Bring your own fork

July 29, 2006 - Saturday

 No Limit … Gangstah!!!

I went out for more poker last night, this time at the Commerce, and pretty much got my ass handed to me. First, because I wasn’t getting the cards. Second, because I started making the game personal.

There were three “young people” in their mid to late twenties at the opposite end of the table: a very pretty girl, her boyfriend, and their idiot friend. They were all playing pretty tight, and the girl was catching hand after hand after hand — it seemed like every hand she played, she’d flop a flush or a straight or a full house. And naturally, I had second hand in most of those pots, so she was taking me down pretty good. Her boyfriend was playing pretty well too, but I started to get a pretty good read on him toward the end and took a couple of big pots from him when I caught him bluffing. And the idiot friend was … well, an idiot. He had pocket 4s and flopped a set on an early hand and thought he was a poker god from that point on. Luck seems to love idiots like him.

But what made it personal for me was the idiot friend. Loud. Obnoxious. Wearing a HUGE bling-bling wristwatch, along with a purple dress shirt with French cuffs and cufflinks and his name embroidered on the cuffs. And he was a wigger. Except he was Asian, which I guess made him… What? A jigger? Chigger? Kigger? Whatever, he was a total pain in the ass. I ended up staying in hands, chasing cards that could never come, just hoping that maybe I’d get lucky and beat him like a red-headed stepchild.

First, his betting style. Every time — EVERY time — the action came around to him, he’d sit. And think. And pointedly look around the table at every person’s chips, counting them. Then he’d sit. And think. Some more. Even when it was obvious that he was going to fold, he’d do this. Because he wanted us to know that he was a force to be reckoned with.

And if he was betting… Oh my god, that was a production, too. After sitting. And thinking. And counting everyone’s chips. He’d slowly. Deliberately. Carefully. Count out the chips he was betting. Stack them neatly. And then slowly, oh so slowly, place his hand palm up on the table behind them and ssslllooowwwlllyyy slide them in, pushing with his fingertips. And then bring his hand back with a flourish.

And then if he won — either because everyone folded to his bet or someone called him and his hand held up… Oh. My. God. The celebration. He’d jerk in his chair, pump his fists, yelp “Yessss!!!” and then start up with what pissed me off the most: “GANGstah!!! Oh yeah, that was so GANGstah! We’re keepin’ it GANGstah!!!” at the top of his lungs. Pocket Aces? Gangstah. Eight high flush? Gangstah. Seven/deuce with a deuce on the river? Gangstah. And if one of his friends won, we’d get the same “GANGstah!” crowing, along with him leaning over the table and pointing at whoever had lost the hand and bellowing “DEVASTATING!!!”

I wanted to rip his head off and shit down his neck. And the other two were getting under my skin, too, with their choruses of “Ohhhh, SNAP!!!” whenever one of them turned over a winning hand.

And so I played too many hands, chasing cards that never came, and ended up doing exactly the opposite of what I wanted to do: I gave them all my money. And I’m sure they’re telling stories now about the fat old guy who walked away from the table DEVASTATED!!!!

I hate poker sometimes.


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July 28, 2006 - Friday

 I’m #15!

I played in a No Limit Hold Em tournament at the Bike yesterday and finished in 15th place, which also paid $55. Woo, go me. 15th out of 89 players isn’t too bad, and the fifty-five bucks… Well, that almost covers what I spent on the entry fee and rebuys. So all things considered, I won about -$15. Woo.


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January 14, 2006 - Saturday

 Playing The Rush

I hit the Commerce for some poker last night and absolutely killed. I bought in for just $60 and cashed out about 2 hours later + $250. Sweet. I was in the zone and on a rush and absolutely ran over everyone at the table.

I usually play no-limit, but since I’ve been so up and down there lately and have gotten my ass handed to me the last few sessions, this time I decided to just play 3/6. You know, go back to my roots. I also decided to play more aggressively than I usually do and see how that worked for me. Conclusion: like a charm.

The worst hand of the night was also the one that seemed to spark my rush. I had suited J4 and I forget exactly what happened with the initial round of pre-flop betting, but I accidentally raised once thinking I was calling someone else’s raise, and then someone else re-raised that and then the button re-raised that and capped the betting and I ended up calling all the raises because I was already in for two bets and it was only $6 more and what the hell.

So the flop came J4x. Sweet. Two pair for me. That had to be a pretty good hand in the face of all that pre-flop betting.

I bet out $3 and most of the table folded, but the button — the one who capped it pre-flop — raised me. I re-raised him and that made everyone else fold, and the he re-re-raised me back and I called.

At this point I put him on maybe a big pocket pair — A, K or Q — or maybe a Jack, and I was mostly afraid that I’d have kicker problems, that he had paired his Jack and would make a bigger second pair.

The turn was a 7. I bet, he raised, I re-raised and he called. When he didn’t re-re-raise me I was pretty sure he just had the one Jack and was still trying to catch a second pair, so I was in good shape.

But then the river was another 7. I knew I was dead.

Sure enough, he turned up a J8. It was a crap hand, but the two sevens on the board gave both of us a bigger two pair than I started with, and his kicker was bigger than mine and so it played. The pot was his.

But on the other hand, after I lost that pot I started a monster winning streak. It seemed that half the time the flops would hit me over the head and everybody would call me all the way down and I’d win the showdown, or I’d bluff and check-raise with nothing and everyone would fold to me. It was a beautiful thing.

For awhile there, I was invincible and I was running the table. But all good things come to an end, and so did my rush. I eventually lost a few small pots and could feel the magic was gone, and then when I misread two hands in a row (one I won, the other I lost) I figured I was tired and it was time to go.


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November 20, 2005 - Sunday

 SpongeBob Has My Back

Part of my poker geekery is my ongoing quest for the perfect card protector. A card protector is something you put on top of your cards as they’re sitting on the table so the dealer doesn’t mistakenly scoop them up and fold your hand for you. Different people use different things — I’ve seen people use poker chips, little ceramic frogs, medallions, etc… Everyone has their own lucky thing. And I’ve been searching for mine. And I think I’ve finally found it. Meet SpongeBob SquarePants:

My Protector

I took SpongeBob to the Commerce tonight, where together we won more than $500. Oh yeah.

The best hand of the night would have to be the last hand of the night. I have AK offsuit and am in middle position. The guy in front of me raises it preflop to $40. I re-raise it to $80 and he calls.

The flop comes 9-9-Q. The guy bets $50, I raise it to $100, he calls.

The turn is an Ace, giving me two pair. He bets $50 again, I raise all-in with something like $150. I now have more than $350 in the pot. He calls. Holy shit. I figure he must have AA and hope that I’m wrong.

We turn up our cards and I’m stunned to see that he only has 8-8. The player to his right, who folded long ago, says “I folded pocket eights!” and my opponent starts pounding the table and cursing. With all the eights out, I’m a lock to win the hand and he’s drawing dead. I don’t even remember what the river was, and it didn’t matter anyway.

$750+ pot, push it right this way, dealer. Cha-motherfucking-ching, baby!

SpongeBob gets to play poker with me every time now.


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November 19, 2005 - Saturday

 There’s A Limit To No-Limit

Poker again tonight. After spending the early evening falling asleep on the couch in front of the TV, I decided at 10:30 that the sensible thing to do was to go play poker at the Commerce. And so I did.

I started out at the $100 No-Limit table where, in short order, I had my ass handed to me. After maybe 30 minutes in, I was down $200. I couldn’t catch a hand to save my life, and when I did catch one the other guy would out-draw me. It was fugly. The hand where I flopped two pair and raised it all the way down only to see the other guy make a flush on the river with his absolute garbage starting hand, well, that was the last straw. I called it a night after that and headed for the door.

But on the way to the door I passed an ATM machine. A sign, obviously. So I took out some more cash and sat down at the 4-8 Hold-em table. Go big or go home, as Beth would say, while cringing that I was opting for big after starting for home.

But not to worry, 4-8 was good to me. I won back the $200 I’d lost plus another $100 by the time I left, so I count that as a good night. Because let’s face it, any night when you stagger to the cashier holding four racks of chips to cash out is a good night, especially if you only bought in for one of them.

Best hand of the night is hard to pin down. Was it the one where I had AA vs KK and he kept reraising me on every round? Or was it when I bluffed the guy with top pair out of the pot on the river with just an $8 re-raise?

No, I think it was the hand where I played 5-7 offsuit just for the hell of it. The flop came 4-8-Q and I went ahead and called a raise along with two other players. Then a 6 came on the turn, giving me a stealth straight, and one guy raised and another guy called and I re-raised and the first guy called and then the second guy re-raised me and then called when I capped it! And on the river we played the raise / re-raise game until he turned over trip Queens and was absolutely stunned by my straight. There was a buttload of money in that pot when the dealer pushed it my way.

Suh, and also weet. I love poker sometimes. Maybe I need to get back to playing Limit more.


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October 16, 2005 - Sunday

 Back In The Plus Column

I hit the Bike for poker again last night. I know, I know: I keep swearing I’m going to quit and then I go back and play some more. The first step to recovery is admitting that you have a problem, and I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been having a problem lately with losing. Last night, I finally achieved recovery and ended the session + $280.

Best hand of the night was when I was dealt 7-7. When I looked at my cards I felt a certainty that there’d be another one on the flop. But I feel that way almost every time I get pocket pair, especially when they’re Aces or Kings, and I’m usually wrong, so I just called. But this time I was right: the flop came 3-7-Q rainbow, giving me a set with no flush or straight possibilities out there. Sweet.

The guy in front of me bet $10, so I re-raised him $10 — enough to suck a little more cash out of him but not make him fold. Everyone else folded around to him … and he re-re-raised me another $40.

Well.

I stopped down and thought about it for a minute. What the hell was he raising me with? I kept looking at the board and trying to figure out if I was missing something there. He couldn’t be drawing to a flush or a straight — well, he could, but stupidly since he’d need runner-runner to get there — and I was certain he didn’t have trip Queens, so the only possibility was two pair. That put me out in front and him chasing, so since I didn’t want to let him catch a full house I re-re-re-raised him a whole stack — $100. But he called all-in. Wow. And also uh-oh.

But the river was a thing of beauty: a 7. That gave me four of a kind, the absolute nuts. And I had been right about his hand: two pair, Queens and threes. Push that nice big pot to me.

Aaaah, I love having the nuts.


When I stopped at the cash machine when I first got there, I found incontrovertible evidence of someone else who clearly had not had the nuts:


Now that’s a gambling problem.


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August 20, 2005 - Saturday

 Here’s Your Sign

I was working down in beautiful downtown Santa Ana yesterday, and my route home took me right past The Commerce. I’m weak: I stopped in to play some poker.

First stop: the ATM to take out my standard $100 buy-in. That was literally my first stop, and it was a full stop: I got no cash. Instead, I got an error message about an “Invalid Transaction”. Since taking cash out of my bank account is, in my opinion, the most valid of transactions, I immediately identified this as a problem. I tried again — because I’m human and stupid and like most people will press an already-lit elevator button or repeat an “invalid transaction” — and amazingly got the same error.

I knew that, technically, this had to be a bank problem, but realistically it was my problem. The bank still had access to my money while I did not. Ergo: my problem. I figured I knew exactly what the problem was, too.

I have two checking accounts: mine for just me, and a joint account with Beth. Each of those accounts has an ATM card; I carry the one for my personal checking account and Beth carries the joint one. But Beth lost hers recently. (And she’ll try to tell you that I lost it when she loaned it to me but this is my blog and I’m telling the story so she’s lying, okay?) So I called the bank to have that card reissued. That was the problem.

When I talked to the dumber-than-fuck customer support drone on the phone, I explained in excrutiating detail exactly what the situation was: two accounts in my name, two ATM cards, one missing, whose card was whose, which card was missing, which card needed replacing, and I was very very very very very very very very very clear about which card did not need replacing: mine.

“Replace my wife’s card,” I said several times.

“Do not replace my card, I’m holding it in my hands right now,” I said several times.

“The card that’s linked to my personal account is just fine, don’t cancel it,” I said several times.

“You’re not going to cancel my card, right?” I asked several times.

So of course the numb cunt cancelled my card.

Beth’s card — the missing card? Still active. Also: still lost. Morons.

So I was stymied at the casino ATM. The one place in the whole casino where I’m guaranteed to win, and I lose. Fuck.

So I whipped out my Visa card. Hey, I had already pulled off the freeway, found a parking space, and set foot in the casino — I wasn’t about to waste all that effort. So I whipped out my credit card to take cash on that, stuck it in the ATM machine … and realized I didn’t know the PIN.

I called the credit card customer service, who couldn’t/wouldn’t/didn’t do much for me. They offered to mail me a new PIN and didn’t seem to grasp the obviousness of the phrase “That’s not going to help me right now, is it?”

But all hope was not lost. I was at a casino, where they are experts at extracting cash. And sure enough, they had a procedure I could follow that would allow me to get a C-note out of my credit card — and it was only going to cost me $12 to do it! So I did all the little card-swipey button-pushy firstborn-pledgy things the credit card machine asked, and then got a message that said to go get my money from the cashier.

The cashier took my ID and my credit card and worked her magic juju on her computer and then she came back to me. Without cash.

“I need your signature on the card,” she said.

Fuck. I don’t sign my credit cards. Instead, I write “Ask for ID.” That way, in theory, any time the card is used ID has to be verified and someone who steals my card can’t use it. But that’s theory. In practice, most stores never even glance at the back of the card, let alone ask to see my ID when they do. But still: I don’t sign my cards. Period. Mine says “Ask for ID.” She had my ID. With my signature on it. Good enough.

Not good enough. She positively absolutely had to have my signature on my card to give me any cash. So I caved and signed it. And of course the pen I used was A) a fine point that will hardly write on plastic in the first place, and B) was running out of ink. So my “signature” (written over “Ask for ID” written in Sharpie) was essentially illegible.

She couldn’t accept that signature even though she watched me do it. She had to check with her supervisor. She had to join the growing list of people who were pissing me off by restricting my access to my money when I had a poker jones on.

But I remained pleasant. I kept smiling and joking. Because the whole ridiculousness of the situation was inescapable. The Fates or the Poker Gods or Bank of America was sending me a big-ass signal: No Gambling For You Tonight. So I had to laugh about it.

As I stood there waiting for the supervisor to come back and deny my request to have some of my money, I figured the whole thing for a sign and decided the supervisor would be the last word. If she said no, then the powers that be really were telling me to go home. Then the teller came back and basically said the same thing: “This is like that Jeff Foxworthy line: here’s your sign. So if she (the supervisor) says no, I think that’s your sign and you should go home.” And that clinched it that, yes, this was a sign.

Then the supervisor walked up and gave me a sign: a $100 stack of chips. I was in!

It only took me 20 minutes to lose it all.

I took it as a sign. I gave up and went home.


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August 13, 2005 - Saturday

 Poker In The Rear

I had a bad, bad night of poker tonight. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to illustrate just how bad it was with the phrase “anally violated” without offending my mother if she happens to read this entry but I just can’t pull it off, so let’s just say “I had a bad, bad night” and leave it at that while I tuck the tattered remnants of my colon back into my sock so it stops dangling out of the bottom of my pant leg and dragging on the ground.

Anyway. Sometimes the Poker Gods smile on you and bless you with hands like AA and AK that hold up against everything, even 7-2 offsuit, and when they do you rake the pots and smile and life is good. And then other times they let you sit there for three hours seeing the same four or five hands — 7-2, 10-5, K-3, 8-5 — over and over and over again, and on the few occasions that you catch a real hand they give the other guy a slightly better one. Those times you just lose your cool and you lose your money. Tonight was one of those nights.

It was so bad, I even got into it with a dealer tonight. I’m a pretty polite player generally, even when I’m getting crushed like I was tonight. I get pissed off and go on tilt and start muttering and want to rip the cards in half, but I don’t take it out on the dealer. Some players curse at the dealers and throw cards at them and threaten them and blame them for everything that ever went wrong in their life. Me, the worst I do is mutter to them, “You can give me a real hand anytime now.”

Tonight, though, I got a prima donna dealer. I was folding yet another piece-of-shit hand — 7-5 os or some crap like that — and I was maybe just a little bit forceful when I threw them into the muck. Into the muck — that’s key. And since I was sitting right next to the dealer as I did this, I guess my cards brushed the back of his hand as I did it. Well. You’d think I had pinned him to the table and beaten the crap out of him.

“Sir! Sir! Do not throw your cards at me! And do not touch my hands with your hands when you are folding your cards! I will not allow you to assault me again!”

I felt bad for about a split second, then I remembered that I hadn’t thrown my cards at him and my hands hadn’t touched his and that I hadn’t assaulted him. Then I thought about going ahead and doing all those things if he was going to claim I did them anyway. Instead, I just gaped at him, surprised and a little baffled. The rest of the table reacted the same way — I hadn’t done any of the things he was bitching about, so none of us knew what his problem was.

So I was diplomatic about it. Sort of. I told him “I’ll see what I can do.”

Well. That triggered another tizzy: “No! You don’t see what you can do, you have to do it! I will call the floorman and he will make you do it!”

I sat there for a moment, he sat there for a moment, nobody said anything. Then he just started dealing cards again and the moment was over. And from then on, every hand I was folding — which was most of them — I would wait until I had his full attention, announce “Look out dealer, I’m about to fold, watch your hands, cards are coming in, look out!” and then carefully, delicately place my cards in the middle of the table, far, far away from his hands so he’d have to reach for them.

Juvenile, I know. I don’t care. Wah.

There was no best hand of the night this time around. Instead, I’ll share two losing hands that were typical of tonight’s session.

#1: I have A-Q and the flop comes Q-4-8. I go all-in with my last $35 and one player calls with K-Q. The turn was a rag, and of course the river was a K.

#2: I have pocket 4’s and the flop comes 555. I go all-in with my last $40 and one player calls. His cards? K-5. And then to add insult to injury, the river was a K.

Sometimes poker just isn’t fun. At all.


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August 8, 2005 - Monday

 You Can’t Always Win

Poker again this weekend, this time at the Bike. Ended up losing $200, but I had a good time, so it’s okay. Eh, who am I kidding, losing $200 is never okay. But at least I didn’t want to kill anyone over it.

Best hand of the night:

The guy in seat #1 had apparently been acting like an ass all night before I sat down at the table, and in true Poker Ass fashion he had been catching the cards to let him win repeatedly and get cocky and thus be an ass. In fact, there had been a big argument between him and another player just before I sat down, where he made some dumb-ass play and got lucky and won and then started lecturing the other player about why his bonehead play had been the height of genius. So he had half the table against him and was ripe for a spanking when I got there.

I was in seat #9, which put him immediately to my left, which meant he got to act after me. So if I called a blind, he was able to immediately raise me. Which he did consistently, betting $20 almost every time I got into a pot. Which would normally be fine, but I was calling $3 blinds with speculative hands and didn’t really want to get raised, especially every single friggin’ time. It was obvious that he was targeting me specifically, and it was especially annoying because he only did it when I was calling with a crap hand hoping to get lucky. Every time I had a real hand and called, he folded. Idiot radar or something.

Then, finally, I had half a hand. Or maybe not even that good, maybe a quarter of a hand. Two twos: deuces, ducks, the lowest pair you can get. But: a pair. And a pair of deuces can be a monster if you catch another one on the flop, giving you a set.

So I called and sure enough he raised me $20. So I raised him back $25. And that surprised him, because he was the Big Stack at the table and who was this new guy challenging him with a reraise? So he called me and we looked at the flop.

I hated the flop. There was no deuce. Instead, there was a King and a Jack and a 4. It was a terrible flop for me. And I was first to act, which meant he was going to get to try to push me around some more if I showed weakness and checked. So I bet out $25, hoping he’d fold. And he called.

Damn. But then I thought about how he’d been playing up ’til now. He raised $20 pre-flop on most hands like he’d done here, and then he made another big bet when he had a big card. An Ace, specifically. The fact that he had only called me, not reraised, told me he probably didn’t have an Ace. Probably.

The dealer dealt the 4th card, the Turn: An Ace. Shit. If the other guy had an Ace, he had me beat and was absolutely going to kill me. I decided to make him prove it and bet another $25. He called.

Just called. No raise. As aggressively as this guy had been playing, the fact the he hadn’t raised me made me pretty sure he didn’t have an Ace — or a King or a Jack.

The dealer dealt the last card, the river: an 8.

No pair on the board, lots of high cards, even a paired eight had my 2-2 beat. I did the only thing that made sense against this guy: I bet out $50. He didn’t even think about it, he just folded.

And, man, was he pissed when I showed him my little baby pocket pair: he had folded an 8.

The two big hands I lost later in the night that sealed my fate losing $200, those I’m not proud of — one was a bad read and the other was just me picking the wrong time to push all-in on a semi-bluff — but spanking that guy with my deuces was cool.


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July 30, 2005 - Saturday

 The Big Stack

Poker again at the Commerce tonight on the $100 No Limit table. I ended the night + $200.

I had several hundred dollars in chips in front of me toward the end, making me the Big Stack at the table. It’s good to be the Big Stack. It’s fun. First, because you’ve built this big stack up by taking money away from the other players, which is about %1000 percent better than having them take yours. Secondly, because in No Limit chips are like bullets, and the more ammo you have the better. So you can flop middle pair with no kicker and bet out big to scare everyone else into folding. Or you can slow play absolute crap, calling other players’ raises on the flop and the river and then come over the top at them on the river with a bet big enough to put them all-in and watch them fold because they’re not quite sure where you are and they aren’t quite willing to risk it all on the chance that you’re not bluffing — and you are bluffing, because you can afford to lose if they get brave and call you. But mostly being the Big Stack is fun because you’re the big dog at the table and what you do influences everything everyone else at the table does — everyone’s watching to see what you’re going to do. They’re afraid to bet because you might raise them, or they won’t play if you’re in the hand, or they fold to your small raise, etc…. They fear you, which is always good for the ego.

Best hand of the night:

The player to my right was a young kid who was very sharp, very on top of the game, and very eager for you to know it. He was jabbering all night, predicting (usually correctly) what everyone’s hand was, telling me why he played each hand the way he did, telling the (really incredibly stupid) dealer how to read the winning hands, etc. He was aggressive and confident and really a pretty good poker player. Also, kind of annoying. Also, the chip leader — until I sat down at the table.

Me and Mr. Poker ended up in a hand together. I had AQ offsuit and the flop came 10-Queen-4. There was two to a flush on the board and I had no piece of that. What I had right then was top pair with a top kicker.

One of the players bets out $20, one other player calls, and then Mr. Poker raises in front of me to $60. I think about it for a minute. I think if someone had a set they would have bet it harder, and I don’t think Mr. Poker has one — I think he’s just being aggressive and I have him on a Queen, maybe on a flush draw. I think my top pair is good right now, but that won’t last long if I let the other players stay in to pair a King or catch a flush. I need to bet big to get everybody else out and take down the pot. And so I totally overplayed the hand: I went all-in with $150. I wanted to make damn sure that people folded or that I’d get paid off big if they called me and missed.

The other two players couldn’t fold fast enough. But Mr. Poker… Mr. Poker couldn’t believe I had come over the top at him like that. He intimidated me with his poker savvy by predicting my hand: “What have you got, Ace-Queen? You have Ace-Queen, huh?” I agreed that I did indeed have Ace-Queen.

He shuffled his chips and stared at the cards and muttered about how maybe I had a flush draw or I could be bluffing or I could have flopped a set or did I have Ace-Queen? And I agreed again that, yes, I had Ace-Queen. And he asked if his Queen-Jack was good and I told him that, no, it wasn’t, but he should feel free to call with it if he didn’t believe me. And he shuffled and muttered some more and then finally he showboated.

He said, “This is how a real poker player does it,” and he turned up Queen-Jack and mucked it. So I turned up my Ace-Queen and told him “Good lay-down.”

For some reason, that infuriated him. He got really flustered, kept insisting “I knew what you had, you didn’t have to show!” and I kept saying “I just wanted you to know you were right!” and he got very agitated. Man, did that get to him.

And that’s why that was the best hand of the night: it got to him. For some reason, that one hand totally took him out of his game and he just fell apart and started hemorrhaging chips after that — mostly to me. Before long, he was busted out and I was the Big Stack.

That was fun.


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