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A Birthday full of Games

29 Jul 2007

My birthday was a lot of fun. Me and my buddies played 18, then an emergency 9 with an interesting scramble match. I played horribly despite practicing for almost two hours prior to playing. I started out on the range hitting the ball very well, but then chipped and putted for over an hour. After that, I went back to the range to hit a couple before the round… and shanked every one! I couldn’t figure out the problem, but ultimately figured that it must have been directly related to my chipping session. Chipping sessions often completely destroy my swing as I develop terrible habits like a reverse pivot, swaying, not finishing my swing, etc. I’ll figure it out, but it was very discouraging.

After that we had dinner and went to my place. At that point, my wife and mother gave me a gift each. Lori bought me the SkyCaddie, a gift she knew I’d absolutely love (I did), and my mother totally surprised me with her gift. It was a framed picture, or so I thought until I looked at it. It was actually a letter written to her when I was 10 years old. The letter read:

Pineway Public School September 11, 1984

Dear Mrs. Negreanu

I am writing as a follow up to my telephone
conversation with you on Tuesday, September 11, 1984.

I want it clearly understood that I will not
tolerate Daniel’s poor manners or behaviour.

In light of your own position to always support
and excuse Daniel, I will have no option but to remove
him from school should he continue to ignore the school

J.K. McNaughton,

That was the funniest gift I’ve ever received! I was a little troublemaker in school which explains a lot I guess. My Jamaican bregren used to call me, “Little Rough Tough,” which later became, “Lickle Ruff head.” I’d get into fights on a pretty regular basis, simply because I refused to be bullied. Bigger kids would pick on me (I was very short, shortest in my grade), but I wouldn’t back down. Instead I’d bite them, kick them, knee them, or whatever it took to get my message across that I wasn’t an easy mark. My fighting winning percentage wouldn’t scare a guy like Mayweather, but it wasn’t as bad as you’d think. I got my butt kicked from time to time, but I held my own for the most part.

Anyway, after gift time we started a decathlon of games: Snooker, 8-Ball, 9-Ball, Mille, Cho Dai Di (known as the real Chinese poker, or “Big Deuce”) Wii Bowling, and every other imaginable game. I spent the 27th recovering and watching a few movies: The Holiday, X-Men, etc. That night I got a call about a semi-private Hollywood type poker game at Bellagio the next morning at 10:00am. It’s a private game, but they extended me an invitation. After mulling it over I decided, why not, I feel like playing some cards.

Now to be clear, no casino in Las Vegas can legally provide players with a private game, in that, they can’t exclude others from joining the game. To prevent others from joining the game, 9 players show up promptly at 10:00am and other invited players who may join later show up to add their names to the list.

Well, I quit at 2:00am when the game finally broke and only one player outside of the original 9 played. It was a mixed bag of players, from celebrities to Hollywood big wigs. A wide range of characters also, from the loud and funny to the more calculated, subdued , focused player. Add to that, professional players Erick Lindgren and Kenny Tran and you have an excellent mix of players for a fun, action packed no limit cash game.

I was on absolute fire the whole session long, before and after the one hour dinner break at Prime. I must have made like 50 straights throughout the session, and each time one of my opponents would have top two pairs or even a set. It was creepy! I ended up winning almost 1300 bets in the game! That’s a huge win in a 16 hour session.

Despite the fact that this game was different than your typical Bellagio game, in that, it was essentially a private home game, I was slightly worried about how my sick rush would be taken. It became clear to me early on, though, that these guys could all easily afford to play these stakes and it wasn’t changing anybody’s life. It was a real change, and a treat, frankly, to see guys lose monster pots yet still be able to smile about it and give you a genuine, “Nice hand.”

There was actually some sophisticated play also. In fact, one Hollywood big wig in particular shocked me with a move, back-to-back no less, that I’m absolutely going to add to my repertoire. He actually showed me his cards before the flop after I’d folded, and then proceeded to rob two monster pots with no pair, no draw, no nothing! The way he played both hands, though, had I not been privy to his hole cards, I would have bet big money that he had the goods. It was an Oscar worthy performance from a guy who isn’t supposed to be an actor, he’s the guy that’s supposed to write the big checks!

Speaking of great play, Kenny Tran may not be a household name despite almost doing the unthinkable, winning the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E and the $10,0000 Main Event this year, but if he played more tournaments, he would be, no doubt about it.

I haven’t actually played much with Kenny since maybe 2001 when we played in some cash games from time to time. Back then I remembered him as too curious, too steamy, and a little too wild. I saw talent, but it was a raw package in my opinion. Well after playing with him all day, and witnessing him call peoples hole cards all day long, it was no wonder why so many cash game players see him as one of the absolute best. His card and people reading skills are uncanny. I pride myself on those two qualities, but Kenny’s reads today just blew me away. It was awesome to watch.

The funny thing is, is that Kenny doesn’t play online. If he did, I don’t think he would as well, however if you brought the majority of the best online players in the world to the Bellagio to sit with them, I think he’d chew them up. He understands things about poker that have never been written about. His tell reading skills are beyond looking for facial ticks or unusual movements. The way people shuffle their cards, whether they look back at their cards, what they say, etc. are alltells that give him the information he needs to pinpoint their range of hands to an almost precise holding.

He called out my cards (as well as many other players on the day) in a bizarre situation that’s either extremely lucky or super advanced. I won’t share with you the “why” he put me on the following hand, but here it was: The flop was Jh 5s 3d. A player in front of me bet into me in a five way pot after raising before the flop and I called. Kenny, right then and there, put me on 5-7. The turn was a Jack, my opponent bet again and this time I raised him. He folded… I had exactly 5-7! That might not seem all that amazing in and of itself, but if you watched him do it over and over, you’d see that it wasn’t a fluke. He picked up on something and his “radar” was dead on.

I haven’t played much live poker at all this year, but I’m really glad I accepted the invitation to play in this game. A successful group of guys who are winners in life and can take things in stride. Not a nasty comment all day to a player or a floor man, but most importantly, not one dealer ever experienced even the faintest amount of verbal abuse from anyone in the game and that was a pleasant change of pace.

Tomorrow I’m off to Montreal for a couple of days to shoot a poker show and will be back in Vegas August 1st.


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