Perpetual Commotion


Alex is a perpetual commotion machine. Wherever he goes, whatever he does, a sphere of mayhem surrounds him. Driving is a contest. Popcorn is an event. Every poker hand is an ordeal.

Scott, the poker room manager at Lucky Chances, says Alex is “A good test for my floor staff.” Albert Einstein would have cited Alex as, “Living proof that disorder increases.”

Don’t get me wrong. Alex and I are best buddies. He is trusting and trustworthy, enthusiastic and fun, and a great poker player. But he wears his emotions on the surface, like chains, begging to be yanked.

I pulled a good one on him during our recent road-trip to Vegas. We were playing $20-40 limit hold-em at the Mirage when we heard, “Tonight’s rebuy tournament starts in 15 minutes.” We exchanged a quick glance of interest.

Alex said, “How about if one of us enters the tournament and we go come-come?” Translated, this meant, “I think you should enter. Can I have half your action?” I agreed to the 50-50 partnership and bought in to the tournament.

The structure sheet revealed familiar turf: Limit hold’em, $60 buy-in. Everyone starts with $500 in tournament chips. Half-hour rounds. All rebuys and add-ons are $40 for $500 in chips. Unlimited rebuys during the first hour when under $500. All players may add-on at the one-hour break.

I try to approach poker and life with a K.I.S.S. (Keep it simple, stupid.) For instance, I always wear low-top white-canvas Converse basketball shoes. That way I can buy ten pair when I’m running good and feel secure about the future. I have about 100 identical socks, purchased over the last two years from Red at Artichoke Joe’s. Unless I grow another leg, I’m done thinking about shoes and socks for a while.

Rebuys are like footwear; I do the same thing every time:

1) I don’t sit down until after my first big blind. That way I am under the rebuy threshold, and I rebuy right away. (Chip leader!)

2) I always take the add-on at the break.

3) This one is important to the story: If I am slightly above the rebuy threshold and the break is near, I will always see a flop.

If you think this is fuzzy thinking, you’re almost right. It is fuzzy, but it is not thinking. Rather, it is a willful lack of thinking, done to avoid the dreaded act of second-guessing.

Poor Alex. If only he had known all this. We had never talked about rebuy tournaments because he does not play them.

The director announced, “Last hand before the break.” Alex came over and stood behind me, ready for us to take a break together, ready to pounce on me with rapid-fire poker stories.

The limit was $25-50 and I had $575. According to plan, I would either win this pot, or sluff off $100 so I could rebuy.

I had the button. Two players limped. Alex touched my shoulder, meaning, “Lemme see.” So we looked at the lifted corners together. I had 7-3 offsuit. Alex lost interest, predictably and obviously, as if saying to the table, “My buddy has nothing. We’ll be going now.”

When I called before the flop with that 7-3, Alex started making complicated throat noises, like he had swallowed broken glass while hailing a cab. Translated, this meant, “Are you out of your flippin’ mind?” He could not see my grin.

The flop came: whatever-whatever-whatever. I had no pair and no draw. The first player bet, one player called, and of course, I called.

This was doubly delightful. All I had to do was get rid of $50 more and I’d be at $475, ready to rebuy and add-on, ready to hunker down after the break. As to torturing Alex, well, let’s just say I was getting full value from every chip.

The turn came, another whatever. They checked to me. So I checked too, poised to put $50 in on the river no matter what. Maybe I’d make a pair and have the best hand, or maybe I’d win on a bluff, either way saving a rebuy.

Meanwhile, Alex was spazzing heavy. He kicked my chair for a while, and then he scampered around the table to look at me. I used my cap to shield the glare.

The river was a seven. The first player checked and the second player bet $50. I called, leaving me with $475 in chips and a remote chance to win the pot. Perfect. Then the first player check-raised, and the initial bettor folded. It was one more bet to me, last to act on the river, and I folded my pair of sevens.

Knee in my ribs, whack on my head, ashes on my ear. Alex didn’t know whether to be upset or mystified or amused or what. He was an emotional pile.

I stood up, turned around, looked him square, and said, “Good laydown, eh?”


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