Sunday, February 20, 2005

Cheese, Fish, Insulin

Posted by Al Pastor

2/15/05 Oaks Club $2-4 Hold’em

1:30-4:30 PM

In $60 Out $135 +$75

Hours Played 2005: 47.75 -$317

Somewhat short on cheese after 1)having to pay Tranh and his brother Vu at Guerrerro Shell to plug the leak in my oil pan, 2)the surprise announcement of Bob Dylan and Merle Haggard playing at the Oakland Paramount at broadway prices which I had to shell out for or be faced with missing this show, and 3)a few weeks of being smacked around the $3-6 game. At most card rooms, the lowest limit played is $3-6, so it is the beginner game. At my Oaks club, they spread a $1-2 game, which is where I learned how to play in public and is a crazily low limit anywhere but the internet, a $2-4 game, which you sometimes see in other places and is the game where I have spent the most time. The $3-6 game becomes sort of the grown-up table, then, at the Oaks, where the more serious, thoughtful players are separated from the loosey-goosey, no-fold’em gamblers of the tiny limit games. It is decidedly more competitive than the $2-4, much more aggressive, and a bad run at a higher limit is just that much worse.

There is a saying, often attributed to Doyle Brunson, that goes something like “Look around the table. If you don’t see the fish, it is probably you.” Unlike chess or tennis, instructional literature of poker unabashedly recommends finding weaker opponents to play against. David Sklansky, the premier gambling math man, points to game selection, meaning choosing a game full of players you can beat, as the most important, least developed poker skill. So, in an effort to stay the ramming of my skull into the brick wall of the $3-6 game, I signed up for only the $2-4, where the walls are upholstered.


Once, commenting on all the cars that would show up on Friday and stay parked in front of the little house in that Houston suburb until Sunday afternoon or evening, a neighbor suggested my parents were swingers. That game was $2 limit with the old single blind structure. Sometimes they sat as many as 15 players. They played somewhere every night. My father, with a corporate job and two kids, played 4 or 5 nights a week. His mother, my Nana, was one of the key figures in the game. Leo, my grandfather, didn’t really play, he liked stud, but he was usually around when he wasn’t out on the ship.

The games at our house would start Friday night or Saturday afternoon. My mother would make chili and rice and brownies for the players. They would lay in beer and soda. Players would bring liquor. Sometimes Mexican Helen (as opposed to Redheaded Helen) would bring her niece April, or Sandy would bring her kids and we would play board games and watch television until dawn. I remember watching THE TURN OF THE SCREW on the little television in my parents bedroom and my father sneaking outside, coming around the house and doing the flashlight-under-the-chin thing framed in the darkened window so that we all ran screaming through the house.

Once, a player named Pas, a huge guy, takes my father aside. This is about 4 AM on a Sunday, Houston 1973. “I’m out of insulin.” he says.

“That’s tough.” My Dad says.

“I’m in this game for $1200. You are running the game, raking the pot to the tune of $60 and hour. I am stuck, but I am pitching the party. I have a medical emergency but if I leave the game breaks up....see what I’m saying?”

So my Dad found a 24 hour pharmacy and went out for Pasquale's insulin.


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