Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Could I Have Gotten Away From this Hand?

Last nite, at BSC, I had a hand that I can't stop thinking about.  I dunno if I played it badly or not.  Did I blow it or did I just get unlucky?  In one sense, I actually got a bit lucky that it didn't cost me more.  This is the not the first session I've had this trip that's worth blogging about, but it is really fresh in my mind and is really sticking with me, so I'll cover it first.

After my $200 buy-in had slowly dwindled to just under $100 left, I started coming back, winning a  few smallish to mid-size pots that put be back in the black.  I guess I had about $240-$250 in front of me, and was getting near the end of the session, hoping to get some more but more or less satisfied with leaving a bit ahead after being down earlier.

Sitting in Seat 9 (it is 9 handed), I was the small blind and had pocket Aces.  Four people limped in before me, so I made it $16.  At the risk of giving away my play, lately when I raise preflop, I use a standard raise of $8 (regardless of my hand) unless the table is radically different than "normal."  Then I add $2 for each limper before me.  So that's how I got to $16.
The table had been pretty tight, and a lot of preflop raises went uncalled.  One woman was complaining about not getting her raises called and actually started raising to only $4 or $5 to get action.

In other words, I thought there was a really good chance I'd take the pot down right there.  When I raised, I was more concerned with that than with getting a ton of callers.  However, the Big Blind called, the player under-the-gun called, and one person in late position called.  Gulp.  I didn't really want to play my Aces against three players.  I was surprised and not happy. 

According to the odds calculator at--where else?--Ante Up Magazine, you're only a 64% favorite to beat three players preflop with a couple of Aces.  Heads up you're a 85% favorite.

So the pot was over $60 and the flop came Queen high, two spades (the Queen was the non-spade).  I doubled checked and indeed one of my Aces was the spade.  I led out with a bet of $40, about 2/3's the pot.  Big blind folded but UTG put out a min raise to $80.   Hmm.

He was the newest player at the table, unfortunately, and the only one I didn't have a read on.  He had bought in for $300 and I hadn't noticed him in many hands at this point.  But he apparently had won a nice pot when I was away from the table using the restroom, as he now had at least $400 in front of him, so he had me well covered.  It was unfortunate that I hadn't seen that hand where he'd gotten those extra chips.  Just from the way he had handled himself when he got to the table, I had a feeling he wasn't a particularly experienced player, but that was more a gut feeling than anything else.

It folded back to me and I called.  I guess of all my decisions, this is the one I'm thinking about the most.  Should I have folded there?  Was he just luring me in with the min raise?  Should I have put him on the flush draw and shoved to make him fold or make him get his money in bad?  Should I have made a pot sized bet in the first place instead of the 2/3's bet?  I thought the most likely hand he had was a Queen...top pair.  Of course I could be behind to a set or a lucky two pair (the two spades were 10/6, so it would have been a bad call of my raise to have two pair--but a set of 6's or 10's was certainly a possibility).

With the pot close to $200 I decided to call.  At the time, the only other option I strongly considered was coming over the top, most likely a shove.  but I just called.

The next card was the 8 of clubs.  I wasn't worried about a crazy straight, but the flush was still out there and now I had no chance for my Ace of spades to make a four card flush.  I checked.

New guy bet out $50.  Fifty?  Into a pot that big?  When we'd both put $80 into the pot the previous street?  Now I was totally confused.  Was this guy a really, really good player setting a trap?  Or was he just a bad player?  For the size of the pot, it was an easy call, and I wasn't confident enough about my hand to shove.

The river was the 9 of spades.  Again, the straight didn't really concern me but of course I was concerned about the flush.  I checked.  BB tanked for awhile.  Then he asked to see my stack, to see how much I had behind.  Gulp.  Clearly he was going to put me all in.  For the size of the pot, I'd be getting nearly 4 to 1, so I was probably pot committed there.  I think I would have called if he had bet.  I couldn't dismiss the possibility he was overplaying top pair.  Not for 4 to 1. 

But after thinking about it for a few more moments, he checked  I was relieved, and assumed briefly if he had checked, my Aces were good.

Nope.  After I showed my rockets he flipped over Queen/Jack of spades for the flush.  He had flopped top pair with the flush draw, a very good hand.  He took down a nice pot that cost me $146.  I was in shock.  No, not from the flush, I certainly feared that.  I was shocked he hadn't made a value bet on the river.  I even said to the dealer, "Why didn't he bet there?"  I wasn't complaining, believe me.  Just surprised.  With no pair on the board, I guess he was concerned I had a bigger flush.  Yeah, I could have raised preflop with AK of spades.  Or a smaller suited Ace and raised pre trying to steal all the limpers' money.

I was both upset and relieved at the same time  As grateful as I was I didn't get stacked, I just kept replaying the hand over and over in my mind, wondering if and where I went wrong.  

Anyway, when I cashed out, I ran into the dealer.  He finally answered my question.  He didn't think the guy was a very experienced player, that's why he didn't bet the river.  I guess so, the way he played the hand. I wished I'd seen his play more before the hand.  So, I assume because I still had over $100, he didn't want to risk another $100 on the hand where he didn't have the nuts and he was going to win a nice pot even without the risky value bet.

But the fact that he was an inexperienced player only makes me more upset that I didn't figure out a way to outplay him and take his money.
I would love to get feedback from my readers.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

More Big News: I've Joined Ante Up Magazine!!!

I'm thrilled to announce that I have joined Ante Up Magazine!  Yes, I'll be writing a monthly column for that terrific poker magazine, as I am now the official Las Vegas Ambassador for Ante Up.

My first contribution is already online, you can see it here.  It is an interview with Jon Friedberg, the CEO of AllVegasPoker.com, which, of course, is the great website I've been working for since early September (see that announcement, here).  It is my goal to cover all aspects of the Vegas poker scene.  Obviously, for those of you who are regular readers of my blog, my contributions to Ante Up will be somewhat different in tone, content, and focus than some of my blog posts.

And welcome to all of you who are just now discovering my blog because of my association with Ante Up.  You might want to read this post here to get a feel for the background of this blog, and the story of how this blog came to be.  I should warn you, this is not a typical poker blog.  Much of the content isn't about poker in the main, and some of it might be considered a little bit "out there" to some of you.  Feel free to look around and check it out.  I hope you will find it worth your time, and will appreciate my twisteds attempt at humor.

The hard copy issue of the November Ante Up, with my first article, should start appearing in poker rooms around the country this week.  Be sure to pick up a copy.  Autographs available on request. It's the one with Greg Raymer on the cover.

Alert readers of my blog might recall this paragraph from this post here:

Furthermore, there’s something else I’m doing now that will take time away from the blog too. I don’t want to reveal it yet; all in good time. But again, ironically, what I’m referring to is something that I hope will bring more attention to my blog, even as it will give me less time to do blog posts.
Now you know. :)

By the way, if anyone has an ideas for what they'd like to see from me in Ante Up about Vegas and poker, please let me know.  One of my (many) email addresses is listed to your right.  You can also use the comments section or my twitter ID (@robvegaspoker).

Thanks, everyone.  This is an exciting opportunity for me, as I'm sure you can imagine.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Nailing the Josie at The Bike

Two Saturdays ago, I finally got to play some poker again, first time since I returned from Vegas in the middle of September.  And, ironically, because I started working for AVP (see here) almost immediately after getting to Vegas, I really played less poker during that visit than I had since I started playing poker around 7 years ago.  Seven years?  Gee, has it been that long?  You’d think I’d be better at it by now.  Since I got back to L.A., I’ve been working hard at my new duties.  Which consists of talking a lot about poker, but not playing it.  So it was good to finally get out and play that little game I’d been talking about so much the past six weeks.

Now as it happens, I just got back to Vegas a couple of days ago and am staying until 11/2.  This is mostly a work oriented trip, but if you're in Vegas and want to get together for some poker or whatever, drop me an email or a tweet (both addresses available to your right) and we'll see if we can arrange something.
But since I was still in L.A. those two Saturdays ago, getting my poker itched scrachted meant a drive down to The Bike, in majestic Bell Gardens, CA.  I got there at lunch time with a big appetite (not a tough achievement for me), knowing that by playing in the $2/$3 game I described here and here (which they call $100-$300 for the min/max buy-ins), I’d be entitled to eat anything I wanted for free.  Such a deal.
When I got there however, I briefly considered in playing in Deepstack tournament they were running as part of a special poker series they had.  It was a $10K guarantee, $340 buy-in, 2 day event, with 40 minute blinds and starting stacks of $30K.  It was tempting.  But the realization that I’d have to come back the next day if I did well—and I’d be there way into the late evening or early morning one or both days—gave me pause.  I wanted to play some poker, but I didn’t really want to play that much poker.  I hadn’t heard about the tournament until I showed up that day and thus was really prepared to be there for that long (potentially), and I knew I had things to do the next day, if I was so fortunate as to earn a day two.  So I went ahead with my original plan—hit that 2/3 game I’d played twice before.
As luck would have it, even tho my name was third on the list, a bunch of folks showed up almost immediately thereafter and they started a new game within minutes of my arrival.  This was good not so much because I was desperate to get started playing poker, but because I was starving.  And I needed to be in a game so I could order my free meal.
This proved to be a major distraction for the first couple of hours of the session.  Ordinarily, the table side service is pretty good, but not this time.  I think I heard them say they were understaffed.  I believe the turnout for the tournament I mentioned was a lot bigger than they expected; they made the guarantee with ease.  During the session, you could see the line of people registering all through the place.  It was a big turnout.
It took me a long time to get someone’s attention to see a menu; a very long time for someone to come back to take my order; and an astonishingly long time for the food to finally arrive (and without the diet Pepsi I had ordered).  The whole process, including eating, took about 2 hours.  I only mention it because I know how much such minute detail, making my posts even longer, is appreciated by my readers.  No, seriously, I mention it because it affected my play, and is therefore actually relevant.
You see, while I was trying to get the food servers’ attention, I was totally inattentive to the poker.  Also, I was waiting so long I had to get someone else’s attention to get a drink.  Then when the food finally arrived, I was distracted by eating.  It’s a full meal, not just some kind of snack that you can easily consume while playing.  I am definitely a distracted poker player while eating.  What this means is that while trying to get someone’s attention, I’m not studying the players as much as I should.  When I fold my hand, instead of watching the action, I’m looking around the room to find a server to call over.  Also, while eating, I’m gonna fold marginal hands I might sometimes play, and really only play premium hands.
I suppose that’s a good argument for going to the Bike on a full stomach, but I just can’t resist the free meal.  And one of the incentives for stepping out on this day was, after weeks of being cooped up eating a very boring rotation of my regular meals, I wanted something a little bit different; I wanted a restaurant meal.
Anyway, by the time I was fully satiated, and no longer worried about food, most of the folks at the table were completely different than the ones who had started there (a lot of the original group was just killing time waiting for a different game).  So I didn’t really miss much in terms of learning the table.
One thing of note, of the first three hands I was dealt on this day, the first and third were both pocket 8’s.  Very strange.  I called a raise with them the first time and missed.  The second time, the raise was too big and I folded.
By the time I was fully concentrating on the poker, I was down about $75, give or take.  I’d won a few small pots and lost a few small pots, or a few small bets I should say.  I wasn’t getting really good cards, and I was easily tossing in the bad ones.  However, unlike the other games at this level I’ve played at the Bike, this game was—for pretty much the entire time I was there—rather calm.  It was the least wild game I’ve played at the Bike since I started playing NL there.  Most of the preflop raises were reasonable, there weren’t a lot of shoves or huge overbets on the flop or the later streets.  Yet, there was still enough action to make some money when you hit a good hand.
In hindsight, I think I probably missed a good opportunity during the time I was worried about the food.  When the game is wild and full of aggressive types, I can usually do well by just playing my normal very tight game and wait for a hand and get paid off.  But I know that when the game is tight, you should play more aggressively, and I should have tried that.  It doesn’t come naturally to me, but I am learning a little how to do this and this would have been a good opportunity to learn more—and possibly get some money in the process.
But distracted, I didn’t really try this, and then after I was ready to give the game my undivided attention, I spent a few orbits really watching and studying the players so I could figure out how best to play which players.  There were a few real good players at the table, a couple of really tight ones (one was tighter than me, if you can believe it), and some really mediocre ones.  But I really didn’t think anyone who was there for any length of time was a truly bad player.  The few times when I was in position to try to play a little bit out of my comfort zone came when someone who I had to respect had raised, and I didn’t think challenging them would be prudent.
The guy to my immediate left was one of the tough players.  He was an older gentleman, but it was clear he was really good player.  He started straddling my big blind with annoying regularity.  He also like to talk to the other player when he was heads up; something that is apparently allowed at The Bike, although this is now usually prohibited in Vegas.  But he was always making positional raises—and even telling us in advance, when it was a multi-limped in pot and he was on the button or one of the blinds, that he was gonna raise if he had an Ace in his hand—and I knew I couldn’t be afraid to call one of them if I had something. 
Then there was the young or middle-aged (couldn’t tell which) Asian fellow two to my right.  He raised a lot preflop, but not usually a very big raise.  He even said, he raised small (usually $12) because he wanted action.  Again, I knew, I couldn’t be afraid to call his raises.
Most of the other players I felt I could outplay if push came to shove (so-to-speak).
After another hour of watching and studying and still waiting for the right opportunity, I was dealt pocket 3’s in early position.  I limped in (I can’t remember, but I may have had to call a straddle).  There were a lot of limpers.  The flop was Jack/10/3, very nice.  It was rainbow, so my only concern was the straight draw.  I thought about a check raise, but didn’t have to.  The big blind bet first, he put out $25.  So I counted out $75 and bet that.  Folded back to the big blind, who shoved.  He had just moved over from another table and didn’t have that much more than my $75.  I didn’t have a read on him but it was an easy call.
When I called, he said, “Oh, you already have a set?”  I sure did.  He had flopped two pair and got no help the rest of the way.  He took off and I now had more money than I bought in for—but not by much.
Oddly enough, on the very next hand, I was again dealt pocket three’s.  What are the odds of hitting a set of three’s back-to-back?  I don’t know, but I didn’t get there.  I was able to limp in and saw a flop that missed me.  Too much to ask for, I know.
A bit later I looked down at two lovely ladies.  While thinking about what to raise to (I was in middle position), the aforementioned Asian fellow made it $12.  Hmmm…what to do?  There are times there—most of them, frankly—where I just call.  To be honest, I don’t 3-bet a lot.  And against a lot of the players at this table, I wouldn’t have 3-bet there.  But against this particular player, I knew I was ahead of most of his raising range.  He raised with pretty much any Ace, or any pocket pair.  Of course, there was a time when he just smooth called a preflop raise and flopped a set of Aces (beating the original raiser’s pocket Queens).  Hey, whenever I try that stunt, it blows up in my face.
So the guy between us folded, I put out $30.   It folded back to the Asian fellow who thought about it a bit, then said, “The tightest player at the table……….I fold.”  Actually, as I mentioned, I think there was at least one player tighter than me, but I knew I wanted to try to use my reputation to my advantage somewhere down the road if I could.  He showed an Ace and asked if I had Kings.  I just laughed as I took in the small pot (there was some limper money too).
Not long after that came the hand of the day.  In early position, I was dealt the Josie, aka, Jack/Ten.  We all know this is Josie’s favorite hand.  And I always play the favorite hand of any of my fellow bloggers.

OK, that’s not true.  I don’t do that.  Sometimes I do though.  In fact, earlier, while I was eating, the good player to my left had won a hand playing the Grump, yes, the mighty deuce-four.  He turned two pair.  I was eating at the time so I don’t know what he had to call with his weak pair on the flop, but I did almost ask him if he knew he had played the Grump!
And the truth is, if I had gotten that Jack/10 (it was offsuit) earlier, when I was eating, or trying to flag down a server, I would have mucked it, especially in early position.  But now, as I was fully engaged, and frankly, getting near the end of my session, I was ready to roll the dice a little.
Again, I think I called a straddle with it.  Four or five of us saw a flop, which was Queen/9/rag, two diamonds.  So I flopped an open-ender but had to worry about the flush.  After the guy to my right checked, I checked, and rather cautious player put out a bet of $25.  He had about $150 behind him—I had him covered.  So I likely wouldn’t have called except the guy to my right called first.  Hmm……he had about as much as the other guy did behind him.  Now it seemed like I might be getting decent odds.  I checked my cards….the Jack was a diamond.  So I even had a shot at runner-runner straight flush.  Or a Jack high flush (which would not likely be any good, of course).  Despite the fact that one of my outs could actually hurt me, I decided to roll the dice again and call.
The turn was a blank, and it was again checked to the guy who bet the flop.  This time he put out $50.  Again, the other guy called.  Of course, I had to consider that at least one of these guys, probably the guy to my right, had the same hand as me, and if I hit my hand I’d have to chop it.  But still, it just seemed like decent odds for the position I was in.
The river was the King of clubs, the sweetest looking King of clubs I’d ever seen.  I made my straight and didn’t have to worry about a flush.  In other words, I only had the absolute nuts.  First guy checked, so it was on me.  What to do?
I could check there and go for the check-raise.  But the guy who had been betting only had about $100 left and would likely shove if he bet at all.  A check raise wouldn’t do much good—unless it would get the guy to my right to call.  But with the straight out there, I had to assume he’d only call one or both of us if he had the same hand as me.  So not betting would accomplish nothing.  My only chance to extract more money on this hand was to bet.
I put out $100.  Turns out the better only had $95 and thus called, putting him all in.  The other guy folded.  No Jack/10 for him.
The good player to my left, who was long out of my hand, said, as I was about to expose my hand, “He’s got the nuts.  He’s got Jack/10.  He doesn’t even have to show it, I know what he has.”  The other guy didn’t show, I don’t know what he had.  Two pair or a set, I guess.  But I believe he was a friend or at least an acquaintance of the good player to my left.  So I don’t think the good player was being rude—just helpful—by telling the guy I had beat that he hadn’t bet enough, that’s why I was allowed to stay in to wait for my straight to come.  The guy reluctantly agreed as he left the table.  I pointed out that because of the guy to my right calling his flop and turn bets, I was getting decent odds to make my straight.
Oh, and the Asian guy who said I was the tightest player at the table said he was surprised “that’s all” I had.  He expected Jack/10 of diamonds for the combo draw.
I wasn’t trying to criticize the guy to my right, but he said, “Yeah, and I shouldn’t have called.”  He didn’t say what he had.
This was a really nice pot, and suddenly I had almost $600 in front of me.  By the time I’d stacked up my winnings and counted it, the blinds had passed me.  I was happy with my late run.  It was getting late, I wasn’t there to play all day and night, and If I left a little shy of a double up, I could live with that.  I decided to play my blinds, then play one more orbit until the big bland came to me, and then call it a day.  For this orbit, I would play ultra-tight, even for me.  Didn’t want to risk too much at this point. I suppose the right thing to do if I have that attitude is just get up even before the blinds come to me, but I can’t resist seeing a few more “free” hands.
The orbit was uneventful.  I kept getting crap, easy folds.  Finally when I was under the gun, I mucked some crap and got up to get a couple of racks to carry my chips.  Now, what had happened was the Asian guy had been away from the table for awhile, so he missed his big blind on that last hand.  But as I was racking up my chips, he returned, and announced he would “buy the button.”  In other words, I could play one more hand for free.  So the dealer dealt me in as I was almost done racking my chips.  I knew—I just knew—this was going to be a hand I was tempted to play.  I really didn’t want to look.  I wanted to just fold without looking.
You see, I remember a story my pal Lightning had told me—and blogged about, here—when he last visited Vegas.  He waited for that one last free hand—and lost all or most of his stack.  It happened to him a couple of times, in fact.  And I sure as hell didn’t want that to happen to me.  But again, I had this overwhelming feeling I’d actually get a hand this time.  Knowing me, it’d be pocket Kings and I’d lose my whole stack to some donkey who would hit runner-runner flush.
But dammit, I looked.  It wasn’t Kings, or even Aces.  But it was a very playable hand.  It was Ace/Jack of spades.  Yeah, soooooted.  I thought for a second, and came thisclose, I mean, really, truly thisclose to mucking it and getting the hell out of there.  But….I couldn’t do it.  I had to play it.  If it hadn’t been suited, that’s an easy fold, especially in early position and with me anxious to book a nice profitable session.  But I couldn’t resist the damned suitedness of it.  Besides, the Bike has a bad beat jackpot, and me hitting my first royal flush ever right then could have been an terrific pay day.
I limped.  Under different circumstances, I’d raise there to thin the field.  But I wanted to see if I could get away with a limp.  Only risk three bucks out of my profits.  No one raised; in fact, only three of us saw a flop—which had two spades on a non-paired board.  The Asian guy who bought the button checked.  I checked too, as did the last guy.  A free card.  Nice.
Now ordinarily, I would probably have bet the flush draw there and possibly would have taken it down there.  But I didn’t I just didn’t want to risk anything at that moment.  I also thought the Asian guy might check raise me there and put me in a quandary.  So I was glad to see the free card.
Which was a very beautiful spade, giving me the nut flush, and the absolute nuts at that moment, pending the river.  As I was wondering how much to bet, the Asian guy kind of surprised me by betting out, $25.  Do I raise there?  Now I am no longer interested in playing it safe, I want more money.  I figured based on the action so far, no one would likely call me if I raised, so I smooth called.  All I had to worry about was a paired board.  The third guy folded, as I figured he would.
The river was a blank, and the Asian checked.  I wondered how much he would call.  Having earlier said I was the tightest player at the table, I figured he knew I had the nuts.  I didn’t figure he’d call a huge bet.  I frankly thought he’d be unlikely to call any bet.  But if I made it small enough, he might just give me a few more chips.
I put out $40.  I was still surprised that he called.  Maybe I bet too little?  He said he had two pair, would he have called $100?  $75?  Hmm….I think I maybe put a little too much credence in his saying I was the tightest player at the table.  Since I was leaving I actually told him I was surprised he called.  He thought I might have top pair with an Ace kicker.  Oh well.
But I guess because I had already kind of mentally checked out of the game, I had forgotten that he commented on the Jack/10 hand earlier and thought I called light.  Maybe now he wasn’t thinking I was such a tight player after all.  Or, maybe he was thinking I was a bad player who just got lucky?
Anyway, I was now past double-up territory.  I ended up with  a $370 profit. 
Even more, if you count the free lunch I had to wait so long for. 
Despite the early aggravation, not a bad day at all.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Smokin' Hot Waitress, The Bearded Dealer, and Me (Part 3)

(Note:  This is the third part of a three part series.  You can find part 1 here and part 2 here)
Then one day, I went into LC2 on my first day of a new Vegas trip, and of course, Betsy was no longer there.  I hadn’t seen her my last visit because she had already started her maternity leave, just a few weeks from her due date.  But I had a quick second to ask the floor person in the poker room if she’d knew how Betsy was doing.   Coincidentally enough, she informed me that Betsy had had her baby that very morning!  The next time or two I was in there, I asked how Betsy and baby were doing and got back glowing reports.  About a month later, I was told that Betsy already had her figure back.
But then I asked when Betsy planned to return to work.  And the same floor person told me that she didn’t think she was coming back to work.  Oh no!  No more Betsy?  How sad.  I didn’t get a chance to follow up on this because she was too busy.  I realized if I wanted to get more info on Betsy’s possible return to work—or not—I needed to ask someone else.
And that brings us back to Anna, the front desk/cashier at LC2 that I mentioned at the beginning of the story.  The one from a sorta-Middle/Eastern European/Asian country and an appropriate accent for said country.  Since she worked the same shift as Betsy, it occurred to me that she might be friends with Betsy and might have the scoop on what her situation was.
I had already seen Anna this particular late afternoon to get on the list for the 2/4 game.  But when I noticed she wasn’t busy, I went over to chat.
“Anna, have you heard from Betsy lately?”
“Yes, I just talked to her the other day.”
“How’s she doing?”
“Great, she’s doing great.  She’s good, the baby’s good, she’s very happy.”
“So, is she coming back?  I heard she might not be coming back.”
“No, no, she’s not coming back to work.”
“Really?  She’s just gonna be a full time mommy?”
OK, so I guess I had one last question to ask.  I knew that Betsy wasn’t married, but I had no idea what kind of relationship—if any—she had with the father of the baby.  For all I knew, she might have gone to a sperm bank!  So it was kind of bold of me to ask this, but I went ahead with it.
“So, do you know if she’s going to marry the father?
I would have gotten a helluva answer if she indeed had gone to a sperm bank!  Well, she didn’t, but I got a helluva answer anyway.
“She’s planning to.  But not for a while.  It’ll be after she converts.”
Converts?  Converts?  In the next nano-second a million things went through my mind.  Now, of course, she could be converting to Catholicism.  She could be converting to Southern Baptist.  She could be converting to Buddhism.  But of course, from my frame of reference, I was thinking, what if she was converting to Judaism?
So I said one word, with a question mark at the end.  “Converts?”
Another nano-second for things to run through my mind.  As soon as I considered the possibility that Betsy was converting to Judaism, I immediately thought of LM’s reaction to Betsy’s “You look Jewish” comment.  I thought about how LM accused Betsy of being a skinhead.  And so I thought, it would be the greatest thing I ever heard if Anna would tell me that the father of Betsy’s baby was Jewish and she was converting to his faith in order to marry him.  That would be the greatest story ever to throw in LM’s face to tell Woody and LM.
So in that nano-second, one phrase kept running through my mind, over and over and over again.  “Please say ‘converting to Judaism,’ please say ‘converting to Judaism,’ please say ‘converting to Judaism.’”
So Anna said, “Yes, converting.  She’s…..she’s becoming a Jew.”
Yes!  Yes!  YES!!!!! I could have kissed her.  This now became the greatest story ever for my friends, Woody & LM.  Especially LM.  I couldn’t wait to tell her that Betsy, the beautiful blonde waitress LM had accused of being anti-Semitic, had not only gotten impregnated by a Jewish man, had not only decided to marry a Jewish man—but was even willing to convert to Judaism to marry him.  So much for her being a skinhead.
I asked Anna a rather redundant question, while trying to hide my glee which would surely be inexplicable to Anna.  “Oh, so the father is Jewish?”
She confirmed this.  I believe I asked Anna if she had met him.  I believe she said she had once, briefly.  Seemed like a nice guy.  Then I asked if he was a poker player and was that how they’d met?  No, no, not at all.
OK, I had gotten the story I was looking for.  My disappointment at Betsy not returning was more than made up for having this incredible news to relay to my friends.  I returned to my seat to wait for my name to be called for a game.  I whipped out my cell phone and began texting this shocking news to LM.  And then I stopped myself. 
It turns out that LM & Woody were visiting nearby Mesquite (about 1 hour past Las Vegas on the I-15, right before you get to Utah).  And we had plans to have dinner together there a few nights later.  So, I thought, this can wait.  Better than a text, I can tell them in person and see their reaction!  So I just texted LM that I had some unbelievable news about Betsy and let it go at that.
Then I started chuckling about the whole thing.  I started replaying my conversation with Anna over and over in my mind and trying to figure out the best way to convey the story to my friends.  And as I played the conversation over in my mind, I started fixating on two things.
First of all, Betsy was marrying a Jewish guy.
Betsy was marrying a Jewish guy.
The beautiful, buxom, blonde bombshell waitress was marrying a Jew!
Or, to put it another way, some lucky Jew was had landed the ultimate blonde shiksa goddess!
“Blonde shiksa goddess?”
I suspect most non-Jewish folks have heard the word “shiksa” by now.  It’s pretty commonly used in movies and TV shows, especially since so many screenwriters and show biz folks are Jewish.  A “shiksa” a woman who isn’t Jewish.  It’s a Yiddish word that has permeated American culture, like chutzpah, schtick, kibbitz, klutz, nosh, yenta, schlep, glitch, etc.
It’s not meant in a negative way, with one possible exception.  If two yentas are talking and they’ve just heard the gossip that the extremely eligible bachelor son--who is a doctor or at least a lawyer--of their friend is marrying a beautiful girl who is not Jewish......Well, then you are likely to hear something along the lines of this exclamation: “Poor, poor Sadie.  Can you believe it? Her son is marrying a shiksa!  And the other one would respond,  “I know, I know, she must be beside herself.  I hope she doesn’t stick her head in the oven.”
You see, in my parents’ generation, the worst thing a Jew could do, the very worst thing, was to marry out of the faith. 
And perhaps, just perhaps, because of the pressure on younger Jews (and it was more focused on men than woman, because of it being a male-dominated culture) to marry another Jew, there was born the desire of virtually every Jewish man to score with--and possibly marry--the blonde shiksa goddess.  OK, ok, she doesn’t have to be blonde; it just helps.  You see, one theory for why this desire exists is that Jewish men have an especially keen compulsion to find a woman who is as different as possible from their mothers (don’t get me started on sons and their Jewish mothers).  Since no Jewish woman is naturally blonde, it adds to the appeal.  Yes I know that plenty of Jewish women dye their hair blonde (Sarah Michelle Gellar and Lisa Kudrow to name two famous blonde Jews) and of course, plenty of non-Jewish women dye their hair blonde as well).  But the blonde hair sort of clinches it….not Jewish.  For more on the whole idea of the “shiksa goddess”, see here for a pretty good short explanation.
So, as a Jewish guy myself, I could only sit and marvel—with severe envy—at some guy I had never met.  Some Jewish guy out there had struck gold.  Big time.  He had not just had a quick, meaningless (but no doubt memorable) quick hook up with a blonde shiksa goddess.  He had not even just gotten said blonde shiksa goddess to bear his child and agree to marry him.
No, he had gotten the ultimate blonde shiksa goddess to agree to convert to his religion in order to marry him (and therefore, presumably, make his parents happy—or at least less miserable than they might otherwise be).
I could only shake my head in awe of this achievement.
Anyway, there was one other thing I thought of as I was pondering this news, as I was forming the story in my mind to properly retell this tale to my friends.  Playing over the conversation I had just had with Anna in my mind, I recalled the exact way Anna had reported the news.
When I questioned Anna’s statement that Betsy had to “convert” first before she could (or would) marry the father of her baby, she said, I was sure, “she’s becoming a jew.”
Becoming a Jew. 
Hmm, that was a very odd way to phrase it.  The more “normal” way to phrase this would be, “Yes, she’s converting to Judaism.”  Or, perhaps, “she’s converting to the Jewish faith.”  Or “the Jewish religion.”
But “becoming a Jew”?  It sounded odd.  It gave me a chuckle.  I had to admit I thought, again thinking back to my parents’ generation, that some might find it a bit insulting—or at least off putting.   I can’t really explain it.  I think that if a Jew hears a non-Jew refer to him as a “Jew”, he tends to hear that, whether it was meant that way or not, as somewhat nasty.  He would hear the word “Jew” spoken as insult.  Better to hear himself referred to (by a non-Jew), as “Jewish”, as a "Jewish person," not “a Jew.”  BTW, it’s perfectly ok for oneJew to refer to another Jew as a Jew—double standard of course, but I don’t make up the rules. 
Also….the idea of somebody, somehow, “becoming a Jew” was rather, well, strange.
So if she even said, “she’s becoming Jewish,” well that would have been an awkward phrase, but it wouldn’t have struck me as that, well, potentially offensive.
But I was sure that Anna didn’t mean to be insulting, no not all.  I simply chalked it up to the minor language barrier, since English is not her native language.  She probably just didn’t know—or couldn’t access at the time—the word “Judaism.”
I thought it was a minor part of the story, and after a day or two, I stopped thinking about it, and even wondered if I should mention it to Woody and LM when I related this story.
A few nights later I found myself in Mesquite for a nice dinner with my friends.  After we ordered, I finally began to reveal this earth-shattering development.  Of course, their reaction didn’t disappoint.  They were in shock, and were of course quite amused, and well, ultimately, they found it hard to believe.  But of course they both thoroughly enjoyed hearing of this unanticipated turn of events.
I let it sink in for a bit, then I reminded LM of her (now ridiculous) accusation that Betsy was an anti-Semite.  I of course rubbed her face in the fact that she had called her a “skinhead” and accused me of giving Betsy a pass just because of her impressive chest.
Yeah, I took great delight in that.  And LM could do nothing but sit there and take it.  It was quite fun.
Then, I pointed out that this unknown Jewish guy had landed the ultimate blonde shiksa goddess, They were both amused at that.  But neither of them being a Jewish man, they couldn’t quite appreciate it as much as I did.
Finally, almost as an afterthought, I remembered Anna’s awkward phraseology when telling me the news.  I even premised this part by saying, “I don’t think you guys will find this as amusing as I did, but, I did find it odd the way Anna phrased it.”  And then quoted word for word Anna telling me that Betsy was “becoming a Jew.”
To my surprise, the two of them virtually fell out of their chairs laughing at this.  I was astonished that, as much as they had enjoyed the story, they actually found Anna’s “becoming a Jew” quote the very best part of the story.  I was so glad I didn’t forget to tell them.
They again expressed surprise that I could hear Anna’s phraseology without laughing or reacting in anyway.  I told him all that was going through my mind at that point was praying for her to confirm that Betsy conversation was to Judaism and when I got the astonishing news, I didn’t really hear the way she said it until I replayed the conversation in my mind quite a bit later.  
To this day, almost every time we get together, one of them will quote Anna saying “becoming a Jew” and crack the other one up.  The other one will then say, “Yeah….not ‘converting to Judaism’ or ‘converting to the Jewish faith’, but ‘becoming a Jew.’”  And the two of them will both start laughing as if they were hearing the story for the first time.
Of course, LM tried to accuse Anna of being a bigot.  But I would have none of it.  She had already been proven sensationally wrong about Betsy, she had no credibility in this anymore.  Besides, I kind of think she was kidding.
So if you ever meet Woody and LM, just remember to say to them, “she’s becoming a Jew” and you’re sure to get a good laugh out of them.
Anyway, that’s the story.  I have no new updates on Nigel, Betsy, Betsy’s baby, Anna, or on the very happy Jewish man somewhere in (I assume) Las Vegas who landed the ultimate blonde shiksa goddess.  But I bet, wherever he is, he’s smiling.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Smokin' Hot Waitress, The Bearded Dealer, and Me (Part 2)

(Note:  This is the second of three posts.  You can find part 1 here)

Oddly enough, I was back in L.A. when I heard through a friend some rather surprising news.  I heard that Betsy was pregnant.  Hmmm.  This information was second or third hand, so I couldn’t be sure about it, but I knew on my next visit to Vegas I had to investigate.
I returned to Vegas a few weeks later and of course LC2 was one of my first stops. But of course this was tricky.  She certainly didn’t look pregnant.  Not yet, anyway.  And it isn’t the kind of thing you can just ask a woman out of the blue, is it?  “Are you pregnant?”  “Do I look pregnant?” Slap.  Or worse. 
So I just observed.  I watched and listened to her interaction with the other players.  Of course, this being a locals casino, with 95% regulars playing there all the time, they all knew her, and I was sure if the word was out, I would hear someone ask her about it or talk to her about it—if it was true.
And indeed it was. I can’t recall what exactly I heard that confirmed her condition, but I heard enough to become convinced.  And then I heard her talking about due dates and stuff to the person right next to me, so I asked her directly, knowing it was now safe.
It was true, Betsy would have to take a maternity leave a few months down the road.
Now of course I had to report this interesting news to Nigel.  Next time I saw him at BSC, he was rather surprised to hear this.  One reason he was surprised was that he hadn’t heard this from his girlfriend, Eva.  Eva, he explained, was pretty chatty with the folks at LC2, and had played a lot of poker there.  He couldn’t believe she was unaware of such juicy gossip, especially since she had heard a lot of good gossip in that room.
So he finally had a good piece of gossip to bring home to his girlfriend.  Then he asked me a rather startling question.  “Do you know who the father is?”
I burst out laughing.  “How the hell am I supposed to know that?”  Seriously, it was amusing he would think I might possibly be that much in the loop.  My relationship with Betsy basically consisted of her bringing me diet cokes and me ogling her (and tipping her for said diet cokes). It was only because I had clearly witnessed Betsy talking about her pregnancy with others—and obviously acting very happy about it—that I had the nerve to ask if she was indeed expecting.  I was hardly in a position to get that kind of information.  Besides, there was not much likelihood that I would even know the father if I ever did find out who it was.
That didn’t stop Nigel from asking me several days later if I had learned the identity of guy!  Of course I still responded in the negative.
By my next visit to Vegas, upon entering LC2 and seeing Betsy, it was clear that she was “showing.”  Yes, she was starting to look pregnant, and she started to wear a less sexy cocktail waitress outfit, as befitting a mother-to-be.  I reported this news to Nigel, but was still of course incapable of naming the father.
A few days later, Nigel had some news for me.  It seems he had played at LC2 on his weekend, and had seen Betsy for the first time since she started looking pregnant. He mentioned this to me while he was standing behind the current dealer, waiting to push in to my game.  He was somewhat surprised that she looked “so pregnant.”  Then he added, “But she’s still f***ing hot!” 
He said this rather loudly, and there he was, in his dealer uniform, standing right at the table he was about to deal to.  He realized the faux pas immediately and put his hand to his mouth.  He kind of whispered to me, “oops….I’m in uniform too.”  But no one seemed to notice except me, and if anyone did notice, they weren’t bothered by it.  Besides, what he said was inarguably true.
That was the last time I saw Nigel for awhile.  I assumed that he was on vacation.  Coincidentally enough, it was at LC2 where I learned that he was no longer working at BSC.  I ran into a couple of off-duty BSC dealers relaxing at the LC2 2/4 game one afternoon.  I mentioned that I’d also seen one of their co-workers play there, and they informed he was no longer their co-worker.  Sad news for me, to be sure.  But I suspected that I might some day run into Nigel again, most likely at LC2.  Remembering he liked to bet sports, and usually used the sports book at LC2, I made a mental note to always check out the sports book whenever I stopped by, just to see if he might be there.
A few months went by.  Betsy started looking really, really pregnant, but she soldiered on.  Then one day I was playing at LC2 and I happen to notice a familiar looking woman at another 2/4 game.  It was Eva.  I looked around further and sure enough, Nigel was also at her table, playing.  They were too far away for me to shout over to them, but once the button passed by me in my game, I got up to say hello.
When I greeted Nigel, I noticed he was sporting a new look.  Now that he was no longer working at BSC, he was apparently growing a beard.  Or had already grown one.  Hard to say.  I commented on it, and he basically said, “why not?”  My game was kind of lousy anyway, so I asked for a table change to the table where Nigel and Eva were playing.  This took awhile, as some of the games were starting to break. But eventually I was called to their table and I joined them.
We were having a good time chatting and catching up when Betsy started her shift.  She came over to take our orders.  She of course recognized Eva and Nigel as she had me.  But this was the first time she’d seen Nigel in awhile, and the first time she’d seem with the beard.  After commenting on “long time, no see,” she commented on the beard. 
“I like the beard.  You look good.  Actually, you look Jewish.”

Did she really just say that?  My first reaction was to choke on the diet coke that was now coming through my nose.  I couldn’t remember the last time I heard someone say that to anyone—at least outside of a Jewish joke.
Here’s where I have to some explaining to those of who aren’t Jewish.  For a non-Jew to tell someone “You look Jewish”—whether the person being told that is Jewish or not—is going to be always seen by a Jew as being insulting and offensive.  This is something that was a lot more evident back in my parents’ generation.  But it was passed down to me.  You don’t really hear it much any more, but my parents sure did.  Outside of an occasional thoughtless remark, I never felt I experienced any anti-Semitism, but again, my parents sure did. 
Of course, as with anything of this nature, there is a total double-standard.  It is perfectly okay for any Jew to say someone does or doesn’t look Jewish.  But if a non-Jew says the same thing, it must, by definition, be meant as an insult.  Despite the fact that a million Jewish jokes involve the theme of someone looking—or not looking—“Jewish.”  It’s ok as a long as Jew is telling the joke.  Now, for my parents generation, not only did it have to a Jew telling the joke, but there had to be no goyim (non-Jews) present when such a joke was told.  Otherwise, it was just inviting trouble.  My generation, and the ones following me, don’t usually have such restrictions. 
So, if my dear, late mother had heard Betsy tell Nigel that he looked Jewish, she would have been aghast.  She would have labeled Betsy as an anti-Semite.  Especially since, as I noted at the beginning of this story, Nigel was in fact Hispanic.  He was not at all Jewish looking (I can say it, folks), and the beard didn’t make him look any more Jewish than he did when he was clean-shaven.
But it was clearly the beard that Betsy was referring to when she made her comment.  Nigel just laughed when he heard her comment.  Ironically, if he had been offended, that would, of course, have been offensive to Jews!  But he was amused.  He realized it was the beard that suddenly made him Jewish in Betsy’s eyes.  And he responded as such.  “Oh, it’s the beard that makes me Jewish, huh?  All I need is the sideburns.” 
Again, I was totally cracking up. Nigel was referring to the type of very religious Jews who have really long beards and the curled sideburns.  In reality, Nigel’s beard wasn’t anywhere near that fully grown out yet.  It was just a really odd thing for Betsy to say.   But it didn’t bother me in the slightest.
Still, I thought it was rather amusing and I couldn’t wait to tell Woody and LM the story back home.  Remember, she’s Jewish, and he’s not.  And they had been hearing all these stories, about Betsy, and Nigel and the comments back and forth, all this time.  Woody was especially amused when I told him that Nigel asked me if I knew who the father of the baby was.
So I told them story when I got back to town and they had very different reactions.  Woody thought it was just hysterical that Betsy told Nigel he looked Jewish.  He repeatedly asked how I could just sit there and say nothing when I heard that. 
But LM had a different reaction.  She took it the way I described how my parents’ generation would have taken it—as an insult to Jews (even tho LM is of my generation).  She accused Betsy of being an anti-Semite.  I believe the term she used was “skinhead”.  She was kinda laughing when she said it so I was never sure just how seriously to take her reaction.  One thing for sure was, she definitely enjoyed giving me a hard time about it. I tried to defend Betsy, saying it was more a question of her being a foreigner, more like a cultural thing.  I didn’t think she meant anything sinister by her comment.  But LM wouldn’t let up; she actually accused me of giving her a pass because she has a large bosom.
Come on, would I give a woman the benefit of the doubt just because she has large breasts?
Hmmm.  That may be a rhetorical question.
Nothing much happened for a few months—other than LM continually giving me a hard time over Betsy hating Jews.  I didn’t run into Nigel again—in fact, the Nigel portion of this story has now ended—and I saw Betsy’s belly getting larger and larger every time I walked into LC2.  It’s possible her breasts were also getting bigger—I understand that happens to a woman when she’s pregnant—but of course, I didn’t notice.

(End of part 2, part 3 can be found right here.