Playing Poker With a Professional

On New Year’s Eve, we pulled into the casino just before 4:00. I made my way to the poker room and found mine and Dad’s names were 2nd and 3rd on the list for a $5/10 hold’em game they’d be starting soon. Within 15 minutes Dad was seated in the 10 seat, so I took the 9 seat so that we could talk through out the night. I buy-in for $100 and set $200 in bills underneath my chips.

When the table started we only had 6 players. It actually didn’t fill up for awhile now that I think of it. Across the table from me is an attrative woman. She has to be in her early 20s, but looks even younger than that. At least I’ll have something good to look at if my cards are trash. The second hand of the night I’m dealt Ad2d in what would be middle position I guess. I limp in, as do a few others. The flop is all red and two are my suit. There is a bet to my right, so I call. The turn is another red card, but it’s a heart. The same guy bets and I call again. The river brings the third diamond.

I have the nut flush!

He bets again. I raise. He re-raises me. I quickly look back at the board to make sure there isn’t a straight flush possible. There isn’t. I have the nut flush and I’m getting raised! I ask the dealer if there is a cap on betting. “Not when it’s heads up,” she says. I re-raise him back. He raises again! WHOA. What does this guy have? I put in another raise and finally he just calls. I turn over the nuts and he flips over the king high flush. It’s only the second hand of the night, but I’m already about $100 in the black. Hell, I won $60 from the guy just on the river betting.

After 20 or 30 minutes I see a big guy walk into the room and sit next to the attracive gal. I instantly think I know him from somewhere, but can’t place his face. He’s about 6 foot 1 with a good build and has a goatee. Where do I know him? I keep looking back across the table, trying to remember. The table quickly fills up. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it seemed to happen after Mystery Man sat down. Shortly after, someone sitting near me whispers something about the Mystery Man. I ask him what he said and as soon as the words come out of his mouth the light bulb goes off.

I’m playing poker with Darren McCarty of the Detroit Red Wings! I’m playing $5/10 limit poker with a millionaire! This is so fucking cool!

Over the next several hours we shoot the shit with Darren. Hockey is brought up a little bit, but I think everyone realizes that he doesn’t really want to talk about it to a bunch of strangers. I’m sure he’d much rather be in Detroit practicing for an NHL game than playing cheap poker with us in St. Ignace, MI (see map if you are wondering where this is). The lockout is not in the hands of the players.

If no one had mentioned who he was, I would never have realized Darren was a big shot. He was just a normal guy trying to fit in. He was out to have a good time on New Year’s Eve and play some poker just like the rest of us. Him and his girl mentioned that they prefer to play no-limit and do so quite often at Greektown Casino in Detroit. They were up north looking to do some snowmobiling, but the previous few days were rainy and warm, so most of the snow was gone.

During conversations a dealer mentions to them that another casino is starting a $200 buy-in no-limit game and tonight is the first night of it. Shortly after hearing this they decide to leave. I’m guessing they wanted to hit up this game and leave our game of “go-fish.” More on that soon.

I had the honor of taking the last pot from Darren on a bluff. I’m dealt AdKd in my blind so I raise it up after a few people limp in. The flop is garbage with a queen in the mix. Everyone checks around. The turn is another rag and it’s checked around to Darren who bets $10. It’s folded to me and I’ve already decided I’m going to make a move. I pull out the check-raise bluff. Darren thinks about it. He says, “Did you hit a set of queens on the flop? You’ve only been showing down big hands so I have to fold.” It’s only a small pot, but a huge moral victory and a cool story to tell. He also mentions that it’s not that hard of a fold since all he had was a 2 to match a 2 on board. He was on a semi-bluff himself.

Darren and his woman were good players, but you could tell they were no-limit players by their style of play. This is how I knew I could get him to lay down his hand unless he had paired the queen. I didn’t think he had one because he would have bet the flop. I also knew that he was paying attention to people’s play from a few comments I overheard him say to his girl.

I’m a Red Wings fan, so it was a pleasure to play poker with one of my favorite players on the team. He’s not afraid to throw down the gloves and always plays tough hockey. More importantly, he’s a class act away from the game and just wants to be treated like the rest of us. I’ve had some great sports memories in the past, but this ranks right up there.

Now back to some poker content from the night…

Just like I had thought, the play was much worse than I’ve ever found playing online. People were cold-calling raises with unsuited connectors. Three guys in particular played at least 80% of the hands. One of them called down to the river whenever he hit a pair or had any type of draw. For those of you that think crazy things only happen at the online sites, think again. I saw a woman hit quad jacks while playing Jd2h. I saw several runner runner flush and straight draws hit. I saw people call with gutshots all the way to the river and hit. I saw cowboys and pocket rockets slowplayed pre-flop. I wish I lived next door to this game! If I could play there a few times a week, I’d be making a few hundred easily.

This night was a little different though. I just couldn’t get the cards. I was playing pretty well. I did make some mistakes over the course of 9 hours of play, but I can’t play perfect as hard as I try. I should have called a few bets with a pair when I was getting odds to improve. I should have folded a few hands when it was pretty clear I was beat. I ended up winning $41 on the night, but it should have been closer to $200 when I think about it. Poker is a never ending education though.

I never had cowboys or rockets the whole night. I had the Hilton sisters once and won on a scary board. I lost with pocket jacks two or three times and didn’t hit much with any of my other pocket pair. Once I flopped a set of sixes, but the dealer was too busy talking about a previous hand she made a mistake on and ended up putting down the turn card before anyone had a chance to react to my bet. They all folded when they saw that it would have put a second ace on the board. That could have built up to a nice pot had someone had an ace in their hand and lost to my full house. Fucking dealer! I also flopped a set of eights only to lose to my Dad’s flopped set of queens. I also had a couple of split pots when someone sucked out on the river to end up with the same hand as me.

It was a fun night, but I just didn’t get my share of cards. I was down over $100 about a half hour before we left, but won a couple of pots to go ahead again. $41 wasn’t a bad profit for the hands I was getting and some of the bets I should have saved myself. It comes out to roughly 0.5 BB/hour.

4 Replies to “Playing Poker With a Professional”

  1. Grats on your brush with fame. Reminds me of the time that I was at Carl’s Golfland. I was getting ready to leave the range when Yzerman and Shanahan elbow up to the slots next to me. O_O

    Though, I can imagine watching Steve and Brendan hit golf balls is *nothing* like getting to play poker against a Red Wing, let alone taking money from them. Thanks for the story.


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