Saturday, January 06, 2007

Duke - 5 Jan 2007

I went to Duke last night for their first post-New Year's games. Since I'll be heading to Vegas soon I could use a bit more live practice. I thought Mike would be coming but his schedule didn't work out. Really gotta bring him around to the joint sometime.

I fiddled around outside the building for a bit with my mobile phone, trying to get the built-in GPS to give me or mail me the latitude and longitude of Duke's location for the "Pub Poker Games In Tokyo" information page I am planning. No dice, apparently the function on my new(ish) phone now requires a monthly subscription. Bastards, the GPS on my previous phone was free. Oh well, I'll dig the location up with Google Maps or something.

I showed up 30 minutes early for the 7:30 start of the first game, so ordered a Guinness and exchanged the traditional new year greetings with the other early arrivals. Shiono-san and Celica-san were swapping information about casinos in Seoul, since Shiono is planning a trip there next week. I asked about poker rooms, since I heard there wasn't much poker there yet, and Celica assured me there were rooms open there now, but the limits are pretty high, like the rooms in Tinian and the Phillipines. It sounds like $10/$20 is the most likely limit you'll find. Holy crap. Think I need a bigger bankroll and more confidence before I'll be playing in these asian casino poker games.

I busted out early from the first tournament, limit holdem. Played poorly with mediocre cards and a lot of missed flops. Ugh. My limit game needs a lot of work. (Like my no-limit game doesn't?) Played some chinese poker until the second game began at 9:30pm - this time mixed games, TTOS. Texas Holdem, Texas Holdem, Omaha hi-lo, and Seven-card Stud. Sometimes we'll have a proper HORSE game, but I think those tend to be on the once-monthly Saturday games. A shame, because the world needs more Razz.

I really like the mixed game nights now, although they made my head hurt the first few times. Now it's refreshing to switch to a new game and have to shift gears. Lately I seem to accumulate chips in Stud, probably because almost everyone is very hesitant in the Stud round. With fairly low chip stacks compared to the blinds, losing one hand of Stud can cripple you. I felt this pain early on when I raised with a pair of tens, one exposed, and got called by Min-san with a King showing. I thought he might just have high cards at that point, no pair. I fired on most of the later streets and he kept calling, as I received two fives and he two queens. My resolve that my two-pair was good faltered at the end, and I checked. He bet out, and I knew he had suckered me and had the King down. I paid the last bet to see it. Nice play.

I struggled on with my few remaining chips, and started to rally. I thought I was finished when we got to Omaha-hi and I got a free flop from the BB with 2-3-4-6, three hearts. The flop came A-2-7 rainbow, and I had to stare at it for a minute to confirm I had a made nut low. But there were a lot of limpers into the hand and somewhere in my poker travels I learned how much it sucks to be quartered, especially when you really thought you had a lock on half the pot. I checked and Saitoh-san, a previous Vegas Cup winner, bet. It was folded around to me. I called to the river, internally chanting "please don't get quartered, please don't get quartered," and heaved a sigh of relief as Saitoh-san flipped over a slightly worse low. He'd paired a medium card to take the high, so we split it and I could breathe again.

It came round to stud again, and I got into a hand with Psyka-san, who is a very good holdem player but doesn't seem to like Stud much. I don't remember the details, but I think I had a wired pair that made trips somewhere around fifth street. Blinds had been increasing all this time so Psyka called his last few chips with something like two pair, well concealed. Ouch. With his stack, though, I was back in the running.

When we got down to the final table, it switched to NL Holdem. This arrangement may piss players and viewers off at the World Series HORSE event, but it works well when you have to finish your small tournament in 2.5 hours so players can make the last train home. M's are small all around, so the remaining players take their shots and flame out quickly. I pushed all-in from early-mid position and J.O. called me with a slightly smaller stack, declaring with a smile he wanted to bust me. The smile disappeared as I flipped over my AK, and he showed his AQ. Mine held up, and it looks like our good-natured gunning for each other will continue.

I got down to heads-up with Saitoh-san, and hit a couple of lucky cards to stay in the game when I really should have been gone. Back and forth, back and forth, and I had a slight chip advantage into the last hand. In the small blind, I called with J-6, I think it was, and Saitoh-san pushed his remaining few chips. I knew he had a better hand, probably a king or ace, but it was only two more chips to play and I figured my cards would be live. He flipped over something like A-5. Yep, at least I called it right. The first card of the flop was my 6, and the third was a jack. He missed an unlikely flush at the end and I took the game. Whew!

Saitoh-san is a good player... hell, all these guys are good players. If I had to look around the bar to spot the sucker, I probably wouldn't be able to find one, and we know what that means. But I get lucky sometimes, and any win still feels good.

Tonight was the regular weekly game, so my first place finish earns me 5 points towards the season 4 Vegas Cup. Saitoh-san is already at 135 points, and eight or ten others are over a hundred. Somebody cue up the Rocky Balboa music for me? Thanks.

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