Wednesday, September 20, 2006

"Ding"

While walking down the Strip a few years ago I was approached by a moderately dressed fellow who was, literally, hat in hand. He was nervous as he sheepishly started his tale of woe. Being the soft-hearted (headed?) sort, I let him take my attention away from my trek to the juicy tables at the Excalibur and gave him my full attention. He told me of the problems he and his Wife were having, trying to make ends meet, what with small children, student loans, and rent. To top it all off, his Wife was experiencing some substantial health problems and had been prescribed a medication that ran $100.00. Without health insurance, they were struggling to find a way to pay for the elixir that would hopefully, magically, cure her woes.

Now, I am a compassionate man and have been known to palm a $20 into the hand of a down-on-their luck denizen of our sometimes cruel world. $100 was a good bit more than what I was used to doling out though, but his story was so convincing and I knew so well of the plight of the uninsured and debt-ridden that I had the bill in my hand and halfway to his before I came to my senses enough to ask, “Hey. How do I know you won’t use this as gambling money?”

He was so shocked he took a step back with a look of disgust on his face usually only seen on the visages of old ladies when another old lady yells, “Bingo!”

He composed himself after a moment and stated in a ringing tone, “I would NEVER use the $100 you give me to gamble. I’ve GOT gambling money.”

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A few months back I wrote of having to get a backer to play in a local game. The spot had opened up at the last minute and I was short on disposable cash. My live bankroll has always been very small as I don’t have the opportunity to play in live games for much more than very small stakes. ColaTown is not G-Vegas. We can stay out until the wee hours drinking but we can’t find a decent back room game. My live play in-town was limited to the $1 max-bet game on Tuesday and the occasional NL tournament. The funds to step into a 10/20-20/40 game just were not easily accessible for me in time to play that night. Fortunately, I was able to make arrangements and did well enough that I have been able to continue playing the game self-funded.

Tonight, I return to the big game after a two week absence brought on by the need to help take care of a few things more important. I am loaded for the game in an amount that would have seemed outrageous just a year ago. The amounts that people are willing to lose week after week are still outrageous to me. There have been some big nights for me along with a few bad ones. Most often, I book a moderate win and move along. Since I first sat down, we have lost the worst players to the 2/4 game that runs along side our game. Their migration has led to the influx of a number of new players in the small game eager to reach into their pockets. The bad players love to gamble though, and the 2/4 game is turning into a 5/10 game very quickly.

The big table is a lot tighter now. Three tightwads, three loose-agressives, and the occasional loose-passive or two can still be profitable for one who can adapt. Wins are no longer an almost sure thing, though, If the cards are running right, you may be buying rounds for the table. Run into a bad streak, and you may lose three buy-ins in six hours. The inclusion of wild-card games into the rotation keeps the hope alive for those who are unable to properly assess starting hands. What can you do when you flop Aces over in the cross game, bet and raise at every opportunity, only to lose to a final card four of a kind 3s? You grin and say, “nice hand.” That’s what you do long-tem thinker. Then you continue to make the proper bets the rest of the night knowing the money will eventually come home.

There is a reason I don’t like to play this game though. I may get into that later. For now, I’ve created the “ding” system. Every time something discomfits me, I hear the “ding” in my brain and know it’s time to bear down and take another $100 off someone. I hate to leave a profitable game.

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