In which I return to the felt.

Poker chips! With dogs!

It’d been a long time since I played live poker – the last time I went to casino was well before Lucy died. After she got sick for the second time, just before Christmas 2012, I hated being away from her when I didn’t have to. And after she died, well… new job, new place (that isn’t as convenient in terms of its proximity to the casino) and a general disinterest in a lot of things I used to love meant I drifted away from poker altogether.

But over the past month or so I started to drift back. Maybe it was the start of the WSOP or just that I missed the game, I don’t know. But I went back on Poker Stars where my $200 was sitting and managed to stay about even as I reintroduced myself to poker through a combination of SNGs and micro-limit cash games. I popped the audiobook of Annie Duke’s Decide to Play Great Poker back onto the iPad and started reading Two Plus Two again. I even ponied up $20 for a one-month subscription to grinderchool.com

There’s a live tournament I’ve decided to play coming up in early August. But I thought that before then I probably needed to sit at a live poker table and work off the edges. Really I just didn’t want to rock up for the tournament and shake like the proverbial chihuahua as I fumbled for my chips. So tonight I walked over to the casino after work and gave it a spin for a couple of hours.

I’m not great at poker math. I’m working on it, but there something about sitting there with 9 other live people that renders me incapable of trying to figure out implied odds, let alone think about things like Nash Equilibrium. I did manage to do some basic thinking – what card ranges my opponents might have, could I make a better hand fold, basic things – but mostly I played on reads. And it paid off.

My big score of the night came from the big, beefy boofhead of a guy two seats to my left. He played a lot of hands. He raised a lot of hands, both pre and post flop. And every raise took an inordinate amount of thought. After about an hour I realised I didn’t really have a read on what he was playing, but then someone finally called him down to a showdown and he somewhat sheepishly turned over Queen-high. Ahhhh…

I took the first bit of money from him when we were heads up and I pushed with my Ace-high flush, despite a pair of fours on the board. He thought about it, stared at me, thought about it some more, made some unhappy grunty sounds and folded. Next hand I called with KJo pre-flop and snagged KJ-rag on the flop. I bet a bit on the turn, maybe $25 into a $50 pot, and he made a HUGE reraise to $216. *Such* a bit overbet for the size of the pot (and at a $1/$2 table, nonetheless). I sat back for a moment – it just instantly felt wrong. It was way more aggressive than anything he’d done. It felt like a guy trying to push a woman out of a pot because he was pissed at losing. So I pushed all in. He shook his head and called – the river came a blank and he turned over K9o for a pair of kings. My two pair would good and all the little chips came home.

I gave some of my winnings to the woman at the other end of the table who hit two pair with her A7, which cleanly beat my AK. I had a good read on her, but I misapplied it. I knew she loved her A-rag – she’d call any raise as long as she had an ace and would usually follow you all the way to the river before folding when she didn’t connect on the river. But when she shoved her stack of about $120 into the middle on the turn I thought it was just doing that thing where you take a gamble after you’ve been losing a fair bit, and you either win big or go home. I was right about the A-rag but I didn’t even think that she might finally have caught a second pair with one.

I left about 10 minutes later, at 8pm as planned, $200 up for the night. Part of me wanted to stay, but the other part of me wanted to just take my money, go home and order a pizza. It would have been fun to stay and play, but I felt like I’d just end up redistributing what I’d won. And you can’t be unhappy when you double your money in 2 1/2 hours.