Beware the breath mints

Lee Jones
Published by:
Posted on March 3, 2022 8:51 am EST

This morning, I helped them start the $3/5 NL hold’em game at my local club. I see a kid sit down in the #3 seat. He’s got loose-fitting clothes, dreadlocks, earring. But there’s this vibe coming off him…

A brief tangent: I’m a scuba diver. And my very most favorite thing to see when I’m scuba diving is sharks. Why? Because when you see a shark swim over a reef, you know that you’re looking at 300 million years of refinement and polishing. They are elegant and beautiful in every respect. Furthermore, and this is going back to my poker game, they exude a sense of belonging. This animal knows it is supposed to be there, it is the top predator around, and it is comfortable in its skin and its environment.

That was the aura coming off this kid as he arranged his chips in front of him and got his earbuds situated. He was as comfortable in the #3 seat as a gray reef shark is swimming near a Pacific atoll. I wish I could be more specific, but I’m the third person at the table, and my spidey senses are all, “I think I need to be in the #4 seat.”

Our $3/5 game immediately adds a $10 winner straddle, so we’re playing $3/5/10. For the next three hours, this young man puts on a clinic in selective hyper-aggression. He doesn’t play a lot of pots, but when he does, man, he just bets bets bets. The usual suspects don’t know what to do with this.

The $100 chips at this club are white, and they’re a bit oversized relative to the others. He starts with five (there’s a $1k max buy-in), and pretty quickly builds that stack up to ten. And he’s as carefree about firing them into a pot as if he were tossing breath mints to somebody across the table. It was fascinating to watch. They’d call the flop, they’d call one or two breath mints on the turn, like they think he’s going to slow down, but then boom, four breath mints on the river, and they fold.

I get deep stuck early on, but then win a couple of pots by letting BreathMintMan bet at me for a couple of streets, and then he checks the river, I bet three breath mints, and he folds.

Then I win two dealer-change bomb pots in a row, which helps my stack a lot.

Next thing I know, I’ve got a $2.5k stack, he’s got a $3k stack, and everybody else is on $1k-ish. The only difference between his stack and mine is that most of his is profit.

Meanwhile, there’s a guy on my immediate left, who has been lighting money on fire, $200 (the minimum buy-in) at a time. He’s just doubled up, and is on $500. Three people limp, I make it $70 in the cutoff with A♣J♣. Pyromaniac and two others call, including BreathMintMan.

With $280 in the pot, the flop is a favorable T♣52♣. It checks to me, and I bet $150. Pyromaniac snap calls, the other two fold. I am not sad to see BreathMintMan out of the pot, because he would be perfectly capable of check-raising to five breath mints and putting me in a miserable position.

There’s $580 in the pot going to the turn, which is the 7♣ (Yahtzee – I have the nuts). I whisper a silent prayer to the poker gods, and check. Pyromaniac tosses his “All-in” button in. I snap call and turn up my hand – whatever he had, he was drawing dead. Apparently, he decided it wasn’t his day, and left the table. The game had just gotten a lot worse, but things were about to go further downhill.

I’m now sitting on $3k, and BreathMintMan moves into the #5 seat, on my immediate left. I take this as a compliment, presuming that he was tired of being on my right, and he wanted to, ah, turn the tables, as it were.

I played two hands, and then decided it was time for me to go. No, I didn’t even play to my blinds. There was no universe in which I wanted to sit 300 big blinds deep with this competent and aggressive reef shark young man on my immediate left. If he took it as a compliment that I left the table rather than sit on his immediate right, that’s fine.

He was welcome to spend the afternoon throwing breath mints at other people.