BOY, OH BOY! I'VE GOTTA GIT ME ONE O' THOSE!
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 Cinch Hand Tracker

16-September-2009


The other night I was in a tight, baby no-limit Texas Hold'em game at Caesars Indiana when out of nowhere the game took off. Suddenly it seemed every flop had a half dozen playing hands, and everyone was in to see them with some none-too-skimpy bets. What was I suppose to do, keep playing tight? My philosophy is you should never miss out on good action when it comes – you get up in there and see if you can't catch something too. And, seeing as I've always been the kind of guy to practice what I preach, I tried my best to do just that.

But can you believe it didn't work?! I went two hours playing every card that came my way and ended up as empty-handed as a one-armed juggler. I eventually had 8-9 diamonds to a flop of A-9-5 and was ecstatic because it was so much better than anything else I'd caught so far.

Admittedly a second button with an ace on board is as flimsy as wet cardboard, and I had a far-too-dubious kicker to make playing it smart. But then the guy under the gun bet $25 and got raised to $100 when the two folks in front of me cold called. So I figured, since I finally had me something of a playing hand, was drawing to a straight and had a big enough pot to take it for a spin, I might as well join in on the fun and make a ridiculous overcall myself. The turn came 6, everyone checked and - feeling even ballsier now - I went all-in. As I expected, all four called again, but what I wasn't prepared for was what happened next: Even though the river washed me out with an 8, my second-best hand still netted me a healthy side pot!

When that worked out I just knew my luck was pulling a Uey. My nose flared wide open, and like the rest of the damned fools I started playing EVERY hand. Problem was, I went into another tailspin, losing plenty and picking absolutely none of it back up for the next couple hours. At some point in the proceedings, as I was taking flops with hands that Mike Matusow would have torn up and thrown in the dealer's face, it occurred to me that if the table had a hand history - like the ones online poker rooms have - I’d be the laughing stock of the poker world instead of the esteemed scribe I’m generally considered to be.

The very thought of a hand history during that session spooked me, and I sheepishly battened down the hatches. I even folded two hands in one lap, a pretty big accomplishment considering how loose I'd been playing just a few rounds before. Several pots were nine-handed – community pots other than me – and I patted myself on the back for having the fine discipline to stay out of their way.

After a while, though, the game returned to short-handed, and my old gambling urge reared its ugly head again. I’ve been meaning to ask my coach, Al Schoonmaker, what’s up with the mysterious appearance of that urge anyway - where it comes from, why me, etc. But the fact that I felt it coming on didn't quite register because at once I won a good pot with an A-10 when I flopped an ace and one guy doubled me up with a middle pair. It's true, no-fold’em no-limit can be sweeter than cotton candy in a vat of ice cream if you’re catching the nuts to sprinkle on top. But it can also be bitter as a gallon of pickle juice if you're drawing trash because you tend to forget all the beats in between till you've damn near lost your @$$. After landing such a juicy pot, I was riding on the crest of that God-forsaken wave and totally forgot all the chips I'd already thrown away; it was the first hand I'd won in hours, but it might as well have been the hundredth.

I straddled the next pot to celebrate and got four callers. I looked down at pocket rockets - I kid you not - and believing this signaled the return of my A-game, I immediately went in for the kill.

“Raise $50,” I said.

“Maybe I said that a little too seriously,” I thought the moment the words left my mouth. I realized I'd just dramatically changed tone, and it felt like I'd practically yelled, "Hey, pocket aces over here!" through a bullhorn. For what seemed like eons I was self-conscious as a motherf&^$er and had to fight with myself to keep from doing worse. Somehow, though, the button still saw fit to call, as did the big blind.

The flop came 7-8-Q rainbows and the button immediately did this look-away-from-the-flop-and-feign-indifference thing. That spelled trouble, but having never played against the guy before I didn’t put much stock in the read. Besides, I was already pot-committed with $150 in and was too off my rocker from the previous hand to think whatever he had even mattered. So, needless to say, when he moved all-in I didn't hesitate to follow with my last $100.

Then, the button turned over pocket sevens, and the big blind showed - drum roll, please - two aces! I'd straddled this pot, then raised it, and he’d never once made a move with them. Now we were both staring down the button's barrels without a speck of cover for a thousand miles!

*****

I guess my whole experience at that table just goes to show there are some nights when you aren't gonna win no matter how hard you try. It’s kind of like baseball managers say when they've had a long season: "There are about 50 games you're gonna win regardless and about 50 you're gonna lose regardless; the only ones you have any control over are the other 50."

But the thing is, in poker it’s not just whether you win or lose; it's how much you walk away with. So maybe straddling and carrying on when things aren't going so hot wasn’t the best idea. Of course, knowing this and applying it are two totally different potatoes. So what I think I’m gonna do is invent some device that keeps a running history of all my hands when I play brick-and-mortar games. I figure I can then post my results in a blog or something - maybe humiliate myself into keeping it in line.

I’d call this new device "The Cinch Hand Tracker" and would design it to look like a cell phone - or maybe something even more innocuous like a Walkman since cell phones are banned at most live tables.... Yeah, that's the ticket: A hand tracker that looks like a Sony Walkman. Everyone would think I'm jamming out when in reality I'd be cataloging their play.

"The Cinch Hand Tracker" would probably rival the iPod for sales. I’d retail it for $199.99 and sell about a million of them. Hell, with that kind of money I'd be in the Big Game at the Bellagio for years, sports fans! And with my newfangled device to keep me on my A-game I'd probably beat everyone real good - even Texas Dolly himself!

Anyhow, who’s playing in that game nowadays? Didn’t they all go busted? Whoever they are, I'd catalog all their hand histories with my contraption, then threaten to sell lines on their play. I could set it up as some kind of subscription-only service that would let people keep their own hands out of the public eye for, say, $500 per month!

Yessiree, "The Cinch Hand Tracker" – "Coming soon to a Radio Shack near you!" No doubt, with all the extra money I'd have every time I wasted a wad of hundreds on my new-found straddle habit it would seem like dropping pennies down a sewer grate. Plus, I’ve even got a good marketing slogan for it: “The Cinch Hand Tracker: Sign up now, or pay dearly!"

Now all I need to do is find someone who knows a thing or two about electronics....


By: Dave Cinch
dave.cinch@acehoyle.com

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