My luck changed.
Showed up about 7:30 after grabbing a bite on the way, Shrek's got a new place out near NE 33rd, a nice change from his little (but comfy) apartment. Some new faces around the table, some familiar, including Taxi, back after a several week hiatus, some weird thing where he kept blacking out, but he looked like he was in good health again.
I took a seat between Rain Man and Al, who had dressed up as a gypsy this time, complete with harem pants, sash, pirate shirt, floppy hat. Every week a different costume. I don't know why he does this, but I think it's cool he feels comfortable enough around us to do it. Good guy, smokes like a chimney.
A quick look around the table told me that no massive fortunes had shifted since they started at 7, but Rain told me he was already 40 in, and pointed to the chips in front of one of the new guys, who looked like Brad Pitt (and looked like he knew it). I introduced myself around, bought in for 40, and started playing. I told Shrek I'd probably leave at 11. These guys usually play until about 2.
We do limit stakes dealer's choice up until about 10, when the table switches to no-limit hold 'em. Shrek likes the format because it allows players an opportunity to get a feel for the table before the all-out carnage of no-limit. I like it because although folks bet a lot differently in no-limit, you get a chance to learn playing styles of new people before the stakes jump.
Got hot right away and won several midsize pots, and had the opportunity to go heads up against each of the new guys at least once. I'm no good at the stare-down, because I flinch even if I have five aces in my hand, but the stare is nothing but a distraction: a man's tell is always in his timing and his bet.
I'm catching buzz off my cigar by the time the clock says it's no-limit time. I'm up to about twice-and-a-half my buy-in, and most of the guys there have re-bought at least once. Taxi has a nice pile in front of him, as does Negril (one of the new guys). 8-Ball (new guy) is chuckling from behind a respectable stack. Brad is now hurting, as is Rain. Shrek is ok, Bean (new guy) is ok, and Al is all over the place, as usual. Mouth, another regular, has just shown up and takes a seat between me and Rain.
Problem with my hot streaks is that I keep betting like I'm hot when my cards cool off, so I start losing some chunks off my pile before I wise up. Pricks a little bit more when it's because I'm just making stupid mistakes or playing loose, so I decide to tighten up because I'd like to leave at least even when I cash out.
At 10:30 I tell Shrek again that I'm out at 11, loudly enough so everyone can hear. It's courtesy, because players don't like money leaving the table unannounced, especially when a big piece of it was theirs to begin with. Not that I'm expecting a huge take, but with the new dudes, doesn't hurt to have my best manners on.
Next several hands I'm getting nothing, and even when I see a picture card the betting is so hard after the flop that I run scared. At 10:45, Brad has the button and is gracious enough to deal me K-Q. Unsuited, but they are shining like gold in my hand after the trash of the previous rounds.
A-K is called "big slick." I don't know what other players do, but I call K-Q "slick jr."
Problem at this point is I'd been folding non-stop for about 30 minutes. If I bet slick jr. hard off the bat, anyone who's been paying attention will run. So I decide not to bet and call the big blind instead. Ten players in, ten bucks in the center, no pre-flop raises. Family.
Pot's good, Brad announces. Burn and turn. Flop comes up: 10-J-9.
No pairs on the board, so no one has a boat. Also, nothing suited up out there, so any flush draws are longshots. I've got the nut straight. And I've got position.
I glance around, which is always risky because I just want to read reactions, not make eye contact. Bean raises both eyebrows and gives a subvocal sigh.
I know that Al's tell is that his hand shakes when he puts chips out to bet a good hand--when he bluffs, no shakes. Taxi's tell is that he looks scared--but only for a second--if you guess correctly, out loud, a card he's holding. Bean is new, but I've been paying attention tonight: his tell is not the eyebrows, but the sigh. He's got a hand.
Negril checks, Bean throws out 3 bucks. 8-Ball calls, Shrek calls, Taxi calls. Al folds, and it's my bet.
Nothing can beat me at this point, but I don't want to kill my action with a heavy bet. On the other hand, with two more cards coming, I want to chase out anyone who's holding onto trips and hoping for a boat.
I raise 10.
Mouth folds, Rain folds, and I begin to think it was too high of a bet, but then Brad calls, as does Negril, Bean, and Taxi. Now I'm thinking the bet was too low.
Everyone pushes in, five players see the turn: it's an 8.
Brilliant. Rainbow on the board, so no flushes can kill me. No pairs out there either. I’ve still got the nut.
Bean pushes all in. He’s got 90 bucks in front of him.
Doesn't matter what I think he's holding, really … this hand is straight out of a dream. He could be bluffing, but I'm not, and what I have can't be beat.
Well, technically … it can be beat, but only if he out-straights me or boats on the river. I estimate the probabilities are pretty low--some guys actually work the numbers out in their heads, but doing that just makes me anxious.
Predictably, 8-Ball, Shrek, and Taxi fold.
I push all in. I've got 80 and some change, so Bean pulls back enough to match my bet. Everyone else folds: it's me and Bean, heads up.
We both throw our cards up and stand. He's got Q-8, and curses when he sees my slick jr. So he'd flopped a straight too … the wrap, though, not the big end like mine.
Thank god. That pot is all mine unless he rivers a K, in which case we split.
He yells at the board: "King! King!" Rain stands up and yells: "No King! No King!" A few other guys stand up and join in, Brad pushes all the chips into the center, letting the tension build a bit. I'm just working my cigar, because at the very least, I'll be splitting the pot with him.
"King!" "No King!" "King!" "No King!"
Burn and turn: the river is a 4. My take is 220 and some change.
It's 10:50, chatter is heavy and the play is light after such a big pot. I try not to meet Bean's eyes for some reason, which is a little awkward because he wants to re-buy and Shrek is out of chips, so Bean has to buy chips back from me.
I go back to getting dealt trash hands, so I keep folding out, which I can tell is annoying Bean because he wants to win some of his cash back.
It's 11 and Shrek asks me if this is my last hand, I nod, he announces that money is leaving the table after this hand. I get a K-2 suited so I stay for the flop, as does Bean and several others. I pair my K on the flop and I think he does too, because he immediately bets 5 and looks at me. I call, someone re-raises, Bean re-raises that, and I fold out.
I cash out after the hand and walk with 210. Minus my buy-in, pretty good night.