Poker Stories (Vol. 1)

It’s June, which means Vegas is being overrun by douchey poker players and the World Series of Poker.

There is one big positive and one big negative about being in Vegas for the WSOP. The positive is that you can find a poker game any hour of the day, any day of the week.

The negative is everything else. Vegas sucks because it costs $15 for a smoothie, the traffic is terrible and its 110 degrees. Poker tournaments suck because the skill factor illogically decreases as the monetary stakes become higher. Poker players suck because they’re all douche-robots who take 20 minutes to fold, never talk and look like this guy.

This was the first image that came up when I Googled “poker douche.” No idea who this guy is.

Over the past 10 years I’ve tried just about everything when it comes to Vegas and the WSOP. Three times I’ve loaded up the whole family, rented a house for the month and made an extended vacation out of it. Some years (like last year) I didn’t bother going at all. Other years I do what I’m doing this year, flying out for just a few days.

Seems like a good time to tell a few of my favorite Vegas poker stories, as well as the reason I quit playing hold em tournaments pretty much immediately after actually doing good in a hold em tournament.

The first time Missy and I ever went to Vegas, when I still worked at the paper and before we had any kids, we stayed at the Mirage. My “Welcome to Vegas” moment happened on about our second night there, when I couldn’t sleep and went downstairs around midnight to play poker. I played until 3 a.m. and then as I was heading back to the room I was stopped by two ladies of the evening who asked if I would like them to “tuck me into bed” (That’s exactly what they said lol). I told them my wife was already in the bed and she probably would not appreciate the disruption. They said “we can be really quiet,” so I said, “Um, I guess you don’t understand, I’m just saying no.”

There was a time many years ago when the Mirage had the premier poker room in Vegas. But that was when limit poker was king, so by the time I arrived the Mirage was somewhat fading into obscurity as a poker room. That means there weren’t very many poker games there, but the ones they had were pretty good.

One summer when I brought the whole family out, Eric Wolf stayed with us and we played quite a bit at the Mirage. One night we were playing and a middle aged guy sat down on my right and started bragging about how good he was and how he had mastered the game by recently attending a World Poker Tour boot camp. Back in those days a good way to make money off of me was to get on my nerves, because I would go out of my way to try to beat players like that.

So this guy was being annoying and also seemed to be playing too cautiously. On one hand he made a raise and I figured I’d just take his money real quick so I re-raised. I don’t even remember what I had but it wasn’t very good. But he didn’t fold like I expected him to and I could tell he actually had a good hand. The flop came KQ4. No flush draw or anything. I didn’t have anything at all. This guy tenses up and thinks for a long time and then checks. I thought he probably had a hand like AK and wasn’t going to fold so I didn’t want to blow any more money on this hand so I checked. The turn was a 7 or something like it, a completely inconsequential card. This guy pauses for awhile and then checks again. Back in those days a good way to make money off of me was to check it to me twice. I couldn’t help myself, I’d take a stab at the pot. So I made a normal-sized bet. This guy thinks for a minute and then starts his speech.

He says, “I used to go broke on hands like this all the time. But not anymore. Not after the WPT boot camp. But I don’t know if I can fold this hand.” I thought he might have AQ or a pair of jacks or something. He stopped to think for a long time.

Then he turns up his hand. He has pocket queens — a set of queens! — the second-best possible hand at that moment. This guy didn’t even have that much money left, there’s no way he should ever even consider folding that hand. I was getting annoyed again. First at him for wasting so much time when he was clearly going to go all in. Then at myself for betting after already deciding I wasn’t going to bluff on the flop. I was basically just lighting money on fire. I figured since he had already shown me and the whole table his hand, he might just call instead of going all in. I decided I was going to just muck my hand as soon as he called so I wouldn’t be tempted to bluff again on the river. I was drawing completely dead, there was no card I could win with.

Then he says, “Nope, I’m not giving you my money. I know you have the set of kings. You wouldn’t have bet if you didn’t have it. I’m the only one in here who’s good enough to fold this hand.” And then he folded. I glanced over at Eric, who was incredibly and understandably annoyed that I had gotten away with this terrible play. I couldn’t look at him without bursting out laughing. That was probably seven years ago and Eric is still mad about it.

Another time we were playing at the Mirage when a typical douchey frat boy sat down at our table. He

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