Los Angeles, CA
Over the years, John "Schecky" Caldwell has been playing poker with a cast of unusual characters in and around L.A. It's a rotating home game game that I've been fortunate to play in a couple of times.
My initiation into Schecky's home game occurred in Beverly Hills in a game that doubled as a birthday party for the hostess' dog. Dozens of tiny purse dogs ran rampant and one even took a leak underneath my chair. The food spread included scrumptious cupcakes from Sprinkles, one of the hottest bakeries in town. I know, it's one of those fucked up things in life that a dog is fed better than 85% of the rest of humanity, but that's just the least bizarre thing you'll see in the City of Angels. Anyway, during that game, I forgot how much fun it was to play in a home game. I busted a 90-year old woman and I lost a hand to a 16-year old girl from Beverly Hills High when she kicked me in the junk with a Royal Flush.
I have a very good record when the games are held in a mansion in Cheviot Hills at a placed dubbed Casino Schmulkwell. The set up is swankier than our pad on the other side of the tracks in the slums of Beverly Hills.
I was a defending champ (of sorts) and won the tournament during last time that I played in Schecky's home game several months ago. I was eager to post back-to-back victories. Plus, Schecky invited a couple of friends from the poker industry in something that he was calling the "poker media home game." Bragging rights were on the line. Schecky even created his own little hashtag on Twitter which meant that the game would be covered extensively.
The night was dark and spooky as a fog hovered over the hills. I anxiously paced around the living room as the Yankees came from behind to tie the Angels at 4-4, then take a 6-4 lead, only to blow it and trail 7-6 in the top of the ninth and attempt a bases-loaded rally that fizzled out when Nick Swisher popped up like a punk to end the game and force Game 6 in the ALCS. The game was torture since I was a Yankees fan deep behind enemy lines. The only saving grace? The kick ass food from 8 oz. Burger Bar on Melrose featuring organic beef products.
The Kobe corn-dogs with signature purple mustard were a big hit, along with the wild boar slides. However, the players unanimously picked the short rib grilled cheese smothered with onion marmalade and bel paese cheese as the best item on the menu.
After we devoured the food, it was time for the tournament...
PMHG Starting Table:I limped with Jacks in the first round and they held up. Addict nearly crippled the Rabbi when he snapped off Kings with a Big Blind Special. He flopped two pair with Q-5 and rivered a boat.
Seat 1: Addict - One of the "twin" brothers that comprise two-thirds of the entity we fondly call Wicked Chops Poker. Addict and I have battled numerous times on different felts all over America. Unfortunately, he sat to my left.
Seat 2: Schmulkwell - Our gracious host is an infomercial gazillionaire who built his fortune with knock-off versions of the Snuggie and Sham-Wow. He's so rich that he uses yellow $1,000 Commerce chips as coasters. Shecky once saw him flush a $25,000 Bellagio chip down the toilet. When asked why, he repiled, "Because I could."
Seat 3: Shig - Our beloved tournament director or the Matt Savage of Cheviot Hills. Shig is a cagey mofo and you can never put him on a hand. Every forty-five seconds some would yell out, "Shig when do the blinds go up?!"
Seat 4: Don - Award winning producer of children TV shows. Don has been brainwashing your children and turning them into assassins by using catchy songs to carry out covert ops for our shadow government.
Seat 5: The Foul-Mouthed Rabbi - We love the rabbi. I never met a rabbi who drank and cussed as much as he did. The rabbi was a little off his game and did not get a chance to get underneath the skin of everyone at the tables.
Seat 6: Curt - Former pro basketball player who likes to play up the fact that he has no idea what he's doing.
Seat 7: Your Hero
I won a small pot against Curt with 9-8 sooted. The flop was 10-9-7 and I kept firing at the pot all the way to the river, when Curt finally dribbled out of bounds.
I woke up to Aces and got paid off like a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon. I raised Addict on a flop of 8-7-5 with two hearts and he called. The turn was a Queen of clubs and I shoved all in. Addict folded his 8-6 off-suit face up.
During the next level, the short-stacked Rabbi skipped off to the bathroom as a hand was being dealt. Instead of returning to the table, he took a detour to the kitchen to refill his vodka cocktail. While he was gone, he was dealt pocket Aces and missed out.
Kat was the first player out and the foul-mouthed Rabbi was next. He won a special $100 bonus -- essentially he got his name pulled out of a hat. Addict bubbled off the final table in a three-way pot that Shig won to put him into the chiplead.
The PMHG Final Table:I had the lovely Change100 to my left and I drew dealing duties. On the first hand, I was a little confused with the button and dealt out the wrong hands. Schecky picked up on it and declared a misdeal.
Seat 1: Your Hero
Seat 2: Change100
Seat 3: Chazbeaner
Seat 4: Snake
Seat 5: Curt
Seat 6: Daryl
Seat 7: Schecky
Seat 8: Don
Seat 9: Shig
"Fuck!" screamed Change100 as she tabled Aces. Snake flipped over Jacks. Both glared at me. I was stone cold sober too at the time and had no excuse.
Then it happened. Shig opened with a raise. I put him on Ace-rag so I shoved with A-10. Action folded back to him and he insta-called.
"I hope we're racing," I said before I winced when he tabled his pocket Kings. As the dealer, I had to deal my own fate...
As you can see from Schecky's twitpic, I turned one of my three outs and to add insult to Shig's injury, I also rivered trips. I took over the chip lead which I held until action got three-handed. I played more conservative than normal and folded 9-9 face up to a Schecky raise in early position. He's super tight so I was stunned when he turned over K-J off. Ouch. Well played, sir.
Don busted 9th. Snake was next to go in 8th place when he re-raised all in with A-10 against my Kings. I flopped a set of Kings and he turned a Ace but whiffed on the river. Schecky headed to the rail in 7th, short-stack master Chazbeaner went out in 6th, and my better half (aka Change100) went out in 5th. Poor Curt was the Bubble Boy in 4th.
At that point, I couldn't get any momentum going. Everyone ran for cover when I had a hand and everyone re-raised me when I had air or missed a flop. I eventually busted trying to make a move and finished in 3rd place. When I left, Daryl had a 3-1 advantage over Shig.
I cashed and won the unofficial media last longer (the prize was an expired 2009 WSOP food comp), but I wanted to win the whole damn thing. Regardless of my failure to post back-to-back victories, I still had a wonderful time. I had been holed up and writing the last few weeks so the game was a welcomed break from the monotony of sitting in my office and pecking away at the keyboard.
I always said that poker, when played among friends, is one of the most enjoyable activities in life. Last night was no exception.
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