The joys of playing someone better

Lately I have been getting in lots of tennis. Some pleasant times with my friends Riot Kitty and Mr. Riot Kitty hitting the ball around, some great doubles tennis with JJ and Molly from softball and Betty from C-list...

I have really grown to love doubles. I like the wideness of the court, the speed of the game, and have even learned to not hate letting my partner hit the ball.

We have had some great rallies.

It is cool to have one of those epic volleys where everyone hits two or three shots that seem beyond their capability and keep the rally going.

In the end, though, there is a certain consistency...everyone has won at least one set. Everyone other than me has lost at least 3 sets. So we all get to experience winning which is cool and fun for everyone.

However, at the risk of coming across wrong...there is a slight lack of satisfaction in some of the tennis I have been playing.

I know...or at least strongly suspect...that when score is kept, I will be on the winning side.

But I fell in with a Romanian quite by accident where things are much the opposite. He is better than I am at almost every phase of the game.

Our first set he won 6-0. I cannot remember the last time I got skunked.

The second set I actually clawed to a 5 games to 4 lead...and he then got serious and won the set 7-5.

I have to really play strong just to win a point, much less a game or a set.

And that is a beautiful thing...because I can watch myself get better almost on a game by game basis.

My serves are getting faster and nastier. My ground strokes still struggle and I have no finesse...but I am getting better and better at getting to the net, blocking off angles, and hitting winners.

I actually was up 4 games to zero in the fourth set I played him...but then lost 6 straight.

I like playing people who are learning the game, but there is something about playing someone I know is better and that charge of winning games from them, even if I have yet to win a set. But I will. Soon.

Today, I am a champion

For the last few months I have been playing basketball with a pretty cool team. Kyle, one of my oldest and closest friends is on it. So are Josh and Joe, friends in their own right and special to me because of the love I have for their parents, Dan and Vickie.

The others are guys I have come to know and enjoy playing with.

On the one hand, it has been a bit tough. I am not the player I used to be. Ever since about...oh, 6th grade, maybe 7th...I have been a superior rebounder. I had to be. I was either playing against guys taller and older than me or else playing 1 on 2 type games. If I wanted to win, I had to be a great rebounder.

And oh how I wanted to win.

Well, I am no longer the athlete I used to be. This was really brought home one game a couple months ago. I se3t my eyes on a rebound, timesd my jump perfectly, was at the apex of my leap...and did not even touch the ball as a guy just reached over me and took it.


But I have stuck with it. I worked hard to pass the ball to the right guy at the right time, be in the right place defensively. Get back on defense. Rebound when I coul, box out when I could not.

Well, the league put together a "Spring Madness" tournament. Modeled after the Final Four, it put together 64 teams of vaguely similar ability, seeded them, and ran a tournament.

We were a 6 seed. Eh.

Tonight, we had a double header. If we won the first game, we played for the championship. If we lost the first game, we played for 4th place.

The first game started really badly. We were down 19-3. Just getting hammered. Could not score. So I got more aggressive than I have been all year and put up some shots. My shot was off and I missed the first three.

But it got me flowing and my rebounding stepped up.

Our shooters started hitting. Nate, Patrick and Joe were hitting from outside, Joe, Josh and John were driving, Steve was rebounding like a demon. I got a handful of offensive rebounds and scored on the putbacks 3 or 4 times. We all tipped passes, jumped in passing lanes, closed out on shooters.

And worked our way back. Within 10. Within 5. Tied. Up 2. Up 5. Up 10. Ended up winning by about 13 or 14.

Incredible comeback.

The other team had gotten about a ten minute rest. No big deal. We came out flat yet again. We were heaving threes. they started building a lead. 2. 4. 5. Down to three. Up to 7. Down to 4. Up to 8. 10. 12.

Halftime saw a 19 point deficit. We started catching up but Joe sprained his ankle. Josh injured his hanmstring. We were all sucking win.

6:52 left, we were down 16. "One more push" someone shouted. We hit a three. A couple fast breaks. Another three. They hit a couple fast breaks to push it back to ten.

We come back, scratching and clawing. Down to 4. 2 Tied.

We tied it with 2:52 left. Both teams missed a couple shots. With a minute left we started stalling for the last shot. They tried to foul, then tried to trap and fouled on the trap.

Nate hit both free throws. Up 2.

Tough defense, they cannot score, we get the rebound in a huge mosh pit. They foul Nate. He hits both free throws...and they do not score again.

Twice in one night we come back from deficits of 16+ points to win, both against formerly undefeated teams.


And we are the champions of a 64 team tournament. I had forgotten how awesome it felt to win a title. To do it like that...suffice it to say, I am PUMPED!


Teriyaki House

Well, this week was a bit worse. Opened with A/J off suit from medium position, guy called with 5/6 suited and flopped a straight. Fair enough.

Also got called by Q/8off and 3/9 off that rivered straights after I was betting all the way.

So got down on chips early. Picked up A/10 off in big blind. About 5 people called, the flop was something like 10/5/4 rainbow. Pot had about what I had left so I shoved since my M was about 7 at that point. Got called by K/10...which promptly hit the King to knock me out.

The irony is most of the damage was done not by the two reasonable hands...I have no issue with a 5/6 suited call and as I told the guy who put me out, if I know he has K/10 and is drawing to 3 outs I am begging him to call. I got it in good, just got drawn out on. It happens.

No, the irony is most of the damage was done by really, really bad calls. Calling pre-flop and flop with 3/9 is pretty bad. I guess someone with lots of chips might call the pre-flop planning on making a move...but I can count on one hand the number of people there capable of making that move. This was not one of them.

It was someone playing to get extremely lucky and doing so. I guess the good part is I saw them hit the straights 3 of the 4 straights I ran into and did not get felted earlier than I did.

The bad side is I am frankly embarrassed to be at a table where I knew which people NOT to play hands with and which ones to play hands with, which means even at a table with 2 or 3 players whose games i respect I am pretty much just playing with really bad players since I play when the good players are not in the hand but not when they are...and I busted out on the last hand of the second level.


But now I want to talk about a hand I played online.

I was sitting behind just over 100 big blinds. Middle position with about 85 bb opens, gets calls from the next two seats and I have j/10 off on the button. I am already getting about 3-1/2 to one and it figures to go to 4-1 or even 5-1 because I expect one or both of the blinds to call just because they usually do when the pre-flop pot builds like that so I call.

The flop has 2 spades, a Q, J and some brick. The pre-flop raiser makes the fish raise of like 2 bb into a pot of 13ish blinds. He gets a call and a fold. I have a marginal hand and do not want to play a big pot. I consider raising, putting him on a Spade flush draw as his most likely hand, but...two other players, I have some showdown equity, no point to running into a big re-raise and being driven off my hand. I call.

The turn is another brick, he now raises 3 bb. Call, same thought process, I call. Arguably I should raise here, but really...what can I beat? Any Queen has me, J/K and J/A have me drawing thin, and if he is not on the flush draw then he is reeling us in with a line I see a lot of people take with a set.

The river brings the third spade and he insta-shoves about 70 bb into a pot of maybe 25. Big overbet. Other guy folds.

Problem is...that third spade was a second jack on the board, giving me trips. I go into the tank for a long time. He could have J/9 or worse, he could have an overpair or something like A/Q, all hands I can beat.

But...I put him on the flush draw from the beginning. It just felt like a defensive bet to protect his draw and had there not been two and then one other players, I would have raised him off that draw before the river.

Now it just feels like he hit the flush. I show discipline and lay it down.

I need to show that discipline more often. I had a read, when I hit a big hand tried to talk myself off the read. Why? just lay. it. down.

Teriyaki House, 4/1/11

Roman called and asked if I wanted to play. Bob had advertised this as being triple points as an April Fools Day joke so the turnout was huge. 4 full tables, a couple people on the waiting list.

On the bright side, our table had all people I know and more or less like. On the dark side...that means the longer I last, the less likely I am to enjoy the company of the people.

On the way there Roman and I were talking a bit of strategy. I pointed out in these free restaurant games I tend to fall into bad habits. People limp far more often than raise, so I start limping and playing passively which is always a recipe for disaster.

I am at my best when I am aggressive. I bring it in for a raise, make continuation bets and value bets. No limp-calling. No playing numerous bad speculative hands like 8/9 off.

So the first hand I picked up A/J suited and brought it in for a raise. I got three calls. The flop was a mess, something like a 2/7/8 type rainbow. I continuation bet and got two calls. The turn was a 4 and put a second spade out there. I bet again, one call. The river was a blank, I checked, he checked behind and showed...J/4.

Wow. Seriously bad play on his part calling on the flop unless he was going to bet later because there is no possible reasonable hand I have he is ahead of. But he did hit his four on the turn, so he won the hand. This hand would matter later.

I then pick up pocket 6s, raise, get about 4 callers. The flop is the 5/6/7 with two diamonds. I bet, three callers. The turn is the 4 of diamonds, I bet and get two calls. The river is another diamond, a guy comes out betting,  Easy fold. Any 3, 8 or diamond beats me.

So now I am down about 40%. I start folding a lot.

And watching how they play. Jen is sort of on tilt having gotten beat a couple times when she bet and people drew out on her. The guy who played the J/4 is playing any two cards that are suited, have a face card or better, or are split by no more than one.

About 4 people limp, I have a q/9 suited and start to throw it away. Then boredom and the desire to see a cheap flop with a losing hand induce me to call.

Jen raises to 5 times the blind, the J/4 guy calls. Again I nearly throw it away but then I start thinking.

She has a nervous way of betting when she does not want a call and is capable of throwing away hands. So really I am trying to flop a good hand to beat J/4 guy. Barring that, I know I can bluff her off the pot.

The flop gives me a gutshot, flush draw, and the pair of 9s with the 9/8/blank, two diamonds. I check, she copies her previous bet and he calls. I consider raising but decide just to see what happens on the turn and call. Basically I am putting my tournament on the line because I think she has a low pair and is afraid of the board and he is so loose he could have anything from a dry ace to deuce-seven so there is no way I am getting away from this hand.

Jackpot. The Jack hits the turn. She gives the exasperated sigh of someone who knows they are beat, then bets 1000, he calls. I only have 1700 left so I shove. She makes the crying call and he makes the brutal call. The river is a blank, she shows Aces, I show the nuts and triple up.

Almost. I had been getting a lot of texts and had my phone on the table. It was covering a 300 chip. Cost myself 600 chips that way.

So now I have a nice stack. I lose a bit on another set that runs into a straight, but nowhere near getting it all in. Slowly I start building my stack.

Then I get moved to another table. Exactly what I hate happened. I know nobody at this table and there are two poker-brat type guys at the table...they are constantly talking about what everyone should do, know all there is to know about poker and are going to disseminate it.

Next to me is a woman playing at approximately the speed of a glacier racing a slug. To my right is an older lady trying to out-slow her. The game slows to a crawl as we play about one hand every five minutes.

So the woman next to me shows a complete lack of understanding of the game. She bets into two all-ins with just an overpair, a couple times she shows trash hands at show-downs after two other people have shown hands with straights and flushes and looks like if someone reads the board she might find out she won.

In about a half hour I think I play one hand and win without a showdown. The I call with a 2/9 suited because one person is all in blind and three people limped. I am in small blind, so... I flop trip 2s. Betting ensues. I make a HUGE pile.

I get moved to another table and this time Roman is at the same table. We have some fun, I win some hands, lose a couple. My wins are all nice, my losses all small. I get moved to the other table. I have now played at all four tables tonight.

Now I am at the table with Helen so again someone I am familiar with. The slow playing woman from two tables ago is two seats to my right, we have three older ladies who take 30 seconds to fold every time. Ugh.

Pick up A/10 suited when we are down to 6 and it is folded to me in middle position. I make it three times the big blind. Slow lady calls. Flop is A/10/blank. She raises, I re-raise, she calls. The turn puts a King on the board. She shoves, I insta-calls. If she has the Q/J so be it, but I want to put her out.

She has a K/2. The 2 is a spade. So is the river. She flushes me on the river. I lose 22,500 of my 52k on that hand. Ouch.

Lose a couple more hands, the blinds are up to 3/6 and I get down to 20k. Start shoving when people show weakness and win several pots uncontested.

I slowly but surely work my way back up. I play a 4/6 hearts. I have no explanation for that. I flop a flush  and take out two people who bet top pair and second pair respectively.

Get down to heads up with slow woman.

Early on she is hitting every hand and betting, I keep folding. She says, "This is too easy" to which woman behind me says, "Oops, should not have said that".

I start pushing hard. K/Q off, all-in. She folds. middle suited cards, shove. She folds. She raises, I have A/5 off, I shove. She folds.

She limps in, I check a trash hand, hit two pair, she shoves, I now have the chip lead.

Pretty soon I win it all.

I am pretty happy with the night. I think 34 total people played. I could have tilted after the J/4 play, but did not. I played aggressively as tournament play demands, did not needlessly risk my stack, and even late when I went from 52k down to 10, I did not panic but looked for the right situation to get it in.

And yeah...I won the biggest tournament I have played in at any point in the last couple years.