubs, one seat ahead of the button. It's called all the way around, and I decide to raise it. My reasoning goes something like this: "I haven't been in any hands in a long time. Maybe I can just buy this now, and walk out of here a winner!"
It's folded all the way around to Siegfried, who calls. Dianne calls, and Rob deals out the flop: Ad-5d-7c. Siegfried checks, Dianne checks, and I bet. They both call.
Golf Shirt's wife walks up, holding a bucket filled with quarters. It looks like it must weigh fifty pounds.
"Gary! Gary! I won! I won!"
We all stop and look up at her.
"How much?" He says.
"I don't know! This much!" She shakes the bucket, and some quarters slip off the top and roll under our chairs. Her excitement infects her husband, and trickles out onto the table a little bit.
"There's nothing quite like winning in Vegas, is there?" I say to her.
She smiles and nods. "How're you doing?" She asks Golf Shirt.
"Down a little," he says. He's actually played pretty well, by my estimation. He's just not catching that many cards.
"Well, we're up now!" She says, as more quarters spill onto the floor.
"Congratulations," Dealer Rob says with a genuine smile, "Here comes the turn."
It's the 10 of clubs. "Oh! Top pair, overcard kicker, and a flush draw . . . excellent."
Siegfried bets, so I figure he's paired a ten, unless he's playing 9-8, which I suppose is possible . . . but I'm still leading. Dianne calls, but she's been in it until the River with just about anything, so I call.
Mrs. Golf Shirt kisses her husband on the cheek, and tells him she'll be back after she cashes out her quarters. They're a happy couple, and I smile as I watch them.
"Three players," says Dealer Rob. He knocks the table — the first time I've seen this move since I sat down — and deals The River: the ten of spades.
I look out at the board: Ad-5d-7c-10c-10s.
Siegfried bets, and this time it's back to foppishly. I wonder if that's some sort of tell? Dianne calls, and I call.
"Showdown," Dealer Rob says to Siegfried. I hear an explosion of cheering from a craps table. It's the first sound from the rest of the casino that I've heard since I sat down.
Siegfried turns up the Ace of spades and the nine of diamonds. I laugh, and get ready to split the pot . . . until Dianne turns over the 4 of diamonds . . . and the ten of diamonds.
It's my turn to look like Kotter. "Aw, fuck me."
Siegfried purses his lips, and blows out a perturbed sigh. Dealer Rob pushes the pot toward her, and I say "Nice hand, Dia— uh, Ma'am."
"Thank you," she says with an embarrassed smile.
"Well, time to cut out of here while I'm still a hundred bucks ahead," I tell myself, but my legs refuse to get up. A new inner voice, which sounds remarkably like Mr.T, says, "You gonna let her take your money? You better get it back, fool! Damn crazy lady playing Highway Patrol catches two runners to beat you . . . I pity the fool who leaves the table after that beat!"
It's a pretty big "warning flag," when I've got imaginary voices calling me out, (especially when I haven't been drinking Guinness), but when Mr. T. speaks, I listen. Against my better judgement, I play "just one more hand" for another twenty minutes, but I never open until I find AK in the Big Blind.
It's called all the way around, and when Dealer Rob gives me the option, I say, "Raise."
But he's starting to deal the flop before I put my chips out. He stops short, and says, "Three more to play."
"What?" Trucker Hat says.
"He said raise," Dealer Rob says. "It was my mistake."
Trucker Hat sighs and squints at me.
Golf Shirt quickly calls. His leg is as still as a dead salmon frozen in a waterfall, so I'm happy to get the extra checks. Pungent looks at his cards, then to me, then to his cards again before he splashes three chips out. Kotter stares at me and does the slam: "I call him." Trucker Hat growls at me as he calls, and Siegfried raises!
I put him on a steal, and I'm happy to get the action, but the rest of the table is clearly unhappy with this move.
I'd have to lean around Dealer Rob to see Dianne, but out of the corner of my eye, I see her hand put out a call.
I look down at my stack, which I've arranged into a pyramid: three stacks of 20 chips lean up against the padding, then two, and finally one stack of reds out front. There are another ten or so reds that I've been shuffling to the side, so I'm still up just over 100 bucks.
I snap three chips off one of the back stacks, and drop them in front of me. "Call."
Golf Shirt folds, Pungent sighs heavily and flicks his cards away with one finger. Kotter stares into infinity, slowly nods his head, draws his lips tightly together, and casually tosses his cards toward Dealer Rob.
Trucker Hat avoids eye contact with me as he calls, and I'm positive that he's just pissed at me for what he thinks was a shifty play. "You just stay nice and pissed at me, mister man," I think, with just a touch of contempt.
Dealer Rob dumps the rake and deals out the flop: it's a rainbow, 8-4-2.
Dianne checks, and I think back to everything I've read about playing A-K, which I think of as a very powerful drawing hand, but pretty damn far from a made hand, especially in a game like this, where someone is just as likely to be playing 5-7 off-suit as they are to be playing a big pocket pair. Sklansky says that it can start out as a strong hand, but if the flop totally misses you, it can become the dreaded "dominated hand" . . . or it can be two really big overcards that make for a nice semi-bluff, especially if you've raised it before the flop. My gut tells me that check means she was hoping to make a hand on the flop, and it missed her. I'm under the gun now, so I decide to show some strength, and see if I can buy this pot right now. If Siegfried raises, though, I have to figure I'm beat.
"Check or bet, sir," Dealer Rob says.
"Bet." I say.
It's called all the way around, and I pause briefly to wonder if someone has paired that eight, but when the turn is an Ace, my wonders cease.
Dianne checks it again, and I bet it. Trucker Hat folds, Siegfried folds, and I'm getting ready to scoop up the pot and call it a day when Dianne raises me, which sets her all-in.
"All-in," Dealer Rob announces.
My inner Admiral Akbar screams, "IT'S A TRAP!!" But my inner Lando Calrissian says, "Here goes nothing," as I say, "Hey, you want to play them up?" and call.
Before she can say anything, the river comes out: it's a blank, but we all know I'm beat by now anyway, right?
I turn over my Big Slick, and Dealer Rob says, "Pair of Aces." It seems like fifteen years before he turns his head away from me, and looks back at the board. "Two Pair: Eights and Fours," he says, as he shoves the pot to Dianne.
Golf Shirt says, "Holy shit, man." Trucker Hat laughs out loud, and I wonder why this guy has decided to make me not just his opponent, but his enemy. It's not like we ended up in any confrontations . . . but I guess it's the difference between me and a serious gambler. I wonder if I'll ever be able to cross that Rubicon?
"Oh man . . ." I say. "Nice hand, ma'am. Seriously, nice hand."
It turns out that it really was my "one last hand," and I rack my chips.
"That's all for me," I say, to nobody in particular.
"Have a good night," Golf Shirt says.
"Tell you wife to buy you something nice with her slot wins," I say.
"If she hasn't given it all back!" He says with a chuckle. I don't know how I could ever have a killer instinct against this guy, and I realize that I'm relieved we didn't end up in any confrontations.
Just before I stand up, Dianne walks out behind me, my chips cradled in both her hands.
We arrive at the cashier together.
"Can I ask you two questions?"
She looks at me, warily. "Okay . . ."
"What's your name?"
"Jennifer," she says, a little puzzled.
"Of course it is, just like Jennifer Harman."
"Hi, Jennifer. I'm Wil." I extend my hand. As we shake I say, "How could you cold-call with just 8-4 unsuited?"
She flushes a deep crimson and says, "Oh that . . . well, I was down to nothing, anyway, and I just thought I'd play one last hand to see if I could get some of it back before I met my husband for dinner."
Touche, Poker Gods. Tou-fucking-che.
The cashier counts my chips, and gives me two hundred and twenty-seven dollars.
"Well, you trapped me like a pro," I say. "It was a hell of a hand."
I pause, and I have to say it again. "A hell of a hand."
"Thank you," she says, "but I'm not really much of a poker player."
"Could have fooled me," I say. "Have a nice night."
I tip the cashier, and walk out of the room. As I pass my former table, I see that Trucker Hat is heads up with Golf Shirt, who is bouncing his leg. I smile to myself and send him some mental mojo that he most certainly does not need.