From Ray to Zee

ray-zeeI’d feel the same way even if he wasn’t famous and even if he didn’t have that unfortunate hair. Ray Zee is (the) nuts. He is the nuts as a player and person. And he is nuts for letting me write about him.

Ray and I met in 2001 when he came to the Bay Area to play no-limit. I couldn’t get a line on his game because he never played a hand, but then, we only played for two days. Ray recently returned and our friendship cemented during two weeks of synchronous orbits around the limit and no-limit games at Lucky Chances Casino.

Ray is an ambassador of poker. Unlike political ambassadors, Ray has a reputation for saying it how it is. But Ray also sends out smokescreens of understated truth. He’s one of these guys who throws curveballs that don’t break, like when he got up from a game after being called to a higher limit and parted with, “Okay boys, remember. Never play in a game unless you think you have the best of it.”

Several times Ray and I parked in the seats on either side of the dealer, with Ray in the one seat and me in the nine. We were symbiotic; I liked Ray on my left because I’d get the button twice per lap most laps, and Ray apparently liked me on his right so he could lean behind the dealer and taunt me.

Here’s a hand that had me and Ray playing a little Fantasy Poker. But first some explanation…

I’m reasonably certain that I hold the record, at non-tournament limit-hold’em, for raising before the flop, getting reraised, and then folding for one more bet, before the flop, headsup. I’ve done it 100 times, about once or twice per month these days I figure. I think it’s a fine play. But I’d have a hard time defending it. That’s because what I’d end up defending is not the play itself, but rather, my decision-making process, a mega-dimensional fluxed-up matrix of priorities where cards, bets, and people meld with fruit plates and tee times. Meanwhile, I’ve wondered if this play has merit in one particular dimension: profit. Back to the hand …

The game was $40-80 limit hold’em. Ray had the button. I open-raised in the cutoff. Ray made it three bets. Everyone folded back to me. I folded.

Ray collected the chips and leaned behind the dealer and said, “Don’t you dare do that to me again.”

Next day we’re in the same seats and the same situation comes up except this time it’s Ray in the hot seat up against a guy with a real hand. Ray open-raised, the next guy reraised, and everyone folded back to Ray. Ray called the preflop reraise. Then he check-called the flop and check-folded the turn. Gack.

I leaned left and ribbed Ray, “I think you should have folded to the reraise before the flop, like I did yesterday.”

Ray said, “I did not have a big pair when I reraised you yesterday, which means your fold was terrible.”

There’s the straight-shooting, smokescreen-spewing Ray I’ve come to love.

I said, “But Ray, I had pocket deuces. Let’s say I had decided in advance that I would check-fold on the flop if no deuce came. Would it still be a bad play for me to fold to your preflop reraise?

Ray said, “In that case, it’s an okay fold.”

Fantasy poker. It’s a sick game, where players talk of unseen hole-cards in a cooperative of feigned belief. The rank-and-suit images on the cards that Ray and I actually held are best described as waves of probability, like electrons. Still, through all the jive, I was glad to get Ray’s opinion.

One more hand. I’ve got 10-9 in the cutoff and several players limp in. In low gear with a staunch button-defender on my left, I’d fold. But not with reliable Ray behind me. I call, and sure enough, Ray folds like a well-used map. One of the blinds raises. Big pot. Flop comes gutshot, Q-8-2, with two hearts. I call two bets on the flop, one at a time. Turn is a black six. More outs. I call one bet on the turn. River is the seven of hearts. I’ve got a straight. I call one bet with one player behind me who folds. Bettor had flopped a set. My straight good.

At the showdown, Ray glanced around and saw my ratty straight. He said, “You should make sure to buy a place to live now for when you go broke.”

I don’t stack and yack at the same time so Ray got the last word with that quip. Good one Ray. You think you’re so smart. But guess what. I’m way ahead of you. I already have a van.


2018 Coaching Update: I’m doing video coaching now on whatever ails you — from betting problems and tilt issues to bad quitting and no patience. For more details and to schedule a call, click here.



2018 Coaching Update: I’m doing video coaching now on whatever ails you — from betting problems and tilt issues to bad quitting and no patience. For more details and to schedule a call, click here.


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