The Time of My Life

I write many stories about the challenges life has presented me and my own unique style of jumping in front of that impending doom. I have come to embrace the suggestion of a happy story. I have been challenged with writing a happy story where everything is great and turns out wonderful.

The 1998 Spirit Mountain Anniversary Series was a week long tournament that my group was really looking forward to. For once we planned a little bit and reserved rooms and made the trip as a fairly united team. We rolled into town the night before the first tournament and got checked in at the hotel and immediately I jumped into a live 10-20 game. I was playing tight and the table was onto me so I opened it up a little. I was on the button and looked down at JT of hearts and it was a six way limper so I decided to pop it and make a big pot. A raise from the other side and it looks like a good one is brewing so I give it one more unnecessary raise. Seven players for $50 each and the flop is K89 with a single heart. The small blind bets out and everyone calls so I give it a raise. The small blind looks to have AA and can not believe my luck in flopping a set of kings. Everyone calls. All seven of us just put $20 in on the flop. The 3 of diamonds looks like a blank. Everyone checks to me and I check. The table is slightly agitated that I checked. As the dealer starts to burn I make a $20 bet. The table goes crazy again and everyone swears I checked and I swear that I did not. I protest a little too much and they call a floor man and it is in fact a check and I can not bet the turn. The Q of hearts comes on the river and the small blind bets out again. A raise comes before it gets to me and I put the $60 on it. The bet is $80 when it gets back to me and I make a production out of nearly mucking my hand and then save it and look at it. A little Hollywood before I cap it. The two callers call rather quickly and I turn over the nut straight. I scoop the $800+ pot and my opponents are truly in love with me.

The next beauty of the night is a hand with A10 suited. I accidently re-raise the hand to $30 pre-flop in bumbled attempt at a call. The raiser does not like my three bet and is slow to call the extra $10. I have position on him and when he checks I fire. A little quicker call. On the turn he checks a little slower to me and I fire again. This time he calls too fast and too sure. The brick on the river makes it complete. No hand and I never had more than a pair draw. He starts to bet and then checks. I fire my last shell and he mucks almost immediately. He asks what I had and I said I can beat AK. He said, “You just did”. “I know.” That $175 pot was a gift. I find myself up a little over a grand and decide to call it a night.

I played too late and did not sleep well in the motel. I am not sure why we are so cheap as to sleep four in a room. As I have gotten older I find the one person per bed to be a more appropriate arrangement. Everyone is up and showered and ready to go for the first tournament a $200 buy-in limit hold’em. I am not feeling good at breakfast and do not eat very much. I make the decision to skip the tournament and go take a nap. I run back to the room and enjoy the comfort of having a bed to myself. A couple hours sleep and I am feeling better. I get back to the poker room to see tables being combined and live games being started. I decide that I can step up and play $20-$40.

I watch the game for a few hands and the game is incredibly loose and the line up is very weak for this size game. I am playing $20-$40. I may not have felt well enough to play the tournament, but I am a little more rested and feeling better. Poker is 90% mental and the other half is luck.

The $20-$40 is very straight forward no fold’em hold’em. Just get as many bets in as possible and hope to turn over the best hand at the end. Stack the chips and repeat the process. I am running good and make two nut flushes that are covered up with action by multiple opponents. Aces hold up twice and I am $2500 ahead by 7PM when it is time for dinner break. My crew is mostly still alive after seven hours of tournament play and I decide to go to dinner with them. I tell the brush to pick me up and I will catch up when I get back from dinner.

The hands from that game were fairly uneventful and the game was just a group of action players putting lots of chips in the middle. Will do my best to retell the hand I remember the best. I have AQ of hearts in middle position. The opener raised it and a player two seats behind me has raised or re-raised every pot so far. I follow a $40 dollar call by making it $60 to go. Ron Kilo as expected makes it $80 and the button puts the time saver on it making it $100 to go. At this point it is hard to tell if people are putting 20 red chips in or even playing in turn because seven players instantly have $100 in front of them. The small blind feigns protest as he claims to still have cards and owes $90 to call. He is cracking up as he shoves the additional $90 out to call and join the party. This is gambling ladies and gentlemen. The flop comes 653 with a couple hearts. A chip war breaks out and it is $100 five ways and I only got a single raise in. The 4 of clubs on the turn makes a club draw possible and puts a four straight out there. The action is different now. Players are actually waiting to play in turn. Players are pondering a little before they act. I am starting to try to read the players. The small blind checks. I wonder if he might have 78 and think he is making a play. The big blind also checks. Action to me and I am on a draw and I do not think AQ is good here. I know a check here and Ron bets. If I bet, Ron will probably raise. A raise from Ron may lock out the blinds or the button. I check. Ron bets. The button raises. Call. Call. Both calls are quicker than they checked. Action to me and I think it will be capped five ways again for sure. I put the $120 on it. Ron raises to $160 and the button makes it $200. The small blind goes into the tank. He instantly called $80 and now hates this $120 call. He throws jacks away face up and says these can not be any good. The breach of etiquette is egregious and probably has an affect on the hand. The big blind makes a pained lay down also. I am shocked. The river brings the T of hearts and I have the nuts. I bet $40 and I am called instantly by both players. I show and they muck. The big blind is immediately questioning what they were raising with. Big blind claims to have had pocket tens. The open fold of jacks compelled him to lay down the tens. The jacks say he folded to my raise as he knew the other two players had nothing. “I had nothing until the river.” The button says, “I flopped a set.” Ron is cackling and saying, “I beat all sets.” “Maybe if a club came on the river.” Ron is almost crying as he asks, “what did I have?” I know I am close and I also know he is telling the truth. I make one of my best reads ever as I do the analysis out loud.

“In order for you to have flopped it and got on a club draw on the turn, you have to have two clubs in your hand and the four is out there. You can not have a four at all so you did not flop a straight. I also believe you are telling the truth when you say you beat all sets because you called me on the river. You have a busted flush draw that can beat a set. No way that you made a smaller heart flush. You raise at least twice with a heart flush on that board. I am down to two hands, A2 or 78 of clubs. To you the 78 of clubs is still the nuts with only three hearts out there and I am sure you raise with it on the river. With you raising pre-flop and on the flop and calling on the river I put you on a two way hand and think you were having Omaha flashbacks thinking you had nut low. A2 of clubs is a hell of a hand Ron.” The dealer had been intently listening and turned up the hand at the end of the story. The table actually applauded. A $2000 pot is nice, but the admiration of your opponents is somehow more valuable.

I went on to crush the live games all week and continued to have hard luck in the tournaments. I spent $2000 in tournament entries and another $3000 in expenses for the week and still came home over $10,000 winner for the week. I had a week where everything seemed easy and my hands were holding up. My crew was in the money and at the final table every single night. There were many great players there that week; I outplayed them all and I outcoached them as my crew brought home the money. Alas Ken Buntjer took home the championship No Limit event.

We played hard and we partied hard all week long. We had a great time and I was at the peak of my game and I ran well all week. I had a huge week.

These are the times of our lives.

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