Friday, December 17, 2004

Landing a Juicy Fish

I woke up from my nap with dollar signs dancing through my head. We'd just landed in Phoenix, and I had the itch. One more hour to go.

Wolfing down my cheeseburger at the airport, we joked and laughed, eager for the flights to end, to fall out of the clear skies and into the smoky depths of a casino. Couldn't wait.

Lest you think I have some sort of gambling problem, well, I probably do, but mainly I was looking forward to see how well I stack up against other poker players; how I handle myself in these games. And in that regard, the trip did not disappoint.

We breezed through the airport and flew from the cab into the Excalibur. Ignoring the statues of knigts and dragons, we made it from the lobby to our room to the tables in minutes flat.

And the poker began.

I'd made some modest gains and was enjoying a cold beer when Joe Frat Boy strutted over to the table. He settled in the third position and began buying hands like crazy -and I do mean crazy - K-2o, 3-6o, no difference. He played 'em all - and kept winning.

Patience counseled my inner voice. "Man I want a piece of him," I said to the guy next to me. "Good luck," he said. "You've got the stack, but he's lucky as hell."

The poker gods finally smiled when black nines smiled up at me. I limped into the flop and prayed Joe Frat would ride along. He called, and the flop came up: 9-4-2 rainbow. There it was. I checked to him, and he bet. And nearly fell out of his seat when I raised him. How dare anyone raise him? Hadn't happened yet. And he wasn't going to take it, so he raised me back. And I reraised him.

On the turn, I saw a lovely sight: another 4. All I had to do was ride my boat down the river. But before that, I had a fish to land. We bet and raised each other to the maximum through the turn and river.

The look on his face when my full house beat his two pair was priceless. I honestly wish I had a camera. I'll give him this: he was classy - he congratulated me on a well-played hand.

As he grew increasingly drunk, the table all had a turn at him; hell, I had another, but he eventually busted out.

All told, I was up about $40 for the night, and I really needed sleep. It was nearly five in the morning after all, and I still had to play in a tournament against a bunch of people who would likely kick my ass and send me packing home.

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