Some friends converged on Chicago for a couple of days of poker and fun this weekend. Russ came from south Florida to brave the "nice February weather", Emmy sacrificed an important college football game in North Carolina, and Terry brought gifts to commemorate his soon-to-be-champion Oregon Ducks.
Friday night I hosted the Welcome to Chicago evening, since I live so close to the airport. Nat came in from Gurnee, bringing his own houseguest - Mike from Germany, who turned out to be a very solid poker player. We played tournament style first (I came in 2nd to Terry), and then some cash. Since all of us know each others' play styles so well, it often turns into an over-play contest when we play against each other. Friday night was no exception, with my personally most embarrassing hand being one in which I bluffed with 8 high into Terry only to discover he had the hand I was pretending to have. After blowing off an entire buy-in by trying to force the action while card-dead, I rebought and tightened up, able at the end to come back and finish slightly up for the night.
When the night was finally over, Nat and Mike took Terry home with them where he was staying, and Russ and Emmy stayed with us. The next morning after a quick trip to Panera for some coffee and bagels and a heads-up game with Emmy while Russ got ready to go, we all met at Heaven on Seven for lunch. We were all due to meet back at Nat's at 7pm for resumption of the night's poker festivities, and everyone was feeling a little iffy from the night before, so we decided to have a laid-back afternoon at my house.
What followed was the bloodiest heads-up shoot-out I think I've ever played in.
We had six people participating, so we drew straws to see who would play in the play-in games, and who would get byes and be able to buy straight in. Terry and I squared off in one of the play-ins, and Emmy and Nat faced each other in the other. The best thing I can say about the play-in is that at least by losing it the shoot-out cost me nothing. Nat won the other a few minutes after Terry beat me, and Emmy and I found ourselves dealing for the next round. There, Russ beat Terry and Nat made short work of Mike. The final round was also over in a flash, with Russ taking home the win. This was practically a replay of our last shoot-out in Atlantic City this spring: Terry beat me in a play-in round, and Russ won the whole enchilada. At least this time I was smart enough not to put a side-bet on the round with Terry.
Total time for the entire shoot-out: 35 minutes.
Saturday night was an unqualified success. Nat has a custom poker table in the basement of his new house, and between our out-of-town guests and local poker friends (Marc, James, and Scott all made it), we filled it to capacity. Since Minnesotans Missy and Todd couldn't work out the logistics of a weekend in Chicago, Nat set up a video Skype call so that they (mostly Missy) could at least enjoy the conversations and atmosphere even though she couldn't play. Again we started with a tournament (I squeaked past the bubble and finished 3rd to James and Scott), and then moved on to cash.
Nine-handed play encourages a tight style, so to generate a little more action we instituted a 7-2 meta-game. The way this works is that whenever someone wins with 7-2 - usually with a bluff, obviously - they can show it and have everyone at the table pay them an agreed amount - in this case, $2. This makes winning with 7-2 much more profitable than simply picking up the pot, especially at a 9-handed table. As a result, when a player starts betting aggressively it is natural for his opponent(s) to speculate on whether he has a big hand like AA or instead might have 7-2 and be on a big bluff. When a player folds to 7-2, humiliation ensues from everyone at the table who is annoyed that they have to pay the winner an extra $2. It's good clean fun.
As I write this, Russ, Emmy, and Terry are scattering back to their respective corners of the country. For me, at least, this was one of those great weekends that I was sorry to see end today when I dropped Russ and Emmy off at the airport. I really enjoyed having them stay with us, and I was pleased to finally introduce them to the Bintgoddess and let her see why I count them among some of my closest friends.