The Hazards of Being a Poker Role Model

When a Looney Says: "I Learned That From You"

Poker Stories"If you can't find a good role model, be one."
-- Gale Ann Hurd

I've previously written about how when flop games came to California in the 1980s that it was the seed of the seed of the seed of the poker boom. And, I've also written about how as flop games were gradually rolled out around the state (it didn't happen all at the same time) there were many opportunities for rounder-types to play with locals playing the flop games for the first time. This article talks about two crazy hands I played in Prunedale, north of Salinas, that sound too absurdly wild to be true, but nonetheless they did happen.

I was living in Santa Cruz at the time, so my regular commute radius ranged from 75 miles to Emeryville (Oakland) in the north to Salinas, 40 miles to the south. The trip to Emeryville had to avoid tons of San Francisco Bay area traffic, while the drive to Salinas included a lot of rural two-lane roads. To go to the one-table club in Salinas though, I had to drive directly by the two clubs in Marina/Monterey (usually three games going) and the "two crazy hands" club in Prunedale (two games usually). Read that "two crazy hands" article, then ask yourself: how fantastic must a one table game be in Salinas for a person to actually drive by a two-table pool of money-shedding fish in Prunedale?

The answer is... pretty freaking fantastic!

Contributing features of the Salinas game is that it was played on an oddly-shaped eleven-handed table, and the players usually included three or four people who would deal one hour each night... meaning every dealer was dealing to people who would themselves deal that night, which meant tips were usually $5-15, in a $3/6 Limit Hold'em game. And if ever there was a place that proved the adage that "as long as there are bad poker players, there will be good poker dealers", it was Salinas.

There was even one time when the club owner made the game twelve-handed... because the guy who came in was a "live" player. I was dumbfounded. This was a game where 10-11 people took the flop (depending upon whether I folded pre-flop or not). How could this fellow merit being so much more live than the others that they would make the game twelve-handed for him? Well, since he went to the showdown every single hand no matter what, I could see the point. Never folded, ever. Must not have had a fold button on his screen.

So anyway, when I'm playing the Salinas game one night, I'm dealt A♠Q♠ on the button. It was limped to me, so I raised, the blinds call, the original limper re-raises and another player caps it... eleven-handed, capped pot. The flop comes down J♠T♠8♡. The original limper bets, all call to me, I raise, one blind calls, limper reraises, everybody calls, I cap it, everybody calls... ten-handed capped on the flop.

The turn comes a curious card, the 9♢, so the board is JT98. My AQ makes the #2 nut hand, a straight, with the nut flush and Royal Flush draw. Now the player in the blinds bets. Since this player had only called on the flop, I put him more likely on a Q than KQ, but when the action gets to me, the original bettor had gotten six callers, so what the hell, I'm getting 7-1 on my flush draw alone, so I raise, the blind reraises, they all call, so what the hell, I cap it.

And the river card comes a beautiful 2♠. The blind bets, one caller, then a third person raises! I reraise, the blind calls, as does one other player, and the third person caps it... four-handed capped on the river.

I scoop an utterly enormous pot (the third person had a small flush, the person in the blind did only have a queen, and lord knows what the fourth player had).

The dealer of this hand was a feisty, middle-aged Korean woman, Kimlee. I tipped her about $10 and it was on to the next hand.

After about six weeks of such mega-loose games, the Salinas players improved enough to the point that driving by Prunedale no longer made sense, so I only played in Salinas two or three times after that point... and never after flop games finally came to Garden City in San Jose.

About four or five months after Garden City began spreading Limit Hold'em, I sat down in a game one day, and there was Kimlee across the table. We said hello, chatted about Salinas and how stuck she was today in this game. Then this hand came down...

One of the tighter players raised preflop. Everybody but Kimlee and the big blind folded. The flop came down J♠T♠9♡. The big blind checks. Tight player bets. Kimlee raises. Big blind folds. Tight player reraises. Kimlee caps it. The turn is the 3♢. Tight player bets. Kimlee raises. Tight reraises. Kimlee makes it four bets. Tight makes it five bets. Kimlee makes it six bets!

Now the tight player looks back at his hand, and noticeably sighs. Obviously he has KQ, but doesn't have a spade. Thinking he may be being freerolled, he now just calls... and then lets out a curse word when the river card is the 7♠ and Kimlee almost hurls herself into the pot to bet. Tight player calls, and Kimlee turns over... the 6♠5♠!

Everyone else at the table is stunned. There is silence. The tight player will insult her play in a moment but even he is too stunned to speak at first. Into this silence, Kimlee starts raking in the pot with one hand, points at me with the other hand and yells...

"I learned that from YOU!!!"

I wanted to scream back: "oh my freaking god, no you did NOT!" As the tight player now began insulting her and she yelled back at him, the other players in the game looked at me like I was somehow responsible for creating Frankenstein's Monster.

For months afterwards, whenever somebody did something completely stupid, one of the players who was at the table for that hand, Fresno Mike, would say: "Did that player learn that from you too?"

Another variation of that was, "I wonder how many busted poker players are laying facedown in the gutter muttering ... 'but I learned that from Badger'!"

Other poker hand stories... Three Poker Dealing Stories, Life's Rich Pageant and The Best Omaha Hand I Ever Saw