I always say that I have the best job ever in poker.  Unlike a professional poker player, I’m in the unique position that poker is 100% +EV for me.  If I never play poker, I can never lose any money at poker. 
Of course this is only true if I don’t play any poker. 

For those of you who do not know, I would rather associate myself as a television person who hosts shows about poker than a poker person who occasionally does television.  I realize I’ve probably got it backwards, but I don’t care.

In America, poker is becoming the new golf.  Especially in Hollywood.  It can be a way to branch outside of your normal strata of society and interact with people you normally never would.  That has been and continues to be one of the things I think is so great about poker.  It’s a great equalizer in a lot of ways. So when I’m given the opportunity to play poker and rub elbows with some legitimate celebrities – I tend to jump at the opportunity – even if I can’t afford it.

Such a situation occurred last month when a very good friend of mine and former producer on The Big Game, Johnnie, sent me a text inviting me to Hank Azaria’s home game (see prior video blog).  I immediately replied “lock it up.”
Not only has Hank been on The Simpsons for years, but he’s played a bunch of iconic roles that my friends and I still quote (The Birdcage, Along Came Polly).  More recently, I’ve been a huge fan of a viral web video character he plays called “Jim Brockmire.”  Really funny stuff.  So this could be a great opportunity to not only meet one of the most successful comedians in Hollywood, but also his probably well-connected friends.
The only problem: it was a $5/$5 game with a $500 minimum buy-in.  Gulp.

I’m going to be honest with you – I begged, borrowed, and stole to be able to play in this game.  I do not recommend this, but I was looking at it like an investment.  Ok, I might lose $1,000 I don’t really have, but can you really put a price on such networking?  The answer is: yes, of course you can.  But I didn’t think a dime was too unreasonable.  Especially when I saw that the rest of the guest list included writer/director Steve Brill (who wrote the Mighty Ducks and directed movies like Little Nicky and Drillbit Taylor), and James L. Brooks who is one of the creators of the Simpsons, and if I’m not mistaken has at least one Academy Award.  If you do not know who this man is – look him up.

So, I showed up with my two $500 bullets.  My main goal was to last long enough to make it look good.  Yes, I was going to play pretty tight, but I promised myself to do everything I could to not look like the guy who was just playing in the game with money he couldn’t afford just so he could say he played at Moe Sizzlak’s house.

Everyone else bought in for $1000, so I was already the odd man out.  And while I said I planned to not look like a total nit, unfortunately, the cards did me no favors.  I don’t think I’ve seen so many Jack-deuce and Queen-trey combos in my entire life.  I didn’t drag a single pot for the first two hours.  And of course, my chipstack was slowly dwindling.  What started off as a small stack already, was now a paltry $275.
Something that most people don’t realize about Hollywood Home Games is that they always play bigger than you’d think.  Yes, it was a $5/$5 game, but when some of the players (I’m talking to you Mr. L. Brooks) think a standard opening raise is to $55, shit can get pretty real pretty quick.

The game started at 1pm and it was my goal to make it all the way to the 7pm cutoff time.  By 3:30, I was down to $250 or so, and I decided that I wasn’t going to sit around waiting to get it in, so I added on my last bullet and decided I was going to have some chips in front of me if I started catching cards. 
Luckily, I did start catching cards. 

It’s funny, when conducting interviews with poker players, I always want them to talk about hands.  “Give us a hand.  People love hearing about hands,” and a lot of the time I’d be met with “I don’t really remember” or some hand that had spotty details at best. 
Well, now I’m guilty of that as well.  I can’t remember enough of the details about some of these hands to accurately give an account of what happened in detail.
I will say that the first real pot I dragged was when I flopped quads against Hank.  Hank really didn’t show down many hands, but I noticed that he pretty much c-bet big on every flop.  I had position on him, and he didn’t disappoint.  I figured I would smooth call, and hope he barreled the turn as well – which he had been doing less often. 
The board double paired on the turn, and he fired again, which I thought would make a good spot for a raise.  I figure if he had a pair, an ace, or somehow had just made a boat, it’d be tough for him to fold.  He thought about it for a while, and finally folded.  I showed the quads – not for any particular reason, but I feel like when you make a huge hand in a home game, you just gotta show it.  He said I made a mistake in raising.  Whatever, Chief Wiggum.

I won another big pot against Steve Brill with AJ when I flopped top pair in a raised, heads-up pot.  I checked.  He bet.  I called.  I turned trips.  I checked.  He bet.  I called.  I rivered a boat when a jack hit.  I checked again, and after a little deliberation, he checked behind…and showed an ace!  I don’t know how me managed to not bet again, but good on him.  He was none too pleased that I was trying to checkraise him on the river.  I guess there goes my shot at testing for Drillbit Taylor 2.  I also expressed this to him, and he was doubly none-too-pleased.

I won a few other pots here and there, and ended up walking away up about $800.  More importantly, I got a few good laughs in there, and everyone really seemed to enjoy me needling Brill.  There was one funny occasion where I referred to James L. Brooks as “action’s on you, James,” which was hilarious, because everyone was calling him (and he introduced himself as) Jim.  But in my mind, he was James L. Brooks, and so I called him James.  I kinda felt dumb after that, but I’m not sure anyone else really noticed.

I had it in mind that I was going to take my winnings and start a real bankroll.  So, putting back the $1000 I wasn’t supposed to be gambling with in the first place, this leaves me with a bankroll of $800. 
It didn’t stay there for long.  Whether it went up or down…you’ll have to read the next one to find out.