A Bluff Was At Once, Genius & Ridiculous

Hours of boredom punctuated by moments of terror – not war, poker.

I have been meaning to write this for some time. I was an “early adopter” of online poker. That is if you can use that phrase, which is normally associated with positivity, in the same sentence as something that is quite so negative. But anyway, I was an “early adopter”.

I was never much of a gambler. Growing up in a country famed for its stud farms, thoroughbred horses, and trainers I could have given a rats for horse racing and never liked or frequented the bookies. A lifelong participant in sport with a passion for Liverpool F.C, the “Dubs” and “the boys in green” – still I never laid a bet on a match.

And then there were cards. I always played cards. As a kid we played pontoon, don and five card hold’em. I used to ratchet up my pocket money each week by playing cards against the richer kids. Starting with a smaller stake, nearly always ending up with more than I started with. Sometimes I cheated. Well, you do don’t you. From time to time. When you’re a kid.

We used to play “in-betweens” which is basically betting on whether the next card will be in between the previous two or the same and there were odds. When we visited my country cousins we played 25 or 110.

And on it went every Saturday for a few years until I turned 16 or so and forgot all about cards really until I was in my early 30s.

Then poker went online and I bought a few books and joined a few sites and opened multiple accounts and won a few quid at the start. More or less, playing only now and again until 2008 when everyone decided that they wanted to be a poker pro.

I had accounts with Full Tilt (before they took everyones money), Ultimate Bet (before the internal cheating scandal), PokerStars, 888, and on and on and on.

Real quick – you sat at a table. People called other people “donkeys”, “fish”, “muppets”, “arseholes” and debated deeply philosophical points like “how the fuck could you call me with that shite”.

Everybody’s bluff was at the same time genius and the height of stupidity. And these excerpts from the complex social interactions and ponderings on sophisticated human behaviours were at the 1c/2c tables.

I moved up and played and with dozens of different usernames on several different sites. I won a shitload of cash.

Never a tournament player – always the cash games.

I had always held the view that the frequency of “bad beats” and outrageously good hands for several players at the same table were a sign that the whole thing was rotten.

I was rebuked and people pointed to the trustworthiness of the RNG’s that ran the games and that these “once in a lifetime” hands offline, occurred with such frequency online because of the exponentially greater number of hands being played and the speed of play.

Total unadulterated horse shit.

Forget about groups of players colluding. Forget about the trolling. Forget about the piranhas knocking about picking off the new winners. Forget about the Super-Users or the Admin password holders. Forget about all that. Just concentrate on what a massive fiddle it all is.

And then it happened.

I loaded USD$200 one night after re-opening my PokerStars account. I remember the night very well. I had just put the last of my three sons to bed and it was about 11pm. By 1am I had over three grand. I sat down at a six handed no-limit Texas hold’em table.

I played on and by 4am I had over US$38,000. Mike Matusow was at the table to my immediate right.

I was a “cerebral” player. I thought. Able to pick out the nuances of peoples innermost thoughts by how quickly or slowly they hit the call or raise button. What a “dick”.

I never “ran it twice”. The thing about poker players until they get owned is that they are the greatest self-obsessed, narcissistic shites that you could hope to meet.

At any rate a new player joined the table after another had exited, after being cleaned. I hovered over his avatar. He / She / It was from China.

A couple of hands passed and then I was dealt pocket bullets on the button. The Chinese “entity” was “under the gun” and flat called. There was a fold and the cut-off folded too (Matusow) and I raised.

The small blind folded and the big blind called. The Chinese “entity” then re-raised. I was an “aggressive” player I thought but on this occasion with the usual faux complexity with which poker obsessives view even the most simplistic decision – I decided to be “sneaky” and flat called the Oriental re-raise. The big blind folded. I was much worse at poker than I thought.

The flop was A, 10, 8.

The Chinese entity bet about 12 grand or something silly. I decided it was time and possessing “the nuts” straight up I went All-In. The “Beijing Bandit” snap called.

I had a minor concern that the dude could be holding pocket 8’s / 10’s and would hit a one outer but I didn’t think so.

Both our hole cards were now visible and turned over waiting for the Turn and River community cards in this epic showdown.

The “entity” had Q 8. I mean come on. He had bottom pair with a Q kicker. He needed “runner runner” 8’s to beat me. Thats odds of 0.0925% or one time in approximately 1080. I was bullet-proof.

The turn was an 8. I had a boat A’s & 8’s versus his set of 8’s.

He had a one outer. I was golden for the nanosecond that it took for the RNG to decide that the next card in this poker “random” universe would be an 8. And so it was.

The river was a 8.

And in the text box – the word “boom” appeared next to the entities name. This is the point in Western’s where a guy stands up (me) and shoots the “boom” guy between the eyes, for taking the piss and not having the wit or the wisdom to realise that he/she/it is a complete wanker.

In the VR of online poker it is replaced with bits of broken laptop sticking out from the wall opposite.

In my case it was different.

I closed the laptop lid and went to bed. I muttered “fuck that” on the way.


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