Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Ghosts of Key West Gambling

By Pauly
Key West, FL

Change100's chip sculpture

The gambling ghosts over the past week appeared in three different forms during the Key West trip:
1. Online poker
2. Live poker
3. Degenerate prop bets
I squeezed in six straight days of online poker during the start of my trip. I played a little at my friend Jerry's house in Miami and then played several hours per day at the AlCantHang Compound (ACHC) in Key West. It had been five or six months since I could find unfettered chunks of time to play online poker without any distractions. A couple of years ago used to play 8 hours a day online... on a slow day. Now, I'm lucky if I can get in a couple hours per week.

I eventually slipped into ultra-laid back Key West mode. I've been traveling so much over the last few years that I can quickly adapt to the vibe of where I am. It usually takes me 24 hours to adjust. The routine in Key West during the first few days was usually the same. Here's the 16 Steps to Island Insanity:
1. Wake up courtesy of a screaming rooster.
2. Fight hangover and curse off all liquor products.
3. Ingest 2 Motrins, 1 Vicodin, and various herbal supplements.
4. Drink six glasses of water.
5. ATM to withdraw money for breakfast and the "Key West Save the Stripper Foundation."
6. Find something to eat that won't make me to puke.
7. Write for two or three hours.
8. Wandering over to the ACHC.
9. Consume alcohol and other bongolicious activities.
10. Play online poker on the deck until it's too hot or starts raining.
11. Go inside the house and watch the WSOP in HD on ESPN while playing online poker.
12. Dinner.
13. Bars on Duval Street.
14. Strip clubs; The Classy Joint followed by The Dive.
15. Pass out.
16. Repeat.
By mid-afternoon in Key West, I found myself bogged down in three to four hour sessions of LHE multi-tabling at 10/20 and 15/30 on PokerStars and 8/16 on Full Tilt. I took a shot at the 30/60 tables and broke even. I also played a ton of 1/2 PLO and some 2/4 PLO over at PokerStars. Here's a look at my four-day slide at the ACHC:
9.24: -312
9.25: -323
9.26: -335
9.27: -100
I won a bit playing PLO and that covered a few hits at the LHE tables. I consistently lost about $300+ over the first three days in Key West but those results are insignificant due to the stakes I played. All of that damage happened by three morbid beats; A-A and K-K and Big Slick were cracked by inferior hands via river suckouts. Bad beats in Paradise. That's life.

I forgot how boring grinding it out at the limit tables could be. Playing ABC poker is profitable but not fun. That's why the additional PLO table kept my inner action junkie entertained.

After blowing over $420 on the first night in Key West, I fired up PokerStars and Full Tilt in order to fund the rest of the adventure. Sadly, I couldn't win enough money to cover my strip club loses. The entire week, I kept looking for ways to get unstuck. That's when AlCantHang busted out the poker chips.

* * * * *

Starting Monday, we played a six-handed NL game that lasted until Thursday. The players included myself, AlCantHang, Brian, Landow, BigMike, and Lewey. I had been looking to exact revenge on Lewey. The first time I ever met him (along with AlCantHang and the rest of the crew) was during a poker game in Bucks County, PA. Lewey maliciously cracked my Kings with a junk hand and that sent me on mega-Lewey tilt. If you don't know, Lewey is a terror at the tables. They named a hand after him... the 6-4o. That crew plays The Lewey like it's A-A or the Hammer.

The game started out low stakes at 25c/50c blinds with a $40 buy-in. After the first orbit or two, I soon realized that this would be a "shove then rebuy" game. By the end of the first day, I was stuck a couple of buy-ins. I missed a couple of draws. I was outdrawn a couple of times and then picked up a cooler.

I had just rebought for the third time. I looked at my cards and found K-K. I opened up for a raise then AlCantHang on my immediate left popped me for a re-raise. I re-raised all in and he quickly called.

"Oh shit," I said. "That was quick. I hope you have Kings or the Hilton Sisters."

"Nope," AlCantHang said as he tabled his pocket Aces.

I didn't even bother seeing the flop and got up to buy more chips. That pot pushed AlCantHang into the chiplead. He never looked back.

On Wednesday, I finally made a comeback and won back all of my previous buy-ins. I doubled through BigMike and then I picked up two big pots from Lewey.

On the first hand against Lewey, I held 7d-5d and flopped bottom two pair on a Queen high board. We got it all in on the flop. Lewey called with Q-10. My two pair held up and I doubled through Lewey.

An hour or so later, I felted Lewey. I found Ks-9s in the big blind. AlCantHang limped from under the gun and Lewey raised. Five more callers for a family pot. The flop was K-J-3. I checked as did everyone else. The turn was a 5. I checked again. Lewey fired out a pot-sized bet. Everyone folded to me and I check raised him about 5x the pot. Lewey quickly shoved.

"Oh no," I said. "I hope you don't have 5-3 suited. Or worse, how about J-5? That's what I get for trying to trap you."

I called and flipped over Ks-9s. Lewey shook his head as he showed J-10. My hand held up and I found myself ahead for the first time all week.

When some other friends eventually arrived into by the weekend, the short-handed game was called. We settled up. AlCantHang was the big winner followed by Brian and myself.

* * * * *

I played in two more cash games. including a brief session on Friday after a visit to the Hemingway House and Museum, and then a group of us played a marathon session on Saturday where a game lasted from about 3pm to 1am.

I don't recall too much from the Friday game except that I sat in between BG and Sweet Sweet Pablo. I only remember one hand... where I busted my brother and my girlfriend at the same time.

Change100 opened up for a raise and Derek called. I found 8c-6c in the big blind and called. The flop was 7-5-4 rainbow. I looked up and said, "Someone is getting felted on this hand."

Everyone laughed and I checked. Change100 threw out a continuation bet. Derek called and I called. The turn was the Qh. I bet about 1/2 the pot. Change100 raised and Derek moved all in. I quickly called and Change100 went into the tank. She didn't have too many chips behind and couldn't put any of us on a hand. She reluctantly called. Derek flipped over A-A and Change100 showed K-Q. I tabled 8c-6c. I flopped the joint and it held up. Derek and Change100 had to rebuy as got unstuck for the session. The game broke about an hour later.

On Saturday, we all stumbled over to the ACHC for a massive cash game. Gracie and Pablo brought over their chip set and the game lasted for almost 10 hours with the a short break for food. BG cooked up some fish that a few of the gang caught on Thursday.

The players changed every few hours and included AlCantHang, Gracie, Sweet Sweet Pablo, Drizz, Derek, The Rooster, F Train, Change100, Maudie, Mary, Iggy, JoeSpeaker, Grubby, Donkey Puncher, and myself. The swings were crazy for a 25c/50c blinds game. It was a pushfest and some of the most fun I had playing poker in a very long time.

I play poker for different reasons. I play to make money. I play because I'm an action junkie and need the fix. I also play because of the social attributes which accompany a poker table. It had been a very long time since I spent time with my friends, especially at a poker table.

I rarely see my brother and my friends with a hectic work schedule and constantly being on the road. The people I met through poker four years ago have become close friends over the years. They have been extremely supportive of my endeavors and that makes me miss them more. Whatever free time I have is devoted to my career and personal writing projects. I have to squeeze family and a long-distance relationship in there as well. My free time has shriveled up and my friends get the short-end of the stick.

I never have a chance to play in blogger tournaments, so I don't see them online. They pop up in Las Vegas during the WSOP, but that is the worst time to socialize and hang out since I'm stressed out making deadlines and working sick hours every day and night. The WPBT gatherings twice a year have become too large. Some of my closest friends have skipped the last couple of them and even if they do make an appearance, I don't get to spend quality time with everyone.

Even though we ventured to the southernmost point in the continental US for AlCantHang's 40th birthday, I took it as an opportunity to spend time with everyone I missed over the past year. I busted my ass and cultivated a writing career and get flown all over the globe, but the biggest sacrifice I had to make was to spend less time with friends. That's why I soaked up every second of the Key West trip. I don't know when I'll get to be around these folks next.

The Saturday poker game was a definite highlight. Chips were flying around the table. Everyone was partying and having a blast. People were getting busted on every other hand and everyone was quick to rebuy. The game was crazy and I got felted by my brother a few times who ended up issuing a few bad beats to everyone.

Around 11pm or so. Derek tilted Sweet Sweet Pablo big time. Everyone straddled except Derek who was on the button. He looked at his hand and moved all in. Everyone folded to Pablo and he went into the tank for six minutes before he called with A-J. Derek flipped over 8-3o. The flop was A-7-3. The turn was another 3. The river was a blank and Derek doubled up against Pablo. Sweet Sweet Pablo had morphed into Tilt Tilt Pablo.

Two hands later, I became Derek's next victim. I sat out for about an hour when I ran down the street to the ATM and then the corner store. When I returned, I played with Change100's stack (she had about 11 bucks left) and I got $12 more chips from Iggy, Gracie, and Derek for buying them smokes at the store. I started with a tiny stack of 23 and ran that up to 350 in a short time. Then I ran into Derek's Bad Beat Machine.

Mary raised in EP. Derek called. I found Kc-Qc from the button and raised. Mary and Derek called. The flop was K-x-x. Mary checked. Derek bet the pot and I raised 4x his bet. Mary folded and Derek moved all in. I quickly called. Derek showed K-9.

"You know what's coming," said Grubby.

I shook my head. I knew what was coming too. I was the button and had to deal my own fate. I burned and then quickly turned the turn card. The fuckin' 9s. The river didn't help me and Derek doubled up with two pair.


At least I didn't have to rebuy. There were three other hands of note. One involved Maudie. Another was with Gracie. And the last one was with Derek and Mary (again).

During the first hour of play, Maudie raised and I re-raised in LP and Maudie called. The flop was all rags. She bet, I raised all in and she went into the tank. I took a picture of my hand.

Garcie and Mary at the far end of the table were whispering about my potential bluff. I said that I would show them the picture first as soon as Maudie made a decision. Maudie thought and thought. She had no idea what I held. I was playing lots of junk hands. When she eventually called, I passed my camera down to her and the rest of the table. They saw this:

"Aw shit!" said Maudie.

She had 10-10 and my Aces held up. I busted Maudie and she dug into her pockets for a rebuy.

This hand happened late into the session shortly after I left to reload at the ATM and pick up ciggies for everyone. Derek raised preflop. I re-raised. Mary, Garcie, and Pablo called. The flop was 7 high with all rags. Gracie bet almost 50 and I raised to 125 and was all in. Everyone else got out of the way. Gracie tanked for five minutes. I took another photo of my hand. She eventually called and I tossed my camera down to the other side of the table.

Gracie held 10-10 and I doubled through her. That's how I built up my stack.

The last hand I'm going to write about was one of the most interesting hands of the session. It involved a massive laydown. It was a three-handed pot with Mary, Derek, and myself.

Derek had been raising a lot of pots. He opened up from UTG with a raise. I re-raised him with Jd-5c. Mary re-raised both of us from the cut off. We both called. The flop was 10d-5h-3d. Derek bet about 1/2 the pot. I called and Mary raised. We both called. The turn was the 4d. Derek bet the pot. Mary let out a sigh. I knew she didn't like that card. I had second pair with a flush draw. I counted out my chips and then said, "Ahh, I just call."

Derek glanced over at me as did Mary. They both gave me that look like, "You just caught your flush. Boooo!"

Mary went into the tank as she agonized over the call. She said something about possibly folding the best hand. She's a tight player so I put her on a big pair. She eventually folded. Derek dealt the river card. It was a blank and didn't fill in my flush. Derek bet about 1/3 of the pot.

"Shit," I said. "I guess you have the flush."

I called and tabled Jd-5c. Derek flipped over the Ad and then showed the 7s. The tourist was no good for him. He missed his flush draw and I won the pot with a pair of fives. I'm glad that the flush didn't come on the river or I would have been in trouble.

Mary dug her cards out of the muck and showed K-K. Yeah, I got her to fold the best hand. She put one of us on two pair and the other on the flush. Despite the hit, she ended up among the big winners along with Sweet Sweet Pablo.

Me? I won a few bucks overall. But the fun factor was priceless.

* * * * *

Once my friends arrived on Thursday, the prop betting began. It peaked out on Friday night and started with the turtle races. Yes, they have turtle races in Key West. The gang showed up at the bar on the pier. We proceeded to get shitfaced and then wagered on the turtles.

The bartenders passed out tickets numbered one through five. It was only a five turtle race. Since we all got similar numbers we had to break off and play an SNG turtle race format. $20 per person. Winner scoops $100. I had StB, Derek, Change100, and Gracie in my pool. Change100's turtle won and she couldn't have been happier. It got her unstuck from the poker game. My turtle came in next to last place. Bastard. If he doesn't improve his performance, he'll become turtle soup for tourists.

After the turtle races, the action shifted locales. Below the Classy Joint, there's a sports bar. In the back of the sports bar, there are pool tables, videos games, and a "boxer" machine. The boys liked to bet on who could hit it the hardest. F Train and I stood on the sidelines as Drizz, Donkey Puncher, and Roberto Colunga were going apeshit.

(Editor's Note: Roberto Colunga is the artist formerly known as Bobby Bracelet. He's part of the crew that needs a new online identity. I came up with a new moniker for the guy and now he's named after a famous Mexican soap opera actor. FYI, I shall be making references to another friend of mine as Benny Hiroshima in a future post. I will no longer be referring to either gentlemen by their former names.)

Anyway, F Train and I wanted to get in on the action without dislocating our shoulders. The boxer game measures a punch by a point system. We decided to bet on the outcome of the last digit while the rest of the gang punched. F Train picked evens. I had odds. It was a coinflip. We love betting coinflips, especially at $20 a pop.

The boys went back and forth for almost an hour. I started out slow and found myself down 60 right away. I eventually broke even, then I went on a rush. I was up 160 for a while. We went back and forth and F Train cut the lead in half to 80. I won a couple of more punches. He was stuck -100 and that's when he asked to stop the prop betting. And guess what? The next four punches all ended in even numbers. He would have eventually got unstuck if he played another ten minutes.

I played pool with Maudie who is a shark. She tried the old routine, "Oh, I haven't played in a while." Then she wiped me out. I couldn't catch a break and missed a few crucial shots down the stretch. Maudie won and took over the table. It would be a while before someone beat her. Fear Maudie. If you ever see her with a pool stick in her hand... run the other way.

Grubby showed up and we quickly got in some action. We're always betting on something. We invented betting on wheel spins at The Excalibur in December of 2004, which had become a big hit among our friends. In the past, my former Las Vegas roommate and I have bet on weekend grosses of Hollyweird films (I won his car once betting on weekend grosses), the astrological signs of our waitresses, and even bet on the sex of the next person who walked through a doorway. Our degenerate prop betting continued in Key West when I told him about the odds and evens boxer game.

"Ooooooh! $20 on odds and evens? I'm in," he said. "It's just enough action to keep it interesting."

I offered him to pick any side and told him about F Train's issues with evens. Grubby didn't care and went with evens anyway. It got ugly for him. I was up a quick $100 before things settled down. An hour later, I emerged $40 richer.

We migrated over to the video games. There is a hunting game with shotguns where you shoot different things like deer, moose, and antelopes. Two play simultaneous and Grubby and I went to work. We bet on who could kill the most animals. Grubby lived in major cities most of his life. He's an urban guy like myself. We never shoot things like hunting rifles so I felt the game would be evenly matched.

I ended up the winner in the hunting game. Grubby kept shooting innocent animals, while I racked up points in the bonus round when we went duck hunting. Drizz took Grubby's spot and I got my ass handed to me.

"I'm a redneck from Minnesota," joked Drizz. "Of course I'm good at this."

Drizz admitted that he's been hunting before. I wish he told me before we started betting. Hustled at video games.

The latest big bet involved Grubby and myself. If you walked around Key West, you spotted the signs for mayoral candidates. They were everywhere. On picket fences. Inside the windows of stores. On random utility poles. I went with Jimmy Weekly and Grubby picked Morgan McPherson. We have $100 riding on the election. I joked that I was going to donate $99 to Weekly and pimp him on my blog so I can push him over the top... just to win $1 against Grubby.

And yes, vote for Jimmy Weekly for mayor.

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker at All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

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