They’re Loose!

by Lou on November 7, 2007

They’re loose! A few days ago I played in one of the loosest hold’em games I’ve seen in quite a while. Five or more players routinely saw the flop, and on more than a few occasions, all nine were active.

Maybe it’s because it’s November, which marks the beginning of the season in Palm Springs, and the snowbirds have arrived in droves. Some probably haven’t played poker all summer, and this day might have marked the first time they riffled chips through their fingers in five months.

In a hand that saw eight players take the flop, I raised from the cut-off seat with Ah-Jh and all seven of my opponents called. I loved the flop. It was Js-6h-3c, and didn’t look like it helped anyone but me. Still, it didn’t mean no one flopped a set or two pair. In a game in which any two will do, any two can beat you.

The turn card was Ad. Bingo! All the backdoor flush draws were dead and I had top two pair. It was checked around to me and I bet. People began dropping and I was called in only two places. Because I was not checkraised, I knew I wasn’t looking at a set, and certain that I had the best hand. With top two pair and two callers, I found myself wishing we were playing no-limit instead of fixed-limit.

The river was a king, and I still felt very good about it. I bet and was called by one player who then turned up A-K for two bigger pair than mine. I was flabbergasted. He didn’t flop a thing, but stayed to catch two running cards for two bigger pair than mine. Oh well, that’s what happens in a game where everyone calls.

About an hour later I was involved in a pot with nine players. This time I was in the big blind and called a raise with Q-T. I was getting 17-to-1 on my money so it paid to stick around to see if I could catch a miracle, or at least a significant part of the flop.

I caught all of it. The flop was K-J-9 of mixed suits, and I had the nuts. We all checked to the guy who raised before the flop and he did not disappoint. He came right out betting. Everyone, if you can believe it, called. The turn was a six that didn’t appear to help anyone. The preflop raiser, who was third in the betting order, fired another salvo and everyone called. With all those players trapped behind his bet, I raised, dropped a couple of players but still wound up with far more callers than I would have expected.

The river was another blank. This time everyone checked to me. I bet the nuts, was called in three places and won a huge pot. That’s also what happens in a game where everyone calls.

“They’re loose,” I thought, reflecting on the eager snowbirds who were happy to be back in the desert and making ready for a winter of golf and poker. But that phrase, “They’re loose,” also resonated all the way back to my childhood—a tag line of sorts among my cronies whenever we pulled a wacky stunt.

It began innocently enough. Five of us had gone to the zoo one day. We must have been in seventh grade. As we were exiting the zoo, we saw a group of people milling round the lobby waiting to enter. One of my friends noticed the crowd and burst through the door screaming “They’re loose” at the top of his lungs. “They’re loose, they’re loose,” he shouted. I took my cue from the confusion he created, screaming, “blood everywhere … blood all over,” as we exited among the confusion we caused and disappeared into the park that bounded the zoo.

Flash forward a few years. Now we’re 19 and sophomores in college, just kids from the streets in Brooklyn with the barest patina of sophistication, though we thought ourselves uber cool. We had double dated with two girls who lived in Manhattan, a world entirely different from Brooklyn. In Brooklyn we gobbled buckets of popcorn in the movies and sat with our feet up on the seats in front of us. In Manhattan, at least at the art houses, they politely sipped espresso in small cups and talked like characters in a Woody Allen movie—full of pretension and pseudo-intellectual arrogance. The girls we were with fit in with that crowd a lot better than we did.

As we were coming out of the 8 p.m. show, a crowd of people was lined up for the 10:30 screening. My friend pushed through the doors to the lobby, and as he did, he turnsed back to me as though we had been engaged in a long animated conversation. Grabbing his head in his hands in a classic “woe is me” pose, he says in a loud, animated voice, “But she dies in the end. She dies, she dies.” The last “she dies” crescendo was loud enough to curdle cream in cappuccino.

“Sorry,” he said with wide-eyed innocence, as all eyes glared at him. “But she had to die. It was the only intellectually honest and existentially correct posture the filmmaker could have taken. If she lived it would have been a crime against art and humanity!”

Pinky fingers curled inward from their previously extended position, as every poseur in the lobby paused to consider what my friend might have meant, now that the film’s dénouement was—at least in their minds—exposed for all the world to see.

My mind flashed back to the zoo incident, and I knew it was just another case of “They’re loose,” albeit in a more sophisticated setting. I stifled my laughter until we were outside the theater, then began laughing hysterically. I could almost hear the bursting of pompous balloons in the lobby.

The girls we had taken to the movie were not impressed. I think our behavior mortified them. It was so … gauche, so very déclassé. Whatever they saw in us initially, there was ice in their eyes as we took them home, and we were peasants in their eyes. We never saw them again.

We left them to their small cups of coffee and pretentious intellectual talk. As far as we were concerned, they could have Camus and Sartre all to themselves. Besides, I’d read Being and Nothingness too, though it was not something one readily admitted in my neighborhood, never mind bragged about. And anyway, the night wasn’t dead yet. It was still early and there was a poker game somewhere in Brooklyn we were headed to.

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