Monday, October 31, 2011

The Table Captain




I don’t like confrontation, but once it occurs, I have the unfortunate inability to keep quiet.

When I was younger, my mother tried to teach me that sometimes it really is for the best to remain silent…that there are some things better left unsaid/unexamined, or just plain ignored. My mother, however, has the enviable ability to “go invisible” when things get heated. It helps her avoid uncomfortable situations, but she didn’t pass that gift down to me. And, over the years, I’ve learned it’s just not a trait that comes natural for me.

I like to think I’ve got the gist of the lesson down pretty good; but, the sad fact remains that I’ve still got a lot to learn.

Just how much was highlighted for me this weekend when a brief, strange scene unfolded at the poker tables. Like a bottle rocket, my fuse was lit and my mouth took over – sending confrontation on a high burning arc that trailed off just as abruptly with one last sparkly outburst.  When it was over, I was spent. But I also felt good. And I’ll tell you why…

Now - you might have heard that I went on a degen bender this weekend. And it’s true, I did. I have to thank @PokerVixen, @katewrightson, @thekeylime, and @WriterJen for all of the wondrous goodness it was. If you want to know anything about the true Vegas hook-up, I promise you cannot go wrong making friends with @PokerVixen. The “taking care of us” she engendered was matchless, and I had a super blast (thank you, Lori! And Jen, Kate, and Amy!).

When you think of Vegas degeneracy, you might imagine dollar bills and copious amounts of liquor, scantily clad strippers, and the occasional motor boating of said stripper cleavage. I’m not going to say there was none of that (or that there was!), but I do want to paint a clear picture of what Vegas degeneracy consists of for me.

It generally begins and ends with me sitting my ass in a chair at a table where $1/$2 NLHE is being played. And that’s usually where it ends, too – whether the trip is a two-day job, or a week-er. That’s right. The truth is out, I’m really boring. I am the female version of Dusty “LeatherAss”Schmidt (ok, without untold mirrions, but still…). The only liquor that passes my lips almost always comes with dinner and the only cleavage motor boating that occurs, well…if I told you, I’d have to kill you.

So, I’m sitting at a lovely $1/$2 NLHE table at the glorious Nugget. It’s 7:45 in the morning, hours after my unfortunate bluffing debacle with @PokerGrump’s famous 4-2 hand, @WriterJen’s running over of seasoned regulars, and @thekeylime’s winning of @PokerVixen’s friends’ Halloween party tourney.

I’ve been sitting at this table for 6 hours straight. I’m back at the Nugget only because I’ve outlasted the Binion’s game. Already short-handed with only 6 players, it broke after I won a $300+ pot with a nut flush from the snarly chip leader (who was playing 99.5% of all hands with a minimum $15 open raise). Raking that pot helped me regain that which I’d lost earlier to those poker beasts Grump and Jen. 

Back at the Nugget, I’m the lone female and every man at the table is a gentleman. Some are quiet. Some are loud and drunk. All are sweet. We are laughing and playing and I am steadily, slowly, growing my stack.

Tex – a 7 foot, bearded oil man from Texas – had drunk countless Old Fashioneds during the time he sat with us. At 4:00am, his wife came down and I heard her whisper in his ear, “Honey, you told me to come get you at 4:00 if you hadn’t come to bed yet.” Her grey hair was mussed and she clutched her jacket like a bathrobe, sleep still in her eyes. He gave her a kiss, but she went back to the room alone. He was sitting in front of $800 at the time.

6:30am rolled around before he finally went to the room, empty-handed save for a clutch of pants in one hand, and a handful of cherries in the other that he carefully plucked into his mouth, one by one, as he walked away, laughing heartily at our fond farewells and cries to buy back in.

It was early morning poker and the room had been down to one table for hours. At 7am, a short, spectacled man with hair the color and texture of white cotton candy sat down in Tex’s empty seat. Within minutes, the dynamic of the table changed from one of respected competition to mutiny. I shuddered for a moment, imagining my Piggy to this guy’s Roger in a Nugget/poker version of Lord of the Flies.

It all started, right as “Roger” was sitting down, when the 10-seat reached into the muck to rabbit hunt. He had been asking the dealer to run the hand after the 6-seat had raked the pot. In hours of play, it was the first time such a request had been made. Because he’s not supposed to allow the hunt, the dealer just spread out the remaining deck, but in a look-the-other-way manner that allowed 10-seat to pick out and look at what would’ve been the river card.

The whole time 10-seat was asking the dealer for the rabbit card, “Roger” was aggressively and LOUDLY saying “NO!” and “You can’t do that! We have rules!!” each gibe articulated with an angry finger-pointing at both dealer and 10-seat.

We’d been having a blast and 10-seat was oblivious. He reached in, turned the card over, and dealer then gathered and placed the cards into the shuffler, moving on to deal the next hand.

Roger jumped up, knocked his chair over, and said, “oh hell no, that’s not right. I want your job! I’m gonna have your job!” He pounded the table one last time and ran to the manager stand where we all watched him do what can only be described as tattle-tell. I mucked my hand, and watched this grown man, jowls flapping with each finger-point, berate the manager, the dealer, the table, and the entire world, it seemed. He sat back down after a several minutes of giving the poor manager an earful. A few orbits later, the manager dutifully came by and gave the dealer a weak but quick reminder to “just deal.”

Dealer did his job and admirably never skipped a beat. The rest of the table, however, was fairly undone. Not so much at that one incident, but because Roger then proceeded to share his views on life and poker, often at a player’s expense, hand after hand, orbit after orbit.

I took a break and went to the restroom.

When I came back, the entire table had erupted. Roger was standing up and again employing the aggressive finger point, but this time to the 7 seat, who was raking a huge pot and LOUDLY giving back as good as he was getting.

Roger ran back to the manager stand, this time demanding, “I want to talk to YOUR boss!”

I have no idea what the fight was about because I’d missed it, but I could ascertain that Roger wasn’t even in the hand, 7-seat had sucked out on someone, and when he retorted back to one of Roger’s gibes, Roger didn’t like it.

I muck again, and watch Roger tattle-tell to two managers this time. At the tirade’s conclusion, Manager #2 begins a slow walk of observation outside the poker room as Roger makes his way back to his seat. Once he sits, I discreetly get up and walk out to Manager #2 and tell her, “You know what, we were sitting here for 6+ hours playing, with no issues, until this guy showed up. Since he sat down, it’s been 45 minutes of non-stop cry babying. I don’t know what he told you, but he’s the issue, not these other guys.”

See?? For the life of me, I can’t keep quiet…

Manager #2 said “No worries, we’re just watching, if it gets out of hand, he’ll be removed.”

A few orbits later, 7-seat gets into a $600+ hand with the 2-seat (the 2-seat is on my immediate left and Roger’s immediate right). As the all-in is announced, Roger loudly starts cheering for 7-seat to bust, “Yeah, take him out! Take this sucker out! He’s an idiot!” 

2-seat is heedless, watching rapt as his hand plays out. 2-seat has the nut flush on the flop, 7-seat has a set that boats on the river, and he rakes the pot. As he does, he’s loudly berated by Roger. He tries to respond reasonably, but Roger won’t quit, and that makes him mad. Pretty soon, they’re going at it pretty heavily and Roger starts telling him to “Shut up! I’m the table captain here and you’re an idiot. I AM THE TABLE CAPTAIN!”

That was pretty much it for me…

“Sir, no…YOU need to shut up. Everybody at this table has been playing together for HOURS until you showed up and since you’ve been here it’s been nothing but us watching a GROWN MAN ACT LIKE A CRY BABY. You are a grown adult man acting like a CRY BABY. YOU ARE NOT THE TABLE CAPTAIN and you need to SHUT YOUR MOUTH and play poker and quit acting like a cry baby. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Through several “yeahs” and grunts of approval, Roger responds like a champ, “No, YOU shut up!”

I could feel myself shaking, because I HAD JUST TOLD A COMPLETE STRANGER TO SHUT UP, “Sir, you are a grown man. Quit acting like a cry baby and SHUT YOUR MOUTH. You are NOT the table captain here. *I* AM THE CAPTAIN OF THIS TABLE. You need to SIT DOWN, SHUT UP, and PLAY POKER, or you need to find something else to do.”

BOOM!

I’m not kidding. It happened. I said that shit.

The whole time, the sweet, elderly, female dealer is all “No, no, ok, everyone stop! Stop it. Right. Now.” But no one can hear her and 7-seat is still racking chips and then all I can hear is the deal and the next orbit begins. Everyone silent, puffed up and indignant.

Cards are dealt, I muck and kinda sit there in shock, like “wtf just happened and did I really say that and what is that noise? Oh, that’s actual blood rushing to my brain and my heart beating like a thousand firecrackers blasting at once…”

So I get up and walk to the bar area and just kind of take a breather, as a cocktail waitress and one of the dealers comes up to me to talk about what just happened. I grab a water and cool off for a moment and see Roger walk off, leaving his chips on the table.

With Roger absent, I come back to my seat at the conclusion of the hand, and apologize to the table and the dealer, “Y’all, I’m really sorry, I shouldn’t have done that, and I’m going to apologize to him when he comes back and that was…” and was met with “Girl! Don’t apologize to that man! We were having fun til he showed up!” and “If you apologize to him, I will totally lose respect for you!” along with some curious looks from some of the quieter ones.

A short time later, Roger sits back down and routine, every day poker returns to the Nugget. Roger is quieter now, but soon starts talking the ear off the unfortunate 2-seat with tales of being a veterinarian (because he’d served in Vietnam…yes, he said ‘veternarian’, even after the 2 and 4-seats tried to explain to him the difference) and the virtues of Asian females, because they are “so polite and submissive” (his words, used even after the 4-seat was replaced by an Asian female).

45-minutes later, the female dealer returns. After a few orbits, she leans over and whispers “It worked, hon. He’s shut up now, ain’t he?”

Outwardly, I know I couldn’t help a slight grin. Inside, I was in full-on Cheshire cat grin mode.

A little while later, the crew (@PokerVixen, @katewrightson, @thekeylime) came by and tried to get me to meet a friend for breakfast, but…well, the game was getting good again. As they walk off, I’m dealt 8s and flop trips, and scoop a $500+ pot. I took that as a sign that no, I wasn’t going to hell for forcefully, and quite intimately, saying SHUT UP to a complete and total stranger.

By the time Jen came by for breakfast, I had the biggest stack I think I’ve ever amassed - I bought into that game for $200 and walked out with $895. 

Over breakfast, I thought back on all the lessons my Mom’s tried to teach me over the years. I recognize there’s a time to be quiet and a time to speak out. I'm sure the game would have continued just fine if I had kept my mouth shut. It might have. And, someone might've also gotten shanked. I'm just saying.

I’m not proud of my outburst, but I can say I learned there is quite a lot of merit in bluntly staking out that whole Table Captain mentality…I’m just not so sure I ever want to obtain it in such a way again.

Several hours later, I visited the room again for a few hands at a different table one last time before meeting up with the Twitter crew for goodbyes. Roger and 7-seat were still going at it, but only over cards. And their stacks had clearly changed hands a time or two. By the time I left, it looked as though Roger was getting the better end of the deal.

As I walked out, Roger caught my eye and nodded. I smiled and nodded back. “I’ll see you next time, Captain. Keep a seat warm for me.”

He smiled and said, “I will.”

(Ok, so that last part didn’t happen, but I thought it sounded nice and kinda wish it had.)

Oh Vegas, I do love you so.


***

7 comments:

  1. Nice. It can be awful to play with some people. Good for you for speaking up.

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  2. Perfect! You would survive just fine in South Philly! lol. Careful though, it can become addictive to tell idiots, morons and loudmouths what's on your mind!

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  3. *I* AM THE CAPTAIN OF THIS TABLE.

    I am going to find some way, somewhere, to use this phrase today.

    Good on you, pokerlawyer! Nothing like a little righteous indignation to get the blood flowing!

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  4. @Laoch - thanks. I hope it doesn't happen again, but I guess if you play poker long enough (and during the graveyard shift) anything can happen.

    @CM369 - Good point. My mom is of a mind that such behavior (speaking one's mind) is what makes a person an idiot, moron, or loudmouth. There's a fine line...but I think, on the whole, she's right. and ha! Good to know I'd survive in South Philly, I like to live on the edge!

    @MYOP!! I miss you, hon! And, whooo, ain't you right about the righteous indignation. I still can't quite believe I said all that, and I'm still not sure it was the right thing to do. But - it is what it is. Oh, and *I* AM THE CAPTAIN OF THIS TABLE! ;-)

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  5. Quick story for you... As salty as I can be on Twitter, when I am at a table, I am gracious & friendly. I'm still garbage-mouthed & I don't censor myself EVER, but I'm pretty easygoing & like to keep the "table peace". Trav (@OnAFoldDraw) is the POLAR opposite - he's rude & impatient & intolerant & sometimes downright douchey... so it's even MORE important that I'm the table sweetheart if Trav's seated there. Many players go on MONKEY TILT with Trav, and want to be asshats to ME for whatever reason their tiny brain justifies. Just more reason for me to be everyone's BFF at the table.

    Sometimes, however, you just get that guy who crawls up under your skin. You don't like him & he doesn't like you. It hasn't been said, but you can just TELL. I was seated with THAT guy about a month ago in the $2/$5 at Harrah's Atlanic City. He was about 72 years old, a real cranky bastard. Every time I'd 3-bet him (with a real hand, of course - wink) he'd huff and puff, muck his cards and then proceed to grumble something inaudible under his breath. Much like "Roger" from your story, the game had a pretty casual feel to it before this guy got there. There was laughter & conversation, and you'd frequently hear "Nice hand, man" even when the player saying it lost with the best hand.

    As soon as this curmudgeon joined us, the tension started to grow & before you knew it, players were arguing and insulting each other... people started to play badly & it just... I dunno.. it SUCKED. I'll get to the point now.

    Captain Buzzkill is immediately to my right, and raises from the cutoff. I quickly 3bet and made it about 1/3 of his stack. He flats. Flop comes K6T rainbow. He bets 1/2 of what he has behind & I quickly raise all in. He grins a little & flips over AA. I grin back and show my (now)set of kings. My hand holds & I win about $1350 pot.

    He starts criticizing my play, like somehow I'm supposed to fold KK on the button preflop- because he raised to 3x the BB. "Grumble grumble grumble... You didn't think I had 2 aces? I raised didn't I? Bah humbug... female players, grumble grumble, blah blah blah." Usually, I just ignore that nonsense... sometimes I say sweetly "I got lucky..." but with THIS guy, I couldnt take any more.

    Me: (sarcastic) "You'll be okay, Pal. Everyone gets stuck every now & then. Don't worry about it, I'm sure I'll give it all back to you before the night is over. Just stop whining."

    Him: (venomous) "Don't tell me what to do - I can talk as much as I want. And you're Goddamned right you'll give it all back. I'll take every penny you've got before you know what hit ya."

    Me: (amused) "Oh. Okay then. Best of luck with that.(admonishing) You know, nobody likes a grouchy old prick."

    Him: (flustered) "Yeah? Well.. uh.. nobody likes a loudmouthed little girl."

    Me: (deadpan) "You'll be dead soon. I win."

    He shut the fuck up after THAT. #woot

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  6. Kim - I was at lunch reading this and laughed out loud, causing people two tables over to turn around at the commotion. I guess he did. (OMG!!!)

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  7. "You'll be dead soon. I win." HAH! Best. Line. EVAR.

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