Splurge Once in a While

In my never dying quest for story ideas I have turned to one of my Fresno poker buddies. I spend too much time providing these young guys with unsolicited advice. I think he actually asked me for advice once and I have not shut up since. By way of cutting off the lecture of the day, MTM suggested I write up the story about the time I won a huge pot at the Riviera.

This story is rather shallow and will be full of Victor bragging about Victor. This is simply not a poker hand that has any depth and I will be really stretching to make it an interesting read. I am going to tie it into my constant lectures on money management and bankroll security. Money is so precious to the poker player and it has to be guarded at all costs. I have said it many times but it bears repeating.

I am my usual stomping grounds the Riviera in Las Vegas because it is cheap and low overhead is how I roll. The backgammon tournament is being held in the Riviera convention center and players have traveled from around the world. Paul Magriel is the only player I actually recognize in the tournament. I thought more poker players played backgammon. I think they used to play backgammon. Backgammon is good for the poker action at the Riviera because these guys gamble and they are staying at the Riviera. The poker games are small but very good all weekend long. The casino is spreading two or three $1-2 No Limit Hold’em games every day and the games are going all night long. At least one game has gone around the clock since Wednesday. I played Thursday night as soon as I got to town and have been playing as much as I can and still get some sleep and food.

Early Saturday morning I had built my Friday night $300 buy-in up to $1500 when I ran into a disastrous hand. I managed to get all-in pre-flop with KK and much to my amazement my opponent showed me JJ instead of the AA he was supposed to have. Two jacks on the flop and I was re-buying. My Las Vegas buddy Pethead was at the table and did me a solid favor; he looked straight at me and said, “Build it back up”. I did exactly as Mike had told me and built it up to $1600 and cashed out only $200 short of my high water mark. I spent some time in Kady’s coffee shop thinking about variance and how wise it was to sit there with that much cash. I put my money in and I lost. I vowed to cash out some wins and take a few more breaks.

Saturday night and the poker game is just as lively as the night before. Pethead is back again and I have his wild ass on my right where I want him. I am in seat seven of the nine handed table on the end where I can see everyone. There is a French player that is probably mid-twenties and seems to be playing a very aggressive style. Frenchy is the best player at the table and I make him lay down a hand against me heads up by playing back at him. I have a handle on him now and will just tread cautiously around him. I can only represent a monster so many times before the guy looks me up. The player on my left is an American and a backgammon player probably early thirties and a tight solid player. I like the game and the position I am in at the table. The rest of the players at the table are tourists and backgammon players and they speak very little English. I have built my stack to just about $500 when a serious hand breaks out at the table.

I am in the small blind for a dollar and a Spaniard opens for $10 from under the gun. The bet was strong and confident and just a wee bit scary. As my eyes shift to the next player, I am a little late and the chips are already out and the next player is calling behind the cover of the dealers body. Damn it! I am not getting the information. A $10 opening bet under the gun and two instant calls. Finally a player takes time to look at his cards. The three seat announces raise and makes it $40. Frenchy calls $40 cold and I did not see much hesitation in the call. I am starting to think about what hand Frenchy could possibly have to call $40 in this spot. I am awakened from my thoughts by “All In”. The five seat has moved all of his chips into the pot. After a brief eruption the dealer announces the bet is $127. Pethead is next and he is pure Hollywood. I am mildly annoyed by my friend taking so much time to fold. Finally, Mike (Pethead) makes the call surprising the crap out of me. I finally look at my cards for the first time and I find two kings. I look around the table and announce that I am going all in for $485. The eight seat in the big blind for $2 takes a look at his cards and proceeds to take longer than Mike to make a decision. Finally, the big blind throws away his hand. The UTG opener in the nine seat a mid-fifties Spaniard with limited English speaking abilities says, “Call”, and proceeds to shove a small mountain of chips toward the pot and the avalanche crosses more than half the table but the agile dealer manages to keep the chips from intermingling. That hurt me, I remember how strong he was and now more strength; I am feeling pocket aces. The one seat washes in for what he has left making the dealer earn his money on this pot. The two seat also has very few chips and decides to put the last of them into the pot. The three seat who had raised to $40 previously now finds a way to muck his hand. Frenchy is next and he actually stands up to survey the table. Frenchy looks at me and says, “You have to have me beat to shove right there”, he mucks his hand. The five seat is still all-in. Pethead who I only call Mike when he acts like a normal human spends the next four minutes of our lives debating a call. Both he and the Spaniard have me covered by about $350 additional above my $485. Mike puts the call into the pot and the dealer spends a few minutes getting all the side pots straight. He did the best thing I have seen a dealer do in a long time and called the floor over to help with the side pots and they actually used paper to track the order of the pots and who was in for which of the five pots.

The flop is T 2 3 with all three cards being different suits. I have no idea if I am in the lead or not. The Spaniard checks and Mike checks. WOW! I am lost now. Did the Spaniard just flop a set of tens? I can no longer put him on aces. The turn card brings a six of clubs making two clubs. The Spaniard checks again and Mike instantly goes all-in. The Spaniard just as quickly calls. Mike asks, Aces?” I reply kings. “Just as good, I need a four or five.” I open my kings and the Spaniard opens his jacks and I can breathe. The seven on the river misses everyone. I look around the table and see AQ, 99, 99, 44, JJ and Frenchy claims QQ which I actually believe. The $40 raiser had AK and mucked. The big blind also says he had AK. The hand felt a bit like a cold deck. I see the Spaniard covered up with the $700 side pot and my chip envy is short lived as the $3000 main pot and three side pots comes my way.

In a moment when endorphins were rushing through my system and I was in a state of euphoria I reached down and grabbed a red bird and threw it to the dealer. The first time in at least fifteen years I have thrown a dealer a five dollar tip. I constantly harp on never over-tipping and yet here I was throwing a red chip. I could cop out and say I couldn’t find a white chip in the sea of red chips but that would be lying.

Then again lying is what I do.


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