So I had a free Saturday to myself and no plans with anyone. No plans with a girlfriend, no plans with other friends, no movies to see, no cleaning to do, no work and no studying of any sort. Most normal people, in such a predicament, would sleep in late and lounge around all day. But not me. I did what any poker addicted gambler would do and I made my way up to the Port Authority to catch the bus to Atlantic City. The ironic thing is that it actually takes more work to do that than it does to go to my actual job. And I have to get up earlier too. Weird...
So anyhow, I caught the 9:00 am bus to the Trump Plaza casino, mainly because there is only one bus going to one casino each half hour and that was the earliest one I could make myself get. I had to go before noon, though, because I wanted to play in a tournament and I knew that the cheaper tournaments on Saturdays are near noon time. I specifically wanted to play at Caesars, which happens to be next door to Trump Plaza thankfully, because I am really enamored of their card room. They have very nice tables and comfy chairs, the room is non-smoking and somewhat quiet and there are enough players and tables so that you have action but you don't have to wait 90 minutes to sit, like at the Borgata or Taj Mahal. The bad news is that Caesars doesn't post their tournament schedule online like the other major cardrooms. I saw a website that said they have a 12:15 tourney, which is what I was going by but when I got there I found out the tournament was actually at 1 pm. Ok, no big whoop. I had gotten to the poker room at around 11:45a, so I had about an hour to kill. I didn't want to sit down at a no-limit table because it usually takes a little while to warm up in those games and I didn't have that kind of luxury. Besides, I didn't want to take the chance of suffering some awful beat, losing my bankroll, and then being on tilt during the tournament. So I played for an hout in the ultimate time wasting game. $2-$4 limit (aka Grandmas Game).
A new table was started and I sat down in my favorite position, seat 5, next to Dee. Dee is a wonderful old woman (like mummified ancient old) who is a hell of a card player. It's not that she was bluffing or anything, she just knew what she was doing. I had a great time chatting her up for a while. Oh, I didn't win anything. In fact, I spent an hour looking at unplayable hand after unplayable hand. The best I could play were suited connectors which didn't hit once and I left the table having taken down exactly one pot. Total P/L for my 1 hour of 2-4 Limit play: minus $30. Not an auspicious start.
One o'clock came and it was time to start the tournament. The tournament structure was as follows: $100+$20 for the buyin, $5000 chips to start with, blinds start at $25/$50, 20 minute blind levels. The tournament was a freezout with no rebuys or addons allowed, but they did allow alternates for the first hour, meaning that if a person busted out, someone from the outside public could pay for a seat. We started the tourney with 69 players but there had to have been at least a dozen or more alternates. My table alone had 5 people bust out in the first 2 blind levels, with one guy busting out in the first two hands! The tournament manager, when I went to get my seat assigned, described the tournament structure as "very slow" but I found it to be the opposite. The blinds weren't too bad for the first hour but antes started on the 3rd blind level and blinds doubled every level rather than increasing steadily. The blind levels were:
3. $25 ante, $100/$200
10 minute break to get color up green chips. No chip race here. Extra greens were rounded up to $100.
4. $100 ante, $200/$400
5. $200 ante, $400/$$800
I don't know what the next blind levels were because I busted out in the 5th level. I played my usual tight/aggressive game but I couldn't catch a flop when I called a bet and limping in was not an option. Every, and I mean every, pot was raised. The standard raise was $300-$500 so I was looking at over %10 of my stack to see any flop. Obviously, I needed to pick a place where I was going to do this. I called exactly 2 hands hoping to catch. In one hand, I had KhQh in late position but the flop was junk low cards and the initial raiser went all in. Quick fold there. The next time was AhQs but the flop was KJ. Again, I had to fold. Once the antes started coming in, the pots got much juicier but by then my only move was all in since I was down to $3500 in chips. I picked up one pot by moving all in with A8 hoping to double through someone with a little luck, but no one bit and I had to be content with the blinds and antes. That sustained me for a while until I had to make a move again with A10 and ran into an AQ. By that time, I had $3300 in chips and was under the gun with blinds at $400/$800. There was $3000 in the pot before I even acted (9 remaining player * $200 ante plus blinds)! Nothing helped me and I busted out. I got a good two hours out of it but I felt unsatisfied. I don't think I played badly, I just couldn't catch any playable cards. It was just one of those sessions, and the blind structure threw me for a bit of a loop. The next time I try to play one of those, I'm going to be more aggressive more quickly. I think you really need to double up in the first three rounds just to be able to survive. I'm also thinking of just not trying this tournament again. There must be some less aggressive tournaments I can find. Oh well. Total P/L for my 2 hours of tournament play: minus $120. Down $150 so far after 3 hours.
But I wasn't finished yet, not by a long shot. I knew that the odds of placing in the money in the tournament were long and I was going to be playing some $1-$2 No Limit afterwards, which I did. I got $300 in chips from the cage (the max buy-in at the table) and a new table opened up. I got the 5 seat again and got ready to play. A bunch of people sat down. Some looked like tourists, a few looked like cagey regulars and one woman looked like a complete shark. Well, my first hand, in early position is AcKc. Oh boy. This is a hand you can really get in trouble with at a new table. I don't know any of these people, I don't know their playing styles and I don't have any table images (mine or theirs) to work from. So instead of making a standard $10-$12 raise, I made it $5 to go, just to see how people would react. Sure enough, I got a bunch of callers. The flop came down TsJsQh. I had flopped broadway and I couldn't believe it. What do I do now? I definitely was not happy about the two spades with all the caller I had and I didn't want to get into an all in situation but I surely wanted to make some money. Checks came to me and I made it $12 to go. I thought it was big enough where anyone without a made hand would have to drop. Sure enough, this being the first hand and all, they all folded around to a big young black man named Kenneth. Kenneth, as it turned out, is a very good natured guy from Philadelphia who was there with a friend of his, who was also at this table. But Kenneth, at this point didn't know me from a hole in the wall. I think he though I was trying to B.S. the table on the first hand. He raised me to $25. All of a sudden, I saw in my head a reraise and all in and a call where he would either show a set and hit a boat or show two spades and hit that. I would be down $300 in my first hand! But I calmed my mind and reminded myself that I had, at the time, the absolute best hand possible and that Kenneth would have to draw against me to beat me. With this in mind, and everyone else out of the hand, I reraised him to $100 total. That was the magic number it seemed and he laid down his hand. Neither of us showed and he made a glib comment about "paying to see how poeople play". My guess is he was on a draw or he had the Q. As I would find out later, he and his friend loved to bet on middle pairs or top pairs with weak kickers. I took his friend for a bunch of nice sized pots because of this. So, it was one hand in and I was up about $50. Good start!
The next hand I also won and I was rolling quickly. I love it when I get up in a hurry and I can play with my profit. It feels so much better than playing to catch up. About 45 minutes later, after dragging a few smaller pots, but nothing spectacular, I saw myself looking down at A10. The flop come 10 rag rag. Kenneth's friend bets 15 and I call with one other caller. Turn comes another rag and I decide to take it down. He bets 25 and I can sense he's got another middle pair. He's been showing down a few pots with the same betting pattern and the same types of cards, winning some and losing others, and I thought I had the read on him. I came over the top for 60 and got him to fold. Another fine pot. But later on, he would give me his entire stack in a spectacular fashion. I had KJ suited in late position and I was able to limp in for $2. Things had started to settle into a rhythm and I was able to limp into more hands like this that could make me winners. The flop came and awful AQrag. However, betting was light. Kenneth's friend (I never did get his name), led out with $6 and got about 6 callers. With that much money at stake, I had to see the next card. A 10 would give me a hugely hidden straight and allow me to make a great move, I hoped. Well, I wouldn't be blogging this if the 10 didn't hit. I was relishing the moment. I'm in late position with a raiser in front of me and I've got the stone cold nuts. Sure enough, he makes it $15 to go, we get one caller and I ponder (read:acting). I go over it in my head and come to the fake conclusion that he had nothing and call my re-raise to $40. This is just enough to make him think I'm taking a stab at trying to buy it. He looks at me, thinks, and moves all in with his stack. The other caller folds (too bad) and I immediately call showing the soul crushing nuts. He shows down Q10. He had middle pair (no surprise) and the 10 gave him what he thought was a good two pair. Good enough to lose his bankroll on. The river was harmless and I got congratulations from the table for the win. The profit in the pot was approximately $120, which kept me in the game for quite a while. Later on, against the same guy (we did this a few times), I got AA on the button. Curses these rockets! Were they of North Korean make or did Grumman manufacture them. We'll see. I raised to $10 when the limpers got to me and got 2 callers. Flop comes down KsQd7d and my "friend" bets out $20. Other callers fold and I call. I'm a little worried he might have hit two pair KQ. I'm confident he has the K but the two pair would be harsh for me. My mind was praying for the board to pair when the Ad hit on the turn. Not bad, but now the flush is worrying me. This guy could literally have anything judging from the cards he's been showing. He bets out another $20 and I have to call. Now I'm just hoping to pair the board and, sure enough, the 7 comes on the river. Unless he's got 77 in his hand, I can't be beat. He checks to me and I have to think of a number that's going to get him to call. I figure $35 will do it and I lay out the chips. With $110 in the pot, he's going to call that with anything that's likely to had a shot at winning but he lays down his hand after some agonizing. This is why I think he just had the K. For the first and last time during this session, I flash my cards and compliment him on his excellent laydown. To my amusement, Kenneth and the girl-shark (Melissa was her name), were making side bets between themselves on what my hand was. They settled on A-middle. Somehow they thought I'd call the $20 flop bet with 3 outs for the Ace. Silly people!
Melissa, as I found out from talking to her, grew up near Atlantic City and plays poker there every weekend. She's quite good but, like many poker regulars, prefers "action" to waiting it out. She will pump up pots just to see larger pots and will try to bluff when people aren't betting. Personally, I love playing with people like this because of two reasons. One, this loose aggressive playing style forces me to tighten up and wait for premium hands. This is not a bad thing when the price of looking at cards is only $3 for every ten hands seen. One big pot can pay that price for hours. Two, and most importantly, these characters who do this never seem to believe you ever have a hand. Since their style is bluffing, once you play back at them, they always seem to go over the top and pay you off. So getting your one big hand allows you to be paid off huge. The benefit to them is that they can also get a big payoff if their draw comes but, as we know, that happens less frequently than they think. This is the beauty of this game.
So, back to the action. At this point, I was up over $200 dollars and feeling quite good. I was in the small blind when I looked down at 5s5c and was able to limp in. Small pairs, for me, are nothing more than a limping situation, especially in early position. You're just hoping to make your set with no draws and try to milk as much as you can out of it. If you get a board that has a flush or straight draw, you bet big trying to drive them all out and take your piddling winnings. Or, you can try to milk it, hoping the draw doesn't come and win some more. This is what happened. The flop came up with a As9s5h. I had made my set but there was a spade flush draw on board that I didn't like. The good news is that there was an A so any high card holder might bet into me. I checked and got one guy to bet $6. About 5 people called, along with me trying to milk a big pot, and the turn flipped a 7s. Shoot! The spade had fallen. I could only check here and hope I got a cheap enough bet that I could call to get a boat. Amazingly, it checked all around and the river came...4s. Grrrr... With four spades on board, I had a flush, but it was only 5 high and was dead to any other spade. I checked with some frustration and someone bet out $15 followed by a reraise to $35. I folded, of course, and the initial raiser called, showing A8 with the 8 of spades. His caller showed A10 with the 10 of spades. So, as it turns out, I was leading all the way to the river. Given all the spades that were in people's hands, I think I made the right play. I didn't give up too much money and if either of them had hit their top two pair, I could've had a big pay day. Oh well. I was starting to get really hungry, having not eaten since just before I got on the bus at 9am. So I decided to play until the big blind got to me and I would cash out. I was at $495 on the table at this point and I looked down at my last hand of the night, AKo. I made it $10 to go and got a single caller, Kenneth's friend of course. The flop came down K52 rainbow. I didn't really want to dick around so I bet $25 and he folded. I tipped the dealer $4 ($2 for the hand and $2 because I was leaving) and cashed out. Final tally for 4 hours of No Limit play: Up $204
Final Tally for 7 fun hours in Atlantic City: Up $54.
I don't count transportation costs in my poker accounting, but if you want to know, it was $31 for the round trip bus fare, but they gave me $20 in cash and a $5 coupon for Sbarro's (where I ate dinner) so the entire transportation fee was $6!