John 'Schecky' Caldwell and Jen Leo played in a rotating home game among their friends in the L.A. area. Two years ago, I had the opportunity to play with them for the first time. The stakes are relatively small considering the amount of collective wealth among the players in the game. It's a friendly atmosphere with the emphasis on fun while embracing the social aspect of poker. For example, the first time that I played in the Beverly Hills home game, the evening had a dual celebratory purpose; poker night and a doggie's birthday party.
Sometimes I wonder who eats better? A person in a third world country or a pooch in Beverly Hills. It's a coin flip. I mean, the doggie had freshly baked birthday cup cakes from the Sprinkles, the posh bakery in Beverly Hills where people line up for hours to purchase those savory treats.
I apologize for the philosophical tangent. Canines are a peculiar phenomenon. The DEA uses them to sniff out smugglers, wealthy Westerners treat them like royalty, while in some countries they are considered lunch.
My first Beverly Hills home game featured an sundry assortment of eccentric characters such as a 91-year old woman, a Rabbi, a television writer, a former entertainment lawyer, a comedienne, a former NBA basketball player, a travel writer, a CEO of a global media empire, a 16-year old girl from Beverly Hills high school, and a film producer. And how could I forget everyone's favorite hemp-toking former child actor turned studio exec turned poker scribe...Change100? I made the money that night and came in third place after the high school chick busted me with a Royal Flush.
On Wednesday night, I played in a home game hosted by Cora Caldwell (the adorable offspring of Jen Leo & Schecky). How many kids do you know began a media empire with her own blog and website by the age of three months? She has since expanded into tournament operations. Her first event was held in the lush Cheviot Hills area of Los Angeles, a mere six minute drive from our apartment in the slums of Beverly Hills.
The game attracted a similar cast of characters including the foul-mouthed rabbi and an infomercial gazillionaire who added to his fortune with his latest products; knock-off versions of the Snuggie and Sham-Wow.
I know! Total shocker there. I saw those commercials all the time and I thought, "Who would be so fuckin' retardedly stupid to actually buy one of those Snuggies?" Well apparently, our nation is made up of millions of knuckle-heads who desperately craved a blanket with sleeves.
Sure, I was there to see some friends and eat some amazing Mediterranean food. But I definitely had my mind on chiseling away at that massive Snuggie/Sham-Wow counterfeit fortune.
The special event attracted a couple of pros in Rafe Furst and Joe Sebok. Rafe arrived after the start of the tournament and missed registration. We successfully dodged a bullet since Rafe happens to be a WSOP bracelet winner. I avoided Sebok. He was not at my starting table, but Change100 had everyone's favorite Poker Road personality not named Shronk seated to her right.
My starting table included some familiar faces such as Jen Leo, John Caldwell, Mark (the cool guy who owned the vast estate where we played), Gloria (who does videos for Poker News) and two-thirds of the Wicked Chops Poker crew (Snake and Addict).
The last time that I played in Cheviot Hills, shortly after the WSOP, I busted out early that night because I played like a maniac. My strategy shifted. My goal was to stick around, socialize, and mingle during the early levels and let some of the inexperienced players knock themselves out. But then again, I was pretty much card dead for the opening levels. I folded shit hand after shit hand.
On the very first hand of the tournament, Schecky and one of the Wicked Chops Poker boys tussled in a pot. It was a six or seven multi-player pot after everyone limped. Schecky checked his option from the big blind with the Hammer. He flopped two pair and turned a Hammer Boat. If Addict made his flush draw, he would have gone busto. Alas, he was crippled and Schecky took an early lead.
Rafe Furst showed up mid-way through the first level. He spotted a baby's pacifier on her table in front of an empty stack.
"Is Phil Hellmuth here?" he said.
That zinger got a hearty chuckle from the peanut gallery. Alas, it was Jen Leo's stack and sometimes the baby sat on the table with the chips.
We had a slight error in the computer program that our TD Shig used to set up the tournament. Blinds jumped from 25/50 to 175/350. We only started with 4,000 in chips so pretty much everyone barely had 10 big blinds. The structure was amended at the next level to 200/400 but mostly everyone busted during that stretch including Change100 and Joe Sebok.
Despite the escalation in blinds, I made the final table as the shortest of short stacks.
Final Table:Joe Sebok was kind enough to deal at the final table. I had a super-mega-stack to my left in Miguel. He steamrolled the field and knocked out a slew of players en route to the final table. Mark had the rest of the chips while everyone was kinda short with yours truly the shortest among that group.
Seat 1: Jen Leo
Seat 2: Snake from Wicked Chops Poker
Seat 3: Foul-mouthed Rabbi
Seat 4: Your Hero
Seat 5: Miguel (aka the Locomotive)
Seat 6: Sue the comedienne
Seat 7: Mark the Snuggie guru
Seat 8: Gloria
Seat 9: Schecky
I was at a point of super-shortness when I should have shoved with any two cards. Sebok gave me continuous shit that I played "like a pussy." Change100 even remarked, "I had never seen you fold this many hands before."
I didn't see any decent cards and had very few opportunities to pick up orphaned pots. The only pot I had won prior to the final table was a hand when I bluffed Schecky with the Hammer on an Ace high board. Aside from that, I had few opportunities to make a move. Perhaps my tight play could have been attributed to state of inebriation, or lack thereof. I was dead sober. I had not had a sip of booze since I departed from the Bahamas in mid-January. I had not had a smoke in hours. I took some generic pain medication for a lingering migraine, but that really didn't do much aside from dull the pain from intolerable to manageable.
In my stone-cold-sobriety I patiently waited to pick a spot. I almost open-shoved with Q-10 but glanced to my left. A couple of my opponents peeked at their cards before I made my decision. It was very obvious that at least one or possibly two people were about to play. I put them on better hands and folded. They were both actually favorites against me. However, I would have flopped trip tens and possible tripled up. You usually only get one shot and I thought that I blew my one chance.
On the next hand I found Js-8s. I should have shoved but folded. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that Miguel (to my left) reached down to his stack. He was about to raise it up so I folded. Another bad idea. I would have turned a flush and could had tripled up. I blew two opportunities and had to make a stand with my big blind. I found a decent holding in A-9. Gloria raised 2.5x. I insta-shoved. She called with As-5s. I flopped a nine and turned trips. I doubled up and had some breathing room.
Short-stacked Jen Leo moved all in from UTG. Sebok continued to deal and hooked me up with pocket Aces. I re-raised 5x what Leo shoved for. Sue tanked for a few minutes and moved all in with her short stack.
Sue: 8c-7cSue flopped a flush draw, turned an eight, and rivered an eight. I faded the flush draw but trip eights spelled doom. Sue busted Jen Leo and doubled through me. Aces snapped off.
Jen Leo: 9-9
Your Hero: Ah-Ac
A couple of more players busted as we approached the bubble. The top 4 places paid. The shitfaced Rabbi sat to my right and we constantly bantered back and forth. The more that he drank, the saucier and spicier his language got. Cunt this. Fuck that. He guzzled pint glasses filled with cranberry juice and Skyy vodka. I was in awe. He wasn't the first Rabbi that I ever met who dropped a few F-bombs, but out of all the Rabbis that I knew, he drank them all under the table and with the same enthusiasm and professionalism as a Catholic priest.
As the foul-mouthed Rabbi continued to bleed chips, I went in for the kill and sent him on mega-tilt. He opened with a min-raise. I shoved all in with A-5. He called with A-J suited. I flopped a five and rivered a five. Shipithollaballs. I doubled through the Rabbi and he unleashed a tirade of profanities.
"I hate you, Cunt Face," he screamed and then took a swig on his drink.
He didn't last too much longer. The Rabbi ended up the Bubble Boy. On the next hand, I crippled Gloria when I flopped a Ling-high straight with Q-10. I bet out on the flop and she shoved all in with a pair and a Broadway gutshot. My hand held up and I jumped into second place in chips.
I forgot how I busted Mark... I think we were racing and I ended up on the good side of that hand. I knocked out Gloria in third. My A-9 came from behind against her pocket fours. There were two pairs (higher than her fours) on the board and I won with my Ace kicker.
I trailed Miguel by a few chips. At that point, I sensed that everyone wanted to end the event, so I played almost every hand. Heads up only lasted a dozen or so hands. We got in all in preflop on the final hand. I was behind but we were racing.
Your Hero: A-QThe flop had two Kings and a rag. The turn was a ten. I had so many friggin' outs to win with two overs and a gutshot, not to mention that a ten would seal the victory for me.
The river? A ten. Miguel's two pair were counterfeited. My kicker played and I won the pot and the tournament. I also collected a last longer bet from Change100.
I played tighter than a nun's snatch and advanced to the final table where I waited to catch a wave of good fortune. Poker is never a fair entity. The best hand I had all day were Aces and those got viciously beaten down like a Russian dissident in the only significant pot that I had lost... all day. It was the day of the dogs because I prevailed every time that I got it all in as an underdog. I sprang back to life and doubled up against the tilty-vodka-soused-foul-mouthed Rabbi and then caught two sweet counterfeited rivers against low pairs as I marched towards victory.
I was gonna have a blast regardless of the outcome. But it's always a lot more fun when you walk away the winner, especially in Cora's first home game.
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