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“Getting Back to the Tables” by WannabeCoder

April 16, 2019

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After a hiatus, WannabeCoder is back at the tables … and the blog! Read his first foray into fiction, a short story about coming back to poker after a break.

“Hey there, Paragon. Are the fish biting today?” I asked, settling in across from the dealer, three seats to the left of the current button. It had been a couple of months since I’d made an appearance at my former haunt, the nickel-dime no-limit table at the Silver Mine Casino, and I was ready to make up for lost time. But first, the niceties must needs observing – greet the regs while disparaging the easy money.

“Some nibbles here and there, Coder. Just need some patience, and one of these hands’ll land me a big one.” Glancing down at Paragon’s stack belied his statement. He typically bought in at this table for a grand, and in front of him sat a gray $5K chip next to three radioactive-orange $1K chips, among rainbow-hued stacks of lesser denominations. Not a bad haul for an afternoon’s work.

“Looks like Ahab’s still hunting his whale,” I added, gesturing to our friend in the hijack. Luck, it would seem, had not been so kind to him. Just two black $100 chips sat next to a sad stack of about a dozen red $5 antes.

The one-eyed man growled out in response, “Not three hands ago, Paragon took me for a big pot. Cowboys and rockets. Had ‘im dead to rights, got the money in good pre-flop, and a course ‘e spikes the suicidal [expletive] king on the river. Shoulda asked to run it twice, but got greedy.” Ahab must have either changed in the months since I’d seen him, or been really tilted about that pot. I think that’s the most I’d heard him speak since we’d first met.

There were three fresh faces squaring off in the current hand. A twenty-something, jacked meathead, who I mentally nicknamed Juice, was in the big blind on my immediate right. In the small blind to his left sat a fresh-faced kid with massive headphones and a goofy haircut that couldn’t have been older than 21. Lastly, a cute redhead with a low-cut top had position on the other two in the cutoff. All three checked down the river, flipped their cards, and waited for the dealer to sweep the chips to the kid. “Nice work getting value from your nut straight, Beats,” Paragon called out. Beats didn’t react. Either he was choosing to ignore the table talk, or those headphones were the noise-cancelling type.

I posted my blind, two red $5 chips. “In his defense, it’s tough to get value out of position. Maybe he was trying to induce a bluff,” I posited, and was met with Paragon’s shrug. Juice flicked a red chip off his stack, the dealer grabbed a fresh deck from the shuffler built into the table, and dealt out the next hand. I observed as the UTG player glanced at his cards, tapped them once, then slid two red chips toward the middle. He was an older guy – probably either a retiree blowing his pension check, or on holiday looking to donate some cash to the local sharks.

The players quickly quieted down. I noticed that, except for Ahab and Paragon, many of the players were flatting the big blind, and most hands had 4-6 players going to the flop. About half an hour went by before I picked up my first playable hand – pocket tens – while under the gun. “Raise,” I announced, counting out $55 in chips. The regs got out of the way. Despite the large open, I still got called by the redhead, Beats, and Juice.

The flop was a nice one – the ace of hearts, ten of clubs, and three of spades. Beats decided to lead out, betting just $10 into a $220 pot. Juice paused for a few seconds, then put two red chips into the pot. Now I was in the hot seat. How to get value from middle set? Should I build up the pot, or slow-play middle set? I chose to bump it up, about 2/3 pot. “Raise to $170.” Red folded, Beats called, and Juice called. Interesting.

A seven of diamonds fell on the turn, completing the rainbow and ensuring there would be no flush. Beats and Juice checked it over to me. With a $730 pot, and only about a pot-sized bet left behind, I wasn’t going to be able to go three streets. Thinking a check-behind might induce a bluff on the river, I opted to check.

“Pot’s right,” called out the dealer, then flipped over the river card, a seven of clubs. Beats once again bet out $10, an incredibly small bet given the pot size. What surprised me even more was Juice’s response: “All in.”

After weighing my options for a moment, I made the call. There was very little that beat me – just a single combo of sevens, or three combos of aces – and despite some of the weird play, these guys seemed to know enough to 3-bet aces pre-flop. I moved my stack to the center and watched Beats insta-fold with a look of disgust on his face.

“Whaddya have?” asked Juice. I cocked an eyebrow, and turned my head to the dealer. “As the last raiser, I believe my opponent has to show his hand first. Isn’t that right?”

“The gentleman is correct. Sir, please show your hand.” The dealer gestured for Juice to flip over his cards. Scrunching up his face, he showed a busted straight draw – the King and Queen of spades. I gladly showed the table my boat, and asked the dealer to count out Juice’s stack. After confirming that I had him covered, the dealer slid the pot over toward me. I gathered in my winnings, tossing three red chips to the dealer.

“Hold my seat, heading to the ATM,” Juice grunted, before stomping away from the table.

It’s always nice to book an early win in a session. However, I still had a few hours before the missus expected me back home, and there were sharp players like Paragon that had my newly grown stack covered. Reminding myself to keep a clear head and keep playing my ‘A’ game, I posted my small blind. “Feels good to be back.”