In which I walk down Memory Lane.

Occasionally I go to the Wayback Machine and read old posts from my blog that I nuked years ago. They’re like reading someone else’s words. This site dates back to 2003 – 11 years. If I’m feeling particularly mawkish, I can check out the archives of the site I had before this one, which go back to 2000. Apparently I used to write a lot. Who knew.

Rather than just a mindless stroll down memory lane, this time I went back to find one specific post, from when I went to Crown Casino for the second time to play poker. It was January 2006 and ‘I went down during the Aussie Millions. I went back to this post because one of the things that struck me last night while I was playing poker was how relaxed I felt. I felt competent, which was a far cry from how I felt on that first trip to Melbourne, when I ran into the one and only man who’s ever been verbally abusive to me in a poker room. I called him “Lucky”, I think because I overheard someone else call him that. I’ll let the me of eight years ago tell the story:

My first day in the poker room at the Crown was definitely traumatic. First of all it was $4/$8. I had spent weeks playing $2/$4 on PokerStars in preparation for this trip because it was the lowest limit Crown offered on my previous visit and the thought of playing $4/$8 freaked me out a bit. It was twice as much money and I didn’t feel twice as prepared…but it was my only option so I went with it. And – despite the fact that I’d played at Crown before and played live tourneys here in Canberra – I found myself intimidated playing with people I could see and who could see me, as opposed to the relative anonymity of online poker. Everything I’d read and learned flew out of my brain. The cards I got weren’t great but even when I got good cards I played them like crap.

Lucky sat in the 10 seat on the table that night. He said he was Armenian and looked something like I imagine an Armenian version of Weird Al Yankovich would look like. He had no problems telling you, especially if you were a woman, when you played like crap. He berated the woman sitting next to him after she lost a hand – “You no raise! Why you no raise?” – but she ignored him.

Late in the evening I got dealt AKo and so, even though I hate Big Slick when I get it, I raised. “I’m supposed to raise,” I told myself. So I did and got two callers, Lucky and the guy sitting directly across from me. The flop came down Axx with two clubs. The guy across from me bet out and all I could think was “He’s got a flush draw and he’s going to hit it”. I knew that I was supposed to raise, protect my hand, try to define his hand, but I couldn’t. I simply called. Basically, I was afraid. I was certain he was on a flush draw and he was going to get it. Call it women’s intuition or my little poker voice, whatever. I knew I was beat.

Lucky followed along behind me and the three of us saw the turn. It was the third club. The guy bet out again and I knew I was sunk, but I called all the same. I didn’t raise because I knew I didn’t have the best hand. I didn’t lay it down even though I knew for a fact that he had the flush (my little poker voice was screaming “FLUSH!!!” at the top of its lungs). I was like a rat pushing the bar, waiting for the pellet to emerge, hoping against hope not to get the electric shock.

Again Lucky called behind. The river came and it too was a blank. Same scenario: guy bet out, I knew I was beat and bet anyways, Lucky followed along behind. The guy turned over two clubs for the flush and I threw my cards into the muck. Lucky did the same.

“What you have?” asked Lucky, “I have Ace-5.” I lowered my voice and replied “I had Ace-K.” Why I answered him, why I told him the truth, I don’t know. I should have just shut up or made something up. He was indignant. “I knew you had higher Ace! You just call, you should raise! Raise! You just call! I can’t raise, I only have five. I knew you have Ace! You raise, he fold with nothing!”

I just nodded and said “Yeah, yeah”. Because I knew I should have raised on the flop. Not that it would have necessarily made the guy give up his draw as Lucky insisted. (Not much makes the players at a $4/$8 table in Crown give up a flush draw.) But I should have raised to protect my hand, define his.

Lucky dismissed me with a wave of his hand. “You just beginner.” A new dealer joined the table about 20 minutes later and Lucky took it upon himself to give the new dealer a rundown of everyone at the table. He got to me. “She no good. She beginner. She no good.” He was looking at me as he said it, knew I was watching him say it. The dealer looked at me uncomfortably and said “I’m just a dealer, I can’t comment.”

That was the last straw. Down almost a buy in, I couldn’t sit there any longer. I gathered my few remaining chips and wished everyone good luck and good night. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

I saw Lucky again on Saturday night, hanging on the rail, waiting for a spot on a table to open up. My chip stack by that point was about $400, up from my original stake of $100. I was seized with the urge to stand up and scream at him – “Who’s the begnner now, Lucky?” – but I didn’t. I just turned back to my cards and tossed in a raise. Not because I had much of a hand, but just because I could.

On another trip to Melbourne that year I ended up with Lucky at my table again, and again he abused me. I raised one time and he said, “Since that come from you, I call. I no respect you.” He got told off by one of my tablemates and quieted down after that, but he still glared at me from time to time and always took the chance to play aggressively against me when he could.

If I ran into Lucky again, I’d like to think he’d just ignore me. Not because he deals with women any better but because I’m not that scared woman at the poker table anymore.

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

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.