Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Poker in Goa
I’m back from a three day poker trip, and sort of rested, although the ground still moves under my feet every now and then. That’s to be expected after sitting through three straight nights in the bottom deck of a floating casino.
Along with about twenty of the players who travelled to Goa for the India Poker Championship, I opted to stay at the local Ginger, part of the Tata Group’s budget business hotel venture modelled on chains like Ibis and Holiday Inn Express. Ginger offers a good deal for single travellers, unlike other hotels in Goa that shave just 10 or 15 percent off their double occupancy rate. Rooms are clean and neatly designed, the aircon and plumbing work, and breakfast is included. On the downside, the Wi-Fi rate is extortionate, at over 100 rupees and hour, and coverage is pretty bad in the rooms. I took my laptop along, but preferred to stroll across to a cybercafe to blog and check my email.
I was surprised to see a number of holidaying families staying at the hotel, a sterile building within the most sterile precinct in all Goa. Last time I was there, during the previous IPC in March, I even noticed a honeymooning couple at breakfast. Makes me wonder what experience such people are looking for when they come to Goa. It isn’t the beaches, booze and nightlife; it isn’t the atmospheric lanes of Fontainhas and the architecture of Old Goa; it isn’t the lush landscape of palms, cashews and paddy fields. What, then, draws them to the state?
The draw for me this time was poker and nothing but poker. The rest of this post will concentrate on that, and will sound like Greek to those unfamiliar with the game. You have been warned.
I didn’t suffer any huge bad beats like I had last time round. In fact, during one cash game, I hit a set of queens to crack pocket aces. It’s just that I didn’t win coin flips when I most needed to. During the 10K tourney I had pocket 5s against my friend Sam Rattonsey’s AK offsuit; we both had medium stacks, but the blinds were getting uncomfortable. I pushed from the button and of course he called from the small blind. He hit a king and went on to place first, which made me glad he’d won that hand and not I.
I played a few interesting hands in the late stages of the 20K tourney.
I’d built my stack to 15000 when the blinds were 300 / 600. Under the gun, I was dealt pocket queens and raised to 1800. A guy in middle position reraised to 5000. He was on tilt a bit because he’d split a pot holding aces against pocket tens, all chips in pre-flop, when the board showed a spade flush and neither player held a spade. Still, I felt I was probably beat, putting him on kings, with a small chance I was racing against AK. If he had kings, all his money was almost certain to go in on the flop. If I hit a set of queens, I would definitely double up. I was getting about 6 to 1 implied odds, which didn’t justify a call when the odds were 7.5 to 1 against hitting that set. I called mainly because I had to factor in the possibility that he had AK. A queen did show up on the flop, and I did double up, and was in a pretty strong position at that point with 30K chips.
I was in the big blind, still at 30,000 odd, with the blinds at 1000 / 2000 and about fifteen players left. Chap in early position limped, as did the short stacked small blind. My hand was A 10. The limper, whose name was also Girish, had about 11,000 left over. I’d been at the same cash table with him the previous night, and knew his style well. He was, basically, the biggest calling station I have seen in my life. He paid me off a number of times, but his most remarkable calls were against other players. One time, he called a preflop raise, a bet on the flop, and an all-in bet on the turn with K Q, having hit neither card, and having no draw. Another time, he called someone down to the river and called a huge river bet with just ace high. So basically I knew I was getting a call from him. I figured A 10 was good and pushed. He called with K Q and rivered a queen. I lost about half my stack in that hand.
The very next hand, a player from my Bombay group, Masood, shoved with about 15,000 from middle position. I was in the small blind and again had A 10. I felt Masood was weak, and was hoping he had A 9 or A 8, which would make me a 7 : 3 favourite; in any case I was sure I was ahead and called. He showed K Q, which meant I was a 6 : 4 favourite like in the previous hand. Unfortunately, he turned a queen, and left me with just one small blind worth of chips, which lasted four more hands before I was eliminated.
It’s been six IPC events without a cash, which is a bit frustrating. Luckily my success at the cash game tables allowed me to more than cover my buy-ins for all those events, plus travel and accommodation expenses.