CasinoCityTimes.com

Gurus
News
Newsletter
Author Home Author Archives Author Books Send to a Friend Search Articles Subscribe
Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Newsletter Signup
Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Related Links
Related News
Recent Articles
Best of Ryan McLane

Gaming Guru

author's picture
 

Making Poker Fun Again

22 September 2006

On vacation in Las Vegas last week, I somehow convinced my girl that playing poker with her boyfriend would make for good quality time together. I taught her the little I know about live tournament play on the plane ride from Boston and when she felt ready, we sought out the Luxor Hotel and Casino Poker Room for her first live tournament. What I didn't realize was that watching her play and experience a rollercoaster of first-tournament emotions that would provide me with some valuable poker lessons – including why I started entering these crazy contests in the first place.

The Tournament

It was the Luxor's daily $22 morning tournament with one re-buy allowed. Only ten people signed up to play due to the 9 a.m. weekday start time. Even though the buy-in was low and the participation level was weak, this was still serious business because it was Chrissy Newcomb's live tournament debut.

Before the tournament: All Business

Shaky and unsure, Chrissy is pretending to listen to the witty early morning banter, but secretly, she's scared out of her mind and running through all the lessons she soaked up on the plane ride to Las Vegas. As each player sits down, she sizes them up, and like any first-timer, she automatically assumes they can all beat her. Normally I get chastised for ordering multiple heart-pumping energy drinks…she orders two. I think she's kicking herself for not wearing the short skirt and low-cut shirt ensemble I recommended. Even though it's early, the guys at the table look ready to give away their chips to any flirtatious female.

She watches me win my first pot - Man he gets lucky!

I wink at her and smile when the guy I just beat for my first pot tells me "He's just not getting the cards." She knows I was bluffing (girlfriends are like lie detectors) and I can picture this morning's last lesson running through her head, "It doesn't matter what cards you have, it only matters what cards people think you have." She relaxes a little, until she realizes she's the big blind. Sheer terror returns. "What if someone raises me" is plastered all over her face.

She wins her first pot: You mean betting works?

It took her more than a minute to raise a weak bet on the river. To everyone at the table, it looked like she was contemplating how many chips to extract with her monster hand. I knew better. She was trying to decide if my two pieces of advice from the previous evening were correct.

1.) People make weak bets on the river to try and pick up the pot.
2.) People often fold to raises from tight players because they look dangerous.

She tells me everyday that I'm wrong. This time, she thinks I'm right.

Her raise with a dramatic pause works like a charm. She rakes in enough chips to give her an above-average stack and she smiles and for the first time. You can see the stress escape from her body and she quickly moves into girly flirting mode, running over the middle-aged men who are drinking heavily at 9:30 a.m. She's still kicking herself for not wearing that skirt.

Her first bluff succeeds: Man I'm good at lying!

Continuation bets work for a reason - they look scary. After raising the pot three-times the big blind, my protégé fires at a painted flop with what I'm sure is nothing. Her caller, an aggressive player who was sure he could outplay "the girl," took a couple looks at her before making his decision. Here is what I imagine is going on in her head.

"Ok, my idiot boyfriend told me to bet after the flop if I raise pre-flop, especially when the hand is heads-up, but I'm holding nothing. Man my hand sucks and that board is scary. I guess it's ok because if this doesn't work, I can just break up with him. Ok, I'll bet. Why isn't this guy folding? He's supposed to fold. Why is he touching his chips? Oh my God he has an Ace, a set, two-pair - everything he has can beat me! What if he calls, or worse, what if he raises? Ok, I'm sure I lost this hand and now I'm screwed. Oh man, he's looking at me. Quick, look away. The stupid boyfriend told me to act weak when I'm bluffing. That doesn't even make sense! This was a bad idea. Wait, I won? He folded? Man I'm good. Give me those chips!"

Down to four players: Can I really win this thing?

Playing tight-aggressive poker, my protégé has earned her spot in the final four. Only two places pay, so she knows she has to stay aggressive to make the money. She calls a sizable raise then stares at a flop full of small-connected cards. The raiser fires a bet. I can see her thinking, is that a continuation bet? She pauses for a moment, then correctly decides to raise him up. Mr. A-K folds and she takes down a good-sized pot. "What'd you have?" the raiser asks her. "Nothing," she replies. That's my girl. I'm positive she had a pocket pair (she showed her pocket 3's after the hand). She smiles at her opponent with those sparkling green eyes, doing her best to say she was sorry the way only a woman can. Believe me, she's never sorry. What a liar.

Down to three players: Please, please, please let someone get knocked out.

Now she is nervous for a different reason. With only three players remaining (including me), she knew that she would either make the money, or go home with a bad bubble story. It's normally a good feeling to have, better than being the first person out. However, when you're sitting so close to victory, sometimes you wish you were already on the rail because the pressure is intense. Then, the remaining guy said something that changed everything. "There's no way I can beat a couple!" She lit up like a Christmas tree as soon as he said it and I know why. He showed weakness. We weren't playing together, we're far too competitive for that, but we're not above taking an advantage if one presents itself. On cue, we both start raising pots. She is the short stack, but she knows frustrated players make mistakes. She touches my hand, emphasizing our undying love to further her advantage. Devil woman!

Then it happened. She's waiting it out, trying to back into the money and she gets her wish. I'm the big blind and the third player raises me up the standard "three times the big blind" increment. I'm thinking he has an ace, but I have a cute and deceptive Q-3 and Aces don't always hit. The flop comes Q-Q-A. He bets his ace and I go into the tank. "Well, if you have the ace, you have the ace," I declare, throwing all my chips in the middle." He deliberates for an eternity and then calls. I show him the Queen and Chrissy breaks into the "I just got some jewelry from Tiffanys smile." No improvement for him on the turn and river meant me and the girl would play heads-up for the title. "Do you guys want to finish it out?" the dealer asked. "Deal the cards," she says. Even though she had only one big blind remaining, she wanted to win. I reach over for another hand holding session. She tells me to go to hell.

Heads-up Play: I guess I'm all-in.

It took one hand. I won with an eight high. She was pissed. We'll leave it at that.

The Lessons: Poker is fun!

We spent the rest of the day celebrating our little victory. After a bad run of blackjack the day before at the Stratosphere, our "bankroll" was at a point where the poker win was a nice little help. We're low rollers, but we went to Vegas to have a good time. We had tons of fun - and that's the point.

As veteran poker players, we sometimes get so caught up in the money and strategy, we forget we're playing a game. Watching someone experience tournament success for the first time can remind us that poker is supposed to be fun. I joke that I'm my girlfriend's poker mentor, but the truth is, she has talent and anyone can learn to play well if they're willing to try. She makes rookie mistakes, but she only makes them once. And here is the kicker - she's happy winning $90. That's a poker player.

The more we play, the more we dream of the $12 million payday. As amateurs, we need to remember that if poker was easy, we'd all be millionaires. Take the wins as they come, no matter what size the prize, and if you can, teach someone new how to play. It will not only bring fresh players to the game, it will also improve your play because we remember what we teach.

And guys, if you can teach your girls to play poker, life is good. Then you can ask the question, "Honey, you want to go play some poker?" Many guys try this then spend the rest of their vacation apologizing. Not me. I convinced my girl she could play - and holy crap, she could. That was the greatest poker move of my career. Now she's the one asking me if we can go play in a tournament.


Mucking McLane
Related Links
Related News
Recent Articles
Best of Ryan McLane
Ryan McLane

Ryan McLane was a poker reporter for Casino City. Although he has a strong background in reporting, the same can't be said for his poker skills. He has never won a major tournament nor is he a professional player. He applied for this job thinking it was a joke, only to find it out that it's true, people will pay you to write about poker. His favorite word is ridiculous.

After receiving his BA in History from Stonehill College in Easton, MA, he somehow ended up freelance reporting for a couple years before being deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom III with the Massachusetts National Guard. He's back now and is a strong advocate of the phrase "God Bless America."

Currently, Ryan lives in Boston and occasionally makes international treks to cover tournament poker and news. Feature writing is his passion and there is no need to ask for his opinion, he'll probably offer it first - free of charge.
Ryan McLane
Ryan McLane was a poker reporter for Casino City. Although he has a strong background in reporting, the same can't be said for his poker skills. He has never won a major tournament nor is he a professional player. He applied for this job thinking it was a joke, only to find it out that it's true, people will pay you to write about poker. His favorite word is ridiculous.

After receiving his BA in History from Stonehill College in Easton, MA, he somehow ended up freelance reporting for a couple years before being deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom III with the Massachusetts National Guard. He's back now and is a strong advocate of the phrase "God Bless America."

Currently, Ryan lives in Boston and occasionally makes international treks to cover tournament poker and news. Feature writing is his passion and there is no need to ask for his opinion, he'll probably offer it first - free of charge.