Tuesday, February 21, 2017

"Since When Do We Allow Side Bets Here?"

New Year's Eve, 2016
Part 3

This is the third and final chapter.  See parts 1 (here) and 2 (here)

As we pick up the story, a new player came to the table.  Let’s call him, oh, I dunno, Jose. 

Jose was not a happy camper and was having a bad night, poker wise.  He soon revealed he came over from the 2/5 game, which apparently broke.  Now I understand why Rick was at our 1/2  game, he must have come from a broken 2/5 game too.  Pretty much the first words out of Jose’s mouth were, “Whatever you do, don’t give me Aces.  I can’t win with Aces.  I had Aces two times in that game, raised big both times, and both times I lost to a set of Queens.  They called and ran me down.”  In case Rick hadn’t heard him, he said to him, “You were there, you saw.”

Jose changed the dynamic of the game.  He was betting like he was still playing 2/5.  He would often open big--$25, even $40.  Other times he would limp or raise to a more reasonable amount.  But he was definitely quite the aggro. And he kept muttering about how bad he was running all night. 

I soon learned that Jose was waiting for some folks to join him, he and his friends were going to Hakkasan for New Year’s Eve.  The way I learned this was by listening to him shouting into his phone. He wasn’t on the phone, it appeared that he was voice-texting.  “Where are you?”  “Get your ass over here!”  “No, I don’t want to go to the club without you.”  “No, I don’t want to meet you inside.”  After sending one fiery text, he said to the entire table, “I’m gonna kill these people when they get here.” For whatever reasons, the rest of his party was delayed, and Jose was not pleased about that.

Not long after Jose came to the game, a dealer I’ll call “Dewey” took the seat next to me.  He was on the clock and made it very clear he was trying to get an “Early Out”—get off the clock so he could drink.  But that wasn’t in the cards for him.  He had table changed to get there, and I originally thought he wanted this table to be with his colleagues, Ginger and Jennifer.  Make it sort of a dealer’s game.  But I later found out that wasn’t the case at all.

I had never played with Dewey at all and I was surprised to see that he was super-aggressive himself.  Pretty much a match for Jose.  He only had about $100 when he got to the table but he wasn’t afraid to put that stack in play, making big opening raises just like Jose did and often open shoving or three-bet shoving when Jose had opened.  I was frankly surprised a dealer would play so aggressively in his own room.  I would think they’d want to be a little less aggro knowing that the other players in the game may be in a position to tip them (or not) in the future.  I think that’s why a lot of dealers prefer to play in other rooms, not the ones they work in.

This made it very difficult to play.  Between the banter of the ladies I was trying to overhear (for this very blog post), and the incredible distractions provided by the NY’s Eve Slut Parade (as described the previous post(, it was hard to concentrate on the poker. And now that there were two maniacs at the table, I just tightened up completely, knowing that I couldn’t concentrate well enough to succeed at this suddenly high stakes game.

Finally, Jose was getting ready to leave (not sure if his party had shown up or not, but he had clearly had enough poker for one night).  I’m sure he had gone thru several buy-ins and was now down to less than $100.  And so, he just started open-shoving with his diminutive stack.  Actually it was anywhere from $40-$70 or so.  He didn’t do it every time so he was being at least somewhat selective.  I didn’t get any hand to call with.

Jose was getting upset that he couldn’t just lose his chips so he could go.  Really.  I guess he was looking for a double-up (which would make the trip to the podium to cash out worthwhile) or a bust-out.  The blinds he was picking up shoving weren’t enough.  When he did get called, it was by a shorter stack and he didn’t make enough to satisfy him.  Or he would lose to a shorter stack and still have chips.

Apparently he knew Rick, and I suspect they knew each other from before that earlier 2/5 session they had played.  And Jose said, “Man, I just gotta lose this and bust and then I’m leaving.”  Now, I dunno who suggested it, but Jose and Rick made an agreement.  They had a side bet between the two of them on this one last hand, whoever had the better hand at the end would win.  The stakes?  Jose’s entire stack.  Jose said this would be his last hand either way. They didn’t want to play against the other players, so they both folded and asked the dealer to put their hands off to the side so they could see how they compared to the board later. I’m not sure they even looked at their cards.  The dealer put their hands to the side, but then, someone else raised and there was no call so there wasn’t even a flop in this hand.  Rick and Jose asked the dealer to put out a board anyway, and after hesitating for a bit, he complied.  He put out a five-card board and then turned over both of their hands and it turned out Rick won.  Jose was fine with that and he gave Rick all the rest of his chips (well under $100) and took off to go kill his friends.  Or at least meet them and go to the night club with them.

I was happy to see Jose leave. With his constant complaining about his cards, his yelling into the phone to his friends, and his aggro betting, I felt we were well rid of him. And I didn’t give much thought to the little wager they made that got rid of him.  If I had thought about it much, I would have been grateful it worked out the way it did.

But Dewey was livid.   He said to the dealer (his colleague), “Oh, we allow side bets here?  Since when?” The dealer said, “Well, he was gonna leave anyway.”  That was true.  Then he said, “I thought they were doing it out of their own pocket.”  I doubt he actually believed that.

I didn’t really understand at first what Dewey’s problem was.  Yes, it was not strictly within the rules.  But it was New Year’s Eve, it was supposed to be an evening of celebration. Forget about Jose, Rick was one of the best regulars in the room, was it a big deal to bend the rules a bit to accommodate him?

But then Dewey made his point clear.  “I’m trying to win his money.  It’s a lot easier to win it from him than it is now, from Rick.”  Yeah, true.  Rick is a tough player, and Jose had just been spewing chips. 

However, I would have had more sympathy if it had been more chips.  It was less than $100, as I said. Not that I wouldn’t want to win that amount myself, granted.  But it’s not like he was cheated out of an opportunity to win a shitload of money.  And it made Rick happy, and I’ll bet that Rick has tipped Dewey generously in the past (and will in the future) when he’s been dealt to by him.

The argument between them got very heated.  The dealer kept saying, “He was gonna leave anyway.”  And Dewey kept saying, “My point is, it is more beneficial for that money to be in his (Jose’s) hands than Rick’s.” And so Jennifer and Ginger weighed in.  They tried to reason with Dewey, saying he was over reacting.  But they also admitted that what the dealer allowed was really unacceptable.  The amazing thing was that, this close to midnight, both Jennifer and Ginger (particularly Ginger) were coherent and not just raging drunks.  They were somehow sympathetic to both points of view.

Dewey actually got up and complained to the shift manager, which I found really stunning.  Ratting out one of your co-workers seemed extreme.  I mean, this was clearly a one-off. 

At that point, the dealer turned to me and said, “You heard him say he was leaving after that hand, didn’t you?”  I confirmed that I heard that.  He asked if I would vouch for that if it ever came up.  I said sure.  You see, the dealer figured that, as a reg, my word would hold some weight.

Anyway, they never really settled things, the dealer was pushed out, and Dewey was still upset.  Then, midnight was approaching and most of the players took off to go outside and watch the fireworks.  I think I may have been the only person left at my table.  So I just chatted with the new dealer for 20 minutes.

Slowly, the people started filing back in.  One of the first guys back to our table was a younger fellow wearing a baseball cap.  So it was just him and I and the female dealer at the table and the guy said to me, “Does Jose Canseco play here a lot?”

What?  Initially, that struck me as the biggest non-sequitor question I’d ever heard.  What made him think of Jose Canseco, I wondered.  He might have well as brought up the Sultan of Brunei.
I said—or started to say—that I’d never seen him in there when, the light bulb went off over my little brain and it occurred to me he just might have meant the aggro fellow who had just taken off to go to the club.  Could it be?  I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t have a real picture of Canseco in my mind.  But that’s what he must have meant, right?

So I asked him, “Wait.  Was that Jose Canseco who was in seat 5?”  “Yes, it was. I wanted to say something to him, I wanted to thank him for all the great baseball memories, but I was too shy.”

Holy shit.  How could I have been playing with one of the biggest baseball stars of my lifetime and not have known it?  Especially one that I knew played poker. I immediately whipped out my celphone and Googled “Jose Canseco today.”  And sure enough, some pictures came up that made it quite clear that I had been somewhat annoyed at Jose Canseco for the past several hours. Indeed, I had spent New Year’s Eve playing poker with Jose Canseco.

I dunno if I would have said anything to him if I had recognized him.  Likely not. He didn’t seem as open as Orel Hershiser was. At least with Hershiser, I eventually did recognize him, even if it took about an hour.  This time, if that guy hadn’t spoken up, I never would have known.

And of course, now you know why I named him “Jose”—that’s actually who it was, even if I didn’t have a clue at the time.  If I never found out, I probably wouldn’t have even given him a blog name.  I would have just referred to him as “Aggro” or “Maniac” or something like that.

A few minutes later, the rest of the players showed up, including Dewey.  I immediately asked him if he knew that was Jose Canseco in seat 5.  “Of course….that’s why I wanted this table.  And that’s why I was pissed about that side bet.  The whole point was to try to get his money.  I know how he plays.”

Shit, now it made sense.  He was angling for a table change the minute he saw Canseco at our game.  And those early aggro moves he made were all designed to play at Canseco.  He’s probably both dealt to him and played with him before.   Suddenly, I felt I had a better understanding about why he was so upset with side bet.

Dewey went on to mention something I had totally forgotten about—if I even noticed at the time.  At one point, he said, Jennifer was about to toss him a plastic water bottle from across the table.  And he said, “Don’t do that, it may hit someone in the head.”  Apparently, Canseco reacted to that, and it was intentional on Dewey’s part. There was a famous incident when Canseco got hit in the head with a fly ball and it bounced in the stands for a home run.

As for the poker at this session…well, not much to report, actually.  There were obviously a lot of distractions.  I was trying to hear the ladies banter—and I was distracted by the foot traffic.  Honestly, it was so good I was starting to get annoyed when I had to look away from it to look at my cards.

I wasn’t getting good cards (at least, I think I looked at them long enough to determine that, but I can’t really be sure) and it was obvious early on that I wouldn’t be able to give the game the concentration necessary to play my best game.  If I wanted to have a successful poker session, I should have asked for a table change to a table in the back, away from the club traffic.

Of course, I did no such thing.

But I really liked my seat.  I was not only potentially getting material from Jennifer and Ginger, but honestly, the seat I was at was providing me more entertainment than I’d had in months (but then, I’d just spent 7 weeks recovering from open heart surgery).  I really didn’t want to risk a lot of money under the circumstances.  I nitted it up and tried to make my one buy-in last until after midnight so I wouldn’t have to give up my seat without re-buying.

And that’s just what I did.  Early on, I lost the minimum with the dreaded hand when I ran into a set of Jacks.  I got Aces twice in relatively short order and won two small pots.

When we were short-handed, it folded to me on the button with pocket 6’s.  I raised to $6 and the blinds both called.  I made a c-bet on a blank flop and took it. 

I had pocket Queens when someone straddled and someone called the straddle.  I made it $20 and it was four-way.  There was a low flop, and my $40 c-bet took it. 

After midnight, when I was more or less ready to quit the game, my stack was down to less than $50.  Since I felt I could leave then, I just shoved with Ace-8 off (a Jose Canseco move!).  I got called by pocket Jacks.  I got both an Ace and an 8 on the flop, and doubled up.

I kept playing for awhile, and would have stayed longer. But a new player took the seat to my left and he just couldn’t stop coughing.  It was quite annoying and I was worried about catching the bubonic plague from him.  So after an orbit or two, I had enough and cashed out, a relatively small loss.  I still needed to kill sometime in the casino before all the roads would be open and I could drive back to my room.  Fortunately, there was still plenty to look at all over the casino.  So I did.

Finally, after 3AM, I got in my car and headed back.  Despite losing some money, it was definitely an extremely fun New Year’s Eve celebration.


  1. I'm almost positive i know who Dewey is and if my hunch is correct, i'm not surprised at any of his actions from your post.


    1. Haha. You're probably right.

      Are you thinking of a guy whose real first name is the same as your real first name?

  2. Yep. And knowing Dewey, he will hold that over whoever the dealer was in that game until the end of time. Now if said dealer ever wants to complain about something Dewey did, Dewey will inform the manager about this issue as a counterpoint.


  3. Loved this 3 parter Rob, keep em coming!


    1. Thanks very much, Paul. I really appreciate it!