Cash on the line
I felt a little better about my prospects Thursday. I've became more comfortable playing cash thanks to numerous sessions in the .25/.50 Donkey Game that invariably broke out during Group POY tournaments last fall and winter. The game earned its name -- the play sometimes bordered on the nonsensical -- but I found it profitable relative to the stakes. My comfort level also was helped by playing cash games online, where I've had limited success.
There were two tables going when I arrived at JC's, one with eight and the other with seven players. Diablo and Charlie, two of the trickiest cash game players in The Group, were at the shorter table. Both had stacked me during previous $1/2 forays. But I happily took a seat at their table, ready to play. I figured I'd proceed cautiously whenever I got into a hand with them.
Also at the table were JC, a rock-solid player, Jeff, with whom I played a bit in The Donkey Game, Uncle Bob, a wealthy retiree who plays and chases with ATC, and three guys I didn't know. I bought in for $180, nearly all the cash I had on me. I planned on nursing it by playing smart and fairly tight.
JC monkeyed up my chips as I was dealt my first hand: A-Q off. There were three or four limpers in front of me and I limp from the CO. That might seem weak, but it was my first hand for mercy's sake and I wasn't going to crazy with it. That's the way I stumble.
The flop came A-Q-x with two spades. Wow. Diablo bet $15 and I made it $30. Everyone else folded. Diablo called. He is a tough player who has been known to spew chips when he's had four or five too many beers. On this night he was completely sober and drinking a Coke.
The turn was a small card, but not a spade. He checked and I bet $60. A spade hit the river and Diablo pushed his last $49. Fuck. A flush? That didn't make sense. I didn't think he would spend $60 chasing. A set was possible, I supposed. I sighed, took some time counting out the $49 while surveying the meager stack that would remain if he a set or the improbable flush. I briefly considered folding, but knew there was too much money in the pot to back out now. I tossed the chips into the pot, a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that I'd been pwned again.
Diablo announced, "Two pair," without showing his cards. I happily tabled my A-Q and he mucked. My heart raced as I dragged the substantial pile of chips and stacked them will less-than-steady hands. Nice start. I lit a cigar, pleased with the outcome.
I stuck to my plan and played fairly tight by JC $1/$2 standards, winning a couple of small pots over the next half hour or so. Wanting to get involved, I raised to $7 (a smallish preflop raise in this game) with Kd-8d from late position. Charlie, in one of the blinds, made it $15 total. Charlie is unquestionably the best cash-game player in The Group. No one who has played with him on a regular basis would argue the point. He's fearless and smart and possesses an uncanny sense of where he is at in a hand. He's an action junkie with skills and a deep bankroll, a dangerous combination.
I called Charlie's raise with those homely cards and got a flop with two diamonds. Charlie bet $14 and I insta-called. He's not likely to pay me off if I make my flush, but I didn't think I should back down ... yet. The turn was a non-diamond small card that gave me a gutshot to the 8. Charlie checked and so did I. A bit of scared play, I admit. I might have been able to take down the pot there, but I feared a check-raise from Charlie if he sensed weakeness.
The river was a 6, which filled my 8-high gutshot but missed my flush. Charlie led for $15 or $30 (recollection is vague) and I made it either $30 or $60. Charlie immediately put another $100 on top. Oy vey. Now what? Only one hand beats me -- 8-9. I assumed he had an 8, but dreaded thoughts began circulating that he might have the muthafuggin' 9 and that I'm toast. I reluctantly called, he showed the 8 and we chopped the pot. I only won a pittance in the hand, but it almost smelled like victory. I'd gotten into a big hand with Charlie and had lived to tell about it.
I mostly avoided him and Diablo the rest of the session. I did get Charlie (and Uncle Bob) to fold on a king-high flop when I C-bet my pocket queens with about $60 in the pot. He took his time before mucking his cards.
Charlie: "I wanted to see how much your hands were shaking."
Me: "If it's any consolation, my hands were going to shake regardless."
I showed him the queens. After that, I won a few decent-sized pots after that, including a couple against Jeff and Uncle Charlie and finished $310 to the good when the game broke up shortly after 2 a.m. I doubt I'll be playing at JC's frequently, but there's no reason I won't be back at some point in the near future. The poker was interesting and makes me curious if I can replicate the results and learn a little bit more about my game -- and myself -- in a game for which I'm only vaguely familiar.