So I was playing the 10-10-20 NL game at Lucky Chances yesterday, when I was moved to the feature table. Well not really 'feature' so much as the main game, what with it being a must-move and all. I moved into the nine seat and played for a few orbits. In the 4 seat was a player who I had not seen before, but who looked suspiciously familiar. An older gentleman with white hair and a huge stack of chips. Some table talk revolving around Montana arose my suspicion, so when the 3 seat opened up I took it. Could it be?
Shortly after settling into the 3 seat I began to converse with this legend of the felt, and learned that it was in fact Ray Zee. We began to discuss a myriad of subjects, from marijuana growing and smuggling (apparently the government has microphones within a few miles of the US-Canada border so that if you and your buddies even talk about something suspicious after crossing, they can get you for it) to filing taxes as a professional poker player (not gambler. 'Investor'!).
Now the game was not all that good, most of the players were solid regulars. Ray was no exception, playing a very solid, but not necessarily nitty, game. His style was not one to win many pots though, so every time he had to post a small blind or the blind on the button, he needed to make change with his neighbors, acquiring a few blue tens for a black twenty. After a few hours of playing, talking, and generally having a good time, a fantastic hand arose. Perhaps the single greatest live hand i've ever been at the table for.
Ray was in the small blind, I was on the button. The 9 seat, a young asian fellow with a Stanford sweatshirt, limped in for $40. He was probably the weakest player at the table, although he wouldn't have said so if you asked him. Not the kind of player to make too many little mistakes, but when the big pots happen he's probably not going to end up with the best of it. I raise the button to $200 with 53 clubs. Ray called in the small blind, as did the asian fellow.
The flop was dealt out: AJ9 with two spades. Both of them checked, I bet $280 hoping to take it down, but was stymied by Ray's call and then the reraise of another $700 or so from the other dude. Well clearly I folded immediately, but Ray had other plans. Carefully sliding out 5 stacks of black $20's and adding some white $100's on top (yes i know, northern california has weird color schemes for the chips) Ray reraised to "all of these". "All of these" meant another $2300 back to the guy, who had about $6000 left. This is when it began to become awesome. The kid began hemming and hawing about his hand, which he clearly had become a little attached to. He was talking to himself, or to anyone who wanted to listen, about how he thought his hand was beat. He began to pick his cards up so everyone around him could see as well. A crowd began to form around his side of the table, and then soon around the entire table. Every small stakes player in the house (and there were a lot of small stakes players in the house) wanted to see what was going down at the big game. And you know how these things go, once a crowd begins to form somewhere everybody else wants to know whats happening, and so they get up and walk over to check it out. Well, it had been several minutes now, and the floor people were also part of the crowd. They attempted to disperse the people who were just standing around gawking at the big stacks of big chips in the middle of the table, but without much success. The young fellow continued to periodically lift his hand off the table and show the crowd. Not really waving it around, but just picking up the cards at a distance from his face so that anybody around or behind him could also see them. The dealer, a very patient and friendly guy who has apparently been around for a while, told the dude that he should keep his cards to himself. Ray stepped in and said that he didn't really mind if the kid got help from the people around him. This brought me, as well as the other players at the table who had already realized what was going on, great amusement. I, along with some other players on our end of the table, didn't care either so long as regardless we got to see what the kid had, since everybody on that side of the room already had. Finally, the main floor guy came over and called a one minute clock on the guy. He marked off 45 seconds, and 30 seconds, and told him that he'd have a ten second countdown at the end and then his hand would be dead. Well the kid took every second he was given, and finally shoved in the $2300 chips he had sectioned off from his stack, seconds before his hand was killed.
The turn was dealt, an offsuit Queen. Ray, first to act, said something along the lines of "well I think that queen might have been good for you, but I can't really do anything else" and began to peel off stacks of chips, one by one, until he just figured out how much the kid had left and bet exactly that. 9 stacks and 100. Well wouldn't you know it, the kid goes into the same routine again, lifting his cards, mumbling to himself about how his hand is beat, and such. A bigger crowd forms, because now there are even more chips in the middle of the table, and nobody wants to miss out on whatever is about to happen. The whole routine happens again, with every neck in the vicinity craned towards the action, and four or five floorpeople trying to clear out the crowds. The dealer, whose hands are getting tired of holding up the deck, asks Ray nicely if he can put down the deck and put a chip on it, so that everybody knows the deck is alright, and not going anywhere. Ray and everyone else obviously have no problem with that. Ray also says (loud enough for his opponent to hear) that he has no problem with the kid taking his time, as anybody who takes that long is going to fold. But eventually the main floor dude calls the clock on the kid again. Again the kid takes the full minute, and then at the last second quietly declares a call.
Ray is the first to flip, pocket nines. Doesn't really surprise anybody who has half a brain, although it is about the smallest hand in my estimation of his range. The kid peers over at them with a reluctant gaze, before letting his cards fall out of his hand onto the felt. Jack nine offsuit. I'm glad he didnt table his hand earlier, before making a decision, because I would have given him some information by bursting out laughing. As it stands I can do nothing but smile, and wonder how someone can be so dumb. Hopefully some day that fish will come back and I can stack him myself.
The kid stays in seat 9 for a few more minutes, pondering his loss, perhaps seeking solace from his compatriots at the other end of the table. He finally moseys off though, off to wherever it is that fish go after they bust. (Stanford, I guess.) Obviously the table talk thereafter is dominated by discussion of the hand, and amazement that he could put in so much money with a hand that really was obviously destroyed. I guess the fact of the matter is that he couldn't see beyond his own hand. Two pair, that is. After the blinds come back around to him, Ray, who has remained somewhat quiet about the whole situation, says "I can't believe it." I and the other players around inquire what it is that he can't believe. "How can I win a pot with that much money in it, and not get any blue chips?" he says. Keith in seat 5 throws a few blue $10 chips to him in exchange for a black twenty, so he can post his small blind. The game proceeds.
Sooner or later, perhaps around 2 AM, Ray picked up and headed out. But before he left he showed us some pictures of his vast Montana estate, including his swimming ponds, his ice-skating ponds, his grassy meadows full of turkeys, and the plane he crashed into a tree. One of four planes he's crashed, without any injury. He runs really well at plane-crashing.
Great story and well told.
I have to brag a little bit. As one who has played many hours with Ray at Lucky Chances, I already knew Ray had a set when he called your preflop raise. Yeah, yeah, I know. Technically he couldn't have a set because he only had two cards. But this is Ray Zee we're talking about here.