Monday, May 24, 2004

Running with Al Can't Hang
"The Edge... there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over." - Hunter S. Thompson
I've never been to Pamplona. I never even been to Spain. The Sun Also Rises is one of my favorite novels, and was one of the reasons why I wanted to be a novelist. In Hemingway's epic novel, he enthusiastically wrote about the ever dangerous, thrill and heart-pounding excitement of the Running of the Bulls at the Festival of San Fermin. I always wanted to go, mainly because of the "go see for yourself" mentality that fuels my efforts as a writer. I never got there, but this weekend, I was close.

I treated this trip like one of those embedded war reporters in Iraq, hanging out with an unit of battle tested marines itching for conflict in Al-Taniyah. I realized that my run to Philly could have been my last trip away from home. I left easy to find envelopes with just-in-case-I-don't-make-it letters addressed to special people in my life, using tear jerking expressions like, "You're the best brother a guy could ask for..." or even "You know, Sunshine, that you're the woman I loved the most..." Yeah, I knew I might not come back in one piece and wanted to cover all the bases. Al Can't Hang and his posse were professional drinkers, and I dropped out of the drinkers circuit many, many years before. It was going to be tough just to keep up with a guy who's blood type is 180 Proof, but I was ready for the challenge... More
Editor's Note: I decided to break up my report into two parts. The introduction and first part appears on the Tao of Pauly. Part II, the poker write up appears on the Tao of Poker. Please visit the other site for both exciting parts!
Part II: Lewey the Loose Cannon

The game was set and we gathered around Lewey's bright red poker table. Mrs. Can't Hang was the favorite going in... after her victory the night before. I finally met Landow (who played in the WBT 3) and we were set. It was cool meeting Landow because he told me that I was a great writer. It's more humbling that you think to hear that from strangers, and I never know how to properly react to that ultimate compliment. But it's a glorious feeling too to see that sometimes, my words are recognized.
The Players:
Seat 1: Al Can't Hang
Seat 2: Lewey
Seat 3: Mrs. Can't Hang
Seat 4: Big Mike
Seat 5: Landow
Seat 6: Pauly
The game was pot limit Texas hold'em. That's it. $40 buy-in with rebuys. Blinds are 25c and 50c. I was warned by Al Can't Hang that the game wasn't going to be pretty, but he was pulling for me to take down Lewey, someone who had been inflicting a series of bad beats with questionable starting hands. They dubbed the 4-6o... The Lewey, in honor of one of his winning hands. Yeah, it was the type of game where five people routinely saw the flop for $1 each, with several callers to the river. Let me set the scene, I folded 9-9 once when A-K-10 hit the board, and I mucked a winner after a pot-sized bet from Lewey. The turn and river was: 5 and 6. I folded the winner. Big Pike paired his J-6o on the river and Lewey had his monster pair of fives on the flop with 8-5o. One of those nights... when I consistently made the wrong calls and folded hands I should have had more confidence with. Only Mrs. Can't Hang played tight with Lewey seeing every flop. Al Can't Hang tried to bully my blinds. Everytime he was UTG, he raised! Of course that had been my advice to him during many a nights on Party Poker.

8:45pm EST... I won a pot heads-up with Mrs. Can't Hang. She raised pre-flop and I called with 8-9o. I flopped a 8, middle pair on the board and checked to Mrs. Hang who bet $3. I called all the way to the river with nothing more than a pair of 8s, hoping to catch something else, because I thought Mrs. Hang has A-high card. And you know what? She had A-Q. Mrs. Can't Hang plays good cards, that's why I got lucky with that pot and excellent flop with low cards. She was the early chip leader taking down a hug pot that Lewey tried to bluff-steal.

9:20pm EST... +68 after I went heads up with Landow. He had Qd-Jd and flopped two diamonds and a flush draw... Kh-Kd-7d. I had K-5 and was betting strong. Landow was debating whether or not to chase the flush, and when it didn't hit, I took it down.

9:30pm EST... In my notes, I wrote: I Hate Lewey. I'm the big blind. Al Can't Hang opens up for a $1 UTG and everyone called. When it got to me, I bet $6 or roughly the pot. Al Can't called and of course so did Lewey. I knew I was in trouble. My K-K was not going to hold up. The flop: 2-2-3. I bet out almost the size of the pot. Al Can't Hang folded and Lewey called and pushed the rest of his stack in after the turn, which was a blank. I turned over my KK and he of course had 2-3o. D'oh!! I was warned. And slowly went on tilt after that bad beat. It sucked. It hurt. Alas, I really don't hate Lewey, he's a great guy. I comically wrote those words on my notes, to remind me of the hand.

10:30pm EST... -20 with Big Mike and Mrs. Can't Hang building up sizable chip leads.

11:07pm EST... +42 after I bluffed at a pot with Ah-7h. I had an inside straight flush draw after the turn and went all-in which scared everyone off. Al Can't hang also folded a straight flush draw.

11:32pm EST... heads up with Al Can't Hang. He raised my blinds UTG again and I called with Q2o. I was pissed that he kept doing that! The flop: Q-9-8. I checked, he bet, and I reraised. He went over the top all-in and I had him covered and called. He had Q-5!! He caught a 5 on the turn to seal his two pair. Ouch. Down $27.

12:05am EST... Mrs. Can't Hang headed for the couch for a nap and Landow got busted and called it a night. He played fairly conservative but saw several of his better hands cracked by rags. I lost my entire buy-in after I tried to steal a pot with 5-5 when there was just middle rags on the board. In true fashion, Big Mike had been killing me on the river all night. He caught a 10 on the river and his J-10 won the pot. I got busted. Time for a rebuy.

12:34am EST... Biggest hand of the night with Lewey and Big Mike. Board: 2-6-K-K-8. Big Mike had 6-3 and thought Lewey was bluffing, but actually held K-7. It was a big pot and Big Mike lost a lot of his big chip lead.

1:13am EST... last hand of the night involved Al Can't Hang (A-Js) heads up with Lewey (8-8). Al Can't Hang went allin after he flopped a Jack. Lewey folded but after some rabbit hunting, we saw that he would have caught his set on the river.
The Final Tally:
Al Can't Hang +60
Lewey +50
Mrs. Can't Hang +40
Landow -40
Big Mike -50
Pauly -60
All in all, a fun night. Some last minute thoughts... Al Can't Hang had a drink in his hand the entire time, with the exception of the four innings of baseball we watched. I had a kick ass time. Wish I played a little more looser earlier. I might have covered my half my losses. Next time... next time.

Sure, I never had been to Spain before to run with the bulls... but I went to Philly and drank with Al Can't Hang... and I came home with my liver and kidneys in tact. It was an honor to meet a true legend. Very people live up to their reputation... and Al Can't Hang is one of the rare breeds that I can say was the real deal. TO think, it was just a Sunday afternoon. I wondered what these guys drink on a Friday night? That's my next mission...

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