Live poker, it can be weird at times.
I have a busy life, so I don’t get to play poker as much as I might like. Which means that I don’t necessarily know all the players at the table when I sit down. I’m usually playing the biggest game in the local card club, so there’s a smaller pool of players than the lower stakes games, but even then, there are routinely a handful of faces unfamiliar to me.
So I wasn’t surprised that, when I sat down in this $3/5 NLHE game, I didn’t recognize the fellow on my immediate left, who I’ll call “Watchcap.” I didn’t pay any particular attention to him, but it’s like a random bus driver in a Jeffrey Deaver novel. You think they’re just a bus driver, but suddenly they’re one of the prime characters in the book.
Watchcap wasn’t involved in the first few pots I watched, but half an orbit into my session, he got into a pot and lost all his chips. Yeah, I know – what we call “Tuesday” in a poker room. What followed was not what you call “Tuesday.”
The dealer called to the floorman to bring Watchcap some chips. He paid his money and got $1,000 worth of chips – a rack of $5 nickels, and five $100 chips. He then slid all of it forward, along with his big red “All-in” button. Except the dealer hadn’t dealt the next hand yet. Now he had my attention.
“You’re all-in?” she asked.
“Well, it’s not your action yet.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.”
He pulled all his chips and all-in button back. The blinds were put out, cards were dealt. I watched carefully – Watchcap never picked up his cards, simply slid them in front of him. Maybe the most shocking thing I saw was one of our recreational regulars just call the $10 straddle – I mean, you didn’t need an almanac to know what was going to happen next. Sure enough, everybody else folded to Watchcap, who quietly and without fanfare slid his $1,000 worth of chips forward.
It folded around to me, and I looked down at a king – oooooohhhhh – and an offsuit trey. I wasn’t sure how that was faring even if I were last to act, but with players behind me, it was a snap-fold.1 Everybody else folded, and Watchcap won $30 in dead money (including the inexplicable $10 limp in front of him).
Having won the pot, he also got the “rock” $10 straddle. So he put the $10 on the straddle button, but silently put both his hands behind the still racked $500 in nickels – nobody could miss his intent. Again, nobody wanted to dance with him, and he won $10.
The third hand was where things got interesting. One of the regulars in the game, inattentive as your average hawk, limped in mid-position. I mentally decided that I would limp with any hand I was willing to play against Watchcap for all the money. Hawk knows me, and would be very suspicious of my entering the pot. So if I limp and Watchcap shoves, Hawk has a problem: he has to act before I do. I was pretty sure that if Hawk decided to dance with Watchcap, knowing that I was still to act, JJ would be the weakest hand I could even think about playing.
Fortunately, or not, I had some random piece of trash and folded. As expected, Watchcap shoved his $1k and change into the middle, along with his all-in button. I was 100% sure he hadn’t looked at his cards.
Hawk couldn’t wait to get his chips in. “Let’s dance, Watchcap [using his real name] – I have AK.”
“You wanna turn ’em up one at a time after the board’s out?”
Watchcap might have been playing unorthodox poker, but at least he was having some fun with it.
The dealer ran the board out, and Hawk turned over one of his cards. A king, as advertised. There was a king on the board. Watchcap flipped up a card – a 5. There was a 5 on the board. Well. Hawk turned up his other card, the promised ace. No ace on the board, so Watchcap was drawing live, if slim. In the meantime, we had a crowd around the table – this was far better entertainment than any of the actual poker games that were running.
Watchcap slowly peeled over his other card – a jack. No jack on the board. The dealer, cool as a cucumber, pushed Watchcap’s chips over to Hawk.
“I’ll be right back – hold my seat.”
I just happened to be the last person to win a pot before Watchcap got back to the table, so I had the straddle and Watchcap was first to act.
“Hold up – I’m in for $1,000.”
“One thousand behind,” said the dealer.
Only it was in front, as Watchcap pushed out his all-in button even before the floorman could get chips to him, or the dealer could pitch cards. This was a huge advantage for me, since everybody would have to act before I did, except Watchcap. It folded around to me and I looked down at an eight. Then another one. Two snowmen smiling back at me.
“Okay, I call. I have eights.”3
“Fair enough.” And he turned up his cards: a queen and a nine.
“It’s a flip!” said the crowd.
Somehow I faded all of Watchcap’s outs, and the dealer pushed his newly minted chips to me.
Rinse and repeat
This continued for the next hour. Watchcap won a couple of his flips, and would then settle down and play “regular” poker for a little while. But then he’d whittle down his stack, and eventually decide it would be more fun to flip.
I lost track of the number of rebuys, all of them either $500 or $1,000, all of them ultimately distributed to other players.
Finally, he took a particularly brutal beat in a completely normal, legitimate hand of no-limit Texas hold’em. He stood up, said, “Seat open,” and walked away.
A passing player stopped to chat with a friend of his who was sitting on my immediate right. He noted the massive stacks around the table, in a game with a $1k max buy-in. A game that had dealt its first hand 90 minutes prior.
“What happened here?”
“[Watchcap] kinda lost his mind, but he made the whole table righteous.”
I played for another hour, and then had to tend to real life responsibilities.
I thought about all the weird cross-currents of strategy and tactics that were taking place there in our $3/5 game, just because Watchcap kinda lost his mind.
Live poker, it can be weird at times.
- I looked it up on PkrCruncher. I’d be ahead by a hair in almost an exact coin-toss (51.5 : 48.5) against two random cards. I don’t need the stomach ache.
- This particular limper was “never” doing that – they just weren’t paying attention to what was going on.
- This one is not close, particularly since I know nobody else can come into the pot. My pair of 8’s is a 69:31 favorite. My expected share of the $2k pot is almost $1400 on a $1k investment.