Brian & Ann's European Experience

Monday, February 14, 2005

Ken, Brian, and a Night at Holland Casino

It wasn’t easy at first.

Ken and I got to the Holland Casino at about 8:15. We rushed through the bag check and bounded up the stairs to get on the list for a Hold ‘Em table (correction: THE Hold ‘Em table) only to find the single 10-20 table in all of Amsterdam, full.

In Amsterdam, poker is heavily regulated, and they only allow about twenty people in the entire city to play poker, only after a successfully negotiating the Office of Poker Licesnsing and waiting 6-9 months for their “Degenerate Gambler” permit, and only during very specific hours. Poker started at 8pm and finished at 3am when the casino closes. If you want to play at times other than those designated by the Office of Poker Licensing, then you are just shit out of luck.

Seriously though, Amsterdam is a pretty big city (over 730,000 inhabitants), and for some reason they can’t find more than fifteen people who want to play poker in this entire burg. I don’t get it.

In honor of my friend Ken’s visit from the States, and the fact that he was winding down his whirlwind European tour, we decided a final trip to Amsterdam was in order. With so many vices to spend our time on (coffee shops, the Red Light District, sniffing tulips) it was a tough choice, but we settled on Texas Hold’ Em.

Alright, it wasn’t a tough choice at all.

So there we were, second and third on the list, watching the only table of Texas Hold ‘Em, looking at all the happy people receiving their two cards and paying their blinds, looking a lot like hungry dogs at the kitchen table. There were seven people standing around waiting to play poker, which generally is enough to get a second table going (assuming the authorities from the Office of Poker Licensing wouldn’t intervene), but the problem was that four of these guys were about 20 and they had all pooled their money to give to one Indian kid so that he could represent them at the table.

What the hell, “Can we start a table with four?” I asked the manager.

He verified my “Degenerate Gambler” permit, and then said, “if you want to play with four, I’ll open up a table.”

It was 8:45 when Ken, myself, this beefcake Italian guy, and the head of the Student Government’s Degenerate Gamble Chapter sat down and started playing poker. At first, it sucked. Playing with four people is extremely difficult because two of them (the “blinds”) are already half in every hand (because of their forced bet), and with 4 people you have to realize that nobody has shit, so you have to adjust your normal thinking about what is an acceptable hand to play. It wasn’t rare for a single pair, or a high face card to win a pot with no other help. Plus, Beefcake was playing with a stack of black chips (which were 500 Euros) and would stay in on basically everything and take you all the way to the river (the last card) if he had any chance of pairing EITHER of his two cards.

Here’s how it went. I traded money back and forth with Ken and Beefcake for about half an hour until some new blood showed up and we devoured him. It was kind of sad really, here was the first guy to sit down and we took his initial 200 Euros in about fifteen minutes, he bought in again for 200, and that was gone 15 minutes later. Ken took this guy all in (meaning he had put all the money he had available into a hand) and beat him both times.

Somehow I managed to go down almost 200 Euros, mainly to Ken and Beefcake, in the first forty-five minutes. I never gave any real money to Student Government because he was so obvious about what he had. Ken likewise (didn't contribute to the educational fund). SG made his money completely from Beefcake, who was happy to throw it away chasing flushes (one of which he made, against me, for about 100 Euros, sadly) and straights.

As the night wore on into the tenth hour, we finally got to seven people, and we finally started having some real poker hands. And that is when God came down from Heaven and said, “Brian, I will now make up for cursing you with male pattern baldness.” The cloudy skies parted, and the hands began to fall into my lap like manna from Heaven.

Three of a kind. Which turned into a full house. Flush. Flush. Then four of a kind (three tens on the board and I had one in my hand and realized, “Hey, I don’t think anyone else can have a ten…”). Another full house (sevens full of fours, which beat the nice old Chinese guy next to me, who had sevens full of threes. Sorry pops.) Then another flush caught on the river as I was standing up to leave.

I was a tsunami of unbelievable hands for about fifteen minutes. And then, thanks be to the Father Almighty, it just so happened to be time to leave. I walked out of Holland Casino with almost 600 Euros in profit. Converted into frightfully devalued US dollars, that’s the best poker night I’ve ever had in my life.

So far.

(And the Devil and the man at the Office of Poker Licesning both smile.)

Ken, who was up a little over 300 at his peak, walked away with 100 profit (50% gain in two and a half hours, hey, better than investing in my 401k).

And the two of us rode the train back to Dordrecht happy men. I even found it in my heart to tip the cab driver a whole Euro (karma and all).

When I got home I put all the profit, all in crisp 100 Euro bills, into the money jar that we use to collect our change. Ann honey, that Delvaux handbag is almost in reach.

Happy Valentines Day.

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