Monday, March 05, 2007

Beverly Hills Home Game

By Pauly

I attended a Beverly Hills home game last week. I busted a 91 year-old woman at the final table and had pocket Aces slows played against me by a 16 year old high school girl on my way to taking third and cashing in the tournament.

Schecky had invited me to play in his regular home game a few times over the last couple of months. That's where Jen Leo first learned how to play. I had always been busy and did not have the time to play. Change100 had played in it before and had a blast, so when we were invited last week, we could not resist the offer to play with Schecky, Jen Leo, and some of Schecky's friends that he's known for almost twenty years.

The game was held in Beverly Hills a few minutes down the street from Change100's apartment. The area is so exclusive that there are special parking rules and you have to leave a special code written on a piece of paper in your dashboard otherwise, the federalies come and tow your car and hold it hostage.

The host is a good friend of Schecky's and they run a two table $20 buy-in tournament along with all you can eat food and drinks for an extra $10 donation. That night, the menu featured Philly cheese steak sandwiches. I would have drank excessively if I wasn't still coming off an illness and jacked up on medication. I had one Stella and had to limit myself to mineral water the rest of the night.

I've played in many different home games over the last twenty years and the majority of them are constructed for social interaction. The stakes don't matter because it's about hanging out with friends and having a good time. Competition and skill are secondary to the camaraderie and relaxed atmosphere that the games instill. That's why I find it difficult playing in high stakes and ultra competitive home games.

Who likes taking their friends' money? Sadists and assholes do. That's social misfits tend not to get invited to home games (or invited back) because when the goal is to have a fun time, those folks tend to ruin the philosophy of the night. Most people work hard and are looking for an evening of stupid jokes, drinking, and getting away from the spouse and kids. Home game poker provides that for a couple of hours.

Last year, when Ferrari wanted to raise the stakes at the Blue Parrot to 5-10 NL with a max 1K buy-in, I protested along with F Train. The whole point of a Monday night home game was to have a random sports game on in the background, and keep the investment at a level where you can win a few bucks but not lose your shirt if you just want to have a good time.

Sure, I like a little mental challenge from time to time, but if I want to make money, I'll play online or in a casino. If I wanna have a few laughs over a game of cards, then home games are the way to go. The emphasis was on people, not poker.

The regulars in Schecky's game could afford to play for much higher stakes, but that was not the point. They hosted the games because they loved poker and enjoyed being around cool folks. The crowd was an interesting mix and was an even 50/50 male to female ratio with an age variation from 16 to 91. Yes, there was a 91 year-old woman who was sweet as can be playing in the game. She started playing Stud years ago and is a regular in the Beverly Hills game. Like half the folks in the room, they were all originally from (or lived at some point) in New York City. The eclectic crew featured 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 student at Beverly Hills high school, and a film producer. It was an interesting mix of people, which added for a flavorful night.

I must add that the home game coincided with a birthday party for the hostess’ dog. Yeah, I kinda crashed a dog's birthday party. He turned 21 in dog years and was allowed to drink. One of the women who played in the tournament was only there for the birthday party and brought her puppy along for play time with the other dogs. While the game went down, several dogs ran amuck throughout the house and would dart underneath our table. One of them had a bladder accident right behind my chair and I inadvertently stepped in dog piss. That rarely happens at the Bellagio.

Change100 and I drew the same table in the den while Jen Leo and Schecky got the other table in the dining room. Before I even sat down, I was on tilt after the comedienne introduced me to the rest of the players as Change100's husband. I subsided eventually but the hostess also leaked out that, "Pauly has played in the World Series of Poker with Schecky."

The rest of table took note of and a few admitted that they were scared of me, which was funny. I never think of myself as the shark. I was there to have fun and not there to take everyone's money.

"I'm just a freelance writer. Hack for hire," I joked. "I'm actually here for the dog's birthday party."
Here's my starting table:

Seat 1: Mark aka Schecky's best buddy

Seat 2: Woman who showed up for dog's birthday party and bought in because we were playing, "That Texas poker, like the stuff I see on TV?"

Seat 3: Comedienne with a diabetic cat

Seat 4: Russian guy

Seat 5: Hostess

Seat 6: Former NBA player

Seat 7: Change100

Seat 8: Young Asian woman who won the week before

Seat 9: Your Hero
I managed to have a last longer bet with Schecky and that was the only thing that I wanted to win. I did not get any cards early on and could not pay like a wild maniac. Instead, I sat and mucked all of my hands as I watched everyone play and crack jokes. The dogs kept running around and the hostess brought out cupcakes from Sprinkles for dessert. She even had little ones made up for the dogs.

The woman who didn't know how to pay caught some sick cards. Like a newbie she didn't raise with her premium hands and was a calling station. Alas, the deck hit her in the face and she even flopped the nuts with a full house. The comedienne played fast and loose because she had a 11:15pm curfew because she would have to get home in time to inject her diabetic cat with insulin.

The Russian guy busted out early when his A-K ran into the hostesses A-A. The NBA player lost a lot of chips to the woman who showed up for the dog's birthday party.

I heard some hilarious things that you would only hear at a Beverly Hills home game. Such as:
"I had my aura photographed last weekend."

"Everyone knows you need a great agent and an even better plastic surgeon."

"Did you know Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch has been rented out as a retreat for priests? And it happens to be across the street from a middle school for boys. Creepy."

"I just wanted to buy a pack of pens at Office Depot. I came out an hour later and spent $400. I even got a cash register for $100, which I don't really need."

"I was wondering if you could take a peek at the last new draft of my screenplay?"

"How often do you feed your dog lamb?"

"Who would want to rob me? All they would get is my Prius and a diabetic cat."

"Anyone know any good acupuncturists?"

"I spent $40,000 renovating my bathroom. It was $38,000 for the marble and two grand for the toilet."
Schecky and Jen Leo busted out early and I won the last longer which meant that I was freerolling the tournament. After getting chipped down, I started making moves with junk hands when the blinds jumped up to a decent amount. I raised a few times with decent hands and showed and then used my image to pick up a few pots. I eventually made the final table along with Change100 and we were 6th and 7th in chips.

The final table featured Dave the host who grilled the steaks, the 91 year old woman, and the host's niece who I had no idea she was 16 until I discovered later in the night. I thought she was in her early 20s, and she clued us in about her age when she mentioned, "It's late. I shouldn't be driving after 11pm."

"You on probation or something?" I asked.

"No. You can't drive after 11pm in the first year you get your license."

"Wait, how old are you?" I wondered.

"I'll be 17 soon."

"So you're 16?" I said.

She nodded.

"How's this year's crop of freshman chicks looking?" I said as Wooderson's voice from Dazed and Confused echoed through my mind. "That's what I like about high school girls. I get older and they stay the same age."

Yes, I was seated in between Change100 and the 16 year-old high school girl. I was sweating like Nabakov. I was a walking Amber Alert waiting to happen. Alas, I stayed on my best behavior.

Change100 and the Comedienne busted on the same hand in a four way pot. The high school chick had Q-Q. The host had A-10. Change 100 had K-10 and the comedienne had A-J. The flop was 10 high as the high school chick scooped the monster pot.

I raised preflop with 10-10 and the 91 year old woman called me. At the time she was the chipleader and doubled me up when I pushed on the flop with all undercards and she called with A-Q. I doubled her up a few hands later when she won a race against me and I eventually busted her when my small pair held up over her overcards. Two for three with coin flips against the 91 year-old woman. I felt bad about busting her and offered to play high stakes bingo for $100 a card next weekend.

I made the money and with four to go, I was shortstacked. I sucked out on Mark when I cracked his Kings with the tourist. I rivered the Ace too. He busted out in third and it was three-way between myself, the host, and the high school chick.

I found Ks-Kc and was all in preflop against the high school chick. She had K-10. I joked, "I'd hate to see an A-Q-J flop."

The host was dealing and he peeled off the flop cards. Ac-Qc-Jc. The high school chick flopped the joint but I had a royal flush draw. The turn was the Qs, which gave me more outs with a boat. That's when the 10c spiked on the river and everyone still left went nuts. The high school girl was stunned. I would have taken any club, but the 10c was clutch as I rivered the royal flush.

I tried to slow play aces and didn't get paid off. I was tied for the chiplead when I thought I had a monster that would seal the victory. I had 8-8 and min raised from the button. The host called in the small blind as did the high school chick. They checked to me on the ragged rainbow flop and I pushed all in. The host folded and the high school chick instantly called as she flipped over two black aces.

Ouch. Slow played by a high school chick who had black nail polish on her fingers.

"Don't you have a curfew?" I snapped.

She laughed as she stacked up all of my chips.

The games end at Midnight no matter what and we played a few minutes past since the host was still in the game. We ended up chopping it up and I had the least amount of chips and finished in third place. The high school chick took second and the host won it all.

It had been a while since I played in a home game and I had a blast. Jen Leo was worried that I didn't have a good time. She thinks that if there's not an eight ball worth of blow on the table, then I'm bored off my ass. Usually that is the case, but in that instance, I was having a great time meeting new people and playing some cards.

I've experienced the dark side of poker over the last few years and it's refreshing to see instances when poker is just a friendly game and a conduit for a good time among good people.

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker. All rights reserved.

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