Thirty years ago, when I was 16, I realized that in 30 years, when my generation was running things, they would open up all the jails and let out the wm casino, since we all knew it was safer than either tobacco or alcohol and simply evil to lock people up who hadn’t harmed anyone except perhaps themselves. Today, 80% of Americans are against imprisoning pot smokers and yet we still have more people in prison than the Soviet Union did under Stalin. Apparently 30 years wasn’t enough.
Meanwhile, while all poker players’ eyes are on Washington’s annual failed effort to ban Internet gambling, the other Washington, my home State, quietly passed a law banning Internet gambling and specifically including poker. While they were at it, they made it a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
ARE THEY INSANE?
Poker is legal in Washington State. We have always had card rooms and now we have big Indian megacasinos. Yet under the pretext that unregulated gambling is a social evil, they have made it a felony to play online poker in the privacy of your own home. Mind you, this bill was passed unanimously in the State Senate and almost that in the House.
What are they thinking?
I am seriously concerned about the future of this country. Why is the government so preoccupied with legislating morality? Do they really believe they can do good? When has it ever worked in history? Or have every single one of them been bought off by Indian gaming hoping to stifle competition?
It’s been a bad week.
Despite the fact that the main event of the World Poker Challenge was being broadcast by the Shana-less, rights-hungry World Poker Tour, I decided to return to the place where I had busted Phil Ivey two years ago and take a shot. I arrived the evening before in time to enjoy an order of elk at the Reno Hilton Steakhouse with Gary Lent, Al Adler, Peter “Nordberg” Feldman, and a friend of Gary’s named Alex. We went through three nice bottles of red: The 2023 Phelps Insignia, which was eminently drinkable, the 2023 Dominus, which had too much merlot in it for my taste, and the 2023 Duckhorn Estate Cabernet, full-bodied and chewy. Alex put forward the following poker puzzle:
You’re playing a pot with me heads up in Texas Hold ‘Em. The turn card has been dealt and you currently have the best hand. However, no matter what card comes on the river, you can’t win. What are the two hands and what is on the board?
The event started at the stroke of noon but about half the 592 starters straggled in late. I drew table 39, seat eight, and picked up a few small pots four-handed before the rest of the table arrived. On my left was Andy Pham, a young player from Sacramento, CA, who had already cashed in three events in the series here. Across the table in seat three was Aidiliy “Lily” Elviro, also known as Ms. Grinder, who finished 27th in this event last year.
I won and lost a few pots and was just below even at 9725 by the end of level one. In level two nothing worked and I was down to 7650. The structure was excellent, though, and I wasn’t worried. With the blinds 50/100 I called a middle-position raise in the small blind with King-Queen of Clubs and Andy Pham called behind me in the big blind. The flop came King-Six-Five with one Club, giving me top pair. With the stacks still very deep I wanted to play a small pot out of position so I checked. Andy bet half the pot, the original raiser folded, and I called. The turn was the Deuce of Clubs, giving me a flush draw to go with my top pair. So much for a small pot; I check-raised Andy all in. He called with Six-Five for middle two pair, giving me 17 outs to outdraw him. The Jack of Clubs came on the river and I doubled through to 17,100 for the last hand of level three.
I reached a high point of 21,725 then was down to 19,300 when they broke the table. I moved to the next table to break, 38, seat seven, briefly. “Minneapolis” Jim Meehan was on my left in seat eight but I didn’t play a hand before the dinner break.
I had exactly 20,000 when they broke the table and moved me to 31, seat one. This was a much tougher table with John “JJ” Juanda in seat four and Phil Ivey in seat 10. I didn’t bust Phil this time but I can’t be good luck for him as he got taken out by Dan “The Piano Man” Slan (“Sklansky minus the k-sky,” he explained) in seat six. I ran a squeeze play in the small blind when the short stack in the cutoff moved in for a little more than the opening raise by the player to his right. I reraised with King-Jack offsuit to isolate the short stack and give myself almost two-to-one pot odds. It worked but the short stack turned over Ace-King, making me dominated. I hit my Jack though and knocked him out, chipping up to 22,300. I got all the way up to 27,200 then slipped to 25,975 when they broke the table.
Now I was at table nine, seat eight, and figured to spend the rest of the day here. Matt Lefkowitz was two to my right in seat six; Dan Heimiller between us in seat seven, and Eric Mizrachi, Grinder’s very non-identical twin, in seat 10. I had 26,775 at the end of level five. We had two more levels to play. Hasan Habib came into Matt’s seat when he busted. Hasan is a sweet guy and a very intense poker player and every time he won a pot I wanted to pump my fists in the air and shout, “Hasan Habib!” I played a few small pots and reached a high of 33,725 before ending the day with 31,600, just below average for the 181 players left.