August 30, 2010

Master of Yaks

End of passion play, crumbling away,
I'm your source of self-destruction.
Veins that pump with fear, sucking dark is clear,
Leading on your death's construction.

Taste me you will see,
More is all you need.
Dedicated to
How I'm killing you.

Come crawling faster.
Obey your Master.
Your life burns faster.
Obey your Master.

Master of Puppets I'm pulling your strings,
Twisting your mind and smashing your dreams.
Blinded by me, you can't see a thing.
Just call my name, 'cause I'll hear you scream.

—"Master of Puppets", by Metallica

I've long been a huge Metallica fan, and have been to more of their concerts (five) than any other band.  I first got hooked when their first video, for "One", debuted during my early college days.  Of course, this led me to explore their earlier albums, and what song is more quintessentially Metallica than "Master of Puppets"?  I suppose some would argue for the ubiquitous "Enter Sandman", but in my view, "Sad But True" was the best song off the Black Album.  Of course, if we're talking best Metallica song, I might lean toward "Fade to Black" off Ride the Lightning or "Sanitarium" off Master of Puppets.  If you need a song to rock out to when angry, to chill out with when down, or to pump you up on a long run, Metallica has plenty of music that will fit the bill.

In any event, the classic Metallica song "Master of Puppets" might as well be called "The Call of the Yaks" considering the feelings of anger and despair that often accompany playing pocket Yaks.  As the saying goes, "There are three ways to play pocket Jacks; all of them wrong."  Frankly, I've probably found more than three ways to misplay Yaks over the years, often using three misplays in a single session.  But yesterday, at the Meadows, I finally discovered how to play Yaks.  Yes, I became the Master of Yaks.

I went to the Meadows ATM for a short session, hoping to find good action after the noon tournament.  While waiting for a spot to open, I watched the final table of the tourney.  Down to the final three players, the blinds were 5K/10K, and the chip stacks were 165K, 5K, and 5K.  Yes, the chip leader, Lori, had a 33:1:1 chip lead, with the small blind having a single 5K chip merely because he was rounded up during the chip race off that occurred when they went to three-handed play.  The two short stacks were immediately all-in, then heads up play began.  Lori got her money in as a huge favorite but lost with Q4s vs. 54o, Q8 vs. 85, and KQ vs. 62.  In the first two hands, her opponent rivered a 5, while in the third hand, he flopped a duck.  Finally, on Hand #4 of heads up, with the stacks nearly equal (95K to 80K), Lori ran her AcQc into 66, and despite not hitting a pair, a flush, or a straight, still won the tourney after finding a double-paired board to counterfeit the pocket 6s:  K-T-T-K-4.  Amazing showing by Lori, one of the nicest regulars at the Meadows, albeit a tough player.

About a half hour later, I finally get a spot on one of the 1/2 NLHE tables.  I posted in behind the button.  Then, three hands later, there is a straddle and a call to me in middle position.  I find Commie Yaks, and decide to limp, expecting a raise from the straddler, and planning to reraise.  Instead, the player on my left pops it to $17.  Surprise!  Even more surprising, there were five callers to me.  Hmmmm, repop squeeze play?  Call and set mine?  The initial raiser had a pretty tight range for that raise, say {AA-99, AK, AQs}, so I wasn't thrilled about maybe walking into a big hand.  Also, there were a couple of gamblers among the callers, so who knows if a squeeze play would work?  I finally opted to set mine, to lower my risk of a big hit to my stack, while still fairly certain to get paid off big if I hit the flop. 

Alrighty then, seven of us see the flop with ~$120 already in the pot.  The flop came out Js-7c-6c.  Donkey Kong!  It checked to me, and I checked as well, certain there would be a bet.  Sure enough, the preflop raiser made it $35 to go, and there were two callers to me.  The pot was getting huge, and the board was draw heavy, so I just went ahead and pushed for ~$275 total.  The preflop raiser agonized, then called, the next two guys folded, and the final guy called.  The turn was the Kh.  Preflop raiser pushed all-in for another $100, and seemed really happy.  Ruh roh, Rooby!  Did someone just hit a bigger set?  Inquiring minds want to know!  The river was a non-club Ten.  Groovy, AcQc just got there.  How lovely.  But no, preflop raiser rolls over AcKc, while the other guy shows ... 54 offsuit?!?!   Pac Man!  The pot was ~$980 to me, giving me a triple up on my first orbit.

And that, dear readers, is how to play Yaks.

Yak with Mt. Everest in background (image source).

POSTSCRIPT:  OK, in the interests of full disclosure, I did donk back some of the chips, mostly on one hand where a table maniac and I each flopped Kings up, only he had the better second pair.  I also got run down in a couple of hands, but still carted home a full buy-in profit. 

Unfortunately, I didn't play nearly as well Friday night in a home game with, among others, Ironman Mr. Chow, who channeled his inner crasian to run down my KK with QTo, flopping J-9-x, and turning his six-outer to the straight, at which point I promptly spewed my entire stack to him drawing dead.  Eh, maybe I'll make Cowboys the next hand I master.  I can see it now—Master of Cowboys—a blended sequel to Rounders and Brokeback Mountain.  There will need to be a Tom Dwan cameo, obviously, and maybe an appearance by Zed and the Gimp ...


  1. You continue to surprise me. I would have never pegged you as a Metallica fan. "...And Justice for All" and the first single/video "One" came out just as I started high school, so it was a perfect anthem for my teenage angst. My parents forbade me to listen to it and the radio station that played it at the time. Glad I didn't listen to them! To this day, whenever I need to headbang a little anger off, I put in "...And Justice for All" and when the fade in for the opener "Blackened" plays I'm already feeling a little better. Good stuff!

  2. The Lori story shows why it's usually right to (make a reasonable) chop in a casino tournament. Things can turn around quick and it becomes a luck fest.


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