Lovelucie.com

53 posts in just over two years. A high of 255 site visits in just one day, and a low of 0. I’m not exactly posting the stats of a game winning season here, no Super Bowl Trophy or Math medal for me.

Not yet, anyways.

With 8 months left in this social writing experiment (when my littlest one starts going to school full-time and I’ll be faced with the decision to fish or cut bait on this writing “career”), I’m going to step it up a notch with WordPress.com’s Post A Week 2011 Challenge. If I succeed, I will double my posts in just one year and maybe, just maybe I’ll find my writing mojo for good.

Failing that, maybe I’ll try out for the Poker Stars World Poker Tour in 2012.

Gauntlet, consider yourself thrown.

Love Lucie

Oh my God, I won!

I was a bit of a dorky kid – the chubby eldest daughter of immigrant parents (they adhered to the carrot & wooden spoon approach to parenting way before Amy Chua was even born) – no boyfriends, no sleepovers, no team sports. True to stereotype, I played piano for YEARS (even though I hated it and my teacher) and for fun, I played flute in my high school band. I have never known the feeling of working for something superfluous (read, non-academic) and winning a trophy. No soccer trophies adorned the walls of my adolescent room, unless you count the Math Medal I got in Grade 9. These days, smart kids who excel in Math are called Mathletes and are proud in knowing that they’ll probably invent the next Facebook and become billionaires or something, but back in the early eighties, we were just called nerds.

That is, until last Friday. What a crazy day! My little sister gave birth to beautiful twins in the morning. I was lucky enough to cuddle them both when they were just hours old. The miracle of their being born moved me to tears, unexpectedly, throughout the day. Hours later, I left the hospital, emotionally spent and smelling of new baby and drove through the city at rush hour to pick up my older kids who were playing at a friend’s house. Upon my arrival, my lovely friend plunked a delicious glass of white wine into my tired hands and we talked briefly about my poker strategy (none). One glass in and my exhaustion tempered, I set out to meet my fate.

The “casino” was hopping with energy – the 10 Tournament of Champions finalists, their spouses, and what seemed like many, many children (3 of them mine). The wine was flowing and a 4 course gourmet dinner that would rival any downtown restaurant was served (roasted cauliflower soup with parmesan crisps, bacon bits and chives, followed by a parmesan-crusted asparagus topped green salad, followed by a portabello mushroom and goat cheese stuffed roast beef, and finished with Bananas Foster – I’m not kidding). The atmosphere was almost festival-like, with a photographer snapping candid shots and at least a dozen kids wreaking havoc, playing tag.

Despite being 3 glasses in, I could still feel my nerves flexing in my stomach, so I started in on the chip bowl in an effort to suffocate them. With my arm acting as a self-loading conveyor belt, I managed to put away a king size bag of Old Dutch Pepper flavoured chips before the tournament Commissioner finally motioned us to our randomly selected seats.

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So while my blog post title doesn’t leave much room for suspense, with a few days to digest my win, these I believe are my tips for winning at No-Limit Texas Hold ‘Em:

Seating (read: LUCK) – This is where luck first rears its head, before even the cards are first shuffled. I was seated to the left of my husband (good luck) and to the right of two of the smartest and most aggressive players in our group (very bad luck). I told James right then and there, that due to his position on the table, my money would be on him to win. He thanked me and agreed that his seating was superior to mine.

Card Markers (read: LUCK) – Being such a game of luck, many poker players bring a lucky charm with them to the table. Card markers are supposed to distinguish your cards from others and from the ones that have already been folded. My husband’s talisman is a black Playmobil dragon that stands over 10 inches tall and shines red light through its flared nostrils. Others use a gorilla, a special chip, what have you. Mine is a beaded bracelet my 5 year old made at a birthday party he went to last year. It’s adorable, beads and stars, in primary colours, threaded onto a shiny plastic string. He interspersed the letters of his name among the beads, but being 4 at the time, the bracelet reads F-I-Z-Z, instead of F-I-N-N and I love it. I wear it on my left wrist and stroke it fervently when I’m drowning in bad cards, hoping the luck of the bracelet will bring the good cards back to me. And I tell you, it works nearly every time. Plus I can’t think of a better good luck charm than being awash in the scent of newborn twins!

Being Present – I believe another key to my success, is my poor memory. I blame it on my children, but once I fold my cards, I cannot remember for the life of me, what I just held in my hands. I’ll look at the flop and try to remember what I had just tossed to no avail. But I think if you are able to remember that you just tossed J8 off-suit and the flop is 8 8 J, the next hand you are more likely to limp in with less than stellar cards hoping to catch some more of that luck. And if you limp in with crap, more often than not, you will just watch your chip stack dwindle away. Being present, and not lamenting over what you did or didn’t do two hands ago, is critical to playing well. Copious amounts of wine assist in memory lossbeing present.

Knowing When to Fold Them – Clearly there is skill involved in this game. Knowing which hands to play, which to fold, and which ones to bluff, is Part one. Part two is knowing when to bet, how much and when to run screaming away from a hand that has you beat. Hold ‘Em tournaments are marathons (our 10 player tournament took nearly 5 hours) where you have to make sure you ride the flow of good cards and patiently outlast the bad cards. But if you don’t have good luck, no amount of skill will put you in the money.

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Since my memory is poor, I can’t remember any knockout hands, though I do remember precisely when my bad luck turned. I was on the brink of elimination when I rivered a 9 or something to catch two pair and tripled my chip count. I nearly got extinguished again by a formidable female player who always seems to have my number, but somehow I smartened up and tightened up my play with her. I also remember that I accidentally knocked out my husband, so that he finished in 4th place (like I said, I was to his lucky left), but in retrospect it was a good thing for me, as he knows my playing style the best and I’m sure, would have beat me in heads up.

I’m blathering a bit here, but to summarize, I won! I won over $1300 (Mr. Louboutin, I’m coming for you!) and a kickin’ trophy to boot (see below). Yay, me!

The Tournament of Champions winner for 2010 is....me!

My only disappointment of the evening was to receive my winnings via personal cheque. I had kind of envisioned dollar bills and confetti falling from the roof…maybe next year?

Love Lucie

My Poker Face

I know I’m not alone when I say my husband plays Poker with the Guys, and he has done so (sporadically) for as long as I’ve known him. He leaves the house with a wallet full of twenties and more often than not, returns quietly late in the night, slipping sheepishly into bed. If his adrenaline wakes me, he does not (usually) rain dollar bills down on my body, but rather talks about an inevitable bad beat, like when his Nut Flush got beaten by an unforeseeable Full House.

About 3 years ago, he was invited to join a regular monthly poker tournament. He would win sometimes, he would lose more often, but always seems to have a good time. And I didn’t really mind being left with our 3 little kids, as they do fall asleep eventually, leaving me to drool freely over McDreamy and McSteamy on Grey’s Anatomy.

Till one night, he came home early and empty handed, ranting about how he couldn’t possibly play as he was placed at a table full of women, who made it impossible for him to think, distracting him with their inane talk of deals on sheets at HomeSense.
“Women?” I asked, my radar blinking, “I thought this was a boys night?”
“Noooo,” he admitted sheepishly, but quickly added, “and you’re welcome to come with me next time.”
“No,” I demurred, “I don’t know how to play poker and I hate to lose money.”
“It’s only $40 bucks, cheaper than taking you out for dinner,” he reasoned, ever the romantic. “Come along with me next time.”

Hmmm, wrestle 3 kids into bed or put makeup on and be social? And I had to check out these women he was hanging out with, just to be sure.

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No Limit Texas Hold-Em, they say, takes 5 minutes to learn to play and a lifetime to master. And after 3 hands, I was hooked. It’s a strategic cat and mouse game, ridiculously easy to play, but knowing when to bet and when to fold, how much and how aggressively takes hours of subtle observation and focus.

There are more than 40 of us in this poker group, professionals in finance, law, and homemaking, who vie for the 20 tournament spots each month. It is run by a very organized Commissioner (The Commish) who sends out the invitations, organizes houses to host the tournament, runs spreadsheets tracking attendance and winnings, awards cash prizes and points for the top 6 finishers each tournament. The points are tallied up over the year and the top 9 finishers (and 1 wildcard) qualify for the Tournament of Champions (TOC), with a total prize pool of more than $2,000 (siphoned off the monthly tournaments). Like I said, very, very organized.

In my freshman year, I won a tournament once, I think primarily due to the fact that I was new to the group, and no one knew my playing style. I was ecstatic, and bought something (I’ve forgotten what) with my $200 of winnings. Not bad for 5 hours of work, I say, and much more fun! The 10 points awarded for a first place finish, also qualified me for the annual Tournament of Champions. At the TOC, I was such a pile of nerves, you would have thought it was the World Series of Poker. I was shown the door relatively early, finishing 7th, well out of the money, but quite relieved I wasn’t the first to do the Walk of Shame.

In my sophomore year, I didn’t make the cut (though my husband did) and I went out with the girls while my husband waged battle with the Poker gods of luck and lost.

This year, my husband and I are tied at the top of the points race, which means we get to start with the largest chip stacks, a huge advantage for those who know how to wield them. The 2010 Tournament of Champions is this Friday, with pride and money at stake. My husband is practicing online, analyzing playing styles (loose v. tight, bluffer or not), and developing strategies on how to play them.

As for me, I’m working on my poker face. I think poker is 90% luck of the cards and 10% skill (which includes betting and crafting a good poker face). Since I can’t calculate pot odds to save my life, I’m counting on two glasses of pinot grigio and my lucky bracelet my 5 year old made me to make me the last person standing.

Mama needs a new pair of shoes! And if I win, I promise they’ll be Louboutins!
Wish me luck!
Love Lucie