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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Poker Stories: The Borrower

Over the years, I have compiled a slew of stories from poker games I've played in, and several friends have suggested that I write them down and share them on this site. I promise that all of them are real, although I have changed the names of the participants because I'm not out to embarrass anyone.

I also promise that I won't post any bad beat stories, which I refuse to tell because they all sound the same after awhile ("...and he hits a two-outer on the river for all my chips!"). If you want those, go spend five minutes near the door of any poker tournament and listen to players who have just busted. At the end of those five minutes, you'll understand why bad beat stories are the bane of the poker world.

There won't be any pattern or any moral to these tales, but one or two of them may show up in a movie soon. A couple of years ago, a pair of writers/directors came through St. Louis and asked me to show them around a local poker room and share some stories they could incorporate into a script they were writing. To my knowledge, they're still in pre-production, and I don't know if they'll use anything I told them. But meanwhile...

Let's start with The Borrower.

Every poker room has a guy like Kenny. He loves to play poker, and could be good at it, but he takes too many risks, so even when he does build up a stack of chips, he usually loses them on bad plays or long shots. Worse, he's often not playing with his own bankroll. Kenny had borrowed so much money from so many people that he was singularly responsible for many of the other players in the town no longer lending money to other players.

On the day in question, Kenny came into the poker room with a grand total of $60. He sat down in a $3-6 limit hold'em game, the lowest stakes game in the room. It didn't take long for him to win $40 and change tables, moving to a $1-2 no-limit hold'em game, where the minimum buy-in was $100. Very quickly, he became involved in a hand where he had all of his chips in the pot -- and won, doubling his stack to $200. That was enough for him to move to a $2-5 no-limit hold'em game where my friend Dave and I happened to be playing.

Dave and I had both loaned Kenny money on multiple occasions, so having him at the table was a double-edged sword. There was a better-than-average chance that he'd end up losing that $200, hopefully to us, but we were secretly hoping he'd win several hands from other players so we could get back some of what we'd stupidly lent him.

Sure enough, Kenny was on a roll. He moved all-in a few times and won them all. In less than an hour, he had a thousand dollars in front of him. Naturally, for Kenny, that meant leaving the table and moving to the far corner where the biggest game in the room was played. It was a $5-10 pot-limit Omaha game with a minimum buy-in of, yes, $1,000, but no maximum -- and a group of very good players with very deep stacks. They all perked up and smiled as Kenny approached.

Dave and I looked at each other and shook our heads, expecting to see those sharks chew Kenny up and spit him out so fast he wouldn't know what hit him. To our surprise, he stayed in that seat and his chip stack continued to grow. After another hour, Dave got up and walked over to say hello to the other players and see how Kenny was doing. When he saw that Kenny had at least $3,000 in front of him, Dave leaned down and said quietly so the rest of the table couldn't hear, "Kenny, you're having a good day, but you owe money to a lot of us, so why don't you cash out, pay us back, and keep the rest for next time?"

Kenny looked up at Dave and said, "You're right. Tell you what, I'll just play a couple more hands until the big blind gets to me, and then I'll get up." Dave nodded, then wound his way back to our table to report to me what was going on.

But before he got back to his seat, he heard Kenny say behind him, "I'm all in!"

Dave's jaw dropped in disbelief. He didn't have to turn around to know what happened next. Kenny lost the hand and all of those chips that had been piled up in front of him moments before. Broke again, Kenny shrugged, got up, and walked out of the poker room.

When Dave told me what had transpired, I told him that, in Kenny's mind, going home empty-handed didn't mean he'd lost $3,000. He would consider his losses to be a mere $60, since that's what he started the day with.

And we both knew he'd be back soon.