Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Day Two: $1000 Stud and Jean Gaspard

Day two of the WPPA festival was the $1000 buy-in Stud event. In some ways, this was one of the neatest days I experienced. In other ways, it was one of the worst.

When we came into the special tournament area in the morning, Brian was already there, looking mean and sullen. He started in on Louis right away. Things like, "This is dying, no one is coming! You're living in a dream world, this isn't working, we need to stop it right now!"

Whenever anyone came up to the desk to register or ask a question, Brian would loudly express his own opinion over Tracy, who was the person assigned to sell the seats. He would discourage them from buying in, voicing pessimism like, "We won't even have a Stud tournament today, just forget it!"

During the last hour, Louis and I banded together to bring people over. We hyped it up in the regular tourney room. We got some satellites going. We begged people who were standing around, unsure of the situation. We both promised everyone that we would play, no matter what. If it was a three-person tournament, we'd still play. Brian had made the situation so horrible, that he had forced us to fight against his negativity.

In the end, we got nine players. I'm still pretty surprised we got that many.

Towards the end, right before the tournament began, Brian was yelling out things like, "This is so stupid! This is a failure! No one is playing! I'm not running a one table tournament!"

We swore we'd play, no matter what Brian's attitude may have been.

After the tournament, I told Louis that Brian should not be taking buy-ins, he was discouraging the players and behaving completely out of line. Garrett, Brian and Louis had a little "shape up or ship out" meeting, and Brian came back with a slightly better attitude for a few days. Too bad it didn't last.

We did play, and I've talked about it elsewhere. I was so thrilled because I almost won. If it weren't for a very fierce competitor, Jean Gaspard, I think I could have pulled it off.

Jean is another wonderful player I have wanted to profile since I got home. Jean is a French-American black man who is 32 years old. The reason I point out that he is French, is because he is always speaking both languages, and makes sure to fit in with everyone. The reason I mention he is black, is because he uses that as part of his act, and gets the play that he wants.

Jean is hilarious. He is a never-ending joking and talking machine. He uses all kinds of humor, from self-depreciating, to self-congratulating, to racial humor, sexual humor and anything else you could possibly imagine. Just as soon as you think you have a hold on Jean, he switches it all up.

Jean says his best game is Stud. I believe him. He says he has been playing tournament Stud since '96. He loves the game, it is clear. He can use his best shtick in Stud.

Jean is a firm believer in memorizing every board card, and remembering the number of suits out, and dead cards. He has clearly come up with a pattern over the years, because he doesn't miss a thing. I have rarely see someone openly express the cards that are dead and the cards that are live with such accuracy, on the river, when the betting is over. People think that Jean is just lucky, because he plays a lot of pots, and he seems to win more than his fair share. They are fooled. Jean knows what he is doing. He knows what YOU have, and he knows what he needs to catch to beat you. He uses your transparency, your solid play against you.

At one point, Jean was almost out of chips. He got crippled due to another players bad play. Instead of retaliating verbally, he decided to take a break, take a little walk and breathe. He met up with some girl and started flirting with her. I think he got a name and a number, as well as a hug, and came back smiling. He talked about the girl and somehow I twisted the encounter into another situation.

He said something along the lines of her needing to go to work. I said I imagined she was already at work, she was a working girl, describing the girl as "working," and she did fit the description, wearing next to nothing at 2pm on a Tuesday, lol. We kept bouncing off of each other, telling jokes and laughing. The table was laughing as well. He handled losing a big pot very well.

Pretty soon, he took his 300 remaining chips, and built them into a decent stack once again.

Jean and I played off of each other verbally, but mostly we stayed out of each other's way. Since I am super tight, he knew he would have to outdraw me. He waited patiently, stealing my antes and bring-ins when he got the chance, but avoiding me in big, raised pots.

Just when I thought I might win the thing, he took away my chip lead. I started with aces in the hole, and caught two pair on fifth. Unfortunately, he caught his diamond on sixth, which might also have been a straight, due to his board and the way the pot had been played.

It was a huge pot, although I had the wherewithal to check/call both sixth and seventh. I never regained the lead after that.

Within an hour, Jean had almost all of the chips on the table, but we were all still smiling and happy, not upset to lose to such a great guy.

During the next two weeks, Jean gave me a lot of advice. Advice and compliments, I might add. He knew I was green compared to him, and gave me some tips to improve my Stud tourney game. I already knew most of them, but being new it's harder to actually execute what you know!

Some of the things he quoted were pure Sklansky, although he claimed not to be a Sklansky reader.

He said my reads and instincts were outstanding, that I knew when to back off, knew when to push it. He told me that I had something and that people like he and I would always be big winners. He, because people didn't think black men knew how to play poker. Me, because people didn't think women knew how to play poker. He said he had exploited this stereotype over the years, and figured I had, too. I agreed. He said other than my tight play, I was impossible to read and put on a hand. I told him that it was likewise hard to put him on a hand, because he played so many pots, and he played his hands so well. We talked about how important memorizing cards is in Stud. Dead cards, live cards, suits, ranks, doorcards. It is impossible to win high buy-in tourneys without doing these things.

Jean was very supportive of the ideal of the WPPA. He hated the way people were being treated, but he came back to play in the events that he could. He knew he was losing money, so he interspersed his Orleans play with play at the Bellagio.

Jean treated me like a million bucks. His ever-present advice was worth its weight in gold, and I half-chidingly begged him to take me on the road with him. I'll bet he makes a mint with that act!

Other players at the table were likewise troopers. Charlie Shoten and Brian Goddard played in both Stud events. Both came in from California especially for this. Brian flew in twice, just to play in the Stud events. Mike Rabinowitz gave me the best off-handed compliment I'd ever gotten in Stud. After he outdrew my aces, he asked what I had. I showed aces, saying, "Like there was any question about what I started with." His eyes widened and he said, "I just don't ever know with you! You are impossible to read. I can't get any kind of handle on you at all!"

He made my day! Mike and I had played together in a few Stud events at the Four Queens.

So we made the tourney a go. We overcome huge obstacles to make sure it was played, regardless of the pessimism we got from the Orleans staff.