March 06, 2007

Killing Independent George

By Wil Wheaton © 2007

The World Poker Tour Invitational at the Commerce Casino. If Maxim did a poker issue, it would be this tournament: the room is filled with huge celebrities, beautiful models, and virtually every poker pro you can imagine. The atmosphere is more like a party than any other tourney I've ever played, and it's one of the very few where I feel like I'm able to outplay at least half of the field.

In 2006, I finished 23rd out of just over 300 players to be the last celebrity player standing and earn 10,000 for the City of Hope cancer hospital in Duarte. On my way to the final three tables, I played with Seinfeld's Jason Alexander.

Los Angeles traffic (also known as "the fucking five mother fucking freeway fucking fuck ass fuck!") was its typical mid-week rush hour self, and I arrived a little late. I walked in on an empty red carpet, got my seat assignment, and sat into early position at a table with no recognizable faces.

I peeked at my cards before I was really in my seat: K-Qo.

"Raise," I said, sliding out three chips.

As I settled into my seat, the table folded to the BB, who looked at his cards, and then at me.

"Nice time to pick up a hand," he said.

I shrugged. "Watch me go card dead for the next three hours," I said, "just because the Poker Gods like to mess with me."

He laughed and mucked. I flashed the king as I picked up the blinds.

Then I went card dead for three hours, because the Poker Gods like to mess with me.

I picked up a few pots here and there with continuation bets, but nothing really interesting happened until I was in the BB with Q-7o.

Wait. Q-7o is when it got interesting? Yeah. Just go with me on this.

It was folded to the SB, who completed. I checked and we saw a flop of A-Q-x. I knew he'd only call a bet with an ace, and I wanted to know if my queen was good. I decided that if he called, I was done with the hand. I bet about half the pot, and he called, so I was finished... until a queen hit the turn. Now I knew I was way ahead. I put him on a medium ace, and figured that he probably did the same. The turn went check check, and he checked the river. I bet just under the size of the pot, with an I have a weak ace and I hope to scare you away sort of bet, and he said "Well, I'm going to see if I out-kick you," as he called.

"I have a queen," I said, "and the ace is my kicker." He laughed, and mucked. "Oh man! I didn't see that coming!"

We played on for another few levels, the clatter of shuffling chips frequently interrupted by the TD announcing the exit of famous actor after famous actor. I will admit that it felt good to be outlasting them., though I will also admit that it was the most Pyhrric of Pyhrric victories: where it really counts in Hollywood, they all have their names on call sheets, while I have mine on a blog.

Jason Alexander was moved to my table, which also featured Tom Everett Scott (who finished third in the WPT Invitational the year before) and WPT announcer Mike Sexton. Jason was cool, and funny, and seemed like a genuinely nice guy. About two hands after he sat down, he said to me, "Hey, Wil!" I should point out that we've never met. "I almost didn't recognize you," he said. "Stand By Me is one of my favorite movies of all time, man."

The one seat smacked the felt. "That's where I knew you from!" I should also point out that the one seat was poker pro Allen Kessler. Jason and I mixed it up a few times, and I took a couple of large-ish pots from him. One time, I open-raised from MP with Presto, hoping my tightness would let me end the hand right there, but Jason called and we saw a flop of A-5-x. As Vince Van Patten would say, "there are fireworks going off in Wil's head now, Mike! He has to hope that Jason made a hand with that ace.” I checked, hoping to induce a bluff that would allow me to check-raise for the benefit of the entire table, but Jason checked behind me. Damn! The turn was the ten of clubs, which was a little scary if he was playing K-Q, so I bet about two-thirds of the pot. Jason thought for a minute, and called. The river was a queen, so the board was A-5-x-T-Q. Now I had to wonder if Jason has K-J, and I was fucked. I'd seen him play cards like that before, but I'd also seen him play K-Q and K-T. I also knew that he had to give me credit for a real hand here. I thought for a second, and decided that he couldn't have K-J, because I didn't think he'd call my bet on the turn with a gutshot and king-high.

"Well, Jason, if you've got me, you've got me." I said, as I pushed the rest of my chips in. I think there was about 2800 or 3000 in the pot, and my stack was only about 8000 or so. Jason went into the tank for so long, I knew I was ahead.

"I don't know if I do, Wil," he said. I put him on K-T. He sighed, and mucked his cards. "I think you bluffed me out of that pot," he said. That is exactly what I wanted you and everyone else at this table to think, I thought. A level or so later, Jason limped from EP, and it was folded to me in the SB. I had pocket eights, so I raised. I'd seen him play a lot of big over cards, and I knew that if I could get heads-up with him, I could probably outplay him. It was folded back to Jason, and he called. The flop came out A-5-5 rainbow. Aw, shit. In a nanosecond, something a friend of mine and I talked about a few weeks earlier flashed through my mind: What would I do if this flop hit me? I'd check, of course. So play it that way. If he bets, you know you're beat and you're done. If he checks, you may be able to take it away later in the hand. I checked, and he checked behind me. The turn was another ace, reducing the chances of Jason also holding an ace. I looked up at him, and everything about him said that he hated the board. I can't explain what it was, or how I knew; it was just something that blinked into my mind, so I trusted my instinct. I continued to represent the ace I hoped he thought I had, so I checked. He checked behind again. The river was a complete blank, and I bet out about half the pot, which is exactly what I'd do with an ace there. I figured the only way he was calling was if he had the ace, and I was pretty sure he'd fold any other pair, up to jacks.

"Are you bluffing me again, Wil?" He said.

"Probably," I said. I looked right at the board and imagined stacking his chips.

He sighed. "I don't think you are. Good hand."

He mucked, and I raked in another good-sized pot. I heard his voice in my head: "You're killing Independent George!"

Wil Wheaton is the author of Just A Geek.

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