Docta’s Remedy

Flush, Issue 5, March 2006

In the first of a regular series, Alex wade, the author of Wrecking Machine, swaps his boxing gloves for hole cards. His aim: to win money playing poker

This year, I abandoned all the usual New Year’s Day resolutions. Cutting down on booze, not losing my cool, being a good person, remembering to feed the dog – I had committed to all of these in the past, to varying degrees of success. The dog, at least, is alive. But as for the rest – how much can we really change, as we approach the ripe old age of 40? Not much, I reckon, so this year I made a different resolution. In 2006, I would win money playing poker.

My wife did not greet this commitment with joy. “Don’t be so stupid,” were her first words, followed by a rather damning appraisal of my character: “You’ve got an addictive personality. That means that even if you’re winning, you’ll end up losing.”

She has a point. I have been prone to compulsion. Trouble has assuredly followed, but in the last few years stability has arrived. This is down to regular sessions at my local boxing club, where young lads (and lasses) half my age let me lumber around the ring for a few minutes, then hit me four times before I know what’s happened. We all have different therapies, but this one works for me. With my new-found tranquillity, could I win at poker?

Not any old kind of poker, but that which is sweeping the world: Texas Hold ‘Em. Invited to play in the media tournament at last year’s World Series of Poker, my complete ignorance did not stop a run of luck that resulted, after five or six hands, in my fellow players nick-naming me ‘Chippy.’ Granted, even a fool would have been hard-pressed to blow the opportunity to build a stack with four-of-a-kind Aces and a full house of Kings over 10s as his first two hands. But a fool could lose such an advantage bluffing with an off-suit pocket 6 and 2, and that’s what I did.

That was last summer, in Vegas, mecca to the wannabe poker pro. Since then I’ve played a handful of cash games, which I chalk up as cheaper than a night out (i.e., I haven’t won a penny), and have joined the weird and wonderful world of online poker. Not for real money – that would bestupid, at this early and innocent juncture - but for the practice. I downloaded software from the kindly folk at Pacific Poker, and then, lured by their seeming monopoly of producing world champions from online beginnings, I signed up to PokerStars. And on the first working day of January 2006, I played poker as if I were a pro – to make money.

Logging on as ‘Lawman 11,’ I found myself playing against the likes of docta_love 91, darcey_bebe and mistabub62 in a no limit 5/10 game at the ‘Fun Venus V’ table. These people were from Greeneville, Manila and Brooklyn. Other players were from Barbados, Kiev and Neuchatel. And there was me, Lawman11, from a pretty poker-free village in the Cotswolds, with $1,000 play money from PokerStars.

After 21 hands, I was up to $9,535. The stats told me I’d seen the flop 71% of the time, with 66% of pots won at showdown. Docta_love 91 wrote in the chat box: ‘nice cards lawman.’ But they weren’t so nice when I played another 21 hands in a 10/20 limit game, leaving me at $9,390. This time, against grandpajaws, tuffster and omega slim, my hole cards were a disgrace. There was only one thing for it. I would go back for another 21 hands to Fun Venus V.

It was a good couple of hours later, and the docta was still there. Earlier, he (or she) had engaged in a lot of chatbox banter, but now the docta was silent. Silent – but aggressive and relentlessly all-in. My chips started to vanish as I struggled to cope, but then I had the doc with a humble pair of 8s. Then again, with a two pair, Jacks and Deuces. The docta rebought, blew it all, rebought, blew it all. Was he on tilt, too tired, drunk? Who knows. But I ended the day at $9,554. If only all my poker will be like this.