October 21, 2010
Whenever I think about my favorite poker memories, my mind always goes back to the home games I played in college. To me, that was when poker was the most fun, the most exciting. Back before it was all grind and rakeback and downswings and equity calculations, back when it was beers and bad play and never winning or losing more than fifty bucks in a night. I was so new to the game then. God help me, in those days I would actually call 10-2 "The Doyle Brunson". Those words earnestly came out of my mouth and I sincerely thought I was being super cool when I said them. Ivey forgive me. But man, those dorm games were exciting. Â
Once poker became a thing I did online professionally instead of in a dorm room for fun, that excitement started to fade. One day, after a middling online session and I guess one too many clicks of a mouse, I decided I wanted to play in a low-stakes home game again. I missed playing with friends. I missed the jokes. I missed dragging real chips over to my stack after I won a hand. Â I wanted to do all that again.Â
I called up some friends and told them I was hosting a game. A few shared my nostalgia and agreed to come over. I was living with Jay and Emil at the time (who by this point were already highly successful high stakes players) and I convinced them to play too.Â
We were living at 2 Gold Street, which is a 52-story apartment building downtown with a spectacular rooftop with round wooden tables and an exceptional view of the city. It was the perfect place to hang out and play a little cards. So I dragged out the old folding felt tabletop and the 500 chip set I bought on eBay when I was just starting out, my friend grabbed a case of beer, and we were ready to go.Â
As we were setting it up, it felt just like old times. Better. All the tactile sensations I remembered were coming back. The cold beer bottle. The familiar feel and heft of the 11.5 gram chips as they shuffled between my fingers. The bounce of the felt. The stiff plastic of the Kem playing cards. Â This was going to be great. I dealt the first hand.
Emil and Jay peeked at their cards and darted their eyes around the table. "Raise." "Reraise".
The people at the table who were NOT Jay and Emil looked around at each other. "Hey, waaaaaaait a minute..."
Then, and only then, did I realize I hadn't set up a poker game with buddies. That wasn't the same Emil Patel across the table that I had sparred with all those years ago in an NYU poker game. That Emil was at least a million hands younger than the one I was looking at now. And now KRANTZ was in the game too. I had set up a poker game with KRANTZ and whitelime, two long-time high stakes poker regulars who made themselves millionaires by outthinking people at a poker table.Â
When most people set up a poker game it's because they want to play high stakes against opponents they consider themselves much better than. I had done the exact opposite. I had set up a low-stakes match against players who were far, far superior.Â
Shit, I thought, as I folded the first hand of the night and took a sip of my beer. I've created the the worst ten-dollar card game in America.