Monday, August 28, 2006

Playing poker in Florida (and getting creamed)

So I flew down to Florida this weekend to spend some time with my parents. After waking up Saturday morning and having breakfast with them, my father went off to work and my mother had things of her own to do. They both suggested I spend some time at the Hard Rock Casino playing poker and then come back to pick them up for dinner. I wasn't going to play this weekend because I'm only here for two days, but who am I to argue with my parents? So I took the car and ran over there. There was a small wait for a table, but they opened up a new one and I was able to snag my favorite seat, seat 5, directly across from the dealer. This allows me to see the cards without straining and also observe all my opponents without moving around too much.

The game is $2 straight Limit Hold'Em, which means the blinds are $1/$2 and all subsequent bets are no more than $2. According to current Florida state law, no betting round can have more than 3 raises in it, making $8 the maximum for any street. I bought in for $100 and was up $70 in the first 30 minutes on two nice pots. In the first one, I raised preflop with AK and got a whole bunch of callers. The flop was Ac6c8h. I bet out again and someone raised me, again with more callers. I reraised and he capped it at $8. There was about $50 in the pot already with two more streets to go. The turn was an 8. I figured I was dead, but amazingly it got checked all around! The river was a scary Jc. I figured a flush draw had me beat, but when I checked it around, the reraiser bet out $2 and I was the only one to call. He showed A6 for a flopped two pair. The second 8 counterfeited his two pair and my K kicker gave me a nice pot. A few hands later, I limped in in the SB wtih QJ and got a JTT flop. I bet out to see where I was at, figuring any T would reraise me. Sure enough, I got a reraiser and I called along with 3 others. A J hit the turn to fill up my boat and I bet out again. I got two more callers. Amazingly, a Q hit the river to give me the stone cold nuts. I bet out again but the other guy didn't raise, just calling me with his J3. The first reraiser folded a T, knowing he was beat. So things started out pretty good and I was hoping for a good session. Unfortunately, after 30 minutes of play, lady luck would turn her attention elsewhere and I didn't drag another pot for the rest of the session. That's 3 more hours without winning a single pot! It was the single worst session I've had down in Florida. The only good thing was something an 85 year old man whispered to me. After 30 minutes of play, a large Puerto-Rican woman and her boyfriend got up to leave the table and the 85 year old man with age spots and a hearing aid leaned over to me and said, "A nice chunky one, huh?". It would be the last time that night that I smiled. Here are some the awful details:

Note: Since this is a $2 straight game, it can be assumed that every one of these pots was multi-way to the point where I was probably getting pot odds on nearly every bet.
1. After getting a bit frustrated, I decided to protect my big blind against a raise with 45 offsuit. A J48 flopped and I called another $2 bet. My miracle 5 hit the board on the turn and I check raised the original callers bet. Everyone folded except him and a disastrous Jack hit the river. I checked, he bet and I had to call to see that he did indeed have J3.

2. I get QQ under the gun and raise preflop. Nearly everyone calls and the flop is JJ5. I bet again and get no raisers so I still think I'm good. The turn is a J and now I'm sure I'm good. I bet and everyone but 3 people fold. The river is a J! There are now 4 Jacks on the board and my Jacks full of Queens has turned into Jacks full of shit. I only have 4 of a kind with a Queen kicker and it's assured that one of these guys has a King or Ace in their hand. I fold after checking and getting a bet and the pot is chopped between two guys who stayed in with Ace-little and no pairs on the board.

3. My A5 flops and A and two spades. I bet out and get a few callers. The turn is a 5, giving me probably the best hand. I'm scared of a flush draw but I can't chase them out so I value bet $2 and get a few calls. The river is a 9 of spades. Damn. I check and one guy bets. Everyone else folds and I look him up expecting to see the flush. Instead, he shows 99 for a set on the river.

4. I get 33 in the BB and again protect against the raise. Amazingly, 345 rainbow flops and I'm sure I'm good. Of course, I'm nervous about a straight but no one is betting it. I lead out the betting and get calls, but no raises, all around. The turn is harmless and I get a call, but then a reraise against 2 clubs on the board. The river is another club and we both check, figuring the other for the flush. But he turns up 55 for a set over set win!

Those were just the highlights of my beats but there was a succession of missed flush draws, busted straights and miracle 3 outer losses. I console myself with the thought that I played as I should have and if I had hit even two of the many pots I lost, I would have been nearly even on the night. Three pots would have put me up. Since I lost so many pots on two and three outers, I have to assess myself as having played correctly in the short term. Meanwhile, the dumb asses at the corners of the table, who were playing any two cards they got, were hitting everything they needed. One guy hit 5 flush draws in a row and left the table up $200. I realize the $2 straight game is "Bingo" poker, but I disagree with the folks who say there is no strategy in it. The strategy is money management. Get your money in with the best of it and you will be up in the long run. My record in Florida proves this as I am up over $2000 in the last 18 months at this casino playing this game and tournaments. Of course, that doesn't help me as I left, licking my wounds and cursing the gods. Such is life I suppose.

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