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Daniel - Poker Journal

The Israeli Game

23 Feb 2005

Oren and Regev, two of my high school buddies from Toronto moved out to LA several years ago. These guys were my partners in crime as a teenager and we shared a lot of fun times together.

As time went on our close friendship drifted due to distance, but my love for my two brothers never changed. They will always be "my boyz" no matter where we are.

Having said that, Regev invited me over to his Dad's place for a big poker game. $60 buy in tournament with rebuys. Oh no... not another rebuy tournament! I'm a total rebuy junkie so I knew that wasn't a good sign.

When the rebuy period was all said and done I was in for a total of $960. You know, your standard buy in and 15 rebuys! Once the rebuy period was over my plan was to actually try and win. Besides, second place wouldn't have got me even anyway!

Before I tell you about the actual poker, I need to paint you the scene, there were some real characters at the table:

To my left, my good buddy Regev who has the skill and talent to be a professional poker player if he chose to. In fact he made a run at it years ago but the lifestyle just didn’t suit him.

To his left, Ofer, a close friend of Oren and Regev's.

In seat four we have Oren. A pretty easy going guy until drink number three then he gets wild and crazy.

In seat five, we had the "dealer guy" who wanted to deal for everyone. Of course he looked at the flop first before anyone else could see it and if there was no flop he'd often look anyway, "just to check his cards."

Seat six, was the absolute character of the bunch Gabby. I think he fancies himself a real card player but let's just say he's got some work to do on his game. One thing you don't do, is you don't bluff Gabby!

Seat seven we had Assi, a tightish player that apparently was doing good on the "Israeli circuit" with the boys.

To his right, was the guy I was rooting for the whole night. His name was Yuda, but I quickly coined him "Betseem" which in Hebrew means "balls." Yuda was a tight weak player and everyone was picking on him. I hated seeing the guy get bullied so I kept reminding him to have some "BETSEEM!"

To my immediate right was adopted father Benda. Benda isn't really my father, but he is the father of Oren and Regev. As a teenager I spent so much time over at there place on the weekends that it became a second home and Benda always treated me as one of his own. When my father passed away in 1996, I looked to Benda in many ways for "fatherly advice" and he was always there if I needed him.

Now if you aren't familiar is with Israeli culture much of the following will be lost on you. These guys love to laugh, crack jokes, and needle each other profusely! Gabby of course, is the master needler but he takes it as good as he gets it.

One hand that almost had me on the floor laughing was when Gabby was all in with KK in a three way pot. One player had 7-7 and the other had A-2. The flop came A-K-6 and the player with the ace said, "Yes!"

Of course Gabby sticks a finger in his face and says, "Don't be happy!" He said it almost like he was mad… I guess you had to be there.

We ended up playing two tournaments on the night and in the first one my chips went to Oren who was past playing good since he was on Whiskey #3. That's about his number and then he gets impatient.

So while I was out I took it upon myself to root for the "little guy" Yuda who obviously wasn't as experienced at the game. I continuously reminded him to remember our motto of "Betseem."

Well Yuda, who I'll now call Betseem went a little nuts with the whole Betseem idea! He started calling all kinds of raises and getting his money in bad time after time.

Three handed, it was Regev, drunk Oren, and Betseem. Since Betseem went kooky with the game plan he gave all of his chips to Oren. Heads up Oren had a big chip lead and busted Regev shortly thereafter.

He followed up the win by pointing to his crotch as if to say, "Yes, I'm the man. I've got the biggest Betseem here!"

So that tournament was over and we decided to do a $100 buyin event with no rebuys. I wasn't about to put in another poor showing so I put my game face on.

Benda on my right, decided to just limp in blind every once in a while and call a raise. Apparently that's been really working well for him so why mess with a good thing right? Actually Benda was there when I won the Bellagio event with a K-7 and told me, "Since I saw that hand, I always play the K-7."

He wasn't lying either. He played the K-7, the K-4, the K anything! The flop could come J-9-7 and somehow Benda felt like taking a card off with the K-4 was a good idea!

Well Benda's rush finally ended and it was down to four handed. Now this wasn't your typical house game. When a player was out they would coach the other. "What you doing? You have to call, is good your hand. He is bluffing."

"Are you crazy. I don't have pair, maybe he is with a pair."

"Eh c'mon he doesn't have a pair he's crazy."

The banter would go on all night and was absolutely hilarious. Then something really funny happened. Earlier in the night Ofer shorted the pot, then Regev, then Gabby, then Benda. So I was like, "What's up with that guys, everybody is shooting angles here?"

To which Benda replied, "What do you expect? We are all Jews here."

Again everyone started laughing hysterically which got me to thinking. Our world is odd in that if a Jew makes fun of a Jew it's totally cool. If a black person uses the "n" word it's totally cool but as a white dude you better check yo'self before you wreck yo'self.

I realize that's just the way society is but I still think it's pretty silly. I've always been a fan of Don Rickles type humor where he pokes fun at everyone, including himself. It was so nice to be with a group of guys that were comfortable with me making a crack like, "Regev give me change. Give me the right change though man I know how you people are."

Regev would reply with, "You got it wrong buddy, Jews are just cheap Romanians are the thieves. Give me the chip first." Ok Regev, you got a point there!

So back to the game I found myself heads up with Assi. When we got heads up he all of a sudden he grew some massive Betseem and starting using his chip lead like a weapon going all in hand after a hand. I finally set a trap for him but he hit a two outer and won the second and last event of the night.

By that time it was about 2:00am and I hadn't had that much fun in ages. Great group of guys, all looking to have some fun playing a great game. I didn’t realize how much I missed the Israeli culture. Sure they all smoked, paid little attention, and acted slowly, but the brotherly vibe you get from those people is like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.

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I got back to my hotel around 3:00am and ended up having the worst night’s sleep in ages. By back is just killing me, my neck is stiff, and I felt nauseous when I finally woke up at around noon. When I got there Lou Diamond Phillips asked me to do a quick sound bite for a feature film he’s doing. Basically he just wanted me to tell a bad beat story. Of course I had to tell the same story three times so he could get it from three different camera angles!

After that I made my entrance into the casino. It was a gala event with red carpet and all. It’s the first time I’d ever walked down the red carpet and it was just so strange. Cameras shooting like machine guns, “Over here.”

“Top row.”

“Can I get you over here.”

“Over here Daniel.”

“Couple more that’s good.”

The whole thing was surreal but genuinely made me feel awkward. I usually avoid the red carpet because that’s for the “real celebrities” but was asked by the WPT people to do it so I did.

Once inside I was bombarded with interview requests, met up with some old friends, and basically didn’t have much time to catch my breath. Now, the whole time I’m doing this I’m totally nauseous. I just couldn’t wait to get out of there but I put on a brave face nonetheless.

I didn’t play very well though! I genuinely had a tougher time taking this event serious than I did the Israeli home game the night before. I was out early when my 8-5 off suit got beat by a measly pair of sevens.

On the way out I did the most disturbing interview I’ve ever done. Some satellite radio station asked me to do the show so I obliged. I sat in the chair and the radio hosts had no clue who I was and knew nothing about poker.

They asked me a few questions and then went off on a vulgar exchange that was absolutely appalling. I’m a poker player and they wanted to do was curse about nasty sex and random garbage. I found the hosts to be extremely rude and vulgar, a welfare version of Howard Stern.

Once done with that I head to my room. Totally exhausted and feeling ill I plan on staying here for the rest of the night.

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